MAUI—Don't get me wrong, I love Orange County.
I was the envy of all my little Santa Monica surf buddies when I moved to Huntington Beach at the age of 14. Goggy and I were married in Newport Beach, bought our first house in San Juan Capistrano, and both of our girls were born in South Laguna. And we love our spot now in Mission Viejo overlooking Tijeras Creek.
Not to be.
Spent a two-hour delay in LAX—the emergency lighting that shows the exits on our plane was malfunctioning ... like that would matter if the thing plunged into the Pacific—chatting with a couple from Laguna Niguel. When we arrived and got down to the pool, I spilled a mai tai on a very sweet, and forgiving, older lady wearing a UC Irvine visor. And, I swear, while snorkeling the next morning, I saw a green sea turtle sporting a Tesoro High football bumper sticker on his shell.
What's up with you people? Are you following me?
So I spotted a guy on the beach wearing a Detroit Lions T-shirt and thought: "What kind of loser roots for the Lions unless he has to?" We were both reading the same book, and I figured I'd strike up a conversation so we could delve into the wonders of the Midwest.
Turns out he left Michigan as a kid 20 years ago—the Lions were 12-4 that year and came up a game short of playing in the Super Bowl—and has lived in Dana Point ever since.
I thought that was the capper until I tried paddle-boarding. You stand up on a surfboard that looks like a prop from The Biggest Loser, grab a 7-foot-long paddle and make like one of those guys taking lovers for a canal ride in Venice. Only the swells, and the smells, are a lot better.
Told the Hawaiian guy (I think his name tag said "Kaimana") who was giving me a few tips before I went out where I lived, and he asked me if I knew former world-champion longboard surfer Joel Tudor from San Diego. I told him I'd written a few stories about him as a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times. He said: "Dude, we were just surfing together in Huntington Beach last week."
OK, that's it. We're planning our next vacation in Katmandu—but I'm not saying when, so don't start booking your tickets just yet.
Goggy—the 2-year-old granddaughter has started calling her "Grandma," but what fun is that?—says the best thing about Hawaii is the humidity. Well, that and the fact she doesn't have to stress over the job that allows us to go on these vacations. (Hey, I'm no slacker: You know how much it would cost to hire someone to mow the lawn, make an occasional pot of chili and do a couple of loads of laundry a week? Never mind).
She says the tropical sea air makes her skin silky smooth, and she doesn't need all that expensive lotion she slathers herself with in SoCal.
I like Hawaii because it puts her in a, shall we say, romantic mood without any extra incentives, such as expensive jewelry, sweet talk ... heck, I don't even have to agree with everything she says or shower twice a day.
It's amazing how a fire-in-the-sky sunset and a half-gallon of fruity rum drinks can make even the sorriest-looking, pot-bellied old sod at least momentarily appealing. It could be the George Hamilton tan but, really, that's only the forearms and lower legs ... if I take off my shirt, you'd better be wearing sunglasses. Blinders would be preferable.
The only thing I don't like about vacation is I miss my beloved Bee-choodle. (The "proper" name for a poodle and bichon-frise mix is apparently Bichonpoo. Who wants the name of their lineage to end in 'poo'? And don't tell me dogs can't be embarrassed. Next time you see one whose owner has dressed him up like Santa's helper, check closely: You'll see the tracks of his tears.)
The Bee-choodle always sleeps crammed up against my legs or back. Goggy prefers a spot in the hinterlands of our California King, away from man and beast. But it's hard for me to get a good night's sleep if I'm able to move or roll over.
I needed some rest, and it wouldn't be paradise if you never had to leave—then it'd just be home—so we packed and got ready to head for the airport. The bellhop, Byron, asks where we're from and when told, a big grin splits his tanned face.
"I just got back from visiting my parents there, played a couple of rounds at Mission Viejo Country Club with my dad," he says. "Small world, isn't it?"
You have no idea, Byron, my boy. No freakin' idea.
Next Week: The Slope Wars
About this column: John Weyler has lived in Orange County for almost 50 years. His weekly regional columns will offer his unique, and often irreverent, take on life in the O.C.