QRST Party: The Roadtrip (R, Part 2)

by iren monkey

i know i said this would be a 2-part update…but i honestly felt like there are just way too many things to discuss to squeeze into strictly two posts.

so i warn you now…

this will be an indefinite amount of entries…
i hope y’all don’t mind 😉

i left the house around 1230 on April 8th.
prior to getting out of the city limits, i thought a full stomach would be a complete necessity since i wasn’t trying to make any stops other than the occasional fill up of the car’s gas tank.  thereby, i decided to meet up with my playbrother Sean and his girlfriend in Brentwood for lunch before i started THE ROADTRIP for some good company and nutritious food.  i  was psyched to find out that there was a Lemonade location in the area.  I knew of no better place to fill up my human gas tank —

it’s been my favorite lunch spot since i moved out here.

i usually go to the one in Venice or the one on Larchmont — they are both equally wonderful.  it’s probably the most delicious and healthy cafeteria-style food chain i’ve ever tried in my life; i knew it would be some good fuel for me to keep me going for 5+ hours on the Interstate 5.

i usually get the same thing every time:

  • 3 Portions
  • Cucumber Mint Lemonade

and occasionally (on days i feel like i can afford a few extra pounds, lol) i add on:

  • Land + Sea
  • Hot Portions

(photo credit: LA Times)

Shoutout to the buddy Zach for telling me about it 🙂

i had packed very few things compared to my usual tendency to stuff an XL suitcase with plenty of outfits and shoes to match.

  1. i took a big backpack that held my laptop, 2 pairs of leggings, a pair of pajama pants, 2 tanks, 2 shirts, a sweater, 2 button-ups, a few pairs of underwear and socks, and toiletries.   i know it sounds like a lot, but being that i am all of 5 feet and 2 inches, the clothing honestly took only half the space in the backpack and left enough room for my trusty pair of sneakers just in case i got tired of my combat boots.
  2. i also brought my favorite small canvas backpack to hold my wallet, sunscreen, lip balm, journal, snacks, water bottle, and pen.  i knew i needed something that i could carry everywhere to hold the things i couldn’t leave in the car.
  3. and last, but not least, my Penny board found it’s way into the trunk of my car for good measure.  i was thisclose to taking my bike as well, but my roommate Ashton advised against it.  he said i would need a mountain bike because the roads were just too uneven for my thin tires. 

i was pretty damn proud of myself for packing lightly.
it gave me ample room in the car for new things i could purchase 🙂

after plenty of laughs, a full stomach, and a good time with friends, i finally got in my car to start my driving marathon.  at this point, anyone else would’ve just stalled until the next day, but i was adamant about getting the hell out of the city before the traffic got really bad.  i promptly decided against filling up before leaving town because logistically, it would probably be cheaper once i hit the random little cities (per GasBuddy).  so I quickly got on the Interstate 405 heading North, hooked my iPhone up to the car, and selected Drake on my iTunes.  it was just gonna be me, the road, and conversations with Aubrey Drake Graham and featured guests for the next 4 hours and 51 minutes (give or take, per “Sally” my GPS system).

claiming that i was pretty psyched is an understatement.

the possibilities were endless.

i was able to make my way out of the Los Angeles city limits around 1520.
the first thing i noticed was the substantial drop in temperature.  i left LA with the top up, windows up, and A/C on because it was a scorching 95°F.  once i was able to get off I-405 and onto I-5, the temperature dropped to 84°F and a cool breeze was coming through the hills.  i rolled the windows down and cranked up the volume…just in time for my favorite — “Little Bit” featuring Lykke Li.

that song will forever remind me of the whole trip…and my lifetime.

i took I-5 N to US-101.  within this drive, i watched my car’s thermostat drop down to 75°F and eventually to a cool 64°F.  i watched the scenery change drastically from city to plains, to farmlands, to forest, to middle of nowhere, and to finally, the coast.  i eventually had to roll the windows up and leave a tiny crack just to combat the fog and the cold.

during the last gas stop, i ended up having to take probably the scariest detour known to man.  i exited the freeway and pulled into a Shell in Gonzales, CA.  what i didn’t know was that there were no entrances back into the 101 so i had to cut through the hills, passing the creepiest houses, on the darkest unpaved road in the world.  i called up my friend Mica to laugh with me since she had called earlier in the drive.

surprisingly, i only made 2 gas stops and arrived in Monterey almost halfway into “Own It”.  yes, my friends, i was still jamming the entire Drake discography…in chronological order.  to give y’all an idea of the length of the trip: no song was repeated from “So Far Gone” to “Nothing Was The Same”.  i pulled up to Cannery Row and coincidentally Drake Avenue singing —

“guess whose it is? guess whose it is??
it’s yooooouuurrrsssss…”

i felt a sense of accomplishment.

i parked the car right in front of the Intercontinental around 2015.
i stopped singing abruptly because i saw that the person manning the valet was headed my direction to open my door for me.  i was too shy to sing the next line…not due to my inability to carry a tune after hours of singing along, but for the sole reason that the next couple of lines were just too inappropriate for an almost-30 year-old woman to sing out loud…

hell, who am i kidding?

we all know i don’t give a shit about anything that comes out of my mouth!

it was because i thought Valet Man was totally adorable and i didn’t feel like embarrassing myself at the moment!  i don’t know if i was seeing things because my eyes were just too tired from the drive or if it was just the hunger i had been fighting off in the last two hours, but i had to keep myself from looking directly at his face.  i made sure to shove my portable GPS and cellphone into my backpack and tried not to make eye contact.

him:  “good evening ma’am.  welcome to Intercontinental.”
me:  “thank you.  good evening.”
him:  “are you driving in for a work-related visit?”
me:  “is that what people usually come to Monterey for?”
him:  “oh, not really.  it’s just something we have to ask just in case guests need help with bags, briefcases, and such.”
**he offered his hand to help me out of the car.  he had a gentle but firm grip.**
me:  “no. i’m here for one night.  i’m on vacation.  and no thank you on carrying my bags.”
him:  “well alright then ma’am.  are you sure?  it’s my job to help.”
**i headed to the back of my car to open the trunk as he followed.  he was probably around 5’11”, slimly built, but definitely fit.**
me:  “i’m a big girl.  i can carry them myself just fine, thank you.”
**i swung my backpack around my left shoulder and pulled my Penny out.  i didn’t remember the backpack being that heavy when i packed it in the trunk earlier that morning…i saw him smiling from the corner of my eye.**
him:  “ok then, ma’am.  is there anything else i can do for you before i take your car to the garage?”
**i finally looked up from my blatant display of independent womanhood and smiled back.  he had some pretty teeth.**
me:  “you can tell me happy birthday and tell me about where a 30-year old woman can get some good clam chowder around here.  i wanna walk so somewhere nearby.”
him:  “oh Happy Birthday!  well it’s getting pretty late and there’s still a few spots still open up the street.  you’re gonna need to hurry though because most places close at 9 or 10.  but C bar..the hotel bar?  it’s open ’til 2 and you won’t have to walk in the dark for that.”
**my bags were starting to weigh down on me.  i played it off and switched my weight from one leg to the other.  he was still smiling.**
me:  it’s fine.  i like walking in the dark.  i have a knife on me just in case someone runs up on me and tries anything crazy.  i’m from Houston.  i don’t play that.”
him:  “haha ok then ma’am.  the Valet Services are open 24 hours.  just call us down here 20 minutes ahead of time if you want us to get your vehicle for you.  here’s your ticket.  Happy Birthday again!”
**he handed me the ticket. i started to think that the smile is permanently plastered to his face.  i was getting weirded out.**

i walked away, took a deep breath, and sighed in relief.  i escaped that situation almost scotch free.  i get really weird when it comes to people helping me out.  i didn’t want to engage in anything remotely flirtatious because it was gonna be completely fruitless anyway, so other than helping me out of the car, i refused any help he offered.  plus, i took this trip by myself, for myself.

no help from anyone.  

i struggled with my bag to the check-in counter.

i walked into my hotel room around 2040.
it was on the 4th floor and i had to get to it by taking an elevator, walking over a crosswalk, and taking another elevator up.   i don’t know why i chose a room with a view and easy access to the spa when i was only gonna be there for one night, but after lugging all my shit all that way, i was starting to regret not letting Valet Man help me.

i unpacked a couple of things and added layers to my outfit.  it was around 58°F in Monterey and i was dressed like i was headed to Venice Beach to skate.  i remembered Valet Man telling me that most places close soon so i grabbled my small backpack and phone, took a quick “last hours of my twenties” selfie, and headed back out.

29 years and 364 days old.

i walked a few blocks in the vicinity to check out the scenery.  i still didn’t know where to grab my dinner but i thought that exploring Cannery Row at night would wind me up somewhere decent regardless.


butterflies in my stomach were starting to creep up.
i don’t know if it was excitement, nervousness, or just hunger…lol.
but i needed to get something in my belly STAT.

after checking out Yelp for a couple of places, i decided that The Whaling Station Steakhouse a block up from the hotel was probably my best bet since it was open until 10.  i thought it should at least have a vegetarian/pescetarian option on the menu.  it’s California, after all, people would call it discrimination otherwise. 😉

i walked into the restaurant around 2120.
the walk to the restaurant was kind of creepy because i came in through a dark alleyway.  it goes without saying that i had my hand in my pocket clutching my knife almost the entire power walk towards the lit up restaurant sign.  once again, i thought i should’ve probably listened to Valet Man.  i started to laugh at myself by that point.

i decided to sit at the bar so i could watch the 4th quarter of the Rockets/Lakers game.  i ordered the Blood Orange Mint Julep and a cup of clam chowder immediately.  after i mulled over the menu for a few minutes, i decided on ordering the Fresh Catch:  baked cod and clams with wild rice and vegetables.  i put the menu away and went back to watching the Rockets beat the Lakers while i ate my complimentary bread and butter.

unsurprisingly, the bartender and all the patrons by the bar were quite amused at how i watched the game.  what can i say?  i take RedNation quite seriously and i really have no filter nor shame while my boys are playing.  it caught the attention of the middle-aged man sitting a couple of bar stools down to the right.

him:  “you sure do love the game, huh?  you’re quite enthusiastic.”
me:  “yup.  i love my boys.  i ride with them, win or lose.”
**i kept my eyes glued to the screen.  4 minutes and 35 seconds left in the game.  Marshon Brooks was at the free throw line.**
him:  “the Lakers?”
me:  “oh hell no.  the Rockets.  fuck the Lakers, even though i live in LA.  if i had to support an LA team, it would be the Clippers.  i loved them since San Diego.  but never the Lakers.  i’m from Houston.”
him:  “Houston, huh?  why did you move to LA?”
**Donatas Montiejunas just dunked the ball.  i had room to look away from the television and look at him.  he had a full head of dark hair with strips of gray most often seen in men in their early sixties.**
me:  “the same reason why everyone who’s not from LA move to LA.  Hollywood dreams…i’m a writer.”
him:  “ah.  what brings you here then?”
me:  “it’s my birthday in a couple of hours.  i’m doing the PCH roadtrip by myself to celebrate.”
**i smiled at him and proudly handed him my ID to show him.  Jordan Hamilton just missed his 3-point attempt.**
him:  “30?!?!?!  i wouldn’t have guessed.  i would’ve thought you were underaged if you weren’t sitting at the bar.  but since you were, i would’ve bet my last dollar you were 21.”
me:  “thank you!  it’s the genes, the race, and my skincare regimen, haha.  but i’m pretty proud i’m turning 30.  it’s the reset button!”
him:  “reset button, huh?  wait til you turn 40!”
me:  “40??  i thought 30 was the life-changing age!”
**i turned myself on my chair to give him my full attention. Nick Young just dunked the ball, but we were still winning by 17 points.**
him:  “oh no, 40 was awesome.  i finally felt comfortable with myself enough to be comfortable being alone.  i didn’t have to be on my phone all the time or constantly be interacting with people.  i was fine.  it was a coming of age…”
me:  “but that’s exactly where i feel i’m at right now…at 30…”
him:  “well maybe because you’re a woman.  men mature much later in life.  i still didn’t have it together at 30.”
me:  “well then.  doesn’t that just explain everything about my ex-boyfriends!  hahaha.  just kidding.”
**Omri Casspi makes a fade away jumper and puts us at 21 points ahead.  the win was inevitable at that point so i felt fine dividing my attention with the conversation.**
him:  “no you’re not.  haha.  i was definitely still lost at 30.  my wife at the time and i were definitely going through a divorce.”
me:  “oh i’m sorry about that.  did you have kids?  are you remarried?”
him:  “yeah we had two kids.  they were already in high school so it wasn’t too bad.  i never remarried.  i like being single.  i don’t have to live for anyone and my days are completely my own…”
**the bartender came by and asked if i needed a refill of my julep.  it was way too strong for me so i refused and ordered a local beer instead.  the Rockets called a full time out.**
me:  “oh yeah?  that’s what i hope to feel like.  i don’t plan on getting married….ever.”
him:  “it’s not for everybody.  that’s for sure.”
me:  “i believe the same.”
him:  “i’m happy though.  nothing can take that away from me.  it’s just me, my dog, and the brand new BMW i just bought with my retirement money.”
**he pulled his phone out to shower me a picture of his Yorkshire Terrier.  i thought about Missy back home and how i miss her and Biggie.   Ryan Kelly was at the free throw line.**
me:  “you, a dog, and a BMW, huh?  yup, i think i got life pretty figured out.”
him:  “well it was nice meeting you.  what was your name, dear?”
me:  “it was nice speaking with you, sir.  my name is Iren.”
him:  “well Happy Birthday, Iren.  don’t drink too much tonight.  they’re kinda tough around here with drinking and driving.  DWI’s are no fun.”
**a 3-point shot by Wesley Johnson just as the buzzer sounded, ending the game.  145-130.  Rockets.**
me:  “yup.  figured that out too.”

that man’s name was Butch.
and his words were the second gift i received for my birthday.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-9qx6J36ek]
the Rockets gave me my first.  the W.

i’m a firm believer in that people are placed in our lives for a reason.  whether they be like the sun or the rain, everyone’s reason always leads to growth.  i think in the words that came out of Butch’s mouth were exactly what i needed to hear to set me up for my thirties.  i felt a sense of validation in that there was someone else in the world that achieved what i wanted to achieve for myself and he was legitimately happy with his life.  granted, i think there’s more to life than just me, dogs, and Beamers…but i think he had the right idea with being comfortable with who he was.

i know who i am.

and i am pretty damn comfortable.

i downed the last sip of my Big Sur Golden Beer and paid my bill.

i said my goodbyes to the bartender and barback and thanked them for their services.  i remembered always loving it when my customers were appreciative back when i used to bartend in my early twenties, so i always try to do the same when i’m happy with the services rendered to me.

gotta love that restaurant training.

when i walked out, i decided to turn right and take the scenic walk home — i wanted to see the sign saying Cannery Row Company again.  that and because i had no desires whatsoever to go back down the dark alleyway…no matter how tipsy i was getting.

the last few moments of my twenties were fading fast.

i got back to my hotel around 2240.
i pulled my phone out to take another photo of myself.  i know it looks like i’m sitting provocatively, but i assure you, i am propped up on a pillow doing the Lotus Pose.

nailed it.

i hadn’t really checked my text messages since i got to the restaurant so i checked to find that i was starting to get the Happy Birthday texts from some people because it’s two hours ahead back home. i replied my thanks and turned on the “Do Not Disturb” and “Silent” settings for the rest of the night.

it was my yearly custom to turn my phone off but this last year came the Do Not Disturb update on the iOS that made it so i could still receive texts, but not any of the calls.  i thought avoiding phone calls would suffice.  i’m pretty good about ignoring texts when convenient anyway, but phone calls always get me.

i decided to turn in early because i was starting to feel the exhaustion from the drive compounded with the julep from dinner.  so i took a bubble bath to soak the mess away and got in my Boogie On t-shirt and pajama pants.  i then remembered how just a year ago, Roy had thrown me and Druski a BBQ at Trent‘s house and cooked fish and vegetables for all of our friends.  it’s still a weird feeling not having him around anymore…

i miss him everyday.

per my cellphone, it was already 2305.
i plugged it in the charger after i checked out my SnapChat videos i took during the day.  i laughed at myself for a few seconds before i turned down the A/C to 65°F and shut all the lights out.  i thought to myself —

“when i wake up, i will be 30.”

and it actually felt great to say it.

i closed my eyes and smiled.

my birthday was finna be even bigger…


p.s. —

p.p.s. —

products mentioned:
backpack:  Herschel Supply Co., “Little America” in Dark Yellow
sneakers:  Vans, Canvas Authentic Lo Pro in Black
combat boots:  UNIF, no longer available.  dupe:  Steve Madden, Tarnney in Black
small canvas backpack:  unknown, homemade by some dude on Haight St.
water bottle:  Tervis, Customized by my friend Nancy
board:  Penny Skateboards, Penny Pastels 22″ in Lemon
GPS system:  Garmin, nuvi 40LM
apps:  GasBuddy, iTunes, Yelp, SnapChat