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Bring Plenty of Tortillas and Relax, Its Going to Be a Bumpy Ride.

California Highways are notorious for traffic but not known for the endless  entertainment they can provide. Now my California peeps will read this and think I am out of my mind or “…and he hasn’t been institutionalized yet? Imagine that”.I have spent a few years recently in Southern California but I also lived in  DC and Northern Virginia (NOVA) for fifteen years and I contend its traffic situation is worse. The NOVA traffic was nowhere near as predictable as Southern California and that is why it was more painful. Now if you have followed my adventures here you know that I was back in Southern California recently for the funeral services of loved ones. I won’t recount that here, please read “Family, Much Harder to Say Goodbye Than to Love” for the riveting details.  What I will reveal is just how entertaining a Southern California traffic jam (SCTJ) can be. No really, I am sober and my room has no padding. If you are a passenger and a people watcher then I highly recommend the SCTJ experience. It rivals LAX in people watching*.

“Floppy Hat Girl”. She was the first person of interest we spotted in our SCTJ experience from LA to San Diego on a holiday weekend. The traffic was expected, the entertainment value was not. I was alerted to Floppy Hat Girl when my sister had pointed her out by saying “how can that girl see where she is driving?”. Turning around I spotted her pulling up along side of  us. To this day I still have no idea what she looked like. If I was an eye witness to a crime she committed my only response in the interview would have been, “I think the perp” , too many cop shows, “ was a female. Her cheek bones gave me that impression. It was hard to tell . She had this blue floppy hat that obscured the rest of here features. Honestly I don’t know how she drove the get away car”.  Floppy Hat Girl provided us with some good moments along the drive. I even wrote a little song dedicated to “My Floppy Hat Girl”. I am working out the chords on my guitar. I will let you know when it drops.

Next up in the cavalcade of characters was the cliche Southern Californian. In this case a shoeless female looking totally chill in the parking lot of an SC traffic Jam. How do I know she was shoeless you ask? The bare foot propped up on the driver side window was a big clue. I figured as a fashion conscious California girl her shoes or lack thereof were matching.

The driver that made me laugh the most was one that I did not see first hand but was witnessed by my cousin-in-law in our caravan. Apparently this particular driver had gotten hungry during the drive , or the park in this case, and was spotted warming tortillas on his dash board. It appeared to my cousin-in-law that once warm he was eating it plain. This led to all sorts of speculation as to whether he preps his dashboard with any cooking spray or special spices and what types of dashboards make the best warmers. Does it only work for tortillas or can bread or buns be substituted?  You can take it from there I am sure.

The commute to San Diego from LA took over four hours and as experiences go I would not intentionally seek it out. But if you find your self in this position make sure you are a passenger and pay attention to those around you. It will make the experience a little more  bearable.  A package of tortillas and a can of Pam couldn’t hurt either.

* While flying out to LA on a weekly basis  few years back, I invented a game that I played with a business colleague called “Guess What They do for a Living”. I have played it in airports all over the country. LAX is the best place to play it , although no matter where its played it never fails to entertain.

Family, Much Harder to Say Goodbye Than to Love

   Family reunions come in all shapes and sizes and for many different reasons.This particular one happened because of the passing of two members. To know the Oneills is to know chaos. Rarely any gathering happens in this family without parts of the group getting lost, showing up late or leading the entire group on a path that not even GoogleMaps, MapQuest and even GPS could lead them back from.

   The passing of loved ones often leads to the pondering of ones own timeline. Specifically how short it is. I am somewhat relieved to report that due to one of the funeral services I can check off two items from my bucket list. Item number 372*)Spend a confusing hour in the basement of a mausoleum and number 373) Be chauffeured in a golf cart through a cemetery. Yes, conveniently I have planned consecutive items for the same location. The Oneill’s may not know where we are going but we are organized on the way to not getting there.

    Items  372 , and 373 were achieved during my Grandmothers life ceremony. I call it a life ceremony. It was about the celebration of her life and wonderful family and friends. All of the people to be in attendance showed up early for the ceremony. This should have been a harbinger of things to come. We had all  formed a motorcade to Los Angeles from San Diego where the previous day we held the life ceremony of my Uncle. That ceremony was a beautiful tribute to a veteran in a military cemetery and went off without a hitch. Perhaps that was due to my Uncle not being an Oneill by blood.  Members of the family were concerned for those that would have to brave the 405 , the 5, the 805 and  whatever 05 was involved in leaving LA during rush hour on a holiday weekend. Since we had all arrived at the cemetery ahead of time an effort was made to start the ceremony early.  Now if I had claimed I heard the strains of Beethoven’s fifth symphony when this decision was made I would have been label “nuts” but I swear it happened.

   Which leads me to bucket list items 372 and 373. From the main building of the cemetery or the “greeting area” ** we caravanned over to the mausoleum section of the cemetery. Rolling up to the mausoleums, yes plural queue the Beethoven, we entered en masse. Now as is usual with this group , someone ( we are never really sure who the someone is in these family debacles) suggested that the ceremony was on the basement floor. To be fair there was no official “greeter” from the funeral parlor, perhaps they themselves were confused as to where they were supposed to be doing the  greeting.  Perhaps back at the “parlor” . In any case a majority of the group decided that was a good idea which is how I found myself checking off number 372. After close to an hour, during which several party members went to find out what was going on and never returned*** and some official funeral types never showed up  to smirk and tell us we were in the wrong place, we decided by ourselves that such was the case and the best move was back to ground level. I for one hailed any decision in a cemetery that moves me back to ground level. Returning to the main floor we were greeted by official funeral types who were ready to take us to a different mausoleum via golf carts. Check off number 373. My sister and I jumped into a golf cart while my niece caught a ride in a limo. I am not sure how she wangled that. She’s only eleven. I have never ridden in a limo and that is a lot higher on my list. After a distance that was so short it was comical we arrived at the proper mausoleum for a ceremony at ground level.

    The ceremony itself was simple and beautiful. Memories were shared , kind words spoken and tears were shed. In a little over an hour we had experienced a lot of what life has to offer, grief, confusion, love and laughter. Now some of you may be thinking that  I am a sick individual for making light of the death of loved ones. Those of you thinking that do not know me and my family (either side) very well. This is how we deal with grief , confusion and life in general, we laugh. When my father passed away ,  my mother , my siblings and I had to make the arrangements. The experience can be a bit macabre  and at some point we grounded ourselves with our usual coping mechanism. We laughed. After looking at caskets and making ceremony choices we had completed the arrangements to the sound of an accompanying old-fashioned credit card reader, the kind that slide with an unmistakable “ch ch” sound. To the chagrin of the funeral directory we likened it to the sound of another angel getting his wings and broke out in laugher while the director looked on in horror. Imagine that, surrounded by death and he was aghast at laughter.

    It was said by several family members that , while the funerals were an occasion of sorrow, they did bring us together once again for a family reunion and we were grateful to be in each others company. Once back in San Diego, more memories and laughs were shared until it was time to bid adieu and anticipate the next occasion the Oneills will wander confused but together.

*Yes its a long list. How could it not be, It covers a lifetime.

**Confusing enough. Anywhere two live bodies can congregate in a cemetery could be a greeting area.

*** Now to be fair they may have returned but it was the basement of a mausoleum. It  was dark and damp and I was perhaps a bit cranky.

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