Sunday, December 25, 2011

"No, Babbo, it's gratitude, not attitude."

We went on a bomber run to Reno and had a nice visit with one of my mothers-in-law. I know in the scheme of things, the chance to be with our folks is finite. There was no drama. Nobody cried. The drive home through Smith Valley, Nevada, was glorious.

We're trying to walk that fine line by not spoiling the child, but damn if he isn't blessed with an embarrassment of riches from his four sets of grandparents, school nurse, friends, etc. Still, I had to remind him, "No, Babbo, it's gratitude, not attitude."

So, with this lesson in mind, I must say that I was personally grateful for the following this year:
  • our folks' relative health
  • our health
  • health insurance
  • frequent flier miles (can't use them any time soon, but they allow us the chance to dream, non?)
  • dual immersion Spanish at Bishop Elementary School
  • the first graders I am with on a weekly basis
  • the care I got from friends and family - it kept my head above water this year
  • work and seeing all my workmates and my dear Diane at Fallen Leaf Lake in Tahoe
  • getting to babysit Zartie the Black Lab a few times and not having our own dog - just yet
  • the fact that my dad has taken such good care of Judydog who is white faced and arthritic, but happy 
  • the mornings where Babbo and I walk a block to school - we're not late and we're just talking and holding hands and being
  • the quickie trip to Europe to see the Phoenix Foundation and being with dear people
  • the quickie trip to LA to goof off with Sue Brettingen, Steven Schayer, Marc Horton, Chantelle Patterson, Patria Jacobs, Martin Wong. It was the trip that made me fall in love with my hometown again.
  • the High Sierra Music Festival
  • the yellow I am painting the living room - it has helped with the winter blues
  • skiing en famille

Sunday, November 20, 2011

All hail the foundation garment

I bought myself a girdle. Middle age has meant that my bits and bobs feel like they are falling off. I am now my grandmother.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good riddance

I for one am glad to see the backside of summer and spring 2011. A friend said that Mercury was in serious retrograde this year and that all relationships were up for reconsideration. I laughed it off, until one day, recently, the psychic goo I'd been carrying around for months lifted. Mercury went out of retrograde that day.

At any rate, Matt and Babbo and I are still a family. I will take it. My heart really goes out to folks who didn't make it through what has been a hard 2011 and who are finding their way in the world again.

Monday, March 07, 2011

10 reasons to travel - LA Times

10 reasons to travel

Why not? Even in these tough times, it's good to get away occasionally. Think of the adventures that await. The exotic foods, the sights, the memories.

By Chris Erskine

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 27, 2011

Gulliver traveled. Look where it got him: lashed to the land by little people. Columbus, big traveler, right? Underestimated the circumference of the Earth and died thinking he'd found India. Sure, you can come up with justifications for never leaving the splendid safety of your office chair. Truth is, travel makes us better in many ways: better employees, better buddies, better mates. So, no, in these tough times, you probably don't feel the need to spend the money. But here's why we all should escape somewhere anyway:

The anticipation

Pros: A vacation begins the second you start to plan it. A study last year found that travelers' moods improved eight weeks before the actual vacation started.

Cons: Running out of toner the second you try to print your boarding pass. Trying to remember where you put the digital luggage scale. Rushing out to buy batteries for the digital luggage scale.

Why go anyway? Because the pleasure of pre-trip anticipation is almost sexual. It's why December is better than January. It's why puppies are more joyful than dogs.

The romance

Pros: Lonely? Get your booty to St. Lucie. There's nothing like a big, beachy drink to jump-start your love life. Studies show we have more sex on vacation. Whose study? Mine.

Cons: Heartbreak. Disease. Liver failure. Excessive drinking while on vacation can lead to inadvisable hook-ups. Or even marriage.

Why go anyway? Sun. Surf. Wet skin. Diving in. Good snow. Moon glow. Fresh faces. Love in strange places.

Mental health benefits

Pros: Look at your coworkers sleepwalking through their day. Know exactly what time they dine or head to the loo? Look, Dilbert, escape before you do something crazy. Escape now — before you become a cartoon.

Cons: Finding your way around a congested new city can make you nuts. A lousy hotel room can be a sinkhole of the human spirit. I once ordered a martini in Paris that tasted like dog spit. (This has nothing to do with mental health — I just like saying dog spit.)

Why go anyway? You know that moment your fanny hits the plane seat? Or you pull out of the driveway with a full tank of gas? It's freedom. It's conquest. It's you, Steve McQueen, on your great escape. You, the cooler king.

The adventures

Pros: What if Hemingway had never left Oak Park, Ill.? The physical challenges of travel give us fodder for our own stories about the world, some of them epic.

Cons: Death is such a drag sometimes. Imagine the crystalline splendor of being frozen to death atop a mountain, your body missing till the bears find it come spring. In 100 years, Cub Scouts could be camping on you.

Why go anyway? I once saved a man's life on a raft trip on the Upper Kern. Later, he bought me a beer.

The conversations

Pros: Sometimes the lilt of a new language can distance you from the worries back home. Then there are the stories, the humor, the handshakes. Travel is an education, and it all starts with chatting up the locals.

Cons: Hell is other people, Jean-Paul Sartre said. I'm pretty sure he was talking about New York cabbies. Or Parisian waiters.

Why go anyway? The kindness of strangers is a remarkable thing. It can change the way you feel about a country, its people, its culture. Just watch your wallet, especially in Madrid.

The photos

Pros: "The soul cannot think without a picture," Aristotle said. I don't think he was talking specifically about digital photography or that goofy shot of you pretending to be Bullwinkle on a bus tour of Denali. But maybe.

Cons: Your friends may hate you. Watch as they examine the shots from your latest cruise or safari. Bubbles of envy will form as spittle at the corners of their mouths. It will gunk up their throats till they can barely breathe.

Why go anyway? See above.

A change of scenery

Pros: Travel offers new textures, fresh smells, a change in weather. In Seattle, sunlight trickles through a bistro window differently from the way it filters in London. All the escapism found in a good novel can be found first-hand in travel.

Cons: Yeah, at 400 times the price of the novel. By the way, ever awakened while traveling and not known where you were? I once called a front desk and asked: "Essentially, where am I?" The clerk said Room 511. "Thank you," I said and hung up.

Why go anyway? Because you can go home again. Returning to your own bed, your own easy chair is a pretty good feeling all by itself. Just make sure you're in the right house. In my 'hood, they all look the same. At least that's what I tell the cops.

Family bonding

Pros: Is there a better icon of family life than an SUV loaded with tents, beach balls and canoe paddles? Many of our fondest memories are made while on vacation, as children or as parents.

Cons: Happy Meals. Potty breaks. Car sickness. Vomit. Sartre got it wrong: Sometimes, hell is your own family.

Why go anyway? Your kids are going to wipe you out no matter what, physically and fiscally. May as well be some place where a waiter will bring you a margarita big enough to launch a cruise ship. Salud!

The food

Pros: Sampling new cuisines is one of the most pleasurable parts of travel. Meals tend to be longer and more leisurely. Food is a portal to understanding a new culture.

Cons: In China, they eat sparrows, bones and all. In other parts of the world, silkworms, grasshoppers and nutria (rats the size of cats) are popular. Gator is eaten in parts of the U.S. South. Tastes like ... nutria.

Why go anyway? Remember all those flaccid meals they used to serve on airplanes? Now, they serve them in midpriced U.S. restaurants. Honestly, how many times can you eat a skinless chicken breast with a side of mixed veggies?

The memories

Pros: Travel is incandescent. It's the clink of a cocktail glass in a romantic restaurant, the chirp of a calliope atop a riverboat, the sound of your footsteps in Westminster Abbey.

Cons: Travel can be exhausting. As they say, nobody needs a vacation as much as the person who just returned from one.

Why go anyway? On your deathbed, do you really expect to say: "You know, I really wish I'd stayed home more"?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Going to embrace that inner hippie once again

Tickets bought for High Sierra Music Festival. There will be a fair contingent going from Bishop. We might even be dressed as mules. I don't think I've ever seen Matt so excited about a music event. Maybe that gorgeous, redheaded, foul-mouthed, siren Neko Case has something to do with it?

That unwieldy band I love so

So I didn't come home with any insight other than I will harden the fuck up. I was glad to go away and glad to come back. I got to spend a week acting like an adult, not just a mommy - I forgot what that was like. Mostly, I just people-watched from the comfort of Parisian buses. All hail the mighty weekly transit pass. All hail travel partners who are always up for a glass of wine/beer/aperitif.

I loved giving Jean Van Roy, the current brewer at Cantillon, a bottle of Russian River Temptation. I loved speaking to Jean-Pierre Van Roy, the former brewer, in my poor, poor French. Cantillon's Marmouche (elderflower) is a funky glory to behold. I loved meeting Mark O'Neill, who feels like a twin separated at birth. I get squishy when I think about those lovely men from St. Louis.

The Phoenix Foundation put on an amazing show. They still do the wall of sound that just wells up from nowhere. They still have the nuances that so endeared them when I saw them at Cuba Street in 2004. Tom, the new bassist from the Little Bushmen, is working out just fine. The band have grown so much in the 8 or so years I've been following them. I was proud to hear how the Phoenix Foundation still think fondly of their time in Bishop (they still remembered the name of the local Native American Paiute tribe!). I am just happy and grateful to have been along for the ride.

In case your mama drops dead

Babbo, know that Mommy has every intention of coming back to you to boss you around.

If something happens that I shouldn’t come back, know that raising you has been the best and hardest and most rewarding thing in my life.

I am so proud of your compassion for friends and people in general. You make everyone feel very welcomed, and that’s a special gift.

I am amazed by your love of learning. The way you listen from your little cuadrado morado and participate in class is something I hope you carry with you in life.

I want you to listen to your Daddy. He knows a lot, he’s patient with you, and he’s a fair teacher. He loves you more than anything and will guide you right.

I want you to “focus!*” and know that in life, you will have to do some not so fun things that may be boring or frustration or scary. Some things will even be so hard that you will fail when you try them. Most of these things are to help you become a better or wiser person, so bear through them and learn from them.

When you are older, you will see a lot of the world. There are many folks to learn from and many ways to do things. Travel will teach you this. Mommy heard the call to go for a quick trip. Travel is what she did before she became a mommy, and what she hoped to share with you. Going away on a journey, no matter how short or long, was one path she tried to take to become a better and more understanding person. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Just know that she tried.

Mommy loves you so very much.

*Something I always say to you in class on the mornings I help.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The fete grows larger

Steve and Mark will be coming all the way from St. Louis to be in Paris the same week! I am so very thrilled for Steve who has loved the Phoenix Foundation for so very long, but has not seen them live.

I'll never forget how encouraging and helpful he was when I first pitched to the band to come to Bishop in 2006/2007.

I'm writing the same "Mommy has no intention of dying, but in case she does" letter I always write Babbo when I leave home for more than a day. It is the superstitious Chinese mother in me. Somehow, all these weird mortal concerns fall away once the letter is written and my ass is on that plane.