Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day One: Albany/Palomar

Apparently, a lot of people go away Memorial Day Weekend, and a significant portion of them to the City by the bay. Who knew? All weekend, everywhere we go, everything we do, is packed. We adapt, but occasionally have to give up on something. Like seats at the airport. We eat an extremely bad and cold sandwich on the floor by the emergency exit while waiting to board. Then a baby in the seat right behind Jarrah wins a prize for the biggest tantrum we've ever experienced at 26,000 feet. I mean shrieking, not crying. Jarrah is traumatized and whispers fiercely as we enter the return plane "Do NOT seat me next to a screaming baby."

Karl meets us at the airport—so awesome—and we're zooming past the sparkling bay in no time. The rest of the afternoon passes lazily, hanging on his couch or watching Jarrah and Ruby play at the schoolyard on their street. We meet their cats and very shy dog, who keeps looking at us like she formerly understood her reality but now needs to recalibrate. I keep telling Karl stuff to know about Jarrah, even as I realize he has raised two daughters and probably knows a thing or two without my help.

We sample the banana bread I baked for them, and I'm smug that it turned out perfect. While we nosh, Jarrah discovers Apples to Apples and we play a family game with Jarrah handing us our asses with every round. She's a weirdly intuitive player and everyone votes for her. We crack up when she puts in “the IRS” (which wins) and someone says “Do you even know what that is, Jarrah?” and she crows “NOPE!” while sweeping up all the cards.

When Carrie gets home, we all walk into town for dinner at Barney's Burgers, which in keeping with the cuisine of the region is scrumptiously good and all natural, local, sustainable and derived from pansies that were grown in the backyard in a redwood tub. It's a really pretty walk, too.

We get a much later start into San Fran than we intended, and promptly go the wrong direction on the train, so it's nearly 10:00 when we get to the Palomar (handily right next to the BART.) We are delighted by our suite and have fun taking photos—we might not have remembered to snap the animal-print robes, though—leopard for me, zebra for David. We're feeling desert-ish, but aren't sure where to go, even with David consulting his iPhone. That thing is like my nemesis after a couple days. We end up at Lori's Diner, amused because we recognize it from our last trip, and share a piece of apple pie David pronounces “ugly but tasty.”

Normally, I have a tough time falling (and staying) asleep that first night in any hotel, no matter how nice, but the Palomar seems to have magic beds and no sooner have I slipped beneath the featherweight down comforter and cool, white 600 thread count Frette sheets and I'm gone. The blackout curtains and the double-pane windows obscuring the all-night fabulousness of Market Street keep me that way until after 9:30 the next day--a sleep-in almost unheard of in my current reality.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I Left My Heart...

On the flight from San Francisco home to San Diego after a glorious long weekend in the city. David and I wanted to get away for our tenth anniversary, and my brother and his family were sweet enough to host Jarrah for three days so we could! Since they live in the Berkeley area, we flew into Oakland and spent an afternoon with Karl, my SIL Carrie and two nieces Stella and Ruby, 15 and 12. Then we hopped the BART to downtown like giddy kids on the lam.

As is my wont, I'll take you through this experience day by day, but a few highlights (and one lowlight) before I proceed. First, a shout-out to the classy Hotel Palomar in SOMA for upgrading us to a ginormous suite based on my filling out that little box on the internet that says “Notes” with “It's our tenth anniversary!” It was the nicest room ever (well, except for our wedding night at the Westgate, but that suite had seven rooms!) and came with a super-deep jacuzzi tub that we filled with bubbles so high we couldn't see over them. Nothing like a hot soak after a day of climbing hills.

Another plus in the happy column goes to Jay Gifford of the Victorian Home Walk, for being adorable, entertaining and freakishly knowledgeable about both SF history and its incredibly diverse architecture. I will detail that delightful couple of hours anon, but for now I'll leave you with one of his quotes about the furnishings of the period: “It wasn't unusual to have a moose head, a bear head and a shrunken head all in the same room.”

I want to say “boo!” to the next item, but I can't really blame the sky: we took an increasingly unpleasant, progressively faster but unavoidably three-mile walk one afternoon in driving rain, with no umbrella or appropriate clothing of any kind. The best part was riding the BART at the end of it with water dripping off my nose and squelching in my shoes while everyone gave the pathetic, sodden people a wide berth. Whee!

Back to the beginning, Dear Readers. Join me, won't you? I'll launch this journey tomorrow with scads of color photos.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Comedy Is Hard

About to leave for Advanced Acting final. Feeling mawkish. Last class for me, last class for Professor ever. Too freighted with heavy-handed symbolism, to paraphrase Annie Dillard.

Have to hand in "journal." I think mine is pathetic. It consists of slightly crumpled (from much perusal and purse-stuffing) scenes and monologues, a few hastily scribbled class notes, and some long, ramble-y critiques of what I learned this semester that I wrote this weekend. He said that a student once wheeled her journal into the room on a dolly. Mine's a one-inch binder. Fingers crossed I still get that A+.

Final chamber music performance tonight, at an Episcopal church in Hillcrest. I'm guessing it won't be as grand as the last church, the Catholic one? I like performing from the pulpit. It's comfy up there and I get my own book light.

Stand-up comedy last night, third week. Apparently, I'm supposed to be focusing on something by now. Instead, I want to write bits about everything that's happened to me in life, including this week. Apparently, that is not going to help me edit my life into bits that have 18 jokes in three minutes.

Last night it was hard to "do" my three bits and not really get any laughs. I am a storyteller. I put in words just because I like the sound of them. That is fine, but comics will use one of those instead of eight, like I do. I asked Tony how do we know we haven't picked the WRONG stories to work on. He says there are no wrong stories, that we make them right with editing. Oh. Editing to me means changing words, not cutting them. Usually. Apparently, I have to cut, cut, cut like an ornamental hedge at Disneyland where it will start out a bush but end up a hippopotamus. Meaning, I have to lie a little. Not just exaggerate. Actually lie. At least it feels that way to me. Weird. I've begun announcing things into the "record" part of my phone whenever I think of something funny so that I can get in touch with my actual speech patterns. Everything is too long and there are horrible pauses filled with "Ummmms...." Those must go. Tony says I step on my own punchlines with more words. I said "I can't stand the silence!" He said "We're hoping the silence gets filled up with laughs." Oh. Right.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"mirror in the bathroom/please talk free"

When David and I moved into this house six years ago, it had three bedrooms and two baths. Not for long. A few weeks later, the "master bath" (that belongs in quotes because if you lean over in there even slightly you smack your head against a wall) started smelling distinctly of mildew. And I mean distinctly. A few inspectors and a lot of head-shaking and tsk-tsking later, we learned we had serious water damage. Shortly after that, David took a sledge hammer to the place (not because of his anger issues--to uncover the moisture) and brought it down to the wood. And shortly after that, we closed the door and have hardly opened it since.

Not that our other bathroom is exactly capacious. And now that Jarrah has gotten old enough to jostle us at the mirror with her hot rollers and liquid eyeliner, we were really missing that second bathroom. For a while, that was just too bad. But David's company recently merged with GoPro, and let's just say a tiny 3-D Easter egg was uncovered.

And today was finally the day. We had met with a contractor a year ago, and really liked him and his work. We met with him again this week, and today we spent a blissful (who knew?) couple of hours at the tile and plumbing showrooms, and picking out cabinets.

It amuses me that I'm the first to tell you that a) I can't make a decision to save my life and b) I really have no strong opinions about aesthetic matters. Then you turn me loose in a tile store and this happens:

1. "I like warm, yellow-y tones. No grays."
2. "Clouds really appeal to me."
3. "Not too much pixelation. Nothing too busy."
4. "Can we get that shinier?"
5. "I'm crazy about bright color. Especially blues and greens."
6. "Can we do the whole thing in glass? Oooh, like that abalone glass?"
7. "I absolutely cannot have dark wood. Something cherry-ish. Warm. Orange-y."
8. "Brushed nickel, I think. No chrome."
9. "Nothing flat white. I prefer egg shell, or vanilla."
10. "Can the sink have a really big lip? So much easier to clean."

I learned about "crema marfil" (doesn't it sound like a dessert?) and what a backsplash is. Jarrah amused herself writing notes to our gorgeous consultant, Shonda, and our contractor, Ryan, would occasionally steer me gently away from stuff that costs a million dollars (funny how I seem to be an expert on that stuff--an expert on gravitating towards it, at any rate.)

In the photo, you can see the floor tile at the far left (looking more gray here--it's actually very golden), with the shiny shower tile at near left. Both of these have clouds, which I love. The little squares are the shower floor, and above that is the trim tile (for the backsplash and a shower wall stripe.) The stick represents the crema marfil for the vanity top. The other photo shows a close-up of the trim tile--a mixture of stone and glass tile, with a little green thrown in for me.

It's going to take a long time (nearly a month!) to effect this transformation, and since the bathroom is in our bedroom, and they have to move two walls, I'm guessing we will not be sleeping in there. That part is a bit worrisome, but we're hoping to be in Australia at the time.

When it's done, it should be so beautiful that I'm going to want to throw a party in there. But it might have to be a mosh pit party, because that's the only way we're going to fit more than two people simultaneously in that space.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Right Before The Rapture

I bashed up my car today. I'm sad about it. My car is old, but it's my little blue friend. Now it has a big dent in the driver-side door, and it's totally my fault. I raked it against an unyielding yellow pole as I was trying to navigate an alley outside my hair salon. Stupid pole.

I got a bit saucy during my hair appointment. I feel like I spend a lot of time chiding people for expecting others to read their minds (I'm just supportive like that) but I think I might be just as guilty. So today I decided--niceties be damned--I was going to speak my truth with my stylist. Normally I would just stew about things that make no sense, and whine to David later. My stylist was rhapsodizing about a hair gel (i.e. trying to convince me to buy it) and she said "Unlike what you're using, it has no kind of alcohol in it. So it's not at all drying to the hair." She turned her back briefly, and I snatched the bottle off her shelf and casually studied it, like I was admiring the logo. I was actually reading the ingredients. Of which the third one was "cetearyl alcohol." I took a deep breath and said cheerfully, "It says it has alcohol." She got a squidge bristly but didn't hesitate. "Oh, that's a different kind of alcohol. Way more nurturing." "Oh!" I said agreeably. "I didn't know. Okay."

So I guess I didn't really push it. But I'm still proud of myself for saying anything, rather than the thing I usually do which is act my little heart out in a weird, fake play in which I'm the only one who knows I'm an actor. That always feels so awkward, but I do it all the time anyway, to be ingratiating, I guess. What is my problem?

Tonight we made some friends at Burger Lounge. Jarrah climbed a lamp post, which attracted the attention of a little boy, who joined her. They played for so long I started wondering where his parents were. He pointed out his mom, eating a salad, who waved us over. We started talking and ended up going to the park together. She was very friendly, and even suggested we get pizza sometime. Jarrah and the little boy were totally in love. They happily punched each other and ran up and down the street for over an hour. They even peed together, which I might have delicately advised against, had anyone consulted me before locking the door. It's nice to see strangers getting along so well, especially right before the world ends. Although David assured me it won't end, because it's already tomorrow in Australia and they seem to be fine over there.

So that's a relief.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"in time of daffodils"

Beef Fest was last weekend. I think most of you have been around for my other Beef Fest posts, but if not, they are here, here, here and here. David took these photos with his GoPro 3D camera. You are only going to be able to view them properly with the glasses you pilfered from the multi-plex, but posting them makes the man happy, so whaddaya want? (Note: He read this and wants me to tell you that you could also use "any cyan glasses" such as "the ones they put in magazines," but I'm going to presume that means as little to you as it did to me.)

It was a beautiful weekend at Beef Fest, despite the May Gray. In fact, the May Gray enhanced the experience, because it never got smoking hot. Friday night we had dinner, rides and fun with Steph, Shaun and Nathan, plus Andrew, David's friend visiting from Perth, and his colleague. Saturday I had spread the word and got a surprising turn-out--friends from preschool, kindergarten, China and Smith joined us at various intervals throughout the day. The photos above were taken at the parade, which we just love. Once again, we had the prime seats for both viewing and receiving the sugary bounty of the paraders--every kid had a year's supply of Starburst before it was over.

Some other highlights included playing with pretend snow (something about diaper technology--I tried not to listen too carefully; I am so DONE with diapers) winning a bunch of free cheese steaks, slamming my bones around in the bumper cars, watching the kids scream on the other rides, eating the aforementioned beef (burgers, tri-tip, carne asada, lumpia...you name it) and homemade ice cream and corn on the cob with fresh lime, getting an ace chair massage in the fresh air, and spending some lovely moments with my dear, sweet, wonderful friends.

You can see I'm a bit maudlin. I can't help it--doing things on an annual basis is a surefire way to notice the time passing. Like how Jarrah--who coined the name HERSELF--doesn't understand now why we keep calling it "Beef Fest" and keeps correcting us--"It's called SPRINGFEST." And how she's tall enough for every ride.

And then Sunday was FCC Kite Fest. Perfect kite weather this year--very breezy, sunny and cool. And how--for the first time ever--Jarrah flew her own kite, with no supervision. And for the first time (sob!) had no interest in the bubblicious antics of Sparkles the Clown.

We stopped on the way to Kite Fest to pick up souvlaki and skordalia at our favorite Greek place, and I recalled the many, many weekday mornings when I drove a fretful, chubby Jarrah to her class at "My Gym," where she disdained Circle Time and spent most of her time bobbing in the colored balls. And I looked across the street for the familiar big yellow building, and Readers, IT WASN'T THERE. There's a smoke shop in its place (it's PB after all) and I realized mournfully that not only had My Gym disappeared, but Jarrah's memories of it, too. When I waxed nostalgic, she had no idea what I was even talking about.

And kindergarten is almost over. More sobs. How did this happen? I wrote a post last summer about how she would go in and come out very much changed. And it's totally true. Even just the way we can read together now, and do--all the time. It's such a beautiful enhancement to our relationship.

Speaking of things being over, my last Advanced Acting class is Thursday. It feels even more weighty with symbolism since it is the last class my professor will ever teach, after 22 years. Now I can't imagine why I even hesitated that day in early January when I got a call from Lisa while searching for baby shower favors at Jo Ann's Crafts, asking if I was interested. It's been so amazing to be back in school after 10 years--those T/Th outings have really shaped my week. And I'm going to miss our little crowd of theatrical types and their various quirks. I'm going to miss discussing Shakespeare and Ibsen and Strindberg, reading together, commenting on each others' monologues and collaborating on scenes. I'm going to miss Lisa, who is moving to San Francisco, and mostly I'm just going to miss the camaraderie of the classroom. What can I say--I'm a sucker for school. And yes, I'm considering taking another class in the fall. Maybe Mime. Or Musical Theater.

On to the next adventure.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That Darling Month

Jarrah is a bit sick today. I say "a bit" because I'm not sure what's wrong with her, but she haunted the school nurse yesterday until said nurse got sick of her and sent her home. Thankfully, David picked her up because I was at school at the time, and it's my second-to-last week before the final.

In keeping with tradition, we might go see a movie this morning. Probably African Cats. I hope there's not too much carnage. Five-ish years with Jarrah have taught me she's only hideously sick if a) she's refusing all food and b) she's listless. Since she ate a cheese omelet in four bites and is currently watching TV from the shoulder stand pose, I'm thinking it's not so bad. Still, a mother worries.

I can't believe kindergarten is almost over. Swirls of e-mails circulate with ideas for thank-you-teacher art projects and end-of-year soirees. Makes me a bit sad. But I feel like Jarrah got a lot out of kindergarten and is definitely ready for first grade. Though that sounds very old.

This past weekend we attended Spring Fling, a big fundraiser for Jarrah's school. I was a little disappointed there were no Midway rides, but the dance party was fun and appropriately sweaty, even though Jarrah fell backwards off some risers while demonstrating her "moves." A few bruises, but as she told David: "It really hurts, but I won't let it stop me from dancing!"

Sunday was Mother's Day, but my poor mum is recovering from hip surgery, so we visited her in the OC. Turns out it was an inopportune time for a visit, as she was feeling very ill, but the rest of us (sorry, Mom!) enjoyed ourselves just sitting around talking, eating fancy salads out of plastic containers (dinner courtesy of our gourmet supermarket) and conducting a tasting of a Sprinkles cupcakes (I came down squarely on the side of the lemon cream and the chocolate coconut, and I wouldn't throw the vanilla-vanilla out of bed. "Ooooh, you can taste the real vanilla!" I exulted to Jarrah, to which she replied in matching tones of rapture, "Oooooh! I have no idea what you're talking about, but it's soooo good!")

I got to change Baby Lilah's diaper for the first time while my sis was out for a run, which was a real thrill. You might be thinking that I've had lots of practice, but it was my first time changing a baby that doesn't actively help. For instance, I would position her little foot near the opening of the pants, and like a magic act, bing! The foot was gone. That was new. Thirteen-month-olds don't do that.

Here's Jarrah holding Lilah for the first time. She looks like a little doll, doesn't she? I've never seen a newborn with so much hair!

In other news, I'm working on my last two monologues for my acting class--Mistress Page from The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest. Both are fun, which is nice after a semester of serious scenes. And I started my stand-up comedy class this week! I'm very excited about it and took scads of notes--the professor is funny and smart (he's a comic, of course) and I can tell we're all going to bond very quickly. The one bit I didn't like was the end, where he said he's excited because there are a bunch of women in the class "who might not all talk about the same thing." I bristled and drew myself up to my full, towering five-foot-four. "Oh, because all women are the same, so they have to talk about the same things?" I said in my dangerous voice. "Sorry, but it's totally true," he said cheerfully. Whatever. We'll see about that. My first bit is going to be about my years as a Harley mechanic.

This coming weekend is Beef Fest the Sixth! I'm ridiculously excited. For the uninitiated among you (and really, are there any these days?) Beef Fest is a neighborhood fair lasting two days. This year, for the first time, Jarrah has the option of marching in the adorable parade, since her school has a float led by the principal. I have a suspicion she's not going to want to give up her prime curbside perch, the better for catching all the candy hurled from floats.

It's going to be a busy, fun weekend, what with Beef Fest, the annual Kite Festival, and my third performance with the chamber music concert series. But this morning, I'm a trifle melancholy. Make me laugh, will you, Dear Readers?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Baked Goods

This is my 800th post! I started this blog in September 2005 and have never lapsed, which I'm rather proud about. In blog years, that's like 50. I started the blog to document my nascent journey as a parent, and today's post will show, Dear Readers, that after six years I'm just as irresponsible and ridiculous as I was back then.

So, we're going to see a matinee of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat yesterday afternoon, right? My friend John, whom I met on Choo, Choo, is playing one of the brothers. I mean, what could be more wholesome? A family outing to a matinee musical, and all about the Bible, yet. We're adorable! The show (which you should totally see--it runs two more weekends and I was dancing in the aisles!) is playing at Moxie, and we don't know that area well, but we want to stop for lunch first. I've just spent two hours at the gym (more wholesomeness!) and have worked up a hearty appetite.

David remembers that someone (it's now a matter of some interest that we don't know who) recommended a nearby sandwich place when I was in Choo, Choo at the same theater--he brought me a yummy sub one night during the show. He can't remember the name, but knows roughly where it is, so we just drive around 'til we find it. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but the interior is cozy and welcoming, with padded booths, medium-volume '70s rock and a smiling guy who hails us hello.

We order some subs and a soup-in-a-bread-bowl for Jarrah, after she turns down a curiously delicious-sounding baked PB&J. They are out of bread bowls, and the guy is so (unnecessarily) apologetic that he gives us a free giant cookie. A big bowl by the register is filled with brownies, and a rack of the tastiest chip flavors, too--hello, Cheddar Sour Cream Ruffles! It's weird...it's like they stocked everything I might ever have a...craving for. Jarrah is excited about the Kool-Aid on tap, and while that smacks slightly of Jonestown, I allow it. They brew me a fresh pot of iced tea and we get comfy. There are two or three college-age duos at other tables.

While we're waiting, I admire the mural covering one whole wall. It has a soothing beach theme, with palm trees and surfers. Ah, California. All that sun and sand and...um...smoke? Two of the surfers appear to be passing a rolled-up cigarette between them. Not very healthful. And those two sea lions...breathing smoke on each other? That's odd. And...wait a minute...why are the palm trees shaped like pointy leaves?!?

My eyes track around the room as if on a dolly, seeing it afresh. There is a giant, glittery "420" above the drink station. The sandwiches are named "Silver Haze" and "AZ Homegrown." A logo on the menu reads "Where nothing is fried except for the customers!" I flash back to feeling up a strange item next to the cash register called a "Goo Ball"--"rice crispies, peanut butter, honey and cocoa." That sounds a bit...purpose-driven.

Hey. Why are "herb" and "toasted" in quotation marks everywhere? Why are the drinks called "Cotton-Mouth Cures?" Why do many of the featured items boast "Hemp--it's legal!" And why did it take me so long to notice ALL of this??? Suddenly I notice some official-looking stickers on the window, alongside the "Visa Accepted." I sprint over to examine them, heart pounding, could this place be...? No. Not even. It's not. I mean, I've heard about those places, but...do they serve sandwiches? And have a kids' menu???

I start giggling. Slightly hysterically. Which probably makes me fit right in. I sneak peeks at my sweet-faced child, leaning on her elbow and studying (uh-oh) her Chicken and Rice soup, which she says is "a little spicy." WHAT? Good lord, what have we done? David doesn't see what's so funny. He likes his sandwich a lot. He asks if I like mine. Sure, but... But what?

All the literature espouses "free speech" and "counterculture." As if those are just euphemisms for "totally baked and loving it."

"David!" I stage whisper. "What are we doing?" "We're eating lunch," he says calmly. "But...we're eating lunch...in a MARIJUANA RESTAURANT!" I hiss. Jarrah doesn't even look up. What does that even mean? "We've brought our child to a marijuana restaurant!" I try again. David is unimpressed. The chocolate-chip cookie our server has gifted us tastes homemade. Oh my stars. What must he have thought when he saw me longingly fondle the brownies as I ordered "The Chronic?" Well, I guess I know what he thought. It's not that big of a mystery.

We eat our lunch. I giggle some more. I giggle a LOT. Excessively, even. They probably get a lot of that. When we're ready to go (having not heard The Grateful Dead even once) the cashier and the sandwich maker wave us merrily on our way.

David asks if I'd go back. I say I think so, but I wonder if I'm just trying not to sound uncool. And am I uncool? Is it weird that I was giggling? Or weird that we stayed? At least Jarrah didn't seem the least bit curious, about any of it, except how much cookie she was going to get.

Now as long as she doesn't start calling sandwiches "blunts," I think we're in the clear.