I was bummed when I thought I didn't have a bona fide hobby, but of course I've since realized I have a handful of great ones. At the top of my list lately has been exploring California.
When I talk about California, I get a super dork-out expression on my face, like I'm talking in a thick old-country accent about how the gold-paved U.S. opened its arms to me after I fled the pogroms, and it's not uncommon for me to tear up—no kidding. I even got emotional putting the new tags on my California plates this morning (I know, I know). In general my joy quotient has soared since I moved back almost two years ago. I've spent chunks of time in San Diego, Ventura, Lake Tahoe, Catalina, Palm Springs, Yosemite, and wine country, plus toured endlessly around the bay area and all manner of L.A. neighborhoods—and even enjoyed a quality summer afternoon in the Inland Empire. I really can't get enough, and it's inexhaustible anyway.
My latest thing is reading guidebooks even for places with which I thought I was already familiar; it's fun to drive around your own city and look things up in the index (plus it informs my Southern California-specific job, and my general knowledge base for living). This weekend was very guidebook-able, with a hike Saturday in Temescal Canyon, and then an impromptu Pasadena tour on Sunday, including the Norton Simon museum, Gamble house, and the Doo-Dah parade (OK, that one kind of got old, but the ease of access to the noodle shop and French Connection on the closed-to-traffic Colorado Boulevard broke up the monotony).
We were so touristed-out by the end of the day that we might have made our patented fake-snoring noise (I don't know how to render it in type, but it's something like chuuuh-syooo with a little whistle at the end) discretely in the 15th-century gallery shortly before museum-closing time. (And then we went to Home Depot. These days I find that it's best to be utterly physically exhausted by the end of the day if I want to have a prayer at beating my insomnia once I drop into bed.) And it was so worth it.
Incidentally, I came home to see that Huell Howser was also exploring Pasadena on his show. I'm kind of obsessed with Huell, and always think about what his reactions would be to things I see, mostly along the lines of "wow" and "that's amazing," and I imagine the sound of his silly voice and feel totally comforted. I could watch Huell on loop all day, every day. (I could do the same with First 48 and Forensic Files—R.I.P. Court TV—but those are indefensible.)
At any rate, at the risk of being too pat, I think we can all learn an important thing about enjoying life and about adventuring from the wide-eyed, voracious view-slurping Huell Howser.
And that's California's gold, for real.