We leave Newport on a morning of black ice and slushy snow, and arrive in Newport Beach to apologies that we have come when they are experiencing record cold. The temperature hovers somewhere near 60, but the gusty cold winds definitely make it brrrr-worthy. Still, the parkas and wool caps we see on passersby seem a bit of an overreaction.
We’ve come to Newport Beach to celebrate our anniversary. We’d been in the area for a work conference last year, but didn’t get much time to explore. This time around, we plan to get out and see what there is to see - and to lay by the pool and soak up the sun. On day one, however, the latter seems questionable at best. Still, we make the effort by the spa’s outdoor heated pool, but soon I am huddled under my towel and bundled in the spa robe. I never do work up the nerve to jump in, but I do shed the wraps to slip into the hot tub.
We celebrate our anniversary with dinner at a restaurant on the wharf, where we watch the sunset and enjoy a complimentary chocolate torte. Then, back in our room, we find a bottle of chilled champagne and a half a dozen chocolate-covered strawberries.
In the morning, the young shuttle driver gives us a ride to the beach, noting as she drives the house that just sold for $2 billion or $200 million. She’s not sure which, just that it was something “illion.”
In the coming days we visit nearby towns and neighborhoods, always calling on Uber for transportation, which starts to feel like meeting a microcosm of the world. There’s Martin, a retired school teacher whose daughter is married to an entertainment attorney. Once, at a party as they pondered the fate of nearby waterway, a guest sat down at the piano and wrote a song on the spot. The musician was Paul Simon. The song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Two of our drivers are former Oregonians. Ali tells us in a heavy accent that he is from Cleveland and is a photographer for the Rams, and how once at an Eagles game the “big green bird came flying out.” Turns out he’s not from really from Cleveland, though he has gone to school there, but from Iran. We meet two other drivers from Iran, though both prefer to think of it as Persia. One of our drivers is Russian, another bears a creepy resemblance to Kim Jong-un.
Our next driver takes us to Laguna Beach, dropping us by an oceanfront park where I meet Lambchop. Lambchop is a standard white poodle, rescued, we’re told by her Michigan owner, from neighbors she describes as “third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous.” She also tells us about her time on the Oregon Coast, where she met Lawrence of Florence, a camel who gave rides on the beach. Seriously, how is it I never heard of Lawrence?
We leave Lambchop to pursue a little retail therapy, which brings me to my flip flops - ummm Havaianas, the world’s first mass-produced rubber flip flops. I’ve heard of Havaianas, vaguely, but I can’t see that they have anything over any other flip flops. Then, I spot a pair with a 2-inch wedge heel in a rich purplely-red. But $38? My favorite flip flops came from a Vegas strip drug store and cost $3.99. Still, I give these a try, listening as the sales lady explains my options to customize them with charms starting at only $4.50. What the heck, I’ll take them. I pick out sea star charms, which she clamps in place, and hand over my credit card.
$65.73,” she says.
Excuse me, I say, trying not to swallow my tongue.
That’s $38 for the sandals, $11.50 for each charm. And, of course, tax.
I hand the shoes to the hubs to put in the pack he carries. Outside, I say, “I can’t believe I just paid $66 for a pair of flip flops, errr, Havaianas.”
Back in our hotel room, after the world’s crappiest lunch at an overpriced beachfront restaurant, we empty the pack. And there amidst the jumble from the backpack lies a sole becharmed shoe.
“There’s only one flip flop?” I say.
Chan looks mildly panicked. Then, he flings a jacket aside, and there it is.
“Whew,” I say. “You had me worried.”
“You?” he says. “But remember, they’re not flip flops; they’re Havaianas.”
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.