Arriving in California


I made it!

I’m in Santa Monica, sitting on the couch next to a beautiful big kitty girl named Fiona.

It has been quite a roller coaster to get here.

I initially dreamed up the idea to come to LA a little more than a month ago, when I received an email from Amtrak telling me that I was just a few hundred points shy of the 10,000 points needed to reach Select Plus status for 2023. I had been at Select status for the past five years (5,000 points) but never made it to this next tier. (All three tiers—Executive being the highest of the three—are based on miles traveled, and cannot be reached by simply using the Amtrak Mastercard for other purchases, although doing so still accrues points to be used for future travel.)

I knew I’d probably never be able to get as close to Select Plus as this, since I had spent so much of 2022 taking long train segments between cities.

So, I began to dream up a trip to LA to give myself just the right number of points. Select Plus would mean a variety of perks, including a 50% point bonus on travel taken in 2023.

I’ll spare you all the back-and-forth, but I planned many different versions of this journey, and worked hard to manifest $600 to pay for the one-way trip with a sleeper car. (Some of you reading this contributed some of that money; thank you again!) I would use almost all my 15,000 saved-up points to pay for the return trip.

But the relentless rain north of Sacramento made the tracks impassable for some weeks, so my trip on the 10th was canceled. I rescheduled for the 16th. That was canceled too.

Meanwhile, I had committed to this cat sit. (The cat’s person—who, in another small-world twist, happens to hail from Virginia near my hometown—told me she was very glad to secure my commitment, because her previously scheduled sitter had just canceled, leaving her in the lurch and stressing her out. I didn’t want to put her in that position again, especially since her ski trip in the Rockies was fast approaching.)

So, despite my strong distaste for both the environmental impact and physical discomfort and boredom of flying, I went ahead and booked a flight.

All went smoothly with the flight, and two days ago I arrived here with Fiona.

The first night, I had dinner with some Portland friends who coincidentally were in Venice for a few days. (They had been among the contributors to my “California fund,” so it was extra poignant and fun to have dinner with them, at a vegan Thai restaurant a few blocks away from this condo.)

The condo, by the way, is about two blocks away from the beach. The actual, Pacific Ocean beach! It’s so cool to be here.

The next day, yesterday, I met Karen, the new friend of my awesome Berkeley friend Mimi who always introduces me to wonderful people. Those two had just enjoyed a vegan safari in Botswana, which has inspired Mimi to help a local man in Botswana—one of their tour guides—to start up a nonprofit to help local people there to have access to solar electricity. (Many homes in that area have no electricity at all, nor even access to clean drinking water.)

Karen and I enjoyed some coffee drinks and pastries at a local Venice vegan shop and café.

Afterward, we walked the nearby canals of Venice. (Yesterday I learned that Venice, California was named after the Italian city, because of these canals!)

What should we encounter along the canal walkway but a string of Christmas lights almost identical to those I wrote about in my vulnerable post a few days ago. What a synchronicity.

Yesterday evening, I took the bus to the Co-opportunity Market, about two miles away here in Santa Monica, where I stocked up on fresh produce and beans to make my own meals while I’m here with Fiona.

This afternoon, I headed out to the walking path along the beach, where I strolled north to the Santa Monica Pier, then a few blocks south, before turning back to get inside before dark.

I savored the setting sun through the trees.

Tomorrow, I’m doing a session with a friend in the southern hemisphere, then meeting a new local friend to attend a musical theater production about the life of Doris Day. I will probably cap off the day by meeting another local friend to attend a screening of the new documentary about Moby, the vegan electronic musician who owns a restaurant here in LA.

I’m so glad I’m here. I needed this.

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