The longer I am away from California, the more I understand people who see it as this magical place filled with sunshine and promise. Can you believe I hated all that sun when I was growing up? It’s not just because I am very pale and burn easily. Gray skies and rain seemed like a better reflection of how I felt on the inside. I was a really moody teenager. I swear, I read my old diaries and want to travel back in time to slap a smile into my adolescent self. Then again, one of the reasons I’m ranting is that we are now well into autumn in Taiwan and I can count on not seeing the sun, except in intermittent patches (and only when I’m stuck inside working!), until late spring. Boohoohoohoohoowahwahhooboohoo…

Parasols in Taoyuan Airport

My vacation started when I got to the airport an hour and a half early. Taoyuan Airport is the boringest airport in the world, let me tell you. Instead of having useful shops like newsstands, the international terminals are crowded with duty-free and gift stores that sell bric-a-brac like liquor in pineapple-shaped ceramic bottles — the kind of item that just screams “desperate last-minute gift.” Oh, and there are a gazillion Hsin Tung Yangs for all your beef-jerky-in-a-fancy-gold-box buying needs. I don’t want beef jerky in a fancy gold box! I want a magazine and hand lotion! But I did enjoy looking at these awesome parasols before I finally boarded my plane.

I love this one!

Four hours later, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of visiting Japan. Yes, I only saw the inside of Narita International Airport, but for the first time in my life I was surrounded by real Japanese people speaking Japanese in Japan! It was so amazing. My head got all swirly — just like this origami ball. I’m a bit of a Japanophile, in case you can’t tell.

Deedee portrait
Deedee/remote size comparison

Look at who greeted me when my parents and I arrived home! My Mom and Dad put Deedee on a diet, but I don’t think it’s taking. He’s still quite a handsome cat.

HP garage

On my second day in California, my Dad and I drove past HP’s garage in Palo Alto. Even though I grew up in Silicon Valley and the HP story is a huge part of local lore, I’d never seen the house before. Afterward, I went to Border’s, where I took a peek in a Postsecret book to see if there had been any secrets left inside…


… and there was! I was tempted to leave my own secret, but, alas, I don’t have any. Secrets are for interesting people, like this guy:

A little overdressed for the weather

I met him at the Santa Monica Pier. My parents and I went down for a couple of days to see my brother. Here is Mike photobombing a picture I was trying to take of the sunlight dancing across the ocean.

Photo bombing brother

You know Mike, I don’t think it still counts as photobombing if the bomber screams at the bombee, “Hey, take a photo of me photobombing your photo!”

Santa Monica was gorgeous:

Santa Monica

OHMIGOD, they killed and bronzed Flipper!!!

They bronzed Flipper!

Here is my Mom coming up from behind me as I embrace the big noodle to give me some support… or push me into it??? Hmmm!!!

Big noodle
Noodle at your own risk

After Santa Monica, my family drove up to Griffiths Observatory to watch the sunset. We were oohing and aahing over the gorgeous orange ombre hues and the Los Angeles skyline when my brother informed us that those rich, lovely, glowing colors are actually the result of a buttload of rich, glowing pollution.

Griffith Observatory
LA skyline

We went to the Huntington Gardens the next morning, where my Mom danced with a cactus, I stalked a duck couple, we witnessed a desert plant uprising and saw some defaced bamboo.

Don't carve the bamboo!

Poor bamboo Cacti uprising Duck

Mom and her cactus friend

In the Huntington mansion/art gallery, I discovered my resemblance to Samuel Johnson. I was thrilled to see this portrait by Joshua Reynolds because I am a fan of Johnson and his very fine cat, indeed, Hodge. He makes me proud to be pasty and nearsighted!

Me and Samuel Johnson

I loved this little desk in a study that was set up to look as if someone had just gotten up for a break. It made me feel like I was walking back in time. I wonder what Henry E. Huntington would say if he had seen me wandering around his property. “Dear me, Arabella, there is an Oriental loose in the house. Do tell the housekeeper to show her to the kitchen.”

Desk in Huntington Library

In my next entry, I’ll post photos of some fabulous murals I saw in San Francisco’s Mission District.