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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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91101, Pasadena

All Saints Church tower

Dear ——–,

Bryan and I spent Easter Sunday at church — the first time in a long time for both of us. We’ve been trying to figure out if we’re going to take our children-to-be to church. The first step was finding one that lined up with our values. I’ve never been super religious; my mom convinced me attend a Baptist day camp in exchange for no tuna fish all summer. Bryan’s parents took him to a Lutheran church on the holidays. I suggested All Saints Episcopal Church because I remembered that Jim Wallis had spoken there on his book tour a while ago. I’d been curious to see it for myself. On the way in, I saw a friend who used to be an L.A. Times reporter — and then saw two more as the day went on. I took those as encouraging signs. The rector’s sermon made more references to current events than I’d ever heard in a Sunday sermon before — referencing the unrest in the Middle East, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the president. He encouraged the congregation to make decisions out of compassion, not from the fearful, reptilian part of our brain. He spoke of ideas he learned from other faiths. I found myself nodding several times throughout the sermon and I think we got out of it what we wanted in a church: some food for thought and the will to be better people.


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90017, Downtown Los Angeles

About to bite into the "ruby canard"

Dear ——–,

What could be better for a snacky pregnant woman than a studio lot full of grilled cheese? Bryan and I went to the Grilled Cheese Invitational this afternoon. The Mendocino Farms pork belly cubano with Chinese hot mustard was my favorite of the day. We also polished off a Feast food truck grilled cheese with sweet chili paste and Thai basil; a Cynthia Washburn “ruby canard” sandwich with truffled chevre and duck; a Campanile cured meats and cherry peppers grilled cheese; and the Oaks Gourmet‘s Black Forest bacon and Cotswold cheese sandwich. There was buzz at the Daily Dish for the “Elvis:” chocolate marscarpone, brulee-ed bananas and bacon. But by the time we ordered, there was no bacon, so it was a let down. (I also felt bad for the guy who spent the entire afternoon with a hand torch treating the bananas.) The disappointment was quickly fixed by churro tots with whipped cream at the Border Grill truck.

P.S. The surprise of the day was the free sample Kruegermann pickle, which is the best pickle I’ve had out of a jar. When we asked the guy where we could buy them in L.A., he said, “Do you really love them?” Uh, yeah, I’m pregnant. We left with a free jar.


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92264, Palm Springs

The scene at the Ace Hotel

Dear ——–,

On the last day of our “babymoon,” it finally got warm enough to sit by the pool. The blades of the wind farms stood eerily still and the sun warmed Palm Springs to cozy 80 degrees. Bryan treated me to a “Mama Goodness” massage at the Ace Hotel, which included wristbands to the pool. What a scene it was by the pool: lots of bronzed, pneumatic male bodies in Speedos, chatter peppered with “honey” and “girl,” and a d.j. mixing Lady Gaga into Katy Perry. What was going on? A quick check of the iPhone told us — it was White Party weekend! I think there were literally 10 women there, including me and a group of ladies on a bachelorette weekend. After about 4 hours of mayhem, we decamped for the Short Bus “family” pool, which, despite squealing children, was actually a quieter venue. I saw a woman lying on a deck chair with her husband, watching me walk by. Their hands were protectively on a little abdomen bump. I could see them thinking, “Now, that’s pregnant!”


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92240, Desert Hot Springs

View from inside the room out to the private patio

Dear ——–,

Bryan was taken with the photographs of Hotel Lautner on the web, but there is nothing like actually staying in one of these perfectly designed mid-century Modern rooms. You almost feel as if you’re living outdoors since windows make up two of the walls. When you lie on the bed, you look directly up through another strip of windows, as if lying in an open field, looking up at the clouds. Instead of curtains, there are various cacti planted around the windows and then a high, wraparound cement wall, which also helps with the wind. The wall was just the right height to allow the morning sun to hit you in the face and rouse you out of bed at around 8:30 a.m. The motel originally opened in 1947, but has just been renovated and stocked with very cool vintage furniture. Because it is newly opened, the room was missing a few things — a pot large enough to boil water for pasta, a chef’s knife, a freezer cold enough to keep gelato solid — but all in all, it was quite comfortable. Bryan especially liked the pod coffeemaker which brewed a perfect cup of coffee each morning. By the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave.


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92240, Desert Hot Springs

Wind farm at the edge of Desert Hot Springs

Dear ——–,

As our last baby-free getaway, Bryan and I headed to Palm Springs. We had postponed this trip two weeks in the hopes that it would be warmer but this past weekend was still incredibly brisk. The wind was blowing at 30 miles per hour and even the checkout lady at the Walgreens in Desert Hot Springs was complaining about the cold spell. A frosting of snow was sitting atop some of the San Jacinto Mountains, for crying out loud. (What?!) The only people who were happy were probably the folks who run the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, whose turbines were spinning quite vigorously on Friday. We were just going to have to keep our fingers crossed that the temperature would get above 65 degrees. A big part of our vision of this “babymoon” was lounging by a hotel pool and enjoying the indoor-outdoor space at the place Bryan found for us to stay: Hotel Lautner, a beautifully restored mid-century Modern gem.


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90010, Mid City

The beautiful art deco Wiltern Theater

Dear ——–,

When we heard that Pete Yorn was going to celebrate the 10th anniversary of releasing Musicforthemorningafter, we had to get tickets. It’s the album we put on to get us in a good mood every time we leave Mammoth to drive home to L.A. and one of the last albums that will ever be pried out of my cold, dead hands. So Bryan got seats in the balcony (because of my own “Strange Condition”) and we stayed out late on a school night this week. Pete told stories about how he wrote the songs, including how a song basically wrote itself from an electric guitar worthy of AC/DC that had a broken neck that was taped back together. The back of the guitar had “Nancy” scratched in the enamel, so he called the song “For Nancy.” Bryan knew the keyboard player, Joe, so we got stickers for the after party. There was a line and even Pete’s mom had to wait. Hollywood is a tough town if the star’s own mom can’t bypass the velvet rope!


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91204, Glendale

The new car

Dear ——–,

We bought a new car on Saturday because Allstate decided to declare my poor workhorse Civic — bashed by a hit and run two weeks ago — a total loss. I didn’t exactly want to go through the hassle of buying a new car because I already have strollers, cribs and layettes to learn about. But it’s spring and we’re expecting a baby and maybe it’s a time for new beginnings. As we poked and prodded five cars on Saturday, I’d never been so interested in trunk space and rollover danger. We made our decision on mileage. (The latest Subaru Outback has better mileage than the older version … but they inflated the station wagon into an SUV. Why not just keep the car the same size and get even better gas mileage?) I teased Bryan about wanting dolphins and polar bears to nuzzle us, but our back-of-the-envelope economic calculations made sense. We’d make the extra cost of the car back in gas money in about four years, even with a conservative assumption that gas prices would stay the same! When we got home, spring fever seized me. I did some spring cleaning with the vacuum and planted a packet of poppy seeds. Can’t wait to see the blooms!

 

By the way, here’s a last picture of my sad, smashed-in old car.

Bye, old car!