Thursday, July 31, 2008

Project Runway: Seriously?

We begin, as always, with the winning and losing models from last week. Suede loves Tia so some other skinny girl is auf. (I know, it's terrible but I really don't care about the models). Then Heidi tells the designers they are going to have a night on the town with Tim. Oh joy! Heads fill with visions of limos, fine dining and dancing until the wee hours with The Gunn. They gussy up and Tim arrives, looking so dashing in a black trench coat. "It's raining and going to be an interesting night", he says.

Donned in matching orange ponchos (eeewww) the designers troop out behind The Gunn only to have their party hearty dreams washed down the rain filled gutters of New York. No filet and dance mixes for them! No, no...they will instead be sitting on the open top of a double decker tour bus. This week's challenge: create a look of their choice for a night on the town, inspired by the city at night. Armed with cameras, they are dropped off by little groups at various locations (Columbus Circle, Times Square, like that) and given one hour to seek their inspiration.

Scary Stella does this weird eye makeup thing wherein she appears to draw lashes onto the lower part of her eyes. It is not a good look at the best of times; in the rain it caused NOM to cackle, "I'm melting!" Stella also cannot work her camera. Probably because it wasn't made of leathuh. Blayne wondered if there were tanning salons in Times Square. Keith, who all of a sudden strikes me as a gigantic arse, is ticking off the other designers because he's pushing past them and getting in the way of their shots and like that. He tells the camera, in classic "reality" show form, that he's not here to make friends. There's one in every bunch.

Next morning Jerrel scares us with his facial mask before our day at Parson's begins. The designers will have 1/2 hour to pick the photo that will be their inspiration and then Tim excitedly announces that the designers will finally get to pick their own fabric. Off to Mood with $100 each to spend. Stella is as confounded by the fabric store as she was by her camera.

Oh, and btw, we three couch critics all, generally speaking and without reference to anything in particular, loving Kenley, Miss "Modern Day Calendar Girl". We smile whenever she's on screen.

Back in the workroom, LeAnne worries about "being too creative again". Blayne is weird, staring at Kenley with a psycho look on his face until she finally stares back and then he growls, "I'm going to eat you". We are back to not loving Blayne. Snarky Keith deigns to inform us that he has a background in abstract art, because that makes him special. He thinks he's doing something avant garde and brilliant. Stella opines, "Little bitsa fabric ona sheath? Who wears that?"

Stella. She's scary, she's easily kerfuffled and if I hear one more time that she's "rock and roll" I'm going to scream but girlfriend does know crap when she sees it. "What a gay little grommet," she mutters, as she struggles to hammer same into her design. She was inspired by the blinder on a carriage horse. You know why? 'Cause she's into leathuh. Her hammering, however, irritates the crap out of the other designers.

Tim does his little check in about 3 hours before the end of the day. He is soooo nice. Jennifer is in the weeds and he's encouraging. Keith's look seems to befuddle The Gunn but assured the dress will be fitted, he gives a nod of approval. He loves the silhouette of Kenley's design but worries that it could be too costumey..."but that doesn't mean it can't be done". LeAnne tells him she's happy with the skirt she's made and he says, "You should be". (And she should. Gorgeous). Emily's design seems to give him the most pause: "It's a black dress with a big neon corsage". But does he, like we were, say "Eeeeww, ick, that's terrible"? No. He just tells her to take it further.

Oh, and then there was a painful moment when Blayne greets Tim with "holla at yer boy". The Gunn looked so, so confused. Blayne looked so, so stupid. He tries to teach Tim to say "holla". Tim makes it sound like goyim saying "challah". Tim is not street. He should not be street. Blayne should be in a home.

There's a lot of last minute panic and rushing, plus Snarky Keith learns that his model has had to drop out so the girl auf'ed earlier is back in the game but everyone manages to make it to the runway in time.

Keith: hideous; imagine your bathroom wastebasket hot glued on a sheath and you can picture this shapeless mess.

Blayne: ridiculous; looks like my child got into the ragbag while playing dress up.

Joe: very cute. Me likey Joe.

Emily: this is what happens when you don't listen to The Gunn.

LeAnne: gor.geous. Love it. Carefully crafted skirt with a simple top. Just a stunner.

Jennifer: hideous. A satin tiered maternity dress that no self-respecting pregnant woman would be caught dead in.

Jerrel: I hate to say it because I don't like him but it was very, very pretty.

Kelli: something Cher would wear to church.

Daniel: this dress looked pretty coming down the runway. Sometimes motion is everything. Standing still you could see it was a big ol' mess of gold lamé melting off a black bodice.

Kenley: we love you, honey, but this is weird. Lounge chair fabric (a WalMart lounge chair, not one from Restoration Hardware) with a weird tulle goiter thing on the side.

Suede: very cute.

Stella: this is not rock and roll. This isn't even good pop. Dumb grommety pants with a silver vest. Boring.

Korto: I guess it's ok but it's just a jumpsuit. Not a fan of the jumpsuit.

Terri: NOM thinks this backless dress over black pants looks like a fishtank. I'm inclined to agree.

Guest judge this week is the ever fabulously bitter Sandra Bernhard.

Kenley's weirdness was deemed to reference an "80s power bitch" dress on the order of Joan Collins in "Dynasty". Except somehow the judges believed this to be a good thing. Nina even called it "adorable". Seriously?

But wait, they haven't lost their minds. Kors thinks Keith's dress looks like toilet paper blowing in the wind, Heidi despises it's lack of shape and Nina says the effect is sloppy.

Oops, they are nuts after all. Terri's outfit is described as "fierce, sexy" by Sandra. Heidi says it's "cool and outside the box". Kors loves everything about it and says he'd want to know the woman who wore it. Kors doesn't get out much.

Phew, sanity returns. Heidi summed up the judges opinon of Emily's design as "a Carmen Miranda moment". It wasn't so much that they hated the idea of a ruffle (which was supposed to represent a streak of light, btw) but that, as Kors said, "the ruffle was not placed fabulously".

Further proof of sanity, their universal love for LeAnne's triumphant little number. Kors loves that it's seperates. Heidi bestows the one best thing any PR designer could hear: "I'd wear that in a heartbeat".

Then comes Jennifer. Jennifer, the designer I always forget. Jennifer, who has the personality of a stick. Jennifer, who in the first episode described her look as "Holly Golightly goes to the Salvador Dali exhibit". I thought that was cute the first time. She said it about 412 times last night. But there is nothing about this that says surrealism:

That was pretty much the assessment of the judges as well. The hem was awful, Heidi called it "matronly" and Nina said it was "ok but boring". They didn't, however, hate it as much as I thought they should have.

Going into commercial we couch critics decide that while LeAnne should win they are going to give it to Terri. We're not fine with this as we don't believe you would ever see any of the Sex and the City characters in Terri's fishtank but either Carrie or Charlotte would for sure wear LeAnne's confection. (Ah, yes, "Sex and the City"; our reference for New York style). Meanwhile we believe Jennifer will go home because all the judges think she is boring. We're fine with that.

The results are announced. Terri is in. We cheer! If Terri just gets a "you're in" then that means LeAnne has won! Whoo hooo-huh? Kenley? Seriously? LeAnne looks sad. So are we. I mean, we love love love Kenley but no way is her dress better than LeAnne's. Then Heidi gives LeAnne a patronizing "good job". What?

Then we come to the aufing. Here's what Heidi should have said:

"Emily, your dress was well-designed and fitted. You didn't listen to Tim and left on that ridiculous and ugly ruffle and that was a big mistake because one should always listen to The Gunn but you appear to have one or two chops so learn from your mistakes and don't disappoint us again".

"Jennifer, you are boring and forgetable. No one in the audience recognizes you from week to week and all the judges yawn when we hear your name. Your dress was a fright...a shiny, boring maternity sack that neither Holly Golightly nor Salvador Dali would have appreciated. Go home and brush up on your pop cultural references and try to get a personality. Aufedersein.

What she said was, "Emily, you're out".

Sometimes I wonder what the judges do before a runway show. Is top American designer Michael Kors making another of his jaw-dropping, trend setting breakthroughs in high end women's fashion? Is Nina editing fashion magazines while having her hair calibrated? Is Heidi discovering yet another supershort dress that manages to cover the essentials while still giving maximum exposure to her magnificent gams?

I don't know.

But I'm pretty sure that this week they were in the green room. Smoking crack.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


This just in: Karl Rove has been cited for contempt by the House Judiciary committee.

The charge stems from his failure to appear before the committee earlier this summer. It does not include charges for contempt of democracy, contempt of the Constitution, contempt of civil liberties or contempt of the electoral process. But it's a start.

Oh, sure, it could be that he'll never seen the inside of a courtroom let alone a jail cell but ding dong, I feel a happy dance coming on.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

But, Oddly, I Got an A in Existentialism

I needed to get an official copy of my transcript for this job-hunting nonsense. It took a while because my transcripts are from an era so far back in the mists of time that the records are still on a paper. Someone has to wake up an old monk who must light a taper and make his way through the dusty vaults below the university. He then carefully thumbs through the ancient and illuminated texts until he finds the required text. Then he must make his slow way back out of the vaults and hand over the delicate paper, sepia-toned with age, to one of the young things who will then prepare it for translation.

How else do you explain it taking over a week to get a document housed in a place only 10 miles from where I now live?

Anyway, I have it now and can get on with the business of getting business but I did take a moment this morning to peruse the document.

I sure wasted a lot of time in college.

Oh, my grades were decent enough. I'm graduated with a 3.18 GPA. That's pretty good, considering how half-arsed I was in my approach to most things academic. You can easily tell, for example, that science was not a great love of mine but I never got anything lower than an A in any writing class. It's my course work in Literature that's spotty and it makes me a little sad. Really, I should never have gotten anything less than an A in a lit class. The whole reason I majored in English was so I could read all the time. I loved discovering new authors, actually thinking about and discussing the themes, writing witty and insightful analyses. Seriously, I did. But man, sometimes I managed to slack off, too. When I think of some of the professors I had, the amazing thinkers they were, the challenges they set before me and how I, in my youth and arrogance, gave 'em an intellectual shrug and a "whatever", how I phoned in so many papers because somewhere in my mind I decided it was ok to wait until the last minute and settle for a B than work hard and go for the A.

And it wasn't, you see, the A that was the issue. It was the attitude. The carelessness. The failure to recognize that this collegiate experience was, in fact, a gift and that at no other time ever again in my life would I have the sort of opportunities that were daily spread before me. It was, I fear, a little like going to a banquet and saying, "Eh, I'll just have a cup of the soup".

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that such is college life. We all do it. We're becoming adults and college is as much about learning to manage yourself as it is anything else. And you'd be right. Certainly that C- in "Men and Women in 19th Century British Literature" is a classic example of what happens when you don't trouble to manage yourself. But it still galls me a little.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and do bits of it again, knowing what I know now. I wish, at least, that I could go back to Dr. Erickson, she of aforementioned Brit Lit class, and ask for a copy of her lectures so I could see what I missed.


Friday, July 25, 2008

How My Mind Works

I was going to play something totally different today but woke up with this song on my mind and being a victim of my subconscious (or whatever part of our brain it is that holds on to songs and randomly spits them out when we least expect it), I'm going to play it.

I grew up on the "classics": Andy Williams, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, The Brothers Four and The New Christy Minstrels and like that. So it should come as no surprise that the work of Burt Bacharach and Hal David was also pretty huge around our...

Oh, cripes! I know why this song is on my mind! I was surfing channels last night and saw about 3 minutes of "Duets", in which Angie Dickinson plays the role of Gwyneth Paltrow's grandmother. And I was thinking, "She sure seems to be aging nicely" and wondering if she's had any work done when it flitted across my brain that she'd been married to Mr. Bacharach.

(I was always a little mystified by that particular hookup: she was, after all, Pepper Anderson and he wrote love songs. To my adolescent mind that seemed like an odd mix. I didn't know much).

Anyway, that's probably the coin that unlocked this little number from the jukebox that is my brain.

Naked Eyes "Always Something There To Remind Me"


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Runway: Kermit Was Right

It's not easy being green, as our challengers discovered this week. Just before the show started The Neighbor opined that PR had never had a challenge where all the designers had to use the same fabric. They still haven't, but this week they did have to use "green" fabric; not green the color, but sustainable-organic-ecofriendly-low-carbon-footprint-put-a smile-on-Al-Gore's-face "green".

But first we pick our models. (PR has moved away from the whole business of focusing much attention on the models and I think overall that is a wise decision. There are enough people to keep track of as it is). Heidi reminds us that this is a competition for them, too, and after the auf'ed model swans away, Ms. Klum announces that the designers will now meet their new models for this challenge. (Huh? Why the humiliation of the dodgeball-at-recess selection process if we aren't going to use the regular girls?) Oh, that Heidi; she was just being coy. Of course the models are going to be working. They are also going to be the client.

At the first "gather 'round" with the Gunn the challenge is revealed: to create a cocktail dress for a "young, glamorous woman" with aforementioned "green" materials. And just to make it extra fun, it's the models who will be going to Mood with Tim to purchase fabric. Oh, the twitterpattedness that ensued from that little twist. The designers were ringing their hands about fabric choices and whether the models would be clever enough to remember things like trim, fasteners and thread while the models look like deer in the headlights given the gargantuan responsibility just placed upon their size 0 shoulders.

$75 apiece and 30 minutes of shopping later, the girls are back to consult for another 30 minutes with the designers, who have until the witching hour of midnight to complete the dress.

(Speaking of witches, Scary Stella started the day by ingesting some frightening looking concoction of grasses and twigs and other newt-friendly substances. She so struck me as the sort of gal who would start her day with a bottle of vodka and a pack of Camel straights. Dig me, judging a book by it's leather binding).

Some of the designers are happy with what the model purchased; most are ever so disgusted.

Speaking of disgusted, Lorraine wishes Suede would get the memo that talking about yourself in the 3rd person is as annoying as sh*t.

Stella is kerfuffled because her model/client wants something flowy and earthy while Stella's aesthetic is "very urban". Much draping and discussion and then she announces that she's not really going to listen to her client but will instead create something "classy and elegant, like Audrey Hepburn" would wear. Because, you know, Stella just oozes Holly Golightly from every pore.

Classy and elegant:

Not classy and elegant:

I wasn't super enamored of Blayne last week but may be warming to him now. He has tanning issues but dude is funny. He likened Heidi to Darth Vadar. Someone else who is funny (although her personal "look" runs a little toward "Square Pegs") is LeAnne. Lorraine likes LeAnne because LeAnne riffed very effectively on the annoyance of Suede's 3rd person thing.

Korto, who we are pretty sure is very talented, is making something that will work with her model's "butt and hips"'s an African thing, she tells us. The dress is intriguing to Tim until he discovers that the darts she's making are going to be on the outside of the garment: "uh, ohhhhh" he says in surprise. He rallies with "This has to be perfection or you're looking at a hot mess". The Gunn said "hot mess".

(Let's start a pool now: in which episode will The Gunn slip and say "hot tranny mess?")

Then Korto notices Wesley's dress, which is of similar fabric and she becomes paranoid that the dresses are too much alike. They aren't remotely but it provides an opportunity for other designers to make asides about how really, one ought to just keep one's head down and work without constantly referring to the work of the other designers. Korto, we think, might be a little high strung.

Lorraine worried that The Gunn has snapped because he didn't hate Suede's horrid looking mess of bias cut wicky whackety stripes as much as Lorraine did. Tim said he was "excited". Lorraine thought it looked like a Girl Scout weaving project that threw up.

Oh, what's that, Tim? There will be no immunity for this challenge? Instead the winner will have his/her design manufactured and sold by Bluefly? Yippee!

As the designers finish up, Stella begins to pontificate about her love of leather (which she pronounces as "leathuh") and how she wishes she could only ever work in leathuh and how much she loves to stud and spike leathuh and Blayne starts a hysterical bit of patter about leathuh which culminated in "My kids came out a me, they were leathuh". I laughed through the next 5 minutes of the show.

In the last frantic minutes, as nearly every designer scrambled to finish up, I notice that cute-as-a-button Kelli sports some serious ink and conclude that Jerell is unnecessarily bitchy.

As we go to commercial we hear a preview of Nina declaring that "shiny, tight and short are the quickest way to look cheap". "Is she talking about Heidi?" quipped NOM. (It was pure quippage; we love The Klum).

Our guest judge this week is the ever creamy Natalie Portman who, as you surely know, has launched a line of vegan footwear and is all about the eco-challenge and looking way pretty at the same time. Which is important because I think we all know that Birkenstocks and hemp skullcaps really don't say "fashion" so much as "Dude, where's my car?".

Gut reactions to the runway:
Keith - looks like a parachute. A champagne parachute.

Terri - very cute; I think girlfriend is going to fly under the radar for a while but she is very consistent and capable of fun surprises (let's not forget last week's mop heads).

Wesley - just no. Scrunchy satin mess.

Jerell - hi, I'm a pimp.

Jennifer - I don't hate it but the colors (which she didn't choose) were nasty.

Daniel - adorable.

Joe - pretty, nice fabric, good lines, cute peek-a-boo detail.

Suede - Lorraine is not a fan.

Kenley - now that, my friends, is a cocktail dress!

Kelli - oh, honey, what happened?

LeAnne- she says "modern design" we say "horrible".

Stella - oh, ick with your biker mama lacing up the side. Audrey is rolling in her grave.

Blayne - not the worst thing on the runway but perhaps only as compared to his heinous work last week.

Emily- cute but not remotely what I would consider a cocktail dress. Pour moi the parameters of what constitute a cocktail dress are very narrow. I would suggest that most of this week's designs fell more into the broader category of "party dress". But then again, you kids have abandoned gin and tonics for Lemon Drops and Cosmos, so maybe this is what a cocktail dress looks like now.

Korto - not too bad, especially if you are a fan of fins.

The judges best and worst (and looky! pictures! Thank you, Bravo):

Kenley, who used organic silk, won raves for her simple, clean and chic "couture cocktail" dress. (I should also mention that the judges rather adored Kenley herself and her yummy '40's vibe).
In contrast, they found everything wrong with Wesley's contribution. Heidi found it "overworked" and "hated" the seams. Kors pronounced it "tacky" although Natalie did enjoy the little tie at the neck (but nothing else).

I hated it but Kors loved the lacing in Stella's dress. The judges also liked that she created something with good fit that made the client happy even as it represented Stella's POV ("leathuh!"). Nina seemed mostly impressed by the fact that this was a vast improvement over her garbage bag of last week. Well, sure, when you put it that way.

Korto said she wanted to create something that accentuated her model's curves. Natalie thought it looked inside out, Nina pronounced it "off balance" and Kors noted that curvy girls don't want fins. (chuckle)

The judges are all agog over Suede's dress. They love the manipulation of fabric in the bias cut stripey bodice, they love the froof of the skirt. Natalie proclaims that she'd wear it and Suede experiments with the first person by responding "I'd be honored if you did."

The couch critics admit that the completed dress is better than we thought it would be and certainly looks better from a distance than we thought it did up close.

LeAnne received low marks for being all over the place, having too many ideas and for creating, as Natalie said, something that "looks like Peter Pan".

While The Neighbor, NOM and I were quite, quite sure that Kenley would win it was, in fact, Suede who was giddy about the fact that "Suede f*&ing rocked it!" Lorraine would like to effing rock Suede into next week. LeAnne survived because "editing can be taught" whereas Wesley's "ambition got the better of him". So Wesley was auf'ed and here's hoping that next time he appears in public he is wearing long pants. Shorts with a jacket? No. Not unless we are a little British school boy. Perhaps he can commission Stella to make him something out of leathuh.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bread Makes Me Ramble

I still love my niece Jane Austen but she stood me/us up last night. She says she's going to come over next week though. (holds breath) Kids.

There is a little bakery in the next 'hood over that I have come to like very much. I treated myself to a visit there this morning. (I had to take my car in because it has a tire with a slow leak that has become a fast leak. Fortunately, the road hazard warranty was still in effect and the new tire + repairs to another+ rotating and balancing my tires only cost me $26. We love you Costco, oh yes we do-o, we love you Costco and we'll be true). I was, of course, very pleased by this but I still had to kill an hour at Starbucks while the work was done and it was a little boring because I didn't feel like reading and I wrote a blog post but then I didn't like it much and I didn't have my laptop because even though it's supposed to have a wireless watchiwoozle, I can't figure out how to activate it.

An aside: It is possibly a little sad that I found that hour at Starbucks to be something I killed rather than nurtured. I mean, normally, a spare hour in the middle of the day like that should be some sort of respite or something. But I guess my life is so full of respite at the moment that sitting idly in a coffee shop kinda because I had to as opposed to because I wanted to didn't have the same resonance it might have otherwise had.

Point is, after I got my tire situation all tidied away I headed home by way of Columbia City so I could indulge in some baked goodness. I bought a pain de campagne for dinner tonight and a babka for breakfast tomorrow. It made me very perky, partly because I really love the notion of bakeries and there are actually very few in Seattle that are independent and worth the bother. I mean, if you are going to make a special trip to a bakery, it oughta offer crispy, yeasty goodness that can't be found just anywhere or what's the point? And also, slipping into that little bakery is the closest thing to pretending I'm in France that I have within a 5 mile radius and I like pretending I'm in France.

If I lived in Paris I really would go out to do my marketing nearly every day because I could. Here that just isn't possible. The closest thing we have to that sort of opportunity is the Pike Place Market, which I did frequent several times a week when I lived downtown, but now it's not close enough. The co-op down the street doesn't feel remotely European, plus everything there is organic and seems to cost entirely too many dollars a pound no matter what it is. Plus, while they do have a decent selection of artisanal breads, they are produced by a bakery whose market is places like the co-op and no matter how fine the product, there is something about mass produced bread, over a certain quantity, that just ends up missing something.

I am only just discovering aforementioned little bakery. On Sunday I purchased the most perfect apricot danish I've ever had and a roasted potato loaf that was exceedingly delicious with steaks that evening. I've decided that I'm going to become a regular there and sample all their offerings and decide on favorites. Which means, if I'm really going to do that, I will have to begin walking there and back, rather than stopping on my way home, because too many pastries will interfere with my other goal of not becoming a completely rotund person.

Once upon a time I thought about starting my own bakery. It just seemed like a very delightful sort of way to make money. But aside from the fact that bakeries aren't necessarily known for making people wealthy there's also the whole thing of getting up before the crack of dawn to get the loaves formed and fill the pastries and fry the fritters or whatever. And I don't love anything enough for that. But that does remind me that we have discussed building a bread oven in our back garden and it really would be a superfantastic thing to do. You can't get a really decently crispy crust on bread baked in a home oven unless you are willing to fuss with all sorts of stuff like stones and boiling water and I'm usually not. But a nice brick oven in the back that could get all hot and fabulous and that I could bake in even when the weather is too warm for indoor baking? That could be cool.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Niece, Jane Austen

If everything goes according to plan, later today our home will be graced by the lithe and rose-scented presence of my niece, Jane Austen. (She doesn't actually smell like roses but she looks like she would).

Jane Austen (whose real name is Emma Rose but I call her Emma Louise and always have and don't know why) is one of my favorites. She used to be my absolute favorite but then she came to this area for college and despite promises never, ever ONCE made it over here on Friday nights for pizza-and-a-movie and so there has been room for others to challenge her preeminence. And that's the chance you take when you don't come over for pizza and a movie when you could.

Jane used to come for weekend visits when she was very wee and The Spouse and I were just starting out. She was a little, tiny faerie thing with a large imagination and a sweet heart. She loved her Auntie Raine. I dare say, she even worshipped me just a bit, the way small children do when they take it in their heads to love someone who isn't their mother or father. Now, I think she still loves me but at the age of nearly 21, she no longer worships me. The serious arse-kicking she gave me playing Guitar Hero recently was indication enough of that.

Jane is the first of the Next Generation to complete a 4 year college degree. She has a job and her own apartment and a very nice boyfriend (who turned her on to "Battlestar Galactica" - so you can imagine how I feel about him). She's also impossibly pretty. She reminds me of myself at that age (except that she has a much nicer boyfriend than I did and I wasn't as impossibly pretty). She left home young to go to college, she has begun to make a life for herself away from her family, she is bright and funny and sassy - which can sometimes be read as rebellious or "worldly" or some other thing that frightens people but she isn't. She is a classic good girl, with the sense to be a good girl because she knows that will profit her more than being a bad girl. In other words, she is making good choices and I, for one, applaud them.

I am fairly certain her parents are proud of her but they necessarily worry. She's the first of their brood to leave home and that is never a thoroughly easy thing. Turns out that momentous moment- the one you've been building toward all those years- is the point where you, as a parent, wonder if you did enough right, covered enough bases, to really and truly fit your child for life in the big, cruel world. I'm starting to think that birds have a much easier time of it, what with that whole just-pushing-em-out-of-the-nest-and-starting-a-whole-new-brood thing.
But human parents have to do more than regurgitate worms and teach babies to fly. And as hard as all those lessons are when we have the little buggers under our roof, I'm beginning to understand even more how tough it is to actually stand by and watch to see if the lessons hold.
And you know, sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. That's the other reality. You do all you can and it's either going to take or not. In the end, those offspring of ours are their own people and at some point their choices are theirs alone.
I do not know how I got off on that tangent. Point is, if The Child turns out as well as Jane, I will sleep very well at night.
Another thing, which I only recently realized about my relationship with Jane, is that I have a relationship with her, which is to say I seek out talking to her and being with her for her own sake. Yes, we know each other and have history because we could theoretically donate one another a kidney, but Jane stands up to the ultimate test: If she weren't kin and I met her at a party I would still want to hang with her. I don't have a relationship like that with any of my blood aunties (who are all perfectly lovely people, mind) although I know Dame Judi has one like that with at least one of her nieces. Which is only to say it's nothing to do with a generational thing or the like. Some people, I suppose, are just meant to be friends and if they happen to be introduced to you by way of family genetics, so be it.
Point is, Jane Austen is a superfantastic person and I'm looking forward to another Guitar Hero beating because even in the midst of my humiliation, I will be laughing and talking with someone I love very much.


Friday, July 18, 2008

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I've got a lot on my mind these days and frankly, I'm not very happy about some of it. I hate having to justify my existence. Whatever. Music soothes the savage something or other. Let's see if this works.

The Strokes "The End Has No End"


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh Joy, Oh Joy!

The Neighbor, The Neighbor's Office Mate (heretofore to be known as NOM) and I gathered with giddy delight for the premiere of Project Runway 5. Oh, the joy and palpitations! I hadn't even realized how much I'd been missing Tim Gunn until I faced the prospect of seeing him again. My heart soared.

We open, per usual, with the designers arriving at their apartments. Let's be clear. The introductions go very quickly and really, in the first week it is all about first impressions, gut reactions and knee jerk judgements. Sure, we see clips of most of the designers and hear them describe their looks and influences but it was all a smidge rapid fire for the likes of moi so there will be very little today in the way of major insight or calls about who will be in the final 3. I don't even remember the names of half the designers, nor could I pick most of them out of a lineup.

That said, a few notable comments and impressions:

Jennifer described her look as "Holly Golightly goes to the Salvador Dali exhibit".

Kelli is this season's first entrant in the "Cute as a Button" category and the cuteness factor is upped by her self-description as "Betsy Johnson's baby".

We were informed, by his pompous self, that Jerry is "on the forefront of being a big name in fashion". He is not, however, in the forefront of grasping the meaning of the word "forefront". I believe what he meant to tell us was that he was "on the verge" of being the next big thing. Or perhaps he wished us to view him as "kind of a big deal". I'm thinking, not so much.

Suede, on the other hand, gets the award for being "The Designer We Hate Most Right Away Almost Before He Opens His Mouth". He strikes me as a pretender to the Throne of Fierceness. He is not fierce. He is, merely, icky, with his denim vests all bedazzled with his silly name and his very bad hair. (You must have fierce hair if you are going to be fierce. He did not get the memo that bad mohawks are so over).

LeeAnn called herself a "fashion assassin" and while that is a catchy rhyme I think it is very wrong and I cannot condone it.

Wesley mentioned, simply, that his "clothes are divine" and Stella, who wants to be Patti Smith but isn't, scares NOM very much.

Patti Smith

Not Patti Smith

Up to the roof we go, where wait the eternally precious Tim Gunn and our darling Heidi. Ms. Klum is, btw, rocking a red mini-dress that leaves no doubts about the enduring ferociousness of her gams. Champagne corks pop and the faintly creepy Keith stands too close to Heidi while telling her that he basically designs with her in mind.

4 a.m. the next day even The Gunn looks sleepy as he rouses the designers for their first field trip. He leads them to Gristedes Mega store, site of the first challenge from Season 1. Huzzah! The infamous grocery store challenge! And who should Tim introduce as guest judge but the fabulous Austin Scarlett, he of the winning corn husk dress. (He stills looks every inch the dandy, a delightful fashion brew of Oscar Wilde and Willy Wonka). He announces the challenge: $75, 30 minutes to shop, create the design of your choice. Austin then imparts this wisdom: "Innovation is key to my success and so it shall be with yours". I just want to pinch his wittle cheeks.

Tim is a smidge less warm and fuzzy, reminding the designers that "this isn't idle shopping" and they'll only have until midnight to create their look.

At Parson's Tim intones his first "make it work" and they're off. Kelli begins to create a marble effect on vacuum cleaner bags with bleach and coffee. "It's pretty ugly in a great way," she says. Daniel is cleverly making a dress with a sweetheart neckline out of plastic cups that he is melting and shaping on the dress form. Jerry, Mr. Forefront of Fashion, declares that the majority of designers are "putting crap on crap", a particularly interesting judgement in light of the frightening coat he's making out of a shower curtain, set off with rubber gloves. Blayne, who I also don't like, invents the word "girlicious", which is as ridiculous as the outfit he's creating out of a tablecloth and doggie poo bags. Terri is doing something fabulous with mop heads. Stella is stressing over garbage bags and entirely too many of the designers are working (safely) with tablecloths.

The tablecloth phenomenon does not please The Gunn. He questions one designer's use of a blue belt on his design:
"But without it then it's just a tablecloth".
"Yeah," says The Gunn. His point exactly.
In fact, he's so disgusted by the overuse of table linens that he repeatedly tells the designers they need a "wow factor" and that he's quite afraid the judges will deem them all "a bunch of slackers". They have to take the items they are using and push them beyond what they are. "Innovate!" he declares.

Korto is the only designer bold (or crazy) enough to use actual produce in her design. ("Hop on that kale!" NOM urged her). Her dress was simple and classic which is laudable enough but truly, you must give snaps to someone who creates a collar out of kale bedecked with tomatoes, cut open so they look like jewels.

Stella, comes out of her stupor long enough to realize that perhaps a dress made of garbage bags is going to end up looking like a lame-ass dress made out of garbage bags. She whines, "If I'm the first one eliminated I'm the biggest jackass of the nation". (We all know there are at least a dozen bigger jackasses in the nation, but today's post isn't about politics).

Finally our models troop in and Tim gives the obligatory plug for TRESemmé, Loreal and the Bluefly wall o' accessories.

Our first runway show begins, just after I remind myself that my loathing for Michael Kors is in direct proportion to my love of The Gunn. My general reactions:

Emily: Eeewww.
Jerrell: Only slightly less eeewww.
LeeAnne: Congratulations, girl. Not only did you assassinate fashion, you decorated the corpse with cake and candy.
Kelli: Delightful.
Jennifer: Very Carrie Bradshaw
Daniel: Way to work the plastic cups, dude.
Terri: You have given me a new respect for my mop.
Stella: Yup. Garbage bags really are not couture.
Joe: I had no idea pasta and oven mitts could look that good.
Kenley: Honey, when you make a dress out of a lawn chair and a dodge ball it pretty much is going to look like the backyard after the playdate.
Jerry: Toxic spill on aisle 11.
Blayne: The very sum and definition of horrible.

The judges were equally succinct. MK thought Jerry's outfit looked like a freaky bridal nurse, HK said it looked like a hospital plumber and Nina cited it's complete and total "lack of innovation".

Korto, on the other hand got raves for her chic ensemble which looked, in Nina's opinion "impeccably done". See? Dark leafy greens are good for you.

Kelli won unanimous acclaim for her attention to detail, techniques and the fact that she pushed the envelope with her materials while Blayne was universally dissed for his cheap, tawdry and provocative-and-not-in-a-good-way mess of an eeewwww.

Heidi dismissed Stella's dress as "butt ugly". Well, that's what she said privately to the other judges. On the runway she just said that it looked like Stella was thinking "I'll just do something because I have to do something". Either way, ouch.

Drumroll......Kelli won because she explored all the possibilities of her materials. Blayne and Stella squeaked by, only because the judges were so completely in hate with the shower curtain monstrosity sent down by Jerry. So much for your forefront there, pal. Auf you go.

No fashion photos this season, kids, since Bravo has figured out people like me were blatantly copying them and have set it up so you can't do that anymore. So if you want to see the fashions simply go to Bravo and take a gander while I spend some time brushing up on copyright law.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Between inexplicable computer issues and my overwhelming excitement about the premiere of Project Runway 5 tonight I cannot blog about what I want to blog about and also, I'm going to lunch with The Neighbor and The Neighbor's Office Mate so we can talk about Project Runway.

Perhaps, if the computer gods smile on me, I'll be able to put up a less sneezy post this afternoon.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Week of Service

The bad news is that The Child's disposable camera broke so she doesn't have any photos of her trip. The good news is you can see and read some stuff here.

Before she left we'd watched "The Power of One", based on the book by Bryce Courtenay. This is the "school book" for High School; everyone - students, staff, teachers - have to read it this summer. (I know of other institutions that do this - I think it is superfantastic). Anypage, it's the story of an English boy born in South Africa and orphaned young. The story is about how his experiences shape his worldview and how he finds his own way of challenging the evils of apartheid. It's a fine film and does a decent job of depicting (among other things) the poverty of the shanty towns. But however powerfully images convey the hopelessness and heartbreak of such an existence, seeing it first-hand is something else, a something The Child now understands a bit better.

She's tried to describe it to me: the shock of seeing a family of 12 in a "house" no bigger than The Neighbor's family room, with "disgusting" communal bathrooms; the disparity of conditions from camp to camp. She told me that at one camp the conditions were "like a 4-star hotel" compared to some other places...mostly because the "houses" had satellite TV, their own bathroom and a tiny fridge and cooktop.

"And why was that place better than some of the other camps?"

"It all depends on the owner," she said. "Some of the farmers are a little nicer to their workers".

Yikes. Cram a family of 4 into a little house the size of my kitchen, pay 'em crap wages (because you can, because, you know, they're illegals) but feel better about yourself because you give them satellite TV.

Her van was the last to return home so I had some time to chat with the group leader. She told me what a delight The Child was, that she was a real trooper and always had a smile on her face. The Child caught a cold 2 days in so had to leave her "babies" in the daycare for work less susceptible to her contagion. She sorted donations, shoveled manure and mooshed fish guts for fertilizer. But according to J, she never complained and always dug in with a will. Trust, much as I wish I'd see a little more of that work ethic around here, knowing that she is capable of it out there in the world is a very nice, even hopeful, thing.

She had a great time with the other kids and mentioned how nice it was to be herself and present herself "in a new way" and be "accepted without any judgement". After the drama of her middle school class, it was exciting to her to realize that it really doesn't have to be like that and that there are plenty of people who are willing to accept her and like her as she is.

She was also really excited to sleep in her bed.

The stories and experiences are coming out in drips and dabs but there is a light in her eyes when she talks about the experience that sometimes says more than the words about the time she had. She's already looking forward to doing it again.

Oh, and when she got out of the van (looking like dirty little hippie chick) she came up to me, in front of God and everybody, and gave me a big hug. Right on.


Monday, July 14, 2008


"Schnitzel" is such a funny word. Not as funny, though, as "pants".


Friday, July 11, 2008

"I Will Now Sell Five Copies of The Three EPS by the Beta Band"

An applesauce cake to the first person who correctly identifies that quote. Next time I see you, anyway.

It's been a lazy week. It's probably the last week of it's kind for the foreseeable future. The Child will be back tonight and come September I'll have to be working in earnest to pay for things like high school tuition and braces. Which is groovy because I'm ready. I thought I was going to be all nostalgic for what is the end of an era but it turns out I'm not. I think, in fact, that the era ended a while ago and I just didn't realize it. Or maybe the nostalgia will come later. The fact is, I still have most of the summer ahead of me to enjoy with The Child. Next summer will be the big change...she'll have her high school friends to hang out with, maybe a job. I'll be working. This will be the last summer for lazy days, picnics, sitting in the back garden with a good book and a cool drink.

Yeah. Still doesn't make me sad. Not right now anyway. It's been a good run but it's time for a different schedule. Like I said, I'm ready.

Beta Band "Dry the Rain"

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord

I signed up The Child for the mission trip for 2 reasons. 1, it would give her something to do for a week and b) it had the potential to slap a little sense into her.

We haven't sought to spoil her, only child that she is. But let's face it, "entitlement" is a characteristic that teens manifest naturally. The fact that our culture feeds into that doesn't help. ("You're all winners!" No. Actually, you aren't). The Child expects to get what she wants, when she wants it. The fact that we don't always say "yes" to these desires, the fact that we insist on rules and consequences and chores somehow hasn't shaken her sense of entitlement. It just proves to her that we are really mean parents.

I figured a week working with kids who have soooo much less, coupled with sleeping on a basement floor, no television and even a stint in the fields doing some manual labor for next to no wages might open her eyes.

It wasn't until Mass on Sunday that I got another perspective on the opportunity.

There sat our 8 teens in their matching t-shirts. At one point The Spouse leaned over to me and whispered "I'm so proud of our little Boof". At the end of Mass Father called them forward for a blessing. He also gave them a charge, reminding them that they are examples of God's love, and extension of caring from our parish and that they were examples to all of us, giving up a week of their summer to serve the least among us. Wow. And then he had the congregation stretch out their hands in blessing as he prayed, the whole community sending forth some of our own to love and serve. I got more than a little varklempt.

Afterward, people kept coming up and saying "You must be so proud". And I was. But I was torn, too.

Before church, The Child was being as much a teen as it is possible to be. I couldn't tell her anything.

"Did you remember to pack your..."

"Yes, Mom". (eye roll)

"Do you have your..."

"YES, Mu-uh-om". (double eye roll and hair flip)

She didn't want me to stand around or help load the van (like the other parents). She didn't want to talk to me, didn't want to sit with us (most of the kids didn't sit with their parents but still). She was cool and self-possessed and mature and it was lovely to see. But it kinda hurt. I know I have to make friends with this pain. It won't last forever and it is normal. She's supposed to move away from me, from needing me. I really do get that and it's what I want. But still. Ouch.

I knew she wasn't going to tolerate anything so humiliating as a good-bye hug but I wanted to do something. Communion came. She was sitting at the end of the pew so as I went forward for Eucharist, I just very lightly put my hand on her shoulder without looking at her. She grabbed my hand, pulled me in and laid a big kiss on my head.

It was all I was going to get but it was enough.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Where's My Fife and Drum?

Here's an idea for making a dent in the energy crisis: we oughta harness all the energy of the dead presidents who have been spinning in their graves lately. Bet we could power most major cities in America and Canada with all that power.

If I sound a wee bit peeved it's because I am. I'm a patriot. I love the promise of this nation. When we fall short of that promise, especially when we don't even seem to be trying to hit the mark, it breaks my heart.

I've been having chest pains for nearly 8 years.

Today, this 232nd anniversary of America's official birth seems like a good time to celebrate the rebels and radicals who called BS on the powers that were and said "there has got to be a better way". Then they went off and first they wrote The Declaration of Independence which is full of stirring, edgy language:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men* are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"....

("I know this, says you...geez, you don't think everyone is quoting this ad infinitum today?"

"Hush, says me, I'm getting to the good part...the part people forget...the part that sounds as fresh today as it did back then.")

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness".

The right of revolution? Hello? Let's say a person running for office went on Larry King and let's say that individual declared, "Oh, yes, Larry, I absolutely believe that if government isn't working, the people have every right to make changes and, failing that, to throw out the whole thing and start all over again". What do you think the headlines would read the next day?

And if the Declaration of Independence weren't enough, then they go and write the Constitution. I don't know when you last read it but really, you oughta take a little time and do it soon. It's not that long. But it's a good idea to know what is in it so you can tell when the current administration do yet another thing to try and weaken it.

Maybe it's because I'm a words gal, but I think the Declaration and the Constitution are stirring, incredible documents that laid the foundation for a terribly interesting experiment. And that experiment is facing some major challenges right now, mostly from within. For those of us who are true, patriotic Americans, those of us who really love this country and remember the greatness of which she's capable should remember how much we have in common with Tom and John and George and that firebrand Patrick, et al. Those chappies had some grand ideas and did something about it. Today would be a good day for us to remember that.

And really, that's part of what I like so much about Obama. He isn't just talking about what he would do as President. He's been challenging people for months to reawaken to the fact that we are the government and we can be the change this nation so desperately needs. I like a leader who strives to remind us that "the governed" is us and our consent is required and the power to right things is in our hands.

We are the children of the revolution.

Happy freakin' 4th of July, kids. Mind your sparklers.

T-Rex "Children of the Revolution"

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Thursday Morning Meeting

Could everyone please meet me in the conference room? I have a few announcements.

(Shuffles papers, adjusts "serious" glasses, pinches finger on clipboard. Ow).

First of all, thank you for wearing a shirt, Sling. Productivity in the secretarial pool is up 60%.

On the subject of dress code, just a reminder that "casual Friday" does not mean "no pants", JP.

Moving on, please note for your records that The Child will be attending Second Choice High this fall and we will now be referring to it as simply "High School" for the duration. We still had not heard from First Choice as of July 1 and since we now have to start paying tuition we are officially committed. Please know that The Child is quite content with this decision as is the Parental Board. Not to mention, I look way better in the school colors, which are red and white. Green and gold wash me out something terrible.

After months of trying, I am pleased to report that The Dog has slain his first rat. He is walking very tall and proud and we are going to get him a little belt and put notches on it.

Now then, I have asked Senator Russ Feingold to address the group with an important message. Senator Feingold?

Thank you, Senator. I'm sure we can all appreciate the importance of contacting our representatives while they are home for the 4th of July break and making it clear that the present FISA legislation must be stopped. I recognize that there may be those of you who are not concerned about the notion of illegal wiretaps and corporate collaboration, taking the position that you aren't doing anything wrong so you have nothing to worry about. While I applaud your character, I'd like to point out that this is a very naive position. When any government has unlimited power to spy on its citizens, the government ends up defining "doing wrong". History is replete with examples of people who were deemed "wrong" by their government by virtue of their religion, ethnicity, politics, or simply by the company they kept. Tomorrow we celebrate the founding of this nation. I think it would be a lovely gesture if we all did our part to see to it that the Constitution is not further sullied by the most unAmerican, unpatriotic administration in our nations history. Bastids.

Alright, looking ahead on the calendar you'll see that The Child leaves on her mission trip this Sunday, July 6 and is returning on Friday. Also, July 16th brings season 5 of Project Runway. I know you are all looking forward to some tranny fierce recaps. And let's see, what else? Oh, yes, the annual Forth o' Juleye Trailer Trash extravaganza has been cancelled this year. All the family hooha has depleted my will to wear pleather faux alligator capris and drink beer out of a can. I do still plan to make corn dogs, however.

I think that's everything. Thank you for your attention. There is pie in the break room and plenty o...Hat? Alrighty then. Meeting'd better get to the pie while you still can.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

And So Our Journey Ends

Leaving Dana's felt a little like closing up the summer house; we were reluctant (especially about the secret garden) but also ready to get back to regular life. I think that's the sign of a perfect vacation...rested enough to welcome the return of routine. Or at least one's own bed.

But we weren't quite saying goodbye to California yet. Anthony had urged us to have breakfast at a particular cafe in Berkeley, which was more or less on our way out of Dodge. Right. 'Cept for that pesky "all exits lead to Oakland" thing. Once again, we cruised confidently through the impressive Alameda portal (a structure which neither Hat nor I ever managed to actually photograph) and immediately got all kerfuffled by the lack of signage. Oh, that mocking thing; Alameda portal my arse. More like a portal to another dimension. This time, however, I at least knew exactly how to get out of Oakland and back to Alameda. I promptly pulled into a gas station to ask for directions.

It went down like this. The guy behind the counter didn't know how to get to Berkeley but a regular customer did. "Oh, sure," he said. His cell phone rang. "Hold on just a second," he said to me. At which point this angel by the name of Chandra chimed in, "I make that run all the time. Here's what you do..." I asked a few clarifying questions, which at least made it clear to her that I was ever so familiar with the portal to another realm and then she looked at me with compassion. "Tell you what. I have a quick delivery to make across the street. Wait here for me and I'll lead you out to the freeway. I'm going to Berkeley anyway".

Blessings on her and all her house! I jubilantly announced to the girls that we would, in fact, find our way to Berkeley before the end of the year and then Chandra swooped by to lead us to the promised land. Which was just as simple as it could possibly be, provided you understood that by taking a right at the sign for San Jose and then another way too quick and virtually unmarked right onto the freeway that you'd end up heading north. (Idiot CA DOT).

Our angel led us out to the first (and I think only sign) that indicated Berkeley lay ahead and then she waved a slender arm out her truck window and pulled off at the next exit. She wasn't going to Berkeley. She was just being the nicest possible person on the planet ever. (Next time you need a new car, go to Toyota of Alameda. Seriously).

Berkeley was not without its own unique driving challenges: one way streets, myriad 15 minute parking spaces and a particularly charming driver who decided to take his free left on a red light while I was turning on a green. He missed hitting me by mere inches but it's always nice to know the adrenal glands are working.

Au Coquelet was everything Anthony promised it would be.Breakfast was abundant, cheap and delicious. After breakfast we poked around some (mostly Tibetan) shops and scored some very fun jewelry. The Hat bought a hat. I regaled The Child with tales of the student left in the 60s. She was more interested in acquiring mementos for the Mead St. Gang. So be it.

Berkeley was the last major attraction planned for the trip. By now we were all about El Norte. We gained the freeway, then lost it, due to a detour toward LA which was supposedly a reroute past road work but wasn't. Big lying DOT. After that, my one and only mission was to get the hell onto I-5 and not leave it again until we'd put several hundred miles under our wheels. Which we mostly did. Traffic was light (this is the closest thing to "California traffic" that we ever got:

(Granted, we were in Northern California and not LA but still).
The other motorists were courteous (Oregonians, take a lesson, please) and soon we were all about the rhythm of the drive, the shuffle of the iPod and the beauty of the scenery. We did stop from time to time to rest in cool shade

and photograph blue jays.
This is for JP. I don't remember now if it is California or Oregon. No matter:
Early in the evening we were back in Oregon, at Aunt Sharon's. We went out for superb Thai food and then The Child and I relaxed in the hot tub and while the warm water worked out my driving kinks, we looked at the stars and talked about God. It was a glorious night.

The next morning dawned fair and lovely, then was shattered by the call from The Spouse announcing his sister's death. Auntie and I were glad we were together in that moment. It was all very shocking and surreal, and even though there was not a blessed thing I could do about it, the situation gave a little more urgency to the last leg of the trip. I couldn't do anything about anything but I wanted to be with The Spouse.

Oregon drivers are horrible, bullying sorts and I don't like them. This behavior is also completely at odds with their otherwise very friendly nature and the fact that they want to fill your gas tank for you. (No self-serve in Oregon; The Child just adored it. "They even wash your windows for you, Mom!") I drove as fast as it was possible to go, aided when necessary by some Springsteen, which always makes me drive at least 80.
We stopped in Salem for a lovely lunch and a little more shopping (The Child has decided to collect a stuffed something from every state in the union and she found an Oregon beaver. Huzzah. I also resisted the urge to get a "Could you be anymore up my ass?" bumper sticker, since I only feel that way in Oregon and we were, after all, leaving).

We made most excellent time. Until we hit Portland. Why all those people weren't on their famed light rail line is beyond me. It took about 30 minutes to actually cross the bridge into Washington. But we figured that, barring any other hold ups (except the inevitable boondoggle that always seems to happen south of Tacoma for no reason whatsoever), we should make it home in time to get Hat to the airport to catch her shuttle home. She had a flexible ticket. If she missed the 7pm bus she could get the 9pm one but I was bound and determined to get her to SeaTac by 7 so she too could have a pleasant evening in her own home.

There was one other absolutely nonsensical tie up and I marvelled at the fact that we had driven through 3 states, one famed for it's traffic, and the only problems we had with tie-ups were when we were this close to home. But you know what both Oregon and Washington have that California doesn't? Really excellent road signs.

Pedal to the metal, I screamed into SeaTac about 10 minutes before Hat's shuttle was to leave. I felt really excellent about that. She is a most wonderful Hat and she had been such a help on the trip. It felt like giving her a little gift to know that she wouldn't be trudging into her flat late at night after a stupid 2 hour wait at the airport doing nothing.

Minutes later The Child and I were back home. The Spouse was there, with his brother, and the evening was more about somber realities than my little road trip. Which was appropriate. But let me tell you something; I came home ever so relaxed and full of goodwill and joy because of all the fine times, good food and dear people. And I was thankful that at least my excellent mood made me well suited to be a helpmate for my family in their hour of need. Or something. Yeah, it was a crappy end to a blissful time, but that's life, isn't it? You get your good and you get your bad. Somehow, as my friend ChouChou likes to say, it's all good.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I Wonder How the Other Half Lives

There would be things to fill our day, I told myself. Myriad photo ops, for one; including a particularly lush garden down the street with a gorgeous orange tree spang in the center. I could start negotiations to buy my house. Plus, Alameda is, in fact, an island and that implies a beach somewhere. We'd be suitably entertain one way or another, although The Child was less convinced.

In the midst of coffee and formulation of a Plan B The Child burst into the secret garden to announce, "Mom! Danny texted you! Danny texted you!" Back to Plan A.

A word, before I continue, about the California Department of Transportation. I don't know how they apportion their tax dollars but I can tell you what they don't spend it on:
a) highway maintenance (unless that washboard thing is intentional)
2) signage

Speed limits? Clearly a matter of personal preference. The state certainly doesn't have any strong feelings about it. Directional signs? The operational premise seems to be that if you are in California, you must know where you are going. One or two place names on a highway sign are all you need. Alameda is, we learned from natives, a particularly tricky place to get in and out of. The "in" was no trouble, thanks to Dana's excellent directions. I had neglected, however, to ask him how to get out.

So it was that, despite following the signs Danny told us to look for, we found ourselves driving south, parallel to the freeway we were supposed to be on. I made a U-turn and instead of signs leading to the freeway we found ourselves smack in downtown Oakland (which is this far from Alameda).

There were no signs anywhere indicating egress to the freeway and while I am not a pussycat when it comes to urban environments, there is a diciness to Oakland that got my spidey senses tingling. I wasn't inclined to pull over for directions, sure as I was that it would be the equivalent of showing our soft underbellies.

By the grace of my car angels I found myself, quite miraculously, in a lane on which was painted "Hwy 000" with a left turn arrow. Why a corresponding sign didn't hang from the overpass above, you know, where everyone could see is beyond me. But a hairpin turn across 2 lanes of traffic later, we were on the right road.

The frustration was worth it.

Danny's sweet, little house has a street presence that belies the expansive warmth within. Full of light and color, it is a beautiful home. Introductions and big squenches ensued, followed by cocktails. We meandered out to the Eden of the enclosed back garden where I proceeded to pretend to be in Tuscany for the duration.
The Child nibbled some cheese then, true to her Aquarian nature, hopped into the pool and was a merchild for the rest of the day.
It should also be noted that The Child talked frequently all week about the fact that she intends to go to college in "Cali". Somehow, it makes sense.
Let's talk about food for a minute:

Tasty hors d' oeuvres:

Crisp salad, loaded with fruit and a watermelon vinaigrette to die for (and I loathe watermelon):
A delicious, chicken-laden rice concoction that could have been a meal in itself:
and delicious BBQ, chicken and steak, that Danny maintained was overcooked due to an accident of knob turning (up when he meant down) but which was moist and flavorful anychar.

We met the boys' friend Stephanie, a lively and sweet young woman, plus their son and some of his friends, including a dead ringer for Lindsay Lohan, only sober. I was impressed with the kids, especially son Andrew. I like a teenager who is happy to sit comfortably with his parents' friends and talk easily about his interests. He and his buddy, Chris, were also very sweet to The Child.
Anthony is a charmingly loquacious gentleman who oozes hospitality and warmth. And Danny...oh, this is why you meet blog buddies, people. Based on his wild and crazy blog presence I had him pegged for a flamboyant, table dancing sort. Not so. He's quiet, with a dry wit and eyes that sparkle with the effervescence of his heart. I adore him.

Oh, is there anything better in this life than a long, leisurely lunch al fresco, surrounded by friendly dogs and friendlier people?

I think not.

We ate and drank, talked and laughed; pausing once in a while to pat a dog or make sure the Child hadn't been sucked down a drain or something. At one point Danny reached out for a wine bottle and I noticed his watch. "6:30?!? How did that happen?!?" A few more nibbles, a few more sips and then, really, The Child had to come out of the pool. After a repeated litany ("Come on, we have to go"..."Okay, one minute"..."Come on, we have to go"...."Okay...") Danny and I jumped in. If you can't beat 'em...

The dip was beautifully refreshing and I felt all alert and perky again, after the languors of the afternoon. With reluctance, we finally, finally marshaled ourselves out and to the car, happy to count lovely new friends among our acquaintance.

We got home without visiting Oakland. Still not sure how. There was only one exit sign for Alameda, followed by no directionals of any sort but instinct said "turn left" and bam, we were in Alameda, just a few blocks and one Uturn from home.

The evening was passed with pizza and "freaky Friday" and a little puttering relative to laundry and packing. Our California dreamin' was winding down.

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