Thursday, January 31, 2013


I'd love to say I felt wonderfully rejuvenated and invigorated after my walk yesterday, but in point of fact, every muscle in my body aches.  Which really makes me feel ashamed that such a wimpy little walk of a mile and a half would totally wipe me out.

I was asleep before The Daily Show last night and slept until nearly 8 this morning and then getting up onto my feet was extremely difficult!   As I've shuffled back and forth down the hall today, I am reminded of the way my grandfather used to walk...kind of like Abe Vigoda.  

Nevertheless, reaction to yesterday's entry was so encouraging I might actually do it again.  Someday.  But don't hold your breath.  I realize that on a "slow news day" when I'm wondering what I'm going to write about, picking up my camera and heading out for half an hour or so and photographing whatever I see is a great way to fill up a journal entry!

The thing about that walk yesterday is that once I'd left the Senior Center, I was committed to doing the whole thing.  I was off the bus route and though Walt was home, he had no car, so it was either hobble home or sit on a corner somewhere until somebody I knew came along.  Before I became a bus rider, I called the only cab company in town for a quote on how much it would cost to drive me from Logos to home (slightly longer, but not much, than my walk yesterday).  I was quoted $30.  So obviously I was not going to call a cab!

With no car here today (Walt rented one this afternoon, so we have a car again), and not wanting to hobble farther than the living room, I spent a bit of the day following an Amazon link that my friend Pat sent to me this morning.

bananaslicer.jpg (12064 bytes)It's for the Hutzler 571 banana slicer, presumably the winning model after 570 failures.  Originally retailing on Amazon for $9.98, it is now on sale for $2.74. 

Since my sister-in-law is a banana lover--and a buyer of weird kitchen gadgets, I may, in fact, have purchased one for her many years ago, presumably an earlier version of the 571.

But the deal abut this banana slicer is not its price, or whether I bought one or not, it is the comments of the people who have chosen to review it for Amazon.  This is a true gem that has, right now, 2,632 reviews, and growing by the hour.  I must share some of them with you.

SW3K writes: For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. "Use a knife!" they say. parole officer won't allow me to be around knives. "Shoot it with a gun!" Background check...HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I'll call it South Side Story.

Mrs Toledo adds: What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone.... this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day's banana slices. It's one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old "I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?" and of course, "You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!" These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That's when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we've even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER! 

Not everyone was happy with the product, though.   "Disappointment" wrote, I received the Hutzler Banana Slicer as a gift from a friend. I am very disappointed that there were no instructions on how to use it. I even gave it to my toddler to try since she showed me how to use my iPhone but even she was confused. Now I have to send it back :( 

MAZZ was also not happy:  At 1st I thought they had forgotten to include the power cord. Then after a full day of looking at it intensely, I realized it must run on batteries like most technology these days. I could not find a place on it anywhere for a battery! I thought.. "of course , it must be solar powered!! duh!" So I left it out in the sun for a full day of charging. Imagine my frustration when I tried to use it and nothing. IT JUST SAT THERE ON THE COUNTER!! After about a week, I finally gave up on it. Meanwhile, MY BANANA TURNED BROWN. I can't begin to tell you how furious I was. I decided to forget about the banana and just use the 571 as a hamster ladder. He escaped. THANKS HUTZLER 571 BANANA SLICER... for making my life a living HELL! 

But Keith Rasmussen was positively poetic in his review:  When I first saw the 571 silhouetted by light as it hung on the display, my heart beat a little faster. The curvaceous form, so delicate yet classical, lyrical yet provocative, spoke to my soul. As I moved closer the fullness of its features left me breathless. I had to have it. I quickly looked around, and saw with a shock that others also wanted the 571. I could not wait. Yet I hesitated, fearful of the commitment required. But rental was not an option. I could not have other hands on the beautiful Hutzler, so I leapt to the display and with a song in my heart, fully dedicated myself to my own Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer.

Once at home, the first time I sliced a banana with the 571, it was a tentative slice, over all too soon, the fruit slightly bruised by my clumsiness. Yet a wave of contentment washed over me: the Hutzler 571 and I had bonded.

I have sliced many bananas since. Some days I have used the 571 in the evening and then again before breakfast. My Banana Slicer has never disappointed. However, I must issue this warning. If you, as I did, begin to feel ennui at the repetitiveness, the flawlessness consistency of its performance, do not go as I did, and get more 571's. At my low point even two was not enough to satisfy. I was using three 571's at a time. Many bananas fell as fodder for my obsession. More 571's do not return the joy of those first banana slicing moments. No, in the morning light I would awake after slicing more bananas than a crank fueled Zoro at a fruit stall and find that I felt as debased as a forsaken pinto bean in a Juarez gutter. I tell this tale as a caution to those who would own a 571. Go gently. Respect your banana slicer. Care for your 571 and it will faithfully serve you sliced bananas after sliced banana just when you need them most. 

Lemme tell you, when your muscles hurt, there's nothing better than sitting back and reading reviews of a banana slicer.  I've only shared a few.   Check out the other >2,000 for yourself!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Walk

The car's speedometer was wonky again yesterday.  No matter how fast, or how slow I drove home from my mother's, it stayed stubbornly at 20 mph, even when I was stopped.  I noticed it also was not recording the miles driven. So Walt decided, with a heavy sigh, that it was time to take it in to be checked out.  He warned "this may finally be the end for this car."  How could that be?   We don't even have 300,000 miles on it, though we are close!

Anyway, he figured it may have to be in the shop for two days.   I had a date with my friend Ruth for lunch today, but I assured him I could get there by bus so he could get the car in.  And I did.  I rode downtown on the bus and walked 2 bocks to Panera to meet her (2 days of Paneras, in 2 cities.  It's too much happiness.)

We had a nice lunch and chatted about lots of stuff and when it was over, I walked to the bus stop and wait for the bus home.

But it was really a lovely day and one thing I've been wanting to do was to go to the Senior Center to pick up my bus pass (so I can ride the city bus for free, as an old person), so I decided that I had all the time in the world, I would walk home.  It's only 1-1/2 miles, for heaven's sake.  And I could take pictures along the way.  So I set off on foot, headed for the Senior Center.

First I walked through the parking lot of the Susan B. Anthony Administration Center and stopped to look at their mosaic, which I've seen often, but never really looked at.

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I'm wondering what they were smoking when they created this map of the world...or maybe it was made by kids (more likely).  Definitely a weird world map.

Across the street some swimmers were practicing at the pool next to City Hall (City Hall used to be the old high school--before we moved to Davis).  I peeked through a knot hole in the wooden fence to check out the scene.

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I cut across the city hall parking lot, walking along the baseball field and through the garden where 50 Peace Roses were planted on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Charter.  Sadly, the peace roses look in as good shape today as peace in the world does!

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(Of course when the growing season begins, the roses will bloom.   Too bad I can't say the same for world peace!)

I stopped at a picnic table to take the opportunity to make a call to a friend who had called me earier in the day.

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But she was busy and said she'd call back, so I continued on to the Senior Center

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where I picked up my bus pass and also a catalogue for OLII classes here in Davis.  As I left the Senior Center, I was entering the neighborhoods, where there were no handy benches to sit on if I felt like I wanted to rest.  Things were OK for awhile, but then the enjoyment of the walk began to fade, though I did enjoy seeing the signs of spring along the way.

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It seems to be too early, in January, to be seeing these spring flowers, though I say that every year and every January they pop up again, just like clockwork.  Don't know if I can say the same thing for my favorite tree in Davis.

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I hope this weeping willow is just dormant for winter, but it has been looking sicker and sicker each year.  Once it was so lush and green.  I worry that some day I am going to drive by this corner and find it has been cut down.   I will be very sad on that day!

I was really hoping for some sort of a seat...any sort of take a brief rest, but there was nothing.  However, it had been garbage day and all along the street were garbage cans waiting being taken off the street when their owners came home.  I stopped to lean on several of them.

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My legs and feet started hurting and I started to have a coughing fit, which made me fearful that I was going to urinate, so far from home.   Fortunately, I had just purchased some cough lozenges (sugar-free, of course!) and took one, which helped.  But as I walked on I felt as if I had a cramp in my toes, and a fly on my nose, fluff in my lung and a feverish tongue and a thirst that was intense and a general sense that I was no longer walking in clover.

But the darkness passed when I saw this sign at last

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At this intersection was this lovely planter box

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and I sank gratefully onto it and sat there for a bit.  I don't know what I must have looked like but a girl riding by on her bike asked if I was all right.  I waved her on and got up to finish my walk.

I wasn't far from home now and finally trudged up the driveway and into the nearest recliner. I was glad I had taken the walk, but I was definitely glad to be home.  Walt was impressed.

(apologies to W.S. Gilbert for the bastardization of "The Nightmare Song" from Iolanthe, my veryfavorite patter song)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lunch #2

So this was the second day in my new "lunch with Mom" plan.   And I managed to get her NOT to pay for it, which was great. 

I think a really good reason to make this drive every week is that I think that the stimulus of having people around her frequently is good for her.  When I arrived, her friend Jim was there.  She and Jim were officers in a group together for many years and have been friends.  Jim takes his wife to the gym to exercise once a week and he goes to the nearby golf club to hit a bucket of balls.  After he finishes, he stops off at my mother's for a cup of coffee for half an hour or so until time to pick his wife up.  He's been doing this for a long time.

Today she said he asked for my e-mail address so that if he happens to find her dead n the floor, he will know who to contact.  Of course it was said jokingly, but at her age, it's a good plan to have.  He knows how to get into her house if she doesn't answer the door, so it's a comfort to know that he is one of the many people who are making it a plan to check on her regularly.

After he left, we had a nice chat for awhile, and I noticed that she was much less forgetful than she usually is.  

I decided we should call Peach and get this week's saga (as Peach called it).

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That saga, as she explained, including "the nurse from hell" deciding to move Bob from out of the 2-bed room where he is now, where he has a wall at one side and a companion on the other side to keep him from falling, into a 4-bed room, where he will have NO walls on either side and where, since he is to be considered "long term care" rather than "rehabilitative care" he cannot have a companion.  I asked her if they couldn't at least put guard rails on the bed and she said she was told no because -- and I absolutely cannot believe they said this -- "it is an infringement of his freedom."  So he has the freedom to fall out of bed regularly????

Well, Peach, bless her, is standing by her man and hell hath no fury than a wife whose husband's safety is in danger.  She did battle with Bob's doctor and the head of the care facility and the upshot is that he will remain where he is...with a caretaker.

In the meantime, he has another urinary tract infection and the facility has a flu epidemic, so nobody can leave their rooms and all visitors must wear masks.

It's just one thing after another and once again, we are all powerless to help do anything.

So we went to lunch.  I suggested we go to Panera, near my mother's house, because I had a gift card from there from Tom and Laurel at Christmas and I could pay for lunch without spending any of my money, and my mother would accept that.   We had a great lunch.  Panera has a great soup + salad or soup + sandwich deal that I've come to order every time (I will order it tomorrow, in fact, when I have lunch at Panera in Davis with Ruth)

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I asked her if her step-son was going to watch the SuperBowl with her.  She said he was not, so I decided to create a 3-person SuperBowl party.   We'll come watch the game with her, I'll bring "substantial snacks" which will double as dinner and will require no clean up other than throwing away paper plates, and that will be lunch for next week and I will have tricked her out of spending her money again!

Walt and I went out to dinner at Davis Sushi Buffet tonight, as we do every year on Paul's birthday.

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I chose the place, based on how much I'd liked it in the past,but I don't know, tonight it just seemed "tired."  Hot things were warm, cold things weren't really cold and even the wasabi just clumped and wouldn't mix into the soy sauce.  They also have Chinese offerings and everything seemed like it had sat under hot lights for hours, which, since the restaurant is also open for lunch, it may well have.  Oh not that it was bad.  It was tasty, but I don't think I'll choose it again next time, since there seem to be no end of choices for sushi in this town these days.

But anyway...happy birthday, Paul.  Sorry you couldn't have been with us.  Again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rays of Sunshine

I was sitting in my office, bundled up in a sweatshirt and sweatpants and still feeling cold, despite the fact that we no longer have to fight the temperature wars of the past few weeks.  Temperatures are rising, the sun is shining, but it's still cold enough outside that when the dogs come in through the dog door, which is right opposite my desk, it lets cold air into my office.
I was thinking of how the dogs were the smart ones, each claiming her own little ray of sunshine in the living room, soaking up the warmth of the sun streaming through the living room windows. 

The heck with this, I thought, and went in to join my pack.  Lizzie and Sheila were both in patches of sun on the floor while Polly was enjoying her rays on the table behind the couch.  There was a lovely, large, warm, sunny spot on the couch itself and I lay down in it.  The temperature outside was chilly enough that it wasn't an overly warm spot of sun, but with the quilt over my un-sun parts and my head and shoulders in the sun area, I was soon warm...and asleep.  I slept for an hour.

Maybe these dogs have the right idea after all!

A brighter ray of sunshine came in the afternoon, with the mail.  There was that always longed-for envelope from Compassion International announcing "Message from your sponsored child."  This was from Emmanuella, in Ghana, whom I have sponsored for a little over a year now.  It was the usual brief letter, giving little tidbits  of information about her life, including the news that her mother now has a pastry business and that Emmanuella is helping her.  I almost didn't see the photo that was attached to the back of the letter.  It was the kind of photo that makes me keep on sponsoring these children.

I chose Emmanuella because she had the saddest face of the group of children I was checking out.  She was also one of the "older ones," not the cute little 4 year olds whom anybody would want to take to their heart.  So I agreed to be her sponsor.

The second photo I got from her, last year at about this time, showed a teeny, almost imperceptible hint of a smile.  Today's photo made it all worthwhile.

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Look at that beaming smile.  No longer the sad, almost angry face of 2 years ago.  Some day I will get such a photo from little Theresa, also from Ghana.  So far there are only pictures like this.  I long for a big smile from this little girl some day.

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I had a final ray of sunshine after the sun went down.  Walt and I went in to Sacramento to Capital Stage to see a play called "The North Plan."   This was my third show to review this week, and I really prefer 2-show to 3-show weeks.  But I sighed and we went.

I knew nothing about this play, other than what I learned at a brief glance at a review from somewhere else.  I knew that it was going to involve some sort of dystopian society where the government has been overthrown and some guy is working to bring down the new evil overlords.  Sounded like it was going to be some heavy political statement.

I could not have been more wrong.  For one thing, I didn't reaize that Marta's friend Katie Rubin, whose acting career I have followed since 2004, when she was still a student here at UC Davis, was in it.  It was a surprise to read that in the program...even more of a surprise to find she was the lead character.   But I definitely was not prepared for the absolutely hilarious script, which was perfectly geared to Katie's talents as a comedienne and, more, someone who does great physical comedy.  Not slapstick, but the kind of comedy where everything is projected through body language and facial expressions.  She was just wonderful, as was everyone in the play.

The biggest surprise, though, came at intermission when I looked up from my seat and saw Ned standing there.  He and Marta had come to see Katie too.   We had a nice chat during intermission, though I did not see them after the show ended.

What a great day, filled with wonderful rays of sunshine!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Stealing

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
Exactly 10 years ago today, I was attending a Superbowl Party with my friends Shelly and Ellen

2. By this time next year, I ...

...will be used to being 70 and will start realizing that I am about to turn 71.

3. Do you think the United States will elect a female President in your lifetime? Do you think this would be a good thing?

Lord, I hope so.  After watching her being questioned this week, I so strongly hope that Hillary decides to run in 2016 and will vote for her enthusiastically, if she does.  So many other countries have female presidents, why not us?

4. Which fictional, TV show character you would shag anytime?

Not much into shagging strangers.

5. Who is your greatest enemy?


6. Tell me about your most recent trip of more than 100 miles?

The MOST recent trip of more than 100 miles was to Santa Barbara at Christmas time, to spend the holiday with the grandkids.  It would, of course, be more fun to talk abut the cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, though.  But that was not the most recent trip.

7. Which do you use more often, the dictionary or the thesaurus?

Probably the thesaurus.  As a critic, who writes a lot of theater reviews, I often am looking for a word that is not the same old word I use all the time ("delightful" is an overused word of mine, for one!)

8. Do you have a nickname? What is it?

Not really.  Other than Bev and Mom, no.

9. What are you dreading at the moment?

Can't think of anything.

10. Do you worry that others will judge you from reading some of your answers?

Heck no.  After nearly 13 years of writing this journal, I don't care what people have to say about the content (unless it's someone in my family who feels uncomfortable about something I've shared)

11. If you find an outfit you love, but the size on the label is larger than you want, do you buy the outfit? Why or why not?

Hey, I'm just so thrilled to find something that fits that I don't care what the label size says.

12. Even the biggest slackers are anal-retentive about something? What are you anal-retentive about?

This journal.  And organizing my photo files on my hard drive.

13. Out of all the books you read as a child, which one had the biggest influence on how you are today?

Probably "Lad, A Dog" and all the other Albert Peyson Terhune books about dogs. 

14. Which Golden Girl would you want to spend a night on the town with?

Dorothy, hands down. Blanche and I wouldn't get along at all, Sophia is too cranky, and Rose is just too "good." (While I would love to spend time with Betty White, the actress, her character would not be my choice to hang out with for the night)

15. What is the one product you would never buy in its generic form even if the generic is half the price?


16. How old were you when you stopped believing in Santa?

I'm not sure.  Maybe 8?  My father told me by accident because he thought I had figured it out.  I hadn't.

17. What is the one smell that turns your stomach without fail?


18. If someone holds out a carton of milk to you and asks you to sniff it to see if its spoiled, do you?

Sure.  I wouldn't want to accidentally drink spoiled milk.

19. You have a completely free day and $2000.00, What are you doing?

Probably having a very nice dream, but if I really had a free day and $2,000, it's not enough to fly to NY and seeThe Book of Morman, so I guess I'd have to pick something closer to home.  I'd probably drive to SF with Walt and go to one of the high end restaurants we see on Check Please, Bay Area but can't afford.  And if there is enough left over, spend the night in a nice hotel instead of driving home at midnight, like we so often do.

20. What is the most used item in your home?

The TV.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Czech Haggis???

It's fairly safe to say that if you were looking for a place to spend a Robert Burns night, you probably would not start with a Czech Restaurant, but that is where we went tonight to listen to 2 hours of Celtic music, hear Robert Burns poems, and watch some celtic dancing.

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Our friend, Lee Riggs, his brother, and a handful of other guys form the band Riggity Jig, which is well known around these parts and so when Walt read that they were going to be at Little Prague celebrating Robert Burns, we decided to go.

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Lee Riggs

When we arrived, the band was just getting set up, and naturally they started with a number that featured the bagpiper ... two nights in a row with pipes in them!  My Celtic roots are positively giddy with joy.  (I thought it very strange that this Celtic band was standing under a sign that read Koureni Zakazano! with a bunch of accents on some of the letters in the Czech saying.  We also put our Celtic beer on Krusovice beer coasters.)

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After the band had played for awhile, they introduced a man named, I think, Tom McKeith, who read some Robert Burns poems.  I loved the way he read.

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In time, the piper left the stage and went to the back of the room, and pretty soon he started playing there, and paraded to the stage in front of a big haggis, carried by the Czech owner of the restaurant, who placed it on a table in front of the stage.

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There was some discussion about who was going to cut it.  Tommy had to read the "Address to a Haggis," by Burns, so Lee's brother David did the carving honors.

RBHaggisCut.jpg (58571 bytes) Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm...

[omitting 6 verses]

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o 'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Next, all who wanted some of the haggis lined up to get a serving.  Walt did, I didn't.  Someone asked me what it was and I said "awful."  He asked "is that offal or awful" and I said "yes."

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There was a bit more music and another few poems read and then the piper played Auld Lang Syne and we packed up to leave. 

When we got home, Walt admitted that he had really liked the haggis.   "I guess nobody makes haggis like the Czechs," he said.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pub Night--Sorta

We sort of spent the evening in a pub tonight.  In a minute I'll explain what I mean.
First it was working my afternoon at Logos.  This was absolutely the quietest day I've spent since I started volunteering.  By 4:30 p.m., I had sold a grand total of two books and the place had been empty most of the time.   Things picked up, slightly, around 4:30, so that when Susan arrived to relieve me, the log where I record the books sold didn't look quite so pathetic.  But still, as days go, it was pretty pathetic.  I guess the rain may have been partly to blame, though it wasn't really rain per se, but just a grey drizzle which stopped quickly.

We rushed home to see Jeopardy and eat dinner in time to make the 8 p.m. show start time at the University.  I had planned things well and knew I had enough leftovers that, with some rice or spaghetti to go under the remains of the chicken casserole I had cooked a couple of days ago, dinner could be put together quickly.

I got the water boiling for spaghetti and got the spaghetti in the boiling water, but when I went to get the leftovers out of the refrigerator, they were gone.  Walt had eaten them for lunch.  I couldn't really be angry about it, because I hadn't warned him--and he's a big one for leftovers, but it did leave me without anything to cook in a short amount of time.
Walt suggested we have the almost-cooked spaghetti with butter, Parmesan and sauteed mushrooms and it turned out just great.  Carbo-load on a plate. That and a dish of ice cream for dessert and we were ready to see what the University had to offer.

The show we were going to see was something called The Undoing of Prudencia Hart, which was apparently a big favorite at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so even though the company is the National Theater of Scotland, you know it's not going to be your run of the mill play.

And it wasn't.

For starters, we were kept outside the door to the theater and then taken in in groups of about 10 at a time, so that someone could explain how the evening was going to work.  The theater had been converted into a kind of a pub.  Gone were the theater seats, and in their place were tables and chairs, and on one side of the theater a big bar, where they were serving free "wee drams" of Scotch whiskey.   Along the other wall was a stage area, where musicians were playing (can an evening be wrong when it starts with someone playing a Uillean pipe?)

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We were told to sit anywhere, but not to worry about getting close to the stage, since the actors would be using the entire room during the course of the evening.

We found a table and discovered we would be sitting with Kathy Tucker, a retired teacher we have known for decades.  I worked for her daughter for a few years, and actually taught the daughter how to do medical transcription (which ultimately became her primarily work).

When we looked around we saw a sea of white hair and bald heads.   No university students at this production (the price of a ticket obviously kept them from coming).  We saw more people we knew at this show than we have seen at a show in ... well, maybe forever.

One of the actors was visiting each table and asked us to take some of the paper napkins provided and to tear them up so they could be used as snow later. 
(I should add that I hate audience participation shows, but for some reason the amount of actor-audience interaction in this show didn't bother me at all...I even waved my arms in the air, when asked, which is so not me!)

The show started and I was glad I've been spending so much time with Diana Gabaldon audio books, because it was easier to follow the Scottish accent.   They set the scene by describing a snowy day in Scotland in 2010 and we, of course, provided the snow.

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It was a bit convoluted and silly, but after a night of drinking, Prudencia finds herself in Hell and has to work to get herself out.  It ends with a struggle between the Devil and her friend Collin.

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(I should add that at this point Collin has a bunch of ice cubs in his pants.  Don't ask!)
It was really a fun, if odd, evening.  One of those delightful surprises that you sometimes discover when you go off to review a show you've never heard of before!

(Oh...and at intermission, there was more free Scotch and finger sandwiches passed around by the ushers!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Persistence Pays Off...Finally

So.  Audible.  

Today was the day I was going to get my Audible accounts straightened out.  It took 3 phone calls, but in the end I am VERY pleased.

I have been buying books from Audible for many years and have been enrolled in several plans over the years, and then thought I'd quit entirely and started new accounts.  Ultimately I had four or five different accounts in variations of my name and e-mail addresses.

This has not posed a problem, until I tried to download two books yesterday and Audible suddenly realized I had more than one account and wouldn't let me do it.  The first rep I talked to helped me merge all of my accounts into one, which, he assured me, would mean that I could now download the books I wanted to download (which I had already purchased).

Only it didn't.  iTunes still saw that I had two accounts, so I called another guy who said that he would delete both of those books and credit my account for two new books, plus another credit for all of my troubles.  Since I had received a credit yesterday, my monthly "free book" (not exactly "free," of course) and had downloaded the book immediately (without problem), I was thrilled to have THREE credits to shop for more books.

But then when I checked my account information, I discovered that rep #2 had enrolled me in the wrong account, so I called back again to ask to be switched to the proper account.  I was already downloading one of the replacement books, which used one of the credits I had been given by guy #2.  Guy #3 switched my membership and gave me a free credit.  So I still have 3 credits.  Then I went to download the second book I had ordered and discovered that today only it was on sale for only $4!   So rather than use one of my credits, I just paid cash for it, so I still have 3 credits and I THINK that all of my problems are solved.

Audible is solved, Amazon is solved, Snapfish is solved.  Now I just have to write my Rock of Ages review.  It's another productive day!

In the evening, there was a book club meeting in Sacramento.

I almost didn't go.  It was raining, and I don't like driving in the rain at night, but I hated to miss out on the discussion of the book ("The Floor of Heaven" by Howard Blum) and had lots to say about it.  Also, Walt went to the symphony in San Francisco and had rented a car to get there so I could have the car to drive to Sacramento.

(Walt realized several years ago that it is so seldom that we need two cars that our second car, which had been David's car which we took after he died, just sat in the driveway for weeks on end and we were paying more to insure it than we were to drive it, and that if we got rid of it and rented a second car when we needed one, it would cost us less money ... so far that has proven to be true and it is rarely when we have to rent a second car.)

I didn't want to admit to Walt that while he was driving a rental car, our own car and I were sitting at home because I didn't want to drive in the rain, so I decided to go, and I'm so glad I did!

This week, I got there early and instead of sitting in the car listening to my audiobook, I went inside.  

Several of the members were already there and this time I started talking to them.  One woman had found a book on Downton Abbey and the three of us were fans of the show, so we talked about that.  

Then, as we wandered around the store, we began discussing our book collections.  One woman is very disciplined.  She only allows herself two shelves in her house for books.  If she get a new book, she has to get rid of an old one to make space for the new one.  The rest of us found that difficult to believe, as we all seem to have homes which are bursting at the seams with books.  Our own house could easily be a small used book store, if we were to consolidate all the books we have all over the house.

We set up the chairs for the discussion.  Twenty-two people had RSVPd for this meeting, but the rain must have kept many of them from coming, since I think there were only a dozen of us there, mostly women and one man.

"Floor of Heaven" is about 3 men whose paths ultimately cross in Alaska during the gold rush (one of them was George Carmack, the man who discovered gold in the Klondike originally).  Unlike "The Stupidest Angel," the last book we discussed, the reaction to which had been very divided -- we either loved it or hated it (I was in the latter camp) -- we all really liked this book and it sparked a nice discussion of the story (which is non-fiction), the conditions in Alaska in the late 1800s, conditions in general at that time, and comparisons to life today which, in many respects, isn't all that different, at least poliltically.

I was very glad I had come and have even started remembering the names of some of the other people.  Tonight I remembered Gail, Wanda, Leslie, and Ted.  

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Now if only I can continue to remember them for next month, when we will be discussing Willa Cather's "My Antonia."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pesky Technical Difficulties

Well, finally, it's finished.

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Every time we go on a cruise, I come home and first publish my journal entries, so I have an illustrated narrative of the trip and then I sort through the photos and put together an album of the best of the photos (or the ones I like best, quality notwithstanding).  It has taken me months to get around to choosing the photos for this cruise book.

I could make this a really boring entry by telling you all the problems I encountered trying to make the book, but suffice it to say they were all of my own making and inability to figure out instructions, but required 2 on line chats with nice customer representatives named, first, Sameer and then Rakesh, who managed to help me figure out my questions.  

Part of the last problem was that I had a Groupon for a really good deal on the price and I wasn't sure how to let the order form know that, but ultimately that part I did figure out myself and my ~$50 book cost a little over $12.  It should be here in a week and a half.

After I got that sorted out, it was time to address my problem.  I needed to find out how I could download two books I had purchased in the proper format, since the format Audible assumed I wanted was too advanced to play on my antiquated iPod.

This required a phone call to Audible and the nice man there (whose name I didn't get, but who did not speak with an Indian accent) walked me through the procedure, which was, to quote the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, so simple I should have been able to figure it out myself.  In an instant, I had my previously ordered books downloaded in the right format and the default setting changed so I don't have that problem again.

Then I ordered a new David Baldacci audio book.  With Audible, I get one free book a month, and today was the day that my account was credited with my free book.  I downloaded the book I wanted, only realized too late that I had ordered the abridged version and I didn't want the abridged version, I wanted the complete unabridged version.  So I called Audible again and the nice person this time just did it all over the phone for me.  In seconds, my first order had been deleted and the complete version was now ready for download.

About this time the two previously purchased books had downloaded and it was time to move them to my iPod, only iTunes wouldn't let me because it said that they had been purchased on two different accounts.  That prompted an e-mail to Audible, and I just got the response now, which I am going to need to contact them about because I tried what they suggested before, and it didn't work.  But I will leave that for tomorrow!

Sometimes I think I just have too damn many gadgets, but I enjoy them all so much (when they do what I want them to do!)

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Tonight we went to the Sacramento Community Theater's Broadway series so I could review Rock of Ages, a musical I had zero desire to see.  It's shows like this that make me wish I had paid attention all those years when my peers were dancing to rock music while I was collecting the crooners.  Even my lively musical likes were novelty numbers like "Lollipop," or folk songs (of the Kingston Trio variety, not meaningful singers like Pete Seeger).

I still remember the first time Elvis was on TV.  I was staying with Peach and we went to her friend's house.  She was 16, I was 13.  All her friends were oohing and aahing about Elvis (they may have screamed--I don't remember), and I was sitting half in and half out of the house petting a dog, totally uninterested in the man who would become the King of Rock and Roll.

So when shows like this come around I feel woefully inadequate to give it a really comprehensive review, but I'll give it the old college try.  After fearing that I was going to end up with a headache from the noise, in the end, I liked it more than I expected to -- though admittedly that isn't saying much, since I expected to hate it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

French Dip

When we were living in Berkeley, one of our favorite places to go for a meal was a hauf brau house called Brennan's.  It was at the end of University Avenue, across from San Francisco Bay, under the freeway overpass.  They made great French dip sandwiches.
You waited in line in front of the carvers, they stood at huge slabs of meat, heated by overhead lamps, and standing in the juice that formed in the pan as they were baking.  The carvers took big sourdough rolls,cut in half, dipped them in the juice at the bottom of the pan, topped the rolls with lots of thin slices of rare roast beef, and passed the plate along to the cashier, who gave horseradish and the beer you'd ordered, and you took your sandwich to one of the wooden tables to enjoy your lunch.  We had many happy meals there.

It bothers me what has happened to that classic French Dip sandwich.

I went to my mother's today to have lunch.  I've decided to see her more often so I can hopefully assess how she is really doing, memory wise.  Today was a fairly good day, except she had forgotten the inauguration was today.  I had watched the ceremonies at home before I left for San Rafael, and I turned it on when I got to her house.  It was just after the lunch, when the Obamas (et al.) were getting ready to review the troops and then get in the cars to parade down Pennsylvania Ave.   

As we sat there watching, the clock ticked on and on.  It was 12:30 and there still was no sign or mention of lunch.  Usually she has the table set when I get there and usually once noon comes around, she's ready to eat.  But she has also said that she sometimes forgets to eat, so I decided I'd give it until 1 and then ask her about food.

But as the First Couple got out of their limousine and were walking down the street, my mother finally said "I wish they'd hurry up, so we can go to lunch."  Ahh.  It was to be a "lunch out" day.  When they got back into the cars, we set the DVR to record and we got in my car and drove to the restaurant at the nearby golf course, where we eat occasionally.  They have a nice, smallish menu and it's almost within walking distance, but we always drive, especially today, when her legs were giving her problems.

As we left her house she started down the steps, holding onto the railing and carefully going one step at a time, leading with the same foot each time.   "This is how I have to go down stairs now," she said to me, sighing because she felt it showed that she was getting old.  I told her I'd been going downstairs like that for years.

Anyway, we got to the restaurant and I opened my menu and saw the thing that has driven me nuts for years.

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Arrrgggghhhh!  Nail on a chalk board!  FIRST of all, au jus is two words.  It is French.  It means "to juice," which essentially translates into "with juice" in English.  For decades now when you go to a restaurant that offers a French Dip sandwich they more often than not say that it is "with au jus."  Which literally means it is "with with juice."   This is the first time I've seen au jus written as one word.

Despite the offending description, my mother and I both ordered it, and when it came, it reminded me of the second thing about a French Dip sandwich that bother me these days.

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Au jus is no longer the drippings from the pan in which the roast beef was cooked.  Now it seems to be a bowl of beef consomme.  Anemic beef taste, compared to the rich taste of the jus from the pain.  It was so bad that I hardly had any of the jus, just ate the sandwich itself, which was tasty.   I certainly couldn't complain about the amount of meat piled on it (in fact, I brought half of it home to Walt).

I'm going to have to see if we can find a good hauf brau again some day and have a real French dip sandwich.

We returned home and watched some of the innaugural parade and I fell asleep for about half an hour, waking at about the time I usually leave to drive home.   It was essentially "rush hour," though I don't know how many people in the cars were actually enjoying the day off.  But a long part of the backup came on this bridge.

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I thought it would go on forever, but it turned out there had been an accident at the very top of the bridge and once we passed that it was clear sailing all the way home.

Felt worn out when I got home.  It was not a strenuous day at all, but just felt all drug out...and not at all hungry, so just fed Walt and came in here to my office to write.  My plan was to go to see her weekly, but I know she would rather eat out than fix a meal these days and she won't let me pay.  I tried to tell her that next time I'd bring lunch with me, but she was adamant that I not and that she would pay.  Our lunch cost about $30 and I know she can't afford that every week, so I may do it every other week.  Unless I can figure out some sneaky way to bring lunch with me instead!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Rare Birthday

I don't often get to go to a 103rd birthday party, but if Dr. Herbert Bauer keeps on going as he has been for the past 103 years, I may be going to "rare birthday" parties for years to come.

Regular readers of this blog may remember Herbert's birthday party last year when we tried to collect 102 books for this inveterate reader and ended up giving him 350!
The word this year was no gifts, unless you wanted to give him a cookie or something, since he loves cookies.  I made cookies this afternoon, and made one extra large for Herbert.

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I wrapped it and gave it to him with a card.
We were a little late getting to the party since we couldn't leave the house until the 49ers had cinched a spot in the Super Bowl.  We weren't the only ones who arrived on "football time."  

It was a relatively small group, but sincere.  

4th Assembly District Assembly Woman, Mariko Yamada presented Herbert with a special certificate for turning 103.

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There was a beautiful cake.

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But Nancy, our hostess, had figured out a way that Herbert could blow out 103 candles without getting wax all over the frosting. Fix a pan, separate from the cake, fill it with 9 cups of cooked rice, and embed the candles in that!

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After the candles were blown out we moved into the "cake room" where there were poems read, a song sung and cake cut and Herbert served the first piece.

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After we had all eaten, Nancy's grandson entertained us with a piece on the taiko drum.  Considering that he has only been learning the drum for 3 months, it was pretty amazing.

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It was a short party, but we all had a good time, and Herbert has been fetted for yet another year.  Such a lovely man.  I feel so honored to be part of the group that celebrates his birthday each year!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Treasure the Moments

We are very fortunate that in our lives we have three groups of very good friends.  The first, or course is the pinata group, our oldest friends.   We went to college together, we birthed babies together, we travel together, laugh together, cry together.  We attended baptisms, weddings, and funerals together.   I love them all.

The second group is the Davis Comic Opera Company group.  Most of the group live in Davis, but it's rare if we see each other, except on New Year's Eve.   But it's the kind of group where you pick up where you left off immediately.   I love these people too.

The third group is the old Lamplighter tech crew, a group who became close friends during the years when the Lamplighters could use non-union technicians.   That this group remains close is due in large part to the former Lamplighters tech director, Stephen Elspas, who, with his wife Barbara owns a beautiful old Berkeley brownstone (which is actually located in Oakland, but let's not quibble).  Once or twice a year, Stephen and Barbara host a dinner (or if the weather is good, a barbeque) for all the old techies...and they all come, with their spouses.

Of course the "spouses," at least Henry's wife Willa and Walt's!...have all been involved with the Lamplighters for years as well.   Willa performed forEVer and has been active in many other aspects of Lamplighers productions.  

We have been going to Steve and Barbara's for so many years now that we have our own seats in the living room while we drink wine and have hors d'oeuvres, and we have our own seats at the dining room table while we enjoy Barbara's wonderful dinner.   The seats aren't assigned, but we just seem to gravitate to the same place, year after year.  As with our other two groups, I just love all these guys.

We went to Steve & Barbara's last night.  The trip down was uneventful, except as we approached the Caldecott Tunnel, which separates the Bay Area from the East Bay.  There is always a back-up at that tunnel and they have been working on it for about a decade now.  Some day maybe we won't have back-ups like this every time we go through the tunnel.

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I've been wanting to get a group photo of this group, but I'm embarrassed to bring out the camera whenever we are together (which the Pinata group will find very strange to hear!).  But last night Sabella had brought a bunch of pictures for me to look through for the upcoming History project (even though I'm not involved any more).  The photos were passed around and it was a good case of "remember when..." which was much fun.  I couldn't resist and got the camera out.  (I don't think anybody noticed)

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In this picture, I'm next to Steve, so you can't see him, but from left to right around the table are:  Barbara, Sabella, Willa, Henry, Gil, John, Tarja, Walt, Arthur (who just turned 92), and the hands of Arthur's partner, Jim.

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(this is Arthur and Jim at Arthur's recent birthday party)

We actually were, along with John and Tarja, the last to leave (and the 4 of us had the farthest to drive, us North, John & Tarja South).  I just love these get togethers.

With what has happend with Peach's husband, with the sudden death of another Lamplighter, Lindi Press, last month, and with the fragile health of many of my friends, I realize how fragile life is and how quickly life can be changed forever, or snuffed out altogether.  I always leave events like this wondering if I will see them all again and so I treasure the moments that we get to spend with each other.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Classic Films

I found this a long time ago and it just seemed right up my alley.  This meme defines "classic film" as anything at least 40 years old.

1. Favorite classic Disney?
Oh, without a doubt, Bambi.

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2. Favorite film from the year 1939?
Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Intermezzo, GWTW

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OK, this isn't the original GWTW,
but maybe my favorite scene--ever

3. Favorite Carole Lombard Screwball role?
I never saw a lot of Carole Lombard movies, but I do remember liking her in To Be or Not to Be with Jack Benny.

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4. Favorite off screen couple?
Oh, how could it be anybody but Hepburn and Tracy?

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5. Favorite pair of best friends

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Randolph Scott and Cary Grant
(who weren't gay, they say)

6. Favorite actor with a mustache?

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Clifton Webb

7. Favorite blonde actress?
Grace Kelly or Doris Day

8. Favorite pre-code?
I was too young to have seen any when they were first released, but how could you not remember Public Enemy where James Cagney shoves a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face?

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9. Which studio would you have liked to join?
None of them.  Especially not MGM. (But visiting MGM would have been fun for a star struck kid with an autograph book!)

10. Favorite common on screen pairing that SHOULD have gotten married?
Again, Tracy and Hepburn

11. Favorite I Love Lucy episode?
I was never a huge fan of I Love Lucy (sorry, Jimmy), so don't know a lot of episodes off the top of my head, but the episode with William Holden, where she set her nose on fire, was very funny

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12. Out of these actresses which one do you like best: Lucille Ball, Ingrid Bergman, Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Greer Garson, or Katharine Hepburn?
I like them all, but probably Audrey Hepburn would rank #1, with Bergman and Kelly tying for 2nd.

13. Shadowy film noir from the 1940’s or splashy colorful musicals from the 1950’s?
Oh definitely the splashy colorful musicals from the 1950s.

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14. Actor or actress with the best autograph (photo preferred).
Judy Garland, because you can make out every single letter. For a woman with such a chaotic life, she had a remarkably controlled signature.  She autographed a photo for me once, and a few years back, I gave the photo to my friend Michael, another Garland devotee.

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15. A baby (or childhood or teenage) photo of either your favorite actress or actor.

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Judy Garland (of course)