California – PART TWO

Read part one here.

So the rest of our trip consisted of the most notable stuff. We woke up really early on Sunday morning and went and had the free “continental breakfast” in our hotel. There was nothing “continental” about this breakfast. It was a full-on buffet with make-your-own omelettes and all-you-can-eat bacon. Is there anything better than all-you-can-eat bacon?

We left the hotel around 7:30 to drive to the site of the car show that would be doubling as a memorial service for my uncle. Some people said that there would be people getting there as early as 6 to “get the good parking spots”. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant until I got there.

Million Dollar Breakfast Cruise

The above picture doesn’t do this car show justice. There were well over 300 hot rods in the parking lot and a bunch of other just regular old cars. All these people were there for one of two reasons:

  1. They had been coming for a while and knew my uncle, since he started the cruise and was crucial in organizing it or,
  2. They knew my uncle and were there in support of my Aunt Paula.

Either way, the amount of support was overwhelming. By our estimation, there were about 1,000 people at the car show / memorial. Quite a testament to my uncle and the number of people that he effected.

Once the memorial started, it was even more clear:

Aerial View of Crowd

I took this from behind my dad (the bald guy with his arm around my aunt) and it doesn’t even capture all of the people that were there. It was amazing. I’m so glad that we were able to be there.

In Memory Flames

The cars there were pretty cool too. There were two cars (that I knew of) that were worth over $1 million. One was Howard Hughes’ car. Hughes, a notorious obsessive-complusive germophobe, had completely sealed the windows of the car and put a commercial-airline-grade filtration system in the trunk. That guy was crazier than a straw.

After the memorial, we went on the cruise. Jake rode in my late uncle’s ’56 Ford Fairlane (probably the sweetest car at the show) and Alli and my mom rode in my Aunt’s ’37 Ford Pheaton. I rode in a sweet early 21st century Lincoln Town Car.

After, we went to one of my aunt and uncle’s friends’ houses for some food and then it was back to just hang out and be together as a family. Despite the sadness of the day, it really was great to see all my family from California that I never see. We had a great time with all of my cousins and Alli even got a hair consultation with my cousin’s husband. She was VERY excited about that.

Monday, we didn’t do much. Slept in, had some breakfast (more “continental”…mmm…bacon), and then walked around Long Beach a little bit, but most everything was closed. After that, we met up with my aunt and walked around on Rodeo Drive and then drove up into Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. There were some insanely huge houses up there…some I’m sure that were celebrity houses, but none of which I could identify since I didn’t find this list until yesterday. Would have made things more interesting, I think.

We got up early Tuesday and flew home. It was a long, exhausting trip, but one that I was happy to make and one I would make again in a heartbeat. I think that it still hasn’t hit me that my uncle is really gone. I’m trying to make sense of that. In time, I think I’ll be able to sort it out. Until then, thanks for the prayers and thoughts.

California – PART ONE

Last Thursday night, we left for California to attend the memorial service for my late Uncle Larry. It was quite a trip. We found some amazing tickets on Midwest Express ($218 round trip at the last minute…REALLY?…REALLY.) and were able to be out there with my Aunt Paula and the rest of our family on my mom’s side that we rarely get to see. (One caveat of those cheap tickets was that we could not return until today…no problem in my eyes.)

Anyway, we got in late Thursday night and were picked up at LAX by my dad who arrived from Thailand early that morning. Let me just say that LAX (at least the Midwest/Frontier/Alaska Airlines terminal) is absolutely BOOTY. When we departed the plane, I felt a little like Stillwater in the movie Almost Famous after they get off of the plane and are walking through the terminal. It was almost abandoned and extremely boring. Check it out:

LAX

Don’t the three of them totally look like Stillwater?

Anyway, not much doing that night. We got up the next day and drove to Laguna Beach for breakfast at The Beach House, a restaurant that Alli and I visited about 8 years ago when we went on one of our first vacations together to visit my family back then. The food wasn’t as great as I remembered it, but the ambiance was just as spectacular. It’s a small restaurant that overlooks the ocean, the kind of out-of-the-way place that you’d probably find some celebrity at, but alas, we didn’t find anyone. We drove down to the Dana Point Doubletree Hotel and bought tins of cookies. Why? Because everyone loves cookies and these cookies were absolutely incredible.
Saturday was an open day, but it was also my dad’s birthday. We went CD shopping with him and tried to go to places that he would want to go to eat (of course, it was darn near impossible). It was a pretty lax day after that. We went to my Aunt and late Uncle’s house and were joined by a lot of other family members, including my two older cousins, Cindy and Stacy, my other two uncles, Monte and Byron, as well as Byron’s wife, Robyn and their youngest son, Sid. Check Sid out:

Sid

On Saturday night, we went to California Pizza Kitchen, a nationwide chain that I’d actually never been to. I had an awesome, totally unexpected pizza. Since I was there, I thought I’d try something different…the California Club Pizza. It had freaking LETTUCE on it. It was incredible.

We also talked briefly about what we was going to happen the next day at the memorial service and then everyone dispersed (other family members arrived that evening as well). A side note…we TRIED to go to the Olive Garden (I’m glad we didn’t, or should I say COULDN’T), but there was a 3 hour wait. Thus, we went on to CPK. Yum. And we have one in KC on the Plaza!

California Club Pizza

Sunday and Monday…to be continued…

Larry

My Uncle Larry passed away this morning at 5:30 AM Pacific Time.

Jake has a really good post about Larry here. I just wanted to share my thoughts too.

Larry Beck was one of the best uncles that anyone could ask for. He was fun, quirky, and he loved his family. When I was growing up, my uncle was a magician at Magic Mountain. How cool would it be to have a magician for an uncle. he used to do all sorts of tricks for us and he would always get this wry smile when he saw how impressed we were.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if this was your card? That would be a pretty good trick, wouldn’t it?”

That's a Huge Camera

That’s what I remember him saying when he would put on his magic shows for me, Jake and all of our cousins.

The past 3 years have been increasingly difficult as I have watched his health deteriorate very rapidly. I’m really glad that Alli, Jake and my mom and I were able to go out there two Decembers ago. That was the last time I saw my uncle, and while it was in a hospital (he was laid up in UCLA Med Center at the time), it was a good trip. We laughed (although not as hard as usual because laughing was painful to Larry physically), we cried, and we talked. We spent almost the whole time there in the hospital in Westwood and while I LOATHE hospitals, I never thought about that once. I enjoyed every second of it.

Larry Paula Mom 2

That’s Larry on the left, his wife Paula, and my mom. I’m sad that I don’t have a picture of me and him from that trip. Despite his sickness, he was still the same old Larry.

I’ll miss him a lot. It’s really tough when some of your closest family live many miles away. I wish that we could have seen him more often. If only.

To those of you that read this, I ask you to please pray for my Aunt Paula, Larry’s two daughters, Cindy and Stacey, as well as the rest of the Beck family. Larry was a good man and he’ll be missed by all of us.