Category Archives: California

Turning 30 in the Woods!

Dear Diary,

I had a little bit of a hard time turning 30 this year. The thought terrified me, chilling me to my bones. But it’s not what you think. You’re probably thinking I was scared of getting old. That’s not the case at all. I love old people way more than I love young people. What I was really afraid of is the fact that my life had not yet lived up to what I thought it was supposed to as a twentysomething in Los Angeles. To understand why I don’t feel that I’ve lived up to my full potential as an Angeleno, one must first understand where I gained my understanding of what it means to be an adult. Here’s a hint:

That’s right people. Melrose Place. I used to watch this show with my sister when I was ten. This was where I gained my understanding of adulthood. I always thought by the time I was 30 I’d be just like Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear’s character). I’d be a high-powered advertising executive who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. I’d drive around in a red convertible, saying witty, mean things to people in the car next to me. I’d push people down the stairs if they got in my way. I’d get in dramatic fights that always ended with someone being pushed into a glamourous pool. Strangely, I didn’t turn out to be Amanda Woodward. And how disappointing is that? I’m just, like, a normal human being that lives in an apartment and talks too frequently about my feelings.

Additionally, planning a 30th birthday party in Los Angeles is about as complicated as planning a wedding in Texas (if you know any Texans you know how much they like weddings there). The expectations are extremely high. There really are only a few options, the most obvious being a crazy gay pool party at some rich dude’s house. Like this:

As tempting as crazy gay pool parties are to me, I wanted to do something a little more intimate. With that in mind, I planned a trip to my homeland, Yosemite National Park. Guests included old friends from my East Coast college life and friends from my newish life in Los Angeles. I could not have asked for better company. The drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite is about six hours, but I normally do it in five and a half (we locals know some tricks about how to speed up the trip).

The drive to Yosemite, up Interstate 5, is one of the loveliest drives on earth, with rolling hills drenched in that just-right hue of California gold.

Just outside Fresno on the way to the park is this patriotic barn, which is one of the most genius creations in history. I can just imagine the people painting it, some of them dressed as pilgrims, others as indians, singing the national anthem as they painted the flag onto an old decrepit barn. It warms my American heart (Sidenote: I’m secretly extremely patriotic. Seriously).

Below is the house where I grew up. It’s about a half mile from the base of Yosemite Falls. It’s a humble home, but for me it represents a very specific kind of glamour, the opportunity to walk outside your door and be in one of the most magical landscapes on the planet. A few images of the inside of the house can be viewed here.

The view from the hammock in the back yard.

One of my lovely friends enjoying the rope swing down the street.

We took a hike up the Mist Trail to the lovely Vernal Falls, along with, like, every single tourist in the whole entire world (sidenote: Yosemite is crowded in the summer, try Fall, Winter, or Spring for a quieter visit).

Because it was 88 degrees and we were hiking up a mountain, we took our shirts off. Also, we’re gay. Pictured here with me, World Famous Interior Designer Matthew Lanphier. Note to my father: I’m wearing a Giants cap. Happy now?

This is the Ahwahnee Hotel, the hotel I played in while I was growing up (my favorite trick was to convince tourists I was homeless). The Ahwahnee’s pastry chef made my delicious birthday cake (so rich and amazing I can still taste it).

In addition to providing delightful birthday cakes, the Ahwahnee is also a wonderful place to enjoy a ridiculously overpriced outdoor cocktail.

A fun fact about Gays is that we have internal sensors in our brains that naturally direct us toward beaches, even when we are 400 miles inland. Thus, we made our way to the sandy beaches of the Merced River, next to the Superintendent’s Bridge.

Once at the beach, we tried unsuccessfully to take outdoors-inspired profile pics. Another important fact about homosexuals is that 87% of their free time is spent attempting to take the perfect profile pic for facebook. It’s incredibly time-consuming and exhausting, but required unless you want to be socially ostracized.

This is the ugly beach about five minutes away from where I grew up. The water is freezing and I have never gotten in unless someone chased me in. True fact.

The only thing that even came close to meeting the beauty of Yosemite was my beautiful friends.

Once beaching was done, we headed home for a birthday BBQ.

After a delicious meal of grilled steaks and vegetables, we moved on to birthday cake. My pretty sister and her fiancé were in from San Francisco for the weekend, a delightful birthday treat.

All things considered, my 30th was a smashing success. I may not be Amanda Woodward, running over old ladies while quipping about my immense wealth, but I do have the best friends and family on earth. And that’s not too shabby!

My only complaint is that the weekend was far too short. I feel like I blinked and it was over. This will be a lesson for me for my 31st birthday in Yosemite. Next year, I’m opting for a full week of Yosemite fun for my birthday, two days in paradise with friends and family is simply too short!

Love,
Orlando

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