Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dog days.

Here is how Betty likes to spend part of her day.

Bruiser soaks up tile-floor-coolness.

Healthy Eating Report: My son told me today that he had a dream that he was eating healthy. "I had a dream that I was eating healthy," he told me, which included having a bag of carrots and a bag of red grapes with him. "I was eating grapes," he told me.

"Do you like grapes?" I asked. I have to ask, because the crappy eating habits of my two remaining at-home kids so floors me that I have finally given in to the shopping list that reads as follows:

1. Doritos
2. Pop Tarts
3. Chocolate crunchy cereal (whatever the brand name is)
4. Non-organic milk (which my son insists is the milk of his forefathers)
5. pizza pouches (pouches! I ask you!)
6. soda
7. Gatorade
8. crap candy

"I have a dream," I told him, and though I'm sure he got it, he refused to give me the satisfaction of a courtesy smile, even.

"Yeah, I like grapes. The red ones, seedless. Not the green ones. Those look too healthy."

"The red ones are better for you, anyway," I said, which I think is true.

"Good. Now don't tell me that ever again," he said.

Score one for healthy eating, stealth-style.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The U.S. Wins the World Cup!

. . . on my son's GameBoy FIFA 2006! They totally skunked Italy.

In other news, we planted strawberries and sundry herbs, mulched the whole garden box apparatus, bought and implemented a new soaker hose (also Stadium Arcadium, in the miscellaneous purchase category), and saw no new movies. Does it strike anyone that this summer's theaters are even more of a wasteland than usual?

I'm also recovering from my first Writers @ Work service. It was fun, it was real fun, and now it's over, and I'm glad. The best thing was that nearly every registrant I spoke with had a good time at the conference. The next best thing was hanging out and getting to know people better. I had a useful manuscript conference with Janet Holmes of Ahsahta Press, and that was good. There were parties and receptions and readings--I attended more readings last week than I had in the last two years, easy. And now, the best thing is that it's over for the year, and the rest of the summer stretches forth before me without too many specific demands, other than to keep the cupboards stocked with NoodleRoni and PopTarts (for the kids!).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My cruise: the photo essay.

At the Long Beach Aquarium.

This idea somehow never gets old.

The historian classes up the boat.

He comes dancing upon the water,/ Cortez, Cortez/ What a killer
(Neil Young). Okay, fine. You come up with a better caption.

This is the Monarch of the Seas (!) as we leave it in the tender boat.

This is a view of Avalon.

Free your mind.

World Cup, baby, en Mexico.

Homage to Christo (at the Long Beach Museum of Art).

(pathetic) Homage to either Hockney or Mondrian, take your pick (LBMA).

Monday, June 19, 2006

Back on dry land.

To begin with, I wish I could report to you that, post-cruise, my nerve endings are all smoothed out, that I am stress-free and ready for re-entry. I wish I could say that the cruise transformed my life. I wish I could, but I can't, and so here, as promised, is my report, but sans pictures, because I have evidently left my usb cable elsewhere. But I digress.

The cruise was pretty great, I must say. From the moment we got onboard, after a bit of nerve-wracking buzzing around Long Beach with my folks, it was plenty of fun. For one, when we took off for the first time, I had fallen asleep in my room (hereafter to be known as "stateroom"). The movement of the ship on the water was what woke me up. It was, somehow, rather thrilling. I hastened up to the deck to see and watch. There's something about being surrounded by water, and a vast body of water at that, and watching the coast recede, that feels almost instantly redemptive.

The fam had dinner together every night at the same table in a dining room. The same team of folks attended us, and this felt effervescent and charming. Our head waiter was from India, the dining room manager was Polish, our drinks waiter was also Indian--every night, the same people, and by the end of it, you felt kind of bad to be leaving them behind. Also, when we returned to our staterooms, the beds were turned back, and the stateroom attendant, Basil, had made various types of animals out of folded and twisted bathtowels. There was a bunny, a bat, a stingray, an elephant . . . we had a whole menagerie, between our five staterooms. Also, a lovely bedtime chocolate mint on the pillow, or forming the eyes of the stingray, depending.

What I did do: buy presents for various folks in Avalon (Catalina) and Ensenada; take naps; get a little sun-burned, despite dutiful application of heavy-duty sunscreen; see whales spouting off the coast of Baja; karaoke, including a stellar duet with my brother on "Get Back" ("her high-heeled shoes and her low-neck sweater"), a killer rendition of "Hotel California" with my younger sis, and, irresistibly, a trio with both sisters of "We Belong"; read a novel and some magazines; most of one crossword puzzle; sleep perfectly every night.

What I did not do: read as much as I thought I would; much lolling around at the pool; make use of the fitness facilities, despite having packed workout clothing; sit for hours watching the ocean.

I would do it again, in a heartbeat--especially if someone else was paying! The only thing I would change is to spend more time actually out at sea.

When we got off the ship, the historian and I had hours and hours to kill before getting on a plane back to SLC. So we decided to rent a car and check out Long Beach. We had just made a book-killing at Sam Weller's before we left, so we opted not to visit Acres of Books, which was perhaps a mistake. We did, however, have a lovely time at the Long Beach Museum of Art, a small museum with a lovely exhibit of Ruth Duckworth's sculpture. I had been only peripherally aware of this wonderful artist, so the exhibit was just great. On the second floor of the museum, they showed other works, including many ceramics, which created a nice conversation with the ceramic work downstairs.

On the way back to the airport, I was on the lookout for a place to have some iced tea. We ran into the Vintage Tea Leaf tea room, which was hilarious and also happened to offer a very nice pitcher of Lady B's Southern Comfort iced tea and some lovely scones, accompanied by clotted cream and lemon curd. The hilarity derived from the massive charm overkill--it's aiming for a Victorian-style tea room, and I suppose it might come close. Anyway, it was funny and very refreshing.

After that, we went to the Long Beach airport, which I highly recommend to anyone who has to go to the LA area. It's basically the size of a couple of postage stamps, and is very lowkey and friendly. Most airports make you feel like you want to kill yourself or somebody else, but this one makes you love all mankind. "Thank you for checking in early," said the guy at the Delta counter. No, thank you!

Sadly, now that I am back in regular life, I am just as snarky and irritable as I have ever been. Why? why is it that after a vacation, real life feels so much more unbearable? Sigh. I need to have a consult with the Tea Mistress (I am not making that up) of the Vintage Tea Leaf tea room (only $100). Or maybe just a pitcher of that Lady B's Southern Comfort. Or maybe just some Southern Comfort. Now we're talking.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

No way.

Here are two bits of information that I think will be of interest to various readers:

(1) In today's NYTimes, in a brief profile of William H. Macy, David Mamet reveals that he loved Crash, which was reviled by most if not all bloggers in this neighborhood, as it were. "I loved 'Crash,' " Mr. Mamet said of the Academy Award winner for best film during a recent phone interview from his office in Los Angeles. "I just adored it. A very important movie. The dark secret of America has always been and always will be race. It's a secret hard to be rational about because it's so much a part of our lives."

(2) Scritti Politti has a new album. "If you're a British new-wave pioneer who turns 51 next week, if you were once known for your obsession with Marxist and post-Marxist theory, if your career includes big hits (none bigger than "Perfect Way") and long silences — well, if all this were true, then you would be Green Gartside, the man behind Scritti Politti. It's hard to imagine how he could have made a better album than "White Bread Black Beer" (Rough Trade/Nonesuch), his beautiful and puzzling new CD, out now in Britain and next month in America."

Just passing the news along.

Okay, then! For the next week, I will be on the ocean or on the shore, living the high life. I'll come back with pictures and a full report.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ut pictura poesis.

This is either (a) a picture of a Jim Carrey movie being shown on a faraway screen, or (b) a window into the hell that is trans-atlantic travel.

This is a library. (The Reading Room at the British Museum, where Karl Marx retreated to study and write when all the revolutions failed.)

These are some of the Elgin marbles, either stolen or preserved, depending on who you ask, by Lord Elgin in the 19th century. These blow my mind.

My yellow shoes visit the U.K.

A soft drink with ice. (a rarity in Great Britain)

The Historian ("Papa"), my daughter Amelia, and Miriam at Urquhardt Castle

Once a rose window--the Cathedral at Elgin.

At Aberdeen University, which has been a university since the 16th c. Located in Auld Toon Aberdeen.

A field of rapeseed--growing everywhere, these fields blanketed in yellow.

At a historic farm near Newcastle, a warning about the historic pigs.

This is the ploughing champion of Great Britain, now retired. (my son-in-law's stepdad)

This is what Miriam thought of Lordi, the Finnish winners of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Destination: umbrella drinks.

I have never been particularly enamored of the idea of cruises, except in the mid-century notion of actual ocean travel, as in getting on a ship in order to go somewhere. Crossing the Atlantic, for instance. Sometimes, fidgety and sleepless in the middle of a trans-Atlantic flight, I have thought that taking however long it might take--a week? ten days?--to sail there would be infinitely more civilized than trying vainly to stretch my legs, fall asleep, etc., all the while worrying that I'm going to have a stroke from deep vein thrombosis or whatever.

But as it turns out, the historian and I, along with my parents and my sibs and their spouses, will be sailing from Los Angeles Harbor shortly, to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. This week, we got our travel documents, which were like a study in a foreign culture. You can, for instance, reserve a tuxedo for formal dining nights, something we hadn't considered. I'm pretty sure that the historian was, up to this point, thinking that his wardrobe would consist of four tee shirts, a pair of red shorts, a back-up pair of red shorts, and a pair of jeans. Maybe a pair of khakis. Maybe. Now, he has to think about a suit, in lieu of a tuxedo, unless he decides to go for the cruised-up tuxedo option.

I myself have been planning my wardrobe for weeks, but that's nothing new. However, I am contemplating the meaning of the term "resort wear," which my travel documents have assured me I'd be comfortable wearing while aboard ship. This reminds me that all the fashion magazines I have read in my life have a resort wear issue, usually in January, when a certain class of people apparently take trips to warm locations. I may have been to resorts in my life, but I don't think I have any resort wear. This is just another invitation for anxious over-packing on my part. As if I weren't going to overpack anyway.

Anyway, I find myself looking forward to this little adventure immensely. First of all, we will sleep for four nights on a ship! This sounds exciting and sexy to me. Second of all, there will be exotic ports of call, such as San Diego (okay, maybe not so exotic), but also Avalon (on Catalina, where I've never been despite many years in SoCal) and Ensenada. Third of all, I will get to spend time with my sisters and brothers and spouses, which I consider a lot of fun. Fourth of all, I plan to bring a pile of books to read. Fifth of all, I have reportorial urges to fulfill. What will the food be like? Will it be just like the Love Boat? Will we ever be out of shore-viewing distance? Finally, I live in hope that there may be karaoke somewhere on board. Mightn't there be? I will report my findings after the voyage.


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