Today I’ll try to catch this running diary back up in advance of the last installment on either Thursday or Friday. I’ve enjoyed my time in San Diego, and even though I wish I didn’t have to work 7:00 – 3:00 most days and feel as though there’s still a ton I haven’t seen, we’ve done a ton with this trip in retrospect.

Sunday was a story of doing a ton without ever leaving the pool deck. It was the last day for most of the people involved in the wedding to be here, so it was a good day to stay close to home. Besides, there was a wedding post-party on the pool deck that started early in the day and people just never wanted to leave. In fairness, exhaustion had taken over for the most part and understandably so. With that said, Sunday became the day of Nolan Winning (not that I was overly competitive or anything mom, I promise).

I woke up relatively early again Sunday morning, especially compared with the people who had gotten kicked off of the hotel patio just a couple of hours prior. Elizabeth joined me for breakfast, which was a treat in and of itself. Eventually more people began to filter in, including Pam and Terri. I was enjoying a delicious corned beef hash and coffeeing off my hangover when we got a text reminder that there was brunch on the pool deck with the pool party. Yes, I did feel slightly guilty.

We put on swimsuits and headed down to the pool, where Chris and Chanelle had control of two cabanas and had special permission to bring in all sorts of snacks. It was a nice setup! We were among the first there, which offered the opportunity to lay beneath some umbrellas and relax before the party really got going.

I was in the middle of a nice, chill game of cornhole with Winston, Garrett, and Charlie when a dude showed up. He said he was from Cutwater Spirits and hosting a cornholes tournament in honor of Pina Colada day (rich people, amirite). He had a poster board to make a bracket and two buckets filled with stuff for the winners. This escalated the stakes considerably. Winston and I signed up as Fire in the Cornhole, and I raised the competitive level from 6 to 10. We spent the next 20 minutes warming up on the boards we’d be using, which were about the slipperiest things I’d ever seen.

Maybe all the warming up was a bad idea, because the two of us came out with the yips in the first round. Fortunately, our opponents weren’t setting the world on fire either, but they were also only playing for fun. The opening games were only to 11, leaving open the distinct possibility that one bad round could sink us. Fortunately, we were able to grind out a not-all-that-close but still uneasy win. Then we settled back with a horrifically bad Cutwater canned pina colada to watch Elizabeth and Garrett beat Charlie and David.

The next round, we were matched up against Alex and his buddy who had never played cornhole before. He was chucking basketball shots at the board. The first one went in, which was unnerving. And then I don’t think he landed one on the rest of the game, as Winston and I quickly dispatched them the way a favorite is supposed to do. Then, once again, we settled in to watch Elizabeth and Garrett, who this time managed to beat Team Wedding (with Chris absent, admittedly). Due to a bracket imbalance, they had to play one more game against Michael and his partner while Winston and I watched, with the winner playing us in the finals. But in the meantime, I was able to catch some of the Euro 2020 final from the bar, where I’d bet on a tie after 90 minutes and over 1.5 goals. I got there just in time to watch Italy tie England 1-1 in the second half. The day of winning was fully on.

Michael’s team took care of Elizabeth’s, helped by the fact that Elizabeth can’t for the life of her doing anything athletic under pressure. That set up an epic finals round to 21 between Michael and his partner (sorry, I don’t remember who – there’s a lot of relatives) and Winston and myself. And what a game it was. Winston and I jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Then Michael holed all of his bags in a round to take the lead back. Then I responded with a giant round of my own to take back a decent lead. Then we traded scores, setting Winston and me up with a 15-10 lead and a chance to finish things off. So of course Michael punched back again to make it 15-14. After a nervy round where I finally holed one on a big final shot, we had a chance to win, and Winston immediately paid it off. We were the Cutwater Cornhole Champions.

The day of Nolan Winning continued as I rolled over to the hotel lobby with Winston to watch the end of the Euro match with Chris’s friend Sid, a devout England fan. As someone who will always hit English soccer, I was secretly rooting for Italy, but after cashing all of my bets already did I really care? Well, as it turned out, I had to comfort Sid as the game went to penalties and England blew a surefire win. Secretly, I smiled.

Back outside by midafternoon, the sprawling party was still ongoing under a cluster of pool umbrellas. I grabbed a chair and grabbed some nachos and just relaxed, letting the Harding/Fairchild conversation roll over me. I couldn’t quite sleep (unlike some others there), but I could get comfortable in the ever-perfect San Diego sunshine.

Presently, I got bored of this and invited Garrett to play a game of giant chess with me. We actually ended up playing 3, and somehow the day of Nolan Winning kept rolling undefeated, even though Garrett is definitely better than me at chess. The highlight came in the first game when I captured his queen and then ran over with the giant chess piece to the deck chairs and handed it to Elizabeth, yelling “My queen!”

The biggest stunner came in the evening, with the sun setting in the distance and Fairchild family members filtering out to go to the airport. I challenged Winston to a game of ping pong, knowing I had little chance of even competing after he slaughtered me back in Virginia in June of 2020. What was shocking, then, was not that I held my own, but that I took a large lead into the mid-game. I have no hope of rallying, so every severe I made was calculated to hit the corner and make his return tough. Once he caught on, he came roaring all the way back into the lead, only for us to end up tied 20-20 after a few more clutch serves from me. We switched one last time and I won the game on a tough rally that could have gone either way.

I did not win, however, in the game of trash cleanup. Winston and Alex “slept” while I helped clean up the obscene amount of refuse that 30 or so people can accumulate at a resort pool all day. It was truly shocking how many cans there were. I wasn’t even drinking myself! It took a solid half hour to clean everything up, by which point it was way into the “I wanted dinner an hour and a half ago” range. We decided on the Hotel Del Coronado, the fanciest resort in all of San Diego, just a few miles away. When I say this place was a castle, I mean that it was basically a castle. Our hotel is incredibly nice, but this thing made it look like a Days Inn comparatively. Taylor had told Elizabeth and me to get drinks from the bar there, so I was forced to order an alcohol. My Moscow mule did turn out to be the best I’ve ever had, so I can’t really complain. The chicken sandwich I had was conversely an intense level of average, at an intensely not average price.

Yet again, I was reasonably happy with how early I was able to fall asleep – this time by 11:00, since everyone must have just been fully exhausted. I was definitely not joined in waking up at 7:00 yesterday for a work shift that was tumultuous to say the least – I was unable to access the DNS I needed to for work on hotel wifi, so I tried to go back to the room to use Elizabeth’s personal hotspot, then my room key didn’t work, at which point as I was hustling back to the front desk, I was messaged that my services were no longer necessary. It was not one of the higher points of my stay here in San Diego.

The rest of my workday was spent in generally interminable boredom. Elizabeth wanted to get out and do things and see San Diego during the day, but I think everyone else was still moving slowly, which made her antsy. By the end of the day I’m not sure how much they had accomplished other than dropping off my tuxedo. However, Victor’s brother (I believe?) Bert invited us to his house for a barbecue that evening up in Carlsbad, CA. On top of the obvious topline of barbecued food, I was excited to drive out there and see more of the coastline. I keep thinking southern California actually looks like the Grand Theft Auto map, which I suppose is probably not the greatest sign of my intelligence, but is true.

Bert’s family has a lovely home and three kids who are all super into sports, so I got along with them just fine. I taught his son, who’s a pitcher for his Little League team, how to throw a cutter. We watched the Home Run Derby and ate a charcuterie. I heard lots of stories from the older Hardings about years past. Pam’s friend Dave who she hadn’t seen in years was invited – he was a pretty cool dude, like anyone who flies their own hang glider has to be. Perhaps most importantly, the brisket was delicious. Bert can barbecue with the best of them.

The section about yesterday is a little bit short, but I mostly want to convey that last night’s get-together was just the sort of thing I’ve missed during covid – meeting people, hanging out, throwing baseballs against a pitching net, and telling stories. It was just a nice way to cap the weekend by getting to spend time in their home, getting to know them and hold their bunny. The week is almost up, and I realize I’m not upset that we aren’t going to get to see as many tourist sights as we wanted, because I’ve just been so glad to get to be social again.

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