I just got back from a trip to Los Angeles for the July 4th weekend—61 hours to be exact—and 60 of those hours were spent with my entire family: mom, dad, older brother Franklin and twin sister, Joy.
It was very much a family vacation in that we spent every single minute together, all in each other’s business with no closed doors or privacy, but that’s how we always are.
And it’s just a few times a year we all get together with my brother living on the West Coast, Joy and I living on the East Coast and our parents in the middle in New Orleans.
“Are we like the family from that movie, While you were Sleeping?” Joy asked.
She was currently getting yelled at for taking a shower too late and now didn’t have enough time to blow dry her hair before we had to leave for a baseball game.
“NOBODY CARES IF YOUR HAIR IS BLOWN OUT!” my dad said, and Joy yelled at everyone but herself for why she was running late and I was laughing acting like I was ready to go, but then forgot my glasses on the nightstand as everyone was out the door.
(Our brother was thinking more along the lines of “Meet the Fockers”)
I would consider us a “communal family,” constantly talking about everything and nothing all at the same time, refilling wine and beer glasses, louder than most, a testament to our New Orleans roots.
For three days, we rolled five deep, plus Franklin’s girlfriend, Allison, and John, our longtime family friend who also lives in Los Angeles, accomplices to our While you were Sleeping cast.
We all went to a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game, just like last year.
And even though they lost horribly we all watched mesmerized at the 90-mile-per-hour pitches, the bright blue and white clothing and HOW CAN THE OUTFIELDERS CATCH THOSE POP-UPS IT’S SO HIGH I’M GETTING DIZZY LOOKING AT THE TOP OF THE STANDS.
“Look at his batting average—it’s .22,” my dad reported to me. “That means that for every ten times at bat, he only hits two balls. Can you imagine if at work you had 10 things to do and you messed up eight times, and you still got paid a million dollars?”
“Who’s on first?” my mom chimed in.
Then: “How come they don’t broadcast the whole game on the jumbotron?”
The next day was spent together again, squished into the backseat, as we drove to the “most Los Angeles” restaurant our brother could find, as per Joy’s request.
It was a ridiculously delicious, ridiculously fresh and healthy menu that had the word MACROBIOTIC repeated over and over, which from my understanding means they only serve soy and almond milk options.
We then all squished into the backseat again to go to a photography exhibit and drove down Wilshire Blvd through BEVERLY HILLS to get there.
Joy and I squealed at the fancy clothing stores and kept our eyes peeled for movie stars.
“Movie stars leave town for the fourth of July,” Franklin said, ruining all our fun. “You’re not going to see anyone this weekend.”
“I DON’T MIND A D-LISTED CELEBRITY!” I said, craning my neck out the window.
“Where can we get yogurt where you add your own toppings?” Joy piped in from the back seat.
Frankling sighed loudly.
The photography exhibit was free, and was SO awesome and we saw the work of photographers from all over the world (many younger than Joy and me, my dad pointed out repeatedly, DAD WHAT IS YOUR POINT), photographers who take pictures of war-torn nations, crab fishermen in Alaska, portraits of black fathers in the Bronx.
I didn’t realize before what a wide variety of photography there is—I mean, I DID know, but now that it was all on display in front of me, it was crazy the variations of the same skill: citizen journalism, posed shots, warped images that put a red neon lightning bolt over the Nevada desert, glamour shots of ice cream for ad campaigns.
(Fun fact: Many of the photographers became really popular thanks to Instagram, and right there at the museum I started following a few of them.)
“What is an Instagram?” my mom asked.
We then went back to my parents' Air BnB and got ready to go see Smoky Robinson at the Hollywood Bowl.
Do you know about the Hollywood Bowl? It’s a large outdoor amphitheater with circular wooden seating all facing a stage and it looks like it’s from a movie set, which is fitting.
They let people bring in their own wine and food and there were mountains in the distance and I still couldn’t get over how gorgeous it all was.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra opened for Smoky Robinson and they played all songs American—the Star-Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, the Star Wars theme song.
Then they played a compilation of each song from branches of the military (“they have songs???” Joy and I asked) and the conductor asked people who served in the respective branches to stand up when their song was played and Joy and I got embarrassingly teary-eyed seeing them stand up and wave to the crowd of 5,000 who were clapping for them.
“How come there’s no song for the Peace Corps?” my dad asked loudly. “I was in the Peace Corps. That was service.”
Then Smoky Robinson came on, in a green leather suit and he KILLED IT!!! He danced and sang for almost two straight hours with the philharmonic behind him.
He’s 75 years old, an inspiration to my dad who is 73. My parents got all of Smoky’s references to old records and 45s and A-tracks.
There was another fantastic fireworks show, but this one had NO bangs, just swooooshing sound as lights and stars lit up the sky, and they emblazoned a Statue of Liberty that was built on top of the amphitheater in fireworks.
We then walked to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and our server had to tend to our seven-person rowdy table in which Franklin kept repeating the “I’M STARVING” line from SNL at me because I was crabby and hungry.
Perhaps that was because I said aloud (instead of in my head) that I was ordering an entire pizza to myself and not sharing with anyone.
“I’M STARVING!!!!!!!” Franklin said, looking at me, which didn’t make me any less crabby or hungry.
“WELL, I AM STARVING,” I said, and Joy laughed and sipped on her sangria which was as big as her head.
(Our mom gave her disapproving eyes when it arrived at the table. “Ummm excuse me...”)
We gathered together the next day at the Air BnB (seven deep) and watched the U.S. Women’s Soccer team dominate Japan although Joy, my mom and I hated to see Japan’s goalie crying at the end.
“Why do they keep showing that???” we asked. “Now I want to cry!!”
Franklin sighed loudly.
We then took a walk around Echo Park Lake, took another identical photo as last year, and us siblings had some sibling time at Franklin's apartment while our dad cooked dinner.
Joy and I were taking the red eye flight out of Los Angeles at 12:54 a.m. that Sunday night (3:54 a.m. East Coast time...yikes) and had some time to kill.
So we played UNO as a family.
“I can’t tell which ones are green and which ones are blue!” our dad kept saying, as we tried to find brighter lights.
“NO ONE THROW DAD ANY GREEN OR BLUE CARDS!” we said.
And then we all laughed and I laughed the hardest because I won, and then suddenly it was time to pack and head to the airport, and our krewe of seven turned back into a krewe of just two.
“Miss you already,” my mom texted four minutes after we left (seriously).
And then life went back to normal. As quickly as vacation started, before we knew it, we were back on the East Coast, back in the humidity, back in the non-mountainous Lowcountry.
Just like that, normal life returned on the cross-country overnight flight.
While I was sleeping.