Since my arrival in the city of Rancho Cordova on Sunday, I've been spending plenty of time with my parents. We've played games, watched videos, gone shopping and done sight-seeing. For someone who's used to spending a lot of time by myself, it's a little surprising to have people doting on me so much, but here's one definition of luxury and it's been a great vacation.
"I've got to get moving on my Dean plans," a voice keeps saying inside my head, but I've been ignoring it, feeling that everything will work out somehow. I've decided to spend a couple of hours tomorrow on the Web, while they're at church and not fretting about whether I'm bored or not.
Yesterday they drove me to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, about two-thirds the way to San Francisco from here. The place was jammed with tourists from all over: South Africa, Korea, India, Southern California, you name it.
Jelly Belly is a "gourmet jelly bean." They make billions of them here in scores of different flavors. When you first walk in the factory, there're big mosaic portraits composed entirely of these jellybeans of three of the last four presidents. The biggest belongs to Ronald Reagan, to whom they owe everything, as apparently he was a big fan and made "Jelly Belly" a Republican household term.
My parents made a beeline for the bulk Jelly Belly dispensers and promptly filled up a half-dozen sacks with around seven pounds of various jelly beans. Then we went to the cafe, entirely staffed by black folks, and I ordered a small pizza that came in the shape of a squashed Jelly Belly.
After waiting in line for a half-hour, my dad and I took the factory tour. We had to wear little paper hats while we were in the factory. They weren't actually in operations that day, so they had TVs above the floor showing what they would be doing if they were there. The highlight was seeing Mr. Jelly Belly himself riding Packaging Robot #4. He introduced us to the robots and then had them do synchronized robot arm moving to "Sugar Sugar." Clearly some IT person had a little extra time to burn.
Today my Dad and I went out for haircuts. I was thinking about leaving my hair long for Iowa, but something happened yesterday that changed my mind. While walking to Raley's yesterday, I passed a guy out washing one of his trucks. Classic rock was blaring from another, so I knew I was approaching Middle America, not one of the liberal elite I'm so used to. So I made eye contact and nodded unsmilingly, in the way I've seen men do, but he looked at me like I was some kind of longhaired liberal freak from Oregon.
So if I want to connect with undecided Iowa voters, I'm going to need to look a little more normal. So this morning I shaved off my goatee and then Dad took me to his favorite barber, about twenty minutes away in Orangevale. I told the guy that I wanted it short, and that he could clipper the sides. He asked me if I wanted a half-inch or three-quarters. I selected three-quarters, which he used the first time.
Once he was finished, he went over the sides and back two more times. Well, I now have a haircut you might find on a Marine left unattended for a week. I guess it'll grow back. I also think the Nascar dads will give me a little more respect now. Now that I think about it, though, maybe I should also lose the blue leopard spot fleece pants too.