HOW I SPENT MY 4TH OF JULY WITH THE COEN BROTHERS
“I’ll Never Leave Home on a Holiday Again”
By Marlene Levine
I should have known things would not go well if we broke our promise to “Never leave home on a holiday”. But the thought of watching the fireworks on Big Bear Lake and escaping the desert furnace for a few days was just too tempting.
We packed up our car Tuesday morning and left the desert at about 11:30. Heading out of town the temperature was already over 100. After passing through the little town of Yucaipa, Richard told me to check the map. He had picked up a AAA map of mountain parks but it only had the areas around Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead. I found more maps…4 of L. A., 1 of San Diego and 1 of Palm Springs. He asked if I had seen any signs and I said no because I was looking at maps.
We came to a “fork in the road”. I said maybe we should take that left turn. But we kept going. Richard mentioned several times that this did not look familiar. Finally we saw a sign, a big red apple sign that said “Welcome to Oak Glen”. I guess we should have taken that “fork in the road”!
A nice young girl in a cafe/gift shop said to just continue on Oak Glen Road until we come to Briant then turn right and stay on Briant until we come to the Big Bear sign and turn right again. We have now driven around in a complete circle.
As we drive up the winding road, the temperature is NOT dropping very much. We reach the top and head toward Big Bear. The traffic continues to increase. By the time we reach Big Bear Village it is obvious that most of L. A. is here also.
We follow the directions to our condo just past the Village. The driveway will come up quickly right after the Cowboy Café (“Which is good for steaks but that’s about it” we were told.) We make our daring turn out of traffic and head up to our condo. Ours is #5 right between #4 and #6. Across the parking lot is #1, #2 and #3.
The temperature here is a very disappointing 88 degrees. One can only guess the temperature inside the unit. We open the door at the first level and it is HOT. We climb the first two flights of stairs to the second lever with the kitchen and living area…it is HOTTER. There is a short flight of stairs to a small bedroom with small bed…It is HOTTER still. Then we trudge up the next flight of stairs to a loft bedroom…and it is the HOTTEST!
We open the patio door off the kitchen and turn on the floor fan that is so loud we have to yell at each other. Even the 88 degree air outside is cooler that the air inside. We notice that there is a family in #2 across the parking lot.
The condo is very nice. It is well furnished and has top-of-the-line appliances. Now to decide how to get our stuff moved in. We do a relay from the car to the entrance. Then we do a relay with one taking the first set of stairs and the other taking the second. Once the job is done we are puddles of sweat.
We put our stuff away and decide we have earned some dinner. Hot, sweaty and tired we opt for a sandwich and a cold beer. Rested but not cooled off, we think we had better check out the lake to find a spot to put our chairs tomorrow. Walking around the lake area near our condo we quickly realize there is no place for us to land. At least we have the option of watching from our patio where we have about a 1 inch view of the lake…but we have the whole sky above.
We go back to the condo and put together the two fans we brought. Smart thinking on Richard’s part.
Richard decides he will sleep in the little bed to avoid having to deal with another flight of stairs. I take my fan and head up the stairs hoping a shower will cool me off.
Feeling somewhat refreshed and with the fan on full speed, I attempt to get into bed. The bed is so high I cannot just climb in. I try leaping up in a frontal dive…nope. I try the pole-vaulters backward flop…nope. I try standing in the drawer of the night stand and I kick over my glass of water…that didn’t work. What to do? I go back down the stairs. Richard is sleeping peacefully in his little bed. I’m looking for something. I find it. Yes, the wooden barstool. That should work. Back up the stairs, I place the stool by the side of the bed nearest the wall. Leaning back on the bed and one step up at a time, I am able to launch myself onto the bed. Whew…well, tomorrow should be a better day.
Waking up around 6:00 the temperature seems to be a bit cooler. A cup of coffee and reading the news on my cell phone will be pleasant. There is no TV or radio available. The coffee pot is all ready except for one thing. We forgot to bring the coffee! Caffeine withdrawal!!
Richard gets up and we get dressed so we can find a grocery store. We’ll have breakfast somewhere. We pass Denny’s then I spot a little café called Grizzles and we think it looks good. We shop then merge back out into the traffic. The line at Grizzles is out the door. So, sadly, back to Denny’s. Now I understand why they call their breakfasts “slams”.
Back at the condo, I tell Richard that maybe he could go fishing tomorrow and we could go home Saturday rather than Sunday. He agrees. We notice that another family has arrived in #3. They seem to be part of the family in #2.
What to do now? It’s too hot to go out or to sit on the balcony. But we can play our movies. I brought the Coen Brothers and we choose “Fargo”. Maybe it will cool us off viewing the scenes of the frozen North. The movie ends and we argue over whose leg was in the wood chopper.
We really need to get out of here for a while, so it’s back into the traffic to visit the Village. A guy is pulling out and we are lucky to get a parking spot right on the main drag. Walking around the town is a challenge because there are so many people. After about an hour, we’ve had it, so it’s back to the condo. It’s in the low 80’s now, so with our two fans and the turbo-prop, it’s almost livable.
Happily I brought another Coen Brothers movie. We fix a snack and two tall Vodka Tonics. This should be perfect for watching “The Big Lebowski”.
The movie is over and it is still some time before dark. We both conclude this little get-away is sort of a bummer and sort of boring. I tell Richard that maybe we can just go home tomorrow. He agrees.
Another family has arrived in #1 and they have all begun to set up for their big Bar B Q in the parking lot.
We fix our fine 4th of July dinner…lunchmeat sandwiches, chips, fruit and ginger ale. Finally it is cool enough and dark enough to sit on the patio. About 9:00 the fireworks begin. We can hear the ground display they are doing by the lake but we cannot see it. Then a white ball shoots straight up into the air and bursts into red, silver and blue stars. We are amazed to have a perfect seat for a fantastic display right before our eyes. We are doubly pleased with this considering how everything else has gone.
Fireworks over, I go back up the stairs to the shower and to bed. I seem to be getting quite good at launching off the barstool.
Around 6:00 I get up and realize it is cooler than usual. I turn off my fan and go down stairs. Richard has turned off the turbo-prop and the coffee is already brewing. We drink our coffee and read The Desert Sun and the L. A. Times on our phones. Richard toasts the bagels and I get out the cream cheese and lox. Now it is time for us to get dressed and begin the process of two days ago, only in reverse. We’ve cleaned up and packed up and are about ready to leave when the neighbor from #6 next door comes over. They had arrived yesterday. We chat about the spectacular fireworks and about Big Bear. He kept mentioning that it had never before been this hot here this early.
Then he said something that we should have known before we booked this little excursion. “Well, the 4th of July is ALWAYS the busiest time of the year here. The traffic is just awful and you can’t get in anywhere.”
We say good bye and creep out into the traffic. We make our way slowly toward the signs leading away and the traffic is now mostly going the opposite direction. We are finally on our way down the mountain. I begin to think the Coen Brothers could have written the script for our 4th of July. I tell Richard we must renew our vows…our vows to “never leave home on a holiday again”.
“The Dude abides!”