destination procrastination

December 2, 2008

While those at UCLA only have a weekend to buffer between the end of instruction and the first day of finals, USC insists on giving us two extra “study days,” apparently crucial to my success on a test I will never be prepared for.

But as far as I can tell, everyone has already checked out. My classes are empty, notetaking has ceased and visions of sugarplums seem to be dancing in everyone’s head. So what are we really supposed to do with those two extra days?

In my years of ignoring responsibility and trying to postpone the inevitable, I have become a master of finding things to do instead of writing essays and opening textbooks. And nowhere is this more useful than the four-day weekend before finals week.

Coming off of one of the laziest, inverted sleep pattern-filled Thanksgiving breaks on record, giving me extra time off will not promote healthy study habits. It will just give me more hours of daylight to get a head start on the list I created for winter break leisure. After three months of school-induced chaos, I don’t quite yet deserve a break, but I’ll take any opportunity to pretend I do!

Here’s a minor list of things everyone should try and do in those extra days, half for the sake of the California winter and half for the sake of procrastination:

  • Go to the beach! Venice, Laguna, Manhattan, Long. Whatever! Especially if you’re flying back home to the Midwest for the holidays, you should soak up the California coastline in December. Better yet, get a hotel room on the beach. Rates are cheap and tourists are non-existent. Last year, I got an early-December poolside sunburn at the Hyatt in Huntington Beach and as I peeled off the dead skin into funny shapes, I laughed at New York’s snowy streets.
  • Disneyland is the ultimate way to waste a day. Living anywhere near Orange County allows you to blow $300 on an annual pass (use it three times and it pays for itself!), but if you can only afford one day at the happiest place on Earth, it should be in December. The Haunted Mansion is redone with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme and the Christmas parade—which replaces the boring Summer one—is glitzier than a night at the Oscars. After Santa goes backstage and the carolers stop singing on Main Street, fake snow shoots from the rooftops near City Hall and everyone is awed as it disintegrates on the ground. Ahh, California holidays.
  • Find your favorite restaurant patio and—go ahead—eat that meal outside. We might be famous for our scantily-clad Summers, but there is no exquisite sin greater than people watching the Los Angeles winterfolk. Try Urth on Melrose, Swingers on Beverly or Birds on Franklin. Even if it’s (for some weird reason) cold outside, make the busboy turn on those butane heaters and enjoy the open air. Hey, at least it’s not sleeting!
  • Use the crisp air of December to catch a sweet view of the city from a vantage point of your choosing. Summer means heat and heat means that our ever-present smog hangs low over our heads like a blank page the night before your final paper is due. But winter! The cold air after a cold night (or, even better, cold rain) is like kryptonite for smog (or maybe it just blends in with the marine layer?). Either way, if you drive Mulholland from Cahuenga to Malibu and pull off on any street with a cool name and you’ll come face to face with a city you never knew existed. Last winter, I waited until the day after a major storm to hike to the top of Runyon Canyon and from my outlook in the Hollywood Hills—no exaggeration—I could see the buildings of downtown Long Beach, the greenery on Palos Verdes and the distinct shape of Catalina Island. It was like God Photoshopped reality and downloaded the .jpg to my eyes.

In a land of no real seasons, it’s important to enjoy the one we have. Happy days off!

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