Thursday, June 24, 2010

How To Make Friends And Influence People

Jarrah: My friend is going to a wedding tomorrow [and won't be at gymnastics camp], so I had to make a new friend.

Sam: Oh, that'

Jarrah: Her name is Jessie. Jessie wants me to stay away from her.

Sam: WHAT?

Jarrah: She's always standing behind me in line, and talking about me weirdly.

Sam: What does she say about you?

Jarrah: She says I'm bossy. Which actually, I am. But not all the time.

Sam: Well...

Jarrah: She just talks about me weirdly.

Sam: Um, maybe...try talking to her? Ask her what's wrong?

Jarrah: I tried! But she just says I'm bossy.

Sam: Well...maybe try being less bossy?

Jarrah: I'm not bossy!

Sam: Oh, right. Well, maybe make a different friend?

Jarrah: I already did that. I made two.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Nerves Are Gonna Snappele

So, it's a bit of an anti-climax a week and a half later, but here is a little video from Jarrah's last-day-of-school Shalom Program. The little blonde cutie introducing the song is Jarrah's friend, Jacqueline. (Robyn, I am so bummed you can't see Jared at all in this video! I guess we were too close!)

The song is called "Oy, Mein Keppele," which is Yiddish for "Oh, My Head." It's a litany of aching body parts. This is the kind of thing my people find hilarious. You can hear me cracking up at the line "Oy, mein pippikul/I mean, this isn't typical!" (Pippikul is belly-button.)

Jarrah's class (16 of them) actually sang over 18 minutes of material that day, but this little video clocks in around three, to accommodate your busy lifestyle. The other songs were alternately funny and heart-breaking, too, but this is a good sample.

Jarrah got a lot of compliments on her polka-dot dress, but her mommy scores no points for the brainy decision to go with a headband that day--the child can't keep her hair out of her eyes for all the fruit leather in the world unless it's firmly anchored with pony tails. I kicked myself noting that all the little girls with a similar propensity for wild hair had been brushed and pinned into submission for the big day.

While Jarrah was a paragon of beauty pageant-like smiles and poses for her theater debut a few weeks ago, she suddenly became Miss Twitchy for this performance. The nose-rubbing and eye-blinking are minimal in this number, but they were on full display the rest of the time. I had to smile at the irony--I've been envisioning the perfection of this moment for three years, and when it finally came, she looked like someone had just tossed some pepper in her direction. Which is just how life is, right, Readers? With the surprises.

I did so much crying, I was completely dazed afterward and grateful I had written a letter to each of Jarrah's teachers from the past four years. Grateful because I had gone completely mute and was only able to thrust the envelope into their hands and wordlessly hug them. Then I needed a handful of Advil. Oy, mein keppele.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Love Everybody, But We Do As We Please

Hanging out in Twiggs Coffeehouse while Jarrah is at Junior Theatre camp. Nostalgic for the days when I lived two blocks from here and used to walk over with a huge stack of essays to grade and stay eight hours, tossing back vanilla lattes. Wait--maybe for once my nostalgia is a smidge misguided.

Junior Theatre camp is not to be confused with Jarrah's last dramatic venture. This is a daily event at the venerated Junior Theatre in historic Balboa Park, with about nine other four- and five-year-olds. She is having a blast, though I have no idea what they're doing in there. I've noticed she's either not that forthcoming, or extremely forthcoming...about two weeks later, in a long burst of enthusiastic non-sequitur. Kids--what can ya do?

A lot of things are pleasing me today. The chilly wind layered over the bright sun. Seeing a young man carrying a Hello Kitty pinata the size of a 12-year-old down Park Boulevard. Hearing Men At Work's "Overkill" in the supermarket. I can't get to sleep/I think about the implications/Of diving in too deep/And possibly the complications...A mother and son discussing bagels in the bread aisle in the most gorgeous, melodic French. How my latte is not too sweet or too strong. Looking forward to a girl's night out with Jarrah, Grace and Julianna later on. Sliced oranges amidst the sliced lemons in the tea and coffee prep area.

I think I'm also feeling grateful today. Yesterday we had such a lovely time with people we'd never met before. I was introduced to Jalan over e-mail about five years ago because she had adopted from China, and now we've been Facebook friends for about a year. She lives in Louisiana, but she and her family are on a road trip across the country, so yesterday we met IRL for the first time. Since they'd never been to San Diego, I was determined to show off America's Finest City at greatest advantage, and they were happily disposed to succumb to her spell. Since Jarrah was in Balboa Park, we started with lunch at the Japanese Tea Garden, followed by a stroll through the park and museums (how I delighted in learning that a beloved Pieter Breugel painting that I studied in college, The Parable of the Sower, is available for viewing anytime in the Timken--free!), a quick jaunt to Coronado Island for ice cream, tide-pooling in La Jolla Cove, an up-close-and-personal audience with the seals, and dinner at Burger Lounge. All day I marveled at how easy it was to be with them, with absolutely no "I have no idea who you are" awkwardness. And the most beautiful thing of all was seeing Jarrah and their daughter, Nina, 7, become fast friends in about 10 seconds (I'm actually not exaggerating about that time frame) and remain glued to each others' sides, laughing, running and shouting the rules to "The Last Airbender: The Game" for about eight hours.

A more sobering occasion for gratitude happened Sunday, when I attended the memorial for my former castmate Ron, who died last week after a short battle with cancer. He actually played my fiance in last summer's Moliere in the park. I can't get my mind around how last Labor Day weekend, when we were frolicking in the grass at sunset, outrageously clad (he sported a red union suit and a fake belly) he was healthy, if a bit sweaty from having to dance in 90-degree heat. I know it's cliched to reflect on the fragility of life, but there you go. A few theater friends attended with me, and I think we were all in shock that he could just be gone. It was inspiring to see some 300 people filling his church to celebrate his life.

And yes, of course, there was Jarrah's last day of preschool. I will be posting a video from that performance, though not the whole thing, as it's too long. And, predictable as I am, I sobbed so much I felt I must lie down and sleep the rest of the day when it was over. But I didn't. I went to the potluck at the park and had a great time, and then danced my heart out at Nia. And then I was very, very tired. But I'm excited to see what comes next.

And Readers, I know that audition post was long, but I swear it gets funnier at the end.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who Are You And What Have You Done With My Kid?

I admit it; I get a little smug about this parenting thing sometimes. Everyone always tells me how dreamy Jarrah is to be around, how accommodating, how communicative, how preternaturally mature. And I'm happy to agree. Not that I credit myself. I mean, at least not exclusively.

So those rare occasions when she joins the Children of the Corn, I am, to put it mildly, surprised. Taken aback, if you will. But more than that, I'm flummoxed. I've got no arsenal up my sleeve. (Yeah, so it's a mixed metaphor--wanna make something of it?) I'm not one of those types who reads parenting books (uh-oh, now I've confessed) or even feels that guilty about it. When things go horribly awry, all I can do is stare. Or pretend I've never seen her before.

Last night we had a "girls night out" with my friend Grace, and her daughter Julianna, 11. We've done this a lot. Julianna is not only smart and fun, she's heartbreakingly sweet with her 5-year-old friend. We always have a nice time.

Perhaps "always" is too strong a word. Because last night, there we are chatting cozily in a red vinyl booth at Ruby's Diner, waiting for our burgers, when Jarrah starts making what I call "Murder Face" and then disappears from view. She crouched beneath the table, glowering like she was getting paid for it. Ooo-kay. I asked if she was upset--no response. I asked if she felt sick--no response. Grace asked if she was starving--no response. At that point, I felt my responsibilities had been met. I continued my conversation and vaguely hoped she'd get over herself.

She didn't. The food came, and she wouldn't touch it. Wouldn't even look at it. Now she started crying. Quietly at first, but growing to full-blown, hiccuping sobs that didn't even sound fake. I was grateful it was so loud in there and that she was still under the table. I had Julianna feel her head. No fever. And frankly, she seemed too animated to be sick--she gets scary-listless when something horrible takes her down. Meanwhile, we were all hungry, so we ate our food and chit-chatted, trying to ignore the wailing that rose from beneath us. Grace said that sometimes kids cry because they're too hungry to eat. I raised an eyebrow. That just did not sound like my kid.

Did I consider leaving, or at least carrying Jarrah to the bathroom for a private audience? No, Readers, I did not. I must confess that my strongest impulse was to succumb to supreme, stink-eye annoyance. Why does she have to pull focus like this and ruin my evening? It was enough for me to know she wasn't sick or starving (against her will, anyway) to push me to a place of total intolerance. I told her I was going to call Daddy and have him come pick her up, since she clearly was too tired to enjoy our evening out. No response. I called him.

Just before he arrived, her tune changed. She sobbed that she didn't want to go home "and miss all the fun." This made me laugh, since we'd clearly all been having a blast. Suddenly, she snuggled in my lap, and proceeded to polish off her bowl of mac and cheese, a pound of fries, and everyone's garnish. I told her she was leaving anyway, because she'd made a choice, and choices have consequences (where did I get that kind of Mom-Speak? It's like I was programmed.) She cried a lot more after that, but she went.

I stayed out for a long time, shopping with the girls. When I got home, David told me that he and Jarrah had talked in the car. Apparently, Jarrah thought I was paying too much attention to Julianna, and didn't know how to tell me. Um, really? I reviewed our conversation and remembered aloud that Julianna had been telling me about her cello recital, and like any normal person engaged in social intercourse, I'd responded with little comments like "Cool!" and "Good for you!" I guess this was too much approbation not directed toward Our Lady of Unique Compliments. Who knew?

This morning, she coyly asked if I'd had fun. I told her I had, and asked her to join me for a brief conference. She doesn't like those, and had trouble meeting my eye. I explained that sometimes I'd be saying nice things to other people, even other children, because that's what nice people and good friends do. But she's still my favorite, and does everything the best. (Just kidding. I didn't say that last part.)

But it was a humbling experience for me, Readers, because I realized there will be times--possibly even in 10 years--that I will be utterly, jaw-droppingly ignorant about some tidal wave of emotion even as it rolls over my head. And that I may just do exactly what I did this time--sit there and stare. Which seems sort of pathetically ineffectual, but I guess is better than screaming my head off. Or is it? Readers, what do you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The View From The Cheap Seats

Robyn and I just attended actor auditions for the upcoming San Diego 48 Hour Film Project (our seventh year!) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As an (ahem) actor myself the past year and a half, I have a great reverence for the audition process. So I thought it would be a sadistic kick to have other people audition for ME, just because I claim to be a filmmaker. With no money, glory nor (possibly) even parts with which to tempt these brave souls, I still couldn't resist the arbitrary authority of an auditor. For three and a half hours, I sat in judgment of 59 (!) total strangers while they made themselves vulnerable for my amusement and criticism. That kind of power--false though it may be--freaked me out. It also felt totally natural. Within a few minutes, I was calling out "Beautiful. Thanks. We'll call you!" like I'd been doing it all my life.

When we arrive at the Actors Workshop Studios, a sea of nervous-looking individuals in the hallway parts for us to enter the room. I keep wondering how I wound up on this side of the door. The room is arranged like a theater, with raked movie-style seating on one side, and a shabby-but-not-chic living room on the other, complete with couch, lamp, coffee table. In addition, a microphone hangs from the ceiling (it's off) over a blue "X" on the floor.

Robyn and I are not shy about sitting in the first row, but later it means that we can't so much as scratch our noses because limpid-eyed, please-love-me actors have their eyes trained on us all day.

I learn a few things in general. I learn that people get very jaded about auditioning, judging from the nonchalance when Duane says "Please begin by slating for us." Before this, I didn't know that means "State your name, phone number and agent contact for the camera." (There's no camera.) Most of the actors, from pre-teens to grannies, casually hand over their expensive-looking head shots and resumes in a manner suggesting a long history of same. I don't see anyone shaking or sweating. Many have the dead-eyed look of someone attempting to break into TV and film acting from total anonymity in San Diego. Meaning, they've been on dozens of auditions, and they'll go on a dozen more before they get cast. They'll keep making this choice, even though it might be like slamming their heads into a wall.

I wouldn't be so cynical except that I see my own frightening metamorphosis in that room. When the auditions begin, I swear I will make notes only on the performance. But there are so many of them, and they come so thick and fast. After about five actors have paraded through, I am reduced to a horrible shorthand next to their names: "Tall, thin, quirky." "Short, bald, older." (I can't quite bring myself to write "old.") "Tiny, perky." "Big ears, nice hair." Later, my summations grow bolder: "Vampirish." "Looks like he's in the mafia." "Silver fox." "Shaggy, in a cute way." "Sleek, booted, cat-eyes." "Blond and blowsy." And Robyn's favorite: "Skinny, belly, skunk hair." What chills me about my instant assessments is realizing how directors must do the exact same thing with me. And I can't bear to consider what I look like in three words.

What You Gonna Do In Those Shoes?

A preponderance of the young women teeter in on hoochie-mama heels. Some of them are baring a lot of flesh for 10:00 in the morning, though I don't see any cleavage, just legs, arms and bellies. A few are actually sparkly, like they're heading to a club after. The men have fewer ways to go wrong, especially since not shaving is now a style choice.

It's The Terror Of Knowing What This World Is About

I'm fascinated by the choices people have made with their material. I mean, I guess Shakespeare doesn't make sense when auditioning for a contemporary short film, but I hadn't realized so many people would be quoting movies. We get Erin Brockovich and Hitch twice each, plus Good Will Hunting, 25th Hour, Contact, Donnie Brasco, and Legally Blonde. There may have been other movies but some people, inexplicably, don't name their sources. One girl does a monologue about buying Cheerios, about which I note "sounds like she's making it up," and I turn out to be right. A few times I write "Hard to care about." It astounds me that people can't recognize when a monologue is, simply, boring.

Or totally inappropriate. The second auditioner is an attractive man, but his monologue details the gang rape and murder of a child, delivered in a cool, deadpan style that fills me with revulsion. One dude (about whom I've written "Dressed as waiter") has chosen a piece in which every second word is "f@&%." With each repetition, he advances menacingly towards our seats, spewing saliva. Under "Hair: Wet or greasy?" Robyn asks me to write "Yikes." One lovely, well-coiffed gal snaps open her phone, from which she reads Elle Woods's Harvard graduation speech from Legally Blonde, hesitating over each line. When asked about her interesting choice, she tells us with no embarrassment that she just found it out in the hall. One teenage boy recites Queen's "Under Pressure" like it's a sonnet, while I feverishly pray for him to finish so I can stop wanting to poke a stick in my eye.

"We Are Defined By The Choices We Make."

One guy mimes playing basketball throughout his monologue, which he clearly can't do in real life, and it makes him forget his lines. A bunch of the girls choose monologues that build to crying, which after a while just sounds like a lot of high-pitched whining I can barely hear. I cringe when people grimace, look at the floor, stuff their hands in their pockets, fold their arms over their chest, play with their necklace, or a dozen other things I know I've been guilty of when I'm auditioning. A few people space totally and ask to start over or even go get their script, which Jeff and Duane are super-nice about. One gal says "Someday..." and then blanks, gets out a little slip of paper, turns it over and over in her hands like it holds the secrets to the universe, chokes out "Someday..." again, goes back to fondling the paper, and finally says that's all she's got. She does fine after a brief foray into the hall, and afterward my heart breaks a little when she says as she's leaving "Sorry about that--my nerves really got the better of me." You and me both, darlin. You and me both.

It's A Living

One guy refers to the star of One Million Years B.C. as "RAYkul VELCH." A guy who looks like he might offer me some cement shoes incorporates a filmmaker's ringing cell phone into his monologue: "I thought I told you not to call me here!" During a sweet-faced blond girl's monologue, I jot down: "Sounds like Arnold." (Schwarzenegger, that is.) The producers ask auditioner Randy "So, who did you play on Scrubs?" "A urologist," he smiles. "I can TOTALLY see that," I purr, for absolutely no reason. It gets a laugh.

They Take The Cake (And The Knife)

A woman with long, straight iron-gray hair storms the room. She doesn't have a monologue (though the audition notice reads "Prepare a one-and-a-half minute monologue") but says she and her son are "professional actors" with SAG cards. She hands over their head shots and announces "I can do crazy. I can do drunk. I can do homeless." The producers ask to see the son. He shuffles in and he is Giant Viking Baby Head. His name is Daeg ("rhymes with leg") and he must be about 17, but he has long, straight whitish hair and a face--will you believe it?--exactly like those cherubs in Renaissance paintings with pillow lips and puffed rose-pink cheeks. He looks like a walking Hummel figurine. He stands there sullenly with his hands in his pockets while his mother says "Daeg is only interested in very specialized roles this year. Like...mentally handicapped. Or...over-the-top gay." Daeg doesn't speak, and also has no monologue. We all stare at them while they tell us how professional they are and what they expect from us, and eventually they leave. I'm really excited to work with them.

Does He Sing And Dance...In A Loin-Cloth?

Nicola repeats the Hitch monologue we've just seen, but no matter, because I'm not really listening. He has a Russian accent, shiny black hair, dark, twinkly eyes and a killer smile. He oozes confidence and...wait, where was I? Oh, right, Nicola's audition. After he departs, Robyn and I lean over to the producers and ask if his info is available. "Oh, you like him for your movie?" Jeff asks sweetly. Who said anything about a movie? I was wondering if we could cast him in a more personal production we have in mind, perhaps as "Towel Boy." "It says he's 6'2" and 200 pounds," Jeff reads. "Yeah, he is." I say, and Robyn cracks up. The producers are tickled by our objectification and mention it repeatedly during the session.

We Can't Find His Facebook Fan Page

There must be some secret known to genuinely good actors that it's a wise move to show up last for an open call. Maybe because you can make the final impression. In any case, the last three actors rock. One older woman playing a Katrina victim, a tall, quirky guy who charms my socks off with his masterful, hilarious I Hate Hamlet monologue, and (eeeee!) Michael Zlotnik. I know, the name is not exactly mellifluous, but it doesn't matter because he is the cherry on the sundae. And the Saturday. Dear Readers, there is NOTHING that Michael Zlotnik can't do, and I say this after only five minutes in his presence. He begins with a monologue from Clifford Odets's 1937 play Golden Boy (after which I lean over to Robyn and circle this title several times) which is classy and smart. And then he nails it. I mean, we've been there for over three hours and he makes me spill my coffee. (I don't actually have coffee, but I totally would have spilled it. And where was the coffee? We were starving!) When he finishes, he asks "Would you like a comedic one?" Yes, thank you. He pulls up a chair, bows his head, and when he looks up he's Billy Crystal in Analyze This. Hilarious. Great accent. Timing like a vintage Rolex. "Want some Shakespeare?" he continues. "That and much more," I murmur. The producers--giddy with low blood sugar, no doubt--ask if he can sing and dance. He kicks the chair away and launches into a rich baritone "Don't Rain On My Parade" with a shuffle-ball-change around the room. Well, I might actually be making up that last bit, but believe me, it was impressive. I turn to Jeff and whisper "I. WANT. HIM." I may have to wrestle some other teams for his services.


We're supposed to e-mail Jeff and Duane if we like someone, and they'll release their contact information. This hasn't happened yet. Somehow it reminds me of asking boys to dance in the junior high gym at after-school mixers (yes, Virginia, they used the word "mixer" when I was in junior high) and that's not a memory I'm eager to revive. I think I'll get over myself, though, because a surprising number of these actors were impressive, and it can't hurt to put them on retainer. In the meantime, though, I've been feeling like the universe is a bit out of balance, so I've decided to go audition for something at the Old Globe. That oughta put things right again.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I smell a major life transition, and I don't like it. I never like it. Nope, no change, not for me. Let's have infinite stasis, thank you very much. Weird thing is, I tend to be very happy once the change kicks in, happier than before. But the idea of it: absolutely not.

Jarrah's last day of preschool is Friday. That's two days from now. She's been at Price Family Preschool for four years--yes, I know that's a lot of preschool. When we arrived, in the fall of 2006 for a "mommy and me" class, she was a large, mute baby who pointed with dismay when a big girl threw her shoes into the ball pit. When they passed out Shabbat snacks, Jarrah gobbled hers and then whined with annoyance when I pushed all the rest out of her reach. I felt self-conscious around the other "Tot Shabbat" moms, wondering if they were staring at us because my kid was Chinese.

In January of 2007, Jarrah began Barbara and Janet's class, with the two-year-olds. She would remain there for two years, bypassing Colleen and Teri's room (Colleen, I will never forget your kind smile and your reassurance about kindergarten, and Teri, I wish I had gotten to know you!) Who knows why? These decisions are made by wiser heads than mine. On the first day, David and I braced ourselves for wailing and knee-clinging which never came. She spotted the tool bench (that's my girl) and by the time she looked up, we were long gone. At the end of the day, Janet said "Let me tell you about your daughter--we're all falling in love with her!" And I cried. Beautiful and brave Janet, who changed hundreds of terrifying diapers those many months, and was always ready with band-aids and kisses for owies. And Barbara, I will never forget your refreshing New York directness, your warmth and humor, how you made me laugh and told me the truth.

Potty-training just under the wire in the summer of 2008, Jarrah was ready for Ilene and (different) Janet's class that fall, and just blossomed. She talked up a storm, knew all her friends' names, learned to write her own name without being taught. She drew complicated scenes and made up the most incredible stories. She'd come home with pictures labeled "my favorite food is broccoli" and "here are my 16 brothers and sisters" and "mommy and I enjoy canning our own preserves" and you get the idea. Ilene, I will never forget how you hugged my kid and called her "my Jar-Bear" and "lovey" (which she co-opted) and always asked about my day. And Janet, I still miss our heart-to-hearts when the kids were on the playground and you were cutting out craft supplies for the next day.

I was so nervous at the start of Rachell and Shiri's class in the fall of 2009. They were the ones I didn't know, and right away I could tell there would be far less hugging than in previous years. The kids had responsibilities like "weather reporter" and sometimes they had homework (well, I had homework.) But as the months passed, I could see it was all part of the plan. Subtly and sweetly, R and S coaxed all the kids into independence. They got them ready to launch into the world, not just ready, but eager. When Rachell told me that Jarrah is "such a good friend," I cried. At my first ever parent-teacher conference, she and Shiri said she was "bright, confident, warm, imaginative and completely open to new experiences." I cried at that, too.

And now it's the end of this particular road. Each year, the school presents a "Shalom Program" on the last day, and each class sings a bunch of songs for parents and friends. The oldest class sings the most--they are bold and hammy, remembering all the words and the gestures that jazz up the performance. I am weeping right now thinking of the part that makes me sob each year in terrible anticipation--the moment when the temple cantor, Myrna (she of the magic guitar) sings a song about the departing children, and when their name is mentioned, each child steps forward and waves. She sings them out of school, Readers. Can you take it? I can't.

The past few days, when I come to take Jarrah home, I don't go to her on the playground right away. I enter the cool, dark classroom (the lights are on a timer) and inhale that particular smell, a mix of paint and preschooler. I walk slowly around the room, running my fingers over the books, the blocks, the dress-up clothes, the play kitchen. I smile wistfully at the photos of "Swim Day" and "Snow Day" and "Israel's Birthday." I note that the picture on Jarrah's cubby, from last September, already looks so young to me. I see the clothespins, labeled with Sharpie, indicating who has what job this week. When I see that Jarrah is "Line Leader" in her final week of preschool, I tear up and look away.

It's not only on Jarrah's behalf that I'm verklempt at this transition. The preschool has become the hub of my life over the years, too. Some of my closest friends are "preschool parents." I know that our lives will change now, and we won't see each other as spontaneously. And though she doesn't really know it herself, Jarrah will be saying goodbye--maybe forever--to some of her friends, friends that she takes for granted she'll see everyday. That may not pain her, but it's almost unbearable to me.

And she does sense it. She's been watching her preschool video on an endless loop, adorable children smiling and waving with emotional music in the background (Thank you, Robyn! :)) I think she and I are both feeling nostalgic when we watch it together.

But change is good, right, Dear Readers? If you want to see video and photos from the Shalom Program, I know this much about the future: check back after Friday, and it will all be documented here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

There's A Butterfly On Your Face

Here are some cute photos from this year's Kite Festival, an annual event sponsored by Families with Children from China. Jarrah and Joy are getting pretty good at flying their own kites, though they probably do more sprinting than strictly necessary.

Each year, we enjoy a visit from Sparkles the Clown (this year someone called her Chuckles, after which I said we should call her Spuckles or Charkles) who is the only clown I've ever met with a zero percent creepiness factor. She's so easy-going and genuinely funny that I think it would actually be kind of hilarious to see her go all clownish on someone's ass.

We've been trying to teach Jarrah the fine art of Pixie Stick consumption, and she is an avid pupil, though still getting the edge sodden after a while, staunching the flow of Pixie dust in an untimely manner. I reassured her that it's a difficult skill to master, but one that will prove rewarding for a lifetime once achieved. She's very brave, and plans to keep at it.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I'm In Big Trouble

Jarrah's recent dinner-table assessment of her day:

"Happiness, happiness, fake sulking, fake sulking, fake sulking, more happiness, happiness, real sulking."

Jarrah on her next birthday party:

"I want a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat the Himalayas! Only not too Himalayan. We wouldn't want anyone to have nightmares about the Abominable Snowman."

Jarrah observing Justin Bieber on
The Today Show a few mornings ago:

"I like him. He's delicious."

Jarrah's suggestion for an appropriate punishment while refusing to brush her teeth the other night:

"I've got an idea. How about you take away all sweets for FIVE DAYS. And then forget. Like you always do."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What Went Down (Hollywood Edition)

David and I got tickets to Flight of the Conchords at the Hollywood Bowl, the last night of their international tour. I booked a hotel about two blocks away so we wouldn't be trapped by the infamous parking. When my friend Robin from high school (who I reconnected with at the camp reunion last October) invited me to a Sex in the City MNO the night before in Orange County, I decided to make a whole weekend of it.

Saturday 2-ish

It's smooth sailing up to the OC--all the traffic is heading in the other way. I've booked a hotel on the Santa Ana/Tustin border that is very cheap, so I'm hoping it won't be a scary dump. It's on a winding lane off the main road with four other hotels, a kind of hotel village, if you will. Turns out to be very nice--just renovated last year.

Once in my room, I sigh with anticipatory delight. There's something about staying alone in a hotel room that I couldn't imagine liking until I was a mom. The room is actually a suite--one room with desk and couch and TV, and a bedroom with a king bed and another TV. Wow, two TVs--all to myself! I settle on the couch with some Double-Stuf Oreos and click on the remote. Afternoon showing of St. Elmo's Fire--sweet! I'm so engrossed I'm a little late to meet the girls.

Saturday 5:00

Driving to a place called The District in Tustin. Lot of open fields out here. It's close by and I spot the meeting place--a brewery called J.T. Schmids--right away. It takes me a few minutes to find the gang, but I'm the fourth one there, out of 10. We make the intros and I order a chocolate martini that arrives dripping with Godiva goo. Several hands summon the waiter for same. Ohhhhh. I guess I can have a salad to balance out this drink and all the Oreos. By now, everyone is here, and I'm feeling no pain. As a totally cheap date, I can tell I'm talking a lot, in a really loud voice, but everyone seems to be laughing so I don't reign it in. Suddenly everyone seems totally, totally awesome, like they are all my best friends. By the time the food comes, I'm confessing that I dated Robin's brother when I was 14, and cheated on him at camp. Robin reminds me that she knows that, since she was at camp with me. Oh, yeah. I tell her how her brother, who broke up with me right after that, approached me at a Kol Nidre service the following month, placed a hand on my shoulder and said "I just wanted to let you know that I forgive you." Because I was 14, I was super-super grateful to hear that.

Saturday 7:00

Thank goodness we are walking to the movie. More like staggering. I'm grilling someone's 14-year-old daughter about her life. "What do 14-year-old girls care about?" I ask. "Texting. Boys. Couture. (Couture???) Not school." she tells me. We manage to find 10 seats together, and I settle in with my Raisinets (uh-oh, more chocolate) and a drunken, whispered conversation with my seatmate, whose name already escapes me. The movie starts. I know it's getting bad reviews but I don't care. The outfits are awesome, and the footage of Abu Dhabi (really Morocco) is like watching a really great travel show. I hardly notice two and a half hours (!) going by.

Saturday 10:00

Dessert with some of the girls from the movie. (Don't freak out--I just have tea.) We tell stories, mainly about our parents and children. We laugh a lot. Finally, they turn up the music and kick us out. As I head back to my car in the ginormous parking lot, I realize that the mall is pumping Madonna across acres of asphalt through some giant speakers. There's something fun about it, and something kind of 1984 at the same time.

Saturday midnight

I can't find parking at the hotel. I end up way too close to a band of teenage hooligans drinking beer in the parking lot. I sort of run up the stairs. As I do, I spot dozens of under-shirted men (and some women) hanging out over balconies, smoking cigarettes. Which is pretty icky because I had to sign a contract saying I wouldn't smoke anywhere on the property. Oh well, the place was cheap, and the room is very nice inside. I'm happy once I've dead-bolted my door.

Sunday 12:30

Saturday Night Live in my pajamas. Free wi-fi for my netbook. More Oreos. Somebody stop me.

Sunday 4:00 a.m.

What is that @#$%&* banging right next to my head? Oh, it's gone now. Zzzzzz.

Sunday 7:00 a.m.

@#$%&* noise again. Oh, I'm up--I should go get my free breakfast. It's kind of nice--you order at a counter and they cook whatever you want, for free. I eat my eggs, toast and potatoes by the pool with a magazine. It's very peaceful. By the time I'm done, I can see there's a line around the corner. I head back to bed.

Sunday 9:00 a.m.

Text from my sister wakes me. We are meeting for brunch on Monday, but she's currently in New Jersey on vacation and wonders if we have a reservation. Um, no. But I'm up now. I shower and--because I can--do 30 minutes of yoga on a towel in front of the TV. I never like to check out until they make me.

Sunday noon

On my way back to the mall, since I know where it is. I end up chilling in Borders, reading magazines. This is the two hours I haven't accounted for, when I wait for David to come up on the train. He misses the train. Make that three hours. Ugh.

Sunday 2:40

At the Santa Ana train station, waiting for David's train to come in. It's a beautiful old Spanish-style building, and the afternoon is breezy and warm. When I hear the "ding-ding-ding" in the distance, I get strangely excited. It's sort of romantic, waiting for your lover's train to arrive. When I see him, I wave and jump up and down like I haven't seen him in weeks. I run into his arms, and he looks amused.

Sunday 3:00

Hollywood-bound! When we arrive, the hotel looks nice but parking is going to cost $20. Ergh. The desk clerk tries to pull a fast one and give us a room with two double beds. David sits back and waits for me to do my thing. And I do. It's less than five minutes before the "misunderstanding" is fixed. Our room is really pretty. Suddenly I'm so tired I can't even stand. We pass out under the cool, white duvet. And are awakened 20 minutes later by the hotel phone. "Who the @#$%&* was that?" I moan when he hangs up. "The hotel. They wanted to welcome us." When I get my bearings, I say "Didn't they just welcome us, in person?" David says "There was such a kerfuffle about the beds, they probably thought they needed to do it again and do it properly." Something about the way David talks often cracks me up, and this time I laugh hysterically for about 10 minutes. Okay, I'm up. We get dressed--warmly--for the Bowl, and head out to find ourselves a picnic.

Sunday 5:30

Our car is wedged into the hotel parking lot by a tour bus that can't turn around. Looks like we won't be driving to Gelson's after all. We ask if there's anywhere we can walk for a picnic, but the front desk is stymied. We decide to chance it with the Bowl food. Missing out on our picnic is the only sad part of the night.

Sunday 6:30

It's exciting but chaotic up at the Bowl. The grounds are packed with picnickers, drinking wine and eating sushi. We discover that you can't bring in glass or cans. Snaking through the crowds, we find a sort of general store that sells prepared foods we're allowed to bring to our seats. Fifty-six dollars later (!) we have a piece of chicken, a salad, two sodas and a cookie for our trouble. Yowza. We find our seats, and they're pretty amazing, down in the Garden boxes. An usher appears almost immediately and offers to set up a table for us. Nice. I'm a bit disconcerted to see we will be in the box with two other people, since that seems unnecessarily intimate, but our companions don't show until much later. When they do, they are a friendly young couple in baseball caps all the way from Waltham, MA. And the couple in the box to our right offers us their gorgeous food. Enjoying their caprese salad and curry chicken, I wonder if there's something about Flight of the Conchords that encourages such a congenial crowd, or if it's the Bowl itself.

Sunday 7:30

As the sun goes down, the opening acts rev up. I haven't been to a concert in so long I've forgotten about opening acts. We have three, all of them from the TV show. The first is Kristen Schaal--"number one fan" Mel. I have to say, I don't find her funny at all. The fact that she arrives dressed as a whoopie cushion tells you all you need to know about her humor, and it's not my thing. Next up is Arj Barker, who plays Dave. He is intermittently funny, but it's fairly standard stand-up. Last is Eugene Mirman, who is supposedly the landlord on the show, but I don't remember him. However, he is pretty hilarious, so I don't mind. I don't even realize how long the opening acts have been there until Eugene says there will now be a twenty minute intermission. It's a gorgeous evening and the light is just fading from the hills and trees that surround us. I snuggle down under the blanket and don't feel at all silly that I brought my woolly hat.

Sunday 9:00

Whee! FOTC open with a robot song that David can't believe I don't know, and follow with "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room." Even though I know it well, it's a thrill and a crack-up to see them doing it in person. There are so many instruments on stage even though it's just the two of them. Eventually, they are joined by Nigel, whom they introduce as "the New Zealand National Symphony Orchestra." Nigel also plays a lot of instruments. The boys even bust out the glockenspiel and that teeny-tiny piano for "I Got Hurt Feelings."

My favorite songs are long, impressionistic rambles that I don't recognize, like "To Woo a Lady," and "Jenny," in which Bret plays Jenny and Jemaine is a guy she is trying to goose into remembering their time together (which he doesn't.) But of course it's a major thrill when I recognize the opening chords of something, and I can't stop myself from screaming "I need my Casio electric DG-20 set to...mandolin!!!" when they launch into "Boom! (She's Hot)" and it's a special bonding moment when our box-mate (who reminds me of James Franco) turns around and fist-bumps me after that.

Overall, I'm surprised I don't recognize about a third of their material, though I like the new stuff just as much, and even the classics have improv-y additions. In between songs, the boys crack us up with patter about their tour, including an extended riff on muffins gifted by a hotel. They also ask "Should we tell a story about the time we did drugs?" and when everyone screams, they chat about Jemaine's hay fever pills and how Bret "doesn't even have hay fever, but I took one anyway, because that's how I roll. Of course, then I needed a bit of a nap."

By the end, they've stripped down to some crazy shimmering catsuits to shriek out "Demon Woman," followed by an encore that includes three of my faves, "Girl with the Lazy Eye, "Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor," and (shree!) "Sugalumps," a kooky, slow, unplugged version during which both boys dance around in the audience, hotly pursued by the security guards, whom Jemaine says "want to touch Bret's sugalumps."

The boys from New Zealand know how to leave an audience satisfied, that's for sure. There is a palpable glee in the air as we all shuffle out. Am feeling a bit hungry from our spartan supper, but not quite hungry enough to succumb to the thirty million "All Meat!" sausage vendors lining Highland Ave. all the way back to the hotel, though David notes that they smell good. Back in our room, I am suddenly so tired that I almost fall asleep with my clothes on.

Monday 11:00 a.m.

Big thanks to Mary and Paul--because of them, we sleep in! What an amazing anniversary gift! We head to what seems like a rather swanky neighborhood (at any rate, I recognize some of the shops where stars are "spotted" in US Weekly) to meet my sister Lindsey, her husband Thomas, and our childhood friend Bryan, for brunch at a cute, casual place called The Newsroom. It's not crowded, and we hang out and eat off each others' plates for a long time.