Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Old People Get Special Things

On the drive up to Utah this weekend (Ben, the heir to the family silver, was baptized) my parents surprised me with a drive into Kolob Canyon. It's in the north west corner of Zion National Park off the I-15 in between St. George and Cedar City. You can catch a tiny glimpse of it if you happen to be looking east at exit 40. Years ago I saw that glimpse and I've wanted to go in ever since. But my dad rarely veers off course when road tripping, hence the surprise. We pulled into the ranger station before entering the park and Dad walked in to get his pass and came out with the $10 senior citizen lifetime National Park pass. And it thrilled him to no end. He showed everyone that card. Including the guy at the bagel shop the next day. My dad loves getting senior citizen discounts.

This became a helpful anecdote when later we were talking to Gina and Chris about Chris' mom. She is a real sweetheart of a woman, I seriously have never met a nicer lady in my life. Even when she is destroying you in cards or dominoes she is doing it with a smile. She is the original Baby Face Assassin. (Chris is BFA Jr.) But she is getting on in years and is a little wobbly and has some memory lapses. Her family is in agreement that she needs one of those life alert necklaces with the GPS tracking in case of wandering, and motion sensor in case of falls. It's a sensible thing but they're fully aware that she is going to fight it. Because, let's be real here, the elderly are stubborn. For good reason. Their freedom is being taken away either by health or their children. You don't have to be an Aged P to not like that.

We discussed some tactics they could take to smooth it over with her and here's where the cheapo National Park pass comes in. Old people get special things. So you can't drive anymore. And your vision is shot. And people start mentioning Depends around you, and not as a joke. But you also get to live your life in stretchy pants or muu muus and nobody cares. You get a whole different section of food on menus that is cheaper. You get to say whatever you want and all anyone can say back to you is, "Oh, Grandma." And you also get really cool necklaces that magically connect you to a person if you happen to find yourself in a place you've never been before and you're not sure how you got there  or how to get home. See, special things galore! I've even made up a little jingle in my head. I'll teach it to you so you can use it on your own parents when it's time.

I'm glad I've been 80 for several years now. I think that necklace would go great with the Muu Muu Years.

Speaking of stubborn old people, it's my Grandpa's birthday on April 2nd so feel free to go to Taco Bell and have a Pepsi in his memory. And if you go out to eat do not tip your server. I really miss that guy.

And for the record, Kolob Canyon was majestic and beautiful and grand. When we turned the corner into it we all gasped. It's worth the 45 minute detour on your trip.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Law

1. We signed up with a new towing company at the Institute. The problem has just gotten so out of hand. Like, beer cans on the grass every morning, drug deals late at night, girls getting harassed walking to their cars kind of out of hand. So about a month ago this guy named Leo came in and asked if we wanted to use his towing company because they will patrol at night and tow at will. Awesome. Sign us up, Leo! Our old towing company was fine but they would only come when called. We need a more proactive approach. So Leo came back on Friday to sign us up and brought a two pound box of See's as a thank-you for the business. And all day today there were tow trucks taking cars away. And the question I have is, would it be appropriate to ask Leo to be my boyfriend? Because chocolate and solving our hoodlum problem is my love language.

2.  My debit card was compromised AGAIN!!!! This time by a company called Asurion which, ironically, claims to be a wireless protection business. When I called the number the bank gave me the first thing they asked for was my card number and social. Jokeland! This is the 4th time in 3 years and folks, I'm done. I'm going off the grid and will live in a cave and all of my transactions will be in fur pelts and decorative pine cones.

3. Here's a grainy picture of my new glasses:

And here's a grainy picture of my new glasses with Prince Face

I love them. The entire inside, the part up against my face, is pink. It's quite cheery.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Old Shirtless Guys in the Wild

Once again the sisters and I packed up our bags and headed out to the desert for some tennis and relaxation.

Every time I go to Palm Springs I think I can live there. Which is insane because I would fry like a piece of bacon in that heat. But it's really my kind of town. It's small but still has a lot of art and culture. I love the mid-century architecture. It's kitschy to the max. And there are tons of old people. They're everywhere! If I moved out there now I could start my Total Muu Muu Immersion a full 15 years ahead of schedule.

Have you noticed that some people just look like they were born to be in the sun? They wear cool resort clothes and their sweat makes them look healthy and fabulous. I look like I was born to live in a dark, wet cave and my sweat makes me look like I have some sort of glandular condition.

Anyway, let's talk tennis.

Specifically, old leathery guys who watch tennis without shirts on. Because the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is filled with them. And here's what we noticed. They always sit alone. It is rare to see a guy without his shirt on sitting next to another human being. Because another human being would Prince Face that guy right back into clothes. They are almost always up on the top of the stands and if there is someone with them it is another Shirtless Guy sitting at an appropriate distance.

Look, I can't actually blame them because it is surface-of-the-sun hot out there. We all do what we have to do to get by. My sisters and I, for instance, shamelessly wore cooling towels over our heads and I'm telling you those were a heavenly gift. We also took restorative naps in the shade in between matches.

We got quite a few matches in too. You may recall that we skip the big ones because either you sit at the top of Stadium One and watch from a far distance what could be Roger Federer but could also be a drag queen dressed as Roger Federer. Or you could go to Stadium Two which is like sitting in a dutch oven. Also, the crowds. Tennis may seem like a genteel sport but the fans are just as rabid. You do not want to fight over a seat with an old man who could at any moment take off his polo shirt. So we watch lesser known tennis players in the smaller courts where you sit so close you can see the fuzz fly off the balls. They are still impressive and exciting and, that early in the event, more evenly matched. I sat directly behind the line judge for a whole match and pretended like I could make the calls.

I got it wrong most of the time. But seriously, the view! Just look at those palm trees. And just out of view is yet another Shirtless Guy.

Well, that's another one on the books. Next year I'm going to really class it up and get one of those mister bottles with the fan attachment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Just Say No

One of  my Institute students left the building and then came back in and said that there were three guys hanging out by her car and smoking pot and she had to get into her car but they were kind of freaking her out. And frankly I had had about enough of this nonsense so I went out to shoo them away. There are always kids smoking pot in our parking lot. It's like a Grateful Dead concert out there, minus the 30 minute guitar solos and offensive BO. And I either call the cops, who will only come out occasionally because it's a private property, or sometimes, if they look like they won't murder me, I'll go out and kindly tell them to scram. Whenever I talk to them they always give me the same dead-eye gaze and smirk and then slowly walk away. And then I weep for the youth of today. I know that kids have been getting high in church parking lots for as long as pot has been in existence. But it still makes me sad. And angry, because you would not believe how many empty chip bags I find every morning.

So I walked up to these guys and asked them to please leave because we're trying to maintain some decorum here and one of them asked, "Is this a church?" and I said yes. And then the best thing happened. All three of them looked aghast. Like they realized what that meant. That it's disrespectful to loiter and smoke pot in a church parking lot and their mothers would be mortified if they ever found out. And they all started to apologize and pack up their bags and put out their blunts. So I invited them inside anytime they wanted a place to hang out, without the pot, of course. They kept apologizing and wishing me a blessed day and I just wanted to hug them for being so decent about it. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Signs of Age

There have been some signs of age. Neon signs.

1.  I left early from a concert on Saturday night. Cynde came into town because she really wanted to see Rachael Yamagata play and while I don't actually know her music I went along because I love Cynde, and I love live music, and the tickets were cheap. But the music was mellow. Too mellow almost. And the Fonda Theater doesn't have seats. And we had been walking all afternoon. And after Rachael Yamagata was done Joshua Radin came on and I didn't know him either but he was even more mellow and strummy. So zero dancing and at that time of night it's either dance or sleep. And the 80 year old woman in me totally came out and we left. I will say this, Rachael Yamagata was one of the best performers I've ever seen. And Joshua Radin, while possibly a little too snoozy for me, has a lovely voice and graying temples. I have a real weakness for graying temples. Of course I do! I'm 80!

2. My eye sight is IMPROVING! And that, apparently, is a sign of aging, or so says my optometrist. Go fig. He also said there's a chance I could be done with glasses in a few years. Is this even a joke? I don't even know what this means. But I do still need them for the time being so I got cute new glasses, which should arrive shortly.

3. My arthritic shoulder is acting up again. Actually, it's not totally arthritic. The muscles on the right side of my back are pulling away from my body. And I blame the kids at the institute. Here's why: they were gone for weeks and weeks, through the Christmas break and the long winter intercession, which very few kids attend. So I didn't have any kids to talk to. I just sat at my desk and did work. And my shoulder felt great throughout this time. But they came back two weeks ago (rejoice!!!) and now I spend all day long talking to them and my back and shoulder are killing me. It has to be the way I sit in my chair when I talk to them, right? I can't think of anything else. I think I need to get myself a recliner. Or I take the couch in my office and they can have my chair when we spend hours talking about life. Have I mentioned I love my job? Even if it is trying to cripple me.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cats on an island

1. As a sign that the end is nigh I read about the Japanese island of Aoshima that has been overrun by cats. CATS! Oh, what a nightmare. Here, why don't you have a panic attack and look at this slide show about it. Or worse, you can watch this video where I swear I see blood stains on the pier. This has become a tourist destination! People pay money to take a boat out there and view the cats, and potentially have their faces eaten off by them. There are people who live on that island and feed the cats. Stop feeding them! They're only going to get stronger and smarter and that much closer to total world domination! And you people have given them an entire island for their headquarters!

2. I live by this rule:  when making chicken and dumplings, there should always be more dumplings then chicken. In fact, chicken is kind of optional for me.

3.  Here's what you should do:  you should go to the Redlands Temple and when you come out you should slowly walk to your car and take large breaths in because the air around the neighborhood is thick with the scent of orange blossoms. I went last night and I actually stopped at a stop sign just past the temple for a full minute with my window rolled down and breathed deeply and only moved on when a car came up behind me. Heaven will smell like orange blossoms.

4. We had enchiladas and Mexican rice for lunch today at the Institute and I was in charge of chopping. I got through the onions and garlic and peppers and then I tackled the jalapenos. I thought about wearing gloves but then of course we don't have any gloves there. And besides, how bad could it be. KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS!!!! My hands were on fire for hours. I probably could have lit charcoal briquettes with them. Oh, woe, WOE to me!!! What hath this Mexican rice wrought?! Also, I inadvertently rubbed my eyes sometime after and merciful heavens I thought I was going to go blind. Fortunately, my little pal Kelsie asked why I didn't just put anti-bacterial gel on them, like she's some kind of pepper burn scientist. And would you believe it, it totally worked. There's still a bit of a sizzle to my hands but I can no longer roast marshmallows by them.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Heavy Reading Season

This headline filled me with joy:  "Neil Gaiman reviews new Kazuo Ishiguro novel."  It's a big deal when two of your favorite authors are mentioned in the same sentence. I put the new book on hold at the library and I'm hoping it takes a while to get here because I always need to emotionally prepare myself for an Ishiguro novel. Deep breathing and stuff. All of his books have left me a little scarred at the end. It's a good thing he only puts out one every decade or so. Why do painful books sometimes feel so good to read?

Do you do seasonal reading? Like, To Kill a Mockingbird is for the summer and Anne of Green Gables is better in the spring. I seem to read heavier stuff in the winter. This has historically been the case but especially now with seminary. I just can't go very deep in those early months of the seminary year. My brain can't handle it. But once the Christmas break has passed I seem to be able to deal with a little more depth. Crave it, even. Which is how I found myself devouring Station Eleven on Saturday. Boy that was heavy. I mean, it was no heavier than any other post-apocalyptic novel I guess, but the characters were a bit joyless, even before the pandemic wiped out 99% of the world's population (That's not a spoiler. You learn this by looking at the flap.) I will say this though, even with all the dour faces and bummer circumstances (and sadly, a real lack of strong characters) the story sucks you in. And I so appreciated that because it's been too long since a book has compelled me to put aside all responsibility and spend an entire day reading. Could one of you please read it and get back to me. I'd like to discuss.

You might also enjoy The 10 PM Question. This was recommended by my kiwi friend Angela and it was so good. In the veins of Okay for Now good. (You absolutely have to read Okay for Now. I'm serious. But read the Wednesday Wars first because it could give you a foundation.) It's set in New Zealand (you just don't get that very often) and Angela assures me that it feels very authentic. It unfolds beautifully and you will love the characters.

And for some non-fiction: The Boys on the Boat. It seems a lot of people have read this already but it's rare for me to read non-fiction and when I find one that I like I feel like the whole world should read it. It's a real stamp of approval. This tracks the 1936 gold medal Olympic rowing team from the University of Washington. You won't believe how much you start caring about crew.

Okay, you're turn. Recommend a book to me please.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Julie Andrews Effect

While in the midst of a rousing game of Skip-bo the power went out at my parents' house last night. So we played the rest of the game by candle-, lantern-, and electronic device light, just like the pioneers. Later, we attempted shadow puppets, where I succeeded in making a Sleestak. Which prompted Dad to say, "Why don't you check on the website again to see how much longer this is going to last." He has no taste for comedic shadow puppets.

Our biggest concern for the evening was that the stove lighter was powered by electricity (weird) thus making popcorn impossible. We were going to give it a half hour before resorting to the burner on the grill.

The power came on just in time for us to turn on the Oscars and watch Lady Gaga sing the Sound of Music medley. Here was my thought process:  "Philistines! I can't BELIEVE that they would put LADY GAGA up on the STAGE to sing the SOUND OF MUSIC! But she does look very elegant. And her voice is surprisingly great for this kind of music. And she seems to really love it. Could Lady Gaga and I be friends? So...that was really well done. Sweet Land of Liberty, it's Julie Andrews! Don't cry. Don't cry. She is so beautiful and gracious and I want to be her next door neighbor so that I can pop over and borrow sugar from her anytime. Oh man, she really loves the Gaga. I would not be able to recover if Julie Andrews hugged me that way. Well, it looks like I'm a Lady Gaga fan now. Whither goeth Julie Andrews, so goeth I."

Funniest joke of the night:  When the camera stopped on John Stamos (really?) Lindsay said, "Are they serving yogurt tonight?" I can't stop laughing over that.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Down with Lettuce!

1. I've given up trying to like lettuce. Which is a totally ridiculous thing to say, I know, but there it is. Lettuce is no friend to us. It is not very flavorful and it's difficult to eat. Who among us has never had the experience of being caught in polite company attempting to shove a giant piece of lettuce into our mouths? You absolutely cannot eat a salad with any kind of grace. Also, I can't tell you how let down I feel when I remember that I brought a salad for lunch. It took me a while to figure out that it's the lettuce that bums me out. Everything else about a salad is great. So my brilliant plan is to just have everything in a salad but the lettuce. Like smaller, crunchier, (superior) chopped up veggies, which, thanks to modern day miracles, come in pre-packaged bags, and chicken, and an avocado, if available. Two days in and I think I'm on to something. But I feel a little dumb that it took me so long to diagnose my lettuce ennui.

2.  I did, as promised, put that picture of Prince on my desk and it has changed my life. I have many conversations with him throughout the day. I think he's going to come in real handy when I have to start towing cars at work (we have a major illegal parking problem over there that bring a lot of hoodlums and their litter.) and I'm going to go to him and say, "Prince, I feel really bad that these dummies are going to come back from class and see their cars have gone missing." And he's going to be like:

You're right, Prince. The signs are clearly posted.

Genius alert! I'm going to put Prince's picture on the notices I leave on the cars that are illegally parked! And all it's going to say is, "You know what you did."

3. We just got the Hollywood Bowl line up for the summer and it's a doozy. Harry Connick Jr.; Pink Martini; and a screening of Back to the Future with the orchestra playing the score along with the movie. For crying out loud! I think that they must have gotten wind that it's my 40th birthday this summer and they wanted to make sure I had enough opportunities to celebrate. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Rachels do LA

Locals, I want to apologize for this unseasonably warm weather we've been having. You see, Rachel came into town and I was wanting to show off this fine city but we've been having a bit of the old marine layer which makes everything hazy. So I prayed really hard for it to clear up and for us to have gorgeous sunshiny views. And in order for that to happen we needed warm winds to blow. So that's on me. But we're cooling down today and I have started to pray really hard for rain. Like, a month of it.

I decided to take Rachel to downtown, because I feel that when people come to LA they rarely make it there. I totally get the lure of the beach but downtown has so many gems. At the very least it's where you get the best taquitos. So we started with that at Olvera Street. Rachel eschewed the guacamolito sauce due to her aversion to avocados, but then tried some of mine and saw the light. Fortunately, they always leave your taquitos swimming in it so there was plenty to share. But let this be a lesson to you all, always get the sauce. (Also, I think it's more tomatillo than avocado. Don't be afraid is all I'm saying.) From there we made our way on foot to various points across the city, most of which I had never seen. Don't you just love discovering new things in familiar places? Like the observation deck of City Hall. Did you know that during business hours you can go up to the 27th floor for some spectacular views of the city? We went to the LA Times Building, another place I've never been, and saw a really cool Linotype machine. In trying to figure out exactly how a Linotype machine works I discovered that there is a documentary called, "Linotype, the Film" which I somehow need to get my hands on. It looks totally fascinating. That machine is a work of art.

Next we sampled cheese at Grand Central Market, discovered that Angels Flight is closed AGAIN which stymied our plans to go up to the Music Center because I'm telling you, those stairs up Bunker Hill would have killed us. So we instead walked over to the Biltmore and lounged in their elegant lobby, and then over to the Central Library, home of my new Favorite Room in Los Angeles.

This picture is doing a sad job of conveying the magic but you should have a visual.
You guys, this room, THIS ROOM, is the children's room and it is glorious. Oh, it is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. At one point I sat down in a very comfy chair that was short enough for my feet to fully reach the floor, and I turned to my right and there was a rack filled with beloved children's fiction, like Anne of Green Gables and The Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time and I decided right then and there that I want to be buried there. Why am I just discovering this now? Nearly 40 years of living here and just now I see it. I have a lot of time to make up. I'm going to be back in downtown on Saturday and I'm seriously considering a pop-in.

We did a bunch of other things, most notably we ate both Burt and Rocky's ice cream and Neveux's ice cream. For science, guys. For science!

And the whole time we talked and talked and talked. Rachel and I have always had an incredibly easy friendship. Plus, she's up for anything. It was an absolute joy having you, Rac. Come back soon! That goes for all of you. I know a nice room we can sit quietly in.