I wasn’t ready to be older yet, so I climbed onto a roof with my two best friends, plastic cups filled with fernet. Swathed in the buzz of the city, but feeling peaceful from this height. The alcohol in my body makes my heart beat just a little bit faster, and the vastness of Los Angeles sprawling out in every direction makes my mind wander a little bit wilder. From my spot on the rooftop, I could throw a rock onto the 405. 30 years old and sneaking onto hotel roofs. Never have I felt so young. We speak in hushed voices and pose for photos, illuminated by the city’s high rises and streetlights.
Like it or not, turning 30 feels monumental. To celebrate the transition to my 30th year, I took a road trip with my friends, Jon and Neil to Southern California. We spent five carefree days eating and drinking and acting young again; the apex of the trip being my birthday, where after an afternoon of riding bikes along the beach, we were treated to a memorable meal at Ink in West Hollywood/Beverley Hills. Our main reason for visiting LA was to eat here for my birthday after hearing much praise about the food. Turns out Neil and I went to high school with the chef du cuisine, and after a quick hello, the food starting arriving, including dishes, compliments of the kitchen. Our first – and one of the more memorable dishes – was hamachi, sitting underneath a webbing of crispy Oaxacan cheese, joined by citrus kosho, smoked buttermilk cream and tomatoes. The dish was light, refreshing and ethereal. With our first bites, we were on our way. Other memorable dishes included beef tartare with hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, horseradish and rye crisps; branzino with roasted cauliflower, caper and fermented grapes; potato “charcoal,” whole marble potatoes dyed black to look like charcoal, served with house made sour cream and black vinegar that came in a spray bottle that you could spritz to your taste. The potatoes were remarkable. So simple, and so delicious; quite possibly the best potato I’ve ever had.
We ate gluttonously – which one should do when feeling their youth – and then we found ourselves on the roof. Lord Byron said, “My time has been passed viciously and agreeably; at thirty-one so few years, months, days, hours, or minutes remain that Carpe Diem ‘is not enough. I have been obliged to crop even the seconds-for who can trust to tomorrow?” I figured if today was my last day on earth, why not seize the moment? We seized every moment on the trip, but at that exact moment, we had two choices: act like civilized adults and go back to our room, or toss ourselves over the retaining wall and onto the roof.
When I was a kid I was worried about growing up too fast, always looking forward, curious about what life had in store. Now 30, looking back wondering what happened to my twenties, and yet all the more curious about what’s to come as I tiptoe across the rooftop for this one last hurrah.
I can now look back and see how the dots connected in my life; but it’s hard to believe that just few years ago I was jobless, living back at my Mom’s house, desperately wanting just one or two dots to connect. But of course, that’s not how life works. You can’t plan the road map and expect to follow it perfectly.
Likewise, scheduling your events on a road trip goes against the grain of the fabric of what a road trip is. There must be room for improvisation. Standing on a roof, LA reminds me that there’s still time to improvise and still time to be young. Gone are the grass stains from my knees and the Ninja Turtles from my hand. But still here are these fleeting moments where you can make a moment, a night, and an entire trip more memorable. Case and point, here I am telling you about my trip and focusing on brief, transient moment of clarity, from a rooftop on a warm night in LA.
I wish I had some words of wisdom for you now that I’m older, but age is just a number. I think we’re all looking for meaning the older we get, but no matter how many years pass, you never really find it; so why not just climb on a roof and have another drink?