Thursday, July 28, 2005

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

It's Christmas, it's cold and...ohmygod it's snowing! That can only mean the illusionists are back again and this time our house is being used for a Christmas shoot.

They brought a real tree, but the snow is fake and messy and it's competing for deck space with the geraniums and the lavander and the portulaca. While most folks are dealing with the insane heat and unusual humidity, I'm showing the crew where the shop vac is so they can vacuum the snow off the deck.

They chose our house because they really liked our master bedroom and bathroom, but then, once they arrived, they decided
our bed was too big and the room too small so they took the bed completely apart, took all the furniture out of the family room, hauled the kingsize bed in and put it back together and bingo...our family room became a bedroom. Very handy with the kitchen within spitting distance.

Then they added a jolly and festive wreath just above the bed and started snapping. Tomorrow they're coming back for more.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I'll Go With you Mum

Last week my daughter and her family had a great Chinese meal in Chinatown (L.A.) and noted that this restaurant had a dowdy relation in an area of the Valley that I can get to in half an hour. As I've said before, delivery isn't really an option up here (except for the local pizza place) so you have to really be jonesing bad to drive an hour, round-trip, for food in boxes. I volunteered to drive since Himself has put in a really busy two weeks with loads of driving and son-in-law, Matt, was putting Miss Lottie to bed. Dear, pregnant daughter Jane, volunteered to keep me company on the drive.

We were half-way down the Canyon when I noticed Jane was looking a bit green, but she told me to press on. We made it to a parking lot on a busy boulevard and the sound and sight of Jane retching so miserably and so painfully reminded me of my pregnant retchings in London so very many years ago.

Himself and I lived in the third floor of a three-story terraced house in West Hampstead. While the flat was okay, we shared a toilet with the landlady. Even typing that we didn't have a loo in our flat makes me wrinkle my nose and say, "WHAT???" But it's true. While we had a stove and a sink in the kitchen, and a big enough room that held a bathtub and sink, there was no toilet. I was a fairly robust pregnant person, except for the throwing-up part, and the throwing-up part of my pregnancy loomed large, as that sort of thing does.

The memories of my poor young husband, hooking half-digested pieces of food out of the sink and bathtub, because that's as far as I could get, was enough to endear him to me for a lifetime. When I look back on it all now I wonder at his patience. He thought he'd married this young, sexy thing...only to find out, days after our hasty registry office wedding, that I felt sick a good deal of the time.

As he also discovered, though, for some pregnant women, feeling nauseous and losing one's appetite are entirely different equations. I could happily go out for an Indian meal half an hour after retching and so can my daughter. Half an hour after throwing up in the Motion Picture & Television Retirement Home's parking lot, we all sat down to some great Chinese food!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

back of my neck getting dirty...gritty

I can't imagine feeling dirtier or grittier than I did today. It was hot. That's normally no big deal and definitely to be expected in Southern California in July, August, September and October (and at odd times in any other month). What made today different was the humidity, courtesy of Hurricane Emily.

I decided that since the day was miserable and I was involuntarily sweating buckets while sitting and reading the newspaper, I might as well really get hotter and more miserable by doing a laundry basket-full of ironing and, while I'm at it, why not organize all of our closets. That was my day and that's why I haven't been blogging, Betsy...because it's TOO FLIPPIN' HOT. That song, "Too Hot" or whatever it is... the one where you "gotta run for shelter, gotta runnnnnn for shade" is vying for brain space with the "Hot Time Summer in the City."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Looks Like Rain, Don't It?

I tried not to look shocked because, well, rain is unheard of this time of year. It usually stops raining in Southern California in March/April and doesn't normally begin again until November/December. So, when the gas station guy said it looks and feels like rain, I thought...what are you...crazy? The fact that it doesn't rain for most of the year encourages half the arsonists in America to move here. I really wish he'd been right and that it would rain.

On July 4 there was a little brushfire just up the street. We didn't smell the smoke (at first), we heard the roar of the fire helicopter about 150 feet above our house. Hmm, we thought, wonder what they're doing up here. Then a fire engine roared past our house. It's hard to actually roar past our house since our road is a series of blind curves, but they didn't seem worried about the lack of visibility. By the time Himself and I had walked to the bottom of our driveway, five big fire trucks had whizzed past, with another two to follow a bit later. Nothing like a fire to turn the locals out of their homes and within a couple of minutes, our normally quiet and empty road was dotted with other worried neighbors. I NEVER have my camera with me when it really counts so no pics to share. I wish I'd had a little tape recorder, though. The following are mini conversations I had with the folks who live around here ( in no particular order):

Me: Are you concerned?
Him: Nah, the wind is hardly blowing but I hosed down my roof anyway.

Me: Hi You Miserable Husband of the Bitchy Teacher of the Extremely, Amazingly Gifted and Talented. How are you, you hateful SOB and did you put dogshit in my wheelie bin when I left it by the street on trash pick-up day?
Him: Shut up you miserable tattle-tale bitch.[this particular exchange did not take place. he just glared at me and I smiled back]

Me: Wow, isn't that water heavy? [said to whacky looking guy who was transporting about 20 gallons of water on his back with a tube leading from the pack to his mouth, all the while driving a little four-wheeled ATV way too fast]
Him: Yeah, but you'd be surprised at how far 20 gallons can go. [blank stare from me]

Strung-out looking guy: What'd the fire dude say? They gonna be able to put this out or should I start packing?
Me: I think we're okay for now. [of course by the time I'd responded, he'd wandered off and was talking to himself]

Me: When do you actually decide to leave [said to some guy I'd never seen before]?
Him: This isn't dangerous.
Me: I guess that's why there are SEVEN FLIPPIN' HOOK & LADDER FIRE TRUCKS!
Him: They always over-react.
Me: Did you evacuate during the Malibu/Topanga fire in '93
Him: Of course not.
Me: .........
Him: Well, my wife and kids left, but I decided to stay and protect my home.
Me: .........
Him: Well, I stayed until the mandatory evacuation.
Him: Okay, well, good luck, bye.
Me: Bye

There seem to be a lot of these marginalized types. I don't know what that means but to me it means people between their 30s and 50s who just have done way too many drugs and just are living on the fringes. In other words, many of my neighbors. For the record, I also have some incredibly smart, articulate, fantastic neighbors.

The very next day there was a picture flippin' perfect Black Widow Spider [also no pics] dangling on a disorganized looking web just outside the living room door until I screamed at my husband to KILL IT! He killed it and then I yelled, "DAMN! That was so blogworthy."

[Note to others: I normally gently capture spiders between soft, downy layers of tissue, and deposit them safely outdoors, hoping they're not damaged in transit or separated from loved ones.]

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Getting Back to the Business of Being Legal

I think I mentioned in an earlier posting that we have lived in California a little over three years, but I'm still driving with a Wisconsin license. In four days that license expires and that upcoming expiration led me to studying the California DMV handbook as though my life depended upon it. And in a way it did. If I didn't pass the first time, I could take it again in a week's time. Of course, in a week's time, my Wisconsin license would have expired and then it wouldn't be a simple matter of taking a written test, but also a driving test. I know I can drive and I know I drive pretty well, but the idea of taking a written AND a behind-the-wheel test makes me feel wobbly. So, I have been studying and last night when Himself innocently asked me if I was blogging (as opposed to watching the latest stage in the Tour de France with him), I screamed "NO I'M STUDYING COS IF I FAIL MY DRIVING TEST..." I could see him shutting down and focusing on the Tour as I worked myself into an iknowi'mgoingtoflunklather. He said calmly, "You'll do fine." And that was the end of it for him. I studied a bit more before going to bed dreaming of unlikely questions that could be thrown at me.

California law states that all new residents must apply for and take the test for a California driving license within 10 days of moving to the state. WHAT??? Oh right, we've just moved 2,000 miles and I can't even find the flippin' way home half the time but I also have to find the DMV...within 10 days? So, since I didn't take care of it within the first ten days, I figured what's the rush. I've already screwed up.

Yesterday dawned stinking hot and I woke up still dreaming of ways I could fail. My appointment was for 2:30 and I left early enough to take into account traffic jams, toxic spills and police sobriety checkpoints. It must be understood that I have never been in the vicinity of a toxic spill or a police sobriety checkpoint, but I reckoned I'd just been lucky so far.

A very jolly woman greeted me at the DMV and DIDN'T even ask me how long I'd lived in California. I was immediately suspicious, but tried to act all happy to be there and filled out the form. I was given an expedited number (since I'd made an appointment) and took my seat. The DMV air conditioning couldn't keep up with the crush of people and the outside ambient air temp of ONE HUNDRED DEGREES. My number was called and I walked up to the counter, fully prepared to be sent directly to jail for being an illegal driver for three plus years. I was never asked how long I'd lived was more just a "Welcome to California" schtick. I passed the vision test (whew) and then joined another queue, this time to get my picture taken. My hair was collapsing on me and looking damper and thinner as each minute passed. I pushed my reading glasses up, using them like a headband and fanned myself with the test book. Called to the counter, I was thumb-printed and then the pic was taken. SURPRISE of SURPRISES, it was a pretty good pic. But then it was noticed that I had glasses on top of my head and I was called back for a retake. Of course, the picture I now have is of a sweaty looking menopausal woman with hair flattened and flopped. I'm then sent off with my 36 questions sheet, multiple choice.

Passing Grade: Six or fewer errors for original applicants, three or fewer errors for renewal applicants.

First Question: "It is illegal for a person 21 years of age or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is _______ or higher.
0.10%. One tenth of one percent
0.08%. Eight hundredths of one percent
0.05%. Five hundredths of one percent."
I am such a dim bulb that when I first read the question, I read it as it is illegal for a person 21 years or age or younger...I found that mistake.

Here's another question.
"Which of the following children requires a child passenger restraint system?
A six-year old weighing 60 pounds.
A five-year old weighing 55 pounds.
A five-year old weighing 65 pounds."
The only reason I got this one right is because I have a granddaughter and I was curious as to when she could just use a seatbelt...not for a while is the answer. She is almost four years old and weighs just over 30 pounds.

After 36 of these, I certified that under penalty of perjury I personally answered these questions and then it was over. It was sort of surreal. The really nice chatty woman grabbed my test, checked it, circled a one (one error) then handed to another gal who handed me my temp license (finalized version with very bad pic to arrive in two to three weeks) and, well, Now I'm Legal!!!! Whoopie!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bloody Terrorists

Bloody, bloody terrorists. Bloody, bloody fear-mongers. They stole the sweet beauty of a summer's day. They stole the joy that was London's on Wednesday. They stole the lives of too many. Bloody, evil thieves. What they haven't stolen is the essence of London and the courage of the British people.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Doonesbury Speaks

Let's face it, Garry Trudeau is good. Today's Doonesbury is also pretty bang-on. Just so we bloggers don't get any uppity ideas about who we are and what we write, here's today's comic, without pictures. Full credit to Mr. Trudeau.

Picture a radio studio. Mark is interviewing blogger, Slamz88...

Mark: I'm here chatting with blogger Slamz88 at the tail end of the media's fascination with blogging. Slamz88, let me throw you a blog-style hardball, if I may...

Slamz88: Let it fly, Mark!

Mark: Isn't blogging basically for angry, semi-employed losers who are too untalented or too lazy to get real jobs in journalism?

Slamz88: WHAT?!

Mark: I mean, if the market really valued what you have to say, wouldn't someone pay you for it?

Slamz88: Are you kidding? Advertisers are banging down our doors!

Mark: To reach whom? The fellow crackpots who have time to respond to your posts?

Slamz88: Yes! There are a lot of those "crackpots," as you call them! Millions of them!

Mark: Uh-huh. So what's your favorite flavor of cat food?

Slamz88: Well, Friskies makes a very tasty...what's your point?

For the record: The few people who read and respond to my blog are not crackpots...are you? And nobody's beating down my straw door to advertise.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Greens of Summer

Posted by PicasaOut the kitchen window

Summer is settling into the canyon; much more gently and slowly than usual. This slower, gentler summer is reflected not only in the still faintly green, but mostly cornhusk yellow hills aorund my house, but also in my water bill. We have not much more than an acre and it's all irrigated. Any land that is not irrigated and is within 150 feet of a dwelling, has to be cleared, hacked back and made barren. We choose not to do that which is why Los Angeles County Waterworks bills are usually opened (in the summer months) with some sense of dread. Our first summer in Topanga, when we weren't exactly young, but were green to the ways of watering, our first two-monthly bill was over $600.00. Within a week, Himself understood the irrigation backwards. Small leaks were fixed, Western gardening books were purchased and studied, and timers set for fewer, but longer watering bursts. Today I received my first bill of the season and it's for a little over $200. I know the weather is largely to do with this, but I feel a certain sense of pride at just how little water we've used.

It won't rain again until November at the earliest. With the dryness, I'm hoping we'll have no need for the Moroccan Fly Abatement Scheme pictured below.

And so today I took the baggies off the lantern. This fly abatement scheme was initiated not too many weeks ago when my daughter's dearest friend from her D.C. days was visiting. Pesky little flies were bugging us and Annabelle (DC friend) related to us the way she and her husband, Ken, keep flies at bay at their weekend place in West Virginia. Simply put, they fill baggies with water and nail, staple or hook them onto any available surface. It's not a pretty look, but it works out East. While it didn't seem to do anything here in the West but, as with all things new and different, after a while it just becomes normal. And so the water-filled sacks hung on our Moroccan lantern for about a month until today when I threw caution to the wind and pulled them off.

The cacti given us by kindly neighbors were finally stuck in the dirt. I love the way they're planted...kind of like sentinels keeping watch over the playhouse and driveway. These gifted plants have made me feel a little guilty from the day they were offered.

Louise called me and said they'd done some cactus-culling and would we like some. I jumped at the offer and told her we'd collect them within the week. Four weeks later we still hadn't picked them up. The primary excuse was laziness, with weather coming in a distant second. Six weeks later I saw them...neatly stacked on the driveway. If these neighbors weren't in their mid 70s, I'd think, oh well, oops, sorry. But I felt like shit since Louise, who has crapped out lungs on a good day, probably hauled them over in a wheelbarrow.

Down the driveway, just out of the watchful gaze of the sentinel cacti, lies my newspaper. This morning I just took a picture of it. I never actually went and hauled it up until my husband called to say he'd be home in 20 minutes. If you look hard, you can see it, encased in plastic, at the end of the drive.