In a theme of traveling on my birthday, the following year when I turned the slightly-less epic thirty-one, we happened to be traveling to Long Beach, California for yet another engineering conference. Since the event was the week before my birthday, we decided that we would take the ferry out to Santa Catalina Island on the actual day of the event.
Rising bright and early, we headed down to the pier and caught the ferry. For the second year in a row, I saw whales on my birthday, cementing them in my heart as my favorite animal. Although it wasn’t quite as up close as the experience in Alaska had been, I was still awed by the omen.
My Spanish class name in high school was Catalina, from my first visit to the secluded little getaway. I was eleven and spent the entire ferry ride over as green as could be. This was only the second engineering conference I had ever attended, and to this day there are still people who bring up this trip and my stomach’s inability to handle the boat.
The island was just as beautiful and quaint and adorable as my memory had led me to believe, despite the tainted green tinge that covered the entire previous visit.
We were on a schedule, because in addition to visiting Catalina Island that day – we were going to go ziplining. Neither of us had ever ziplined beyond the simple tower-to-tower of a ropes course. This would be a half-day adventure with a ride up the mountain and them we would zipline back into town.
On my 31st birthday, I figured out what I was born to do with my life: zipline.
I have always slept curled up in a tight ball. I once spent almost an entire week of college sleeping on my friend’s papasan chair because I could simply cocoon myself and sleep like a champ.
When you zipline, you need to be in a tuck as you soar over the canyons – and I was a born natural. I had never really understood the obsession that had haunted generations of mankind—since Icarus—of soring overhead like a bird.
After swinging my way back to the town of Avalon, where the ferry had deposited us early that morning, I took a dip in the ocean and then joined my husband at the bar for a predinner drink. We were chatting about the adventure, and decided where we should eat before we headed back to the mainland, when we overheard the couple next to us arguing. They were fake arguing, and my husband and I both laughed as we recognized ourselves in the two of them. We began to chat and decided that we would all have dinner together.
Our new friends decided they were going to go and change, they were in their beach attire.
“Do you want to come back to our room and shower?” Came the question from our new friends.
My husband and I politely turned their kind offer down, and we arranged to meet the couple at a restaurant downtown in about forty-five minutes. As we meandered past the Historic Casino we were talking about the offer.
“Ummm…that was kind of weird.”
“Yeah it was. It was either really nice, or we are on a date.”
My husband said it was a joke, but we slowly turned to look at each other. Were they swingers? We had never met swingers, we weren’t sure how bold the couple would be if it were the case.
We debated standing up our dates, but decided the island and town were too small to avoid them until our ferry departed.
So we showed up.
They were a little later than they had expected to be, and we both lived in hope that they had decided we weren’t swingers and we could enjoy my birthday dinner with just the two of us.
Not only did they show, but my new bestie immediately told the waiter it was my birthday. They didn’t do a free slice of cake like most restaurants — they gave Birthday Cake shots.
As I rule, based on my absinthe story you may figure out why, I do not take shots.
But I succumbed to the peer pressure. I still think she was trying to get me drunk. We ate our dinner, and then (despite the fact that we were three blocks from the ferry landing) my husband and I excused ourselves from our date and escaped. We wandered around surreptitiously until the ferry came and we returned to Long Beach…having swung from the trees ONLY.