16 May 2010

I will write a book

...and it will be called "Life and How to Live It."

Home again, home again.

I spent the better part of my weekend in Pasadena and La Canada. Yesterday was Seminar! Day! at Caltech. The spouse and his father (and my brother-in-law) all wander around with degrees from that place, and I spent many years of my life haunting the libraries, and the basement of Arms, and South Mudd. And the gardens. And the copy room. I spent three full days in the copy room.

My wedding reception was held at the Athenaeum.

My father-in-law likes to go to Seminar Day, and the spouse and I have been going along with him for twenty-plus years. The son was added to the lineup when he was nine or ten, and the daughter has been in attendance for the last two or three years.

The highlights of the day include:

1) All-you-can-eat doughnuts first thing in the morning. There is no pretension to health here, so nothing like fruit is included. Just doughnuts and a few random pastries. Well, and coffee, tea, juice and milk. They used to be Winchell's doughnuts. Now they are Krispy Kreme. It's great to watch passels of old alumni attack the tables when each new platter of doughnuts appears. Yesterday, the chocolate-frosted sprinkles were in high demand.

2) Lunch. No one quibbles too much about this one. We go to Burger Continental (okay, once we went to Pie 'n Burger *shudder* and once we went to Tommy's. Tommy's is fine if you don't mind smelling like chili for the rest of the day, and Pie 'n Burger is great if you like grease. I don't like grease.) BC in no way qualifies as fine dining, but it's an institution. I've been going there since my freshman year of college, and I celebrated my first (and only) major hangover with lunch there many years ago, in part because the friend I was with convinced me that hummus and tabbouleh and a hamburger would put my queasy stomach to rest. Ha. Anyway, we always got a discount as starving college students, and I don't mind paying back a little by paying full price now that I'm a not-starving adult. One of the pair of brothers who ran the place has since passed on, but the other still greets us, and yesterday he served us, bringing extra beers for the spouse and his father, and an enormous platter of baklava and brownies for the kids. He has aged so much it hurts my heart, but he is still the same kind person he has always been and he still says, "Thank you, nice people," which still makes me smile. (His brother always called me "darling," but I think he called all the girls "darling." I can still see him, burly and joyous, writing my order with huge flourishes on a pad of paper.) It's true that my hummus and tabbouleh are better, but it's also true that BC is where I discovered hummus and tabbouleh.

3) Shopping. The Caltech bookstore is a must for your collection. You can buy real Caltech olive oil (pressed from the fruit of the Caltech olive trees), and buy whatever Caltech paraphernalia suits your needs. They used to even sell pocket protectors. No books any longer, unfortunately, because that's all gone online, but there are some seriously hilarious geeky t-shirts. Most of which do not come in girl t-shirts, damn you, Caltech. The daughter happily acquired a stuffed beaver that she and I immediately named "Justin." (Yes, for precisely the reason you think, and no, she is *not* a fan because she says he sings like a girl. But this is the girl who likes Rush, Coldplay, Muse...no JoBros or Miley for her.)

4) Caltech professors speak! Yeah, some of those guys show up and talk about their current research. Whatever. Ok, no, seriously, that part can be a lot of fun, depending upon the speaker. Yesterday we heard about lakes on Titan, genetic and neural regulation of sleep, and the daughter's pick, medical micro-implants. Yes, as a family, we are a group of freaks, but you already knew that.

Then last night, I spent the evening removing spyware from my mother-in-law's computer, and we had dinner at a teppan restaurant. And we discussed the sleeping habits of cetaceans.

Today, we celebrated my MIL's 80th birthday by taking her to an extremely lovely brunch at The Huntington Hotel (now The Langham Huntington, or something like that). She likes to be feted, and this turned out to be a perfect place. I haven't had brunch there since the hotel was a Ritz Carlton, and the space was light and lovely, the food attractively presented and well-prepared. There were so many lovely cheeses! I could live on cheese, and I mostly ate cheese. And a little sushi. And a sea-salt caramel tartlet. But now that I think about it, I mostly ate cheese. With fig cake! And more cheese! With olives! And cheese! I missed the dim sum, the carved meats, the omelet station, the waffle station and skipped the oysters, shrimp and crab claws in favor of more cheese!


Go listen to some music: "Life and How to Live It" from the album Fables of the Reconstruction by REM. The daughter was entranced by the chocolate fountain at brunch, while the son favored everything and the spouse and his father were pleased by the non-stop mimosas. It's usually a fun weekend every year, though I feel like I did nothing but eat and doze through talks.

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