Friday, May 20, 2016

Thrifty Vacationers Roaming Long Beach

Our Temporary Abode: Hotel Royal

Our budget for this mini vacation was small so luxury hotels were out of a question. We wanted to spend no more than $130 a night, and that didn't yield many promising search results on TripAdvisor. Places like Motel 6, Travelodge, Bedbug-infested Lodge and Ramshackle Inn came up a lot, but we kept searching for something that would fit both our budget and standards. Then we found Hotel Royal. 

Choosing this affordable European-style pension over charmless chain motels turned out to be a wise decision. Our room was just about as big as a boat cabin, but the tastefully vibrant decor made up for its modest size. The whole place was so extraordinarily clean bedbugs and cockroaches would drop dead from shame if they ever gained access to the building. There was no complimentary breakfast, but free cookies were available all day long. And of course, there was no room service, but it took less than ten minutes to walk to a myriad of restaurants. What else did we love about it? Orthopedic mattresses. In-room Starbucks coffee. Free parking. Cute bikes to borrow free of charge. Oh and that sweet receptionist who asked me where we lived, and upon learning we were from Sacramento, attempted to compliment our city, "Sacramento? Nice. It has so many......trees!" 

Chorizowich at Sweet Dixie Kitchen

It might sound like a poorly made-up German last name, but "Chorizowich" was actually a delectable breakfast I had at Sweet Dixie Kitchen, five minutes walk from Hotel Royal. Not a tantalizing culinary innovation by any means. Just chorizo scrambled eggs stuffed between two superbly baked jalapeno biscuits, which altogether tasted like unbridled joy of sinless infants. Perhaps psychiatrists should prescribe this for their depressed patients to eat three times a day along with three slabs of bacon, three cups of latte, and three types of cholesterol medication.

Rosie's Dog Beach 

We spent our morning at the dog beach after breakfast, just ambling around with our imaginary Beagle puppies, watching happy dogs frolicking on wet sand, wishing our apartment in Sacramento would allow pets. We sound kind of like pedophiles who love to linger near public playgrounds and leer at other people's kids, don't we? Well, I swear we're not dog molesters! And unlike creepy pedophiles, we weren't at all discreet about our admiration. We adoringly gazed at the dogs, said hi to some of the owners, and blurted out "awwwwww" several times, a bit more loudly than we meant to. 

Shoreline Village

Here we snooped around overpriced souvenir shops, showed great interest in their artistic merchandise, then left empty handed. (Yes, we did feel slightly guilty for giving those store owners false hope.) Then we took a stroll along the harbor, witnessed the majestic beauty of the anchored Queen Mary, and got quite amazed by how people expressed their creativity when it came to naming their boats. We came across quite a few catchy monikers, but my favorites of all were Reel Deal, Pasta Too and Sushi Hunter. And then before I could burn off the calories from the decadent Chorizowich, I refueled my body with a giant funnelcake topped with a truckload of powdered sugar and whipped cream. 

El Dorado Nature Center

What did we do after two fat-laden meals? We hiked. At El Dorado Nature Center, we were offered options of a 2-mile trail, a 1-mile trail, and a paved 1/4-mile walkway. As repenting gluttons, we completed all three briskly and purposefully (burn, calories, burn!). Along our hike, we noticed several "attention" signs addressed to turtles, ducks and squirrels instead of visitors. Yeah, just give up on mankind and have more faith in animals. What great wisdom! 

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

This little garden is located on the campus of CSU Long Beach. Admission was free, and we only had to pay a few dollars for parking, plus 25 cents for fish food to feed those koi in the massive pond. Judging from their sizes, I assumed they'd been generously fed, possibly multiple times a day. They probably weren't very hungry but seemed to enjoy the food anyway, as if eating was a sacred ritual they held dear. Upon that realization, I suddenly felt a strong kinship between those fish and myself. It was a truly magical moment. 

After returning to the hotel and letting our tired legs rest for a while, it was time for dinner. We went to Pier 76 Fish Grill to have a healthy meal and erase the guilt of what we'd  devoured earlier. And they didn't let us down. Our dinner was as palatable as it was nutritious. That gorgeous trout on my plate had been carefully deboned, beautifully butterflied, grilled to perfection, and bathed in tastebud-awakening honey-mustard sauce. Yeah, it died for my happiness, but it will forever live on in my heart. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

If I Ever Catfished.....

Image courtesy of bplanet at 

If I ever catfished someone, it would be done ethically. I wouldn't do it for financial gain or revenge. Without a scintilla of malice, I would go through all the trouble of creating an impressive persona, stealing some innocent woman's photos off the internet, inventing a make-believe family and friends with jaw-dropping backstories, taking detailed notes of all my lies and memorizing them rigorously. I would do all that just to sharpen my creativity and persuasion skills.

My fake identity would be Svetlana, 5' 10, blonde, turquoise-eyed, a Russian hamster breeder who could recite chapters of War and Peace from memory, play superb tennis, and make yummy piroshki (little pies) while doing triple somersaults.

I would send a message to the dazzling Russian woman whose photos I stole. I would write, "I'm sorry," without offering any further explanation. Chances are she would think I was crazy and delete my message without responding. But if she wrote back, I would reply with the emojis of an upside-down face, a speak-no-evil monkey and a crying cat, to validate her assumption about my insanity.

My carefully chosen victim wouldn't be a hopeless romantic, prone to crying fits and anxiety-induced vomiting. I would pick someone lighthearted, unsentimental, and very capable of bouncing back quickly after finding out his "Svetlana" was actually chipmunk-faced, vertically challenged, occasionally plagued by adult acne, and only looked cute in subdued lighting.

I would make him like me but not fall head-over-heels in love with me. It's a sophisticated tactic, which I think I would be able to pull off. For example, I would tell him how I single-handedly rescued three Chihuahua puppies from Vladimir Putin's tiger cage, and then in the next breath, complain about the black-blue fetid fungus on my big toe. I would speak of my daily volunteer service at a homeless shelter as well as my nightly habit of sporadic farting.

After a few months or so, I would reveal my true identity. Along with my confession, I would also offer him 2 compensation options to choose from: a basket of authentic piroshki or a self-help book to get over betrayal in 14 days. If he was able to handle it with minimal resentment, I would utter a big sigh of relief. If he went on a rampage, I would send him both the piroshki basket and the book, plus a thirty-dollar Starbucks gift card.

Then my guilt would start to eat me alive and turn my vivacious soul into a shriveled husk. For a while, I would keep asking myself, "Oh, what have I done?" But as a natural positive thinker, I wouldn't dwell on guilt for too long. I would look back and realize how creative and persuasive I had been during those months of my catfishing endeavor. Pride would then replace remorse. And before I knew it, my creative juices would start flowing again. Yoko, an avant-garde artist who painted fifty paintings in one day with her butt cheeks, would take the place of the mundane hamster breeder, Svetlana. "Ha! New identity. New adventure," I would tell myself.