30 July 2010


Anonymous commenter was definitely correct. Cheap Trick sounded great, putting on an energetic and cheerful show at Irvine Meadows last night, even though they'd been relegated to the opener spot (1 hour, no encore, which was too bad). They played their best known songs--"I Want You To Want Me," "Surrender," and "Dream Police"--and they did a great cover of the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour." I didn't quite catch the story, but they are playing several shows in Vegas that have something to do with the Beatles. The son loves "Surrender," and it's always good to see a 16-year-old grinning ear to ear and singing his heart out.

Then there was Aerosmith. I wouldn't even qualify myself as a casual fan of Aerosmith. I don't necessarily change the station if they come on the radio, I like some of their songs, I don't own any of their albums (the spouse does), and I've never felt a compelling need to see them live (the spouse saw them around 1978). I am aware of the two main members of the band, but couldn't tell you if the rest of the band has been the same or revolving door or what.

So, I have to admit that I was surprised that I recognized every song Aerosmith played but two, up until we left (after "Sweet Emotion." There are some bands you will battle traffic for and some bands you will not battle traffic for. We got home at 11pm; the friend who stayed until the end of the show about 15 minutes later got home at 1am). Granted, they've been around for 40-odd years probably, and the first time I heard of Aerosmith ("Dream On," which even got AM radio play in Tucson), I was younger than the daughter. They've had plenty of radio hits, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I recognized an hour and a half's worth of music. Were they worth a $10 lawn ticket? Absolutely. But were we willing to pay an extra $10 each to upgrade to an actual seat in the loge? Nope.

Aerosmith is certainly a competent 1970s arena rock band, which is exactly how they came off: a 1970s arena rock band. They sounded good and had a nice light show but they seemed like a bit of an anachronism. Joe Perry had a funny little bit of schtick playing against himself on Guitar Hero. I have to admit I laughed when it looked like Steven Tyler was bent over singing in a security guy's ear--the expression on the security guy's face was priceless. The scantily clad females videos were a bore (even the son--may I remind you he's 16?--scoffed and complained about that). The drummer produced the most unbelievably lame drum solo I've ever seen. Beating on the the kit with his fists, elbows, and head. Really? Whatever floats yer boat, dude. If the band did actually ingest as many controlled and illegal substances as they are credited with, I suppose it is a bit of a wonder that they can actually still stand on stage (the spouse and I speculated that Mr. Tyler's recent performance at a California Home Depot might actually have been more fun).

Let me emphasize that there was nothing wrong with Aerosmith's set, but there was nothing there to wow me. I could have had pretty much the same experience watching VH1 (okay, I'd have missed the moon rise. I do mean the actual moon, not a bit of the anatomy of one of the drunken members of the audience, which overall was pretty well behaved).

But worth the $10 for each of our tickets? Sure. Parking was free, and we had a potluck in the parking lot with our friends before the show. And I'm always willing to give a band that I've never seen live a chance to win me over. Cheap Trick did.

Go listen to some music: "Surrender" from the album Heaven Tonight by Cheap Trick. I did some reading up on Cheap Trick this morning, and really had no idea these guys have been around for so long. I remember first hearing them in the 1980s.

27 July 2010

Come together

A few weeks ago, the spouse called me from work and told me that the irrepressible Ms. CL had decided that he, along with everyone else she'd recruited for this pursuit, was going to buy tickets to see Cheap Trick and Aerosmith at Irvine Meadows. Did I want to go?

"Kids?" I hollered. "Do you want to go see Aerosmith?"

"NO!" they hollered from the safety of the Xbox.

"No," I told the spouse. Poor man, I'd already poured cold water on his idea to go see Ted Nugent.

(He's perfectly welcome to go see Ted Nugent on his own. I go to concerts by myself all the time.)

Ten dollar lawn tickets, he said, a little desperately. It sounded like CL might be in his office.

Forty bucks, I thought. Pretty cheap entertainment for an evening under the stars. But Cheap Trick? Aerosmith? Never had any interest in seeing either.

"Meh..." I said. "But whatever you want to do."

So, we're going to see Cheap Trick and Aerosmith on Thursday night, along with friends and hangers on. I am to bring a large (homemade, of course) deli sandwich for the pre-concert feeding frenzy.

I just hope the show's not too boring.

Go listen to some music: "Come Together" from the album Aerosmith's Greatest Hits by Aerosmith. Okay, if you know me, you will appreciate both the irony and the tongue-in-cheek nature of this post.

26 July 2010

Ballroom blitz

My senior year of college, I somehow fell in with some of the people in the college's folk dance group. They'd drag me to practices and events when I had a little extra time, and because I actually had learned ballroom dancing, polka and schottische, foxtrot and waltz, reels and squares, sometimes I'd be asked to fill in for an absent member.

In the spring, the folk dance group, along with the combined orchestras of my college and another planned to sponsor an event, a waltz night. Part of the evening was to be a dancing exhibition, and my friend LK came to me and asked me to be his partner, promising that I wouldn't have to give up any time to practice.

I begged off with various excuses: I was taking 4 classes to finish up my degree (3 was the maximum), I was writing my thesis, I was working 40 hours, and what do you mean there'll be no practice? I could waltz, but I wasn't that good.

It would be fine, LK soothed. You know the basics. Just let me lead.

But I groused at him that I didn't have time, and besides--age-old woman's complaint--what was I supposed to wear? It wasn't like I had a ball gown just lying around my apartment.

Petit fours, LK teased me. Pastries. Food would be served. It was a Saturday night. And, he finished, he was sure that I could find something to wear.

(I frequently helped LK doll himself up before he and his gang of friends went clubbing in West Hollywood. Because he was only a little taller than me, he could squeeze into my shoes, and frequently borrowed my pumps to go dancing. LK loved me for my clothes and makeup and scintillating banter. Our friendship was, quite purely, friendship.)

You said there'd be no practices, I pouted.

Just let me lead, he said.

I studied dance for years and I'm a control freak. It's very hard for me to follow.

Eventually, though, between LK's cajoling and my own desire to do something other than study and work, I agreed to join him. Then I went over to my sorority house and rummaged through the costume closet until I came up with an ivory satin ball gown that, paired with my own character shoes, would serve. I'd worn the dress once before for a sorority event, and I knew it was long enough for me, though it had been made for a slightly smaller busted woman. Still, it was a pretty dress, form fitting from the bodice down through the hips where it flared out into a gored skirt that would look very nice while I was dancing and wouldn't tangle around my legs.

The night of the event, I slipped into the dress and held my breath while my roommate zipped me in. As I cautiously let my breath out, she observed that I was well and truly corseted by the dress alone, and we agreed that it was fortunate I was slender enough not to need the girdle I'd dragged out just in case because neither of us were sure how I'd have gotten another layer between me and the dress, it was so tight through the hips. I sprayed and pinned what hair I had into the world's tiniest chignon, applied some lipstick and headed off to the "ballroom."

LK, resplendent in his tuxedo, looked relieved that I'd actually shown up and in character, escorted me gallantly to the refreshment tables. I laughed, without breathing, and pointed out that if I ate or drank anything, I'd undoubtedly start popping seams.

"You look lovely," he hissed in my ear, "so shut up!"

For spring, it was a very warm and still evening, and the unairconditioned dining hall was even warmer, though someone had thought to open the French doors and windows. I felt a little trickle of perspiration course down my spine, and I saw LK surreptitiously wipe his palms on his trousers as the professor who directed the folk dance group announced the start of the exhibition dancing and all of us who were dancing gathered in a circle in the center of the room. Then she announced that we'd start with a dance I hadn't bargained on. I glared at LK as he quickly explained the pattern, including a small jump...and a lift.

"You can't lift me," I whispered furiously at him. Not only were we near the same height, I was wearing heels, which put my center of gravity in an awkward place.

"I know you're strong enough to do most of the lifting yourself," he replied blithely, baring his teeth at me in a grin through his facial hair. "Just follow me."

Famous last words.

LK was an excellent dancer, and in truth, I found him pretty easy to follow, when I was paying attention. If my concentration slipped, I started steering him, which he didn't appreciate at all. In this case, I had to pay attention, since I was dancing something I didn't even know.

We made it through the first figure, and I clenched my teeth and my abdominal muscles as I kicked my legs hard to get enough elevation to clear the first lift, grateful that the cut of the skirt was full enough to disguise my slightly flailing legs. I heard LK grunt a little, his hands hard around my waist as he pushed me into the air while I kicked. And in midair, I felt his grip slide just a little on the satin of the dress. As we started the second figure, he met my eyes, looking a little alarmed.

"Sweaty palms," he whispered, swiftly swiping his hands down my hips, and then we both turned to smile gaily at the audience, also dressed in costume, watching us. I remember, quite clearly, one older woman sitting on a balloon-backed chair, wearing what for all the world looked like Victorian widow's weeds, nodding her gigantic hat in time to the music, the rim banging gently into the grey-bearded gentleman standing behind her. For an eerie moment, I felt transported to some far away time and place.

And the band played on. And we prepared for the second lift. Which we got through with LK's hands digging painfully into my rib cage.

Third figure and LK was sweating freely, little drops of moisture dotting his dark beard and moustache. I found that I was perspiring gently through my dress, with the slightest damp patch forming just below my bustline while I suspected another at the base of my spine.

"Follow me," LK hissed, and I realized that I wasn't, that I was starting to panic a little, and I concentrated on the next lift, which we survived through lack of elevation. Fourth and final figure I thought, as LK dragged me close, and whisper-screamed in my ear, "I love you, you are beautiful, but FOLLOW ME, DAMMIT!"

My buddy, beating me with both the carrot and the stick.

While trying to give him the lead, I stumbled over one of his feet, and so was late on the kick. His wet hands slid round my waist, unable to get purchase on the slippery, damp satin, and I felt my body go into freefall...

...until he caught the fabric on the back of the dress with both hands, grabbing the fullness where the skirt flared just below my hips. And held me in the air, by the dress, until the lift was finished. I remained very still, clutching his shoulders, fearful he'd drop me, fearful the already straining dress would give way. As he carefully set me back on my feet, I felt a single stitch pop in the princess seam running along the right side of my torso. We stared, eyes wide, at each other for a moment, and then turned to acknowledge the audience applause.

I remember little else about that evening. I know LK and I danced for at least another hour, but there were no more lifts, just the occasional tiny pop as another stitch gave way in the princess seaming of the bodice. Later, after we staggered up to the dormitory where LK lived, I collapsed in a damp heap in the dorm hallway, and our other friend SJ appeared with a bottle of frozen vodka, which he offered to me and LK in turn. We both refused and demanded that SJ bring us water instead.

Sitting across from me on the floor, LK pulled off my shoes and started to rub my feet. It was the closest I was going to get to an apology for his subterfuge about the first dance. I will take the foot massage any day.

SJ returned with water, and lowered himself down next to me, while other friends gathered to hear about the evening.

"You look lovely," SJ said ironically, fastidiously eying my disheveled self. I examined the little hole that had opened in the dress, small threads trailing down the bodice.

I let my head drop onto his shoulder and yawned. "I looked better before L. tried to kill me."

"L," SJ chided in his best school marm voice. "Why did you try to kill A?"

"A. was very wonderful," LK replied, humbly.

"So were you," I laughed. "You caught me!"

"You dropped her?" another friend inquired.

"No," LK replied, quite precisely, "I caught her."

We grinned at each other.

"But, damn, girl, you can NOT follow," he continued, justifiably peeved. "Next time, I'm wearing the dress."

Go listen to some good music: "Ballroom Blitz" from the album Desolation Boulevard by Sweet. And so ended my brilliant ballroom dancing career.

25 July 2010

The last reason to make this last

There is always a reason.

Sunday night walk.

There is a reason.

Always the same music.

There is a reason.

As I walk, I watch the planes on their final approach as they come in to land.

There is a reason.

The tug of memory is so strong, as the last light of the sun casts my shadow against the buff-colored wall, as I walk along, fast, so fast I could be running, the cool of the air meeting the warmth of the wall and the pavement beneath my feet.

My heart runs backward into the past.

It's a tiny memory, as memories go, just seconds. It opened doors and meant worlds.

If I run fast enough, can I catch that moment again?

Go listen to some good music: "Make This Go on Forever" from the album Eyes Open by Snow Patrol.

23 July 2010

What a day, a year, a life it is

No, my days have not improved. I didn't want you to get the wrong idea because I'm going to attempt to write cheerfully.

Dammit, anyway.

Whilst on the exercise bike, I was reading a food magazine (I know, seemingly a contradiction in terms. But it's worth pointing out that I never did get lunch today because of the various landmines in my path. Unless you count that banana, and I don't), specifically Andrew Knowlton on proper picnic food. Very perfect. And then, of course, a few moments later I was reading someone else's opinion that sweet tea is the perfect drink for a hot day. I could not disagree more, and anyway, I loathe sweet tea.

(I think I mentioned that we've been Southern food central lately. The daughter started reading the Fried Green Tomatoes cookbook, followed by Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and topped off with a viewing yesterday of, yes, Fried Green Tomatoes. I've been offering color commentary on the recipes she's been reading aloud--it's unlikely that I will ever eat tomato aspic, jello salad, or grits again, at least not voluntarily--but I did promise to make one of the desserts, and maybe a meal. So last night for dinner, we had creamed turkey [it was supposed to be creamed chicken, but I had about two pounds of cooked turkey breast in the freezer that I decided really needed to be used up] over white rice with mixed veg and lemon icebox pie for dessert. I was mildly amazed at how these recipes reflect my early childhood with stuff like lemonade concentrate and Cool Whip. And the pie was predictably super sweet and rich, though it reminded me a little of a lovely cream cheese pie my mom used to make when we were kids called Cherry Breeze. End digression.)

Picnics were always an exciting thing when I was a kid, and like Knowlton's mother, my mother would make fried chicken before we packed up and went to Randolph Park. (Picnics were different from the all-day Easter affair that I've described.) My mom made great fried chicken (Maryland style, which is how I make it when I do, which I don't) but she made even better potato salad. When I want potato salad, it is my mother's potato salad that I want (my MIL gets props for the best German potato salad I've ever had). She also grilled a heck of a steak and made the best vinaigrette for green salad (sadly, it's a little of this, little of that sort of recipe and I've never quite gotten it).

Fried chicken and potato salad. Best picnic ever. Probably with a jar of iced tea because growing up, pretty much all we drank was water and iced tea, and very rarely as a treat, soda. When I was really little, I used to put sugar in my tea, and of course, the tea was cold, the sugar didn't dissolve, and the last gulp would be this gritty sweet sludge. So, I looked to my mother, who didn't sugar her tea, and decided to be a grown lady, and not sugar my tea. Two glasses later, I was hooked on unsugared tea and I never looked back.

While on the bike, I found myself thinking about making fried chicken and packing a basket for the beach. My heretical family, of course, doesn't like potato salad, but I might make some for me.

We unofficially picnic rather a lot, particularly when we're on the road. One of my favorite picnic memories comes from a trip to Germany years ago, just weeks after reunification. In Berlin, the spouse and I bought sausage and fruit at an early morning, open air market (he's never been forgiven for not allowing me time to buy a portion of champignon mit brot from the woman who was cooking it up nearby. I can still smell the mushrooms cooking in butter that misty autumn morning) and then we took off down the Autobahn toward Munich. Along the way we stopped at Something or Other See, a picturesque lake loaded with hungry gulls, where we shared the only picnic table with a small group of raucous young men who were busy hiking to or fro. The gulls made it memorable, the multi-lingual exchange of commonplaces made memorable, and the consumption of the food we'd purchased that morning made it memorable.

It's memories like those that are among the ones I cherish the most.

And I want to make more.

Go listen to some good music: "Dreamer" from the album Crime of the Century by Supertramp. It's interesting that this same song came to mind a little over a year ago when I was trying wrest control of my life back from a world run amok. And here I am, my resentment increasing as I've been repeatedly thwarted in certain ways in the last two years. Even as I take a very active role in making it stop, it is not stopping. I'm not, strictly speaking, a patient person, but I'm starting to feel that I've been plenty patient long enough.

22 July 2010

Both sides of the line

Ah! I'm being tested.

It was another sticky sort of day and it started getting warmer again, which made it stickier. I was tired because I was up late last night/this morning bashing away at the secret project that was at least partly responsible for last night's giddiness.

(The potential for travel to the southeast also had me giddy, but that's part of the stickiness of the moment. It was supposed to be relatively straightforward, but not much in my life has been lately.)

No, this isn't the same secret project that I was working on in the spring. That one's dormant for the moment (yay! When I start talking to vendors and I sound serious and like I know what I'm talking about--I mean, I do know what I'm talking about but when I can hear it in my own voice, everyone should just run). Not that I expect it to stay dormant; this sort of thing tends to suddenly resurrect itself at the most unexpected moments and say, "Oh HAI! I haz my clawz in you again. Lucky!"

Anyway, this is something different, but is/would be totally awesome, and even working on the preliminary stuff makes me laugh out loud.

I can really use that right now. Because I'm doing lots of stuff and I feel like I'm treading water. Or out stomping around in the heat and the road construction, just daring the construction crew to say something to me.

The two-step is out.

Go listen to some good music: "Both Sides of the Line" from the album Fervor/Lost & Found by Jason & the Scorchers. Cowpunk? Yeah, what of it? I saw these guys years ago in Hollywood (Palladium, I think), and it was a cheerful, hard rocking, high energy show. And I don't know what they're talking about here, really. But I know what I mean.

21 July 2010


Defeat darkness
Breaking daylight

These are the sorts of days I'm talking about!

It's the plethora of dumb, ongoing problems that involve phone calls and emails and correcting other people's work. This is the sort of thing that drives me berserk.

The guy handling the daughter's college account (which just had to be changed up) didn't quite do his homework up front. That was one phone call.

The son's school once again neglected to bill me for transportation for the coming year. Fortunately, I caught the error before he showed up at the bus stop on the first day of school expecting to be taken away. That was two phone calls.

The son's AP Bio teacher decided that in the coming year, the kids would be using a textbook that is out of print. I have a lot of experience in buying used books-- some of my jobs have required that particular expertise--so I'm well versed in appropriate grading by real booksellers. Well, anyone can sell books in these Internet days, and I've already sent one copy back (graded "good," but actually not even "acceptable" as the binding was hanging by duct tape threads and not a page was unmarked). The second copy I ordered became mysteriously unavailable while we were on vacation, and I've just ordered a third copy, which better be the charm.

Driving lessons. Dear God. When I was in high school, driver's ed was part of the high school curriculum. No more. One must find a state-accredited driving school to provide 30 hours of classroom instruction plus behind-the-wheel training. This is supposedly non-negotiable, but I can't believe that half the drivers I see here ever completed any of this stuff. Out of exhaustion, I finally turned over the choice of school to the spouse, but I still have to fill out the paperwork for the actual classes.

And paperwork? I did all the forms for the coming school year today, too. Last year, the son's school lost his emergency card even though it had been mailed to them in timely fashion (and thus, they decided not to give him his schedule until one of us showed up at the school, miles and miles from here, at which point they'd found it again), so I've photocopied his paperwork so he can wave it at them when they invariably lose it again.

Shall I go on? No, I shan't. It's too gruesome. Too exasperating. This is the sort of nonsense that inhales my days. Along with orthodontists and wisdom tooth removal and and and... Still, while I'm annoyed by all this, I've managed to maintain a (mostly) positive outlook.

Small potatoes, I tell myself.

I know what I want, I remind myself.

I realize what I can't live without.


And a whisper.

It's not a done deal, but I've just about sealed it.


Go listen to some good music: "Daylight" from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay. Forward. Really. Forward.

20 July 2010

You've got a friend in me

(Interstitial moment: because I have been bloody busy with stupid things, we went to dinner at the local brew pub. The Angels-Yankees game was on all the bazillion screens hanging around the place, and when Matsui hit his 2-run homer in Yankee stadium, the entire restaurant erupted into cheers. Go go, Godzilla. Of course, right now, Trevor Bell is trying to lose a 10-2 Angels game, 2 outs, bottom of the ninth. That's the Angels...)

The kids, the son in particular, have been wildly lobbying to see Toy Story 3 in the movie theater. We've been busy, so it wasn't until today that I finally had a chance to take them.

The son was only a year old when the original Toy Story came out, so it was probably at least another year before we actually saw it. And he adored it, as we did. And I spent a lot of time at Burger King collecting all the toys from the movie--the only time I've ever actually bought toys at a fast food restaurant. Possibly the most memorable moment of the whole thing had nothing to do with Toy Story itself: we went to a book signing by Buzz Aldrin, who had a Buzz Lightyear toy with him. He waved his Buzz at the son, who was enchanted, and the former astronaut and the son (who was about 3 years old) had an animated conversation about the toy.

The daughter was a couple of years old when the second film came out, and the son still had his Woody, Buzz Lightyear and RC toys. The movie franchise was a family franchise at that point, and much loved.

Eventually, of course, everyone out grew the toys.

And that is what Toy Story 3 is about: growing up. Main character Andy is preparing to leave for college, and of course, chaos and adventure ensues with the toys from his childhood. I'll say nothing more about the story, except that it has some wonderfully funny moments, and it satisfyingly ends the trilogy in a perfect and non-maudlin way.

So why was I in tears (along with every other mother in the audience, literally. I've never heard so much sniffling)? Because this is what we as parents are living, too. We are part of what is out grown, along with the toys and books we search out for them. We are sought out less as trips to the park become less desirable and are replaced by escapades with friends. Like Andy's mother, our roles change daily, weekly, yearly, as we prepare to boot our children from the our children to leave the nest. From the moment our children are born, we become increasingly less necessary to their existence until we marshal them, shepherd them, into their own lives. It's a process that is exhausting, poignant, gratifying, and sometimes quite painful.

But it's also a privilege and a joy.

Did I mention exhausting?

So with my son, who is a high school junior, sitting on one side of me, and my daughter, who is in grade eight, sitting on the other, I sat and sniffled, too.

It seems to go on so long, but really, the time they've been mine has been so very short.

Go listen to some music: "You've Got a Friend in Me" the theme song for the Toy Story movies, written and performed by Randy Newman. And yup, the Angels finally won.

19 July 2010

Time to test the water again

I was one of those good children. You know: the ones who don't get caught.

Truth was, most of my childhood misbehaviour was of the anemic sort. About the worst thing I did was read ahead in the textbook while someone else was struggling along sounding out words 16 chapters back. Other than that, I think I was a bit inclined to be bossy and take charge of everything because others' lack of discipline tended to annoy me.

By junior high, when it was harder to find ways out of boredom, I worked out all sorts of legal ways to get out of class. I was always ahead in my work, so there was no worry in falling behind, and this was where Catholic school really proved to be a boon: you could always go hide in the church! I'd grab my rosary and sit in the dark sanctuary where it was cool and quiet, and I could actually think about the novel I was writing without fear of interruption by something as mundane as diagramming sentences. Because I'd been sentenced by the nuns to planning the school masses, I could legitimately take a notebook with me to make notes on the scriptures that were being used during ordinary time. That took as long as it took me to write "Hosea 5: 3-6," and then I was daydreaming about formals of emerald satin with a lace overlay and moonlight shining on auburn hair. The inevitable downside of all this was that everyone believed I was actually praying, that I might have A Vocation, and I ended up being named Christian of the Year upon graduation, which was one of the great humiliations (not to mention ironies) of my young life.

By high school, of course, I was blowing up the science lab. With impunity.

Miss GuerrillaGirl. In the Biology or Chemistry Lab. With the Bunsen Burner.

Trust me, I was careful. I didn't want to lose that with impunity status, and I certainly didn't want anyone to get hurt, including me. Also, I didn't want to pay damages. I only broke one crucible, and that was an accident. Well, and I sent a lot of spinach onto the acoustic ceiling tiles. But I did a really good job of looking innocent and apologetic about that.

(That poor Biology teacher. It was his first year teaching, and I was successfully blowing up his Bell curve at the same time. He pleaded with me to stop doing all the extra credit work because I was hundreds of points ahead of the person with the second highest score, but I was on a mission to see how many points I could amass. Because, yes, I can be from hell that way. It's nothing personal, meaning that I'm not trying to embarrass other people. It's more looking for a personal best, trying to keep things interesting.)

College was sufficiently interesting that I didn't engage in too much miscreance. But why would I when my math professor also used to write TV shows with his wife and had a wealth of interesting stories? He made differential equations fun! When your lit prof decides to buy everyone coffee and then you loll in the grass talking about Aristophanes for the rest of the afternoon, what is not to love?

Getting my master's degree was a bit different because I was bored out of my mind and I amused myself by taking twice as many classes as the university allowed a graduate student to take, which meant that I finished a two-year program in 10 months. While holding down a job. Master of Science in Bad Dog.

My personal flaw has to do with boredom. Can't stand it. I'm not particularly interested in busy work, and fortunately, most of my early teachers recognized this. Rather than giving me make work, they'd give me puppets and let me write puppet shows. Or give me the run of a huge cabinet of books. I was happy. It kept me out of mischief, or at least kept the mischief small.

I like mischief, but only the non-malicious sort. I just want life to be interesting, though not at the expense of others. Even blowing things up was more of an intellectual exercise: it wasn't just about making a big bang, I wanted to know the tipping point. I never wanted my classmates to think I was holier-than-thou-art; it was just that I'd figured out diagramming sentences in three sentences, and if everyone else was going to take three weeks, I could be writing sentences.

And so I did.

So here we are.

Getting back on the airplane was a little...unnerving. I hate flying. Oh, how I hate flying! Every bump between here and Phoenix, and Phoenix and Albuquerque, and Albuquerque and Denver, and Los Angeles and Vancouver, and Calgary and Los Angeles had my undivided attention. But planes get me where I want to go.

Still planning. A lot of people don't realize that the planning is part of the fun. Stuff's been on my radar. New stuff has appeared on the horizon.

I've been hampered by so much that I've been a bit tentative. It's been one step forward and two steps back. DO NOT WANT. Now I'm off the fence.

Gotta go.

Go listen to some good music: "Valentina Way" from the album Year of the Cat by Al Stewart. This song was one of those that I'd mess around to in the studio. Pirouette, pirouette, pirouette...and crash. Now you know how I broke all those toes. Really, it's been enough with all the nonsense. In delay there lies no plenty.

18 July 2010

Three banquets a day, our favorite diet

I never really escape from food preparation, even on vacation, which doesn't necessarily bother me. It's not unusual for us to take long road trips, generally made longer by the fact we travel on the smaller roads rather than the Interstates. Again, we find this preferable, even when getting caught in an enormous flock of sheep moving to greener pastures delays us more.

When the kids were younger, and our trips were exclusively by car, we'd carry with us coolers full of fruit and lunch makings, fresh bread and homemade cakes and cookies, replenishing our supplies at local groceries along the way. When traveling by road, particularly the back roads, one never knows whether an eating establishment will be available, and I really dislike fast food and avoid it like the plague, especially on the road.

Coolers weren't really an option on this recent trip, and the utterly vile Chrysler 300C we'd rented wouldn't have held one anyway. It barely held us comfortably. I did, however, rent condos along the way, and the one in Banff also allowed me to prestock the fridge with makings for breakfast, which for us, was enough for about 4 full meals and then some.

We arrived in Banff late on Friday, and the idea of battling the crowds in the main part of town for a spot at a restaurant was unbearable as everyone was exhausted almost to the point of tears and really hungry. Running around in the great outdoors (all of us), running away from giant bugs (the daughter), and walking around landslides (again, everyone, but mainly the spouse) all while assiduously avoiding fast food (me) will do that to you.

Serendipitously, I discovered that the people who'd stocked the condo's fridge with breakfast happened to run a little grocery down the hill, so we walked down to it, and I collected the makings for dinner, and then we hiked back up the hill, and I produced a meal of spaghetti with fresh local sausage and salad. The spouse and I drank a local Cabernet and there was ice cream for dessert, after which, everyone was able to approach the hot pools overlooking the valley with a great deal more equanimity.

The following mornings, of course, I made enormous breakfasts of pancakes and eggs and local breakfast sausage and and juice and coffee, and everyone ate hugely and happily.

Food is always a topic of intense interest around here, and when we travel, it never fails to mystify servers that the daughter, who is the approximate width of a blade of grass, can down enormous steaks along with salad and potatoes and still want dessert in the end. They tend to look dubious when the son, also a fit and lean individual, orders something like rack of lamb, and happily polishes off the entire serving then finishes his father's fried chicken and wants dessert in the end.

Since we've returned, I've gradually also returned to cooking meals, and the daughter, who likes to help, has taken to reading my cookbooks aloud to me. Her particular favorite at the moment is one written by Fannie Flagg that served as a companion to the book and film Fried Green Tomatoes. My children tend to forget that I was raised on a good deal of Southern cooking, and the daughter will sit and lovingly catalog lists of ingredients for chess pie (yuck), stewed tomatoes (shudder) and cheese grits (Velveeta, for crying out loud!). Still, it serves as a reminder that though I have made them fried green tomatoes (because I love them), there is room yet to give them fried chicken and lemon meringue pie, especially because the temperature has been running around 100F, and nothing tastes better in the steaming depths of summer.

Go listen to some good music: "Food, Glorious Food" from the musical Oliver!, book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. I used to cook fried chicken for my father-in-law, but it's something I haven't made in years. And most people refuse to believe that I'm not fond of either chess pie or pecan pie because they are so sickeningly sweet. We won't even go into okra.

17 July 2010

The space between wonder and doubt

I dreamed I was pregnant, hugely, so near the end that I knew I was well into labor. I could feel the intense pressure that means push, that means birth is imminent. And yet, I went about my daily business, reminding myself that I couldn't push until I was in the hospital, and anyway, there were things that I needed to do. Meanwhile, a doctor who looked like Alfred Hitchcock followed me around, pushing huge needles into me, withdrawing blood and telling me he'd missed his objective and would have to try again.

I tried not to mind.

The subconscious mind is a strange and powerful entity, and I've had dreams where my brain is busily solving problems my waking self is having trouble coming to terms with. You could even say it's trying to bludgeon me with the solution.

This long and painful transition is coming to an end and I have to push through to the other side of the fire now. There can be no more waiting, no more stalling. There is no more time for anxiety or fear, but it's also true that it means an end to enduring the Hitchcockian jabs that have so enraged me. Change is happening whether I am ready or not, and I have already moved forward, made my choices, whether I choose to admit to them or not. It's happening. It's happened.

Generally speaking, I travel light. Of necessity, some things have to fall by the wayside, but the most precious travel along with me, reaffirmed, and I hug the smallest pleasures to me with a happy heart. I know. I know.

Like Winnie the Pooh, I sing myself little songs, songs for courage, songs for travel. Like a child, I strive to find the faith that will take me past the monsters of the night and back into the morning light. I know. I know.

And the knowledge is precious. Every morning is precious.

You are precious.

Go listen to some good music: "Between the Sun and Moon" from the album Counterparts by Rush.

15 July 2010


It was 49F when I flew out of Calgary at noon on Tuesday. It was over 90F when I arrived home a few hours later.

The last twelve days have been indescribable. Indescribably good and indescribably unspeakable.

I will allow the unspeakable parts to fade into the mists of time. Which, hopefully, they will.

I was on a ferry when Germany lost its World Cup semi-final game, and as the game ended, the German man sitting in front of me stood up without a word and walked away with nary a change in expression.

A young Spaniard was pouring me a glass of water in the restaurant of the Glacier Park Lodge, a Spanish flag carefully folded and firmly tucked in his belt, his face alight as he described the end of the final game to me.

I was somewhere in a security line at YYC when George Steinbrenner died. I've never been a Yankee fan, but the news of his death shook me when I heard it later in the day, it was so unexpected. He was such a force in the game of baseball.

And in between? In between, I wandered through Vancouver and Victoria. Drove the Trans-Canada Highway to Kamloops and on to Banff, where there was a thunderstorm. Photographed Lake Louise after the storm. Headed down to Glacier National Park, and drove through miles and miles of construction. Made the young woman at the border laugh when she asked me if I was carrying more than $10,000 and I pointed out that I'd just been in Vancouver, so I was lucky to have any cash at all. Finally, ended up in Calgary, having passed truckloads of sad-eyed cows peering at me through the metal slats as we briefly traveled alongside each other. It was almost enough to send me back to being a vegetarian.

I saw bald eagles in the wild for the first time in my life. A young black bear appeared from nowhere, and stood on the side of the highway, watching the cars speed by until it decided it had had enough and fled back into the trees. An enormous elk tore up grass and tossed his head flamboyantly, as if to say, why yes, I am beautiful and you may admire me. Big horn sheep ambled fearlessly outside of Banff. The deer were out in force, of course.

I promised photos. You will find them at When All This Actual Life Played Out.

Go listen to some good music: "Roam" by The B-52s.

10 July 2010

She's not there

No, this too has not passed. It has, in fact, accelerated. And I'm well into 10 days of additional annoyance. It's entirely possible that I have also acquired blood pressure (my resting heart rate is 50. My average blood pressure is 100/60. It feels a good deal higher of late).

I will have some nice photos to share, though. Eventually.

Go listen to some good music: "She's Not There" by The Zombies.

02 July 2010

Watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion

The last couple of days have been nothing but annoyance, which in all likelihood is a lead up to 10 days of...I don't know. More annoyance.

And it's in-law duty this weekend. However, my MIL kindly let me know that she had 3/4" of wax removed from each of her ears at the doctor's office, so she's happy again.

I refrained from the obvious Shrek comment.

(I know you didn't need to know that. I didn't either. At least it wasn't about poop. My mother supplies that color commentary. Ah, the joys of middle age.)

Also, I received a link to a You Tube video that demonstrates why my neck hurt for two days. I drum...with my head! Who knew? Certainly not me. I'm much too much in the moment when I'm at a concert, too busy listening and watching, to be paying attention to what I'm actually doing. Clearly, there's a lesson there. Stand still. Maybe with my arms crossed across my chest, and a bit of a glower on my face.

(So, if anyone can provide a link to a video that shows why only the right side of my abs hurt...)

Ah, and there's Torii Hunter, messing with KC's RHP, grinning from first because he knows he's got the guy's number. I love watching Mr. Hunter play. But one of my new favorites is Kevin Frandsen. He's a great utility player--precisely what the Angels need with the usual DL catastrophes--and he's hit very well this year. It's also been fun to watch him argue calls--he's got that old school passion.

Also, he's adorable.

(Of course I notice those things. I'm not dead yet!)

The cat is weaving around my feet, yodeling. He's reminding me that I've never fed him in the history of humankind, and maybe tonight would be a good time to start. Before he drops dead, and all that.

Grrr. This, too, shall pass.

Go listen to some good music: "Inside Out" from the album Eve 6 by Eve 6. Yeah, seriously, my aggravation level is through the roof. By the way, this post is brought to you by the letter "D." Turns out she is fond of my whiny posts!

01 July 2010

All star

I worked at Big Entertainment Company for several years, both in TV at the studio and in the division that designs theme parks. It was work I sort of fell into; I'm one of those willing to go off the career path rails to do something that looks interesting and will teach me something new. In fact, I think that has been my career path, despite a master's degree in other things and all that stuff.


TV tends not to interest me much, so there was some light irony in being involved in TV production. But I do love film, and the two overlap, so I learned a great deal about how stuff gets done. I like to know how things work whether it's how do you get that musical instrument to make that sound or how do you mount a live television broadcast for a fundraiser.

One of the more interesting (or less interesting, depending upon your point of view) aspects of my job was dealing with celebrities. Mostly, it was producers and directors, though occasionally I crossed paths with talent (or lack thereof). And although I've lived in the Los Angeles area for decades, it was this job that taught me that celebrity is in the eye of the beholder.

One morning, I was sitting in my office crunching numbers and a meeting let out from the conference room down the hall. After a few moments, a tall, older man appeared in my doorway, and asked where the nearest restroom was located. I gave him directions to the production offices wherein were located the nearest facilities, and he thanked me and went on his way. Not three seconds later, my department's secretary ran into my office.

"Don't you know who that was? That was Famous Director with Multiple Academy Awards who is also Father of Famous Actress and Director and Father-in-Law of Famous Actor and Director!!!"

"Yes," I told her gravely.

"But..." she replied. "You told him how to get to the restroom!"

"Did you expect me to find him an armed escort to travel 50 yards?" I inquired.

She went back to her desk, shaking her head, clearly of the opinion that I'd breached some form of celebrity etiquette, while to my mind, I'd just answered the poor man's simple query.

Similarly, I had to attend a meeting for a new TV show, and I arrived a bit early. Another woman and I were awaiting the other attendees, when she turned to me suddenly and demanded, "Do you know who I am?"

"No," I responded politely. "But I imagine you're here for the meeting on Show X?"

And I introduced myself and briefly explained the capacity in which I would be working on the show, which was peon number cruncher. She took this exchange in stride, but with an air of bewilderment. It turned out that she was the show's producer and had been nominated for an Emmy for work on another well-known show that I, of course, had never seen.

But my favorite encounter was with a gentleman who was seriously famous, who has a face that is still recognized by a multitude particularly if you were a kid in the 1970s, when he was both a TV star and a certifiable heart throb. Even yours truly, non-TV watcher extraordinaire, knew who he was when he pulled into the studio parking lot early one morning, got out of his car, and bid me good morning.

He was horribly cheerful at 7 am. And even though he's 20 years older than I am, it was impossible not to notice that he was still a very attractive man.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I ran into him in the parking lot most mornings. And he was effusive and happy, and he wondered aloud why I got to the studio so early (because I could actually get some work done, and I avoided rush hour traffic), commented on the weather, or the state of the world. And quite memorably, he arrived late one morning, and ran to catch up with me, complaining good-naturedly that I hadn't waited for him.

Initially, I was embarrassed by his friendly overtures. I was no one, just a young and gauche female working away at the most stressful job she'd ever held, and here was a man who'd been on TV and in films and on the cover of every entertainment magazine in the world, and he was talking to me. Eventually, though, I realized that he was just a nice guy, that the parking lot conversations were the same parking lot conversations I'd had at every other job with the people who worked for the same institution I did, and because I was young and gauche and so easily embarrassed, I never let on that I knew who he was or what he had done or what he was currently working on. So he just got to be a nice guy, and we were just two people working for the same company, exchanging twenty words on the weather and traffic, and then wishing one another a good day.

I never saw him again once he concluded his business at the studio, though occasionally, I would hear his name mentioned, and a few years ago, he was in a movie the kids were watching. I had to laugh then at the memory of "you didn't wait for me!"

Though I never watched the TV show that made him a household name, nor did I have a crush on him when I was a kid like so many of my friends did, that really sweet guy holds a special place in my heart.

He was a nice, normal person, no airs, no pretensions. Funny and happy. Capable of parking lot conversations. That's what makes him a star.

Go listen to some good music: "All Star" from the album Astro Lounge by Smash Mouth. And the really nice guy on whom I've had a crush for decades? Still leaves me tongue-tied. Probably for the best.