In the absence of any grown-up Christmas parties, I’ve had to make do with whatever excitement I get from the kids’ excitement in the run-up to the holidays. It’s what is more eloquently called ‘living vicariously’. It won’t spoil the plot to tell you that the excitement is minimal. I love my children and I like doing things with them, but taking them to evening events, for instance, is usually an exercise in Advanced Diplomacy, Patience and Stress.
But, like most parents, this knowledge doesn’t put me off. So off I go to my first Christmas fair of 2011 in Coronado with my mother, who has become to me what an iPhone is to a 20-year-old – we are inseparable. The fair was actually last weekend (picture above taken on December 2) , but I’ve been slow to blog about it. Given that this isn’t breaking news I’m reporting on, I’m sure you will forgive me. Coronado’s idea of the Christmas fair was to throw some fake snow on a fake hill, give out some Christmas cookies and cocoa and get Santa to show up via boat instead of a reindeer-drawn sleigh. They also put on a parade with dogs wearing twinkling lights and a Volkswagen bug that looked like a killer whale (courtesy of Sea World). I enjoyed myself, since there are days when going to the supermarket counts as an outing. I don’t have more pictures because, alas, I forgot to take the camera with me. I still can’t get used to taking it everywhere.
Then, last night, we go to La Mesa Village for their version of the Christmas fair, held among a tiny row of independently owned shops. There were bagpipes, carolers, mimes, bands, donkeys, puppet performances, rides and, of course, Santa Claus. I took the camera this time, but it ran out of battery power after I’d only taken two or three terrifically amateur photos. In a nutshell, the Raging Bull had a meltdown in front of the carnival rides and subsequently had to be rescued from a bouncy castle by an overweight teenager. I had to take the Chatterbox to the bathroom and had to settle on Starbucks, which apart from selling coffee, has one of the only available public toilets in a half-mile radius; we were waiting in line for half an hour. After an overdose of popcorn, the kids were weary and moaning and I was in need of a drink – so I parted ways with my mother and stayed out with my brother’s girlfriend.
A den of iniquity
This is where the night starts to tip into the bizarre. We begin with three strong margaritas in a stereotypically bad Mexican restaurant called Por Favor. We order a quesadilla, which is like a heart attack served on a plate – it was all grease and stodgy cheese. Bolstered by our buzz we decide to venture to another bar – a waiter at Por Favor has invited us to an Irish pub where he works when the Mexican restaurant shuts. I am feeling about 15 years too old to be following up invitations from waiters, but, hell, I never do anything and I don’t want to go home at 10pm. As we drive, I can tell that this place is in a very shabby part of town, in a strip mall surrounded by depressing shops in El Cajon. My brother calls as we are circling the parking lot and he tells us that the place is kind of rough. If my brother is saying this, I bet that I’ll want to turn around before we even get through the door.
We give it a miss and then spot another watering hole nearby called The Landing. I know this place because, only a couple of weeks ago, my mother had lunch there with friends. I figure if my mother can go, how bad can it be? The verdict: it’s kind of like Cheers crossed with a working-man’s club. After only a few minutes we’re approached by Pat, who I would say is closer to 70 than 60. She’s with her friend Sharon and they’re on vacation from Washington state for the winter. I have no idea how they washed up in this place, but they are decked out for a night on the town – they’re wearing enough sequins to guide an airborne plane to the runway during a blackout. I think it’s cute that they’ve made this much effort to look good for what is effectively a dive bar.
It turns out that Pat and her friend are on the prowl. They bring new meaning to the term ‘cougar’. She informs us that the men tonight are disappointing. She’s still thinking about some Latin guy called Arturo, who she met at The Landing last time she was here. ‘He was hot,’ she purrs. I’m still trying to get over the fact that this woman is probably older than my mother when one of the ‘disappointing men’ tells us jokingly that Pat is trouble. My new sequined friend leans over and whispers, ‘He’s been making eyes at me all night when his girlfriend isn’t watching. I say, dump the bitch and make the switch.’ At this point I’m glad that I’ve been drinking for two hours. I’m not sure how I would deal with all these comments stone-cold sober. Sharon remains quiet in the background and it’s not until I get closer that I realize she uses a wheelchair. Well, you have to admire their tenacity.
We get ready to leave when Remy, the local barfly, starts singing something that I think I recognize as Andrew Lloyd Webber but it’s being butchered, badly. Pat is not impressed and rolls her eyes at us. She asks where they could find some men, preferably with money, and I want to tell her that it’s not in a place where the happy hour goes from 6am to 10am (I am not kidding). I keep these thoughts to myself and wave goodbye. Pat and Sharon have taught me one thing: you are never too old for anything as long as you have a sense of adventure. I have landed in some strange places in my time, but The Landing is one of the strangest.