Thursday, February 28, 2008


I have just committed to a round of "secret blog pals." It's my first time. I heard about this practice from Alleen. She posted photos of her last secret pal gifts on her blog, so I've seen the process in action.

As I told Jessica today (she's a secret blog pal vet, too), I'd completely forgotten that I was going to receive gifts in this arrangement. I was all wrapped up in what I was going to send to my gal, who seems awesome, just based on a quick perusal of her blog. This makes me sound all selfless and generous, which couldn't be further from the truth. So I'm trying to figure out what I find so appealing about having a secret blog pal.

I think it has something to do with the internet. Or, more specifically, e-mail. E-mail and its role as a blog precursor. In 1994, when I learned about e-mail, the concept blew my mind. "Let me get this straight," I said. "I love my computer. And I love getting mail. And now I will be able to get and send mail INSIDE MY COMPUTER. It will become a magic box, just because I've attached a blinking, whining gizmo to it. Even better, no more delayed gratification--the mail will travel instantly. And I won't get just one "letter" a day. I might get TEN!" I couldn't imagine anything more freakin' cool if I were making a wish with a genie.

Don't laugh at my innocence, Readers. Remember, this was the time when Netscape Navigator actually had a button labeled "What's New!" which listed each emergent website. This was long before spam. It was even before emoticons! And because I had a university telnet account, I also had the stunning ability to type in anyone's e-mail address and say "Are you there?" and "talk" to them in real time...even if they were in Slovakia! Within two days of having e-mail, I was totally blissed-out in love. Gaga and smitten. I tell David that it took until 2007, when he gave me my 1000-photo digital frame for my birthday, until I found another technological invention I adored so unreservedly.

And then, suddenly, there were blogs. Blogs combined all kinds of things that I already liked. Journaling, for one. Audiences, for another (what can I say--I'm an attention whore!) And websites. Here was a website so easy that even a total technophobe like me could update it. E-mail remains warmly nestled in the bosom of blogs, too--because commenting (and receiving comments) became its own kind of conversation. And commenting added a new dimension, since you could chat up total strangers by spying on their lives, all of it perfectly up front and legal.

I mean, it's a cliche, and people talk about it all the time, but the world has gotten more accessible. I hearken back to my dear friends Marlene and Teresa, whom I met at an English conference in 1995. Together with some other folks, we spent a glorious week doing shots and screaming with laughter. One lived in Wyoming at the time, and one in Florida. I was in San Diego. So, basically, we had no shared geography, and probably never would. What was the point of staying friends? (I was asked that actual question.) But I had e-mail by then, and so did they. We started a correspondence, remarkable in both depth and simplicity, since all the trappings of a Victorian correspondence--paper, quills, sealing wax, liveried footmen--were suddenly obsolete. We could write two paragraphs in our pajamas with our morning coffee, and that was getting to know each other. I'm happy to say that today, 14 years later (!) they are two of my favorite people in the world. We've seen each other lots. And still we have never lived in the same place.

Now, I'm not saying that I expect to make lifelong friends by having a secret blog pal (and if my first pal reads this, I hope she won't be scared.) But I am absolutely tickled by the fact that the framework of the blogosphere creates an opportunity for me to send a package (complete with favorite candy) to another adoptive mom, in a faraway state, whom I have never met. What a beautiful way to make the world smaller.

And what could be LESS technological? Going to the post office with a brown paper package all tied up with string, filled with paperbacks and baby toys and yarn? Waiting with anticipation for someone to be delighted by their local post person? Sure, publishing a photo of the booty for the world to see is kind of new and different, but still. The game itself is old-fashioned. It's sweet. It's--as they say in the Catskills--haimishe. Look it up. It's a great word, and I think it fits.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hooray for Hollywood

Tonight is the Oscars. I'm all giddy; it feels like a holiday. Better, even. Most holidays don't have their own TV show.

Once upon a time, David and knew a crowd of people who saw lots of movies and were really into the Oscars. One year, we dressed up like characters from Chicago. One year, we ordered Oscar-shaped candy molds on Ebay, to create solid chocolate Oscars, which we then burnish in edible gold. They are so beautiful. We "award" these Oscars to whomever has pulled a winning actor out of a hat. David's mum gave us the idea to pause the broadcast just as the name is announced, so the at-home "winner" can give the projected speech. You'd be amazed how close we get to the real thing.

We have cocktails, and fancy finger foods, and special desserts. We have ballots, and whoever gets the most categories correct goes home with a lovely prize (often a DVD of a previous Oscar winner.) We've had a red carpet. Last year, courtesy of Jessica and Jason, we had actual film equipment and reels for decor.

Even without all the trappings, I'm all a-flutter in anticipation. I love the big entrance walk, the "what were they thinking?" dresses, the host's opening speech when we find out if they've got the right stuff, the awkward faux-repartee between the presenters, the montage of "we'll miss yous," the speech where someone cries, the speech where someone says something really sweet or surprising or boorish or all three, the interpretative dances, the jokes that don't go over, the one really shocking win, the dozen totally predictable wins, the opportunity for kvetching that the show is going too long, the afterglow when they announce Best Picture and the host waves goodnight. Just thinking about it makes me feel all warm inside.

In the past few years, Oscar night has been tough. Even when she was one, Jarrah really didn't want to go to bed before 7:30 or 8:00, and the show starts at 5:00 on the west coast. She certainly isn't interested in watching it (we'll have to brainwash her at some point.) Friends have their own babies and toddlers who don't want to watch, either. The broadcast is on a Sunday night. Factors conspire against us having a really raging party.

And maybe that's okay. It's not an occasion for a raging party. The fact is, I'm serious about watching it, and I don't like people talking over the good parts, or having to greet or say good-bye over and over as people drift in and out. I get exhausted from the hoopla, when I could be curled up on the couch, shouting at the screen. Maybe it's for the best that we're having one rabid Oscar fan over tonight, and that's it.

Oh, we've made some plans, though. For the first time, Jarrah will be going out for the evening--taking our place on date night. She and her babysitter will spend a lovely couple of hours at Chuck E. Cheese while we kick back with take-out and vodka and Red Vines.

The chocolate is melting, waiting to be poured. Somewhere, Jon Stewart is sweating. Outside, the rain falls quietly. Tonight, though, they're predicting clear skies--and lots and lots of stars.

Addendum: So, if you switch out Nicole Kidman for Denzel Washington, I was totally right back in November about how No Country for Old Men would take Best Picture. Harumph. At least Javier Bardem showed his dimples and brought his mother.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why I Need to Become a Better Liar

This writing strike has been hard on our TiVo. The NetFlix gets used up faster, and Saturday night we found ourselves woefully movie-less. Luckily, we have a Blockbuster right on the corner. David crossed the parking lot to the supermarket while Jarrah and I perused the New Releases.

Jarrah spotted this giant poster, featuring Seth Rogen for Knocked Up:

Jarrah: (pointing) Wha' happened?

Sam: (scanning shelves with one eye) Oh, he's...sad.

Jarrah: Why he SAD?

Sam: Well, not really sad. He's worried.

Jarrah: WORRIED? Why he worried?

Sam: Well, he's....he's going to be a daddy.


Sam: Wellllllllll...he met a girl and...well...he just thinks he's too young to be a daddy.


Sam: Well...being a's hard...and a lot of he's worried.


Sam: Because he's too young.


Sam: He just THINKS he's too young.

Jarrah: THINKS? WHY?

Sam: Say! Isn't that Baby Shrek in the stuffed animal bin? Why don't you carry him around and talk to him? I bet he'd love that.

Jarrah: Baby Shrek! He too young!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Where There's Smoke

Reading this post on Cheri’s blog the other day got me thinking about my own combustible youth, and I thought I’d share this story from my senior year at Smith.

I was taking a drawing class, and the assignment was “draw a pencil or an apple or your hand” (okay, I’ll just admit that I was bored and my drawing was crapcake.)

In the spirit of liberal education, I was making a valiant effort, though. I had my lap easel (I don’t remember what that is, but I feel certain I had one) and my pencils, and I decided to take a quiet hour before dinner to coax a masterpiece from my fingers.

My senior year at Smith, I had a coveted “single,” a room all to myself on the second floor of Northrup House. Northrup was an older house, mostly wood, with dark, creaky rooms and hulking corner radiators that banged all night in the winter. (Don’t start anticipating—there are no radiator tragedies in this story.) Each room came with a single bed (very inconvenient, that), a dresser with a big mirror, a bookcase, and a desk.

I lay on my bed, languidly sketching. The weak winter light illuminated my paper like in one of those Vermeers with the girl sewing. As time passed, I slipped into a serene groove, with my breathing and the gentle “shush-shush” of pencil on paper the only sounds. My apple or hand started to look half-decent. By the time we get to the nude ladies, I thought, they’ll be offering me a show.

And so it went, as the poet said, on mermaid’s paws, and eventually I started smelling Koo Koo Mitt (a nostalgic Smith aside: this was our favorite meal, chicken with sweet chili sauce—there was much speculation about the name, never corroborated) and thinking I should wrap it up and get ready for dinner. With a gentle sigh, I rolled off my bed and floated the two steps to my dresser, where I stood in front of the mirror dragging a comb across my unruly red locks while gazing into the middle distance.

Two things occurred to me pretty much simultaneously. The first was “What is WRONG with that Koo Koo Mitt? It’s really starting to stink!” The second was “Why is the middle distance so hazy, so foggy, so…”

I snapped to attention, and focused on my bed, which I could see in the mirror. It looked like my bed, alright—mauve down comforter, mounds of ruffled pillows, billows of smoke rising from the pillows…

“Ahhhhh!” I whirled around, vainly hoping that the mirage would have vanished. Nope. The billows of smoke were thicker now, swirling over the comforter. Without thinking too much I strode over to the bed and lifted the top pillow.

Orange flames curled around its edges.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!” That was the only sound I had available. There really was no time for other sounds. I don’t know how I decided to do what I did next; it was instinct. Had anyone stepped into the empty hallway of Northrup Second Floor in the next minute, they would have seen the following:

A red-headed girl with graphite all over her fingers and arms opens her door and steps into the hallway with a determined expression. She is carrying a pink, ruffled pillow. The pink, ruffled pillow is on fire. She carries the pillow straight across the hallway and through a swinging door to the “laundry room.” The quotes are there because the actual washing machines are in the basement, but the “laundry room” is for soaking handwashables in the deep basin, and then drying them on the available racks. (What the room is really for is making out with a UMass guy when your roommate is already asleep in your room, but I digress.)

If you were watching from the hallway, you wouldn’t have seen what came next, but you would have heard a tap being turned, water rushing, and the “FOOM” sound of a flaming pillow being submerged. Moments later, you would have seen the same red-headed girl emerge from the swinging doors, wet, blackened pillow in hand, cross the hall and enter her room, clicking it gently behind her.

If you pressed your ear to her door, you would have heard a brief silence, followed by hysterical, hiccuping laughter.

Here’s what happened: While I was dreamily drawing, I had kicked my mounds of pillows up over the reading lamp clipped to my headboard. Subsequent kicks pressed the pillows wantonly against the naked bulb. You get the idea. When I returned to assess the scene, I found my clip lamp had melted closed like the petals of a tulip in the evening.

But the pillow survived, Dear Readers. After it dried, I actually took the time to chop off the burned bits and sew up the new seams. It was a bit asymmetrical now, but it still worked. Hell, my head doesn’t know from rectangles.

But the first thing I did was call my friend Synthia, over at Baldwin House. Synthia and I have now known each other for 24 years, and she lives only a few minutes from me in San Diego. So we have a history. Part of that history is what she said when I told her the story of my fire—between gasps, that is. There was a stony silence. Then a slow, measured inhale, as if she was preparing to talk to a small child. “That’s not funny, Sam. Fire is dangerous. Do you know why they invented Smokey the Bear? People like you.”

Important life wisdom there. Which unfortunately for Synthia, she now has to be reminded of on a regular basis. Should she but light a candle these days she had better be ready to hear, “Do you KNOW why they invented Smokey the Bear? Well, DO YOU?”

And then there was my friend Carolyn. She had the single directly above me, though she had been blissfully unaware of my near-conflagration. She didn’t laugh, either. She didn’t even smile. She had only one thing to say:

“If the house had gone down, you would have been buying me a new stereo.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shake That Bee

This weekend has felt a bit like a retreat.

First, there was the triumphant Nia class I detailed in my last post.

Then on Saturday, we went to Costco. (No, that part was not like a retreat.) But from 3-7 p.m. I went to a fabulous new complex in Point Loma for a "playshop" with Marguerite in a big, sunny studio with 25 other Nia acolytes. We didn't actually do any Nia. But we did some karate chopping, some shaking, some sounding, and then all kinds of crazy freedance and drumming and screaming. Sound scary to you? It sounded a bit scary to me, too, but then I had a blast. That's my motto for 2008: "Get comfortable being uncomfortable." Have I mentioned that already?

This morning, I left the house at the crack of dawn (9:30) for Marguerite's guest Nia class, where she went freestyle to a packed house. Marguerite is a wizard at just choreographing whatever occurs to her in the moment, and she had a lot of Latin-y rump-shaking songs including one called "Black Machine is Jazz Machine." When I am at my most confident, I can't imagine doing "x-treme choreography" for over an hour.

Something about screaming and shaking seems to have aggravated my sinuses--I had a killer headache last night--but otherwise I feel nice and loosey-goosey. After Nia, David and Jarrah picked me up and we went to the Chinese New Year festival downtown. It's only a couple of blocks, but the stage shows are pretty awesome, and there are lion dancers. Jarrah has a love-hate thing with the lions--she can't wait to see them, and then as soon as she hears the drums, she says, "I don't LIKE lion dancing!"

After some shopping and gawking, we went to lunch with Mary, Paul and Joy, and the restaurant happened to have a raised stage in one corner (for a DJ, maybe?) The place was pretty empty, though, and the music was really loud, so Jarrah and Joy entertained themselves for an hour by promenading with outstretched arms, jutting their chins and making their eyes go all wounded and tortured. When they weren't sprinting up and the down the stairs, that is.

Somehow it got really late and David and I are enjoying an hour of Sunday afternoon naptime quiet before our date night. We're going to the Jewish Film Festival to see a documentary called "Making Trouble" that I really should have been asked to consult on. It's about the history of Jewish women comedians. And no, Readers, I'm not suggesting I belong in that history, but rather that I spent seven years researching it. But don't mind me: I'll just sit here in the dark.

Here's a Jarrah conversation to tide you over until next time. Last night before dinner, Jarrah was jumping around crazily and refusing to wash her hands. She was dressed in a pink track suit and suddenly started doing this dance that was all elbows and head-flicks.

Jarrah: Looka me!

Sam: All right, B-girl. Looks great. Now go wash your hands.

Jarrah: And when I get back, I can sting you!

Friday, February 15, 2008

I Rock

I'm feeling pleasantly buzzed right now. And I haven't even had one of David's famous lemonade martinis!

I just taught my Nia class, which I do every Friday. But today was a real high because I taught my first two Nia teachers, neither of whom had ever taken a class with me before.

I had been tipped off that Marguerite, the black belt who used to teach every single day of the week at the place I teach now (including my class) would be there, and it made sense because she's in town to do a workshop (she lives in Yosemite now.) It was flattering to contemplate, and also nerve-wracking. What would it be like to switch places with her in the same room she's taught me hundreds of times?

When I rounded the corner to the YMCA entrance this afternoon, I had a heady sensation of celebrity. I saw Marguerite, and another teacher, and then I spotted Claudine, who taught the very first class I ever took, in 2002. I remember the routine (I now teach it) and I remember swallowing a very big lump in my throat and blinking back tears because I'd gone over 30 years not knowing that what I did in front of my sliding glass door to Foreigner records as a teenager was legitimate exercise, with a name and everything.

If Claudine was my Nia ambassador, Marguerite was my coach. One time, after a "jam" in which I'd been invited to the front of the room to perform spontaneous choreography to Barry Manilow's "Her Name is Lola," she left me a message on my home phone: "Sam, you are a DANCER." I felt like she gave me permission to think so, for the first time in my life. I have no training, after all. I wasn't one of those little girls picking the wedgie of my black leotard and pink tights, or swinging a velvet bag of beribboned tap shoes from my shoulder. More's the pity, but don't look homeward, angel. It's all about the now.

Claudine moved to Prescott, AZ several years ago. I hadn't seen her in years, and hadn't seen Marguerite in over a year. And here they were, at my class. I was scared, but mostly I was giddy with excitement. I wanted to make them proud. I introduced them with my voice all high and twittery. Hopefully, it was charming instead of creepy.

It didn't hurt that I had a big class today. Students who are MY regulars. I decided to do a routine I know really, really well, and I think that paid off. I don't think I made a single significant mistake. I was on fire (I felt like I had what Shaw calls "superabundant vitality") even though I hardly slept last night and spent the morning entertaining three toddlers in my house. I could not be stopped. And everyone was smiling. And woo-hooing. I love the woo-hooing.

After the relaxation, Marguerite said, "You rock, Sam." And Claudine came up and gave me a big, sweaty hug, and said "I'm all verklempt." Now there's a statement that really means something to my people.

I thought I would be falling-over tired tonight. But I feel so good. Like I'm covered in a cashmere blanket and someone is slipping hot stones under my shoulders. Mmmmm. I hope it will last.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Left My Heart in Vanilla Frosting

Today we made Valentine cupcakes with Jessica and Yea-Yea. (See Jessica's blog for our decision-making process.) Jessica brought over a dozen moist, perfect, just-out-of the oven bottoms (ooh, naughty!) and all the fixins to frost and decorate. (Don't worry, at least I made lunch.) It was all very festive. The girls loved squeezing the frosting through the tipped bag, and loved shaking the sprinkles and positioning the silver dragees even more. With very little effort, the cupcakes came out gorgeous. We all had one for dessert, and Jarrah--true to form--licked every atom of frosting off hers and pronounced herself done. Too bad for her--the cake underneath was even better.

After her nap, she asked for another cupcake. I said she was welcome to the lightly gnawed bottom leftover from lunch. She took a couple bites but her heart wasn't in it without the frosting. I promised her a pristine new cupcake if she ate all her dinner. You better believe that pasta and cantaloupe disappeared like wedding dresses at Loehmann's.

After dinner, I asked David to take a couple of snaps of the adorable remaining cakes for the blog. I was planning to post them along with a shot of my (almost finished) apple washcloth (I'll explain that one later.) Here are the pictures he took:

Afterwards, we both gravitated towards our computers (we're like moths) and after a few peaceful moments with only the clicking of keys, I suddenly thought of something.

Sam: Wait. Did you leave her alone with the cupcakes?

David: Yeah. So?

Sam: Um, don't you think she's going to eat them?

David: No. She's not like a dog.

Sam: She's not?

David: What do you mean?

Sam: I mean she is like a dog when it comes to frosting.

As if on cue, Jarrah careened around the corner, holding her hands up in a gesture less of surrender than triumph.

Jarrah: (crowing) I got frosting on my hands!

David: Jarrah! Why do you have frosting on your hands?

Sam: She didn't.

Jarrah: (gleeful) I'm gonna wash my hands! They got frosting!

David and I sprinted towards the living room, where we saw this sad sight:

All we need now is some of that yellow police tape. And a chalk outline.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Family Day

February 6 was the 2nd anniversary of the day we met Jarrah, the day a nanny in a pink track suit placed her in our arms--a huge, overdressed baby, not crying because crying would have meant taking valuable time away from the hard candy she was sucking (at 13 months! Oy gevalt!) Two years from the day we took a bus, with Paul and Mary and six other families, to the Chongqing Children's Home, and took the same bus home with eight more people.

Last year, to celebrate, we took a train with the Rupperts (the girls were newly interested in trains) to San Juan Capistrano for the day. In a fateful moment, we met another adoptive mom in the depot who told us about Zoomar's, the magical petting zoo where guinea pigs run free. We had such a good time, we decided to make it an annual tradition.

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. The morning got off to a rocky start when our other half almost missed the train in Solana Beach. (Last year, it was our faction that brought it down to the wire.) After some tense circling of the parking lot, a lecture on terrorism from the station agent, and a last-minute dash, we kicked back on the upper deck of the Pacific SurfLiner, noshed on bagels and marveled how, in one year, we'd gone from a single sentence about the journey (that would be Joy's "Choo-choo coming!") to non-stop chatter and questions like "Why are we going backwards?" and "Why is the sun out?" and "Why is your hair gray, Mommy?" Jarrah even told a bemused older gentleman that the train is going "too fast--we have to leap out!" I wonder where she gets her gift for hyperbole?

Before we knew it, we were at the station, where we were all surprised to find that our many destinations of last year were all within 50 steps from the train. Paul noted [and I am probably misquoting him here, as well as projecting like crazy] "Last year I remember feeling that we had just survived something." Now, we agreed, it just felt like a day trip--in a good way. No stroller to schlep, no running up and down the aisles, no worries about naps. We *knew* they weren't going to nap, and that was okay.

Zoomar's was everything we remembered and more (for instance, I hadn't remembered quite so much aroma--I think last year all my senses were blunted by sleep deprivation) and the girls were total pros with the small, furry ones. We all loved being back in the pen, and I enjoyed knowing there were about six bunnies around my shoes while I lounged with my coffee, not counting the one on the bench who was checking my pocket for carrots.

There was some discussion of trying a new restaurant, but in the spirit of nostalgia we headed back to Tricky Dick's fave, El Adobe, where Mary reminded me I'd ordered a hamburger last year. Now why did I do that, in a famous Mexican restaurant? More evidence I was not totally in my right mind. Also in the spirit of nostalgia, the girls threw a joint tantrum, complete with sobbing, at our table. Last year it was over strollers, this year over chairs, but the song remains the same.

There was mutual agreement (and perhaps some accompanying relief) that we could skip the Mission this year--it's a lovely place to stroll, but the privilege does not come cheap. David and Paul generously took the girls across the street to a sort of greenbelt (not quite a park) while Mary and I shopped at a Farmers Market and a swank gift store called Whim. "Are you guys brand new?" I asked. "We've been here about six years," the gal said. More proof that the haze has lifted! Apparently last year I walked around a two-block town without ever noticing it had shops. I bought a book called I Was a Really Good Mom Until I Had Kids, and they wrapped it up like I was bringing it to a baby shower.

We arrived at the park bearing Italian wedding cookies, and everyone took a little break at a picnic table. The afternoon sunlight was almost unbearably gorgeous for February (come to think of it, we had perfect weather last year, too) and the hills surrounding the town were as green as Ireland from our recent rain. I felt a little sleepy from my lunch margarita, but pleasantly, not haggardly, so.

We never made it back to Zoomar's, even though we had an all-day hand stamp. And that's okay, because the day was about getting away from obligations. We could celebrate just as well dancing and singing on the park stage, and doing helicopters on the lawn. This year, the J girls knew it was Family Day, and even what that meant (Jarrah announced the day before, "Tomorrow I'm going to be Chinese!") After two years together, it's also really easy to be with the Rupperts, the six of us. Just like family.

On the way to San Juan, I visited the bathroom downstairs and happened to pass a tall window which, if it opened, I could have reached out and touched sand--that's how close the tracks are to the ocean. There's a stretch between Oceanside and Mission Viejo that's nothing but beach, grass, rocks and blue, blue water, and it goes on and on and on. There was no one near me; I had the whole window to myself, so I just stood there for a few minutes, watching the waves. I thought:

How weird, this view was exactly the same last year, but I never noticed it. It's been the same all this time, but I've been changing. And of course it hasn't really stayed the same, either. Nothing does. Last year I fought and fought and fought to stay the same. This year I let change happen. And it's good.

The Road Not Taken

Today we ushered in a new era. Like my dramatic flair? Thank you.

In my first year of parenthood, a day without a play date was cause for deep, abject terror (mine.) The hours stretched endlessly toward 6:30 (David's absurdly late arrival time) mitigated all-too-briefly with the precious nap. The rest of the day, I was either chasing around a playground at a speed for which I probably needed cocaine rather than my usual poison of soda and licorice, or curled up in a ball in the corner, keening. Or furtively stuffing crackers in my mouth when a certain person wasn't looking (I didn't get many crackers.) When I blogged about the 4:00 "witching hour" (or two or three) someone suggested wine, but I would have ended up having to share it. On those nights, I often met David at the door with the command, "Don't even say hello; take her outside for 10 minutes and don't ask any questions."

Those days, thank heavens, have passed. But today, Dear Readers, I tried something totally wild and crazy never attempted before, and now I think I must have been in a state of mild hypothermia or some other condition that causes the slowing of brain function (oh, I just realized what that would be) to have waited so long.

I went to the gym. Yeah, you read that right. And no, this wasn't my first time at the gym since Jarrah--I work at the gym, remember? But this time was different because I took Jarrah with me.

And I walked through the big double doors marked "Kids Place."
And I filled out a form.
And I handed the nice girls my diaper bag.
And I said "Bye, see you soon!" to Jarrah's receding back.
And I walked back out into the quiet hallway.
And I thought: AM I A TOTAL MORON?

That's the only conclusion I can draw, because I spent the next two hours engaged as follows:

--watching the news on the elliptical
--lifting weights (sorta)
--walking briskly on the treadmill with a view of trees while watching E!
--lollygagging through some yoga stretches
--taking a long, hot, uninterrupted shower


--doing it all FOR FREE. That's right, F-R-E-E. The mind reels. But apparently, my status as "staff" qualifies me for two hours of free childcare ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

And they serve snacks on the hour.

When I picked up Jarrah (blissed out, with wet hair) they told me she'd been an angel, and she told me she'd been on a pirate ship at her "new preschool."

"And how would you feel about going to the new preschool again sometime soon?" I asked, attempting to mask the urgency with which I anticipated her reply.

"Sure, Mommy."


Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Bushel and a Peck

Not being football fans, David and I spent a glorious rainy Sunday afternoon at the THEA-tuh today, seeing the musical Guys and Dolls. It was the second production for a new San Diego theater company, San Diego Musical Theater (a bit redundant, that) and I swear most of it was Broadway quality (and I know my Broadway!)

I have been a big fan of the movie since my teens, but this was my first time seeing the stage show. My sisters and I watched the movie so many times, we know every flourish of the music and odd "you could have used a contraction here" line of the book. In the 1955 film, starring Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons (not Gene, silly) and Marlon Brando (sigh) you get a double fantasy: a tale of New York City tough-guy gamblers in which not a single epithet is uttered, and a pre-Satcheen Littlefeather-era Brando who is so fine, every tip of his fedora inflicts physical pain. Naysayers claim that the part of Sky Masterson should have gone to Sinatra (aka someone who could sing) but I love Brando's gruff, talky delivery. It's sexy. So there.

Nevertheless, it was a thrill to see Robert Townsend lend his big plum-pudding voice to the part of Sky. During the second-act show stopper "Luck Be a Lady," my face hurt from smiling. Townsend's voice was gorgeous, but he was also gloriously supported by the rest of the male cast, backing him up in song but also doing acrobatics the likes of which I haven't seen since Neil of So You Think You Can Dance. Between this number and Jason Maddy as Nicely-Nicely Johnson projecting "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" right through the roof, I was giddy and weak for most of the second half.

The first half was a bit slower, I think because there were a few scenes with just two characters talking on an awfully big stage in a cavernous theater (it seats more than a thousand.) But Terra Macleod was a stand-out in "Adelaide's Lament" and such a big presence (she literally towered over Jamie Torcellini as Nathan) that I ended up liking her better than movie-Adelaide, good as she was. I think it's because Macleod is a gorgeous belter, whereas Vivian Blaine stuck to the Betty Boop-style delivery that defined her character. Macleod's Adelaide is tougher--I believed she could take care of herself, despite her claims to the contrary. I also loved the title number as performed by Eric Vest (Benny Southstreet) and Maddy, even though they were alone for what in the movie was a "cast of thousands" tableau. Any time the two of them appeared, they jacked the energy up a notch or two.

Strangely (because I did get excited about a Sky Masterson who can truly sing) I found myself missing Jean Simmons with Amy Biedel's portrayal of Sgt. Sarah Brown. Don't get me wrong, she and Townsend had great chemistry, and I wouldn't fault her acting. My objection is absurdly picky--Biedel is clearly classically-trained, and I found her operatic vibrato distracting. I'm guessing that Simmons was an actor who happened to sing in the movie version (like Brando) and I appreciated the husky, lusty quality she brought to "If I Were a Bell." When Biedel sang it, I had trouble believing her Sarah had that saucy side to her piousness.

The theater addition of the closing song "Marry the Man Today (And Change His Ways Tomorrow)" helped to explain the double wedding in the last scene. In the movie, Sarah and Adelaide didn't know each other, so the double wedding didn't make much sense. Not that I need my musicals to make sense. I'm perfectly happy to sit back and bask in the deliciousness of two strangers kissing only because they've just shared a duet called "I'll Know When My Love Comes Along." In the concession line during intermission, I overheard a pre-teen asking her mother "How DO you know when your love comes along? How do you know it's really love?"

"Well," her mother said thoughtfully. "I guess if you can spend time doing the normal, boring parts of life together and still stand each other, then you know it's love."

Awwww. Where's the fun in that?