For those who do not know, Catalina Express has a deal for a free roundtrip boat ride to the island on your birthday. The Catalina Chamber of Commerce call the whole thing “Birthday Island” and there are other perks celebrating your first day of breathing and digesting on your own. You can read about those, but I have some treasures that can’t be printed into a guide, given away or even purchased.
My exposure to the island started 5 years ago with the Catalina Film Festival, of which I am now a board member. I had never been to the island before and now I’ve been several times and know people who live there. I’m still a “tourist”, but I know my way around. Check out my day in paradise!
Breakfast With An Island Star
I took the first boat in the morning, the 6:15 leaving Long Beach. On a side note, I met a teacher on the boat ride and we talked about our Catalina Kids (more on them later). When I arrived, I got a Happy Birthday singing phone call from Ron Truppa, the Executive Director and co-founder of the festival. He happened to be on the island that morning, so we had breakfast and I hung out with him for a bit. It was good times. Walking anywhere on the island I like planning on taking 5 steps and stopping for a chat. He seems to know EVERY SINGLE PERSON!
Story of Triplet Stars
One of the people that Ron knew was this man who had triplet daughters that were graduating high school and headed off to college. Interestingly the teacher that I met on the boat had told me how small the school was with an average graduating class of 40 and how difficult the transition can be when they move and either go to college or get jobs. Well, these triplets are ALL going to IVY LEAGUE colleges in New York. Two are going to Columbia…in Manhattan and the other is going up-state to Cornell. Crazy right? That’s a not so insignificant percentage of the class, from one family, headed to Ivy League.
It’s a Small World
So we left the man who raised three Ivy League daughters on a small island and met up with another man who is a supporter of the festival. I was telling them about volunteer “Catalina Kids” who help out the film crew and how I planned to catch up with them after they got out of school. Well, about 5 minutes later I was introduced to the mother of one of the kids as she was in the same coffee joint we were in.
Behind The Scenes of a Legend
I left them and ventured out on my own as I had an appointment to tour the Catalina Casino building. Fun Fact: Casino is taken from Italian and it means a place of gathering and entertainment. It does not mean gambling, but the popularity of Las Vegas has focused on that specific form of entertainment in real world use of the word. Well, the Catalina Casino has no gambling. It is a movie theatre and has the world’s largest circular ballroom dance floor. The history is rather amazing. I recommend the tour if you find yourself on Catalina.
After the tour, I had lunch with my friend Amy who works for the Catalina Island Conservancy. I met her the first year of the festival and she’s been a great friend ever since. Her family even comes to town for the festival now. Don’t worry ladies, she’s not eligible to be my next ex. We are firmly planted in the friend zone and she’s in love out there, in the back-country of the island. Anyway, we went to The Lobster Trap. She had chicken and I had fish & chips…with HALIBUT for the fish part. Amy informed me that he fishing friends get halibut a lot and they share it with her. Her life started sounding AWESOME. Oh yeah, after a battle back and forth, she “won” and paid for lunch. I know…island rules.
Get In Carts With Strangers
I had walked up one the streets and ended up pretty high up a hill. On my way down, the young lady in a golf cart (those are the cars on the island) asked where I was going and if I wanted a ride down the hill. I graciously accepted. I’m still in Los Angeles county, but definitely NOT in Los Angeles. On the ride, I find out that my new friend is on her way to China the next day because she’s a Red Bull professional cliff diver. Yup, she’s one of those people who jump off of really high cliffs into the water. I was kind of in awe….because that’s awesome.
My Island Kids!!
No, I haven’t reproduced any offspring on the island, but we have some high schoolers that help us out during the festival. Three off them help out the film crew and they are amazing. I met up with one after her softball game and she drove me around in her cart and showed me the “Field of Dreams”, which is now a big parking lot. L The Field of Dreams is where the Cubs used to have spring training back in the day. Yup…look it up. We then saw a second student after he came back from “overtown”. They are such fun and they are soooo talented.
Off Into the Sunset
I waved bye and got back on the boat that brought me to paradise, just for the day. Wow, what a day. When people asked me what I did, I had trouble really explaining it. I had no agenda or action items or a list. I kind of just wandered and connected with people and it was GREAT. I recommend it. Oh yeah, one more thing…
Good Fortune’s Gift
When I got back to overtown/mainland, I was heading to the parking structure and doing the ‘ole pat down in search of my keys. Um…searching…searching…oh no. I got to my car and unloaded my bag, very aware that I took the last boat back tonight and that it is a $75 round trip to go back and get my keys. I was also about an hour from home, so to ask someone to come fetch me on a weeknight to then go back to get my keys and then take me back to the car so they could then finally go home, was not a pleasant thought of an option. I emptied my bag on the trunk and started going through everything. I knocked my something to the ground and bent down to grab it and noticed my keys. They were IN the UNLOCKED door of my car and had been there the whole long day. THANK YOU, GOOD FORTUNE!
Happy Ending (Rated G Version)
You can see ALL of my trip pics in this Facebook album.
Some other adventures of the JDE!
My PureView of Portland
My PureView of Hollywood Sign Hike