Monday, July 26, 2021

Flora Flora and Mint Julep

 


A few weeks ago Ellen's boyfriend Jeff, who is a drummer for the band Flora Flora, invited me and Larry to attend his album release party in the basement of a bar in San Francisco.  I said, "Will we be the oldest people there?" and Jeff said "Probably, but you should come anyway."  So we did!

That whole weekend was pretty fun.  On Thursday, my neighbor Camay and I drove up to the Legion of Honor and saw the Pompeii exhibit.  We decided to get the audio tours.  The young woman whose job it was to explain how to download the tour to our phones was extremely patient, but I could almost see the thought bubble above her head saying "I got a fine arts degree for this???"

The Legion of Honor Café is finally open again, so that was very exciting.

On Friday I paid a visit to Meyer Appliance to check in with James, the salesman who sold me a GE refrigerator in March.  I know there are lots of supply chain issues, but Larry advised me to go in person and advocate for our refrigerator.  Every few weeks I stop in to get a different story from James about when my refrigerator might arrive.  He looks concerned (or as concerned as you can look with a mask on), prints some papers, purposefully strides off to the back office, and then comes back and tells me lies.

I don't mind visiting James at Meyer Appliance, though, because it's right next door to the Goodwill.  This time I got a great pair of Jaclyn Smith for K-Mart chartreuse jeans.


For our big excursion Saturday night, I booked us a room at a Victorian B&B in the Mission, since Flora Flora was the headlining act and didn't start until 11 pm.  Can you imagine anything happening in Los Altos at 11 pm?  My mind reels at the very idea.

We drove up to San Francisco, parked our car, and found our excellent B&B, The Inn San Francisco.  They take the whole Victorian thing quite literally, and the place is full of potted palms, antimacassars, velvet drapes, tasseled lamps, and little wood tables.



We had some great Peruvian food (It took some nerve to try Peruvian again after my last experience, but it worked out fine this time).  Several cocktails were consumed, and then we headed to Amado's.  It was a lot like a speakeasy - you had to show your ticket to a lady in the bar and then she opened a funky wooden door and gestured down to the basement.

Mint Julep played at 10 pm, and they were quite good.  And then - Flora Flora!  We enjoyed the music very much, and had a few more cocktails while we listened.



So that by the time we headed back up to the bar, I was drunkenly enamored by the upstairs wrap-around balcony above the bar and insisted that we all take photos under the comically large lamps.  My family indulged me, so here are some nice photos for you to enjoy.







Susan walked us back to the Inn because I had a package that had arrived in Los Altos for her.  Here is a bonus photo of Susan modeling her Teletubbies Gay Pride hat.


The next day was a little rough, not gonna lie.  It's been quite a while since I downed six(?) bourbons in one night.  Larry was very nice about it.  He drove home and even stopped at Five Guys for hamburgers to take the edge off.  There was some napping in the afternoon, and then we had a lovely outdoor dinner with our neighbors.  Derek offered me a bourbon after dinner, and for the first time in the history of our dinners, I had to decline.  Maybe next time.




Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A Pretty Good Fourth

 

I wouldn't say I had a *glorious* fourth, but it was perfectly acceptable under the circumstances.  (A reference to the Steve Buscemi-narrated video about Biden's presidential candidacy: you can see it here if you are unfamiliar with it.)

We attended four separate events this weekend!  Unmasked!!  They were not exactly wild parties, and none of them involved fireworks, sadly, but as I said, acceptable under the circumstances.

On Friday night Larry and I attended the town of Los Altos First Friday event, which is held, as the name suggests, on the First Friday of every month in the summer.  It consists of a handful of local bands set up on street corners from 6 pm - 8 pm and a few stores staying open until 8 pm instead of 6 pm.   

But, hey, we take what we can get out here in the 'burbs.  You can listen to a high school jazz trombonist, or to the old men playing in an all-accordion band in front of Le Boulanger, or watch the old ladies in sparkly hats doing Charleston-esque dances with each other while their husbands stoically wait for it all to be over so they can go back home and watch TV.  (We did all three!)

We also enjoyed a spot of outdoor dining.  We get to keep our parklets in Los Altos at least through the summer, so that's nice.  We ate at Fiesta Vallarta where I got to practice my rudimentary Spanish with our extremely tolerant waitress, and we had those margaritas that come with a tiny beer upended in them.


On Saturday we got together with our neighbors Camay and Derek.  We very much enjoyed our evenings together during the pandemic, and they have graciously agreed to keep up the tradition.  And now we can all sit at the same table!!  And use the same salad tongs!!!  Their son and his girlfriend were here for the weekend, so we had a fresh audience for our interminable and pointless stories.  They were good sports.

In case you haven't heard, Larry was selected as a Santa Clara Valley Water Ambassador from a wide field of candidates (according to him).  There are no actual duties, but he has been educated in water issues, so feel free to contact him if you have an interest in reservoirs.  He donned the regalia I made him for his birthday at our cocktail hour.  He has promised to wear the faucet hat to the next Ambassadorial event.


On the Fourth itself, we drove over to Alameda to visit the USS Hornet, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that is now a museum.  When our girls were little, many of their little boy friends were taken there for Boy Scout sleepovers, and I heard a lot of horror stories from the chaperones, so I've always been curious to see it.  And Larry wanted to see it, because, well, it's a big boat, and boys of all ages love big boats.

The USS Hornet is pretty cool.  Larry was a good sport about taking some Marc Jacobs-inspired fashion photos for me.




When the USS Hornet was in service, there were 3000 people aboard.  It's a pretty big boat, but it's not that big, and it boggles the mind to think of that many people crammed onto it.  There are hanging bunks literally everywhere on board, and corridor after corridor after corridor below deck.  Up on top you can hang around on the flight deck and look at the views of San Francisco.

I volunteered to take a photo of a man and woman trying to get a selfie on deck, but I kicked over the man's drink in the process, so I thought it best not to ask him to take a photo of us, which is why my photo is, in fact, a selfie.

When we got home we watched A Capitol Fourth on PBS, that corny country music and fireworks show they do on the Capitol lawn every year, since most of the fireworks shows around here were cancelled due to the pandemic.  Then we watched The Tomorrow War, because it felt like many Americans were at home watching The Tomorrow War, and we wanted to be a part of that.  It was real dumb, but the aliens blowed up real good.

Okay, so we're up to three outings.  Our fourth and final outing was on Monday to our neighborhood block party, where we stood around unmasked and drinking wine with all the neighbors we've been waving at and yelling greetings to for the last 15 months.  It was great to re-connect with everyone.  

And then Monday night I got to watch the Bachelorette on my friend's couch.  I think this season is going to be a corker.  But why do they keep letting Katie go on camera in those god-awful frocks?  Where does she even acquire them??  From slutty dolphin trainers??? (That's Jeanette's joke.)


So, yeah, I wouldn't call it glorious, exactly, but it was great to have places to go and people to see over the Fourth.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Two Inefficient Days in San Francisco

It has been hot in the Bay Area this week.  It's usually much cooler in San Francisco than in Los Altos, so when the notice of Ellen's failure to get her car smog checked arrived in the mail, with the warning of imminent impoundment, I thought, what the heck, I'll go up there and sort it out.  How long could it take?  Ha ha ha.

I drove up Tuesday morning full of purpose.  In addition to the car issue, Ellen was also dealing with fleas in her apartment.  The cat had been flea treated and Ellen had vacuumed the floors, but she wanted to wash all the bedding.  I agreed to run all the bedding through the laundromat downstairs before smog checking the car, since Ellen had to work every day this week.

The laundromat was lovely, I must say.  My kids and I loved the book A Pocket for Corduroy, which takes place in a laundromat.  A laundromat is a great liminal space, where everyone is waiting for clean clothes to emerge from the dryers, and there isn't anything else you need to do.  You can watch a telenovela on the TV, read a book, scroll through your phone, eat a candy bar, watch people on the street (I did all those things).

While all the sheets and blankets and towels were in the dryers, I set out to Walgreens to purchase tall kitchen garbage bags in which to put the clean items.  It was such a hot day in San Francisco that there were 15 people ahead of me in line purchasing cold drinks.  (In addition to my garbage bags, I also purchased a cold Cucumber Lime Smartwater, such a refreshing beverage.)

I popped into a Mexican party store on Mission Street to appreciate the excellent assortment of piñatas.  I love a Mexican party store.


By the time I got back to the laundromat, I had to move my car since all the spots off Mission are two hours maximum.  I bagged up all the clean items and hauled them in three trips up four steep flights of stairs to Ellen's apartment, after first attempting to use her keys to enter the preschool next door to her place, which resulted in much confusion for all involved.

I was meeting Ellen on her late afternoon work break, and then meeting Larry for a Giants baseball game, so I had to give up on my dream of smog checking the car.  I had noticed a tiny Peruvian restaurant on Mission so I went there for a meal before meeting Ellen.

I had a delicious plate of Aji de Gallina and was feeling pleased with myself for finding such an authentic cafe.  A little too authentic, as it turned out.   I am not strong enough for authentic Peruvian food.  Ooof.

Ellen showed me around the clothing store where she works and then we sat on some risers outside a bakery on Valencia Street.  As we were talking, mice began to emerge from the structure and I shrieked a little.  Ellen was not fazed and pointed out that in New York, it would be rats.  This was both true (the last time I was in Brooklyn a rat ran over my foot) and strangely comforting.

Larry and I enjoyed the Giants game very much.  It was great to be at the ball park.  I spent one inning in the ladies room thinking about Peru, but I was back in my seat for the eighth inning, in which Mike Yastrzemski hit a grand slam to win the game.  Very cool.

Wednesday I headed back up to San Francisco, determined to get Ellen's car off the impound list.  I parked near Ellen's work and picked up her keys.  I walked over to the closest service station to see if they could accommodate me, but I needed a STAR smog station, which they were not.  The guy there said to try the Shell at 16th and Guerrero.

I called the Shell, but no one picked up.  I was very reluctant to hike up Bernal Hill to get Ellen's car only to be turned away, so I walked a mile over to the Shell and was told I could bring in the car.  By now, my two hours of parking were up, so I hiked back to my car to drive to Ellen's car.

Here's where the day got even more inefficient.  Ellen had told me her car was parked on Bonview by the park, so I entered "Bonview Street" into Google maps and drove over and parked my road boat at the bottom of the street.  I hiked all the way up Bonview but did not find her car.  I couldn't call her at work because she's not allowed to have her phone.  I looked at the map again and discovered that Bonview is *bifurcated* by the f(#@ing MOUNTAIN that is Bernal Heights Park.


Okay, it may not look that significant on the map, but it is a monster hill.  I am nothing if not stubborn, so instead of re-parking my car, I hiked over.  I found Ellen's car, unlocked the door, slid in, and tried to remember where the start button is.  It was terrifically hot in the car, so I pulled the inside door handle to let in some air.  Nothing happened.  The door handle was broken.

Reader, I panicked.  For a few seconds I thought I might die of heat prostration in that car.  I yeeted myself over the console, flung open the passenger door, and stood panting on the street.  A concerned hipster hill hiker came over to check on me and pointed out that I could put down the driver's side window and open the door using the outside handle.  Okay, okay, okay.  I'm old enough to be allowed to be panicked and nonsensical.

I got the car to the Shell and had a pleasant hour in a tapas bar while it was being checked.  I was a little wary of ethnic food after the digestive upset of the previous day, so I ordered ham toast, which seemed safe.  I was still pretty sweaty and freaked out, but the albariño helped.

I returned Ellen's car to its previous parking spot and hiked back over the mountain.

After retrieving my car and returning Ellen's keys to her I was finally finished with my quest.  It took me 4.5 miles of walking and seven hours of time to get her car smog checked.  An incredibly inefficient couple of days, but an adventure of sorts.  I mean, I'm not sorry I did it, I guess.  I have had to retrieve Ellen's car from an impound lot once already (a good LA story) so hopefully I have forestalled that this time.  My phone says I climbed thirty flights of stairs, so that's something.







Sunday, May 30, 2021

Vaxxed and Ready to Go Places


Well!  It has been a whirlwind of a month for me!  I'm fully vaxxed and back in action!  Exactly two weeks after my second vaccination I boarded a plane for Chicago.  Upon landing, I had originally intended to take the Van Galder bus to Madison, Wisconsin to help Amy move her stuff into storage for the summer (and drink delicious beer and mess around by the lake) but there were no hotel rooms available in Madison because of graduation, so I had two glorious nights alone in a Chicago Aloft hotel.

After checking in to my hotel, I walked around the corner to a Lou Malnati's and ate a medically inadvisable amount of deep-dish pizza and drank two large beers.  I stumbled back to my hotel, where I thought I would recline on my bed and read for a few minutes.  Twelve hours later, I woke up.

I had booked a ticket for the Art Institute of Chicago and was eager to embark on my Big Day at the Art Museum, but first I had to eat something as cafes in museums are still closed.  My Lyft driver from the airport had pointed out the enormous McDonald's down the block from my hotel and told me it used to be the Rock 'N Roll McDonald's.  A couple of years ago, it was completely remodeled and is now a "Green" McDonald's with plant walls and a rooftop garden.  The sausage McMuffin was delicious, as always, but I'm sorry I missed seeing the kitschy old rock 'n roll memorabilia.

I had a fabulous day at the Art Institute.  I will share a family joke and see if you also find it amusing.  There is a New Testament story about how Salome danced for Herod and he enjoyed it so much he promised her whatever she wanted, and she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate.  This touching scene is depicted in a lot of paintings, and whenever we find one in a museum, one of us will say, in a world-weary voice, "Not head for dinner AGAIN"


When I got too hungry to look at any more art, I went across the street to the Chicago Athletic Association, a former men's athletic club that is now a fancy hotel with a lobby bar and restaurant with lots of fireplaces and leather sofas.  I had a couple of Manhattans and a hamburger by a fireplace topped with a frieze panel of homoerotic wrestling, or some activity involving a lot of naked men.  It felt awesome to be indulging in something that was denied to women for so long (having drinks and a hamburger on my own, I mean, not the naked wrestling).


The next morning I made my way to the downtown Chicago train station and took the Van Galder to Madison.  I stayed in the hotel that was the closest to Amy's apartment, the Canterbury Inn.  It is a six room boutique hotel above a bookstore, and each room is painted with scenes from a different Canterbury tale and is crammed full of bookshelves, club chairs, low-wattage lamps, and red brocade drapes.

I think this could actually serve as a litmus test of how well we would get along.  Does this sound intriguing to you, or just weird?  Amy and I enjoyed the Knight's Room very much.


After a few days of wrapping up Amy's affairs and treating her friends to meals, we got back on the bus to the downtown Chicago train station.  Amy and I were on our way to visit my parents in Springfield, Virginia and my friend Colleen suggested that we take the overnight train.  We had a tiny roomette on The Cardinal, the Chicago-New York Amtrak train.  The Cardinal leaves Chicago at 6 pm and stops in Alexandria, Virginia 24 hours later.

It was great!  We were shown to our roomette by our car attendant, Joyce, who was remarkably unenthusiastic about, well, everything.  Amy and I, on the other hand, were SO excited to be on the train.  If you've never been in a roomette, it's a tiny compartment about the size of a large dining table and contains two facing upholstered chairs that turn into a bed, a fold-down table, a top bunk that drops down, and a toilet and sink between the chairs and the compartment door.  Here's a picture: the pink lid next to the blue chair lifts up to reveal the toilet, and above it is a metal sink that drops down from the wall.


Okay, so at first I was like "We are not going to use this roomette toilet, we will just go down the hall to the restroom in the coach car."  The first time that we did that, however, we encountered the train's resident drunks: a thin man in his seventies and a fat man in his thirties who had seated themselves right next to the restroom and were harassing every woman who came near them.

I had my suitcase whiskey with me, and after a few tots of that the roomette bathroom did not phase me any more.  It was actually quite handy to slide one seat over, do my business, and slide back.  Amy and I stayed up way too late playing gin rummy and listening to bluegrass music on her portable speaker.


We finally put the cards away, folded up the table, turned the chairs into my bed, and cranked Amy's top bunk down from the ceiling.  It was very novel to fall asleep to the rocking of the train.  We woke up in West Virginia, which was very green and beautiful.  Joyce brought me a Jimmy Dean sausage sandwich and a coffee, which I enjoyed in my pajamas on my bunk while watching bald eagles catching fish in the New River.

After we got off the train in Alexandria, Amy wanted to enjoy being outdoors for a little while before we got a Lyft to my parents' house, so we hid behind a war memorial and drank beer out of paper bags and soaked up some sun.  

It was great to see my parents again.  My Mom had a list of tasks for me and Amy.  Mom is devoted to her garden, and there was weeding and mulching and planting to do.  Unlike me, my Mom has amazing will power and self-control, and when she told me she hadn't eaten pizza in years, I knew what I had to do.


My Dad can't leave the house and my Mom won't leave him alone except to go to the grocery store, so Amy hung out with Dad while Mom and I went to all her favorite stores.  Mom had a lot of pent-up shopping to do.  We spent hours in Marshalls and Tuesday Morning and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  

My brother Doug and his wife Shelby and daughter Stella came up from Richmond.  Doug was a classics major, as is Amy, so they had a lot to talk about.  Shelby has been doing research projects for the University of Richmond, and Doug has been helping her.  Check out their research about the old slave burying ground on the grounds of the University of Richmond: 

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=59690b2c313e42a8b112862f4dce2b28

Doug and Amy and I took a walk around Mercer Lake.  It was such a beautiful day.  Look at these two cuties:


My Dad has been spending a lot of his time watching The Great Courses on his Roku TV.  He may be the only person who has ever truly gotten their money's worth from The Great Courses.  If you ever want to know something about the historical accuracy of the New Testament, famous explorers, ancient Egypt, country music, the Vietnam War, or Hitler, he'd be happy to enlighten you.

Mom has a disturbing habit of mailing the girls cash in envelopes.  None of the girls have very reliable mail service, so we devoted a day to setting Mom up with Venmo to satisfy her generous urges.  Amy did her valiant best to explain Venmo to me and Mom, and although I'm not sure either of us really understands it, we finally got it set up.  

We are back in California now, but I am raring to go on another adventure!!






Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Things Fall Apart, The Centre Cannot Hold

 


Lately, when I plop down on our crappy old sectional sofa (known to our circle of intimates as "the comfort turd"), the phrase "things fall apart, the centre cannot hold" rattles around in my overstuffed head.  Upon googling the phrase I learned (presumably re-learned) that it is a line from the poem "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats.  The phrase was written about the bleak political landscape of post WWI Europe, but I feel it also accurately describes the state of the comfort turd.

My family has been on me for quite some time to acquire alternative seating to the comfort turd, which is now so full of duct tape that it leaves sticky residue on one's clothing.  One day last week, after meeting a friend in Mountain View for an invigorating neighborhood walk, I finally decided to investigate my options.

I felt I would lose momentum if I went home and showered first, so off I went in my capri pants, stretched-out t-shirt, sweaty headband, and arch-supporting athletic shoes.  I decided to first try the Home Consignment Center, which is where we found the comfort turd many years ago, to see if lightning might strike twice.  

The Home Consignment Center is in Campbell, across the street from a diner called The Hash House, where I had an excellent plate of chilaquiles to fortify my search.  Then I sauntered into the Consignment Center, where an excited older gentleman, who probably is an employee, accosted me and showed me a metal patio table with attached stools that fold up under the table.

I allowed him to demonstrate the wonder of the table to me a few times and then scooted off when his attention was diverted.  As I made my way around the store, I saw him repeat the performance with every new person who walked through the door.  It's like, he wants to sell the table, but if he does, what will he do to occupy himself?

Sadly, there were no adequate sectional sofas in the Home Consignment Center, and also no public restroom.  I had to go next door to a Safeway, so as long as I was there I bought some beer.

Is Elysian Space Dust the best IPA I've ever had?  Who knows, but isn't the can cool?  I love the alien hophead blowing glittery dust.

My next stop was La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries.  Once I saw the floor models, I pretty much knew that a La-Z-Boy sectional with electronic recliners and cup holders was my destiny, but I decided that I had to do a little due diligence and check out some other furniture stores.

Next stop was Direct Factory Furniture, or maybe Factory Direct Furniture?  It is a small store down the street from La-Z-Boy run by a friendly Asian man with a great business plan.  He carries two models of everything: two sectional sofas, two reclining armchairs, two dining sets, two bedroom suites; and he knows EVERYTHING about those models.  He doesn't have to refer to a catalog or a computer, he just knows.

So after I sat on one of the sectional sofas, he came over and told me my upholstery options: fabric, leather, or fox leather.  He prattled on but I wasn't really listening after the words "fox leather".  Then I realized that he meant "faux leather", and I wondered how many years he had been saying it wrong, and who was going to be the person who finally told him.  Not me!  La-Z-Boy was still winning.

Years ago we bought a very nice dining set from Ethan Allen, so I headed to their showroom.  I stepped through the doors onto the plush oatmeal-colored carpet and found myself in the sort of extremely tasteful demonstration living room that has large beaten brass bowls full of woven wooden balls.  As a beautiful dark-haired lady in palazzo pants wafted toward me on a cloud of subtly perfumed air, I became intensely aware of my grubby appearance.

"May I help you?" she purred.  "Uh," I stammered, "Do you have any reclining sectional sofas with cup holders?"  She paused a beat and said, very nicely, "Sweetheart, there is nothing for you here."  I beat a hasty retreat and got my confidence back by going into the Goodwill next door and buying a Jesus statue.


Equilibrium restored, I headed to my final stop, Rose Design Fine Furniture, a shop which only sells custom-order sofas.  I was the only customer, so the proprietor, a talkative man of Eastern European extraction, had plenty of time to explain to me that none of his sectional sofas reclined, and furthermore, that I did not want or need to recline, because reclining was bad for my back.

"I still want it though," I said, channeling Dwayne The Rock Johnson from the very funny SNL sketch "Enhancement Drug".


All in all it was a very productive day, and it felt like a normal pre-pandemic day, except that we all had masks on.  A few days later Larry and I went to the La-Z-Boy and ordered ourselves a reclining sectional with cup holders.  And this time we paid extra for real cow leather, so we won't end up trying to duct tape the fox leather back together.  Also, the sofa model we selected is the Aspen, which Larry dubbed the Ass-Pen, so we have the nickname sorted already.

It will be a bittersweet goodbye when the Junk King comes for the comfort turd, but I'll have lots of time to get used to the idea, as it will be six months or so before the La-Z-Boy arrives.  In the meantime, I'll just have to make do with this Lazy Boy.








Saturday, February 20, 2021

Rats All The Way Down


The virus times have been awful for everyone.  I've frankly always hated all those feel-better mantras such as "Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window".  I mean, what the hell, why not just leave the door open.  So I'm not in any way saying there is an upside to the virus times, because there isn't, but, since we can't do anything else, we've been spending a lot of time on the back patio, and we've learned to appreciate just hanging outside.  It's nice to see all the stars.

The virus times have allowed me to do the sort of entertaining that I love - extremely half-ass entertaining.  I can invite people over and not do *anything* but ensure the patio chair cushions are dry.  Sometimes I will also shake you a martini, or bring out my tray of jank candles, or give you an electric blanket, or light the fire table.  But mostly we just sit on my patio chairs and talk.

It's winter now, so a lot of patio time happens when it's dark outside.  Behind our back patio is a lower field, and then Adobe Creek, which is usually free of water, but full of wildlife.  During the day there are lots of animals to see, such as deer, jackrabbits, little bunnies, crows, and squirrels.  During the night there are lots of animals to hear, such as rats, rats, rats, opossums, raccoons, and coyotes.

In the bay area we have many, many Norway Rats.  They can be up to 8 inches long and make nests in trees, in creek beds, under the hood of your car, in your potting shed, in crawl spaces under your house, basically anywhere.  At night, when we sit outside, we can hear the rats foraging for food.  And we tell ourselves that maybe the noises are emanating from some marginally cuter animals, such as opossums or raccoons, but deep down inside, we know it's rats.  It's always rats.  It's rats all the way down.

Lately the nighttime rat noises have been interspersed with the yipping of coyotes.  Coyotes actually yip.  It's kind of cool to be sitting outside and hear the coyotes yipping, and then to hear all the outside dogs in the neighborhood losing their collective minds and howling back.  It's like a free concert!

We have an intercom system built into the house that enables us to play music inside and outside, so sometimes we do that.  I try to remember to turn off the outside speakers when we come back in, but sometimes I forget.  One time I forgot for weeks, which led to this interesting situation.

Our property adjoins the back fences of several houses on Middlebury Lane.  The residents of Middlebury Lane have been kind enough to include us in their gatherings, and over the years we have gotten to know them fairly well.

One year as we were drinking and socializing at one of these events, my neighbor Tim came up to me and said, very politely, all things considered, "Do you think maybe you could stop playing music at 7 am in your back yard?"

And I had one of those moments they show in films where a series of events replays rapidly in your mind.  Weeks before we had used the outside speakers, I never turned them off, and in an effort to get the kids out of bed for school, every morning at 7 am I had been blasting the Fountains of Wayne song "Bright Future in Sales" which features the lyric "I've got to get my shit together, cause I can't live like this forever..."

So, yeah, I was pretty embarrassed.  Ever since then I sort of obsessively check to make sure we aren't blasting the neighbors with my current musical obsession.  Lately I'm really into my curated Pandora station, Cake Radio, featuring, you guessed it, the songs of Cake.  Also a lot of Bowling for Soup, They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, All-American Rejects, Sugar Ray, etc.

I love that dumb plaque people put in their kitchens that says "I Love To Cook With Wine, Sometimes I Even Put It In The Food".  It's funny because it's true.  I find that cooking with wine goes really well with blasting Cake Radio.

I've wandered away from my theme of patio entertaining, but you can blame it on the entire bottle of Liquid Light Sauvignon Blanc I drank on my back patio earlier tonight.  I know I drank the whole bottle because everyone else was drinking red wine and the Liquid Light bottle is empty...



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Some Anecdotes Involving Boats




It's been a real mood booster having outdoor dining open again, and I'm sure the restaurants and their owners and employees appreciate it also.  We had a lovely socially distanced dinner with our friends Steve and Colleen at La Scala in downtown Los Altos last night and somehow the conversation turned to canoeing, which fired some deep-seated neurons and caused me to remember a few light-craft oriented anecdotes from my past.

Winter Canoeing in Kentucky

My dad was career Army and we were stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky when I was in the 6th-8th grade.  My mom had a good friend on base, Mrs. Franks, who, like my mom, had one daughter and two sons.  For reasons that I will have to consult my mom about, she and Mrs. Franks established a Girl Scout Troop, which also involved all four of their sons.

We did a lot of camping and hiking with our two families and whatever Girl Scouts cared to join us.  The trip that I recalled last night was a winter canoeing trip along some creek or river.  As I remember (which isn't saying much, it's been many years and many mixed drinks since then and I may have this completely wrong) I was in a canoe with Julie Franks.

Julie saw something interesting on the banks of the creek (river?) and stood up to look back and point and tell the other canoes.  And this is where it gets cinematic - as she was looking back she got clocked in the back of the head by an overhanging branch and went straight into the water.

I remember this as being highly inconvenient but also undeniably funny.

Summer Rafting in Virginia

In the middle of my 9th grade year, my dad got reassigned to the Pentagon and our family moved from Kentucky to Northern Virginia.  If you are thinking, "Oh, I bet it was fun to change schools in the middle of 9th grade", I can assure you that it was not, but that's a boring and sad story that I am sure you can imagine for yourself.  Let's just say that I read a lot of books and became overly involved with the Catholic Youth Organization at my church.

I think it was with a CYO group that I went rubber rafting on the Shenandoah; I'm not entirely sure but the organization I went with is not germane to my story, so, whatever.

Our group got into our rubber raft with our cooler containing lunches and set off down the river.  It was a pleasant day, and the rapids were not challenging, and we were having a good time, and then we saw two rocks ahead of us.

Our choices, as we saw them, were to go left, go between the rocks, or go right.  We decided to go between the rocks, but as our raft snagged and expelled us and all our belongings into the river, we realized that it was only one rock lightly covered by water and we had just steered directly onto it.

We drifted down river as our raft stayed firmly on the rock and all our lunches, shoes, etc floated away forever.  Our group managed to get over to the bank and reunite, and we stood looking upriver at our water-imprisoned raft.

As we were on the riverbank bemoaning our fate, a helicopter hove into view, trailing a massive hook on a rope.  At this point, many other rubber rafts beached themselves on the banks to have a look, because, what the hell, a helicopter was hovering overhead.

The helicopter made several passes over the raft until it got the hook under the raft, at which point the raft popped up in the air and began floating down the river.  We caught it, and got in, and finished the trip.

Pirates of the Caribbean

We visited Disneyland for the first time when our youngest daughter Amy was about three years old, and we made a terrible error.  We took her on the ride "Snow White's Scary Adventures", which the rest of us did not find to be scary, but Amy absolutely did.

She found it to be so scary that for years, she refused to go on any so-called "dark" rides at Disneyland - any rides which are not completely out-of-doors.  The next time we were all at Disneyland, Amy was maybe five years old, and while Larry and Susan and Ellen did all the fun rides, Amy and I rode the f*&#ing carousel over and over.

After dinner, we went back to our hotel, and then up to our room, where Larry and all three girls fell asleep.  I was eager to get back to the park to ride all the things I had missed, and as any mother of young children will tell you, I was absolutely thrilled to be alone.

I rode the Haunted Mansion, and Indiana Jones, and then I headed to Pirates of the Caribbean.  Since I was alone, I was added to a lively boat of young men.  We set out in high spirits, and had proceeded about one-fourth of the way through the ride when our boat came to a sudden halt.

The lights came up, hitherto unseen doors popped open from behind the pirate tableaus, people in coveralls with wrenches began wandering about.

As we were stalled I began to chat with the men in my boat.  It turned out they were all current or former employees of Disneyland, all gay, and all super willing to dish.  It was the most fun I've ever had at Disneyland.

I asked them "Do you ever get tired of telling guests where the bathrooms are?" and the answers delighted me.  My favorite response: one of guys said "I don't mind telling people where the toilets are.  I mean, we all have to go, right?  But here's what I hate: I'll tell some lady where the toilets are and she'll say 'But is that the closest one?', and that just makes me crazy.  I feel like saying 'No, I just like that one better', or 'No, you just look like you could use some exercise', I mean, what the hell?"

God, I miss Disneyland, and random strangers.