Friday, July 31, 2009

Wedding Meme

When I first found this on Laquet's blog, I intended to run it for our wedding anniversary last month, and then I was in Europe on that day. But at the time when I would normally be writing a journal entry today, I am on the road heading for Santa attend a wedding. (Walt's sister's stepdaughter is being married on Saturday). So I thought I would run it today instead.

BTW, we are staying at Maravilla, where Walt's mother lives, while we are in town this time. Not only does it have no wifi access, it has no telephone in the apartment where we are staying. I will get entries up, either at a cyber cafe or at Tom's house, but I'm not sure when, so I should post irregularly for the next couple of days.

Now here's the wedding meme:

Where/how did you meet?
We have often wondered this ourselves. We met through the Newman Club at UC Berkeley, but we made such a big impression on each other that neither of us can remember when or where we actually met for the first time.

How long have you known each other?
Since about 1961. That's a loooooong time!!!

How long after you met did you start dating?
I was dating Walt's best friend, Dick for awhile and when Dick broke that off, I gradually started dating Walt. I'm not sure how long after we met that was, but at least a couple of years.

How long did you date before you were engaged?
Good lord...I don't remember. At least a year and a half, if not longer. Or so I think. Walt may remember better. I know it was about 4 yrs after we met.

How long have you been married?
Forty-four years.

When is your anniversary?
June 26

How many people came to your wedding reception?
Seems to me it was about 120 or something like that.

Where was your wedding?
We were married in the chapel at the old Newman Hall in Berkeley (it has since been torn down and a parking lot stands there now). Our reception was at the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park, prophetic, since we were to have such a close connection to Brasil years later!

What did you serve for your meal?
Oh, it was the standard wedding buffet, with salad, cold cuts, cheeses, rolls, fruit basket and stuff like that.

How many people were in your bridal party?
Four bridesmaids, four groomsmen, flower girl, ring bearer.

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Bridesmaids: Walt's sister, my friend Joyce, Jeri's godmother Jeri, my sister
Groomsmen: Walt's brother, our friend Dick, Dave Matula, Pat's husband, Rich

Are you still friends with them all?
Not all. We've lost contact with Dave Matula. My sister is dead but I am still in contact with the other women, Joyce only by Christmas card.

Did you or your spouse cry during the ceremony?
Nope. But I don't think the deaf guy attending his very first Catholic high mass (Mozart's Missa Brevis, with a string ensemble) was too happy! (His comment when it was over -- "It certainly was long!")

Any funny moments?
We didn't know it at the time, but when we saw the movies later, there was someone who had been in the park -- this was a public place, not a private place -- who decided to come in and get some champagne. You see her walking out of the building with two glasses of champagne in her hand and then see the camera man and try to shrink out of sight and hurry off down the hill.

Any big disasters?
Not even any small disasters.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We drove up Highway 395 to Canada. We spent some time in a cottage in Jasper and some time camping in Banff.

How long were you gone?
Two weeks, I think.

What is your song?
"Puff the Magic Dragon" (we chose it because we realized we didn't have a song and that song was playing at the moment)

What did you dance your first dance to?
I can't remember

Describe your wedding dress?

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The veil is the same one Jeri wore last year.

What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding?
I asked the florist for white roses and was very disappointed when the bouquet showed up and it was a big white orchid. I don't like orchids. But it was a small thing.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Ready

How do you get ready to go on a trip?

We are leaving tomorrow to drive to Santa Barbara for Walt's sister's step-daughter's wedding, which will take place on Saturday. Walt is going to stay in Santa Barbara longer than I am. I have to return to Davis on Sunday because I have jury duty on Monday afternoon.

The wedding is going to be unusual, I think. Jocelyn and David are part of a kind of charismatic church group and are both really lovely, loving people. They have chosen the Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse as the place where they will be married. It looks like a beautiful setting and the wedding will be outdoors.

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I understand it's going to be hot on Saturday, but hey--I lived through Florence, I can live through a little heat for the wedding!

Walt has gone back to work part time (he's been volunteering for about a year, but with the stimulus money freed up for various flood control projects, they have enough money to pay him for part of his time), but he came home early this afternoon so he could do laundry and get ready to leave tomorrow morning.

I guess this is the way normal people get ready for a trip of some length (even one that will only last a few days).

How am I getting ready? Well, first of all, I spent most of the morning setting up shell entries for this journal. It means that if necessary all I have to do is write an entry in HTML code in notepad and then do a cut and paste into the shell. But since the trip takes place over the end of one month and the start of the next, doing shell entries (which I always do anyway) involves redoing the page design for the month of August. Easy to do, just time consuming.

Then I partially cleaned off my desk, which has been heaped high with stuff since before I left for Europe (oh heck--since before Christmas. Of 2007.). Ashley moves in here when we are gone and this gives her elbow room if she wants to use my computer. I also needed to find my jury summons, which was buried somewhere in the piles, so that I had the information I needed to call ahead and find out if I'm still supposed to show up for the trial on Monday (I can check on Friday night).

And I couldn't leave town without writing letters to each of the three Compassion children because I try to write to them every Tuesday or Wednesday. Two of them I sent actual letters on paper and one I sent e-mail, because the envelope with the letters would be too heavy if I included a third letter, along with some stickers or something like I usually include.

The other thing I have to do is make some corrections to Dr. G's web page. Lemme tell you, doing this web page is a real experience. Not for the faint of heart. Or the squeamish. I may have explained this before, but Dr. G does "pelvic aesthetics," which involves making women's genital area look better, whether just because a woman is not happy with her appearance or because of some problem that developed as a result of surgery or childbirth or something. (This, incidentally, is a field that he added to his practice after I left the office.)

So his web page is filled with before and after pictures, which I try to make as clinical looking as possible to avoid weirdos spending much time on his site. It involves reducing the photos to the smallest size I can where you can still see the surgical work that has been done. I also add a copyright watermark, with his MD showing prominently.

But when I open my e-mail from Dr. G, it is NOT uncommon to be hit with a full screen, larger than life size photo of somebody's cootchiesnorcher in all of its hairy glory.

As I said, it is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. I hope I succeed in making these women as anonymous as possible and, truly, unless you've actually been there yourself, there's no way you can tell one from the other. I don't think.

I did call up the page one time at Cousins Day because Peach and Kathy thought surely I must be kidding. They could only look at the page for a split second before shuddering in horror and turning away. Good thing they don't have my job!!! (I must admit I have a clinical fascination with the whole thing and don't understand how hoards of people can stand rapturously staring at Michelangelo's David and yet feel nauseated by one of Dr. G's photos, which is as far from being anything "sexy" as you can possibly imagine -- especially after I get finished with it!)

But anyway, once the journal shells have been uploaded and the desk cleared and the letters written to the kids and Dr. G's web site changed, then maybe I'll have time to think about getting ready to leave for Santa Barbara tomorrow. But first I have to take Barkley to the thrift shop, where he will be picked up and taken in to be neutered.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Ol' Switcheroo

We've traded Tasha in on a new dog.

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I never could get a good photo of her because as soon as she saw the camera she would run away, though the SPCA photographer did get a couple of pretty good shots.

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She's a real sweetheart. She went to visit the convalescent hospital on Sunday and everybody wanted to keep her. She will make a great pet, but she and Lizzie didn't get along. It was an uneasy truce that erupted at least once a day into a bitter battle. Sheila was just great. She would get between the two of them and push Lizzie aside so I could separate them and move Tasha away.

She was also starting to feel at home here and "feeling at home" made her comfortable to test limits. We often found her standing on the kitchen counter. Not good!!!

When Ashley sent out an urgent call for foster homes, I suggested that we trade Tasha for one of the other dogs, and so now we have Barkley.

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He's a very sweet 3 year old Scotty/terrier mix. So far Lizzie is establishing territory, but there have been no battles. Barkley can't jump up to the kitchen table or the counter, but he can (and has) jumped in and out of my lap at least 50 times since he got home.

He seems to have fear of men. Ashley wrote, "Barkley was really scared at the shelter but as soon as he got in the car to go to his foster home he jumped in the front seat and gave me a kiss! He is a total sweetie who just loves people and dogs." The fact that he was "really scared" at the shelter and then reacted so positively to Ashley (and to me), but not to Walt makes me think that he may have had some negative contact with men. I told Walt to just go slow and I think he'll come around quickly.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cankle Awareness

Are you aware of cankles? Do you have them?

This is, the Today Show tells me, "Cankle Awareness month."

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Cankles are apparently fat ankles. I've suffered from cankles my whole life and didn't even know there was a name for it. Even when I was thin (well thinner) I had cankles. I weighed 135 and had cankles.

MomAnkle.jpg (57781 bytes)Some people, I learned this morning, are genetically predisposed to have cankles. I don't know where my genetic predisposition came from, since my mother and my paternal grandmother have/had lovely slim ankles, so cankles can't be found on either side of the family.

(Even with a swollen ankle from her accident--the top foot in the photo--my mother still has much slimmer looking ankles than I do!)

I remember in high school that I wanted to wear one of those sexy ankle bracelets and was appalled to discover that I couldn't find one that would go around my ankle. And I was normal weight then.

I actually accepted my cankles decades ago before I knew there was a name for them. Now I learn that not only is there a name for them, but there are cankle-reducing exercises and that some women spend thousands of dollars on liposuction for their ankles. I'll tell ya, we are really a crazy people, you know? What do you think someone rummaging through the garbage heaps of Haiti looking for food would think of someone who spends thousands of dollars to suck fat out of their ankles?

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“Cankles are the fastest growing ‘aesthetic affliction’ in the United States … even ahead of other bathing suit killers like Muffin Tops, Saddle Bags and Moobs,” said a representative of Gold's Gym, which apparently is spearheading Cankle Awareness Month.

(Moobs? What the hell are Moobs? And do I want to know?)

“Millions of people across the country are currently affected by Cankles and millions more are ‘at risk.’ In fact, it is estimated that if current trends continue, by the year 2012 Cankles will surpass Love Handles as the number one aesthetic affliction in the world," continues the Gold's Gym spokesperson.

Isn't it great when we live in a country that, even in the middle of a recession, can worry so much about "aesthetic afflictions"?

I dunno...since I started fostering these kids through Compassion and reading the stories of the legions of children who go to bed hungry every night, I find it difficult to get concerned about my cankles. I figure they're a sign that I've never had to miss a meal in my life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alert the Media

Hell has officially frozen over.

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Yes, folks, I dusted off the iron, gave a shot of WD-40 to the ironing board so it would open again and I ironed a shirt for myself. Harsh times call for harsh measures. We were on our way to the retirement dinner and the shirt I wanted to wear had been in the "to be put away" pile too long. Miraculously, the "ironing genes," no matter how weak, returned and I remembered how to iron a shirt. It's like riding a bicycle, without the bad knees.

I know people who love to iron. I was raised by someone who loves to iron. My mother was an ironing fool. She would iron anything from the most delicate shirts to diapers. She ironed dish cloths. She ironed sheets. She ironed towels. She ironed underwear. She ironed handkerchiefs. She probably even ironed socks. And she was so good at it that she didn't want to watch my bungling attempts at trying anything complicated so when I begged to have the chance to iron (yes, amazing as that seems today, I actually at one time begged to be allowed to iron), I only remember being given flat things to iron, never anything to sink my teeth into and present a challenge to me. But I'm sure I was able to even iron creases into handkerchiefs and in my mind's eye, I imagine that my mother would take the handkerchiefs out of the stack when I wasn't looking and re-iron them to her satisfaction.

At one time we had one of those mangle ironers, which made doing the flat stuff easier.

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I don't remember it looking exactly like this, but this was the closest I could find doing a Google search. It stood in our kitchen for years and I remember my mother sitting at it, surrounded by billows of sheets, running them through the rollers.

The difference between what we had back in the 1940s and the machine pictured above is that I know the legs of our machine were enclosed, not open like they are in this photo. The reason I know this is because my sister was a very bad eater. She dawdled and dawdled and the rule was that you couldn't leave the table until you'd finished your meal, so she would be sitting at the table for a long time after everyone else had left. Years later when my mother was trying to sell the mangle and was cleaning it up, she found bits of food remnants around the top of the tiny opening to the legs of the mangle. When she asked my now-adult sister about it, she confessed that the legs were probably filled with rotted food because after everyone left her alone in the kitchen, she would stuff her dinner down the legs of the mangle.

(Idle thought: why do you suppose they named a machine that was designed to make fabric smooth a "mangle"??)

PKCIRONING.jpg (102442 bytes)Peggy is an ironer. Just look at her in that crisply ironed blouse she's wearing while doing the rest of her ironing on our patio, back in 2000. I know it's nice to wear clothes that look like this, but isn't "the wrinkled look" all the rage these days? (Please?)

I actually ironed something at her house once, or tried to. "Are you sure you know how to use my iron?" she asked me. I scoffed--what did you need to know to use an iron? Well, you need an engineering degree to master her iron. Not only does she use the "wrong" side of the ironing board (she's right-handed), but this very expensive iron has so many dials and settings and cords and gadgets to it, that I think I finally gave up and let her iron whatever it was I was trying to iron for me. (I obviously learned at my mother's knee how to look helpless enough that I could get some devotee of the iron to do things for me so I wouldn't have to!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Old Guys

There's nothing that make you feel older than going to a retirement party for somone younger than yourself and looking at all the people you've known for 40 years and seeing how they have aged!

CKD.jpg (51470 bytes)Today is was time for the retirement party for Charles, who has worked in the same office as Walt for more than thirty years. He was the guy who was the MC for Walt's retirement party two years ago. They never worked on the same projects because they were in different sections, but they have been friends for all this time.

One office tradition that I always loved was lunch. Nearly 45 years ago, the wife of Walt's then boss (and still good friend), Dave and I decided that we wanted a break from having to pack our husband's lunches every day, so we demanded a day off and the guys started going out to lunch one day a week (I remember that it was Tuesday, but it's Wednesday now). The tradition continues to this day, though Dave has long since moved away.

CKDChris.jpg (46134 bytes)When we moved here to Davis, David was in school with Charles' oldest son, Chris and we didn't know what was going on, but eventually we learned that though Chris and Dave had different friends and traveled in different circles, every Wednesday they would eat their lunches together, because that's what their dads were doing.

Our kids will also be amused to know that at the retirement, Charles' youngest son, Mike, talked about how he always tried to find out what his Dad did for a living and how he could never figure out. He just knew that Charles was an engineer, and decided he must drive a train.

Events like this are always fraught with "moments." We sat down at a table in the senior center with the couple we usually sit with at these events and she looked around with a smile and said "the last time we were in here was for our son's wedding." I resisted saying "the last time I was here was at our son's funeral!"

This guy gave a funny roast for Charles

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Grey-haired old guy getting ready to retire from his second job. When he first went to work with Walt, it was in Berkeley, so pre-1973, and he was a young kid just barely out of college and with his first serious girlfriend (I think he eventually married and ultimately divorced her).

I wasn't there for the whole event because I had to run out to Petco to pick up Tasha and take her home, but I was back before it ended.

After the event, we gravitated toward a couple whose 40-something year old son had died in an accident earlier this year. We understood each other and we spoke with the familiarity that only comes to those who are members of this terrible club. But it was good. They've gone through most of their "firsts" without their son and we nodded sympathetically. It hate it, but in a weird way it was sort of good.

SPECIAL LAWSUIT ALERT: Ned has been posting old Lawsuit videos (because, of course, there are no new Lawsuit videos!) on the "Lawsuit Music Channel" on You Tube. If you were a fan and are missing Lawsuit in your life, or if you just wonder what the magic was all about, by all means check it out!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Return of Bongo

It was so nice to see Bongo again tonight.

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When we were on our trip, we talked about having an "after party" to rehash the trip and to share photos (though many of us have already posted them on line). With no date chosen, Jeri took the bull by the horns and suggested we have the party on August 30, when she will be in town and can attend. Everybody agreed that sounded like a great idea, so the party is set for August 30.

But some people decided that was way too long to wait, so an interim gathering was set for tonight. Thing was that not everybody could make it tonight, but Sheri, Ashley and Bongo came so I took the above photo to send to Jeri, so she wouldn't feel left out. He's sitting next to a container of prosciutto and melon that I brought as my contribution to the dinner. I think I may finally have gotten prosciutto and melon out of my system!

We enjoyed sitting around our hosts' gorgeous back yard, overlooking Mt. Diablo

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What a difference it was this time vs. the pre-trip parties. This time I wasn't uncomfortably standing around trying to get to know strangers I would soon be spending two weeks with, I was sharing memories with old friends who had survived the Bataan march together. I was hearing about how Kathy and Russ's trip to Spain had gone and what other people thought about the hell that is DeGaulle Airport security. It was remembering Ian and laughing about the time David posed with the statue of David.

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It was remembering the gelato and the chocolate croissants and the Big Head and Jennifer's trip to the doctor and all the other things we enjoyed together. It was sad that only about 10 of the group could make it, but fun that two of them, who were supposed to be at a party somewhere else, had to stop by for a few minutes because they couldn't stand not to see us when we got together for the first time. But I think almost everybody will be there on the 30th, when Jeri is able to join us.

At Cousins Day, Kathy asked what the state of the economy was in France and Italy and I replied that we stayed in 4-star hotels and you really didn't get a sense of that (or at least I didn't because I wasn't looking), but we were talking tonight about how few other guests there seemed to be at most of the other hotels (except the one in Paris, which I learned is owned by the same corporation that owns Motel 6 here). Once we left Paris, there were no other tour groups, no tour buses and in a couple of hotels, we never saw any other guests. The guy at our last hotel, outside Florence, said business was terrible and that not only were they not getting any customers, but the U.S. was no longer ordering their wine, which had been a huge financial blow to them, since it's their wine exports that pay for the upkeep on the hotel. (Makes me wish, now, that I had bought a bottle of wine, in addition to the olive oil I bought!)

I'm looking forward to getting us all together next month, when Jeri is here. We are now old friends who survived the 2 week tour and share memories we will never have with anyone else, though the chance of me seeing most of the others again is slight!

SPECIAL LAWSUIT ALERT: Ned has been posting old Lawsuit videos (because, of course, there are no new Lawsuit videos!) on the "Lawsuit Music Channel" on You Tube. If you were a fan and are missing Lawsuit in your life, or if you just wonder what the magic was all about, by all means check it out!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cousins Day

We decided last night that the first one to die takes cousins' day with her. We agreed that it wouldn't be the same with only three of us and we didn't see adding another fourth, so we all have to pledge to live a long time. With our various health problems and concerns this might be a challenge, but we decided that we would make the effort.

It was good to see everyone when Kathy showed up in the driveway yesterday morning. Because she had a real bout of her COPD, and I went to Europe and Peach & Bob went camping, we had to cancel the June get together, so it has been about two months since we last had our laugh-eat-and-drink session.

I was particularly glad to finally see everyone because I had all sorts of gifts that I'd picked up in our travels. I had such a good time shopping for these guys. I brought tableware from Provence for my mother (a bread basket, placemats and salt & pepper shakers, along with a perfume sample from Fragonnard, the perfume place in France we'd visited). Kathy and Peach both do crafty stuff and I found an embroidery shop where I got each of them lavender cachets with their initials embroidered on them. Peach also collects salt and pepper shakes and I'd picked up a cute set in St. Paul de Vence, a shmoo-like couple hugging each other. And Kathy collects pitchers of all kinds and I found one in Monterosso when we did the Cinque Terre cruise that I liked. They each also got soap from Fragonnard and shopping bags, Peach's from Paris and Kathy's with a cute picture of children on it.

It was like Christmas for the first bit when we got there and I loved it.

We sat around and got caught up on what is going on in whose life, those with frustrations, those with exciting news, and all sorts of talk about planning my mother's bit 90th birthday. A few monkey wrenches have been thrown into the mix, like Peach's husband finding out just last week that we need a security guard if we are going to serve alcohol. "Better get one hired quick, because it's Labor Day weekend," he was gold. Well--I only booked this place in January and they never said a word about needing a security guard. "It's a new state law," they told me when I questioned them this morning. I somehow find it difficult think that any wedding reception held in a public place in California is required by law to have a bonded security guard! I suspect this may be a PARK law, but she insists it's a new state law. When I asked why she hadn't looked ahead to see if the "new law" would affect any upcoming gatherings, she just looked blank and shrugged. When I asked her what would have happened if we showed up with 75 people ready to party and no security guard, she shrugged. She was great help.

But anyway, that was after cousins day.

We played our usual 65 marathon. My mother gleefully won three games, I won two and Kathy finally won one this morning. We didn't feel guilty about Peach at all since it seems she's usually the big winner (though, amazingly, the records since January show that I have won more games than anybody else).

I had brought some really delicious blue cheese bites that I found on the Pioneer Woman's web site. Since this was a delayed birthday party for Peach, Kathy fixed a "fuzzy navel" for a drink (which contains peach schnapps ... it went down entirely too smoothly and tasted more like drinking peach nectar instead of something with schnapps and vodka in it!)

Peach brought a Rachael Ray dinner, Pasta Caesar, something she'd never made before, which combines the ingredients of caesar salad with hot pasta and was very good.

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After another game of 65, I decided I was 65'd out, so we retired to the soft seats and sat up until 11 p.m. talking about all sorts of things, remembering that what goes on at cousins day stays at cousins day!!

This morning we were all up by 6 and my mother fixed a mountain of waffles. Before I could grab my camera, they all disappeared onto plates, but you get the idea.

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We packed up after one last game of 65 and headed home. I had to get home in time to put together a plate of melon and prosciutto to take to an after-party for the France/Italy group this evening, which I am about to do right now, as soon as I get this posted!

Gosh, I love these women...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Words in a Stream of Consciousness

Some time ago -- well, July 16, to be exact -- Bozoette Mary posted an entry called "five words in a stream of consciousness." She said that another blogger, Dichroic, had "given her five words to riff off of." Hers were "family, aging, juggling, writing and police." And she did a wonderful job.

She offered to send five words to someone else too, if they wanted to try it. Naturally, I said "sure" and so today she sent me my five words. Let's see how I can work them into a coherent journal entry:


It's easy to start with family because tomorrow is scheduled to be Cousins Day (so expect the next journal entry late, right?), This whole "family" thing is very strange for me and I think I have a warped view about it all.

My mother is from a large, very close family, but since my father hated them, I didn't grow up feeling a part of the family, as Peach and Kathy did, so the development of cousins day has been so wonderful for me, making me feel a real part of the family again.

My father's parents had nothing to do with any relatives on either side of the family (except one brother, my godfather). My grandfather had five siblings, my grandmother had 1 brother, but I don't think I ever met any of them. We saw my father's parents constantly so you'd think there would be a closeness there, but since my father hated his mother and she drove us all nuts, it was more a "we have to see them" thing rather than a familial closeness.

When my mother remarried, it was my thought that I would become part of a conjoined family but that never happened. I guess that's why the family closeness of Walt and me and our kids is so important. I hear people talk about how they never speak to their siblings and I'm so glad that's not the case in this family -- at least not so far. (Heck, Karen and I barely spoke--not that there was any animosity, but she just removed herself from the family when she was in high school.)

When I was little, I thought a lot about adoption. It was at the height of my Judy Garland fanatacism and I was convinced that if my mother would only put me up for adoption somewhere in the Hollywood area, Judy Garland would adopt me. Now THERE would have been a screwed up family to belong to!

I love the families where there is closeness among all the generations. Walt's family is a perfect example. His mother is the lone representative of her generation. His father died before I met him. But she has always been extremely close to her children, perhaps because she was a single mom raising three kids. I worry so much about what will happen when Alice dies, particularly with Walt's sister who has always treated her mother as her best friend. But Walt and his brother are also extremely close to their mother.

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(Picture from Christmas 2004)

It makes me so happy to see how Jeri, Ned and Tom feel about Alice, and about my mother as well. They all have a good relationship with both of their grandmothers. And if Alice lives long enough for Brianna to realize who her "Tutu" is, I'm sure she will also feel very close to her.

The one important element in dealing with family, however normal or weird it may be, is a sense of humor. My father wasn't the best father in the world, but he did pass along to me a great sense of humor which has sustained me through many crises. You can't spend 10 minutes with Walt's family without enjoying their shared laughter, and even without appletinis, Cousins Day is a time for laughing and enjoying one another.

(So, Mary? How did I do?)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I found myself suffering from "Underdog syndrome" yesterday afternoon. There is an episode of the old cartoon where Underdog, the mild-mannered canine shoe shine boy who becomes a superhero when people are in trouble, is feeling ill. He complains "things are fine when I sit down, but when I stand up, things go round and round."

It wasn't anything serious, but just enough to give me an excuse to get into the recliner and catch up on "True Blood" episodes. I also skipped dinner, deciding not to chance it, since we were going to the show that night.

Steve suggested that it was probably "vacation hangover" and when I asked how long I could realistically milk vacation hangover for sympathy, my friend Laurie, a frequent commuter between Italy and the U.S. assured me "you can work that jet lag for a loooong time."

That was good enough for me. I'm always happy to find an excuse, however flimsy, to sit and do nothing.

When dinner time came, I whipped up my specialty, "something with chicken in it" for Walt and a glass of water for me. Then we went off to Sacramento for our weekly Tuesday opening at Music Circus, this week Guys and Dolls.

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Music Circus is a Sacramento institution, now in its 59th year. Up until about 8 or 9 years ago, it was a real circus tent set up on a vacant lot in downtown Sacramento in the summer. Chairs were uncomfortable directors chairs and the temperature in the tent could be stiffling in the triple digit Sacramento summers. Productions are done in the round, which helps cut down on the cost for sets.

When we arrived in the area in 1973, the shows were generally cast with B-name stars, people whose names you recognized but who were not "big stars," who did the lead roles and then other roles were filled by local talent. We rarely went to any of the shows because the tickets were too expensive.

Music Circus also had an intern program through Sac State, where students could come and work at the circus and get theatre experience, but no money. Jeri worked the intern program for a year and then was actually hired the following year. I remember that one of the shows she worked on was Annie. You may not remember it, but Annie has two dogs in it. "Sandy" was played by a professional actor dog but they cast the other dog, one of the mutts running around the street, locally.

Jeri had a friend in Davis with a scruffy dog that fit the bill perfectly and who could be trained to go on and off the stage when directed. The family agreed to let the dog perform, but they didn't want to have to schlep him to and from Sacramento every night for a week, so I got the job of dog chauffeur.

Every night I picked the dog up, delivered him to the theatre, stuck around until he did his scene and then drove him home again. My one time being part of the Music Circus staff!

I can't remember when the Music Circus decided to ditch the tent and build a real theatre. I've been reviewing shows for nine years now and so it must have been about seven years ago because I think I had two seasons reviewing in the tent.

The new Wells Fargo Pavilion is wonderful, with real padded seats that you aren't afraid are going to collapse under you and, what's even better, air conditioning, so you no longer have to sweat through a musical on those hot summer evenings.

I still don't know how they can afford the place because this huge theatre sits empty 9 months out of the year. My cousin, who was bookkeeper for California Musical Theatre for many years before she retired, just rolls her eyes and shakes her head when I ask her about finances.

Guys and Dolls was a great show and it was good to see that it had a fuller audience than the last two productions have had (the economy is definitely hitting the arts!). Best of all, by the time we got home, "Underdog syndrome" seemed to have finally run its course.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Miss Jeri

Jeri has posted her "Self in France" photos to Facebook. If you're not on Facebook, you can't see them, but if you are, I have shared them on my page and the link on her page is here:

Presumably her "Self in Italy" set will be posted soon.

Looking through the photos makes me realize what a special time it was with her, what a tremendous help "my sherpa" was to me, and how much I miss her energy, her enthusiasm, her positive attitude, and her zest for life.

These two pictures were taken in Paris.

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The first was taken after our boat tour on the Seine, the second at the opera house (see me and Pat at the top of the stairs). I remember the long trek from the boat back to the hotel and how Jeri stayed with me every slow step, stopping when I needed to stop and was always cheering me on ("Come on, Mom--you can do it!"). I wonder what she thought at the end of the day, realizing that she was probably going to have to do this the whole trip.

The opera house was very special because only the three of us went to it. My very first trip out of the United States (other than Canada, which I didn't think really counted--I didn't need a passport for it) was because of The Phantom of the Opera, which we took Jeri (and all the other kids) to see in London after she graduated from UC Santa Barbara. Seeing the setting of that show "live" in Paris was really a very special thing for me and I was so glad to be sharing it with Jeri, who not only kept me going, but would scout on ahead for things we should see, to save me having to walk that far.

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I love this photo. Our hotel was a bit of a walk from where the X is, the direction away from the camera. The X marks the spot where we scattered Michele's ashes. Ian had pointed out a cemetery high on the hill overlooking Nice and the morning we were scheduled to leave, Jeri set out at the crack of dawn to climb to the cemetery. She was back in time for breakfast.

The thing I loved about Jeri was that she never missed an opportunity. She saw everything and did everything she could fit in. When I look back over our photos, hers are mostly of sweeping vistas taken from high places, mine are of food that we ate! Not that my experience wasn't just as meaningful for me, but watching Jeri set off on yet another adventure was just such an inspiration.

I loved it that she refused to think negatively. Whenever I started to complain, she would think of a positive about the situation and cheer me up. She would dash into a store to buy water for me, and in Nice found a place to buy one of those Provencal patterned napkins that I could use to wipe my face. It would become invaluble. When I thought I was going to collapse before getting to the bus in Versailles, she ran and brought me a sherbet that was about the best thing I ate on the trip. I truly don't know what I would have done without her.

"You've got to learn to say yes, Mom," she would say to me as I was embarrassed to let her carry my bag for me...and then she'd carry it for me so I could move easier.

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This was another photo taken in Nice, when we stopped at a Russian Orthodox church. Jeri had been taking self-portraits all over the place at all sorts of angles and to take this one she found a new angle.

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(the camera is resting against her foot)

Jeri and I probably will never have the opportunity to travel together again like we did on this trip, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I don't know where she gets her love of life or her positive attitude about everything -- certainly not from me! -- but it can be infectious and definitely was the thing that got me down those damn 250 steps in Portovenere and helped keep me from collapsing on the streets of Florence in the heat and humidity, trying to keep up with the group that was rushing to the Accademia to see "David."

Jeri, you were just great and I'm glad we had the time together. I'm also glad that you didn't have to hang around your fat old Mom the entire time and could go off on your own to all those high places I am now able to see through your photos.

Thanks, Honey, for being you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oh to be Cool

When you live in an area where the temperatures have been above 100 degrees for several days, this is the most wonderful sight of all.

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It's a wall of fog rolling in down Twin Peaks and into San Francisco. There is nothing more wonderful to this San Francisco-born girl than the see a fog bank like this.

We were meeting our Lamplighter friends for the 23rd observance of Gilbert's death. This year it was at a little French restaurant (not my suggestion!) across the street from Laguna Honda hospital, where my sister died (not that that has anything to do with anything...and it's not even a hospital any more...but whenever we pass by I always remember Karen).

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I swear it was like being back in Paris again, really (except that the waiters spoke excellent English). There were ten in our group this year and we were seated, as usual, at a long table. (The problem with this arrangement is that you only get to talk to the people across from you and next to you. I don't think I've had a conversation with Jill at one of these shindigs in years!)

The first thing the waiter did was to put bottles of water and baskets of very crisp baguettes on the table. That was when I decided it was like being back in Paris again.

I ordered a salad starter, Willa and Henry had escargot, which came not in the traditional way, but packed inside a big marrow bone with some stuff sprinkled over them and around the bone. Very strange presentation, we decided.

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Walt's soup came in a jauntily tilted bowl.

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We made the traditional Gilbert toast, "oh it's you" and another for Adrian MacNamara, who had come to these dinners until his death several years ago. The toast was made for his wife's benefit. As I looked around the group, though, I realized that we are losing people rapidly. John was there without Jeanne; Roger was there without Darian. Made me look at Henry & Willa and Walt & me and wonder which would be the next surviving spouse!

Henry, Walt and I had duck breast for dinner which was delicious.

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The thing that looks like a pancake is actually polenta with marscapone and then what tasted like brandied cherries on top. Very yummy.

table.jpg (38048 bytes)Walt and I split a creme brulee for dessert. It was $7 and it wasn't nearly as good as what I had in France. It tasted like they'd added some sort of liqueur to it and the consistency was runny at the bottom, but it was still tasty, if waaay overpriced for the size

We stood around inside the restaurant keeping Marie company until her cab came to take her home. Will was already (at 9 p.m.) complaining that he needed to get home to bed and that he used to be able to stay up very late, but lately he's just getting very sleepy.

Jill had offered the same excuse when she left before everyone else. She's over 70 now and can't quite take the same level of partying that she used to be able to. All things considered, fairy revels are not what they were!

We've now been doing this for more years than any of us knew Gilbert, even Marie (and I suspect she knew him the longest). Each year I think about how amazed he would be to know that we were still getting together in his memory each year. This year we were joined long distance by Laurie, who sent a message from Florence wishing us all well.

It's a good tradition. I'm glad we do it. And since Gilbert died in July, the excuse to get out of the valley in search of fog is always a welcome distraction!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oi, Pedro

They say it takes a long time to get the first letter from your sponsored child at Compassion, Int'l. I have 3 kids I'm writing to. Anjali, from India; Pedro, from Brasil; and Fred, from the Philippines. I'm not sponsoring Fred, just writing to him because his sponsors don't. Every kid should have someone to write to him. Lots of sponsors take on second or third or more children who don't have anybody sending them letters.

I was prepared to wait a long time before hearing from any of the kids, but imagine my surprise (and delight) to have already received my first letter from Pedro. Whoda thunk it would be the Brasilian who would be early!

It is, of course, just a "getting to know you" letter, without any real "communication" yet, but I'm thrilled.

I now know, for example, that he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. I know that he likes to play ball. His favorite food is rice, beans and meat (sounds like a feijoada fan there). His favorite subject is Portuguese -- I should study up on my Portuguese so I can read the side of the letter that is untranslated before checking on the translation.

His favorite color is white. How odd. "White" is never a color that I would even think about when choosing a favorite. I think of "white" as more the absence of color.

I now know that he has a mother and a stepfather, a brother (Everton) and three sisters (Vitoria, Sara and Ana Clara). He also lives in the area of Recife. We had someone from Recife stay with us once. I wish I could remember who that was....

He also asks how old I am, what I do, and what my favorite sport is.

OK--so it's not exactly an outpouring of his thoughts and feelings, but I'm thrilled to have it.

Best of all, it comes with a drawing:

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The original information I had about him said that he likes cars, and that shows in this picture. I should ask him what the design on the side of the car is.

And I guess that might be a colorful soccer ball?

NEDPEEP.JPG (46434 bytes)But what I love about the picture is the figure at the left. Is this a self portrait? Does he see himself with spiky green hair?

If so, he and Ned would get along well! I should try to find some of the more outrageous hair styles that Ned has had over the years and send them to him. But then since he looks like a rather normal Brasilian boy, perhaps giving him ideas isn't such a good idea!

(At the moment, Ned's shaved head is slowly growing back in again. He has a plan for the regrowth, which involves an amount of creativity, but I think I won't say anything about it and wait until the project is finished to talk about it -- but I have to say I'm anxious to see how it all comes out myself!)

I hope this will be the first of what will grow into many exchanges between me and the three children. Compassion seems to encourage communication, not only between sponsor and child, but among the sponsors themselves, an opportunity to share ideas and brag about your "kids." Compassion also arranges for group trips to visit the schools where the sponsored kids study. Maybe some day I will actually take that trip to Brasil after all!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Uncle Walter

WalterC.jpg (15852 bytes)I'm sure it didn't come as a surprise to anybody to hear of Walter Cronkite's death...the man was 92 after all, and in "declining health"...but it's still a shock when someone who was such a huge part of your life for so long dies.

We actually watched Huntley and Brinkley for the nightly news, but when there was anything "big" going on in the country, you wanted Uncle Walter to hold your hand and guide you through it. He personified television journalism for more than a generation as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News.

Who can forget the unflappable newsman losing his composure briefly when he had to announce to the country that President Kennedy had died.

Or the little-kid excitement as he reported on the moonlanding and subsequent walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong.

What power it must have been to know that the President of the United States (Johnson) feels that "If we've lost Cronkite, we've lost middle America," when thinking about the country's ability to win the war in Viet Nam.

WalterCtyping.JPEG (5114 bytes)There was a time when he was the most trusted man in America. But he's been off the screen for a long time now and with 24 hour news, the way that our media news is delivered has changed significantly. I often long for the days when you knew that if Uncle Walter said it was so, you believed it. There are no others of his ilk left any more.

Rest in peace, Walter. Nobody will ever fill your shoes.

* * * * *

LittleManClapping.gif (965 bytes)We went to a show in Sacramento tonight. We carpooled with my colleague, Jeff. I sat behind the reviewer for The Sacramento Bee, and at intermission talked with two other critics.

On the way home. Jeff and I were talking about reviewing in general. Jeff is always giving me a hard time for continuing the review the same tired old musicals and tonight he talked about the "Andrew Lloyd Webber people" who will go and see ALW musical over and over again.

I've always thought this was a very strange attitude from a man who eats, drinks and lives Shakespeare, who attends every Shakespeare festival within a 100 mile radius. I finally pointed that out to him. I also pointed out that I actually like the tired old musicals and don't really like Shakespeare. He had to admit that I had a point.

LittleManFalling.gif (771 bytes)As I pointed out, everybody has his or her own tastes. The last show I reviewed was a perfect example. The Bee reviewer praised it to the skies, I gave it a lukewarm review. We both said that this wasn't the show for everyone's taste -- and I guess we proved our point by his being so enthusiastic about it and me being so "blah" about it.

A critic is just someone who gets paid to write down his or her thoughts about a production. I don't think my opinion is any better than the average theatre-goer; I just get paid to talk about it. On some shows, I may be able to pull out comparisons to previous productions I've seen, but bottom line is that it's really just my opinion.

LittleManSleeping.gif (575 bytes)It's flattering to know that people go to my reviews and read them to decide whether or not to go and see a show, but I know that I don't trust the reviews of some respected big city newspaper critics because invariably our tastes differ. I'd rather make up my own mind on a production than trust a critic with whom I know I disagree most of the time.

(I remember the years when critics routinely panned Lamplighter shows, for example, which I obviously thought were excellent.)

But I guess I'm glad that there are people who do rely on the opinion of a critic -- or I would be out of a job...and not get those free tickets to see all the shows any more! (So let's just keep my opinion about the job a secret, shall we?)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Reborn Adolescent

They say you can't go home again, but I've recently discovered that with the right reading material you can revisit, briefly, the days of your idealized adolescence, when everything was possible, even true love between disparate species. (OK, so maybe in the 50s and 60s we never thought about the possibility of love between disparate species, but if Stephanie Meyer had been around, I'm sure we would have.)

Char told me some time ago that I really should be reading the "Twilight" series of books by Stephanie Meyer. She said her whole family (at least the females) had read them. That they borrowed them from her eight year old granddaughter should have been a clue. Haley is precocious, but what is interesting to a precocious prepubescent should be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism by post-menopausal adults.

I never followed through on Char's suggestions until Kimberly ("Indigo") of my only daily "must not miss" web site, That's My Answer, got hooked on the books. Breathlessly she posted status reports to Facebook detailing the page she was on in which book and got enthusiastic response from a lot of her readers. OK--even Kimberly is younger than almost all of my children, but she is at least married with children.

Then we went to a brunch at Ned & Marta's shortly before I left for Paris. Marta's stepsister and her husband Ian were at the brunch, as was Marta's stepmother. Her stepmother said "I'm reading this interesting book" whereupon Ian grabbed his bald head and shouted "Please don't tell me it's 'Twlight'." and launched into a diatribe about everything that's wrong with the series.

Thinking I needed to find out what all the fuss was about and that it might be worth reading on the trip, I downloaded Book 1 to my Kindle. When I got to Paris, I discovered Jeri was reading it, unhappily (and complaining all the while about how stupid it was). I kept reminding her she was supposed to be reading it with the emotional maturity of a 14 year old.

twilight.jpg (40111 bytes)And so it was that in a hotel somwhere in Paris, I crossed over into the dark side and began reading Book 1 of the four-book saga, entering the world of wimpy young Bella, her vampire boyfriend and the werewolf who loves her.

(What is it about the Pacific Northwest that it attracts such creatures--and should I be warning my friend Diane, now that she has moved farther away from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, that she shouldn't go for a stroll in the woods near her house?)

Each book is somewhere over 500 pages long, but when you read it on the size electronic screen that I do, it's easy to flip quickly through the pages, perhaps not reading quite as "completely" as you should.

The plot of Books 1 and 2 is fairly simple: girl meets vampire, girl gets vampire, girl loses vampire, girl gets werewolf, girl gets vampire again. Nobody lives happily ever after. (I assume that's what Books 3 and 4 are for.) I found myself flipping through pages a lot faster in Book 2. There is apparently great debate among devotees of this series about which is the more attractive figure: Edward the vampire or Jacob the werewolf.

Now Edward isn't one of those "bad" vampires. He's a member of the Cullen family, which has learned to resist human blood and who get their sustenance from killing animals. They live in the Pacific Northwest because the sun shines so seldom they are able to live relatively normal lives. Bella meets Edward in school, in fact. But he's cool and aloof and their relationship borders on emotionally abusive.

All Bella wants is to be a vampire and she can't understand why Edward, who, she knows, is her forever love, won't turn her into one. In fact, so far it hasn't been explained what's the big deal. She loves him, he loves her, his life appears to be fairly "normal" (for a vampire), eventually she will grow old and die (she had a bad dream where she is an old, old lady...of 30!) -- what's the big deal if he changes her into a vampire? Well, other than that her Dad, the police chief, might not approve (but then he doesn't know Edward's a vampire.)

Jacob seems to be the "good" one, though when thwarted he is very terrible and his pack is at war with the vampires, though they have come to an uneasy truce where they won't attack the vampires in the Cullen family, as long as they don't bite any humans (which, of course, does kind of put the kibosh on Bella's desire to become a vampire).

There's lots more to it, of course, and in Book 2 it involved a quick trip to Italy where Bella got her taste (no pun intended) of the life of more traditional vampires and I was glad I didn't travel down too many narrow streets in Florence.

The beginning and the end of Book 2 was kind of good, but since I'm in the Edward camp, I didn't really enjoy the whole Jacob thing. I questioned whether it was going to be worth it finishing the series, but Char is cheering me onward. "You need to continue just so you can get the full taste of vampire sex in book 4."

OK. I'll take your word for it. I do want to know how it all turns out, but I may stock up on garlic for awhile.

Book 3 starts with Bella being grounded for having run off to Italy without telling her father (fathers are so unreasonable). An example of how this thing goes:

Ever since my former best friend (and werewolf) Jacob Black had informed on me about the motorcycle I'd been riding on the sly--a betrayal he had devised in order to get me grounded so that I couldn't spend time with my boyfriend (and vampire) Edward Cullen ... This was an escalation from the previous, slightly less stringent grounding that I'd earned for an unexplained three-day disappearance and one episode of cliff diving.

>1000 more pages, eh? Sigh...

For those who are fans of the book -- or who have read the book -- or for those who want a fabulous tongue-in-cheek look at the series, I highly recommend the web site "Yes I read it; it's still stupid." Truly priceless.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Bidet Drinking Fountain

There was a band that pre-dated Lawsuit. It was called The Heffalumps. I sometimes get confused about which were Heffalumps songs and which are early Lawsuit songs. But I know "The Bidet Drinking Fountain" was Heffalumps.

I knew what a bidet was, of course, but I had never seen one (and so had a completely different mental image) until this trip, when we had a bidet in two of our hotel rooms.

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This was our bathroom in St. Margherita Ligure and then our bathroom in Siena had a bidet as well.

Some of the women on the trip were repulsed by the idea of a bidet (Char said that she remembered a group that found it convenient for washing feet). I couldn't understand how a bidet was any more "disgusting" than a toilet would be.

I decided that when in Rome (or other parts of Italy) you should do what the Italians do, so I gave it a try. I became a bidet enthusiast. What a civilized, logical invention. I think this country should go with a platform of not only a chicken in every pot but a bidet in every bathroom.

TP.jpg (58027 bytes)Of course many of us in this country have tiny bathrooms. To put a bidet in our downstairs bathroom, for example, we'd have to give up any space to put your feet at all.

I recently bought this clever little doohickey that holds toilet paper. You hang it on the side of the tank. I thought that was really a good idea, not realizing until after I got home that there isn't enough space between the tank and the wall to hold the darn thing--so it sits on top of the tank.

If you can't put something the width of a roll of toilet paper next to your toilet, you sure as heck aren't going to be able to install a bidet.

However, we Americans are inventive people. And we're always up for improving something that seems to have worked for hundreds of years.

I did some research on toilet paper and discovered that it dates back to the Tang Dynesty in China (618-907 AD) when it was written, "They (the Chinese) are not careful about cleanliness, and they do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper."

The 16th century French satirical writer Francois Rabelais in his series of novels Gargantua & Pantagruel, discussing the various ways of cleansing oneself at the toilet, wrote that: "He who uses paper on his filthy bum, will always find his ballocks lined with scum", proposing that the soft feathers on the back of a live goose provide an optimum cleansing medium. (There are all sorts of problems I can envision if one is going to use live poultry to wipe one's bum!)

The Toilet Paper Museum (you just knew there had to be such a thing, right?) has pictures of early rolls of toilet paper (the first paper for sale for that use was folded flat mother still recalls using pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog and I've heard references to corn cobs).

But there is nothing invented that can't be improved upon and the people who have brought you things to clean your toilet and your bathroom tub have now come up with "Comfort Wipes," a new method "to provide sanitary cleanliness."

"For over a hundred years we've been using toilet tissues the same old way. Now there's a better way with the extended reach and comfortable to use Comfort Wipe™. It grabs and holds the toilet tissue in perfect postions so you can easily wipe yourself. When you're done, just dispense the soiled tissue right in the toilet with the press of a button. Comfort Wipe™ extends your reach a full 18" while the anotomical design follows the contours of your body for perfect cleaning. It's perfect for everyone, especially if you have trouble easily reaching because of physical limitations such as bad shoulder or other mobility litimations. Now you'll never have to touch a dirty toilet tissue!"

I dunno. I'm kinda used to handling toilet paper and if I had to choose between the "Comfort Wipe" and a bidet, I'd take a bidet any day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Long Day's Journey into Night

I love my mother. When everyone around me looks at me like I'm an escapee from a TB ward, she waves them off and says "she's had that cough since she was a little girl..."

And I have. Every single time I get any sort of respiratory "thing," whether serious or trivial, the ultimately settles in my lungs and stays there for at least a couple of weeks, sometimes as long as month, gradually working itself out over time. And so it is that on the end of the Trip Bug, I have the traditional cough, something I have not had for a blissful 2 years. Which is OK because I am used to it, my mother is used to it. I know that it's not nearly as serious as it sounds and I also know that there is no medicine which will help break it up--in 66 years, I have tried 'em all, believe me!

But the down side, of course, is, first, that people look at you like you have the plague, and second, it's difficult to sleep when your body wants to turn your lungs inside out.

I took Tylenol PM last night, desperately needing some sleep and it worked. For 2 hrs. By 1 a.m., I was wide awake, but managed to get back to sleep until 3. This is becoming my new normal--sleep 2 hrs, then get up, go back to sleep for another 2 hrs and then be awake for the rest of the day.

It's not so bad when you have nothing to do for the day, but I had a full day ahead of me. In the morning I was going to my mother's to meet with her, her stepson, and her investment broker about the status of her account. I had hoped we could do this tomorrow, when I didn't have a show to review at night, but apparently this was the only day that would work. So I set off, armed with 100+ photos of the trip that I had printed for her, thinking we would have time to go through them all.

As I hit highway 37, the road that crosses the Delta, I hit really, really bad traffic as far as the eye could see, through all the vegetation.

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I called my mother to let her know that it appeared I would do the 21 miles of 2-lane highway at 5 mph. (In fact, about 15 minutes later, it finally cleared and I got there quicker than I expected.)

Ed was there and I gave her the package of photos and she said she'd enjoy looking at them later (after I'd gone, which means she won't have a clue what she's seeing and I won't have the fun of reliving the trip with her through the photos).

We eventually had lunch and then took off for the broker's office, discovering when we got there that the office had moved years ago. My mother didn't remember the name of the company, only knew that her broker was named "David" and hadn't thought to bring any paperwork with her, so we drove back home again and called him. It turned out the office moved two years ago, but it was close to her house, so David came over and we went through her portfolio, I got some sort of an idea of what her financial situation is, we agreed to move some stuff around, and eventually David left.

I was already sleepy, but had to rush home hoping to get a nap before I had to go review a show.

Highway 37 was not crowded, but it's 21 miles without any place to pull over and it was such a horrible struggle to stay awake.

(NOTE TO SELF: Michael Connelly is great audio for driving; Dean Koonz not so much. Koonz uses rich language that I suspect is better suited to be experienced visually...It was putting me to sleep!)

mocha.jpg (42408 bytes)It's about 25 miles from my mother's to the first McDonald's. I barely made it, but the Mocha Latte was just what the doctor ordered -- a jolt of sugar and a jolt of caffeine in a big cup filled with ice that kept me awake all the way home.

Coming home, I had an accident. I had pulled into the driveway and thought I had my foot firmly on the brake when I turned toward the passenger seat to disconnect the iPod and gather up all my garbage before turning off the air conditioner. Apparently my foot wasn't as "firmly" placed on the brake as I thought and I ran into the wooden structure that hides the garbage cans. I knocked over the structure and the garbage cans, but fortunately no damage to anything and no dent to the fender of the car.

I needed sleep.

Walt got home shortly after I did and I brought him up to date on my day (and the accident) and then settled into the recliner to get some sleep, which is when the cough, which the Mocha Latte had quieted, took hold and after about 30 minutes, I gave up getting a nap.

The show was OK. It apparently got rave reviews in New York, but I was lukewarm to it, and when it was over, I was very, very sleepy. So it's only 10:30, but I'm going to had off to sleep and hope that I can make it until 3 a.m. (because I know that there is little chance that I can sleep through the night!). I'll leave writing the review for when I wake up and can't get back to sleep again!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Evolving Tastes

I napped this morning, falling asleep during a pre-recorded episode of Leverage. When I woke up, the recording had ended and I was now watching (shudder) Martha Stewart introduce ladies who ran a cupcake blog. Martha and the ladies were comparing their favorite cupcakes and Martha said that her favorite cupcake recipe was a coconut cupcake.

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The cupcakes she showed, topped with fluffy white frosting and toasted coconut looked so good.

I realized how my tastes have changed over the years. When I was little, my godfather used to bring us boxes of Sees candy whenever he came to dinner. It always gagged me to unsuspectingly bite into a candy only to find it was a chocolate covered coconut. I hated coconut. It was one of the incentives for learning how to identify the contents of a bonbon by the design on top of it before biting into it (trust me--I know a coconut one!)

I probably still wouldn't go and buy a Mounds or Almond Joy bar today, but if I bite into a coconut candy I eat it, and I cook with coconut, loving the Indian and Thai dishes whose taste comes heavily from coconut milk, which tastes so much different from packaged sweetened coconut.

The Martha Stewart experience got me to thinking about the kinds of things that I never ate as a kid and now consider it a real joy to eat.

Bugs.jpg (64495 bytes)As a little kid I could not eat raw carrots.

It wasn't necessarily that I didn't like them, but I simply could not physically swallow them. No matter into how many tiny pieces I chewed them, they refused to go down my throat, even with the help of water.

My mother eventually stopped giving me raw carrots. I don't know when I was finally able to eat raw carrots, but ranch dressing is a powerful inducement, I guess. Now I can easily process raw carrots and though I don't cook carrots a lot, I do like them.

Mushrooms were another story. I don't suppose I had any problem swallowing them, but I hated them. Slimy things that nauseated me if I knew that I was eating one. I think that part of the resistance of kids to certain foods has something to do with being able to identify them. My kids, for example, hated zucchini but never had any problem choking down zucchini bread and had no idea when I hid zucchini in meat loaf or in soup.

Now I love mushrooms. I stuff 'em, sautee 'em, and add them to lots of foods.

One of my recent favorite fresh herbs is cilantro. I remember when even the smell of cilantro made me run from the food. It was that soapy flavor that I really hated. I suppose it was the whole explosion of Thai food that made me rethink how I really felt about cilantro. Now I can't get enough of it. I love it in most Mexican foods and love it in Thai food.

I really would like to say the same thing about goat cheese, but I just can't stand the taste. Or perhaps I haven't tried a mild enough brand. There was a girl in the dorm where I lived while I was attending UC Berkeley. She had grown up on a sheep farm and couldn't stand lamb in any form because she told me it smelled like an old sheep. I guess that's how I feel about goat cheese -- it smells like an old goat. I did have something recently (not on our trip) which I loved and later found out was goat cheese, but it sure wasn't the goat cheese I've tasted all these years.

Before we left on our trip, I watched the Rick Steeves video on So. France and was amused when a local woman took him into a fromagerie and had him smell a type of goat cheese which she became ecstatic about and told him it smelled like "the foot of an angel."

Look. I don't care if those feet never touch the ground as they fly around the heavens, but somehow the idea of eating something that smells like anybody's feet, whether earthly or heavenly, just isn't going to sell me on trying it!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Brunch with Bri

Tom, Laurel and Bri came to town this weekend to go to a 1st birthday party for Bri's cousin. We were able to catch up with them at Ned & Marta's for brunch this morning.

Walt had seen Bri recently, when he last went down to Santa Barbara (for Tom's beach BBQ while Jeri and I were in Italy), but I hadn't seen Bri since her birthday weekend in March, I don't think.

She's in gym classes now and loves playing with the exercise ball

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She was also intrigued by Ned and Marta's treadmill.

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Marta made a nice breakfast with something I'd never had before, believe it or not--biscuits and gravy. I know it's a staple in some parts of the country as a breakfast food, but I don't think I'd ever had it before. Yum-o, as Rachael Ray would say.

Ned and Tom showed off their respective children's tricks.

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And Ned had fun with his newly toothless state.

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(When Ned was in Little League, about age 10, his front teeth were knocked out during practice. Fortunately, his coach was a dentist and rushed Ned off to the office where he reimplanted the teeth. He said that they would probably always be discolored and would probably have to be replaced when he was about 18. Well, the teeth lasted him to age 40, but the time is now and he's started the process of implants. Brianna was fascinated by the gap in his teeth!)

And of course they couldn't end the day without Ned taking a movie, trying out Brianna on his new green screen.

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I'm sure a Superbaby video is in the making!

It was really a fun morning and we were so happy to have a chance to visit with all the kids, old and young (and 4-footed!)