My last week in San Diego was totally relaxed. Most of the time was spent with the children and eating at my favourite terrace restaurants on Del Mar, overlooking the ocean, sang and hollered with Zia and his friends at the Shout, a piano bar in the Gas Lamp Quarter, where two young pianist belted out crazy songs and the audience join in on the chorus. It was one crazy, noisy and enjoyable evening, reminding me of my university days. Tanvir, my nephew, flew in from San Francisco on Friday to visit us and in one day, with his 'black magic' tricks, Nana Banana was forgotten and he became the children's favourite Uncle. The next day, Az and I went to see the 'The Phantom of the Opera', playing at the Civic Theatre downtown. The well known opera is based on the mystery and suspense novel, Le Fantome de L Opera by Gaston Leroux and we had both seen the opera many years back, but it is a theatrical experience that I always enjoy. The critics described the production as: 'The Phantom soars to great heights on a multitude of levels. Prepare to be bedazzled, bemused and bewitched. The set design alone is a work of art, not to speak of mechanical and technical marvels that allow special effects that transport the audience back in time to the Paris Opera House and its gloomy underground labyrinth the Phantom calls home'. A couple stood in a corner of the theatre, to 'translate' the operatic songs through the hand language for those who suffer from a hearing disability. It was amazing to watch, but sad, as they could not capture the passion, the richness and the deep emotions in the voices of the singers. It was like seeing the paintings of the old masters in black and white and not be able to see the blaze of colours or the gentle strokes of the brush that blend these colors into each other. On Sunday morning, Tanvir and his Iranian friend from Grammar School days came to pick me up and drive me to my hotel on Venice Beach. Goodbyes are always difficult and terribly depressing and it always takes a little time for me to shake the feeling off, but that is the way life is. The two hour drive to SM was pleasant and we chatted over the good old days in Karachi. I had selected the Best Western after searching the net for many hours. It was right in the middle of the Broad Walk on Venice Beach, where all the action is. The present day Venice Beach was founded in 1905 as a beach resort town by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney and was known as the Venice of America. Today its sun drenched, golden beach is well known for its carnival atmosphere and the 'funky' crowd and their music. The Broad Walk is a mixture of sounds and sights, with men, women and children of all ages, colour and size, dressed in the most bizarre clothes or the lack of them, with tattoos in almost all accessible parts of their bodies and some not so accessible. There were musicians, street performers, jugglers, taro card readers, psychics, etc. Bicycles, skates and surfboards is always the order of the day, with music, laughter and gaiety all around. There are bars and restaurants, which serve a variety of food and drinks, from the NY hot dog and onions, my favourite, to burgers, pizzas and the not so gourmet food. On the day we arrived, the annual Festival of the Chariots was in full swing, with enthusiastic young men and women of all ages, dressed in the traditional Hare Krishna clothes, singing, swaying and dancing to the traditional 'Hare Krishna - Hare Ram' chants and songs. The festival celebrates Lord Krishna's return to Vrindavan, where he spent his childhood, playing with the gopis (cow herding girls), playing his flute and falling in love with Radha. It is organized by the International Society for Krishna and is celebrated in major cities throughout the world. The VB is also famous for its 'Muscle Beach', where bronzed, sweaty, muscular bodies work out on the latest body building equipment money can buy, courtesy the city government. But despite all this freedom and fun, there is no 'Eve Teasing' or rowdy misbehavior that we witness on our beaches, bazaars or public places. The 'No drinking & no smoking on the beaches and broad walk' laws are observed and respected without having to be enforced, as violators know that if they break the law, they will be punished. Being curios as usual, I asked an aged Houdini type escape artist, whose home was his highly technical, sophisticated, automated wheel chair, if given the opportunity, would he move into a regular life style and a home? And without any hesitation, his reply was: "Are you crazy Dude and be caged up like a bird? No way Hozay. Man, I like to fly whenever I want." He looked quite happy and content and at peace with the world, a view that was shared by many of his homeless friends on the beach. I suppose it takes all sorts to make the world go round. On Monday, TM, who has become well known for his 'Desi' rock music, came over to pick me up and we drove over to the Jazz Bakery to listen to some jazz and then eat at the Italian restaurant on Washington. He is planning to come to Karachi in November and hold a few rock and roll concerts. On my last day, I lunched at Monsieur Marcel, went to the movies and saw The Black Angel, the new Batman movie, which seems to be breaking all box office records and definitely worth a see and dined at I Cuggini, a popular Italian restaurant, which is a favorite of the rich and the famous of SM. At 8.00 pm, I returned to the hotel, picked up my bags and headed for the airport. So here I am, sitting at BC lounge in the HK Int. Airport and emailing the article to the Nation for its Sunday publication, which I am proud to state, I have never missed ever since I started writing these articles, no matter what part of the world I am in. So more about the 'Dark Angel' and the flight home in the next week. H Maker (email: trust@super.net.pk).