I traveled to LA this weekend to help my brother celebrate his Doctorate. I went with the other members of our family of origin, joined by his husband’s sister, one of my exes who he’s close to, three long time friends and mentors and various spouses. There were 15 of us to witness his hooding and celebrate together.
It was a spectacularly good time.
My mom, dad, sister and sister-in-law flew down Wednesday. Thursday we road the train from my brother’s place near East Pasadena into downtown for the hooding ceremony. Once my brother had his fancy new hoodie, we stopped briefly at the reception to snack and get pictures taken and then back to the train. That night we had reservations at Maximillio’s. It had been raining off and on all day and was supposed to rain more that night, and the tables we’d reserved were outside but we were determined.
One of our group, an LA resident, brought wine and champagne. The food was delicious, the company amazing. My brother really does have some excellent people in his life. About a half hour into our evening, weather started to happen. At first it was a light patter of rain, but soon a downpour.
The tables were covered, which held back most of the rain. The staff huddled in the doorway, looking toward our table. We whooped and hollered and kept drinking. Unfortunately there was a drip line. I was sitting next to my brother along the backside of the table, the drip line went right across our heads. The roof was apparently only ‘LA normal rainfall’ rated because it threw up its hands and shrieked like a drag queen with a ruined wig as it was pelted with extra heavy rain drops.
We shifted around, someone passed an umbrella my way and my brother and I ducked under it. Our plucky waitress dashed out and asked if we wanted to move inside. We laughed hysterically and insisted we were fine. She suggested we move the tables 6 inches, which moved us out of the drip line. The tables were moved and we partied on. Not long after our dinner came out, we got a brilliant light show. A thunder storm moved slowly over us, with lightening flashes coming fast and furious. It was a dinner none of us will soon forget, including the staff who got wet on our behalf (we offered them our umbrellas, they insisted they were fine). I’m sure they all thought we were nut jobs, but they also seemed to be having a great time. Not often you get a party of 15 to sit outside and spend over $400 during a thunder storm.
The next day’s original plan had been to attend the university wide commencement but the rain and lack of cover for that ceremony led our illustrious leader to give us all a pass. He’d already gotten his hood and diploma holder, no need for all of us to sit in the rain for hours. That’s when his friend who lives in LA offered to host a brunch. Much better idea, and we didn’t need to get early either.
We took our time with brunch, which came together with contributions from all of us. It stopped raining partway through and the sun came out to dry her outside furniture. Little conversation groups were scattered inside and out. It was awesome.
After a brief rest and wardrobe change, we were off again to party in downtown LA. Our destination was a rooftop at 16 floors called the Perch. It was fabulous. My BIL pointed out the various landmarks, including the buildings he and my brother had worked in. The company was amazing again and expanded to include people from every institution of higher learning my brother had attended or worked for (up and down the coast). Whereas the group of 15 were mostly people I’d met before, the majority of folks at this party were not. I took advantage by introducing myself as my brother’s brother, which he reinforced. People remarked at how alike we looked. Then I’d point to my sis, ‘That’s our sister.” Again, as in Florida, I was passing as male without having to try hard.
We left the rooftop late and found dinner at a place called Cole’s that almost exclusively serves french dips of various kinds. There were pictures of celebrities and the one-time owner on the walls. After that we all went home to crash.
Saturday the weather had improved which was good because we were headed out on another big field trip. Most of our posse of 15 were going to the Getty Center to geek out on art and architecture. It is a beautiful place. The buildings almost appear to float on top of this low mountain that you reach by riding a tram that winds its way up the slope. My lovely girlfriend, the SwitchWitch, had been there and gushed about the experience. I left with almost a hundred dollars worth of gifts and keepsakes and a renewed artistic inspiration.
I parted with the posse that afternoon when a friend who lives in LA picked me up and took me to hang out in Santa Monica. I hadn’t seen her and her husband for 6 years, when we’d all attended the New York Sex Blogger’s Calendar Party. They took me down to Venice Beach where we strolled, talked and gawked before having a great meal and beers across from the beach. We watched the sun go down and the Santa Monica pier carnival lights come up. Before heading back to my brother’s, they treated me to ice cream at Scoops. It was one final magical night in LA.
I was back at the home base by 10:30. The next morning we had an early start, flying out of Burbank at 7 am. I woke up at 4:45 to shower and drink coffee. My bags were already packed and ready. Coffee cup in hand, I walked up the terraces behind the house and looked out on the pre-dawn terrain. Roosters and birds were heralding the day but human noises were almost nonexistent. It was bittersweet goodbye.
The weekend was full of highlight-reel worthy moments. Some of my most cherished are the small moments (those who know me won’t be surprised).
- Watching my brother embrace his husband after the hooding ceremony. They held each other for a long moment and I could see the tears in my brother’s eyes. He pulled back and looked into the eyes of his beloved and without words thanked him for three years of sacrifice and support.
- Sitting with one of my brothers long-time mentors and her husband, talking about art and inspiration, creative passion and artistic vision. True to her form, she had advice for me and I’ve tucked it away for further consideration.
- The moment my sister corrected herself after using the wrong pronoun for me.
- The joy and pride I felt being introduced and celebrated as the older brother.
- that last morning, taking coffee in the pre-dawn calm
…. and a lot more that I know will come to me in the days to come.
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