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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Had to get on line and squeal for a bit. Last weekend I went to our Music Circus here in Sacto where I saw the musical AIDA – for free! A coworker Peter is in charge of getting ushers for the Music Circus, one night, once for each play. Two weeks ago I was asked to usher for Fiddler on the Roof, but I was off visiting my buds in Monterey County. But I was here last weekend and happily skipped off to usher my little out.

Ushers must wear a white blouse and either black trousers or if of the feminine sort, a skirt. I didn’t have much warning to prepare and was worried about making the ‘uniform’ requirements as I wore could only dig up a black skirt with eensie white poka dots. Lucky me though, I was told the skirt was well up to snuff so that is a relief. I did however shop over the weekend, buying black slinky slacks and yet-another white blouse.

It is my great luck that Peter hosts one Saturday night for each run. That is so much handier than having to get off work at 4:30 and linger downtown until 6:30. Anywho, on Saturday night the ushers – including moi - gathered in the Subscriber’s Lounge (for season ticket holders). At 7:00 we gathered in the theater and a head usher, Todd, told me what I needed to do; very simple really. I was in charge of door seven and when the doors were opened for ticket holders at 7:30, all I had to do, if they wished for my help, was show them to their seats.

It is easy/breezy and I’ve actually ushered before. My San Diego
buddy Joann’s sister Judy was a head usher at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park. For one whole summer I ushered at one performance each of 8 different dramas. I loved ushering in San Diego and it is marvelous to have another opportunity to do the same here in Sacramento. As the cheapest tickets at the Music Circus are $37, it is lovely being able to see as many plays as I wish for gratis.

In case you don't know, I have a habit to feed. I MUST SEE PLAYS/MUSICALS. The 'habit' can cost hundreds of dollars so being able to assage my 'little problem' for the price of the $7 it takes to park across the street from the Music Circus is a freakn' mercy, I can tell you!

The musical Aida is ├╝ber cool; the story of a Nubian princess whose curiosity leads her to the Egyptian border where she and her ladies in waiting are kidnapped by the Pharoah’s soldiers *hisss* and taken into slavery. *booooo!* There, with her identity as a princess a secret, Aida catches the eye (or rather the mind) of the handsome Egyptian captain who is betrothed to the Pharoah’s daughter.

The musical is a tragedy and I thought it might be tiresome but not a bit of it. The music is lively, written by Elton John and Tim Rice (Beauty and the Beast) so the resulting work is lively and fun though I did find myself boo-hooing like a nut case during the final act. Haven’t sniveled like that at a play since many year ago when I caught Man of La Mancha in Davis.

Good news; I have another ushering gig this weekend for South Pacific. I saw that musical only last year but know what? I can’t wait to see it again. For free, free, free!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Carefully Contained Chaos

*knocks on computer glass*

I'm still here! Just busy & sidetracked by stuff. Oh, and I will still post more pics and stuff from Phoenix but not until the weekend of the 22nd. That will be a three-day weekend; I can't wait!

Meanwhile, last weekend Jeannie & Ron came over to help me get my bigger STUFF out on the sidewalk for the once a year Bring-Out-Yer-Trash Day, that is, large trash pick-up. While Jeannie and I sat on the back porch and yakked, Ron got my lawn sprinkler system up and running again. I guess there were loose wires but I've been manually watering and that gets old fast. He also replaced a bunch of cracked and damaged sprinkler heads. That was followed up by the hauling of stuff out to the curb. Hurrah! Unloading junk feels great. My possessions are lighter to the tune of one old sink and bathroom cabinet, drapery rods, left over waterbed parts and... the couch.

Oi! Thanks Ron! Thanks Jeannie! You saved my lawn and my sanity.

Yes, the old couch had to go, it was dreadful. It was a hand-me-down and was always meant to be only a temporary fix - that was what... three years ago?

So...I currently have no couch, but before I even shop for a new one I have priorities. I want the uber ugly brown living room & hall rug removed and the hardwood floor beneath striped, buffed and finished.

Screw rugs, they only give dust and dirt more places to hide and don't even get me started on fleas! My poor stupid little Rum-kitty took it into his eensie little head to no longer allow me to get close enough to him to put flea stuff on him. That means I refuse to let him run rampant in the house any longer; the Great Flea Infestation of 2004 is still fresh in my memory. So no more rugs for my house. The difficult bit is I have little idea how to go about making the arrangements on getting the floor done. I am certain the last step, varnishing, will require I vacate my house for at least a few days. Will be nice if I can arrange the floor re-finishing to be done while I'm out of town next month.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The True Order of the Phoenix

As it is

105 outside, I've decided to take some time out to update my blog since heaven knows I'm not going outside. This week I'm in Glendale (Phoenix) Arizona staying at my Uncle Matt and Aunt Arna's house. I haven't seen them in at three years and that's too long. They moved here two years ago from their place in Littlerock California. My cousin Dovin, his wife Jackie & their kids Marissa, Little Matt and Timmy live in Phoenix too.

What finally got me out here was I got word Juan (my brother), his wife Gloria and Dolores (my sister) were flying out from New York for round of visiting and a side trip to Las Vegas (Juan and Gloria were married in Vegas and travel there yearly.

Unfortunately Dolores got a bad attack of sciatica which broke our hearts & at the last minute made her cancel her plans to come out. Hopefully she'll be out here in the coming months for a visit, in which case I'll fly out again to see her here.

Instead of Dolores I got to meet Gloria - my sis-in-law's sister Bonnie who, like Gloria, is a kick.

When I arrived on the 4th of July, Juan, Gloria and Bonnie were already here. Dovin, Jackie, the kids and some friends came by for a 4th of July barbecue. Not to dwell on the food, but Bonnie made had pork & beef ribs, chicken, beans & cabbage. Eddie made collards, pig's feet & collards! Have no idea where he learned to cook like that but I decided if I could try sweetbreads (calf thyroids) in a fancy restaurant, I could certainly give pig trotters and hog maws a go. Turns out the stuff was quite tasty. I doubt I would like eat a whole bowl of it - too fatty & we've all been brain washed against such. But it was cool eating some fun, down home type cooking. Oh, about eating the collards? HELL no. My grandmother cooked and served up collard greens and I still won’t eat them. Ugh! I rate them with the minuscule gathering of edibles I have tried numerous times prepared in numerous ways but still dislike.

We all had a great time, playing cards and the kids splashed and played in the hot tub. Juan got into a huff over a strange version of Poker involving the dealer automatically getting a wild card on the first round but even that fuss was entertaining.

That night, the first of the seasonal monsoons hit, strong winds knocking over anything not tied down. Planters and tablecloths were blown away from the porch. We all woke to a much cooler Phoenix and slowly gathered onto the back porch for our morning coffee and some birding. I was tickled to sit and identify visiting Inca Doves, Curve-billed Thrashers and Anna's Hummingbirds. Late in the morning around 11 am we went out for breakfast.

Following breakfast I hijacked Arna and Gloria for some shopping at Old Navy. I forgot to pack any shorts or slacks for the trip. Duh.

Later back at the house we talked up a storm. Juan told us about how as a kid our grandparent's house pretty much scared the beejeebers out of him. It took me a while to recall that I too have had nightmares of the place over the years. The house was a formidable three story brownstone complete with basement, located on the now non-existent 1152 Union Avenue in the Bronx. You see our grandparent's house, though nice, had a hecka scary basement. Arna told us she was the last child left at home when her older siblings were gone - and she used to assist Grandpa with house tasks. She would hold the flashlight for him in the basement and it would be so warm she would grow dizzy, say nothing, then faint - the flashlight still in hand! Grandpa was as formidable as his house.

It was fun spending the day talking about all sorts of things. Here is a brief list of the topics all of us explored:

  • Arna and her siblings getting in trouble with their mom for making peanut brittle - a high crime when sugar was expensive and no one remembered to clean the butter off the table;
  • the time Juan and Grandpa had a falling out that had to be reconciled by a priest;
  • how my father could not be detoured from his opinion just because of something as minor as absolute proof that he was wrong;
  • a tale of a filandering Bronx neighbor whose wife threw boiled lye on him and who in his panic ran back and forth between two brick walls like he was a duck in a carnival sure-shot game;
  • how Grandpa, after his death, came to young Dovin in a dream, took him for a walk and told him not to tell anyone because they would not believe him anyway;
  • what actually happened to Jimmy Hoffa's earthly remains This time you really do not want to know!

A good deal of our talking took place in the back yard and it was actaully nice because the overcast sky kept the temperatures in the tolerable range, in the mid to low 90s, at times, possibly into the high 80s.

click pic or words to enlarge
Eddie, Gloria, Matt, Arna, Juan and Bonnie

This morning we were all up fairly early and Bonnie fixed us all a great breakfast of eggs, chicken with gravy and grits prepared every which way, with cheese or butter or butter and sugar or gravy as we pleased. Afterwards it was off to finish packing. Juan, Gloria & Bonnie were headed for Las Vegas and Aunt Arna decided to go along for the ride and to fly back to Phoenix on Sunday. For myself, I'll hang around until I fly home late Friday.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My Quarter Acre of Paradise

My House!
Quick post here - Here's my house on Google maps. I put in the yellow lines to show the borders and the north and west markers. I am tickled because the aerial photograph clearly shows things I've had a hand in; from minor things like installing the bench north of the pool (the black bar) The ash tree in the front yard looks nearly as large as the house itself. The eensie green blot to the north of the ash tree is the pitiful Chinese Hackberry that refuses to grow. The back yard was nothing but dirt when I took the house in 1994. Now you can see the grass I put in and the planter bed in the southeast corner of the back yard. The pale green blotch in that planting area is my Hawthorn tree that attracts and feeds Cedar Waxwings in the winter.

Ok, that's it for today - me gawking at technology.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sunday in the City

Sunday Morning, on drive to San Francisco as entered frontage Road off Hwy 80 by Bay Meadows racetrack.

Claire, opening automatic car window: Wow! Feel the air is so cold!

Anna, putting hand out of window: Yes, it’s nice and AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

The shriek was because I had just rolled up the car window on Anna’s hand!

Anna started to laugh and cry all at once, tears streaming down her cheeks as she laughed her head off. I guess it was one of those you had to be there things. I apologized about 100 times and she told me to quit worrying about it 100 times. What a trooper! Anyway, that was the exciting start to our day in the most beautiful & vibrant cities in California, if not, North America.
We started off with a trip down memory lane, cruising past Anna’s childhood home. The last time we drove past the her house and found an empty shell of her former home – we had walked over the old facade, Anna pointing out where the stairs had been once-upon-a-time. But this time there was a house on the property that looked as if it had been in place for decades. The streets had names like Russia, Vienna, London, Paris, Naples, Lisbon and Madrid. Anna was raised in an International neighborhood - cute!
We toured Anna’s old haunts, like the school house. She used to walk to kindergarten by herself, from her first day of school on, when she was only four years old!

Anna's Elementary School

I was surprised to see so many corner Mom & Pop stores still operating there; a nice surprise.

Next we drove down along the Pier where the Sunday Farmer’s Market was in progress. We parked in the building lot at Ghirardelli Square so we could take a ride on the Cable Cars. Anna grew up in San Francisco but this was her first ride on the Cable Cars! That’s like me growing up in New York and never having been to the top of the Empire State Building.

We decided to disembark in China Town. The place feels like it is absolutely another country – the shops are like those in Tijuana Mexico, with cheap goods lined up in cluttered shop fronts, and the food marts have roasted ducks and dried fish on display. There is always one shop that grosses me out and this time it was a shop with a huge bin full of dried sea horses. Ugh!

We stopped at a little dim sum shop for lunch. The place was totally a taste of China, with menus in characters and the shop keepers barely speaking English. We had huge bowls of won-ton soup that was excellent – full of walnut sized won-tons, napa cabbage and oodles of noodles. I had a custard tart too – yum!

Here are the goodies at a bakery where Anna was able to buy lemon turnovers which cannot be had for love nor money in Everet Washington.

I had one of the fruit tarts – definitely on of the top ten pastries I’ve ever eaten; a chocolate bowl filled with light custard topped with glazed fresh fruit. If they sold stuff like this in Sacramento I’d be larger than a cable car myself.

We also toured Golden Gate Park and walked around at the lovely Grecian columns and lake of the Palace of Fine Arts, one of Anna’s favorites.

We ended the day with dinner at my favorite Bay Area restaurant, Skates on the Bay, where every meal I've ever had was primo and tonight was no exception. On the way out, a host lead a lady and gentleman; he carried a small sleeping child on his shoulder. Anna whispered, ‘Claire! He’s a movie star!’ I was all ‘huh?’ Looking around, clueless as usual. Anna pointed out the man. I stared at him from a distance of maybe three feet and no bells went off.

He was a movie star! Delroy Lindo who stared in movies like Cider House Rules and Get Shorty, both of which I have seen. If it wasn't for Anna I would never have recognized him! Wonder how many other stars I've seen without noticing?

Anyway, that was our exciting ending to a great day.