Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Buddhist, a Lutheran, and a Catholic walk into an In-and-Out

No, it’s not a joke, it was my weekend. Last week I was blessed with the opportunity to fly to sunny (well, mostly sunny) California to visit my old college roommates! Our freshman year of college we were hall-mates, but from second year all the way to the day of graduation, we were the unstoppable trio. In fact, it’s been odd NOT being roommates for the past five years since we graduated.

We were, as the lead-in might suggest, just about the most unlikely roommates imaginable—even more so given that the Lutheran started out a Southern Baptist in our college years. One of us is from Bangkok, one is from Oklahoma (and Massachusetts now that she’s married), and one is from…where am I from again? One of us is a scientist, one is a linguist, and one is an English major. One of us is Thai, one is Lenape, and one of us is just about as mongrel Caucasian as you can get. We had practically nothing in common but what we cultivated over our years together. What can we say? Some things just work, and there’s no telling why. So from chick-flick movie nights and ice-skating on Occum Pond to teasing over boys and late-night discussions about God, we were terrific roommates for three years. We were also excellent at procrastinating together, but that’s beside the point.

I can’t say enough about these wonderful girls, and they remain wonderful and amazing women now, who have faced and are facing the kinds of trials we all pray to escape—and they’re doing it with grace and wisdom and extraordinary humor. Their stories are their own to tell, but I’ll just say here that if I can go about my own life with even half the grace, wisdom, and humor that my old roommates show every day, I will be a force to be reckoned with.

I had never been to Santa Barbara before this past weekend, but now that I’ve been, I already miss the West Coast ways! To fly out of dreary, wintery Virginia and land in sunny, flowering Southern California was like fast-forwarding from early March to late May. The whole place looks like a movie set (and in fact, I thought about the opening credits of M*A*S*H every time I looked at the hills), and of course my allergies kicked in right away. I didn’t mind; the flowers were worth it.

We sampled the local fare from Mexican to Spudnuts—and of course the In-and-Out burger joint, which I’ll compare to its East-Coast rival Five Guys as soon as I visit one. We visited Stearn’s Wharf despite the gusting wind (at least it wasn’t snow!), and we drove out on Highway 101 through the Santa Ynez Valley and into wine country. I don’t particularly like wine; I was excited about the horses.

And we visited Solvang, a town that seems to have been built up entirely on the tourist trade, with replicas of Dutch and Danish buildings all housing restaurants and toy stores and hobby shops. There’s a windmill that actually turns and even a replica of the Tower in Copenhagen, though inside it is a pizza place instead of an observatory. What a strange little town to find in the hills of Southern California!

It was a lovely trip that was all too short, but I have to content myself with what it was, because I don’t have much of a prospect for going back in the near future. Still, even though it only lasted a few days, I’ll always treasure my Santa Barbara reunion with the best college roomies ever to grace a dorm!