Monterey Bay. My expectations were different than my new reality actually being there. We had a nice time, had a great room, and went to the famous aquarium. We met the neatest people and interestingly most were from abroad. International travelers were very social, lots of them in all of the beach cities we visited. From Monterey we spent some time in Carmel and again, my reality of that city had been skewed. Clint Eastwood was the former mayor, but Tiffany, Rolex and other high-end Beverly Hills type stores were everywhere... we were not expecting that! We dropped down to Pismo Beach and again, very surprised. Okay, let’s stay here a night… two if we like it. We found a nice hotel and there were great reviews on the web. We know the (non-hotel direct) booking engines that purchase small blocks of rooms, and hotels have the rest. If Travelocity for example pre-purchases rooms, they’re out of luck if they don’t sell them all. We walked in to the lobby with sincere smiles, asked if they have an ocean-front available, and I’m so proud of Angela! She asked for their senior AARP and AAA member price and before they could answer, she asked if they will beat the online price by Travelocity. Hotels would rather make some money rather than no money and have empty rooms, and this hotel dropped the rate $65 nightly below what we saw online with the non-hotel booking engine. I still tease Angela: many years ago we were at a garage and she approached the gal running it and said “I’ll take this, how much?” I saw in the gals eyes, cha-ching! Anyway, the hotel was very nice and we ate and drank our way through Pismo over the course of two days. It was wonderful having a beachfront room and you know the drill, Madison would have wanted us to splurge a little.
Heading south from Pismo, we stopped in San Luis Obispo. We knew it was a college town but didn't expect supper cute, our first time there. Okay, where’s lunch!? We ended up at a restaurant seated outside along a creek, very picturesque with great food and service. Angela and I were both sitting at the table thinking 'it' and she finally said it. F*ck. No further explanation was required… yep, exactly, f*ck. It was a beautiful area, so WTF, right? No, it's all skewed, it's all just wrong... love, loss, and four letter words. That trigger was seeing a large group of young women sitting together at a bunch of tables pushed together. They were eating, drinking, laughing, and appeared to be having a great time… the way things ought to be, and we were genuinely happy for them. There were young men sitting at the bar probably wondering if they can catch the eye of any of the women hoping for sparks, and maybe getting-them-some afternoon delight through alcohol fogged beer-goggles. While I mourn Madison’s loss and selfishly accept that I’ll never have grandchildren, acceptance is not agreement, this is not okay. What a great role being the grandpa of Madi's kids should have been. I'd occasionally torture her husband, get my grand-kids all jacked-up on sugar rushes, then having them tell their mom that having candy for dinner is normal, Grandpa said so!. But damn and other four letter words. My brief skirmishes with anger are not about me, but for Madison. She should be in that outdoor restaurant setting, laughing and drinking with her friends. She should have had the opportunities to join a sorority, do beer-bongs at frat parties, and even the opportunity to awaken hungover next to some coyote-love chump thinking 'uh oh, what in the hell happened last night... the last thing I remember was laughing my ass off and now I want to chew my own arm off'.
Angela and I shook it off, strolled through some stores, then headed to Solvang for the night and we played the same hotel game there. We found a nice hotel with the perfect location, looked at reviews online, and walked in to the lobby asking if they’d beat the booking.com internet rate (they always do : ) We took a swim, showered, had cocktail hour, and then took a Lyft (like Uber) to the Chumash Casino. The last time I was there the casino was two giant smoke-filled tents with Walmartian’s everywhere. It looks beautiful now and the people look more normal than ever before, but then my world stopped. I then cane to the sudden realization that perhaps we became Walmartian’s, and that’s why they look normal to me now. Crap, another four letter word. What startled me was how the noise affected me: casinos are really loud, but I’d never had any issues under normal circumstances. As said the movie Young Frankenstein, things are abby-normal for me now. Only since Madi's passing, I always have an ‘in case of emergency’ half of a prescribed pill in my pocket in a baggie to ease anxiety if/as needed. I’ve had the same script for 10 months and still have half the pills remaining, but I needed a half of a dose at the Casino. Half an hour later, happy daze, I'm back! Consistent with an Indian Casino's goals, they didn’t get us tanked up on firewater so we'd be splitting Kings at the blackjack table, nor did they take all of our money... as far as you know.
Last Saturday we went to a concert in the park featuring an Eagles tribute band: there were a ton of people and very loud music being center-stage, we were six rows back. I never had over-stimulation challenges before, but noisy unrelated-to-anything racket at a casino and now a concert has positioned me to have something for ‘just in case’ moments. After a half a pill, I'm toe-tapping and enjoying myself at the concert. Before the long walk back to our car we stopped in to a 7/11. On the way in we passed a beautiful young woman who said “hi” as I walked past, and I think she tried to introduce Angela to her dad as I obliviously walked past. Huh, that’s weird... Angela's husband is right there. Exiting the walking to our car I thought holy sh!t, was that Madison’s friend Devon? Madison loved her and so by default, I do too! Was that her, and had I just completely dismissed her? Once in the car we drove back to the 7/11 but they were gone. I felt so rotten, still do. I would have loved a hug, probably would have hugged her dad too! If anyone following along here knows how to reach Devon, please let her know I’m so sorry that I missed her. I just sent a ‘friend’ to her on Facebook... hopefully she accepts so I can message her.
On to a very happy occasion!! Madi's BFF Marleigh and Nick were married in Colorado on August 12! I know all three loved each other, and Marleigh’s Maid-Of-Honor was Madison. Wait, what, how does that work? While Madi wasn’t physically present, we know she was there in spirit and in the hearts of all who attended. The spot at the actual ceremony traditionally reserved for the maid of honor next to the bride was a tree stump with white Madison Roses on it. Nathan had presented the roses and I think Braden was involved incorporating Madison in to the ceremony. Colleen (Madi's mom) and her husband Michael went to the wedding and something odd happened (which is not unusual when her mom's around : ) Colleen told me that the weather was beautiful, no wind right just up until before the ceremony… a beautiful day. She said out of nowhere and for only a very short period of time a strong breeze blew in, then it just stopped. Colleen was seated near Deidre, who looked at her and said “Madison just got here”. Yep. All things considered Colleen seems to be doing well. I would imagine there could have been some rocky moments in the Colorado mountains leading in to the wedding. While thrilled to be there and for the beautiful couple, did she feel a sense loss that she’s not going to be a grandma or perhaps even anger that Madison missed Marleigh and Nick’s wedding. (Or did she?) What we believe is in fact the only truth, so I'm going with Madison wanting to mess up Marleigh's hair on the way in. How YUR doing!
So to you Madison, hi Shug, yes, we miss you like crazy, always will, and we're working our way through all of the four other four letter words associated with love and loss, and adapting to our abby-normals. I’m sorry you didn’t have the opportunities you deserved, but I’m equally thankful for the levels of raw and unbridled love you learned to give and receive during your visit on planet earth. In Colorado at the wedding I’d wager there were tears of joy and tears of sorrow, but I think you already know that, as well as how radiant Marleigh looked and how dashing Nick and all of their peeps looked, your peeps too. For the rest of us, pictures from Colleen below: Madison's presence with the Madison Roses in the bottom left. #love, THE key four letter word.