Waves of Relief

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all—the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

—Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle

As we turned onto Pacific Coast Highway and entered Laguna’s city limits, I rolled down the windows for the first time since leaving Utah. Right on cue, Arlo poked his head out the window while I inhaled a good, long breath of the Pacific Ocean air. I don’t know if it was the salt in my lungs or the sun on my face but whatever it was, it sent an immediate wave of relief through my whole body.

We made it.

After gunning it up the 3rd street hill (if you know, you know) and several others like it, we arrived on Top of the World—otherwise known as the neighborhood we could call home for the month of December. Situated at a mere 1,036 feet above sea level and rightfully named, the views from this place really do make you feel like you’re as close to touching heaven as one can get in this life.

Stop eleven: Fred and Xinlin’s Place – Laguna Beach, CA

I parked the car in the driveway and began unloading our cargo. Not long after that, a pleasant and potent smell of citrus gave us a proper welcome. As it turns out, in addition to a spectacular view, the next-door neighbors also happen to have Laguna’s most impressive collection of fruit trees hanging with oranges, lemons and limes in their front yard.

Honey, I’m home!

The first thing I noticed about our casita, aside from the fruit in the air, was the sun drenching the inside. Everything just looked like life.

Like joy.

I can’t really explain it, but I’ve never seen a happier sofa.

We quickly got settled in, I changed into a pair of shorts, slipped on my flip-flops and we descended back down the same series of hills we’d just climbed.

After walking the full length of the main beach, I grabbed a seat and Arlo a floor, at a restaurant along the water. We paired our first Laguna sunset with a house margarita and a plate of The Cliff’s chicken nachos.

All in a day’s work, my friends.

On Sunday, we woke up early and hiked around Aliso & Woods Canyons Wilderness Park for the better part of the morning. When we got back, I got cleaned up and reached out to an old co-worker who lives in Corona Del Mar, with the hopes that we could meet up at some point before month’s end.

Little did I know that text would lead to my attendance at the 43rd Annual Corona Del Mar Christmas Walk an hour later. The Christmas Walk, unrightfully named, was not actually a walk at all but instead, open-air entertainment offering live music, a beer garden and some stellar people-watching.

All in all, the afternoon was a success because I got to see Calla, meet her friends and witness a nice sampling of SoCal’s finest dermal fillers.

Later that week, I met up with a new co-worker named David. David grew up in Irvine, but he and his wife have spent the last two years in a rental property right off the beach here in Laguna. He explained that their time here was supposed to be a short-term thing, but after a year, they found it was a little too hard to leave.

I understood what he meant.

Over salad bowls and a double order of Active Culture‘s Maui Wowie Kombucha, he gave me a full rundown of the best things Laguna Beach has to offer.

A wholesome lunch of salad bowls and kombucha—just like that I was living like the locals.

Before we said our goodbyes, I was invited to join him and five of our other sales guys the following Wednesday for their 2nd Annual SoCal Holiday Get Together.

Since I thoroughly enjoyed my first work trip the previous January, which included four days at a trade show in New York City in the company of all men over the age of 40, in addition to having no friends or social life here, I told him I’d be there.

I was reminded of my time spent as a second, third and fourth grader at Our Lady of Peace, a catholic school not far from Lake Nokomis in Southeast Minneapolis.

Aside from passing out in church one day, and Mrs. O’Neil—a second-grade teacher sent straight from the devil himself, I had only fond memories of my time at OLP.

It was over the course of those three years that I learned how to throw a perfect spiral and catch a hail mary pass because I preferred a game of two-hand touch football with the boys in my class at recess, to hanging upside down on the monkey bars with the girls.

David and his grey Tesla picked me up at 2pm on the dot and 30 minutes later, happy hour—which would’ve been more rightfully named a happy six hours—began.

Apparently in SoCal, we start drinking at 2pm. 5 o’clock somewhere, right?

What began as a Ficklewood Cider, a Lavender Lemonade and a German Soft Pretzel at Green Cheek Beer Co, turned into an Aloha Guava Kolsch at Salty Bear Brewing and ended as dinner at Folks Pizzeria, made for a lot more laughter with my work family and another night in Costa Mesa I won’t forget.

My real family arrives in Laguna in two days, and while I’ve made plenty of new memories since leaving home, I’m excited to see some familiar faces.

See, making new friends is hard when you don’t have the vertical required for co-ed doubles, nor the patience required for dating apps. But please save your pity.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.


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