Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Old Are You?

"Why look your age," the commercial crooned, "when with this ridiculously overpriced cream you don't have to." (Ok--it didn't say "ridiculously overpriced cream" -- I just gave the jist of it instead of the actual text!)

The cosmetic industry has made a fortune helping people -- mostly women, but some men too -- look younger than they are. Plastic surgeons have made a fortune removing lines and tightening skin in all sorts of unbelievable places and, in some cases, making people look so "young" that they don't even look natural any more. I'll bet Joan Rivers can't remember the last time her face "moved."

My mother is upset about the age spots on her hands because they make her look old. God forbid that an 89 year old woman should look "old." But I hear there is a cream you can buy that will fade age spots. I once knew a woman who spent a fortune on every single cream that came along in a vain (and I do mean "vain") attempt to stop the wrinkles from showing on her face and to keep her hands looking youthful and feeling soft. Yet she was a beautiful woman, whose wrinkles only added to the character in her face and whose coarse hands gave testament to a lifetime of hard work.
Why would she want to hide that?

I have never understood the whole embarrassment about age thing. I have never had a traumatic birthday. I have always embraced my age, whatever it is. If the thought of turning 70 in 4 years (or being married to a man who will turn 70 next year) gives me any momentary pause it's only because I can't believe how fast life passes and how close I am to my life coming to an end. (The whole idea of "death" and how I feel about that is another entry, not what I'm talking about here.)

I interviewed a woman recently. I knew she'd grown up in England and I asked her how long she had lived there. She wouldn't answer me for fear someone would be able to figure out how old she is.

We attended a surprise party for a friend's 60th birthday once. She was livid that co-workers had been invited because she had been hiding her true age and didn't want anybody to know how old she was, though one would be hard-pressed to tell that she was 60.

I understand hiding your age if it means getting a better job or keeping your job and if there is fear of being let go or not getting a promotion you have been working for.

But I just can't relate to the cosmetic stuff. I mean "cosmetic" in its broad sense, not simply in the products that one buys to put on the skin.

What's the big deal about looking like you've lived 66 years? You have lived 66 years. I think that's something to be proud of, not something that should make me feel embarrassed or ashamed or feel the need to hide the fact.

Heck, there are great perks to looking your age.

If you get to a certain age and you want to take a nap in the afternoon, nobody considers you lazy. That's the thing that old people do.

But if you want to get out and run a marathon, people are amazed at how well you function for a person your age.

You don't have to feel embarrassed about having strapping young men carrying your groceries to the car for you. You're "old" and they want to help you.

But if you want to carry them yourself, how great it is that the old lady packs her own groceries. What great shape she's in!

If you want to keep up with what "the young people" are doing you can join a host of older people who are learning and using the internet, but nobody will argue with you if you say "I'm too old to learn that stuff" and refuse to learn. I'm proud of being a trendsetter among my peers, learning Twitter and Facebook before anybody my age had ever heard of them. Now I can be a mentor to people who are nervous about sticking their toe in the social networking waters. I've been there. I know where the sinkholes are.

Turning your back on your age is like outwitting and outlasting all the other participants on Survivor then refusing to pick up your $1 million check, so you have nothing to show for all that work you put in.

As my hair started to go gray, while the kids were living at home, I felt that I'd earned every single gray hair in my head and I wasn't going to cover them up. It was a badge of honor.

If someone offered me the chance to go back to my 20s, I wouldn't take it. I did all I wanted to do when I was in my 20s and 30s and 40s and I have great memories, but the thought of doing it all again holds no fascination for me. So why would I want to look like I was 30 or 40 again?

Do I wish I'd done some things differently over the past 66 years? Sure. Who doesn't? But if I were to go back, I'd probably do it all over again just the same way, so what's the point?

Let me be 66 and let me look 66. Let me enjoy the things I want to do and not do the things I don't want to do because...well, I'm 66 and I don't have to do those things any more (it's like not having to eat broccoli because you're the president and the president can make his own decisions about whether he has to eat broccoli or not).

I'm satisfied with where I am in my life and don't need to spend thousands of dollars pretending to be what I used to be. I'd rather enjoy being what I am.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Biggest Loser

I have avoided watching previous series of The Biggest Loser, for obvious reasons -- I didn't need any more guilt.

I'm not sure what drew me to watch it this season. I guess I was intrigued by the promos for Biggest Loser--Couples and decided to watch the first episode to see what it was like.

Naturally I got hooked. I have this horrible feeling that I'm becoming a reality TV junkie. I keep thinking about the movie Fahrenheit 451 where the husband comes home from a day of burning books and finds his wife fixated on the "huge" television screen, listening to messages from the great leader or something--essentially reality TV. I saw Fahrenheit 451 recently and realized that the "huge" television screen is smaller than what I have in my family room...and we have a "small" HD TV.

So anyway, I became addicted to Biggest Loser. This season has the biggest woman ever to be on the program, and the heaviest person ever to be on the program. I watch the program with a combination of fascination, revulsion and guilt. (Kind of the way I watch 24! LOL)

It's on at the same time as Lost, so I watch Lost in that time slot and The Biggest Loser usually in the wee small hours of the morning, when I wake up pre-dawn. I think I decided today, though, that I won't watch the next series. I had been sitting there for literally 25 minutes just watching people be weighed. I just hate the dramatic pauses, the numbers which click on and on and on, flashing random numbers until they register the correct new weight. That is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

But you care about the people and I watch with admiration what these guys have accomplished. The guy voted off last night had lost one hundred pounds in only eight weeks! And this only with diet and exercise.

But the "diet" part of the program makes Biggest Loser one gigantic product placement program. Three people sit down to eat lunch and the trainer just happens to show up to point out what is missing from their plate, then take a brand name product from the refrigerator or freezer to show how easy it is to prepare.

Last night it was packages for steaming vegetables. He popped it in the micowave ("so simple even a child can do it" he says--yeah, I can just picture my kids coming home and fixing themselves a big bowl of broccoli for a snack!), then the people measure out portions of unadorned vegetables and look like they'd just bit into a chocolate eclaire. I know they are hungry, but the ecstasy is a bit misplaced, I think!

And then there are the exercise sessions, which, apparently go on all day long (though you never seem to see anybody using that beautiful pool). I know they're out to win big bucks to be the biggest loser, but I suspect that Marine Corps boot camp would be a delightful reprive from the exercise regimen they are put through and a Marine Corps drill sergeant would seem like a real pussy cat compared to the in-your-face trainers who get so disgusted when a 300 lb woman can't run another 2 miles! I am in total awe, especially of the larger people, and what they are able to do. And how they stick to it seemingly hour after hour.

But the worst part, especially now that they have all become so close and so supportive of one another, is having to vote someone off.

Whereas on other shows, like Survivor, contestants plot and scheme about the person they are going to get this week, the decision to vote a friend out of The Biggest Loser is so painful for almost everyone. Some vote based on whose departure will make it easier for them (the voter) to win the top prize, but most base their decision on who has the strongest support system at home so they can continue with the weight loss program, and who needs to stay "in camp" and continue the program. And then tears all around when someone leaves because they truly seem to care about one another. This is only going to get worse as the group size gets smaller and smaller.

I hate the woman who is the moderator (and whom I thought had her own weight problem until I finally figured out that she is about 5 months along in a pregnancy). I know she has to be impartial, but everyone around her (including me) is crying and going through the tortures of the damned having to vote against a friend, she remains the stoic stone face, showing no emotion or compassion whatsoever.

Kind of like my ophthalmologist.

While I've enjoyed getting to see what this program is all about, I think it's a reality show that I will skip the next time around. I skipped The Apprentice after I got so fed up with Trump and haven't missed it one single bit. (I also seem to have given up on American Idol this season as well...and I don't miss it either!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Birth of an Idea

It's funny how ideas just grow the longer you let them germinate.

I had that interview with Mitch Agruss the other day and I've been transcribing the interview, still not really sure how I was going to shape the article itself.

He was a beloved children's television icon here in this area in the 60s and 70s, but he was so much more before he arrived here.

I had taken his photo before I left his apartment and printed it as the Photo of the Day a couple of days ago. He promised he would dig out some photos from his son's garage and drop them off at the newspaper office.

Well, apparently the photos weren't really all that great so I contacted the TV station where he worked for many years and they sent some photos which also weren't that great. My editor and I had a bit of a dust-up over photos, which I now regret.

But all the while the back of my mind is trying to find the "hook" to get this article started. Someone else had done an article on him 10 years ago and I didn't want to read it because I wanted to do my own, but I also didn't want to do a poor repeat of what he had written.

I finally decided to start my article with our arrival here in Davis and how Cap'n Mitch was already a TV celebrity for children's television. I thought I'd ask our kids what, if anything, they remembered and sent off messages to them.

Then I decided to send Facebook notes to all of their friends who are on my friend list and post a status notice about it as well, hoping to attract some that I don't know about.

I couldn't believe when I had my first response literally within five minutes. And over the next half hour I had more than half a dozen people contact me with comments about their memories of Mitch, some of which are usable and some of which are not, but they changed the whole focus of my article and all fit together as neatly as pieces of a puzzle.

In the meantime there was still that nagging photo problem. Derrick was actually thinking of using my snapshot, because it was one of the best quality photos he had. I said I'd try calling other venues where Mitch had performed and then I had my "Doh!" moment. Heck..we could set up a photo shoot at Mitch's apartment and take photos of him with his memorabilia -- the loving cup from Katharine Hepburn, the floor to ceiling poster from the American Shakespeare Festival, the autographed photo of Moss Hart, the wall of program of productions he'd been in, the floor to ceiling painting of himself as Cap'n Mitch.

We've set up the photographer and now the photo problem is no longer a problem. And thanks to the contributions of all these adults who were kids when Mitch was Cap'n Mitch, I have the direction of my article and I'm not concerned about it any more. Once I got the "hook," the ideas began to flow. I still have to write it, but I don't think that's going to be the problem that I was afraid it was going to be after all.

It's a good thing, too, because I was hoping to get some quotes from another theatre (which shall forever remain nameless because I don't want to give it any publicity) where Agruss performs and possibly see if they have a photo to share, but when the guy I spoke with heard that I am not allowed to review shows there because we have no more space to add another theatre, he said that he loves Mitch to death and knows more about him than anybody in the area, but he refused to speak with me unless my editor calls and explains to him why I can't review their plays.

Never thought offering to give a theatre company some publicity would cause such an outpouring of anger and refusal to cooperate in any way whatsoever. I think he pretty much guaranteed that I will never review one of his shows, especially in these times when newspaper space is shrinking rather than expanding. I've been a critic for 9 years now and this is the very first negative reaction I've had. I didn't like it.

For all who followed the ups and downs with Nicki, I want to share the most wonderful e-mail that Ashley shared with me, from Nicki's new mom:

Nikki is doing really well. She is coming when I call her, she is taking treats - I have to let her smell it in my hand, then I set it on the floor in front of her and she takes it right away. She and Pokie are best friends, they play really well and even with Pokie's cousin Bruno - when he visits, although he is short she does not growl at either of them anymore.

She eats her food better without spilling it all over the place and when I come home and get settled on the couch she jumps up on me - only her two front legs - and that means she wants me to pick her up and put her on the couch with me and Pokie. She has fallen asleep in my lap sitting with us or just lying next to me on the couch.

When I put her outside to potty, she does go in the grass to pee and poo. I don't have to be outside with her, she just knows that it's time to do her business. She occasionally has an accident after she eats dinner - we just need to be better about putting her outside a few minutes after she eats. We have not tried the walking on the leash thing, but she seems to be ok with running around in the backyard.

We are in the process of buying a home and in escrow now, therefore will be moving I would imagine in about a month. I just hope that the move does not make her lose what she has learned. She is very comfortable with our family and I love her so much.

Isn't that FANTASTIC? I knew all it would take is someone who could look beyond her shortcomings and see the wonderful little puppy that was underneath. I couldn't be more thrilled to know that she is in a place where she is loved as much as she was when she was here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Perils of Pauline

It was a gorgeous spring morning. The sky was a beautiful blue, the clouds were white, shimmery and fluffy. I left the house early this morning for my final post-op appointment with the eye doctors. On the drive home I was feeling very good. My appointment with the optometrist (who was quite friendly, as opposed to the ophthalmologist, who is the great stone face) went well. He said that I really didn't need new glasses, unless I wanted to change the prescription very slightly. I told him I was happy with what I have--so I don't need to spend money on new glasses.

Then I saw the ophthalmologist, who gave me the all clear. Don't need to use the eye drops any more and he doesn't need to see me again. He shook my hand and wished me a "good life" and told me to come back to see the optometrist next year.

I will follow his advice. I've been seeing the optometrist in Davis for many, many years and like him, but after this scare, where he gave me all the wrong information, I don't trust him any more and since I liked the guy in Sacramento, I'll switch to him in the future.

It was such a glorious spring day and the blossoms were out everywhere.

cherryblossoms.jpg (46678 bytes)

I hadn't had time for breakfast before I left home so, since this is Mardi Gras, and the tradition on "fat Tuesday" is to have pancakes, I stopped at a waffle house and had a waffle (a pancake with holes in it, right?) and then started on the road home.

To get from Sacramento to Davis, you cross the Yolo Causeway, that goes over the Yolo Bypass, where all the water from Folsom Dam goes if the level of the dam ever gets too high. It's a multi-purpose area that is a bird sanctuary, a rice paddy, and, when the standing water has dried, they sometimes plant crops like corn there. It's where we watched millions of bats flying off at night to search for bugs. As you come off the causeway, there is a little-used frontage road that I used to take frequently, but hadn't taken in a long time. It runs along between the highway and the railroad tracks and is a slower paced road than the freeway. This was a slower paced day, so I decided to take it again.

With the deteriorating infrastructure in California, the wear and tear on the frontage road was much more evident than the last time I drove it. It was patched all over the place, but I didn't see any big holes until I drove into one. As I bounced out of it, I heard the unmistakable, sickening sound of a flat tire.

I pulled over to check the tire and, sure enough, it was flat as a pancake (appropriate on Pancake Tuesday).

flat.jpg (33305 bytes)

A car pulled up alongside me and a man with a hook on the end of his arm, instead of a hand, told me that he had hit that same pothole yesterday and it blew out both his front and back tires and that he had seen another car yesterday which had the same problem.

I called AAA (NOTE TO MY MOTHER: This is why you carry a cell phone!!) and just as I had finished talking with the dispatcher, a highway patrol car pulled up. I told the officer what happened and he drove off to check the pothole. Then another highway patrol car pulled up behind me to sit there until the AAA truck arrived. Fortunately, I had a book with me, so after I'd taken photos and made a video (of course!), I sat in the car and read until the AAA truck pulled up. The guy jumped out saying "You hit the pothole, eh? You're my second car today."

By the time he was fixing the tire, I had the AAA truck parked in front of me and both Highway Patrol cars parked behind me.

AAA.jpg (40891 bytes)
One AAA truck and 2 police cars just to take care of me!

I went to ask one of the Highway Patrol offcers whom I should call to file a report. He said that it was a county road, not a city road and that he had placed a report and that they would be out within the hour to patch the hole. He also explained that the road had been patched many times and when we had heavy rains, like we did this weekend, it seeped in under the patches and caused the potholes. He said that since I was driving the speed limit, I was more prone to being caught in the hole and that when he came along here he was usually driving too fast and so he didn't get caught, but he hastened to let me know that I should continue to drive the speed limit, not drive fast in the hope of avoiding pot holes.

All in all, it was kind of a nice little adventure. Walt had told me a couple of days ago that we were going to have to replace our front tires, so it's not like we suddenly have this unexpected expense. Neither I nor the car were damaged. I got to sit by the side of the road on a lovely day and do nothing but read...and, best of all, I can read now!

Coulda been worse. Life is good.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Among My Souvenirs

I came across a short meme the other day and my first thought was that it had my name all over it. It was about souvenirs and what you buy to remind you of a special time and place. Walt jokes that I spend most of my time anywhere we go at the "ubiquitous souvenir shop." It would be nice if I could say that I pick up nice quality merchandise, but mostly it's just crap. Sentimental crap, but crap nonetheless. That kind of describes this house--full of sentimental crap, but crap nonetheless!

As I said, the meme is short, only a few questions.

When you travel, what kinds of souvenirs do you like to bring home for yourself?

When we went on our honeymoon, I decided that I should collect "something." I didn't know what that "something" would be, so I decided to collect spoons--you know, those little tiny demitasse spoons that you find everywhere?. Everywhere we went from there on, I bought a spoon. When Walt traveled, he bought me a spoon. When other people traveled, they bought me spoons. I soon had spoons coming out my ears and had no more room for any of them, but the spoon collection did spark one funny incident. When our Brasilian son Pujol was coming here, he decided to bring me a spoon to add to my collection.

spoon.jpg (30163 bytes)The damn thing is the size of a small shovel, as you can see in comparison with some of the gifts that have been given to us by people from other countries (the Brasilian butterfly wing plates are particular favorites of mine)

I didn't dare laugh, and thanked him profusely.

I don't collect spoons any more, but now I get refigerator magnets and have a huge collection of those too. I've run out of refrigerator space, especially that now I'm going to start adding Bri artwork to the fridge in place of the magnets. I have to either stop collecting magnets or get a whole wall covered in some magnetic material!

Is there a certain kind of souvenir you always bring back for a particular someone?

I don't know when I started buying shotglasses for Walt, but I've brought him shotglasses from lots of trips that I went on when he stayed home. I think he's lost most of them. It's strange that I buy him shotglasses because he never makes mixed drinks at home and rarely drinks anything but wine anywhere.

I'm always looking for unusual socks for Peggy. It's truly like bringing coals to Newcastle, since she has more socks than many sock manufacturers have. She once spent about $100 in a sock store at Pier 39 in San Francisco and then a week later was shopping in a sock store in Seattle. But if I see something cute or interesting when I'm in a new place, I usually pick her up a pair and save it until Christmastime.

Of the souvenirs you’ve collected from your travels, what are some that have special meaning for you?

Shambles.jpg (33967 bytes)They all have special meaning, but obviously some more than others. I don't know why I love this little Roman goddess statue that I bought in the ubiquitous souvenir shop at Hadrian's Wall when we were driving from London to Scotland.

I also love a little Viking statue that I bought in York. I had seen it on our first trip there and decided it was an extravagance, since I had already bought so much stuff to take home, so didn't buy it, and always regretted it. So when we went back to York a few years later, I knew exactly where the store was on the Shambles (which is what I always picture when I read Harry Potter and his visiting some of those shops for Wizard equipment) and I swear the statue was in the same place it had been originally. I bought it.

I love a little wooden dolphin that I got when Peggy and I went to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins. I bought a little ceramic whale with Jonah inside it (like Japanese netsuke) that I bought on Friday Harbor when Diane and I went whale watching. And I also bought a multi-colored glass whale made from volcanic ash that I bought in Hawaii the day after we'd watched a mother humpback and her baby cavorting in the ocean off South Point on the Big Island, when Walt and I visited Marta's parents just before Marta and Ned were married.

Finally there is a little panda statue that I bought at the San Diego zoo after seeing the baby Hua Mei. I had been watching her on the zoo's web cam ever since her birth, and she had only recently been allowed out to meet the public. After having followed her growth for so long, it was really a moving experience seeing her "live."

What’s the silliest souvenir you’ve brought back for yourself, or what’s the silliest souvenir someone has brought back for you?

Well for the silliest souvenir someone has brought back for me, that would definitely have to be the spoon that Pujol brought. As for the silliest souvenir I've brought back for myself....hmmm.... Actually, the silliest souvenir I've ever bought wasn't for myself, but for my friend Mike, who at the time was collecting "cow crap." Someone in a discussion on CompuServe once called him a hateful old cow and he decided to embrace it and became "The HOC." People started buying him cow crap and his house was full of cow crap--t-shirts, statues, kitchen appliances, etc. I bought so much cow crap for Mike it was ridiculous. I even had a cow mailbox sent to him once. But we were in a church garage sale somewhere in Maryland and they had this garden decoration that stuck in the ground with a big metal spike and I just had to buy it for Mike. Walt rolled his eyes, but let me buy it. Then we discovered that it only just barely fit in the suitcase and for awhile there, we thought it wouldn't fit at all. That was definitely the dumbest souvenir purchase I've ever made.

If you were going to send someone a souvenir from places you visited today, what might it be?

I might go to the supermarket. Can I pick you up a bottle of California wine? (Sorry--can't be more exciting than that!!)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blogging the Oscars

It's the Big Game (go Bears!), the SuperBowl (go Niners!), the World Cup (go Australia!). For those of us who are athletically challenged, who grew up with Photoplay and and Modern Screen and read the pink section of the San Francisco Chronicle instead of the Sporting Green, this is the Big Night. I've watched the playoffs -- the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the People's Choice Awards, but this is the Big Kahuna. The Capo di tutti capi.

Some folks have Academy Awards parties like other people have Superbowl parties. I don't know what you eat at an Academy Award party. But I'm not having a party. I'm just settling in with my laptop and blogging my thoughts as the show progresses. Kind of an after-the-fact party with anybody who enjoys awards shows and reads this journal. Here we go...

We were at a concert, so I missed all the red carpet stuff (probably just as well, especially if it was raining there like it is here). I got home exactly 2 minutes before the main broadcast started.

It wasn't an outstanding opening number, but for a low budget production, it was quite nice. Perfect for Hugh Jackman.

Clever having five supporting actresses to introduce the winner. I loved Whoopie Goldberg's comments about how difficult it is to be a nun. Penelope Cruz seems very sweet and very sincere. Haven't seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Teaming Steve Martin and Tina Fey (how can anyone be that thin?) to introduce best screenplay was inspired. Two very funny people. Funny bit. Yay! First award for Milk! Let's hope this is a good omen. Speech by Dustin Lance Black (the screenwriter) moved me to tears. How wonderful was his speech: "If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by the churches, by the government, by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours."

Also adapted script award for Slumdog Millionaire...the race is on.

Fun 2008 animation. I remember when I saw one of the very first computer animated cartoons with Gilbert in about 1985. We agreed it was awesome, but that it would take a long time before it would become practical to make a full length feature cartoon. How I wish Gilbert were here now to see how far we've come! (I have GOT to see Wall-E!)

Japanese animator's "thank you" speech was very cute.

SaraJ.jpg (27624 bytes)Sarah Jessica Parker is going to lose the top of her dress any. minute. now. Either that or there's an awful lot of superglue packed into that bodice! That can't possibly be comfortable.

These art direction awards always make me want to rush out to the theatre as soon as the awards show is over, especially for the period pictures.

They don't seem to be cutting off speeches early as in previous years, which makes me happy. Some of these guys, especially the behind the scenes guys, only have this one minute in the sun and how nice to let them have it. Everybody should have the chance to thank his or her Mom.

I liked the "Romance in 2008" film, especially since they included everything from heterosexual romance to gay romance to robot romance...and they were all pretty much the same!

(If our router were connected, I'd be sitting here adding films to my Netflix queue, but I am not getting a wifi signal with the laptop in my lap)

How nice that Natalie Portman is wearing something OTHER than white (but she could have used a little of that extra boob tissue that Sarah Jessica Parker was spilling out of her dress!). I guess Ben Stiller is doing an impersonation of...who was it?...who was on Letterman the other night.

I should know who the silly guys are on the couch watching the videos in the 2008 comedy film, but I don't. Bad me. I don't even recognize their names except Seth Rogan (and I don't know which one he is).

jessica.jpg (11379 bytes)Finally! Jessica Beal is representing the "my gawd where did she get THAT?" dress. Looks like someone took a gigantic ribbon and started to wrap her up and never quite finished.

(Char just called to let us know we have to watch Amazing Race because her son called from Maryland to tell her that they throw pies at each other. [now why would Tim think to tell his mother that? heh heh] Fortunately I have it set for the DVR)

I'm lovin' the salute to musicals, created by Baz Lurman, even if I'm not recognizing any of the performers except Jackman. But then I'm a movie musical kinda person. And of course they ended with "Over the Rainbow," which always makes me happy

What an interesting assortment of Supporting Actor presenters. Joel Grey seems so old. I guess he really is. It's been a long time since Cabaret.

I guess I was really hoping Heath Ledger wouldn't get the Oscar (just because it would be nice to give it to someone sitting in the hall--but then I didn't see his performance), but it seemed inevitable; he's won all the other awards. Very touching to have his family accept the Oscar for him. OK--I'm crying again.

(Walt has fallen asleep and is gently snoring in the next chair)

I wonder where you go to see documentaries. Not Davis, for sure. I've never heard of any of these films--except the winner which, by coincidence, had been featured on The Today Show this morning.

OK. The 2008 action retrospective doesn't do much for me. It's like those previews that we sit through in the theatre and say "We can miss that one..." I'm not really an action junkie.

Gee...Benjamin Button seems to be winning all the technical awards so far.

I just love watching Danny Boyle every time Slumdog Millionaire wins an award. After all these awards he still can't believe that his film can win, it seems. The two kids (Dev Patel and Freida Pinto) are also like...well...KIDS, bouncing up and down, with huge smiles on their faces. Such a great triumph for a "little" film!)

Funny commercial with Jimmy Kimmel and Tom Cruise.

Jerry Lewis gets the Humanitarian award. Such conflicted feelings about Jerry Lewis. I was never a fan and I know he has raised lots of money for kids with muscular dystrophy but there are an awful lot of times when he seems to be exploiting the kids...don't get me started.... I don't know enough about it. Just let's say I'm not a fan. But he made a heartfelt acceptance and looked like it was physically difficult for him.

(since I can't connect to the internet while on the laptop, I have played dozens of games of FreeCell!)

Defiance. Damn. There's another one to add to my Netflix queue.

Every time someone introduces Zach Effron I think they're talking about Zack Braff (the guy from Scrubs)

Loved the Bollywood choreography for the...uh...nominated SONG? Probably not playing on Jack-FM locally (though I DO have the DVD of the music) How cool the way "Jai Ho" from Slumdog and the song from Wall-E worked together contrapuntally.

Queen Latifa...bad...bad dress. Looks like a Mrs. American reject. And the memorial for all the guys who died this year, usually very moving, was annoying because instead of showing the faces full screen, they kept including Latifa in the picture. It was nice having lots of pictures of the departed at the same time, but that didn't really work for the home audience.

Reese Witherspoon and Queen Latifa had the same dress designer who looks like she made both dresses from the same bolt(s) of material. Witherspoon is too beautiful a woman to look so bad in a dress.

Well, there goes the Milk ballgame. With Danny Boyle winning best director, that's a sure sign that Slumdog will be best picture. I do love how unkempt he looks--regular suit, no tuxedo; shirt unbuttoned, tie loosened, hair (what there is of it) mussed up. Great. He looks like I looked after the concert tonight, with all those long-time friends all dolled up and me in my Scott Family reunion t-shirt. I go to theatre too much to remember to ever "dress up." For me it's like going to work.

I really like this 5 people presentation thingy, with each past winer giving a special message to one particular nominee, though I fail to see what the theme from Gone with the Wind has to do with the best actress nominations this year!

Halle Berry is a glamorous woman, who was sabotaged by her hairdresser. And Sophia Loren is soon going to outdo Joan Rivers for plastic surgery taken too far. Nicole Kidman is monochromatic, with dress, complexion and hair all blending together, but it doesn't look bad on her, especially against that red, red lipstick.

Best actress: Kate Winslet. No surprise. So I'm assuming that I won't be seeing Sean Penn climb the stage for best actor award next. So far the Oscars are mirroring all the other other awards. But what the heck...I'm a sucker for an emotional speech. Winslet has me crying.

Could there be a more perfect a person to honor Sean Penn than Robert DiNiro? And what the heck is The Visitor (or Richard Jenkins either, for that matter)? Anthony Hopkins is also perfect to honor Brad Pitt--I remember their work together in Meet Joe Black.

Sean.jpg (10026 bytes)Yes!!!! Sean Penn won!!!! The gay vote won out over the redeemed actor vote. The screenwriter is crying and so am I. Penn does not disappoint in taking the opportunity to speak out for equal rights and against the messages of hatred that were apparently in front of the theatre tonight. "For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support," Penn said. "We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

OK...Slumdog can win now. I'm happy that Milk got sufficient recognition.

Brilliant editing of the film clips for the best picture, mixing them with clips from past movies. And yes, Slumdog wins. That's OK. I loved the film. The little kid is upstaging everyone, as he did in the movie. Great face!

I don't know what critics will say, but I enjoyed the awards ceremony. I especially loved that I don't think the orchestra cut ANYBODY's thank you speeches off. That was great.

And yes, when it was all over, we watched Amazing Race. The pie tosses reminded me of a day, many years ago. So many children, so many pies. So much mess on our front lawn...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eight Is Enough

I have been toying with the idea of joining the madding crowd in speaking out about the recent birth of the octuplets.

I guess what finally made me decide to explore my own feelings (not that it matters one whit to the situation) was learning that the woman who had agreed to act as Nadya Suleman's publicity person was receiving death threats. Not only death threats, but horrible things like people threatening to cut her up into little pieces and leave the pieces in the grossest places on earth.

A bit extreme, don't you think?

My feeling on the subject is that the mother is clearly in need of some psychological help with her addiction to babies and to mothering and to help her resolve the issues she has from her past, but this outpouring of outright hatred for her is horrendously misplaced.

There are so many issues here overlapping that it's difficult to group them all together.

Should the doctor have implanted six embryos? Apparently she had six embryos implanted each time she got pregnant and the most that ever came of that before was twins, so that is for a medical review board to decide, but here again, if we have Right to Life people to believe, there were six potentially viable human beings who would be allowed to die if he didn't (that is not necessarily my view). She owned the embryos and should she be permitted a say in what happened to them, even if the potential outcome could have been predicted? If she demanded that she be implanted, perhaps the doctor was working under the assumption, based on past experience, that not all of them would make it. He certainly could not have predicted that two of them would split giving her eight fetuses, not a potential six.

I watched the Ann Curry interview with the mother and just marveled at her powers of rationalization. She has six children already because she loves children, didn't feel she had enough attention when she herself was a child, and she wanted to devote herself to her children. But she was working two jobs and going to school and leaving the kids in the care of her mother, who presumably was the person who didn't give her enough attention when she was growing up. Fallacy somewhere, I fancy.

And into this mix, she will now add 8 more children. Two of the older children have disabilities and surely at least one if not more of her babies will have developmental problems. She has no house. She has no partner. How in the world is she going to give these children all the attention she didn't get as a child when she has fourteen children?

Heck, I only had five. I had a husband and was a stay at home Mom and my biggest frustration all throughout the kids' childhood (especially before they got old enough to go to school and have their own friends) was not being able to spread myself thin enough so that each child got enough attention. We set up situations where we could compensate by giving one child one-on-one time (a trip to Disneyland when each turned 4, dinner out with one parent when they got older, so that over the course of a year each child had 2 special nights out, one with me and one with Walt), but of course it wasn't the same as if I'd only had two children. I listen to her talk about all the love she's going to give those kids and I have to tell her that love just isn't enough. If you're going to work, especially if you're going to work and go to school, there just aren't enough hours in the day to give each child the attention you feel you didn't get...and some of those lot of those're just overwhelmed with babies and crying and dirty diapers and laundry and everything else to be at your best.

I feel very sorry for her children.

BUT, that said, what makes me the most angry about all of this is the public outcry. I can only "feel very sorry for her children" from my own perspective of what it was like for me being the mother of a lot of kids. I don't know her. All I know of her situation is what gets reported in the paper. I have no business passing judgment on her or deciding that the state should swoop in and put the kids in foster care (yeah--like that's gonna be an improvement!)

I feel sorry that civic groups have felt pressured to take away offers of assistance because of public outcry. No matter what you think of the mother or of her doctors or of the fact that she is definitely going to have to take public assistance to care for her enormous family, why should the children be made to suffer because of unwise decisions she and/or her doctor made?

It seems that other large families have made it with the help of commercial support. At least two large families have reality TV shows. Suleman would certainly make a much more fascinating reality show than people who "only" have eight children.

Perhaps she should not have attempted another in vitro fertilization. Perhaps the doctor should not have implanted 6 embryos, but the fact of the matter is that the babies are here. They are going to need much more than their mother can provide. If companies want to give them donations, if Cable companies want to put them on TV and if that all helps to keep her in diapers and baby food, I say what's the harm in that? It can only improve the quality of life for the babies and maybe Suleman could afford to get some therapy in the process.

Bottom line: It's really none of my business!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cap'n Mitch

capnmitch.gif (33624 bytes)By the time we arrived in Davis in 1973, Cap'n Mitch was an established local television celebrity for the younger set. Mitch Agruss hosted a show on Channel 40 where he talked to the kids in a nice calm voice, much like Mister Rogers, and he introduced cartoons. I don't actually remember what else he did. But our kids watched the show for years.

In December 2007, I was invited to review a play called Starry Messenger, which starred Agruss. I had no idea he lived in Davis, or that the then 84-year old Agruss was even still alive. I hoped to do a feature article on him, but time got away from me and that never happened.

SierraMadre.jpg (93332 bytes)Now Agruss is doing Treasure of the Sierra Madre at Sacramento's California Stage, and I was contacted by its producer, Ray Tater, who asked if I'd like to do a story on this production. It was the perfect excuse to finally interview Agruss. All I knew of him was that he'd hosted the local kids' TV program.

I started doing research on him (there is precious little to be had) and learned that he was a trained Shakespearean actor, who had appeared with the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Drake and Nina Foche at a Shakespeare festival. I learned he had done a couple of U.S. Steel Hour productions and I realized that there was more to this guy than simply a cartoon host.

I remembered how frail he'd seemed during Starry Messenger and I wondered how the interview would go. I figured it would either be terrific or it would be a bomb. Fortunately, when you interview theatre folk, things rarely bomb.

Agruss lives in a retired persons complex, ironically the one where two of the women from my writing group live. His immaculately kept apartment is tiny, but the walls are lined with memories of his past -- an autographed portrait of Moss Hart, copies of programs from all the productions he's been in, a big painting of himself as Cap'n Mitch, many photos of him in theatrical productions, and a floor to ceiling poster from the American Shakespeare Festival, for which he worked for three years with all the big names.

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It was a lot like sitting and talking with Steve's partner, Jimmy, who seems to have known just about everybody in Hollywood and on Broadway. Once we got into the interview, the stories just came rolling out. He loved talking about all the good memories of his days in theatre on the East Coast and I loved hearing about them.

There was his experience with both Bella Lugosi and Boris Karloff. He would drive Karloff from the theatre to his hotel after his performance in Peter Pan and Lugosi performed at a summer theatre where the stage hands (of whom Agruss was one) decided to wear wooden crosses around their necks to protect them from "Dracula." ("Lugosi didn't have much of a sense of humor," he remembered) At that theatre, they had to go into the basement to shut off a waterfall each night so the sound of it didn't interfere with the play. The area was filled with bats and cobwebs and some of the crew were afraid to go down there alone when "Dracula" was upstairs.

Then there was the loving cup, inscribed to Agruss from Katharine Hepburn. He remembers being in her apartment once when the maid came in and whispered "Ms. Hepburn--Spence is on the phone." He also remembers Hepburn teaching his 3-4 year old son how to shoot a gun in a shooting gallery in a train station when they were snowed in for several hours while on tour.

He remembers being in the army with Jack Klugman's brother, who asked Agruss for suggestions of what his brother should do if he wanted to be an actor. Agruss suggested he attend Carnegie School of Dramatic Art...and the rest is history. He said that several times when Klugman, in later life, would be on a talk show he would mention how "this guy Agruss" got him involved in theatre.

At some point during the interview, he talked about his feeling, when he left home for the first time and took off for college and entered the world of theatre for the first time. He likened it to Dorothy leaving the monochrome world of Kansas and entering the mulit-colored world of Oz.

It is evident from talking with this delightful man that he has had a glorious ride and enjoyed every minute of it!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wait Wait...

WWlogo.gif (4292 bytes)When we were standing in line for the Says You taping in Los Angeles, I was talking with a woman and during the course of our conversation, we also talked about the radio show, Wait Wait...don't tell me! which we both also liked. I don't listen to Wait Wait on the radio, but get it as a podcast and I'm not as religious about listening to it as I am to Says You, but when I do listen I always enjoy it.

I mentioned that we were going to a taping of Wait Wait in Berkeley and she mentioned that she'd only learned that the show was going to be in Berkeley last week and, of course, the tickets were long gone. It was Char who had alerted us to the broadcast and we ordered tickets months ago, back in September. (Host Peter Sagal said that the tickets for the 2,000+ seat Zellerbach Auditorium had been sold out before the notice of the broadcast ever got printed in their book of coming events!)

This woman at "Says You" and I talked about Wait Wait and had questions about, for example, how they work their call-ins. I promised her that after we'd been to the show, I would write an explanation of how it all this is that report!

We met Mike & Char in Berkeley for dinner at an Italian restaurant called "Tomatina," very near the apartment where Walt was living before we got married, and then walked up to Zellerbach, arriving before the doors to the auditorium actually opened. They were seated in the orchestra section, over on the side. We were dead center in the very last row of the balcony. Walt had brought binoculars.

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They are doing two tapings, the one we went to tonight and another tomorrow. Unlike Says You they only tape one show per day. There were six panelists listed in the program and I was pleased that the three that were on for our performance were the three I like the best: Mo Rocca, from both CBS Sunday Morning and The Tonight Show; Comedienne Paula Poundstone; and "author and radio anomaly" Tom Bodett. The guest was opera mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade (who even reprised her wonderful Star Trek aria from a recent Emmy show.

WWPanel.jpg (85630 bytes)

(You can't take pictures during the taping, of course, but I did sneak this picture after the formal part was over when host Sagal and announcer Carl Kassel were out in the audience answering questions. At the desk are, L to R, Rocca, Poundstone, and Bodett. The chair in the middle was for von Stade)

There are several blatant differences between the two radio programs. For one thing, Wait Wait has a much younger audience. Possibly it just seemed that way because this was being held on a college campus, but I suspect that in general Wait Wait's audiences are younger.

Second, Wait Wait is more topical. Whereas you can listen to a Says You show 5-10 years after it was broadcast and it's just as fresh and timely as when it was recorded, Wait Wait's material is based on the week's news, so within a week or two it's already dated.

Finally, Wait Wait is more of a "show," with lighting effects, a set of sorts, and the feel of a "show." Says You always has seemed to me that surely it must have come out of a party somewhere when a bunch of intelligent, witty folks were playing parlor games and someone got the bright idea to turn it into a radio show. (This notion was further strengthened by learning that Arnie Reisman had been the best man for Tony Kahn and his wife and seems to have been a friend of host Richard Sher's forever.)

And, truth to tell, though I loved being at the taping of Wait wait, it wasn't as much fun, for us, as being at the tapings of Says You, which feels more like spending the day with old friends. That said, however, I'd happily go back again next year if we are able to get tickets!

I never did get answered the question about telephone contestants. Near as I can tell, they must write to the show ahead of time and then are called by the show at the time of taping. In the photo above, you can see a table in back, where there sit four people--and they seem to have the sound board, and probably the telephone controls. When I listened to the show on the podcast, I wondered if people actually called in to the show live, but there was no indication that they did. They were just "there." the FAQ.

4) But if you're not broadcasting live, then when should people call in to be on the show?

Any time at all. Whenever you call, even if you're listening to the show at that moment, you'll be greeted by a mellifluous voice on an answering machine (okay, it's Peter Sagal, but do you know how much those mellifluous voice guys charge?). You'll be asked to leave your name and number, and tell us something about yourself... perhaps just why you want to play our game. Our producers listen to all the messages, and call some people back to arrange for them to be at their phones during our Thursday evening taping. You can also nominate yourself via e-mail, at

The whole thing was very funny and I'll be looking forward to seeing how much of it gets to air. Char was convulsed about featherless chickens wearing sweaters and I'm wondering how sign language interpreters manage to sign "crap a pineapple," which apparently was the big joke of last year's taping. But there were far more double entendres and scatalogical humor here than with Says You and the whole thing was very silly.

Isn't it amazing that in this age of television we can get so totally wrapped up in not one, but two radio shows?

Oh! And the really big news is that after running 3 virus checks (which took most of the morning) and installing Front Page about four different times, I finally discovered--all on my own--what the problem was, and got it fixed. I have Front Page back again!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting Times

Just when you thought it was safe to relax and enjoy your computer, this happens. It actually happened last night. I was putting the finishing touches on the journal entry for yesterday when suddenly a big warning sign popped up and told me I had a Trojan virus, a bad one. I had the option of removing it, healing it, or ignoring it. I chose "heal" and hoped for the best.

I can’t remember the sequence of things, but suffice to say that “healing” it didn’t work. And it set off a cascade of problems that kept me awake until 1 a.m. just trying to get the entry posted. At one point I decided to be real smart and do that famous “system restore” which has worked in the past. For those without Windows XP, a system restore means that you go back a week or so to a date when your computer worked well and you ask it to restore all of the settings from that date so you can continue, if you’re lucky, with no problems.

”System Restore” has been my salvation many times in the past. Something magical happens inside the computer and when I turn it on again, it’s like waking up from a bad dream. Only this time when I restarted the computer, I got the message that the system restore was not able to be done and that no changes had made. I tried three times, each time setting it to an earlier date, and each time it was unsuccessful.

If this had happened a year ago, I would have been in apoplexy. The fortunate thing about the various problems I’ve had over the past months is that I have gradually become organized. I know where all of my program disks are. I know where all of my serial numbers are. I have backups of important programs on the external hard drive. I could not save my journal entry from last night, but I could move all of the files off of my regular hard drive and onto the external hard drive so that when I got the problem fixed, I could just move it all back and I wouldn’t have lost anything.

I also knew that I had several options – I could always do the journal page on my laptop, which is a pain only because it means finding someplace to put it, some place to plug it in and it’s just pretty much a big pain. Also, I could do what I’ve done on vacations before (and, in fact, what I’m doing now) – I could just write the page in code and post it that way. That is a good short-term solution, but it won’t help when March 1 comes and I want to design a new look for the new month.

So I managed to get the entry posted, using various work-arounds, I wrote a note to my computer guru, and I went to sleep.

In the morning it was time to get serious. I still couldn’t get Front Page to work, I couldn’t get the system to set a System Restore Point, and I hadn’t heard from the guru. I had the program disk and could uninstall and reinstall Front Page, but I’ve screwed things up royally by plunging into things I don’t understand before, so I wanted to wait for Guru to contact me. He finally did and was decidedly not helpful. He told me that sometimes virus warnings turn out to be false (too late for that information to help, since I had already tried "healing" the virus), and he suggested I look up the virus type on Google (which took me to a site for trucks that I couldn’t see because I wasn’t a member!) I have the definite feeling that I have bored the guru to tears and he wants nothing more to do with me. It was up to me to find other solutions.

I posted information on Facebook to see what kind of feedback I would get. I also wrote to someone at DCN, my service provider, about the message that I should "contact my service provider to make sure that it has the Front Page Server extensions."

There were several suggestions that came through Facebook, including a few other web design programs I might use (one of which is "only" $300). One suggestion came from a local person, who suggested that her husband might be able to help. I sent him an e-mail to explain my plight and he answered quickly, saying he uses Front Page all the time and saying he could help me fix the problem. He’s in the middle of a project of his own right now, and I have several things coming up in the new week, so with that little carrot of hope over my head, I can do a work-around for the next few days. I can write code; I can use the laptop and I can even design the March look on the laptop. I’m still not sure that he can actually fix it, but I’m going to think positively and not worry about it until I realize it is beyond hope.

So for now...I sit and wait, trying not to think about the meeting I went to yesterday where they laughed about how one guy's computer was already 7 years old and waaay past its prime. I bought this computer in 2003, so it's 6 yrs old. I'm also trying not to think about what the guru told me the last time he was here was that "with luck" the computer might make it another year or two. Since when is six years OLD???

In the meantime, however, we have Winston.

Winston is, Ashley tells me, a Tibetan spaniel/pekinese mix. She had told me “small spaniel” when she wrote to me about him when I was in LA and of course I got Cocker in my mind. And when I saw him, I thought Pomeranian. A friend, hearing the mix of cocker and Pomeranian asked if that made him a "cocamanian," which I think is a perfect description!

He’s actually here only very temporarily. He was here overnight on Sunday and then went to his regular foster home. They had to go out of town today, so asked if I could keep him for the day, so he was only here for the day, but he was here long enough to cause big problems. The mailman came and all the dogs ran into the living room to bark. I went to get the mail and the last time I saw Winston, he was following the other dogs into the living room. When I went to close the front door after getting the mail, I saw Winston trotting down the drive way!

I was wearing slippers and had to run into the house to get shoes and by the time I got outside, there was no sign of Winston anywhere. I thought I heard him barking in one direction so I rushed off ( much as I can “rush”) in the direction of the barking, heart pounding, hoping no cars came down the road. I turned around at one point and there I saw Winston trotting back up the drive way, coming from the opposite direction from which I was looking for him.

So Winston is home, the computer is still not giving me Front Page but I’m finding ways around it. And tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Floppies for Mommy

yellowroses.jpg (147991 bytes)When I was a little kid, I would go out and see "flowers" -- dandelions and other flowering weeds, or stop by the side of the road to pick wild flowers -- orange poppies and purple lupin and clutch a bouquet tightly in a chubby hand to bring home to my mother, proudly announcing that I had picked "floppies for Mommy" (presumably I didn't continue to call them "floppies" as I got older!)

So whenever I get flowers from the kids, I always think about them sending "floppies for Mommy," and today they outdid themselves.

The first to come was a beautiful huge bouquet of virtual yellow roses from Jeri. But then late in the morning came a beautiful bouquet of real yellow roses, with a lovely note from Ned. Ned doesn't usually send flowers and I was very touched.

TomFlowers.jpg (130801 bytes)Walt went out running errands this afternoon. The dogs barked several times but I never heard the bell ring, so Walt was surprised to find a florist attempted delivery hanging on the door when he came home. He drove out to the florist's and picked the flowers up for me and it was a lovely mixed bouquet from Tom, Laurel and Bri.

So Mommy has been "floppied" but good and it's nice to feel loved.

As birthdays go, this one has been quiet, but oh so enjoyable. For one thing, when you join Facebook, you get literally hundreds of people greeting you on your birthday, which is a very nice way to wake up in the morning! Ned also sent a recording of the traditional family happy birthday song, Jeri sent the recording of the version of the standard happy birthday song that she arranged and recorded a couple of days ago. She and Phil also serenaded my cell phone -- twice (once in a video and once as a message, when I wasn't able to take their call while I was during a meeting).

At noon, I met a friend for lunch. Not planned for my birthday, but it just happened to be my birthday.

We had run into each other accidentally a week or so ago and she once again apologized for not calling me and suggested that we get together for lunch. We compared our mutual calendars and chose today, February 17, which coincidentally happened to be my birthday. She suggested we meet at a Thai Cafe.

ThaiCafe.jpg (120363 bytes)It was the perfect place to meet. I love Thai food (when it's not so spicy hot), and this was one of the places in Davis I had not tried. What's more, it overlooks the performing area that in this family we call "Paul Plaza" (though in reality it's known as "The E-Street Plaza," but there is the area which has a memorial plaque and special bricks that were dedicated to Paul--and some to David).

We sat and got caught up on our families, she brought pictures of all her grandchildren. I had taken my iPod out of my purse earlier in the day, so I didn't have any recent photos of Bri to show her, but I talked about her a lot.

We compared notes about who we know who has died or is sick or...worst of all...gave money to support Prop 8 (I've crossed another local business off of my list!) When we finished, we promised to have lunch more often than once every 5 years or so!

In the early evening I had a meeting to go to and then Walt and I had planned to go out to dinner, but he told me I couldn't leave the house yet because Tom was going to call on Skype just as soon as Brianna got out of the bathtub. What a fun treat! We got to see Brianna walk, she was in a fairly good mood so giggled a lot and we stayed on the phone a long time. Tom had hooked his computer up to his big screen HDTV and so we were coming in on the big screen. The video of the day isn't all that great, quality wise, but I thought it was fun to make the video.

When the video call ended, we went off to dinner. I laughed at the fact that we chose Strings because it was close to Petco and we needed dog food. But as it turned out, the linguini with crab was absolutely delicious, so it was a good restaurant choice, not just because it gave us the chance to buy dog food!

When we got home, Walt gave me my birthday present, which is "The Complete Directory of Prime Time, Network and Cable TV shows" (perfect for a TV addict). But even better was the card. This was the front of it:

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Inside it reads, "Older..but when does wiser kick in?"

The perfect end to the perfect day!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kaiser Labyrinth

When your kids grow up and you are in that period of life when your health is fairly stable and the worst thing that you need to see a doctor for is routine tests, you kind of forget all the misery that you endured with children and trying work the system -- the endless waits on the phone (I've clocked up to 30 minutes waiting for someone who put me on hold to come back), the endless waits in the waiting room (I once waited so long with Jeri that by the time the doctor actually SAW her, her 105-degree temp had dropped to normal and I felt silly taking this once limp, now active toddler to the doctor when she clearly was perfectly fine), the trooping all over the place for one test and then another (can we ever forget this memorable experience?)

You get glimmers of it when there are emergencies, like the orthopedist who spent a total of (by my watch--and I was timing him) 4 minutes with me at the follow-up appointment for my dislocated shoulder (after I'd been in the waiting room for over an hour), 2 minutes of which were spent critiquing the book I was reading and the other 2 saying I was fine and never mind about my knee; it will heal just fine--and we all know how that turned out, don't we?? The shoulder is fine and I still can't ride a bike because of my knee!)

But it's days like today which bring all those surpressed memories bubbling up to the surface again. Oh, don't get me wrong. Having worked with a lot of other insurance companies, I still think Kaiser is the best -- but it doesn't mean I can't bitch every now and then.

I had a call from Peach while we were in LA, saying my mother was having pains in her chest region. They didn't sound like typical heart pains, but I did call her. She was angry that Peach had contacted me and said that it was "nothing" and fiddlesticks she didn't need a doctor and that she would never tell Peach or me anything about her health again. But I told her that since by her own admission the pain had awakened her and even as we spoke, there would be a sharp intake of breath when another spasm hit, she really should go see her doctor.

"It can't be my heart," she assured me. She said a doctor once told her that her heart was so healthy she would never die of a heart attack.

No, of course she hadn't taken any medicine. She had just "walked the pain off." I insisted that she at least call the Kaiser advice nurse, which she promised to do. The nurse didn't think there was an immediate emergency, but thought the doctor should see her the next day, so she made an appointment for this morning. I said I would drive down and go with her, which she also poo-poo'd because it was so far and the weather was bad and...and...and...

But I wouldn't let her talk me out of it and so this morning I drove down there, in a rainstorm, and we presented ourselves at the office for her 10:15 appointment. I was glad that she had asked me to go into the exam room with her, since I speak "medicalese" and could help her understand what the doctor told her.

We actually got called into the doctor's 5th floor office pretty quickly. Not my mother's regular doctor, who is away for a week, but someone who is filling in for her. She was very nice and, like everyone else, couldn't believe my mother was 89. (In fact, some woman in the elevator asked if we were sisters, which naturally made my mother's day!)

It was pretty easy to reproduce the pain so she could tell exactly where it was. By the position, it didn't seem to be heart or lungs. She thought it might be the start of shingles, but since my mother first started having these pains 3 weeks, and there was no outbreak of the typical shingles rash, she figured that probably wasn't it. But just to be sure to rule out all these things, she'd send her for tests, which included an EKG, x-ray, and blood work. Each of these things was in a different location on a different floor.

I'm not sure which is worse--going to Kaiser on a regular day when there are 10,000 other people there, or going on a holiday when there are only emergency type patients, but also only half the staff, which means that the wait time is ridiculous.

The EKG wasn't so bad. Again was the "you can't possibly be 89!" and the heart was so steady that, heck, even I could tell this was a disgustingly normal EKG. (Her blood pressure had been so good that it was probably half of mine, on both the diastolic and systolic!). That was on the 3rd floor.

Then down to the first floor for x-rays and lab work. The x-ray was uneventful (and again within normal limits, apparently), but the lab was a nighmare. I've said this before...anybody who has read things I've written or looked at my relationships with people from foreign countries would be hard pressed to find any sort of prejudice here, but please, please, please--no matter how qualified a person is, if that person is a patient's entree into a medical procedure, make it someone who can be understood! The woman kept asking if people had come "from the orchard." I couldn't figure out what in the hell she meant. I listened to her for nearly 30 minutes (yes, we waited a long time) and she kept calling out if anybody there was coming from the orchard. It finally dawned on me that she wasn't saying "orchard," but "urgent care."

She gave my mother all her papers, a number, and a container, told her to "give a urine sample and then take a seat." So she did. She left her urine sample and joined me in the waiting room, where there is a sign saying that more urgent cases would be taken first so that you might not be called in arrival order, but my mother was there for chest pain and every single other patient (including one who was there for blood work prior to her chemotherapy treatment tomorrow) was sent to the blood draw stations and we were still sitting there. I finally went to the desk and asked the woman why all the other people had been served and my mother was still sitting there.

"She was supposed to sit over there," she said, indicating the draw station. Well...she never SAID that. She just told her to "have a seat."

So we finally got all the tests done and went back to the fifth floor, which said that the office was now closed until 1:30. Fortunately, however, once I called out, they came to the desk and said that the doctor had been waiting for us.

Final diagnosis -- who knows? She knows what it's probably not. She doesn't have all the blood work back yet, but her best guess is costochondritis, which causes pain and tenderness in the location where the ribs attach to the breastbone and which most often occurs on the left side of the chest, which is where her pain is.

Then my mother felt guilty for "bothering" the doctor and apologized for taking up her time for "nothing." Sigh. I'm trying to get her to understand that she pays over $200 a month for Kaiser insurance and if she never USES it, it's like throwing the money away. I'm hoping that will have an impact.

One thing, however, which was blatantly clear, was that she really shouldn't go to the doctor alone. I really don't think she would have found her way around to all the offices today without someone with her. She may not look 89, but she is 89 and the memory cells are having a difficult time firing effectively these days.

After we saw the doctor, there was more line-standing while she turned in a couple of prescriptions to be refilled and then we went off to lunch at a club near her house, which was a lovely way to end our day together--and wash away the memory of the nearly 3 hours we had spent at Kaiser!

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Says You," Part 2

I spent a part of the afternoon bemoaning my misspent youth...but I'll get to that in a minute.

First, we went out to Denny's for breakfast with Steve and Michael and found out what grown men do when they go out to breakfast on a Sunday morning.

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(It's a good thing that most of us drink our coffee black!)

By the time Steve had dismissed us all and was ready to get the hell out of there, it was too late to "do" anything and really too early to head to Skirball, but we did it anyway. Not surprisingly, we were the first in line! Another guy wasn't far behind us, though. But he wasn't interested in socializing. He had come prepared for the wait, with a chair, dark glasses, big earphones, and his iPod. As the crowd began to grow and chit chat with one another, this guy sat resolutely in his chair, keeping the rest of us out of his little private world.

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More people began to gather. The next couple behind us was, oddly enough, from Citrus Heights (where my cousin Kathy lives) and had driven all the way down for the show. We chatted with them a lot. This was their first time, but probably won't be their last.

logo.jpg (33333 bytes)Also, I hope someone can help me with this. Can you identify this logo? A woman in line had a bag with this logo and it looked like exactly the kind of bag I'm looking for to replace my 15+ year old bag. Let me know if you know what it is! (Isn't a zoom lens a wonderful thing?)

They finally opened the doors so we could pick up tickets and pass into the next waiting area. I hope this doesn't sound terrible, but it seems strange that in a Jewish Center, people would be herded into a small, cramped, hot room, packed like sardines, with no place to sit and have to wait for an undetermined amount of time. (I will admit that you could buy food in there, but still...)

This time we were prepared and in front when the doors opened, so we had much better seats and it made the show much more enjoyable, being able to see the entire stage rather than just half of it.

During mic check. Tony Kahn referred to yesterday's blog entry and my comment about the ceiling decoration reminding me of a giant shuttlecock. (It was fun being acknowledged, but thanks, Tony, for not pointing me out in the audience!)

Sher.jpg (64741 bytes)As the show progressed, we were reminded of why it's so much fun to go to an actual taping since there is so much that doesn't make it to air. This year seemed to be particularly flub-heavy and while that was great fun for those of us in the audience, the flubs and offhand political comments will be edited out of the final broadcast. They were also able to re-do bits that hadn't gone right the night before. All seven of those guys (6 panelists and host Richard Sher) are such quick wits that the humor flies back and forth like a ping pong ball over a net and it's such fun to listen to.

And you always learn something. Where else can you find out that mpeg actually stands for "Motion Picture Expert Group" or that an "Elephant" is a sheet of paper measuring 23x28? And it was nice to learn that "Yabbers" was not the name of Fred Flintstone's backup singers.

We also would have missed the fact that one of the young scorekeepers had to be replaced mid-way through the second taping because he apparently didn't appreciate all the humor and banter that was being tossed about and was having a hard time staying awake.

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But then we came to my lament over my misspent youth. The guest singers, who open the show and fill in during bluffing rounds, were the Scattered Tones (I think that was their name), an a capella group from UCLA. They were used in one game round to sing bits of songs that were the answer to the question. The task to the panel was to name the very first track on six well known albums. There was a lot of tittering about how little the panellists actually remembered during the period when these albums were popular, how some songs went best with brownies, etc., etc.

It made me sad because I only recognized the title of ONE of the albums, don't own any of them, and didn't know any of the songs they were naming. While many on the panel were enjoying the likes of Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the Beatles and smoking up a lot of funny smelling stuff, I was listening to crooners (Crosby, perhaps, but Bing) and belters (like Judy Garland) and girl band singers (like Doris Day). And even though Walt and I didn't marry young by the standards of 1965 (he was 25, I was 22), I was rockin' babies instead of rockin' and rollin'. So there is a huge group of people who are slightly younger than I who had a completely different experience of the 60s than I do!

All things considered, I am probably the better for it (given my addictive personality), but it was sad that I was sitting in a house full of people nodding appreciatively at not only the music, but the memories, and Walt and I were sitting there just listening. It had not been our experience.

When you add up the cost of tickets for two tapings, the cost of air fare, car rental, motel, and eating out for five meals, this ain't a cheap date, but boy was it worth every single penny. I can't wait for them to come back again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New and Improved

As you drive down Burbank Blvd., here in Burbank, there are signs on every lamp post which tell you that this is the "new and improved Burbank Blvd." It's been a year since we were last here and, I hate to tell you, but I am not sure what's new and/or improved about it!

We left just shortly after the crack of dawn this morning for the Sacramento airport.

I wandered around the airport while Walt got our boarding passes printed. I have always loved this innovative column of luggage that holds up the baggage claim area. I think there are three of them in all. Very clever on someone's part!

I was thrilled to discover that Sacramento has now gone all free wifi and has installed tables and benches for you to use with your computer, though I didn't. I had brought along a book on my iPod and just sat and listened to that until time to board the plane. (But I did send updates to Facebook via my cell phone and modern technology!)

The thing I like about Southwest is that they are more "colorful" than other airlines. One of the flight attendants had a pot belly and handlebar moustache (yes, it was a man!). The head attendant announced that her son had just become a film director and his first movie Scout Camp had just been released and we should all go see it -- or at least watch clips on YouTube. I felt duty bound to share that news with everyone else.

I did watch the film clip and probably won't see the film, but check it out for yourself, to make my flight attendant happy! His name is apparently Garrett Batty (I put that in in case he's googling himself).

We stopped for lunch at a Baja Fresh, then drove the long way out Burbank Blvd to our motel, where we stayed last year. Walt, who had read in an airplane magazine that naps are good for you, so he decided to take the article at its word.

We had a quick dinner at Denny's (where I decided that all foods come crispy, smothered, deep fried, or swimming in butter. Now they have a new thing called "pancake puppies," which are pancakes rolled in cinnamon and sugar with a maple dipping sauce. I ordered tilapia with mixed vegetables, and the tilapia came in a pool of butter (not that I minded, of course!) The choice of "sides" was corn, mashed potatoes, hash browns, French fries, onion rings, cinnamon apples (warm apple pie filling), corn and mixed vegetables. Very hard to eat healthy (not that I usually do!)

Then we drove up Sepulveda Blvd to the top, where the Skirball Center is located. This is our fourth year coming to see tapings of Says You (despite the fact that it's listed as the third year) and we know the drill now. We lined up at about 6:30 for the 7:30 show and we were among the first 25, but by the time we actually got into the theatre (after standing for half an hour butt to butt with everyone else), the seats were almost all taken. We had to sit in the next to last row behind a guy who had moved his seat out into the aisle, effectively blocking everyone behind him. I got to see half of the panel, and hear the other half!

While waiting for the show to start, we admired the ceiling, which reminded me of a badminton shuttlecock!

The show was, of course, lots of fun and I'm going to have to try to work up a song to "the lickpot's connected to the purlique..."

We talked a bit to Tony Kahn after the show and then came back here to the hotel. I spoke with Steve earlier this afternoon and made plans to meet him and Michael for breakfast tomorrow before we head back to Skirball for the second taping.

A nice way to spend a weekend!