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How I spent my summer vacation

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I faintly remember that kids were supposed to stand up and tell the rest of the class what they did over their summer. Or maybe write an essay about it? I think I was actually only asked to do this once, so perhaps it was just a suburban legend in my failing memory. But I felt compelled to write down all the things the Cohn family did this summer, since it was an exceptional one.

I made the commitment to having a lot of “summer fun” rather than just sprinkle in some stuff in between work, work and work. It was a summer in which I got to: feast on all the best summer fruits like plums, watermelon, pears and white peaches; swim in neighbors’ pools; and fill each day to the max. It was a Westways Magazine-type summer with plenty of firsts too. Please allow my indulgence in sharing the details.

I’d say we officially kicked off summer mid-June with a return trip to St. Joe, Michigan. This is our sentimental favorite spot and what I’ve called the “nearest faraway place.” Our stay at “Ruthie’s Place” just outside of town provided a cozy serenade of Lake Michigan, birds, frogs and crickets. Each day was crammed with activities, from renting a surrey bike to cruise around town, to checking out the local art walk, attending the all-brass jazz band concert, making multiple trips to Sherman Ice Cream (worthy of a whole story to itself), enjoying breakfast along the St. Joseph River, devouring Silver Beach Pizza’s best and listening to Artie Shaw’s “Moonglow” as we strolled down Main Street. We even enjoyed a quick visit with cousins in Chicago and explored Wrigleyville this time around.

Once back home, we immediately finished up plans for my 50th birthday party at Pat Murphy’s place. The party exceeded all my expectations, and Alissa outdid herself with the details, of course. What a great mix of people from all corners of my life. Favorite snacks and food truck, drinks, live music and a perfect summer night. We had to make extra booze runs to keep up! The party started at 3pm, and the last guest left at 1:30am.

July came quickly, and we packed everything in. We lucked out one day with a random decision to go to Downtown Disney. We had perfect weather and no crowds. After lunch and beignets at the Jazz Kitchen, we took Marley to the big Disney store where she was as excited as, well, a kid in a Disney store. An incredibly generous cashier gave Marley multiple “my first visit” pins to wear. We were even tempted to go into Disneyland itself, but we knew better than to press our luck.

We got to enjoy the Municipal Band in Los Cerritos Park with full picnic set-up, including some local fare and Annie our bulldog slobbering all over people who stopped by our blanket.

We headed to the beach off the peninsula with friends and scored a great spot at low tide so all the kids could play in the water. July 3 had us enjoying the fireworks and spectacle of the “Big Bang on the Bay,” and of course on July 4 we were all red, white and blue for the non-parade and park fun in Los Cerritos. After hanging out with my dad and having some dinner, we were back in the neighborhood later that evening for the fireworks courtesy of the Virginia Country Club.

First Fridays had us laughing as we enjoyed seeing George Washington himself on a Segway cruising down Atlantic Avenue with a patriotic musical escort to drive the theme home.

Most summers we never really have the OC Fair high on our radar. That was different this year. The day before the actual fair opened we had tickets for the Pacific Amphitheatre to see a favorite band, Dashboard Confessional, play. We indulged and upgraded to a VIP package to meet the singer/songwriter in his trailer for a private concert with the other 20 uber-fans. We had one-on-one photo ops and then sat front row for sound check and more private concert. Marley even had her little jean jacket signed by the singer and sat on stage to have a conversation with the singer.

I went back to the fair the next night (opening day) to see the David Bowie tribute band, which was a blast, and soaked in the sensory overload aural barrage that is the fair. It is truly overwhelming and makes for great artsy photo ops. As a matter of fact, we ended up visiting the OC Fair four times! As an event guy, I was really impressed by how much programming there is every day in every part of the fair grounds. Music, food, cultural performances, comedy, magic and demonstrations of all types. We took Marley to see the animals, pig races, farms, exhibits, bands of all types and the steady stream of people watching. There truly is something for everyone. Thank goodness I gave up eating red meat years ago or I’d be taken away in an ambulance with all the tempting crazy fair food options. But, I admit that we did indulge and go for the fried Oreos, a huge “S’moreo,” roasted corn, Krispy Kreme donut chicken burger, chicken bowls and Dole Whips on the way in and out.

Marley made it over to Reservoir Park a number of times to climb, slide and swing, and we enjoyed our own evening picnic among the other families doing the same thing.

Of course we did do all of the BKBIA things like Strollers, Supper Club, Literary Society, First Fridays, Kidical Mass and Good Spirits Club. Plus, we had three amazing Concerts in the Park(ing lot). The concert in July had 500 fans of the band come and take over the event! The last concert in the series provided us some great reggae and ska to close out the summer vibes.

What else?

We explored El Segundo’s new foodie court at the Proud Bird. It is very cool, not only with the food options, but its aviation museum and classic planes just outside the dining room. You can go out and walk around the bi-planes as United Airlines and other jets are coming in for landings right overhead at LAX.

We grabbed the map and enjoyed the Pow! Wow! mural tour, not just in Bixby Knolls, but all over town.

Alissa and I had date night and saw another favorite band play at The Wiltern in L.A.

When my dad returned from his trip to England, we organized a wonderful family brunch at his house. We enjoyed eating and chatting in the back yard, and then I surprised the whole family by hiring Hedgehog Swing to give us a private concert of gypsy jazz and other family jazz favorites. Both my brother and my dad sat in and got to play with the band, which made for an incredible afternoon.

We drove all the way to Rancho Las Lomas for the first time to attend a friend’s wedding. I personally had never heard of the place but, after heading 15 miles east on Chapman off the 57, I found myself stunned with the beauty of the incredible oasis.

We kept our cycling tradition going by attending Ciclavia, this time riding from Wilmington to San Pedro and back free of car traffic. We ate in a small breakfast spot in San Pedro that we would never have known about otherwise.

Our biggest adventure had been booked back in April when my dad said he was treating the whole family to a train trip up to Salem, Oregon to watch the eclipse. The bedroom and roomettes we had made the 27-hour trip comfortable and luxurious. Once we arrived, we stayed on the grounds of a huge conference center with six other families at most. It felt like we had the property to ourselves, including a huge pool and playground. There were no crowds, food shortages or traffic for us. We got to watch the eclipse in a soccer field in perfect solitude as the temperature dropped 10 degrees and darkness fell around us. We were promised “totality,” and we certainly got it.

It was mind-blowing.

Marley turned 2 in late August, and we stretched out the celebration starting with the Salem trip. She also got to play and explore at Pretend City in Irvine where she was a doctor, dentist, fisherman, police dispatcher and cashier at Trader Joe’s. Days later, we took her to her first Dodgers game after first stopping at Philippe’s for a French dip sandwich.

And finally, as Labor Day drew near, marking the end of summer, we had one last adventure planned. We got in the car at 11:30pm after the September First Fridays and drove all night, arriving at sunrise in Williams, Arizona, where Alissa’s family had rented an incredible cabin in the woods. It was just an hour’s drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and I got to witness it for the first time ever along with Marley. It was as spectacular as everyone says. And just two exits away from downtown Williams is “Bearizona.” I was a bit skeptical at first, but driving around this animal sanctuary was quite a thrill. Black bear, bison, goats and wolves were along the trails. We went into the park to see more bears, badgers, bobcats and porcupines. A flashback to the Lion Country Safari of my youth.

Now, finally back in Bixby Knolls for a while and getting in the groove of work weeks and planning ahead for Beach Streets, Small Business Saturday and our holiday party. The time will fly, and the days will continue to be filled to the max but just differently from summertime. How on earth will we be able to top it next year? I am optimistic we can, and I’m up for the challenge.

Carpe diem.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
How I spent my summer vacation