Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Most Magical Time of the Year

Indeed it has been a magical time of year for me, starting with Advent Sunday. Every year on the first Sunday in December we invite friends and neighbors to come ring in Christmas with us European style. It's a more quiet and pretty uplifting evening. We got around 25 people again this year (this is our 3rd one). We always call it our Christmas miracle that that many people come to our ghetto and brave parking. It's the only time of year that happens. This year I learned to play a song on the guitar, Infant Holy Infant Lowly, and sang too. I also made mint brownies that didn't get burned so it just keeps getting better. The little neighbor kids, Ada and Julio, came over and sang Feliz Navidad, though their heads were bowed most of the time. I guess single adults are pretty scary. It was good fun, and we kept our Silent Night tradition alive at the end of evening. This year, in addition to Spanish, German, French and of course English and Bulgarian, we had Thai, Korean, and Tagalog. It was fabulous.

I also had the great pleasure of visiting Washington D.C. this month with a thirsty little ginger-pants wearing kitten (if you really want to know about that you'll have to ask me, otherwise just chalk it up to word salad.) It was dang cold but one of the funnest trips I've had in a long time. So much space, brick, and stone. I want to live in a brick house. We went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and saw the first plane the Wright Brothers used for their first four flights on Dec.17, 1903 and guess what day we happened to be there? You got it! Dec. 17. Coincidence? I don't think so. At any rate, my abs were well exercised from laughing so much, my taste-buds sharpened from the large quantities of good food, and the hibernating spaces in my brain revitalized with my love for America and what a great country this is. There were still leaves on the ground too. I felt intoxicated by the memory of autumn. I returned from D.C. on the 18th, only to leave for Salt Lake City on the 19th. Also cold here and snowy. It's good to remember what snow looks like but I won't mind leaving it in January. I've enjoyed seeing my family and my new nephew Vincent who could be destined to become an artist or part of the maffia who would then have the nickname Vinny. Either way, we'll love him and probably get good Christmas presents too. We found out my brother Stephen is coming home from his mission in Norway on March 27 and then as our Christmas gift the family's taking a big trip somewhere so we can all be together. Yea. Experiences are greater than anything material anyway.
I have to say it's been an enriching year and one that has seen a number of goals and dreams met. I can't wait to see what the new year will bring. Merry Chrismtas and Happy New Year everybody! Life is Beautiful! And don't go see the movie I Am Legend. It sucked(feel free to contact me for a more detailed criticism).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ghetto Gratitude Moment

I just want to take a moment to express gratitude for the place in which I live: For the one washing machine on the premises and the lady downstairs who has to wash each of her 6 loads of laundry 3 times each day before the clothes are actually clean. I'm also thankful for OCDs. For the minutes I use on my cellphone calling our landlord to fix the pipes in our apartment that have been leaking for months. For the Fix-It guys he finally sends that do not speak a word of English. For the sliding glass door that doesn't quite close and the cockroaches we had to exterminate ourselves. For the walls that keep us frozen in the winter and help us lose weight in the summer. For the newly installed gated fortress doors surrounding our building that sometimes I can't even get into. For the lack of parking that gives me a 20-minute morning and evening walk a few times a week. For the beautiful sounds of tamale carts, ice cream trucks, and accordion music every weekday after 3:00 and on weekends as the sun comes up. For all the people west of Roberston Blvd that live in large, tree-lined, spacious houses and block the rest of us out with 30-foot hedges. Sucks to be you! For all the things that make this ghetto glorious, I am grateful.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hollywood Walk of Shame

Two redheads in the ghetto. We took it by storm - or at least we caught a lot of people's attention. I think two redheads walking down the street here is something of a phenomenon. At any rate, we had fun and lived to tell about it. We started Saturday off running on Venice Beach and then having breakfast at Jack and Jill's in Beverly Hills. I'm not sure which Ben found more entertaining - the crazy, hate-filled lady on the beach that yelled "barf ass" at one of us (we're still deliberating as to which of us she was yelling at) or the 50-year-old Botoxed blond in her black Rolls Royce on Rodeo Drive. The diversity in this city's astounding. Of course we had to stop at Sprinkles for some of their lovely over-priced cupcakes. Carrying around the box was part of the experience. It helped us feel truly important as we made our way slowly through traffic. Ben had been learning that everything in California, even the grocery store, is 20 minutes away (unless you're going to Hollywood. Then in takes an hour. He wanted to see the Kodak Theater, but what he got was an entertaining cultural experience for only $1. Scruffy drunk men with dogs and signs that read, "Retired super-model - Please help"; kid street performers extorted by their own family members; out-of-work (and might I add unoriginal) actors dressed up as Superman, Wonder Woman, King Kong, Snoopy, Dorothy (checking her cell phone messages) Sponge Bob with tube socks and his home-made magic marker sponge, Shrek, and our personal favorite - Gollum. Tall and Lanky with part of his black fro coming out the back. He was also wearing a fanny pak for all the money he's making off pictures. Ben made me get a picture taken with Shrek without realizing it costs. He was bewildered when the man in his mother's stretch pants pretending to be Shrek unfolded a crumpled bill and said, "You got a little something for Shreky poo?" Ben gave him the dollar. What they say about LA is true - everybody here's trying to make a buck. This was expertly demonstrated by the blue Ford Van with the top cut off displaying a home-made sign that said Hollywood Tours. There were actually two passengers, although we think they were bought off to make it look like they had business. We had a good laugh as we passed the groups of people gathered around the red carpet for the premiere of Enchanted. I guess they felt waiting 4 hours for a glimpse of important people in expenseive shoes was well worth their time. Hmm. I guess there are a lot of out-of-work people in this town. We finished off the night with In-N-Out burgers, animal-style. After the expensive cupcakes, that's about all we could afford. Thank you Los Angeles for the entertaining weekend, and thank you Ben for making the experience complete and helping me see the city through the out-of-towners' eyes. I love LA.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Turning Tables

November's off to a great start! Last week I had the pleasure of subbing at a school in Compton where the class consisted of all African American males (need I even mention they were twice my size. Who isn't?) I held my own ok until one of them called me a bitch and then I lost it and now I'm in prison. Yes, there is email in prison. Actually, the vein in my forehead (remarkably) stayed in place and I had a Phil McGraw-like talk with the young man instead. I think he learned his lesson. Actually, I really don't but I have hope.
I was also recently called as the new activities co-chair in my ward. The "congratulations" are flooding in as if I won an election or something and believe me I would not run for this, but I will try my best.
Today, Marcella and I set out to find a table (we're tired of getting in touch with other cultures by sitting on the floor). So, because we live in the ghetto, we thought we'd stick with that theme and go to the Wal-Mart on Crenshaw, where incidentally the LA riots took place. We found some card tables and chairs that will do the job, atleast until our lease is up in February. Three customers asked us if we worked there and one asked if I was Marcella's mother. I checked and she didn't appear to have bloodshot eyes or smell like pot (I know the smell very well from my neighbors)and she didn't have a service dog so she could see. I don't know, are people just insane? We're not even of the same ethnicity, although Marcella mentioned that people on our street think we're sisters and, strangely enough, in this celebrity look-alike website my brother sent me I was matched with Eva Peron and various other South American and Spanish ladies. Maybe I don't know myself as well as I thought. Or maybe living in my neighborhood is rubbing off on me, which is good. The adventures never end. And can I just say that I'm really glad the holidays are upon us. This is the best time of year!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Winds of Change

The transition from European trains to soul trains has taken awhile but I'm finally back to making tracks again on the written page as I process where I've been and where my path will lead in the future (wow, that sounded pretty deep). Sorry it's taken so long. I'll get back to blogging more consistently.
So, October is my favorite month not only because of autumn, pumpkin flavors, and the anticipation of the holidays, but it's also proven to be a big month of change for me. I've felt those winds of change again this year and I'm not exactly sure what that entails yet but I've already sat on a couch made completely of grass, disinfected my room (most especially my bed), and joined a rocktoberfest band. I played the djembe. It was magically fun.
I'm also back to substitute teaching and only felt the urge to strangle some kids once this month (don't be alarmed - that's actually pretty amazing.) What I really want to know by the end of next month is who my true friends are so if I do strangle some kids I know who will visit me in jail. (This could be pretty incriminating so I better clarify that I am not being serious.) Much to my father's delight, I also qualify for really good health insurance now, so maybe my "not real job" isn't so bad after all. For those who keep wondering, I'm not sure how much longer I'll continue substituting. I'm definitely not planning on making a career of it. I plan to do it until I can finish up the last revision of my children's novel (hopefully by spring) and then we'll take it from there. I've also mentioned I feel pretty done with LA and the city and don't anticipate living here that much longer. But who knows? The winds of change could blow anywhere. I have to say life is surprisingly good right now and I'm enjoying the freedom of living it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Things I Miss the Most

- Afternoon gelattos
- Church bells
- Walking everywhere
- People Eating on sidewalks
- Water you can drink from the tap
- Cobblestone Streets
- Exit signs
- Unprocessed foods
- Piazzas (not to be confused with pizzas, though I'll miss those too)
- Slower pace and emphasis on stopping to enjoy life
- Rich appreciation for art
- Lonely Italian men (not really)
- Siestas
- Having fewer decisions to make (I only had 4 shirts and 2 pair of pants)
- Trains
- Superior cheese and chocolate (and pretty much anything edible)
- A river running through every major city
- Bunk beds
- Fresh (and clean) air
- Making wishes in fountains
- Glacier milk
- Multi-colored shudders
(But I guess I missed family and friends more cause I came back.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Farewell to Europe

Well, tonight is my last night and tomorrow morning I head for the airport and its back to the States (no I have not abandoned all responsibility and decided to stay), but I come home feeling enriched and grateful for the experiences I have had and the things I have learned. I have discovered many new things like conditioner is overrated, you can make trains on time even without a watch, afternoon gelatto is an important part of everyday, and you can find a lot with a map, and even though I have felt lonely at various times I have felt well-protected and guided and I think learned some things I really needed to know. After a month I think it is time and I a ready to come home and take these new memories with me into the future. Thanks for your love and support faithful friends, family, and readers out there and if something happens on the way home and I dont make it back, bury me with my locket and know I died a soul of many satisfied dreams.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Siena, Venice, and Rome

Sunday, in the sunburnt buildings of Siena (which I match pretty well now) I was tracked by an Albanian guy as I ate my sandwich in one of Europe's best piazzas (that's a square for you hicks out there.) He watched me eat for at least 20 minutes. I finallly asked him at one of the souvenir stands how much longer he was going to follow me. He just smiled (I don't think he knew English that well) and I relented to letting him show me a couple of sights before running away from him. I also learned that the patron saint of Siena and as of 1999 all of Europe is St. Catherine. Apparently she had visions and a holy quest too, kind of like Joan of Arc, which coincidentally she had a twin sister named Joan. Later that night, as I was saying goodbye to Florence, I was targeted again. It's getting ridiculous - I can't sit on the steps of anywhere without some guy asking me out for a cappucino and I say that as unarrogantly as possible. I probably wouldn't mind if I actually found the guys attractive. After I turn them down I also have to make sure they don't come back or follow me. I've been forced to invent a boyfriend back home. His name is Buck Morley, a professional wrestler and part-time CIA agent on assignment which is why he's not here. He's extremely jealous. I left Florence Monday morning (I loved that city) and headed to Venice for a day, which I also ended up liking a lot. I didn't think it was that dirty or smelled bad but then again maybe I'm dirty and smell bad. I heard opera music (in my head) all the way down the Grand Canal and enjoyed the architecture and colors. As I sat down at the end of the day to eat a pizza by the waterfront I heard distant voices calling my name (I thought I was going crazy too) and turned around to see my hometeacher and two other LA Firsters standing there (Ryan, Jim and Jeff). I was so happy to see them I hugged them all. We hung out the rest of the night eating gelatto and trying to get pictures of the battle of the orchestras (every night in St. Mark's square these classical orchestras duel it out with music.) It was cool. We got lost trying to find my orphanage-like island (Venice is like a maze) and hung out the next day til we got on separate trains in the afternoon. We're going to meet up again on Friday to do the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. I was in awe at seeing the Colosseum today and Pantheon and of course I made a wish with the last American coin I brougt in the Trevi Fountain. I can tell my trip is nearing the end. I'm losing momentum and can't wait to feel really clean again. My Rome hostile smells like moth balls and Bulgarian apartments and the matress feels like a bag of knots. Tell dad not to worry, before arriving in Rome I memorized all the Italian phrases for "Help," "Thief," and "Stop that man." I miss you all and can't wait to see you.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ah Florence!

I loved Florence the minute I sat on the steps of the Duomo and listened to a man and his son playing Frank Sinatra's My Way on the accordion as the sun set behind the colorful architecture. It's amazing the birthplace of the Renaissance was here. Before arriving here Thursday, I stopped in Pisa since my train was passing through. I met a girl, also named Caterina, who invited me to her house for a real Italian family meal, complete with grandpa who runs the oldest shop in Pisa - a gun store. Over the last 2 days I've enjoyed multiple servings of gelatto and enlightening moments in museums. I have to say the David was amazing and not just cause he's nude. I didn't appreciate the work until I saw it's stunning graceful form in person, and apparently the sculpture was the poster boy of Florence and the Renaissance, embodying the strength and confidence of man to excel and overcome. I went to Michelangelo and Galileo's tombs in San Croce Church - two men I greatly admire and want to learn more about. Tomorrow I go to Siena for the day. The smell of too much leather has driven me to the country-side for some fresh air. A smooth-talking Sicilian named Amadeo tried to sell me a leather jacket my first night in Florence(I must admit, I did look pretty stylish) and then asked me out for a drink. He got off work too late though and I had to get back to my room full of snoring spaniards. One more week until America.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pure Italian Bliss

The Cinque Terre (5 cities strung along the cliffs of the Italian Riviera) is quite possibly one of the most enchanting places I have ever been. I met Mama Rosa when I got off the train in Riomaggiore on Tuesday and she had an extra bed for me in a cliff room overlooking the Meditteranean. The room came with an old chandelier with half the lights burned out, a broken grandfather clock, and a jewelry-making roommate from Chile (interestingly enough mama Rosa came in this morning and shut the place down due to, from what I could gather, sickness or illegal activity. Yesterday I got up early and hiked through all the towns. I had to keep stopping to ask myself if I was really here. Unbelievably beautiful. Bellisimo! I had seafood ravioli and my last town and a Baccio (a kind of chocolate) gelatto. The restaurant owners have kept me company, trying to teach me Italian. One called me a bronzetta referring to my (one day) cancerous arms and told me to be glad I wasn't married like the table of 3 couples next to me who were, amazingly enough, from Utah as well. I sat on the beach until some guy asked where my ticket was so I got up and left. Being overly ambitious I thought I would hike most of the way back to get another view of the forests, vineyards, lemon trees, and sea but it ended up being longer and harder than I remembered and I did get a little lost as the sun was setting. Made it back safely, though, and sat outside Mama Rosa's house with a guy named Giulherme from Brazil and looked at the beautiful, countless stars. The weather's been great, the bread not so much so, and I've been cursing myself for not bringing a swimsuit. I miss friends, family, and home but am making memories to take back with me. Today I am headed to Florence, where the hostel hopefully has sheets cause Mama Rosa took mine.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Nice not so nice

Well just wanted to let you know I left Paris this morning after a creepy French guy tried to kiss me and arrived safely in Nice. I even found a bed to sleep in for the night and I can't wait to go to bed. All I can say is this is an interesting place. I already saw one guy peeing on a tree and ended up at a topless beach, I however kept my top on (after much deliberation). I'm excited to go to Italy tomorrow and hike the Cinque Terre - 5 small towns cut into the cliffs of the Italian Riveria. I'm looking forward to the hiking and the seafood. I think I'll go back to my room now where apparently a German couple is waiting (it's a shared room). What can I say, that's Europe on a budget.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Walk Like A French Woman

After almost a week in Paris I think I finally have the French strut and pouty lips down, but I fail on the style part (there's only so much I can do with a backpack of clothes). I must admit French women have an arrogant elegance about them. I went to Versailles on Thursday. My favorite part was the beautiful grounds - so big I took a nap in a little grove of trees where none of the tourists found me. Friday I went to Rouen and connected with my warrior sister Joan of Arc, then that night I walked along the bridges and saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up. Early Saturday morning I left my hostel to find a lady and two gentlemen dressed in 19th century clothing. I thought my dream to travel back in time had come true until I saw the film camera down the cobblestone walk. I took a train to the Loire Valley where all the French castles are and I ate my lunch in front of Chambord castle under a tree. It was like a dream. Besides the shower that shuts off after 30 seconds and a hostelmate that likes to chew her food as loud as possible after we're all in bed, the hostel's not so bad. It's interesting waking up in the morning and not knowing what time it is or when to get up. I think the French church bells are lazy. They don't always ring when they're supposed to. Not like the Swiss bells. Well headed to Nice on Monday and Tuesday hiking in the Cinque Terre. I'm looking forward to my 3rd and final country.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

La Vien Rose

It's my third day in Paris. On my first day here I'd already been mildly harassed by a lonely Sri Lankan and 5 min. later a lonely Greek. Thank goodness I met an American from San Francisco 5 min. later and had someone to hang out with the rest of the day. I'm on a time limit here so I'll be quick. Notre Dame was great, got a date with Quasimodo. Last night I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and clicked my heels; went to Victor Hugo's house, the Louvre, D'Orsay. Quite a city, this Paris. I've never walked so much in my life but it's good. Balances out all the bread and chocolate. Anyway I'm alive and well, and I admit a little lonely. My journal's keeping me company. Tomorrow Versailles.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Yesterday Matterhorn, Tomorrow Paris

(I was excited just to write that.) I haven`t fallen in love with any exotic European men yet, but I have fallen in love with Switzerland. Were it not for the language barrier I think I would move here. I am already planning the hikes and mountains I want to explore when I come back one day. We went to Appenzell country on Thursday (in the eastern part) and went hiking. Friday I went to the Swiss temple, which was exceptionally meaningful to me. It made me feel close to my grandparents and I felt so happy to be there. Saturday we got up early and went to the Matterhorn where we finally had a perfectly clear day. I could see everything, though I didn`t understand much. I wish I knew German. Felix` friend Susan came with us, then took us out to dinner afterward at a restaurant called Rossli (the little horse). Her sister gave me 2 kinds of honey (I prefer the forest honey to the flower honey) cause she and her husband make it on their farm. How cool is that? I decided I missed my calling in life and should have owned my own little cheese shop or been a honey maker. I mean, I want to make something people just sit down and enjoy at their breakfast table everyday. Maybe in the next life. So tomorrow I leave for Paris and will be completely on my own. I`m a little nervous but I have my Swiss army knife and tube of mustard (in case I get hungry. They have really good mustard here.) I will miss this grand little country - it`s full of surprises. But I have resolved to come back and have also resolved to get a bike and grow my own basil when I return. Au revoir.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Swiss Miss Update

It is quite something to stand on a mountain hillside overlooking valleys of farms and chapels and only hear the sound of cowbells. On Sunday after church (a small branch) we took a 3.5 hour walk in the Emmantal - a beautiful valley where a lot of the cheese comes from. We stopped at a farmer`s house for a drink (don`t worry, not wine) and he was so amazed someone from LA had come to his farm. Monday I went to the Rhine and had bratwurst in Basel, where I stood at the place where 3 countries meet: France, Germany, and Switzerland. Tuesday, we went to an old Swiss Castle on Lake Geneva (actually called Lake Leman) and also to a salt mine. Very interesting and I bought some salt to take home. Today we went to the Swiss Oberland where all the big mountains are. We saw the Jungrau and took a skyride to another mountain. The town of Grindelwald below us. The air is so refreshing and the landscape so beautiful. I`ve also learned how much the Swiss seem to dislike Bush for invading other countries. Americans are a bit unpopular right now but they are still nice to me. Most days we don`t get home til late and I`m feeling a little overwhelmed with cheese but I guess I balance it out with chocolate. It`s great having a guide to really show me my 2nd homeland. I hope I will be alright in France and Italy when I am without one.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

To Market, Spiez, and Interlaken

There`s just something about bringing your basket to market and buying fresh foods. In front of the Parliament buildling in Bern, they had everything from orange and green tomatoes to skinned rabbits hanging from the stands. A Swiss lady even gave me a rust-colored rose to place in my hair. We took the train to Spiez after and walked along Lake Thun and then took a boat to Interlaken. The water is so clear and greenish colored. Felix said they call it glacier milk. The scenery- forest, green hills, and mountains- are so beautiful, it`s hard to believe it`s real sometimes. On our way back to the train, we looked for four-leaf clovers in a nearby field. I guess Felix is more of a leprechaun than me, he found two and I found one (after he pointed it out to me). I`m trying to remember how to say hello (gruesech)in their language and not default to Bulgarian as I have been doing. I`m having a wonderful time and enjoying the pace of life here. Tomorrow I`ll go the small branch in Bern where an old couple that new grandma attend so that should be interesting. The bells are ringing again and my belly is full of bread. Time to go to bed.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Swell in Switzerland

I`ve made it safely to Switzerland and am happy to sit down after the longest day of my life (what with the time difference). I`m sipping freshly made sparkling apple juice while Felix, my Swiss tour guide for 10 days, is cooking fish, shrimp, rattatuille, and krautstihl. He already made a plum pie today, just like Grandma Morgenegg`s. So, first observations: the airport was extremely quiet, a lot of people here smoke, Berne`s shutters are brightly colored and enliven the whole city, computer keyboards are harder to use, and bells make any city feel magical. Even though I`m quite fatigued, we managed to climb the church bell tower today, see the bear pit (very cool), walk through the rose garden, try five kinds of cheese, and run into the missionaries and found out where church was on Sunday. And hopefully we`ve also solved the problem of my debit card not working. So, I`m glad to be here and glad to finally come to the home of my mother, aunts, uncle and grandparents. All is well.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Parting Words from LA

I've stopped over in LA for a couple of days before heading to my big adventure in Europe and already I've been hissed at, witness to a woman having 10 conversations with herself at the library, and come home to find my sublet married and having sex in my bed. My room is their honeymoon suite. I'm trying not to think about it and thank goodness my blankie (yes I still have one) was not in the room. Family members have convinced me not to ever put a black light in there. I'm not sure I want to come home. Maybe I'll finally find where I belong over there. I have to say, though, that I'm excited for this trip. It's something I've been wanting to do for quite some time and for me it's not so much a vacation as it is a journey, an investment, an experience of discovery and a re-filling of my bucket with new ideas and insight. I know, I sound like a beatnik but I'm trying to follow my drumming heart as best as I can. For those individuals intent on raining on my parade by asking, "Are you crazy?" and "How can you go to a foreign country by yourself?" I'd just like to say most crimes in Europe are non-violent and, many forums for solo women travelers talk about the freedom that can come from solitude. My inner warrior goes without fear (or atleast tries to suppress it) and as Ronald Reagan said, "In an atmosphere of liberty, artists and patrons are free to think the unthinkable and create the audacious; they are free to make both horrendous mistakes and glorious celebrations." So, I'm following the advice of Jo March's mother and I am going to embrace my liberty.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Writer's Life

The transformation is complete. I have adopted vices to comfort my tortured soul as I excavate its depths to invoke the raw emotions of life onto the page (actually it's diet root beer and a bubble gum cigarette, which, for any of you that have seen Stranger Than Fiction, I do happen to save and wrap in a tissue for later use).
The documentary is really coming together. It's incredible to work on the full spectrum of a film, from concept to writing to creation to production. We've interviewed a lot of interesting people and seen the effects animal-assisted therapy has on the health and quality of life of countless people. I definitely want a dog now. A big one. And since animals love people unconditionally I think I'll be set. Would we could all exemplify animals in that respect. The best part of this unique summer project is listening to Brandi Carlile as we drive to our shooting locations and appointments, and then taking a two-hour break in the middle of the day (we know how to embrace our European heritage) to try new kinds of cheeses (the grocery store just put in a new deli) or watch old episodes of Friends. I'm sorry to say since I have none of my own I've been watching ones on tv. Anyway, life is good and there are more projects in the works. Who knows what grand adventures life may hold? I just know that in about a month I'll be homeless and headed to Europe with a backpack and notebook, and whether or not I come back awaits to be known...
All right, I'm trying to sound like a romantic. I'll be back. I don't have a visa to work there, but if I did...

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Land of Ice Cream and Mini-Vans

I definitely know I'm back in Utah. There are 10 cartons of ice cream in my freezer, thanks to a party hosted by my single brothers. It's really dangerous on days when I'm down cause I find myself basking in spoonfuls of each flavor. I've also been noticing the "I love my missionary in ---" bumper stickers on the backs of mini-vans, which are pretty much only found in this state, although I've never been to Arizona. I was at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Friday night and observed that of the 10 wedding parties holding receptions, about half of all the bridesmaids were pregnant. They were married of course (I think). They just looked so young. God love 'em.
I must say it's good to see mountains again, though (and not the ones on the plastic-surgeried women of Beverly Hills) and all I can say is I love central-air. I can't even tell it's summer outside. It's great to be around my family, and it's great to get up in the morning, do a little yoga (I've had to take a break from running) and walk down the hall to work with my brother on a project where we are our own bosses. We are both redheads and therefore like to be the boss. We'll see if we can survive each other and if I can survive Utah. One more month til the beach again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What I'll Miss Most about Substitute Teaching

June, the month of summer solstice (the longest day of the year) also marks the end of the longest year of my life as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles. The days were long, my nerves short, but I made it through. Yea! Summer break! I've compiled a list of the things I'll miss most:
- kids erasing half of the second "o" in my name so it reads Ms. Cock
- having to get a key to use the restroom
- bells
- Hot Cheetohs wrappers all over the floor
- rolls where all the names end in "awn" - DeShawn, Keishawn, Tyquawn, etc...
- students trying to guess my age
I was listening to NPR my last morning of school and learned that there are 80,000 lawn mowing accidents every year. One girl had sadly lost her arm.
I randomly decided to share this interesting fact with my highschool students (I was in a talkative mood) who in turn looked at me wondering why I had bothered to share this "useless" information. In an attempt to save face I fumbled for applicability and said, "So if you don't finish highschool you'll probably end up mowing lawns and losing your limbs. Therefore, graduate."
I'm glad I could end the year on an inspiring note.
Goodbye til next year!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Flower Has Fallen From the Garden of My Heart...

Indeed it has! This is one of the central metaphors for love repeated in the opera Luisa Fernanda and I declare it again acknowledging that I have fallen in love with opera. Or maybe it's just Placido Domingo. Along with his voice, the boots and belt did it for me. There was something so manly and conquistador-like about them. He's also got a pretty good head of hair and man can the man charm women. At one point he sang in his powerful, flowing tone that Luisa was the queen of his land and his home and that the shepherd boys would play the bagpipes for her. Does it get any better than that? Where do I sign up?
Apparently the woman in front of me thought the same thing as she kept interrupting the dreamy, romantic haze that had settled over the balcony area with her incessant clapping - in all the wrong places too. She'd raise her hands high above her head and shout "bravo" in her twangy, guttural hollers. The guy sitting across the next row from her looked like he could have been her date. He had on this white-frayed jacket with elbow patches (cowboy boots stenciled across them) and a maroon shirt unbuttoned enough for his thick chest hair to creep over the side. Nice. Come on people! We're at the opera. Even a beatnik like me knows better. I wore heels.
Despite the misfits on Row D, the illusion of surreal love persisted from stage to audience and all I can say is opera's pretty cool. Even though it's extremely romanticized and melodramatic to a fault, it seems to be okay with everyone. I don't know if it's because they're singing in a different language or because they're singing as if their life depended on it (and it usually tragically does) but it just works. We buy it, we believe it, we love it!
Atleast I do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Star Wars Convention Convent

The freaks were out in full force at the LA Convention Center on Memorial Day and I was one of them, though quickly realizing I wasn't properly attired for the Holy Star Wars Empire. I got there about 9:00am to fully uniformed storm troopers, old Obi Wan Kenobis holding plastic baby dolls, cardboard droids, and a couple of guys dressed as Indiana Jones (wrong movie fellas!)
Once inside I checked out the exhibit hall where they sold everything from custom-made blaster belts to Yoda slippers and gold-handled light sabers. People actually brought empty luggage to fill with their "credit card debt is my friend" purchases and I overheard a Jedi wannabe announce in his walkie-talkie, "TK421 I just saw Jon Heder a.k.a. Napoleon Dynamite walk by."
On a nearby stage actor Charles Ross single-handedly performed the original Star Wars trilogy in 30 minutes, complete with sound effects, soundtrack, and extra commentary, including what Luke Skywalker really said when he pulled off Darth Vader's mask - "Hey, I thought you were a black guy."
After lunch I walked through the R2-D2 Builders' Room where a club of mostly 40-year-old men apparently unable to find anything better to do with $5,000 had constructed their own models of the little droid (that was the average cost to make one. The most expensive was $12,000.) I asked a systems analyst guy from Texas how long it took him to make his. He excitedly reported as he pushed in his glasses, "one year and 10 months." Believe it or not, this club has a membership of 58,00 members in 30 countries.
In another room, as Jabba and his girlfriend made out behind us, a woman held a bible of swatches trying to find the exact color of Queen Amidala's cloak so she could duplicate one for herself, pausing every few minutes to have her picture taken. She was matching that swatch for at least 4 hours. In fact anyone in costume was all too elated to pose for a picture basking in the fame and celebrity they achieved by being- oh let's call it what it is- an obsessed fanatic. I guess people that are willing to go to that length for attention deserve it.
The best picture and laugh of the day came as I walked by the impending Wookie Trivia event. Walking toward me was little miss muffin-top herself, sporting the legendary costume of Return of Jedi beloved by men everywhere - Princess Leia's bronze bikini. This girl's belly (along with other parts of her body) was dancing without even trying. As she passed, all heads turned to see if she'd actually gone through with the whole charade and dispensed with wearing underwear. Yep. She had. The dark maroon loin cloth barely draped across her thighs and revealed there was nothing underneath. I couldn't stop laughing as I followed her down the hall and took a picture with my cellphone. Spasm of horrified laughter.
The whole day was an eye-opening experience, witnessing the congregations of Lucas' devoted worshippers. The next Star Wars convention isn't scheduled yet but I'd probably go again. Not only because I love Star Wars, but I also love a good laugh. I only hope that the woman I saw in line with the long graying pony tail to her butt and stained canvas bag at her side that said Crazy Cat Lady wasn't a premonition of myself in 30 years.