Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Birthday Meta-Post

It was a wonderful birthday. I pretty much did exactly as I pleased from the moment I opened my eyes until I went to bed close to midnight. It was my first Facebook birthday, and many dear people posted good wishes on my wall. (How quickly this Facebook thing has come to resemble life!) I got some nice phone calls, cards in the mail from old friends, a stunning flower arrangement from my parents, afternoon cuddle time with Jarrah (this is the child who normally responds to a request for a kiss with "You can have a kiss tomorrow") and--during her nap--Gossip Girl in my pajamas with a cup of General Foods International Coffee French Vanilla. I was treated to lunch at a scrumptious new-to-me place called The Guild by my friend Stephanie, right after I spent two hours being rubbed, creamed and hot-rocked into an invertebrate life form by the wizardly Amber at Indigo Spa.

And then there was you, Dear Readers. Dear, dear Readers, many of whom I've never met before. But isn't that the beauty of the blogosphere, where putting a request out into the universe might make you "Dooce for a Day?" I issued a challenge, feeling vaguely foolish but not foolish enough not to do it (this birthday was all about asking--politely--for exactly what I want.) And you came through. My former comment record was smashed by Tuesday morning, and by today, I'd doubled it.

Special attention must be paid to a pair of lovely ladies who made themselves my wing men. (Wing women?) Laural at Mamasphere, whose blog is understandably popular, posted a birthday blog JUST FOR ME. That's right--a public plea devoted to my quest, from whence an outpouring of support came flooding. I am currently in the process of stopping by to thank all my birthday guests, but I want to go on record here--in case your profile is blocked or (gasp!) you don't have a blog--and thank you from the bottom of my comment ho heart--you must visualize the the wicked grin when I turned on the computer as the first act of my natal day.

I am also indebted to the San Diego Blog Bitches, and particularly Cheri, who also posted in my honor, pimping me (her word) to bitches far and wide. I hope I am able to thank you bitches in person very soon.

And a final big smooch to my dear husband, whose passion for the latest gadgets put him in cahoots with Oprah this week as he gifted me with a Kindle. What's a Kindle, you ask? Well, I'm so glad you did, since every time someone does, it's more evidence of just how cutting edge I truly am. A Kindle is an electronic book, a device the size, shape and weight of a paperback, with a face of "electronic paper," that holds up to 200 novel-length books, content for which can be instantly sampled or purchased from Amazon in the time it takes to press "Buy It Now." As you might imagine, I am more than a little stoked.

If I can get serious on you for a moment, I would like to say that there were so many people dear to my heart who were instrumental in making this a birthday for the ages. The entire week has been a lesson in gratitude. And I'm an excellent student. Thank you all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Comment?

It's my birthday tomorrow, and in honor of that international event, I want to issue a friendly challenge. Please help me beat my comment record for my birthday!

I believe the record is 32, set way back when I was in China, doing some un-comment-worthy thing like, oh, becoming a mother.

But this is different, Dear Readers, because, see--I'm getting older. I need more comments to sustain me and the blog. It's just part of the aging process, I'm afraid. Please send help.

It being my birthday and all, that breaks the ice, in case there's nothing else on your mind.

And yes, I know I'm a comment ho. There's time for rehab later.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Six Little Words

Laural at Mamasphere (which will soon be renamed, but by any other name would smell as sweet--it's hysterical and I love it, go check it out) tagged me with a fascinating meme called "Life in Six Words."

Now, those who know and love me would probably have a lot of gracious things to say about my talents, possibly even more than I would helpfully suggest myself. And those who know and love me would also vigorously agree that brevity is not my strong suit. I struggle just limiting myself to a single sentence to describe my "status" on Facebook. Six words is a genuine challenge.

So I'm going to steal Laural's idea and give myself a few chances to get it right. Here goes:

Constant worrying sucks out your soul.

This one is more aspirational than anything. I worry a lot, and I wish I didn't. I'd have a lot more time--and space in my head.

Dance like nobody is watching you.

I know, I know, I stole that one from a bumper sticker, but isn't it great? And I do. I'm always dancing. Even when people are watching, I don't mind--I dance like they're not.

Well-behaved women rarely make history.

Another bumper sticker; I wielded this one in an argument with David the other night, after which I could see he was carefully counting to ten to avoid saying something he might regret.

Write about your life--photos lie.

This is my counter to "A picture is worth a thousand words." Which is just not true, in my opinion. Not that I don't like pictures. But I like well-chosen words even more.

There is no try, only do.

This one is courtesy of Yoda. It sounds better when you're a little green guy with big eyes and ears. But I like the idea behind it, because it speaks to our fear of failing. The only way we fail is to do nothing at all.

Treat everyone like they are innocent.

I'm a grudge-holder. I can hold grudges against people I've just met. So one of my life goals is to assume the best of people, not the worst. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Not take everything so personally. This one is as tough for me as writing something in six words.

Take a risk--do it now.

This is a biggie, because it applies to everything, from apologizing to joining the circus. I'd like to say I live by it, but I only WANT to.

How about you, Readers? Feel free to tag yourselves, or post your favorite six-word motto in the comments. Publishers of those tiny books displayed near the cash register at Borders are standing by.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Eye of the Beholder

In a coffee shop this afternoon, Jarrah suddenly focused on the wall behind me:

"Hey, that guy is just wearing underpants!"

I turned around. She was pointing to a portrait of Jesus on the cross.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's All in the Delivery

Today in the car, Jarrah said "Let's tell jokes."

Sam: "Okay, here's one. A duck walks into a bar..."

Duck: "Got any bread?"
Bartender: "No."
Duck: "Got any bread?"
Bartender: "I said no."
Duck: "Got any bread?"
Bartender: "For the last time, I said no! If you ask me again, I'm going to nail your beak to the bar!"
Duck: "Got any nails?"
Bartender: "NO!"
Duck: "Got any bread?"

Jarrah: I've got a joke. A moose walks into a barn. He sees a dandyflower. The dandyflower grew and grew. Then it talked.

Sam and Jarrah: (beat) HA! Hahahahahaha!

Sam: Okay, I've got another one. A moose walks into a barn. He sees a dandyflower. He says to the dandyflower "Whassssssupppp?" The dandyflower says "Whasssssuppppp?" The dandyflower grew and grew. Then it talked.

Sam and Jarrah: (beat) HA! Hahahahahahahaha!

Jarrah. No.

Sam: Whaddaya mean, no?

Jarrah: That's not right. A moose walks into a barn. He sees a dandyflower. The dandyflower grew and grew. Then it talked. Nobody says "What is up."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Jabberwocky and the GPS

I don't write too many traditional "this is what our family is up to!" kind of posts (do I?) but I can't resist with this one.

David had to give one of his mysterious "presentations" up in LA (I ask so few questions, just hope they have nothing to do with strippers or Ponzi schemes) and had to be there at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Did I mention we live 2.5 hours from LA? But he was determined (or obligated, or some such nonsense) so he made a suggestion: did Jarrah and I want to meet him afterwards? We could take the train, and we've been wanting to see the latest Troubadours show, and the theater is right down the block from where he'd be.

My automatic response was "Are you on crack?" I had a hard time visualizing anything fun about spending more than two hours on the train with Jarrah--by MYSELF--and then spending a long day dragging a napless crankster behind us when we were already exhausted.

Well, Readers, we went anyway. And it really was mostly delightful. Emboldened by our recent upgrade on the Catalina ferry, I booked Business Class seats on the Amtrak. Oooh, naughty! And nice. I chalked it up to sound planning: I was going to be alone with an unpredictable small person, and Saturdays on the train are crowded and crazy. I spent about an hour (I've noticed a strange, new obsessive side to myself since parenthood, in which I fixate on small, meaningless tasks for long periods of time) gathering "printables" (who knew this was a whole genre?) from the internet from Nick Jr. and PBS. I packed a bag with books, markers, crayons, Scotch tape, glue sticks, collage paper, construction paper, coloring pages and lollipops (reading that over, I really do sound crazy) and tested the weight of my bag in advance.

I needn't have bothered. We got in the car later than I'd planned and had to park about three miles from the depot. I had to wait in a long line to print out my tickets (feeling like my head was going to explode from trying to read, think, bat Jarrah's fingers away from the buttons, answer her questions, and ignore the frantic queries of the lady behind me) and then had to run to the train because we were on the wrong platform for Business Class. By the time we got upstairs, sweating, there were no more forward-facing seats, but oh well.

If at all possible, Business Class will be my new lifestyle. The seats have X-treme leg room, with electricity and overhead storage. They set out a breakfast buffet with unlimited coffee and pastries, in addition to newspapers for everyone. Later, they brought us beverages and an entire sack of lunch goodies that put plane travel to shame. Best of all: the quiet and privacy. Not that I enjoyed it immediately. In the first hour, I was a total freak, snapping at Jarrah not to drop her crayons and to use her inside voice. All my printing was scorned after she'd made one artful mark on a single page, which will show me (or not.)

But after that, I was sort of a genius, if you want to know the truth. I'd packed her collection of Pixar figurines (where did they come from?) and casually mentioned that the tray table was a "tent" and the footrest a "stage." She leaped under the seat immediately, while I went to the buffet and returned with napkins, sugar packets, a coffee cup and lid, and a stir stick. Improvising as I went along, I announced with authority that the announcer could stand on a pedestal to introduce the show, while audience members (like Buzz and Woody) watched from sleeping bags and later took a row boat around the lagoon. She bought it instantly, and I didn't hear from her again for about 90 minutes. I read magazines and watched the scenery, marveling at my brilliance. And if my child had to wallow on the carpet for my convenience, so be it--I scored nothing less than a bloodless coup with that stage idea.

David met us at Burbank Airport station, and we were both cheerful and rested. I had gathered some info about restaurants near the theater, and we ended up at Bob's Big Boy across the street. That might sound odd, but this Bob's Big Boy is original to 1949, and a Point of Historical Interest for the state of CA. It's also an architectural artifact of "Googie" style, once frequented by Bob Hope and The Beatles. Who knew? Anyway, the place was packed with eyebrow-ringed hipsters, and the food was yummy.

I had printed out directions to a park so Jarrah could stretch her legs before the show, but it turned out to be an empty patch of grass near a freeway on-ramp more suitable for drug transactions than frolic. After some meandering, we ended up in the "Burbank Village District," a designation more hopeful than accurate. Still, it had some sweet, tree-lined streets of cafes and shops, and after a brisk walk and coffee at "Romancing the Bean" I was feeling much more alert. Jarrah was happy to learn it was finally time to go to the "movie theater."

The Troubadours, or "Troubies," as they're affectionately known, are a troupe characterized by circus stunts, physical comedy, a full band and Shakespeare adapted to include pop songs. We've seen such shows as Fleetwood MacBeth and A Midsummer Saturday Night Fever Dream but now they've added a "family show" - Alice in One-Hit Wonderland. The Falcon Theatre, small and cozy with a huge stage and great access to the audience (Troubies love to pick on people in the first row) was new to us, and very nice.

I don't know how to convince you that you have to see The Troubies before you die, but if you live in the vicinity of LA, you really have no excuse. They simply rock. Our show included dozens of One-Hit Wonders ("Double-Dutch Bus," "My Sharona," "Relax"), wondrous feats of jump-roping, a song performed while bouncing on inner tubes, a singing Humpty Dumpty who becomes a pool of yellow slime, and a 12-foot red puppet monster who ends up in bed with Mike Brady, smoking a cigarette the size of a telescope. During the course of the show, I got hugged by Tweedle Dum, leaned on by Alice Brady, and Jarrah got a shout-out from the Head Troubie, who ad-libbed, "We've got to keep up the pace here. That little girl probably has to go pee-pee. See, she's reading her program to see when this thing ends." (It's true, Jarrah clutched her program the whole time, but she didn't even know someone was talking about her because she was too mesmerized.) Unlike the other children, who were laughing and clapping along, Jarrah spent the whole time staring with her mouth open. Afterwards, she announced that we'd be staying for the second show, and I had to explain we didn't have tickets. That child is serious about drama--it's no laughing matter. She did speak at length about the "Jaggerrocket" on the way home, concerned about who was in there.

Because it was still early, we decided to break up the trip with a dinner stop in Orange County, but it didn't stay early because we hit massive traffic on the way back (L.A.'s a nice place to visit, but...) and David is GPS-happy and put me over the edge with his blind faith in that idiot box, to the extent that we were driving all over the place trying to get back to the freeway. I wanted to try a place in Irvine called The Counter, so we plugged in the coordinates and, traffic clear, headed south. Jarrah fell asleep with a lolly in her mouth--the next day her hair looked like it was styled with molding mud.

The GPS took us a lovely open field and announced "You have arrived." We drove around for a while while David tried to reprogram it, until I announced quietly, "Turn that thing off before I have a cow." There was some driving, arguing, calling, retracing, searching. Once there, we waited to be seated, and they brought us clipboards (their gimmick) with a million tiny boxes to check, with choices like 16 different sauces and eight different kinds of cheese. You could have toppings like curled carrots and dried cranberries and dill pickle chips, and the whole thing was micromanaged right down to the style of bun. We also ordered a 1/2 and 1/2 of sweet potato fries and onion strings, which might have been delicious if they weren't lukewarm when they arrived. The burgers (we both got chicken, actually) were beautiful and tasty and colorful with our 3 million toppings, but cool, almost cold. Our waitress zoomed by, "How is everything?" and as I opened my mouth to respond, she disappeared. Harumph. Afterwards, I told David is was patently absurd to call a place "The Counter" but only offer table service, and really slow table service at that. It's even more absurd to let people create the burger of their dreams down to the last molecule, then refuse to hand it over until it's cold.

We weren't home until 10 p.m., Jarrah snoozing in her seat, tired but exhilarated. The show was awesome, and we were proud of ourselves for attempting such a daring day trip with our 3-year-old. And she was awesome, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

One of My "What's Up With That?" Posts

I just succumbed to marketing and bought one of those "mineral" (like what kind? sedimentary rock?) foundation thingos. You know, the ones that look like powder, but have a little brush included, and you're supposed to "sweep it over your face in a circular motion" to achieve a "smooth, flawless finish?"

They also claim that the foundation is "good for your skin." In the same way that being buried under thousands of years of rock strata is "good for" fossils? Because it helps to preserve you? Because I think that's what my face looks like. A big fossil.

I followed the directions. I swept, I swirled. But my face looks like a recently uncovered archaeological dig--all the fault lines, crags and crevices are still plainly visible, but I'm coated in a thick film of sabulous earth so that I resemble an unlabeled specimen of indeterminate origin.

So I ask you...what's up with the hype? Is it because they provide sunscreen? In the same way that covering myself in river clay and sporting it all day would provide sunscreen? Is it because they're advertised by Jessica Alba, whose skin looks like a freshly poured latte? Or is this just another way for the beauty industry to make a buck off of me?

Don't answer that. Grrr.

A Little Light Reading in Bed

Friday, October 03, 2008

Collage from Catalina

The Boat

The Catalina Express is not as big as you'd think, and you can't really go on deck. But we didn't mind so much because--in honor of my hubby's Big Birthday--I'd booked The Captain's Lounge. We were kind of like celebrities--we had our own pre-board entrance, and were directed to a private "stateroom" just behind the ship's wheel. It had a TV, a really big couch, and a steward who poured mimosas for us. You'd think we'd be in awe of all this luxury, but on the way back, when the attendant said "You my lounge party?" and asked if we'd prefer champagne or sparkling cider, we said "Champagne!" and I added, "Oh, and can you bring orange juice? Thanks."

The Pueblo

I agonized for months over where to stay, partly because I'm a "How do the photos on the website look?" kind of girl, and they don't seem to care that much about websites over there. After some research of reviews, I finally settled on The Zane Grey Pueblo, and I totally scored. The Zane Grey was built in 1926 and is the former home of Western novelist Zane Grey (natch). It's also one of only two hotels (the other, The Inn of Mt. Ada, runs about $500 a night) perched high on the hillside with a sweeping ocean view. The Zane Grey, however, was a total deal, especially when I noticed most of the other places were smack-dab in the middle of town and hence, were probably quite noisy.

The Zane Grey is old, so I was expecting to rough it a bit, but nooooo. The rooms have a Southwest theme, and ours had a big (non-working) fireplace and two chairs overlooking the harbor and the Pacific beyond. The bed was super-comfy and, best of all, the closet contained a great, big noisy fan that we set up near the bed. This was key, because I often can't sleep in hotels due to the eerie quiet--at home we have all manner of white noise from fans and our Hepa filter. I slept so well! Oh, and I'd warned David there are no phones, clocks or TVs at the Zane Grey, and he'd have to go without internet. Imagine our surprise when the room came with free Wi-Fi! It may have been accidental, since our room was next to the office.

The Food

Of course I researched the hell out of the island's eating establishments, but I needn't have bothered. All the food seems to fall under the category of "fine." You can have any kind you want--Mexican, Chinese, Italian--as long as you don't want any complicated additives like flavor. Also, it didn't seem to agree with my tum all that well. The only part of me that was eager to get home was my stomach. I guess the highlight was The Pancake Cottage right before the return trip--David got some apple and raisin crepes that were light and airy, with smoking hot apple slices folded inside.

The Fish

Sunday morning we took a semi-submersible submarine (try saying that five times fast!) to "Lovers Cove" to look at the local fish. I am seriously claustrophobic, so I was a little nervous about being five feet under the water, even though David reassuringly explained that the set-up is no deeper than the Disneyland submarine ride. But as soon as we straddled our little seats inside the boat and I could see the silvery little fish under the pier, I was totally hooked. And that was nothing. Once the boat reached its destination, the captain threw a bunch of fish food all around us, and there was a crazy feeding frenzy, resulting in about eight thousand fish seeming to swim right up my nose. The most beautiful are the Garibaldi, bright orange semi-tropicals that are also the California State Fish (see, my blog is educational!) There was an awkward moment when one gentleman described their taste as "mushy" right after the captain had indicated it was 6 months to 5 years in the pen for catching one, but other than that, a sheer delight from beginning to end.

The Bus

Saturday afternoon we took The Skyline Drive Tour, which wends its way 10 miles into "the interior" of the island with a stop at Airport-in-the-Sky, a small private airport owned by the Wrigley family. We saw some stunning ocean and mountain vistas and some teeny-tiny bison at a great distance (there is a herd of 150 bison on the island due to a quest for "authenticity" during the filming of a Zane Grey movie nearly a century ago.) The tour was two hours, but it made me plenty grateful we hadn't opted for the four hour version, since I'd gotten my fill of the dusty and stifling (no A/C) bus by then. Part of the problem was that it wasn't a bus at all, but more of a Mac truck, with the accompanying noise level and lack of shocks. When that behemoth of a vehicle took hairpin turns on the narrow road with sheer drop-offs, I started wondering if I'm afraid of heights, too.

The Carts

Officially, there are no cars allowed on Catalina Island. Somehow, there are some cars anyway, but the majority of the traffic is comprised of golf carts, in all sizes and styles. David and I rented a golf cart twice--so fun did we find it--even though it was crazy-expensive by the hour. The first day, we rode up to the Wrigley Memorial, but the second day we spent most of the time tooling around Avalon, and saw some jaw-dropping views on a winding road above the sea. During the second run, I conquered my fear and tried driving, and though the carts don't go much above 20 miles for hour, it's still exhilarating, like riding a bike that is really, really easy to get uphill.

The Hills

Catalina has one major town, and it's filled with as much ice cream, fudge and ocean-themed tchotchkes as any tourist could desire. But the rest of the island (more than 70 square miles) is a protected nature conserve, so as soon as you climb the hill above the village of Avalon, it's just eucalyptus and sage. The island rises to over 2,000 feet above sea level, so the effect is quite dramatic. And the climb is, too--both evenings we chose to walk back to the Zane Grey after dinner, and though the distance is short as the crow flies, I was actually light-headed the first time.

We also visited the Wrigley Memorial (William Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate, owned 99 percent of the island at one time, and his family still retains the rights to much of the commercial development) and that was a long, dusty slope through a beautiful garden, followed by 103 steps to the top of the memorial (we only know that because a helpful lady coming down told us she counted.)

The View

I've mentioned our view from the room, but even more impressive was the view from the gorgeous balcony on the side of the Zane Grey. In the mornings, the hotel puts out the most adorably spartan breakfast you've ever seen: a coffee warmer, and little plastic baggies filled with two slices of wheat bread and a single packet of jam. And a toaster. Not sure if it was the ambiance or what, but that is the best toast I've ever had. It had little sunflower seeds inside, making it pleasantly chewy. We had brought a carton of juice with us, so we'd prepare our toast and then dine in awe high above the twinkling harbor, gleaming white yachts, and mountainous hillsides dotted with colorful homes. At night, we'd catch our breath on the same balcony after the long climb, and admire the stars and the lit-up town surrounding the moonlit water like a big, sparkling horseshoe.

The Vibe

David and I are vacation power-walkers. We get a bunch of maps and spend the day hoofing it from sight to sight. This pace suits us, generally, but it was a wicked treat to go somewhere where there's just not that much to do or that far to walk. One afternoon we spent at least an hour on a bench under a tree reading the entire Sunday paper. In the evenings, we watched Netflix videos on David's laptop in bed. Occasionally, we just found a spot to stare into the water, looking for flashes of orange. It might be the most relaxing vacation we've ever had.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Totally Flouting National Stay-at-Home Week

So, I've written that post about Catalina Island; now just waiting for the photos to come back from Wal-Mart. Can you believe that David forgot to bring a camera on our trip? Yes, DAVID. Shocking.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, I never go there, and now I know why. I don't want to offend anyone, but what is up with that place that it depresses me so? I never feel depressed at Target. In fact, Target is often uplifting, with all its adorable products. But Wal-Mart...from the second I enter and smell the McDonalds fries and get engulfed in the eerie, gaseous green lighting, I kind of want to kill myself. Then, you hear it: the mounting cries of babies, first one, then another, then dozens and dozens, from every corner of the store. I scurried by one of the babies wailing his lungs out in a cart while his stone-faced mother looked straight in front of her, and did a double-take when I realized his legs and arms were covered in big, scabby sores.

All the shoppers look like someone just died, and like they haven't had fresh air or a home-cooked meal in many moons. It's all I can do not to RUN through the aisles, in a vain attempt to make my stay as short as possible. Vain because the place is like a maze, and because just when I think I'm free I see a basket of tiny spritzers of Love's Baby Soft, and I'm inexorably drawn to it, and find I am powerless to resist the fragrance I fondly recall from 8th grade, back when Brooke Shields's testimonials to its pleasures went "Love's Baby Soft. Smells like babies. You know, that yummy smell that makes you want to chew on them." Hey, look it up if you don't believe me. It's burned in my brain.

I have already had five hours of rehearsals this week. If you want to hear about that stuff, however, you need to drop me a line and I'll hook you up with my new "All Theatre, All the Time" blog. Some of you have already received invitations. It's up and running.