California Country

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Texas State Flag, US Flag, and California State Flag – Feels like home!

Stomp, kick, step, step, step, kick, turn…

I tried to follow the line dance, but Californian style is much different from Texan style.  This was the Electric Slide, which is one I’ve known since I was a teenager, but the stomps and kicks were new to me.  In Texas, we do more shuffling.  Heather S. and I were at Stampede, a honky tonk in Temecula, California (north of San Diego).

Laughing, I continued to follow, failing miserably and admiring Heather’s grace. (Heather is a friend from work.)

“How did you learn to do all these dances?” I asked her later, out of breath, sitting at our table.

“I lived in Lancaster, on the desert, where there isn’t much to do.  So we’d go dancing three nights a week,” she answered.

Ah!  Nothing like boredom to inspire you to get off the couch and go to dance class!

Eva texted me, “Where are you?  We have a problem.”

I stood up and looked around, finding Eva and walking toward her.

“Steve’s driver’s license is expired, and they won’t let him in!” she told me.  “They say it’s a state law.  We moved, and I thought that he had updated his address, but I guess he didn’t, so we didn’t even realize that it expired.”

“Oh, no!  Well, you stay, and we’ll make it a girl’s night!” I implored.

She shook her head.  Country isn’t her thing and she didn’t really want to come out in the first place.  That’s fine, I wouldn’t go to a techno club if I could avoid it (which I regularly do).

She left and I texted Steve, “BOO!”

About an hour later, Renee arrived.  This isn’t Renee Raspberries, but rather, Renee Love.  She was friends with my sister Sue in high school, so she’s a fellow Texan.

“OhMyGod I almost couldn’t get in!  My license was expired!  Can you believe that?!” Renee said in a rush.

I laughed.  “What are the chances of that happening to two friends in a row?!  Steve and Eva aren’t here, because his license was expired!”  I said.  “How did you get in?”

“Get this!  I told the bouncer that I had lost my license about 6 months ago, which about the same time that I was here last.  I asked him to check the safe, and he said, ‘What’s your name?’  I told him, ‘Renee Love,’ and he said that the name didn’t sound familiar, but he checked anyway.  And there it was!  Look, I have it right here!” Renee held up her unexpired license.  She smiled.  “I’m so happy that I found it!  Now I can come back tomorrow night for my friend’s birthday party!”

I introduced Renee to Heather S and to our new friend Mila.  Mila had been alone at the next table, and when I realized that she wasn’t waiting for anyone, I invited her to join us, which she was happy to do.  Mila and Lauren S. weren’t drinking, since they were driving.  Renee had taken an Uber.  Let me tell you, Designated Drivers rule!

I surveyed the crowd and remarked to Renee, “They all look so young!”

“Yes,” she said, “They’re marines, you can tell by their high and tight haircuts.”

Heather saw an older man (50 years old, perhaps) swing dancing with a similarly aged woman, and hopped up to find their group.  Soon she was spinning around the floor with him, like a pro!

 

Me and Renee; Heather S. and me

I’d like to tell you about the Marine who fell in love with me, and now texts me every day, begging me to meet him at Stampede for another dance.  However, that didn’t happen.

Maybe next time.  😉

“How do all these people know all these different dances?!” I asked Heather.  “I lived in Texas most of my life, and I don’t know all of these!”

“They learn them in high school,” Heather answered.  “When you grow up learning them, they’re easy!”

We watched the dancers – young, beautiful, some of them bored, others scanning the crowd who were watching them – as they went through the intricate steps as easily as walking down the street.  I realized that I either needed a lot of dance lessons, or I needed to find a new hobby.  Ya know, hiking doesn’t require fancy foot work; maybe I’ll stick to that.

“You should stay at my house next time!” Renee said warmly.  “Then you can both drink, and you can stay later.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this wasn’t the right crowd for me.  I smiled and appreciated her southern hospitality.  Listening to her, you’d think that she and I were old friends, instead of her and my sister.  I guess that when you’ve known each other half your life, the details of the association matter less!

As it happens, I won’t be returning to Stampede any time soon, because I found out this week that I’m moving.  Sure, I’ve only been in San Diego for 4 months, but why not pick up and move again?  More about that in my next post!  (It’s good news, I promise!)

So, Texans, and my other friends, if you ever find yourself in Temecula, California (‘bout an hour north of downtown San Diego), check out Stampede.  But be prepared to learn some new moves, ‘cause these fellas boot scoot a mite bit differently than back home.  Y’all come back now, ya hear!

Cheers!

 

3 Mountains in 3 Days!

 

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Sally Strawberry, Penny Pineapple, and me (Jules Strawberry).  Hook ‘Em Horns!

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“Mom’s stripping, it’s fine,” Sally said to Penny.

I had stopped to unzip the lower half of my hiking pants, to convert them to shorts.  Penny had asked why we were stopping.

“That’s my daughter!” I said of Sally to Penny, showing her what I was doing, and that I was not, in fact, removing all of my clothes.

***

“Hike!” Sally responded when I asked what she wanted to do while she was here.

And so we did.

Sally Strawberry and Penny Pineapple came to visit last weekend, the second time since I’ve moved to California.  We hiked last time, too, but Blacks Mountain wasn’t very memorable.  And since we’re not beach people, our December trip to La Jolla was enough to keep Sally satisfied for a year or so.

We hiked Cowles to get a view of San Diego, and Sally said, “I’d rather see mountains than city.”

So I answered, “We’re going to Iron Mountain tomorrow.  It’s about the same level of difficulty and has great views.”

The next day, as we were huffing and puffing up Iron Mountain, Sally informed me, “This is harder than Cowles.”

“Oh, I guess if I can hike it, I figure it’s about the same,” I responded.

The view from Iron pleased my little girl, and Penny didn’t scowl too much (she’s not as into hiking as we are), so I figured it was a good hike.  At the bottom of the mountain, I had extra energy, so sprinted a few feet and back again, passing a road runner.  Meemeep!

Penny was looking like she was at the end of her energy reserves.  You know, kinda like a zombie, who keeps forcing one foot in front of another, determined to go on.  She didn’t argue when I offered to get the car and pull it around, saving her from walking 40 feet.

In the car on the way home, Sally asked me, “Should we serve enchiladas at your funeral?”

The question wasn’t totally out of left field.  That is, we’ve discussed my funeral before, when I told her that I wanted her to play, “One less problem without you,” by Ariana Grande.  I’ve always wanted more of an Irish wake then a tear jerker.

“That’s more of Mom’s thing,” I replied, referring to my mother, who passed in 2008.  She ate enchiladas almost every day.  She’d cook a large casserole dish of them and then eat one for lunch with a pile of chips and queso.  “Maybe gluten free pizza?”

“I’ll have to practice,” Sally said, referring to the family recipe that Mom perfected when she wasn’t cooking TexMex.  Of course, Mom’s version was full of gluten, so the recipe needs to be modified.

I laughed.  While we had been discussing my funeral arrangements, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell came on the radio.  “Is this a sign?” I asked.

Sally laughed.  “A warning!” she said.

On the third day, I took them to Mount Woodson so that we could get pictures on the famous Potato Chip Rock.  By “we” I mean “them,” of course.  I’m an engineer; I know that cantilevered beams will break after cyclic loads are placed on them.  The only question is, “when.”  And after seeing families of 4 and 5 people pose on the rock, and others jump on it, I avoided stepping onto it myself.  As in, hell to the no, I’m not getting on that thing!

The climb up Woodson was a lot longer than I remembered.  Like I said, if I can climb it, I figure it’s a good hike, but moderate.  The number of hours to hike or miles don’t register with me as much.

Two and a half hours later, when we reached Potato Chip Rock, I wondered if Penny would ever go hiking with me again.  She was breathing hard, sweating, and moving rather slowly.

Thankfully, standing in line to take a picture on Potato Chip Rock gave us time to catch our breaths.  We waited while an 8-year-old boy and his 13-year-old sister climbed up and posed for their parents.  Then we waited while their mother joined them and more pictures were taken.  And we waited some more while the father showed a nice stranger how to work the drone that he had brought (a quad copter), so that he could jump in the picture.  And they posed in several different poses.  FINALLY they declared themselves done and scrambled off the rock.

Then we waited while the next family did the same.  Damn.  Thing.  Except, everyone in that family wanted a picture of themselves alone on the rock, jumping, before they gathered as a family.  All the while, their little dog yipped and yapped, not liking all the strangers standing around him.  I may have told it to be quiet or shut up once or twice.

Really, people, if there’s a line, then take one or two pics and get off.  #Impatient #WTF #BeConsiderate

FINALLY it was our turn.  Sally and Penny climbed up as quickly as they could and sat on the edge of the rock.  They did not jump, and held only that pose while I snapped close up and wide angle shots.  One kiss, another pic, and down they came.  #ThatsHowItShouldBe #ShortAndSweet

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The climb down the mountain went more quickly than the climb up.  After all, the hardest part was behind us, we were refreshed, and there was the promise of air conditioning and a shower at the end.

“I’m starving,” Penny confided.  “Should have brought some cashews or something.”  The dried apple chips just weren’t enough for this 7.5 mile trail.

As we stumbled to the car, at the very end of this 4.5 hour hike, I thought, “They’re never coming hiking with me again.”

But then Sally said, “WE DID IT!” and I smiled.

We actually did more than *just* hike.  We shopped for Sally’s first professional business suit.  When we found out that Banana Republic was having a 50% sale, the clothes piled up, and we ended up buying Sally an entire wardrobe.  Then we found out that she could get an extra 20% off by signing up for a store credit card.  DONE!

One night, we met my friends Heather and Scott for dinner.  Sally loved them!

Scott’s first reaction to finding out that she’s an astrophysicist was to tease her, “Are you going to go after the really hard stuff, like Dark Matter?”

Her answer was, “YES THAT’S WHAT I DO!”

Then they were off on a nerd tangent that even I couldn’t follow.

Heather was equally charming and I think Sally was ready to move in with them.  “Can I invite them to my wedding on the beach next year?” she asked.

Wow.  After one meeting.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised, my friends are pretty darn amazing.

On Monday night, we had dinner with another friend, who was also named Heather.  When I first introduced Heather to Heather, I laughed and said, “I feel the need to watch the movie Heathers again!”

Since they are both a tad younger than me, and the movie with Winona Ryder and Christian Slader came out in 1988, I had to explain my comment.  “It’s a dark comedy about the popular girls and one other girl—Winona’s character—and how hard high school can be.”

“Oh!  It’s like Mean Girls!” Heather said.

“Ummmm…kinda?” I responded.  “But darker.  Christian Slader’s character is a bit like Johnny from the Breakfast Club, but darker.”  How does one explain Heathers without giving away the plot?

I scheduled a movie night at my house to watch it.  We laughed at the wacky plot and the 80’s fashion.

“Colored tights?!  I thought that was for children!” Heather exclaimed.

“The shoulder pads!” I said.

We’ve been fast friends ever since.  Nothing like bonding over old movies with retro fashion and homicidal plots.

Her last initial happens to be “S,” so I told Sally, “To keep them straight, remember that Heather S is Single.  Heather P is married.”

I felt a little bad assigning that label to Heather, since she is a beautiful, intelligent woman who may find a nice guy any day now.  But then I remembered that my last initial is also S, and I’m single too!  Doh.

We got on the subject of health, and Sally said, “My doctor told me that I need to take Vitamin D, since I’m not getting any.”  Her smile and reference to her lesbian lifestyle made it clear that this was an innuendo and the “D” stood for… “Dude.”  Yes, Dude.  We’re going with that.

Heather blushed and said, “I don’t take pills, I take my Vitamin D straight!”

WELL THEN!  I’m glad that my children are adults, so that we can have conversations like this.

Cheers!

P.S. My next post will be about Country dancing in California.  Yes, there are honky tonks in Cali, and I’ll compare one to Billy Bob’s.

P.S.S. As always, follow me on Instagram (jules_rules_strawberry) or Facebook for more pics!  And I tweet occasionally, too (@JulesSBerry)!

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Sally Strawberry, Explorer, Conquerer of Mountains

 

I wish they all could be California Guys! (NOT)

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Jack and I found some La Poussie at the store and had to text Sally to see if she’d tried any.  #LesbianJoke #Wine

 

The guys here puzzle me.  They talk to me for a little while, then ghost.  That is, they disappear without saying, “Goodbye.”  I’ve even had nice dates where the guy doesn’t contact me after.  It’s possible that their work became busy or they met someone else; but why don’t they send a simple email or text to say as much?  I’ve tried sending messages after a few days, and some guys respond, while others don’t.  Seems like this happened a bit in Texas, but not nearly as much.  How hard is it to send a simple text or message saying, “I found someone else.  Good luck!”?

Full disclosure: I dated two guys that were really nice.  They were home-bodies who liked to watch movies.  One was devoted to classic rock bands and cover bands; the other was devoted to his son.  They were so single-minded that after five minutes of conversation, we had NOTHING to talk about.  Nothing.  I asked them about hiking and sights to see around town, but they didn’t have anything to contribute.  So after two dates with the first guy (in January) and one date with the second guy (last week), I texted, “You’re a super nice guy, but we’re not a match.  Good luck!”

Both guys texted back, “Thanks, good luck to you, too!”

That’s how it should be done, people!  Don’t ghost!  Send a simple text.

Easy peezy, and no one is left asking, “WTF happened?  Did I accidentally say something offensive?  Was there spinach in my teeth?  Did they know that I secretly checked out the waiter, who had a really nice ass?”

Or maybe that’s just me.

The most recent guy that I talked to, Ray, expressed interest in me on Match.com.  Cool, he’s handsome and a year older than me, so I was interested in him as well.  We emailed a couple of times before he asked to talk to me on the phone.  Great, I’m happy to cut to the chase, especially after all the ghosts.

His text was a long one, which is odd.  It was more like an email!  The just was, “I’ve been busy…you seem really smart.  I’ll have to brush up on the Periodic Table before I meet you, haha! I’d like to talk to you on the phone.”

So I responded with a time that worked for me to talk, letting him know, “I like my schedules and lists; I’m a planner. : – )”

He replied, “So do I!  I’m a project manager : – ) I’ll send you an Outlook invite!  Lol”

Great!  So far, so good.

That conversation was in the morning.  That afternoon, he sent me a screenshot of one of my pictures on Match and said, “Looking at a few pics…this one is my favorite.”

This creeped me out a little.  First, he could click a heart on the picture to tell me that he liked it, much like clicking a thumbs up on Facebook.  Second, he now has a picture of me on his phone, and we haven’t met.  We haven’t even talked on the phone at this point.  Third, it’s a pic of me in a Supergirl costume at Comicon, which I don’t consider my best picture, so it’s an odd one to single out.

Then he texted, “Too cute.  Nice to see what you’ll do for family.”

I pondered this.  The picture’s caption is, “ComiCon Dallas, May 30, 2015.  What a great time!  I loved seeing the range of costumes.  Good times!”  My family isn’t mentioned.  He may be assuming that I went for my kids, but that’s a big assumption; I may have been there with a date.  An alternate interpretation is that he cyberstalked me and found this picture on my blog or Facebook page, both of which have pics of Jack and Ed as well.

Weird, right?

It gets worse.

That night, I ran errands and was late making dinner.  Rather than talk to him while my dinner got cold or try to talk around a mouthful of food, I asked for a raincheck on the call.  His answer was, “Of course.  I fly home tomorrow night.”  (He was out of town on business.)

Later, he texted, “Still can’t talk?  I take it you went out?”

Wow, big assumptions!  I could talk at that point; my dinner was long gone.  Since he was in a different time zone, however, I thought he’d be asleep.  No, I didn’t go out; I am quite single and looking for a guy.  If I had a date with a guy, I wouldn’t have scheduled a call with Ray.

I sighed and picked up the phone to call him.

The phone call contained the usual getting-to-know-you chit chat, plus these zingers:

  • I mentioned that my daughter was coming to visit me. He said, “I thought your daughter lived with you, and your son lived elsewhere?”
    • How did he know that I had a daughter & a son? My profile says that I have two kids, but I never specified their genders.  And up to that point in the call, I hadn’t discussed my kids at all.
  • He said that lives at the corner of X and Y street.
    • THAT’S WHERE I LIVE!!
    • Either it’s big coincidence, or he’s STALKING ME.
    • I told him that we must be neighbors; I didn’t confirm or deny that we were in the same apartment complex.
    • He may work for the NSA and be tracking my cell phone’s every move.
      • Eeek! What if he listens to my phone convos and reads my texts?!
      • If he does, he might be super bored. He’ll be sending *me* a good luck test soon!
    • He admitted to guilting me into calling. “I really wanted to talk to you,” he said.
      • On one hand, he is a manipulator.
      • On the other, he owns it.
    • “I travel Monday through Thursday. I think that’s why I’m single.  Could you handle that?”
      • Um, chip on your shoulder, much?
      • “I work Monday through Thursday, attend yoga, and play softball. I wouldn’t miss you during the week anyway,” I told him honestly.
      • “I see where I stand,” he replied huffily, then tried to laugh it off.
      • Ok then!
    • “I don’t believe in dwelling on the past,” he said, moments before asking, “Why did you get divorced?”
      • I answered, “I’d rather not discuss that, at this point. I will tell you that my divorce was final in 2001 and I am well over it.”
    • Since this was Wednesday, I asked if he wanted to meet for a drink on Friday. He countered with, “I have plans with a friend on Saturday, but I might be able to reschedule that, and meet you instead.”
      • He was finding out if I was free on Saturday.
      • He never committed to anything.
    • Later in the call, he asked if I had been to the local winery. “Sundays are fun there,” he said.
      • He was finding out if I was free on Sunday.
      • He never committed to anything.

I am a planner.  I don’t like to sit home alone on Friday and Saturday, and I don’t like to be jerked around.

On Thursday, Ray texted, “You’ve been on my mind a lot today.”

Um, ok?  What do I say to that?  “We’ve talked on the phone once and you haven’t asked me out on a date yet,” I thought.  “I’m thinking about you, too.  Wondering if I should worry about you showing up on my doorstep, stalker!”

Instead of that, I texted an answer to another comment that he’d made.

On Friday, Ray texted, “I’m staying home tonight because I’m exhausted from my travels.  My weekend opened up; let me know if you’d like to grab a drink.  I’d like that very much.”

“Well, Jerk, if you’d like that sooooo much, why don’t you ASK ME OUT ON A PROPER DATE?!” I thought.  “Show some respect!  Don’t treat me like an after-thought or a booty call.  I deserve better than that!”

I might be getting jaded and cynical.  Just a tad.

I answered, “Ok, enjoy your quiet evening at home.”

Which is just what I did.  I poured myself a glass of wine, made myself some nachos, and binge-watched “Elementary.”  I spoil me sometimes.

And *that* is why I didn’t have a date this weekend.  To all you guys who thinks that women can get laid so easily, THIS!!  If I don’t have a date, I don’t get kissed, etc.

On days like this, I call Elizabeth and she expounds on the latest sin that her husband Daniel committed and why she’s so angry at him.  Daniel is a super great guy, but (like most of us) isn’t perfect.  I let her rant, she feels better, then she says, “See?!  Aren’t you glad that you’re single?”

“Thanks, Elizabeth,” I tell her.

“You’re welcome,” she says.  “Any time.  No, really, I can bitch about Daniel any day of the week, just call back if you need to hear more.”

Cheers!

Jules Rules

  1. Do not ask a person why they got divorced in the first call. Or on the first date.  In fact, don’t ask; if they feel like confiding in you, they will.
  2. Don’t infer that a person was with family if they’re dressed as a superhero. Ok, in my case it was true, but I could’ve been there on a date!  Any Doctors in the house?  (Preferably David Tennant-era.)
  3. Ask the person out if you’re interested, to a specific place and time. Don’t feel out whether I have any plans at all, then leave me hanging.
  4. Don’t be a dick!

 

 

Californication

 

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View from my balcony early one morning

San Diego, California, has been my home for three months now.  I can hardly believe it!  I’ve done more in that time than some people do in years, because I feel like every weekend is a vacation.  My hardest decision has been, do I go to the beach, or hike a mountain?!

Here are some of the places I’ve been:

  • Torrey Pines State Park is famous for its view of the ocean. I scrambled down a steep path (I would say, “hiked,” but I wasn’t that graceful) to the water.  Still, I wasn’t impressed.  Sorry, California, but it was just a walk, which I can do anywhere.
  • Black Mountain was better. Sally & Penny joined me for this one, back in December.
  • Iron Mountain was better still! I’m hitting it again today, because it kicked my ass last time.  In a good way.
  • Woodson Mountain was another good hike.
  • Little Italy, a neighborhood in downtown, was my home for two months. The food was superb and I love how walk-able the area is!  The farmer’s market on Cedar Street is open every Saturday; if you get a chance, go!  Buy some fresh fish or a tie-dyed shirt.  Or maybe some beef jerky.
  • Gas Lamp District is a famous neighborhood downtown. It’s full of clubs and bars; I visited during the day and said, “Reminds me of Austin’s 6th
  • La Jolla has some beautiful beaches. And sea lions.  And a Dr. Suess Museum!  It’s a magical place.
    • I took Gary Mathews there and he didn’t want to leave. I spent 20 minutes pushing him into his rental car.
  • Los Angeles is a two-hour drive, so I visited it, too. It’s crowded, dirty, and the beaches aren’t as nice.
    • Walking around the neighborhood checking out the area, a nice old man approached me. He was well dressed with a friendly smile, so I thought it was nice when hugged me and said that I was perfect.  “Oh, your boyfriend is so blessed to have you!  If you have one, that is,” he told me, then proceeded to kiss my neck.  Seriously, two seconds after I met him, he’s sexually assaulting me on the street, on a Sunday afternoon, in broad daylight.  THAT’S L.A.
    • Exception: my darling, talented, beautiful friend Amy Arrow lives there. She’s an artist actor and an amazing person.  If you ever get to see her in a movie or in person, do it!
  • Fashion Valley is a huge mall. One of my friends invited me to go shop there; I was so excited that a handsome man wanted my opinion on his pants, that I jumped at the chance.  After sitting in traffic, then circling the parking lot for 20 minutes, I realized that it was Christmas Eve.  DOH!
    • The mall is open air, which means that shoppers walk on the sidewalk outside to get to the stores. Why?  Because the weather here is so perfect so much of the time that you don’t need a roof over your head!
    • We saw “Rogue One” at the theater there. Although I hated the ending (he said that it fit), the movie was awesome!

As beautiful as it is here, it is definitely not Texas.  As I said in my last post, people don’t greet each other here like they do back home.  However, once I get a person talking, they are just as nice as anyone from the South.  It became a game to me, to see how many people I can get to smile and say, “Hi,” in the hall at work.  More and more are coming around.  My first week here, I made some new friends, and invited Heather and Heather over to watch the movie, “Heathers” (Winona Ryder and Christian Slader, 1998).

I visited Dallas a couple of weeks ago and saw as many friends as possible: Allie Apple, my sister & nieces, Elizabeth & Daniel & their darling children, Therese, Gabby Gumbo, and Andrew.  Each one is precious to me.  Visiting them was visiting home; spending time with them was like a shower to my soul.

Allie and I went to Billy Bob’s Texas, the World’s Largest Honky Tonk, in Fort Worth.  I’ve two-stepped there since I was 18 years old, and visiting it was like stepping back in time.  Yee haw!  (The cowboys are just as handsome as ever, only now they look so young !)

Next blog post: the guys I’ve met since I got here.  Peeps be cray cray!

Cheers!

PS For more pics, follow me on Instagram (jules_strawberry_rules) or Facebook (Jules Strawberry).  I also tweet, though not as often (JulesSberry).

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CA doesn’t allow as many billboards by the highway, so the views are spectacular!