Monday morning, we are up before the crack of dawn for a day trip to Gibraltar. The whole day I will be singing "The Ballad Of John & Yoko" in my head - and occasionally out loud - but that's another story...
While waiting to be picked up at our resort's entrance, we met two guys from Phoenix. Mr. Phone and Mr. Engineer. They are two friends like us using up timeshare points before they expire. We chat about the other day trips we have planned and they run in to the concierge to sign up for the day trip to Ronda that we have scheduled for tomorrow. We also learn that they will be with us on our trip to Tangier on Thursday.
We board the bus and we meet an American family from Virginia Beach. Dentist dad, travel agent mom, student daughter and snowboard daughter. We learn that they are on the trip to Tangier on Thursday also. They are staying at the Marriot down the beach as they are Marriot owners.
Our guide tells us that we don't have to change money. In Gibraltar, most every place will take Euro or US dollars and those that won't will take plastic. But we should always check before eating or purchasing anything, just in case. (The currency is the Gibraltar Pound which is equivalent to the Pound Sterling but only accepted in Gibraltar. They take Pound Sterling also.) We decide to use Euros or Visa.
At the P&T stop, I chat a little bit more with our new American friends. They are all very friendly and nice.
Crossing the border, we all have to show our passports to Spanish police and then again to British police, but nothing gets stamped.
Then we drive across the airport runway to enter Gibraltar. Our large bus drives to the Visitor Centre wher we board two smaller buses. One is German & English and the other is Spanish & English. We opt for the Spanish bus as do all our new friends. It turns out that the Spanish couple is pretty fluent in English so out guide mostly does the tour in English and only explains things in Spanish as needed.
We head off for our tour of the Rock. We head first to Point Europa which is the closest point to Africa. The coolest thing there (which I unfortunately did NOT get a photo of) was half a tanker aground on the rocks. Apparently, it broke in half when thrown on the rocks during a fierce storm. It's still there.
Then we head up to St. Michael's Cave. The whole Rock is made of limestone so there are many caves, but St. Michael's is enormous and was cleared for use as a hospital during Word War 2. It was never needed so now it is used for concerts.
After that, we went to the Apes Den for a scheduled look at the Barbary Macaques. We had seen them around the Cave as well. They are the only wild Primates in Europe.
At the Apes Den' we saw the Cable Car up to the top of the Rock, but we didn't go up there ourselves. Then we headed down past the Moorish Castle, City Hall (where John & Yoko got married) and through the town to Grand Casements Square where we left the minibus behind for lunch or shopping.
T & I headed out of the very tourist-y Square and strolled down the High Street to see what sparked our fancy. We came across The Star Bar which claims to be the oldest Pub in Gibraltar. Legend has it that Columbus stopped there on his way to discover America! We had a lovely lunch of fish & chips (with malt vinegar!), lamp chops (with brown sauce!), stout & cider.
Then we headed back to the Visitor Centre, shopping a bit along the way.
Back on our large bus, back across the airport runway. Then we had to exit the bus to go through Customs on both sides of the border (but still no stamps). We boarded the bus and headed back to our hotel.
Mr. Phone, Mr. Engineer, T & I stopped back at the concierge to check on our Ronda trip for the next day. Alas, it had been cancelled. We were the only people who signed up. We inquired about the Granada trip and that was booked full for Tuesday and Wednesday. The guys were going to Seville on Wednesday so we signed up for that trip and it was confirmed right then. Then we asked the concierge for suggestions for what to do on Tuesday. He suggested that we go to Ronda on the public bus. He provided us with the bus schedule into Marbella and we decided to think it over.
Later, at Happy Hour, we ran into the guys and they said they were thinking about Ronda for tomorrow. They asked what time we were leaving. We said we didn't know, but we would try to leave early. They headed off for dinner. We chatted with the barmen for awhile and then went back to our condo for dinner and some BBC.
Tomorrow, we will try our Amazing Ronda Bus Adventure en Espanol!
Our first day in Marbella. We planned to take it easy. We slept in and woke up just in time to make breakfast at the resort restaurant. Now everyone knows that Spain is a pretty laid back country, but they serve breakfast 9-11 or 10-Noon. Lunch begins at Noon if you're lucky but usually 1. And 8pm is the earliest you could possibly think of eating dinner. Most shops close 2-4pm or so for siesta. It's tough to be an American used to eating breakfast at 7, lunch at Noon and dinner at 6.
But we had our breakfast and a little bird joined us at our table. After breakfast, we walked over the road to the supermercado, but it was closed. Ah, Sundays in Spain. Not ready to throw in the towel, just yet, we walk over the highway to the centro de commercial and there we find an OpenCor that is indeed open "todo los dios". We spend about 50 Euro buying breakfast stuff, fruit, veg, and stuff for a few lunches or dinners. We walk around and check out the place and see that there are quite a few pubs and restaurants and they will all be showing the same football (that's soccer for you Yanks) game at 1500. We decide to come back and watch if nothing else comes up between now and then.
After taking our purchases back to our condo, we decide to head to the beach and explore some of the neighbourhood. It's a short walk, past clay tennis courts, to Tony's cafe on the beach. We head down the steps, past the palapas and towards Marbella. After walking for a while, we decide to turn around and walk back. But when we get to Tony's, we keep walking toward Fuengirola just to see what else there is to see. We stop when we come to a jetty that will require me to climb rocks to pass and head back to Tony's.
We sit on the patio and drink dos canas while watching the waves and the people. There are quite a few people on the beach considering it's November. There is even a woman sunbathing topless! BRR. I am fascinated by the two English guys surf fishing near the restaurant. Would they really catch anything? Would it be worth eating? Or do they just want an excuse to sit on the beach and drink beer?
While we are sitting there, African guys selling bootleg DVDs, jewelry, and knockoff watches and handbags, are constantly stopping by the table to sell to us. We tell all of them "No". One asks if we are Americans. When we say yes, he says "Obama!!" We say "Yes, Obama." He says "Obama is very good man. He will be very good President of America." We say "Yes, we think so too". So he walks away smiling saying "Goodbye Obamas!!"
Before we finish, we realize that it is nearly 4:30pm and so we have missed the football game. We head back to our resort for a short siesta and then Happy Hour at the bar. Our bar has Happy Hour every night 1830-1930. Everything is half price, except bottles and some cocktails. We pretty much stick to Sangria. It's lovely and fruity and fizzy. We sit at the bar and chat up the bartenders. They give us free shots. Sometimes, they have made too much of a cocktail that another customer ordered. Sometimes, they have made the wrong cocktail. Sometimes, they are just experimenting or learning and want to see what we think. But we prater on with our very bad Spanish which makes them laugh so it's all good fun.
Tipsy but happy, we head back to our condo to make dinner, watch the BBC and sleep. It's an early start tomorrow. We are going to another country - Gibraltar!
Saturday morning we slept in and then packed up. Check out time wasn't until Noon and that was when we had to leave for the airport so we took our time. We ate the breakfast goodies we purchased the day before at the Boqueteria market. [I highly recommend a trip to the Boqueteria as it is one of the largest markets in the world. If they don't sell it, you probably can't buy it. There was even a stall selling foreign products for all the ex-pats living in Barcelona.] After our breakfast, we went to the little coffee shop down the street for dos cafes de la casa (espresso with chocolate). T was like "where's the leche" but we didn't need any leche. They also served a piece of chocolate on the side. Then we went to the ATM and walked up Las Ramblas to Placa Catalunya and then back over to Carrer del Pi where we shopped our way back to our hotel. The only thing we bought were Christmas cards at El Corte Ingles.
Back to the hotel to check out and then back to Placa Catalunya to catch the Aerobus back to the airport. Grabbed a quick lunch at the Bocadillo shop near our gate. I ordered the Tortilla de patate and it actually came on a baguette. Whoever heard of a potato sandwich? Crazy! We flew on Vueling and the flight was completely uneventful. There were quite a few musicians from Israel on our flight, but we never did learn where they were performing.
I had pre-arranged a shuttle that I found through Google. The company is transfersdelsol.co.uk and I highly recommend them for airport transportation to or from Malaga airport. Our driver was an ex-pat who spoke perfect English and was very friendly. We got to the resort very easily and were checked in and to our room in time to freshen up before Happy Hour. We had dinner that night at the restaurant and then turned in. We had been go-go-go since landing in Spain and we were both looking forward to Sunday, the day off.
Our last full day in Barcelona. We decide to take advantage of the free Harbor Cruise that came with our Barcelona Cards and head to the Harbor. Dos Cafes Con Leche para llevar and a quick trip to La Baguetina and we are ready to set off. A short walk down Las Ramblas, but we take the Metro to reduce the chances of getting lost.
This not being tourist season, the first boat doesn't leave until noon so we turn around and look behind us at El Mirador del Colom - The Christopher Columbus monument. The steel column contains an ascensor and our Barcelona Card offers a discount so up we go. It is so tiny that only four people can fit in at once, and that is if you are friendly enough to be quite close. T being slightly claustrophobic had a smidge of anxiety, but she was fine. At the top, there is less room to maneuver than in the Crown of the Statue Of Liberty and it moves a lot more!
We walked completely around and then had to wait a bit for the ascensor so we could go back down. Then we headed off to the boat.
The Harbor cruise was nice enough, but it was not narrated and it was FREEZING cold. I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have the Barcelona Card. But it was nice to see the Olympic Village.
After that we took the Metro to the Mont Juic Funicular. Emerging halfway up Mont Juic, we opted for the Teleferic up to Castell Mont Juic. We walked around the ancient fortress, had great views of the city and harbor, and had our first paella at the restaurant.
We tooke the Teleferic back down and walked a bit through the Parc. A bus came along so we hopped on it, not really know where it was going. An adventure!! As soon as I figured out where we were on the map, we got off at the next stop that was near the Metro and headed back to our hotel.
Another siesta, then we headed to the Placa del Pi for dinner at Taller Tapas. I highly recommend this place if you are ever in Barcelona. The tapas choices were excellent, they have great daily specials, great cocktails, and menus in English! We saw a lot of folks ordering things we hadn't ordered and were especially glad we opted out of the paella as it came with a whole prawn (head and legs included) smack on top. We had grilled bread with tomatoes & garlic (a sort of Catalan bruschetta), jamon croquette (just one so T could try it), grilled asparagus, sizzling prawns (no heads here), patates bravas (vlamse frites mit saus), mojito, capirinha and dos aguas sin gas. We were stuffed!
After dinner, we headed over to Santa Maria del Pi for a concert by Barcelona Duo Guitarra. A man and a woman who met as music students, they have arranged "Carmen" for two guitars and they play flamenco music while making the percussive sounds of the dancers with their hands. Really wonderful and amazing! The perfect end to our time in Barcelona.
We started off our first full day in Spain with breakfast in our hotel. Then we headed off to try to find the Museu Picasso. Theoretically within walking distance of our hotel, but through the labyrinth of the Barri Goti so not exactly easy to find.
Eventually, we made it there. Picasso was from this part of Spain so it seemed like a good way to start off the trip. Plus with our Barcelona card, it was half-price!
Leaving the museum and heading to the Metro, we made our first purchase in Spanish. Dos Aguas, por favor.
We navigated the Metro fairly easily and emerged at La Sagrada Familia, probably the most recognized landmark in all of Barcelona. The cathedral was begun in 1882. Gaudi took over the design in 1883 and worked on it until his death. He completed the Portal of the Nativity. The work on the cathedral is ongoing and they expect to finish it by 2026.
Part of how they pay for the building is by charging admission to the cathedral and also by charging to go up one of the towers in an elevator - "ascensor" en Espanol. So, we decided to give that a try. Now, Gentle Readers, most of you know that I have vertigo. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling from them. I do not stand on chairs. I have trouble with steep stairs and escalators. But I have been to the top of some pretty tall buildings (including both World Trade Center towers btw). So I decided this couldn't be too bad.
And it was fine, until I had crossed over a little bity bridge to the other tower and had to walk down 10 meters around an opening that went 70 meters straight down. Oh yeah, that was it. I had to beg the lift operator to take me down. (He was pretty understanding in the end.)
After the dizzying depths, we descended to the basement which contains the museum of the cathedral. But our blood sugar was sinking as well so we headed off to the Michael Collins Irish Pub. Recommended by Barcelona Card, it was conveniently just across the square.
After our lunch of fish & chips (and a strange look when we asked for vinegar for same), we set off for Park Guell. We had a vague map in the Barcelona card book, but it wasn't on the city map we got from our hotel and I wasn't carrying my Lonely Planet. So we got off the metro and looked for a sign. We saw one and followed it to a very confusing intersection. And then we chose, unwisely.
We walked up the street whose name we could read on one of the maps and ended up climbing a huge flight of stairs only to end at a large mural depicting tourists being robbed. Hurriedly, we walked down the nearest street. As we approached a cross street, we saw large numbers of people walking up the hill, we followed them and then saw that we were on the right road. We referred to that journey as "The Stairs of Death" for the rest of the trip.
Park Guell is full of Gaudi's handiwork. The Sala Hipostila staircase has a very famous dragon. The house where he lived is also here and we visited that as well. That was where we encountered The Toucher. Seriously, some British woman who had to touch EVERYTHING in the museum, no matter how many signs were posted or how mortified her companions were.
After leaving the museum, we declared that we were "museumed out" for probably the rest of this trip and we found our way back to the Metro without getting lost or going down the Stairs Of Death.
Once back at our hotel, we had a short siesta and then asked the concierge to recommend a place for dinner. He sent us into the labyrinth to find Banys Nous on which was located a restaurant that he highly recommended. There seemed to be a bit too much pulpa on the menu so we decided to keep walking. We stumbled across Campostela and, though they had pulpa in the window, they had a lovely Menu del Noche so we went in.
We had ensalada mixta, gazpacho, steak (the saltiest steak I have ever eaten in my entire life), and helado. Throw in a bottle of tinto and a bottle of agua sin gas and we were very happy.
We strolled back to our hotel via Las Ramblas. Ready for a good night's sleep and our harbor adventure in the morning.
Got home from work about an hour before the shuttle came to pick me up which gave me time to shower and change before the flight. Always good when you are going to be traveling for a long time.
The shuttle arrived on time with a very friendly driver who asked if I had my passport & tickets. We had one more stop and then flew to LAX with zero traffic. There was no line at the Swissair counter so I had about 90 minutes to shop, eat, etc. before boarding.
After browsing the Duty Free shop (does anyone really buy that stuff?) and having a snack, I zipped through security, obtained some Euro, then went to the gate. Oddly, the same gate I left from for Ireland in 2006!
Once the flight had boarded, the captain announced there would be a slight delay. It was actually a medical emergency and delayed our leaving for about an hour. They not only had to get the passenger off but also his luggage. I was only nervous because I didn´t have a long layover in Zurich. The flight itself was fine. I didn´t have a seatmate so was able to spread out a bit. I had a personal tv and watched ¨Get Smart¨ and ¨Mamma Mia¨, plus two episodes of ¨Friends¨. I also played Sudoku and read one of MAD´s romance novels (she gives them to me to read on planes). I even managed to sleep!
We landed in Zurich at 4:10pm and my flight to Barcelona boarded at 4:45. I sped through Flughaven Zurich but it looks like a nice place to have a layover. I had to go through security again so I had to put everything back in the plastic bag and toss the water I had bought in LA. A quick passport control line and then boarding commenced.
As soon as we boarded, the captain came on to make the announcement that a passenger had not boarded so we would be delayed while his luggage was removed. It was just my day for that sort of thing.
An uneventful flight during which I slept and we landed in Barcelona in the rain. T texted me to say she would be in the arrivals hall just outside customs. I zipped through Immigration, collected my luggage and met her easily.
While she had been waiting, she had discovered that the Aerobus was a better option to our hotel than the Airport Train so we took that. It was raining as we walked to the stop, but not very hard. We boarded the bus, got our Barcelona card discount on the tickets, and were off.
The bus stopped at La Placa Catalunya and we got off. The tricky part was figuring out which direction our hotel was from there. I knew it was on a pedestrian street so we headed in the direction of the only pedestrian street we could see. Good choice! We were at our hotel in less than 10 minutes. And it wasn´t raining!!
Greeted with cava, everything was great. We had a little trouble with the lights, but it turned out to be the circuit breaker and was fixed in a jiffy. Showered and changed, we headed to dinner at a place suggested by both of our guidebooks and less than 5 minutes walking from our hotel.
El Quatre Gats, now a restaurant, was an artist´s club modeled after Le Chat Noir. Picasso held his first exhibition there. They have a traditional Cataln menu. We had olives, bread, mesclun salad with goat cheese, spinach & goat cheese ravioli, baked cod and roasted goat. A bottle of the house red topped us off.
We stopped in the hotel bar for tea and were asleep in our beds within 30 minutes of finishing dinner.
The agenda for our first day includes the Picasso museum, La Sagrada Familia, Michael Collins Irish Pub (seriously!) and who knows what else.
On Tuesday evening, I will board a plane for my European vacation. the last time I went to Europe was exactly two years ago, but that trip was to Ireland which is very American friendly. The trip before that was to France in 2004.
In France in 2004, I was quite concerned to be singled out as an American tourist. Our President and his policies were not popular there. Fortunately, I am able to blend in quite well with the "natives" in appearance and it's only when I open my mouth that they know I am a tourist. Still, I had more people tell me how much they didn't like Bush than when I visited the Soviet Union in 1985 (OK that was Reagan, but you get the idea).
So thank you America. In the recent election, you showed to the rest of the world that the American people were also unhappy with the status quo. WE wanted something new and different and we are going to have it.
I still plan to try and not stick out as an American tourist, but now it's because I don't want to be a target for petty theft. And every tourist should worry about that.
So, if I happen upon an Internet Cafe, I promise to blog from the road. If not, I am signing off for the next two weeks.
I watched the returns last night with a group of friends from church, including the folks I went to Nevada with (see the Driving For Change post below). When Colbert & Stewart called the race for Obama, we were stunned. We looked at each other in disbelief. Was it true? How could it be true? We've been down this road before, you know.
Someone shouted "Turn on Fox"! So we did, and then we believed.
And then we cheered.
And as we toasted our new President with champagne and congratulated ourselves on our contribution to this historic moment, we were still a little bit stunned. Hours later, as we watched to see the results of our local races, we kept turning to each other and saying "I can't believe Obama is really President".
We all gave kudos to John McCain. He gave an eloquent speech and looked like the old McCain, the maverick, the one we had respect for and liked well enough to say "he wouldn't be so bad as President". The crazy, pandering, negative McCain had gone. He lived up to his campaign slogan and put his country first, offering his full support to the new President. Having met McCain, I know he meant it.
So should we all. And now, that's really what we have to do. In the words of our President-elect, "I have heard your voices and I will be your President too".
So I encourage all Obama supporters to reach out to the McCain supporters in your lives. Show respect for their passion in this marvelous process. Unity is where it's at!
Today, America is the envy of the world. Today, after 8 years of a President who has steadily declined in popularity both at home and abroad, amidst a struggling economy, in a war, Americans from all walks of life, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, will go to the polls to vote for a new President.
We have had 18 months of increasingly negative and bitter campaigning. Both sides have slung their share of mud. Good friends and family members have argued til they were blue in the face because they are passionate about their candidate.
Beginning at midnight in Dixville Notch New Hampshire and continuing until the polls close in Alaska and Hawaii, Americans in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia will go to the polls, braving weather and lines (hopefully) to have their say. And they won't just be voting for President, but that's the one vote that will make the difference to the rest of the world.
Because no matter how cantankerous this campaign has been, we will elect our next leader peacefully. We do not need UN peacekeeping forces to protect us while we vote. We do not need international monitors to ensure that our election is carried out fairly. We respect each other's right to vote for the candidate of our own choice, even if we don't agree with who that is.
And tomorrow, if we have conclusively chosen our new President, we will simply get on with our lives. Between November 5th and January 20th, the new administration will put its Cabinet together and begin to build bridges to the other side. There will not be riots in the streets by the losing side or violence against the other side in anyway.
If the President has not been conclusively decided, there may be some protesting. But it will be done peacefully and respectfully. Because that's who we really are as Americans. We respect each other's Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
This marvel of the free world that we call America is only made possible by men and women who fought and died for our right to exist as a country and for our Constitution. You do them dishonour if you do not vote today.
In the end, it doesn't matter who you vote for, but if you don't vote, you don't deserve to live here. Dixville Notch had 100% turnout (15 for Obama & 6 for McCain btw), but they are likely to be one of the only places in America that does so well. And that, my friends, is sad. We should all love our country enough to take the time to vote.
There are many local officials up for election and local propositions that will directly affect your life even if you don't think the occupant of the Oval Office will do so.
If you don't know where to go to vote, please visit www.canivote.org to find your polling place. Most states require employers to give you reasonable time off work to vote. Most states will allow you to vote a provisional ballot if your name is not on the list at the polling place. Some states allow you to register and vote on the same day. There's just no excuse for not voting.
If you can't appreciate how easy it is for you to vote your conscience today, you should seriously consider moving to some other part of the world for awhile. People in other parts of the world walk for days, some in fear of their lives, to cast votes for their candidate of choice. In those places, people can be pitied for not voting. But this is America, people. Vote, or leave.
One note - This post has been held in draft at the request of the Obama campaign until after the election. All bloggers were asked to do this so that blogging about the Drive For Change events would not affect the outcome.
As mentioned in an earlier post, one of my friends from church is very passionate about electing Obama. She not only helped convince me that Obama would be my candidate of choice if I didn't live in California, but also asked me to go to Nevada with her to knock on doors and get out the vote.
So we did. Another church friend joined us. The most interesting addition was the fourth person. Our driver had posted on the DFC site that we had a space in the car and the guy we lucked into was absolutely the right fit for us. He liked the same music, was an In-n-out person, into community service, and interested in discussing religion, politics and all kinds of controversial subjects people don't usually discuss when they've just met. It was Divine Providence. (Trust me, cause we met guy #2, and he would not have fit in at all!)
Our assignment was Las Vegas. For our driver, it was her first trip to Vegas so we couldn't NOT go to the Strip. After checking in to our hotel, we took a short jaunt down the south end from New York, New York to Mandalay Bay. Then we headed back to get an early start the next day.
We had to report to a park first. This reminded me of MMM where everyone gets a disbursement clue. Each car was handed a map to a precinct. Again, we had Divine Providence because our Precinct Captain had gone to UCDC with Random Car Guy and was also a UCSD alum (as I am). He handed us two large packets of voter lists and info and asked if we could do both of those before coming back. Early voting had begun and we were going to the doors of sporadic voters and asking them to vote. Most of the people were registered Democrats but all were either undecided or Obama leaning. We did not knock on any door of someone who was strong McCain, but we did knock on a few strong "Other" doors. When we finished those packets, we headed back and were given another packet in the same area where the staging office was located so we didn't even move the car.
Exhausted, we grabbed some dinner, and then headed back to the hotel. We had entertained ideas of the hot tub, but instead we ended up sitting around and talking about everything until nearly 1am. The four of us really bonded over the whole experience and we were sharing all kinds of life experiences. It was very special.
The next morning we were back at the staging office to pick up two more packets. We did those and then headed home.
That weekend, our team of four knocked on around 350 doors. We met some really great people. Everyone was friendly, even the people who had decided on McCain. Only one person slammed the door on us. Along the way, we met really fantastic Americans: a convention delegate, a former Californian, a Republican dad who had just dropped off his Democrat son to knock on doors like we were doing, an older woman who shook her cane in the air with joy that we were reminding people to vote, an undecided woman on horseback who stopped us on the street and asked us about Obama and by the end was pretty sure she was going to vote for him.
We also saw a lot of foreclosure signs. In one neighborhood, a child told us not to knock on the house next door because "nobody lives there anymore". We saw housing developments that had been abandoned only partially completed. One woman told us that she was so disappointed in America that she would "not be participating in the election". That made me so sad I almost cried. I hate to see Americans not exercising their right to vote. In the end, it's more important that you vote than who you vote for. If you don't vote, you are letting other people decide your life for you and that is just sad.
By the time the weekend was over, our precinct had knocked on 5000 doors, and the state of Nevada had knocked on 100,000 doors. The one-day voter turnout on our first day was 23,000 statewide, a new record.
On the way home, we encountered a horrible traffic accident so the drive took about three hours longer than we had anticipated. But we just looked at it as more time to spend together.
I haven't bonded with virtually random people like that since boarding school. It was definitely a life-changing experience.
We plan to get together to watch the Election Results. We hope we will be celebrating, but at least we know that we did everything we could.
BTW - I still am technically "undecided". I will decide on Election Day whether I will actually vote for Obama or cast my vote for my preferred candidate Nader. But I hope Obama wins.
I work in a one-story building with exposed pipe and ductwork. It just began raining here and the sound was magical. The funny thing was that everyone in the building jumped out of their cubes and ran to the windows to look at the strange and miraculous liquid falling from the sky.
I can't wait to turn on the news for STORM WATCH 2008! ;-)
I had dinner last night at Beso, Eva Longoria-Parker's restaurant in Hollywood. The LA Times had kind of panned it but I was meeting a former co-worker who is a real foodie and so we decided to try it.
First off, we both felt woefully under dressed. This place is frequented by Party People. All the ladies were in cocktail dresses and heels and dressed to impress.
The atmosphere is very clubby. It's dark, and red, and there are rooms with curtains and upstairs rooms.
There are two kitchens. Anything grilled comes from the front open kitchen and everything else comes from the rear kitchen.
Our server was fantastic. She asked if we had been there before and would we like some suggestions. We took her suggestions for cocktails, starters, entrees, and dessert.
Our cocktail choice was the signature Blackberry Collins. I had heard people in the bar ordering it and it was good! Lots of fresh blackberries, vodka and lemons.
Food wise, we started with a grilled pear salad and a roasted beet salad. Both were really beautifully presented and really tasty. The vinaigrettes were light enough that all the flavours in the salads came out.
Then we had grilled flat bread, compliments of the chef.
For entrees, we had paella and skirt steak tacos with a side of grilled asparagus. The paella was really good and full of chicken, chorizo, shrimp, mussels, clams, fish, and lobster. All of the meat had been grilled beforehand. The rice was almost risotto-like, creamy and tasty. The skirt steak tacos were very simple. Just grilled skirt steak and aioli in a wrapper that seemed more like lavosh bread than a tortilla with a garnish of pico de gallo. The grilled asparagus was FABULOUS.
For dessert, we had the flan and tea. The flan isn't really flan; it's more mousse. But it was hazelnutty and delicious. The teas are served in infusion pots and the black tea had a french press device in its pot.
We spent a lovely four hours lingering and chatting and were never pressured to leave.
Beso is pricey (our check was over $100 before tax & tip) but worth it! If you are ever in Hollywood, you should check it out! Reservations suggested.
I don't know if I have mentioned this, but I have been extraordinarily happy lately. I was mentioning to a friend a few weekends ago (while canvassing for Obama - but that's another story) that I feel kind of weird about it because so many of my friends seem to be going through pretty difficult times right now.
I can't really explain it. Maybe I am anticipating my vacation, maybe it's all the new people I am meeting lately, maybe it's a sense that change is definitely coming to this great country of ours. I honestly don't know.
It all started the night I saw The Swell Season at the Greek Theatre. That was, without a doubt, the best concert experience of my life. It was spiritual. I have never felt that way at a concert before. It was like being in a Dali film because strange things were definitely going on.
But ever since that night, I have had this feeling that something really good is coming (that's the musical theatre cue folks).
Just a silly little note. I went out last night with some friends from church to see another church member's band at a club. Everything was going swimmingly until the second band took the stage. They were quite loud and I reached into the small pocket of my purse and pulled out my earplugs. Apparently, I was the only one so prepared as evidenced by the comments after the show.
This came after having breakfast with my co-workers earlier the same day when we were discussing boys (as you do when you are all single women!). I mentioned my 'No Musicians' rule and they were kind of stunned. After all, they said, you have a lot of friends who are musicians. Trust me, I said, the more musicians you know, the less you will want to date one of them.
Or maybe it's just those trust issues rearing their ugly head again...
The world may never know...
But one thing's for sure, I spend enough time in clubs/pubs/bars seeing my friends' bands to never leave home without my earplugs.
If you know me, and let's face it Gentle Reader, you probably do, you know that I am addicted to books. I read voraciously. I own over 1000 books, my library card is well-used, I frequent bookstores while on holiday, I subscribe to two (2!) audiobook services so I can listen to books when I can't actually be reading. I am a bookaholic.
So at any given moment, I have just read THE MOST FASCINATING book and I have to tell everyone about it.
Now if you look to your right (the blog's left), you will see a list of just some of the books I have read this year. If you scroll through the list, you will come upon 'Leap'. This is a very interesting book. I have found myself continuing to recommend it several weeks (and books!) later.
If you haven't heard of it, I suggest that you check it out. It was written by Sara Davidson, a 50-something former TV writer and producer of Dr Quinn Medicine Woman (a tv show I happened to like) who was suddenly left by her, I'm not kidding here, cowboy boyfriend.
Anyway, Sara decided to interview people to see what they did when faced with life-changing events. Although she interviewed a lot of women, it's not a chick book. It is actually fascinating. And in the end, she doesn't really tell you what to do, but I think she helps you imagine the possibilities. Really, I think that's what we all need.
So, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, you too can benefit from the wisdom Sara gathered in writing her book. It's available in hardcover, paperback, at libraries, bookstores, on audio, and even Kindle (I don't have one, but I am thinking it's the only form of book I don't have and I need it!).
But, Imperial Highness, what are you reading RIGHT NOW? Well, I'll tell you... Three Cups Of Tea. This is THE MOST FASCINATING book (hah). I started it because my alumnae group is having a book club/tea party to discuss it. Let me just tell you that I am only a few chapters in after reading it at lunch today, and I love it already. I am bawling my eyes out and I hate to put it down. At this rate, I will have finished by dinnertime tomorrow. It's a mountaineering adventure, a war story, a tribute to a lost loved one, a chick book, and a motivational seminar all rolled into one. How did I ever put off reading it for so long?
Last night, a dear friend and I were discussing the upcoming election. Now this friend and I have much in common and have been friends for nearly 15 years, but we quite often disagree on politics, even though we are both registered Republicans.
I was explaining why I have decided to campaign for Obama: how disappointed I am in McCain's Veep choice, how sad I am that McCain has changed so much over the years that I have lost all respect for him, and the fact that, no matter how much I like Nader, he just doesn't stand a chance.
Previously, she had told me that she might consider Obama and I had been hoping to persuade her that Obama was not a bad choice. Suddenly, she blurted out how much she liked Palin. WHAT?
I honestly don't know how to respond to that. This is a well-educated woman we are talking about here (my friend - not Palin). One of my co-workers has stated that she will never again speak to a woman who votes for McCain/Palin and she's knows my friend.
I could understand voting for McCain because you agree with his politics (Or not voting for Obama because you don't), but to actually state that you are voting for him because he picked Palin?!?
Last night I was watching the Presidential debate and IMing with a friend who is a strong Obama supporter. I have challenged my Obama-supporting friends to try and convince me that I should vote for Obama instead of Nader.
We were chatting about how the debate was going, I was commenting that it was a shame Nader wasn't given a chance to debate, and all of a sudden she asked me the very pointed question "Wouldn't you be willing to do anything you could so that McCain would not be elected?" Well, I think I would.
She invited me to join her in campaigning in Nevada on behalf of Obama. She had a very compelling case. After all, as much as I like Ralph, he doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Las Vegas in July of making it to the Highest Office. How would I feel, she said, if McCain is elected and I had the opportunity to do something about that and turned it down? She said she wouldn't be able to live with herself unless she had done everything possible. I told her I felt the same.
So, my friends, I will be campaigning for Obama in Las Vegas next weekend.
Last week I was annoyed by the Post poll that 52% of Americans liked Sarah Palin. This week, I am more satisfied with their recent poll.
According to the latest survey, 65% of Americans think Palin is not qualified to be President and more Americans are saying that Palin is the main reason they will not vote for McCain.
I have to say that I am one of those. Prior to the VP selections, I was completely ambivalent about Obama and McCain. I guess I still haven't gotten over my disappointment in John Edwards. Anyway, I had been checking out third party candidates and hoping Obama or McCain would pick one of their prior running mates that I really liked (Richardson? Romney?).
Biden doesn't suck, but he wasn't one of the people I was thinking would sway me to the Obama side. McCain, however, totally jumped the shark.
I cannot, will not, ever vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.
If I lived in a swing state, I would vote for Obama, but I don't. I live in California. Obama has a pretty good shot here. So I am voting for Nader. Of all of the candidates out there, he represents me the best on a lot of issues, primarily single-payer health care.
Day two begins with coffee and blueberry muffins made by my niece. Figuring outour schedule for the day, re-packing our bags, everything just seems to take a bit longer than we had thought. K offers to drive us to the bus stop. We had a bit of a wait so we must have just missed one. Everything going well, we get off at our stop and head over to Jack in the Box to use a real bathroom. We also got some food and then headed down to the entrance.
T still had her food when we went through and security made her stand outside to eat it! Crazy!
Our first stop was the Sweet Leaf Tea booth to show our text message coupons for a free tea. Then over to Old 97s. We sat near the back so we could make an easy retreat in time for Jose Gonzalez. That was another good show, but we keep wondering how come we sit down and then every pot smoker and cigarette smoker in Austin comes and sits near us. It's some kind of strange attraction!
After Jose Gonzalez, we stopped in the Digital Oasis for some AC, a free portable fan, and a free photo. You could also watch concerts on tvs, play Guitar Hero, charge your cell phone, or surf the Internet. We just enjoyed the Air Conditioning until Drive-by Truckers started.
After Drive-by truckers, we went back to the Sister Mister Tent and then re-filled out water bottles at the water taps. By then, we were mighty peckish. We walked down the line of food booths. T was in search of a particular item, I was just trying to figure out what I wanted. Then, I smelled it. Barbecue! We split up and obtained our sustenance.
After that, we made a beeline back to AMD to stake out our spot for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Our plan was to get there in time for Robert Earl Keen, stay put and keeping moving up if we could.
Robert Earl Keen was everything I ever expected. I had seen him last year as well and he never fails to disappoint. He's also a hometown favourite so most of the crowd knew most of the lyrics to most of the songs and we sang along at the top of our lungs.
John Fogerty was next. He played all the CCR songs you would want to hear, plus a few new ones. When it was over, the guy behind us said "I can't believe he didn't play Centerfield - that's his hit". What an idiot!
Two nice guys asked to share our blanket while we waited for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. One just moved to Austin from the same town in Ohio that my family is from. Isn't that funny? The other was a student at UT. We discussed music, concerts, festival etiquette. It was cool! I told UT guy that knowing a young person like himself was so into GOOD music gave me hope for the future. Two older ladies had the blanket in front of us. They proclaimed "Robert Plant is the sexiest man in Rock." A young guy sitting next to them said "Maybe he used to be." One of the ladies said "Honey, he still is" then she ripped off her bra so she could throw it on stage. Ohio guy asked if we had seen Robert Plant and Alison Krauss live before. When we said we had not, he was very excited for us.
I was very impressed by the set list. They did songs from their album, Led Zeppelin, Union Station, and traditional bluegrass. The highlights included Robert Plant talking about how much he was influenced by bluegrass and how that was real music, T. Bone Burnett's solo turn at the mike, Alison Krauss on fiddle for a good portion of the show, Robert Plant on maracas for "I'm In The Mood". The most memorable moment was Alison Kraus, Robert Plant and T. Bone Burnett a capella on "Down To The River To Pray" with the ENTIRE audience singing along IN HARMONY. That was an ACL moment!
After the show, we headed out to the bus with 10,000 of our closest friends. When we got to the stop, we learned that people had been waiting for 20 minutes and no bus had come by. 20 minutes later, one bus went past but did not stop. We spoke with two guys who were going to a stop near ours and were going to suggest sharing a cab when they ran across the street to catch one going the other way. I phoned K and she offered to pick us up at the Starbucks at the top of the hill, about a half-mile away. That worked out so well we plan to do it again after Foo Fighters.
Back at the house, we had dinner (farm-fresh pork roast - nothing better than eating food you grew yourself!) while we warmed up the hot tub. We washed it down with some Texas brew. AFter a good soak in the hot tub, we had some Blue Bell Ice cream and went to bed.
Sunday - Last day. Taking my niece, seeing Joe Bonamassa, sad to be going home, but really happy for such a good trip.
Today was the first day of ACLFest 2008. My second year at the Festival and this year only B & L are coming from the family, but I did convince T to come along (yeah, that was SO hard - come see 150 bands in 3 days!).
Got in on time. The Bell-Marrs taxi service was ready and waiting. T flew in on a different flight but met up at baggage claim. All well and good.
Got to the house, changed, noshed and heading off again. The taxi was offered so we took it! Dropped us off right where the bus would have and we headed down Barton Springs Rd to Zilker Park.
Through security and wristbanding with no problems, we made a beeline for the food court for some sustenance (fried avocado with mango slaw from Hudsons!) and then off to the AMD stage to catch Asleep At The Wheel. AMD is at the southern far end of the park. There are eight stages and it is a bit of a hike from one end to the other.
Asleep At The Wheel is a fine dance hall band. We had our blanket out near a group of young people that I could have sworn were friends of my "nephew". In fact, they were! He walked right past us, only stopping when I called out to him.
After Asleep At The Wheel, we got some iced tea (I forgot to tell T that we are in the South and it would be sweet-Sorry!) and sat down at the Blue Room stage for What Made Milwaukee Famous. They are a local band, but I know them from Bob Boilen's show on NPR. Once again, Bob has totally made my choices easier at ACL.
After a brief respite in the Sister Mister tent (four huge fans blowing water!), we nabbed front row house left for Jakob Dylan. Same stage as Bob Dylan last year. He totally rocked - well, as much as a Dylan can. Sang nearly every song from his new album.
Next stop was M. Ward at the WAMU stage. Yes - with all their financial woes, WAMU is still a major sponsor. We got some shave ice and sat down to see the previous set by The Freddy Jones Band. I had never heard them before but they were pretty good. A huge crowd left when they were done and we were able to get seats under the tent on actual seats. M. Ward was great. We noticed the paparazzi taking photos of the VIP area. There was a girl that looked like Zoey Deschanel (his bandmate in She and Him) but when we got a good look, it wasn't her.
Debated whether to stay put for Jenny Lewis or head over to Austin Ventures for Mates Of State and Eli Young. Mates of State won since Jenny Lewis is based in LA and we will have a good chance to see her at any number of venues at home, but I have never heard of Mates Of State playing nearby.
Eli Young was great, but they were having major sound issues. T still doesn't know if she likes them. They are this year's Broken West for me. I told K that I want their new cd for Christmas (it's on my Amazon Wish List) because they wrote a song for me! Well, not really, but they used my name. T is now referring to them as The Boy Band since we were the oldest women in the audience. "When It Rains" got me through some tough moments in the past year so who cares how young they are?
This year's Pete Yorn for me is The Swell Season. If you haven't heard of them, you may know them from the movie "Once" or their Oscar-winning song "Falling Slowly". Marketa was having problems with the keys sticking on the grand piano (they don't like humidity) but other than that, they were fantastic. Glenn rocked out solo on a Van Morrison tune while they tweaked the piano. He is still playing the guitar with the giant hole - in case you were wondering. T said "Hasn't he made enough money to buy a new one?" Marketa played guitar for one song too so she had a chance to stand up front and sing facing the crowd.
Stopped by Alejandro Escevedo on our way to the Merch Tent and caught their last two songs. Mars Volta was on so we listened to them while we shopped. T got the organic bamboo/cotton tees for herself & J but they were sold out of my size so I went with the regular cotton.
Caught the #3 down Manchaca. Got off at the right stop, but couldn't remember how to walk home (in all fairness, I have never had to before). So I called my niece from the Chevron and she said "Mom's coming to get you".
Warmed up the hot tub, had something to eat, and headed off to bed.
Gotta go get ready for today's adventure. First up is Old 97s!
Don't pass out because this is my third post today. Stay with me here:
Tonight my office softball team, The Wed Sox, was in the semi-finals, the VERY semi-finals, mind you, of the Company softball league. They were short a girl and, rumour has it, I play softball. So they asked me if I would play this one game so they wouldn't have to forfeit.
Today I got an email from the coach/captain, asking me what my experience is and what positions I can play, etc. I manage my church team, The Heat, so I was pretty honest about my ability and skill level. I didn't want them to expect me to be some kind of ringer.
I was also very nervous because this team is made up of nearly everyone in my group at work, including my boss and his boss.
Well, it was touch and go there for a while, but we won 11-9 and, yes, we are in the finals! I made an out at home on a foul ball. I had two base hits (thrown out at second the first time and scored the second time tying the game). My co-workers were very happy that I came to play. They were also somewhat disappointed that I can't make the finals tomorrow night because I will be heading to LAX to catch my flight to Austin. (They were so cute - "We can pay your change fees").
I am heading off to Austin City Limits at the end of the week. This year I will be joined by a friend and my "niece" who is 14.
I am interested in seeing the music festival through the eyes of someone younger. My friend is also up for the challenge of introducing an eager young person to bands both new and old. Maybe we will also learn something about a band we have never seen. (IS there a band we haven't seen?)
I am especially intrigued to take her to see Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. So look for show reports as often as I can post. Or maybe tweets would be better. I will have to think about that.
One more thing about the designation "niece". She is actually the daughter of a first cousin. But things being how they are, this particular cousin and I are more like sisters. We have no sisters of our own and are the exact same age (so were often thrown together as children). Plus my brother doesn't have any children of his own and a girl has gotta have at least one niece!
Growing up in LA post-Summer Of Love, it's not surprising that many of my childhood friends were the children of hippies. My mother was more of a hippie-wanna-be. She was really too high-class for the clothes and drugs, but we definitely were in the earth-friendly, semi-vegetarian circle.
Anyway, my mother only bought two kinds of cereal on a regular basis: granola & shredded wheat. Once in a while, if she wanted it and we had been very good, we might get Rice Krispies or Frosted Flakes. Even Cheerios was considered a splurge.
So, imagine my distress when the 45 of The Archies singing "Sugar, Sugar" was only available on the Honeycomb box!
I had to buy that box of cereal with my meager allowance, and keep my brother from eating it all. Not easy for a little girl to do when her brother is much older and taller!
This brief trip down Memory Lane is thanks to the commissary playing "Sugar, Sugar" during lunch today.
What is it about songworms? Why can just the slightest mention of certain lyrics cause a person to have a song stuck in their head for a LONG time?
Example: This morning I logged on to Facebook and near the top of my feed an FB friend had a status update that made me think of an Elvis Costello song. This happens to be a song that I know and like and I don't need the iPod to sing in my head. WHAMMO! I got the songworm. Two hours later, I am still singing the song in my head.
Nothing works. Practiced my Spanish. Read the paper on the bus. Listened to the news. NOTHING.
It could be worse. My cousin (who has three small children) has reported singing the theme song to "Caillou" all day long. At least I like Elvis Costello....
I am seriously considering voting for Ralph Nader this year for President. I happened to get an email from his campaign while watching the re-cap of Sarah Palin's interview with Charles Gibson. Focusing on reading the email kept me from the severe nausea that overcomes me every time that woman opens her mouth. I'm not wild about the other side either so the whole third-party candidate idea is really appealing to me.
Anyway, the Nader campaign is offering his mom's cookie recipe for a donation of any amount that contains the number 2 in it. $2, $12, $20, etc. This because the name of the recipe is 2-2-2. Of course, I had to donate because I have a cake recipe that is called 1-2-3-4 and I am intrigued by such simple homespun recipes. I have always wanted to try the "cuppa-cuppa-cuppa" recipe from "Steel Magnolias" but I never have.
If you are looking for another candidate that might suit you better than the old dude or the other guy, please seriously consider one of the third party candidates. And check out Ralph Nader's mom's cookies while you are at it!
August 10 - Roomie had to go to the ER with a VERY high fever, but it was just an infection and she is going to be ok. Very good thing because, naturally, a high fever makes you think of all the worst possible things it could be.
August 11 - Nothing much for today.
August 12 - Last day at the Radio station. My department took me to lunch and for complete synergy we went to the same place they took me on my first day and I had the same meal!
August 13 - Joined Massage Envy today. It's a little congratulations to myself for the new job. I had the trial massage today and it was really great. I have a lot of issues with my back and neck since I sit a lot at my job so I love the idea of being able to get a massage every month. Plus the membership price works out to $1 per minute which is REALLY good for LA!
August 14 - Went to Temecula today on the Metrolink to visit the author of GollyBlogHowdy. We had a lovely visit, got our toenails done, did a bit of wine tasting and it was great fun. We decided that we need to plan a whole weekend because these random days just aren't enough time.
August 15 & 16 - I did nothing for two days but watch the Olympics on TV. The amount of Olympics coverage really astounds me. But it definitely makes me want to go and be a spectator too. Maybe London in 2012?
August 17 - Went to a D&L's daughter's second birthday party. It was great to see them. It's amazing how little you see your friends when they get married and have kids and you are single with no kids. Your lives just get to be too different.
August 18 - Today I went to New Hire Orientation! This is a laugh since I formerly worked for this company for 17 years. But their policy is that if you are gone more than 11 months, you need to go to orientation. But the upside is that I was paid for a whole day, got breakfast and lunch, and got to basically do an 8 hour meet & greet with people I knew in my former life here. i learned a few new things too and also met some new people from my division.
August 19 - First day in my new job! One of the folks from yesterday has the cube opposite me. He is on a three year post MBA fellowship so he will be with us for a year and then move one to another group. There are two other guys in that fellowship and they will both come to us for a year as well. The only problem is that he not only went to Dana Hills High but also Michigan. We have agreed to not speak during football season unless it is required for work purposes.
July 22-24 - I have forgotten, but hopefully it wasn't too important.
July 25 - The last Friday of the month so it has to be Minibar at O'Brien's on Main! Minibar is ALWAYS the best thing, but it was especially nice to see T & J after they had been in a scary motorbike accident while on vacation. Also nice to hear about M's upcoming trip to England.
July 26 - Dinner at Locanda del Lago with G. Finally using the GC I gave him for Christmas or was it birthday? Highly recommend this place if you are ever on the 3rd St Promenade in Santa Monica. We plan to go back so we can try more of the menu!
July 27 - A surprise Dodger game. I had asked for tickets for Monday and got today instead. But the Dodgers won as did the Heat! We celebrated with our annual pizza dinner and I had a nice visit with M & S.
July 28 - A formal job offer for a job I really want was made to me today! I have til Wednesday to think about it. (Since I am writing this after the fact, I can say that I accepted.)
July 29 - The Chino Hills quake was today. I think the best thing was that when I got home from work, I could not even tell. Nothing had moved! If you ever lived in a quake Zone you would appreciate that being the best thing!
July 30 - Publicity Screening for "Swing Vote". This is a great movie. It was not at all what I had been expecting from the trailer. It was a lot smarter. The audience all seemed to enjoy it. And the guy sitting in front of us gave us tickets to...
July 31 - ...The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor! Which we got into at the last possible moment and had to sit in J's favourite seat (front row). I really missed Rachel Weisz but overall it was pretty good!
August 1 - Eric Idle at the Bowl! Box Seats! Good food! Good company! Very good!
August 2 - Attended the Fiesta to raise money for my church's upcoming Mexico Mission Trip. Four people asked me to come back to the choir. It's really nice to be wanted. Lutherans really know how to make margaritas!!
August 3 - Last game of the season and The Heat won! The team gave me roses too which was very nice.
August 4 - Told all the staffers that I am leaving next week for a new job. They were all sad to hear it but happy for me. It's nice to be wanted. I think I said that already.
August 5 - Planned a wine tasting jaunt to visit the author of GollyBlogHowdy or maybe we will have tea? Anyway, we will have a nice visit next week on one of my free days.
August 6 - Discovered I am a winner in the monthly Health Pool!
August 7 - Finished my last close at the old job on time with no ot! YAY!
August 8 - Thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on tv.
Landlord agreed to replace the furnace before winter. I was worried because we thought it was just the AC not working properly. But the furnace is old and tired and it's going to be expensive so I thought she might not want to do it. Now we are just trying to find the best contractor/price/time to do it.
July 15 - Heard from G that he didn't get the box seats for Friday night at the Bowl to see Julie Andrews (she's not singing but she is hosting a Rodgers & Hammerstein night). I was SO disappointed!! I went to the Bowl website, saw that tickets were still available and a few clicks later we had two tickets to the bench seats next to the last section of boxes. Basically, we are right behind his company's box! Excellent!
July 16 - Finally found a hotel in Barcelona that is the right combo of price, location, and amenities. The exchange rate is killing me on this vacation!! T still has to buy her plane ticket too!
July 17 - Finally got my new timeshare points added to my account and am now only missing the bonus international week. Called Handicap Girl and told her to plan on spending her birthday in Cabo!! Told the Thursday Night girls that we should combine the next Brother show with a stay in Dana Point too.
Wow! Having an eye infection has made emailing so difficult that I have really been neglecting my blog. So here we go:
June 29th - Even though my softball team lost today, we had some really great plays. Special congrats go to L for making that base hit down the right field line!
June 30th-July 2nd - are a total blur. Who knows?
July 3rd - No work tomorrow so we headed to Finn's and stayed til last call. I haven't done that in over a year! It was great to see everyone!
July 4th - No real plans for the holiday. I slept, caught up on Wimbledon, and caught up on Tivo. I think that is a pretty good day!
July 5th - PJ's last gig at O'Brien's before heading permamently to Nashville. He promised he come back some time but we know how musicians are. Their time is their own. So we enjoyed it while it lasted. Great to see all the bandmates old and new and all the fans.
July 6th - Not only did I get to meet our new Pastor, but I also finally got to see Prince Caspian!
July 7th - Went to the Dodger game and witnessed a fantastic one-hit shut out of the Braves. I'm talking BASEBALL!
July 8th - Had to work late, but didn't miss out on dinner with T&J. Always nice to meet your friend's new beau. Especially when he has a single best friend! ;-)
July 9th - The first day since my eye infection that my eye actually started to feel normal.
July 10th - PJ's last night at Finns. So we had to go again. Even got the final photo of PJ with the Thursday Night Girls.
July 11th - Nothing much today, called in sick and slept pretty much the whole day.
July 12th - The annual Hillsides Picnic. I just love this event and this year I got to give out prizes!
July 13th - I went to the Dodger game with cousins P&A. Teh Dodgers blasted the Marlins out of the water. Then went to my softball game and the other team blasted us out of the water. Oh well!
July 14th - Today's thing was totally random. Bumped in to S on my way home from work. She was meeting friends for dinner and the restaurant was closed. So that was fun!
Today's best thing was bumping into J at the mall and seeing "Sex & The City". I think we were the only two women left in America who hadn't seen it, except maybe K who has proclaimed in her blog that by the time she gets around to seeing a film it is out on DVD!
June 18 - Wedding shower for a co-worker at lunch today. Lucky girl is getting married in Trinidad!
June 19th - An evening free at home to catch up on laundry and all the chores I know I won't get to this weekend cuz I have big plans. Normally chores wouldn't be a best thing but it's good to get them done!
June 20th - A fine evening to celebrate S's birthday with The British Empire and Sprinkles cupcakes!
June 21st - A Wonderful day at the Irish Fair. Great to see the guys from Brother, friends from the 2006 Ireland trip, the GAT 5, and everyone else.
June 22nd - Suite day at Dodger Stadium!! Not only did the Dodgers win, but I made it to batting practice for softball and we won too! Finished Round 1 3-2. Go Heat!
June 23rd - Another great walk at GP with MAD - D a no show again. Plus it was roomie's first day at her new job!! Not the one she REALLY wanted, but it sounds like it might be fun.
June 24th - Managed to wait until afternoon to tear my contact lens. So at least I could work the rest of the day without much difficulty.
June 25th - Saw George Michael in concert. Even though it was really hot, and i had to wear my glasses because my eyelid was swollen, the show was REALLY good. And it was George's birthday too. We saw Lisa Rinna & Dr. Phil.
June 26th - home sick with sore eye. I guess the best thing about that is that I could watch Wimbledon.
June 27th - saw Dr today. I am not contagious. I do not have conjunctivitis. I do have blepharitis. I now also have drugs. Unfortunately, I can't wear contacts or makeup for two weeks. And I probably shouldn't think about staying out too late anytime soon.
June 14th - Today was our HVN kids event. We took the boys to Dave & Busters which was really fun! Kids events are always a Best Thing!
June 15th - L's birthday and Father's day so we had cupcakes at softball. We lost the game and there were some really bad calls, but cupcakes can make up for a lot. It was nice to celebrate two good things at least!
June 16th - Today's best thing is that my roomie finally had a job interview for a job that she really would like. She has been looking a long while and things always seem to be "okay for right now, but not for long term". I am really happy that this time she seems to have found something that she wants to do. I hope she gets it!
June 17th - Today I had the day off and that was the best thing because, in addition to having my last dental appointment until October, I was also able to take care of all those little things that one must do during business hours that I can't do because I am at work. The only thing that didn't get done was getting the AC fixed, but I am hopeful that will be done soon. Otherwise, a lot of tasks got accomplished and that was good!!
I wanted to write about today's best thing, but I have put it off since what was really important to me today was the sudden passing of Tim Russert.
I have followed Tim on Meet The Press for many years. I really liked him as journalist. I liked him even before I knew he was an Irish Catholic boy from Buffalo who went to Canisius High. That just made me like him all the more.
So I have decided that today's best thing was really how reflecting on Tim made me think of another Irish Catholic boy from Buffalo who went to Canisius - my grandfather Joseph Bell.
June 9 - I finished month-end close on time today! No extensions and no OT needed! Yay!
June 10 - The best thing to day was no traffic on the way home. I left later than usual but got home sooner than usual. Everyone must be saving gas and driving less.
June 11 - Finally got to walk at Griffith Park with MAD today. Haven't been able to both make it on the same day since we stopped with the end of DST in November. But her after-work thing cancelled and I was free so we made it! Nice to see the Disney Tri Team out there as well. Plus, I got to have a nice phone chat with an old friend now living in the Midwest while on my way to the park.
June 12 - Got the last legitimate charge on my Visa card before it was stolen today: a shipment from Churon Winery. It included my favourite 2003 Vin Rouge which I opened and began enjoying immediately. Yummy. Got the new Visa card too.
May 30 - Today's best thing was seeing Minibar again. I hadn't seen them since New Year's Eve and I had such a great time catching up with M & J as well as hearing all my faves again. Thanks for letting the Thursday Night girls help with the set lists!
May 31 - Finally got to see "Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"! Yay!
June 1st - My softball team lost, but I had a very good game with two walks and one run scored!
June 2nd - I am drawing a complete blank. Guess I really do need to do this every day.
June 3rd - I was the first person to vote today in my precinct. I don't think that has ever happened to me before. Hopefully, I wasn't the last, though voter turnout was a disappointing 27% of eligible voters. I would just like to say "Shame on You" if you are registered to vote and couldn't be bothered. My pet peeve is people who don't think their vote makes any difference so they just don't bother. I have never missed an election in my entire life! I am very proud of that.
June 4th - Finally managed to connect with M & D to work out after work. Of course, M forgot to bring shoes so she bailed, but D & I had a nice chat and it was good to catch up!
June 5th - Another chance to see Minibar. This time at the Buffalo Club. I highly recommend this eatery if you are ever in Santa Monica. It is VERY pricey (dinner for two was $125) but well worth it! I just hope Minibar doesn't play there more than once every couple of months.
June 6th - Even though I only got three hours of sleep, I made it to work on time and got all of my work done!!
June 7th - My first time seeing Another Fine Mess which is a side project of most of the band members of The Fenians. We had a great meal at Gallagher's and I want to know where I can get the T shirt some of the servers were wearing that had the Guinness label re-worked for Gallagher's. That was cool!
June 8th - Softball team won!!! 10-4. I only had one at bat and I fouled out. Oh well...
Today's best thing was the fact that I was not run over by a co-worker while leaving work. The idiot driver was stopped well back from the street on the driveway. There was a lot of oncoming traffic so I felt safe continuing on the sidewalk across the driveway.
How wrong I was!
The idiot driver stomped on his gas pedal and turned right onto the street without ever looking to the right. He came so close to running me over that I had to curl my toes up in my shoes and suck in my breath. One inch closer and I would have been on my way to the ER!
Another co-worker was right behind me and came to see me the next day to make sure that I had recovered from the near miss. I have told everyone what a stupid !*@& this guy is. But just to make sure everyone knows who to avoid on the freeway, I snapped a photo of his license plate. It's a dark charcoal grey Prius so keep your eye out and drive defensively when you see this plate on the road:
Last night was The Police concert at the Bowl. Normally that would be a pretty darn good thing in and of itself, but there was a particularly memorable moment.
We stopped to get our seat cushions. I said to the young man "Two, please", and then I apologised for not having anything smaller than a $20. He said "That's Ok. Your change will be $18.50, unless you can guess which state is on this quarter, and then you can have them for free. Your hint is that it is an East Coast State."
Well, I guessed New York, as you do. I was RIGHT!!! He said that was the first time anyone had ever guessed the correct state.
So I am a little bit behind in my best things of the day... That's life I guess. Here is my catch-up posting:
5/22 - It was pouring rain at the time I normally leave the office. I had not expected rain and, though I have an umbrella in my office, I was wearing suede shoes. As I was walking out the door, my boss called to me and we ended up chatting for 45 minutes (off the clock, of course!). Normally, that would have been a bummer, but by the time I finally was able to leave, the rain had completely stopped and the sun was out. So that turned out to be a good thing!
5/23 - Got to leave early for the Holiday weekend. Working in Finance, this almost never happens. Definitely a good thing!
5/24 - The best thing had to be the comfortable bed at the festival hotel. I fell right to sleep as soon as I turned out the light!
5/25 - I seemed to have excellent timing for everything all day which resulted in many good things, but probably the best was the icy cold diet Coke I had in the afternoon. Nothing was ever so refreshing.
5/26 - Memorial Day - the best thing was having the day off and not having to do anything. I napped most of the day. Very good!!
5/27 - Today's best thing was getting the check for my winnings in the Health Pool. Thanks MT!
Today's best thing has to be the fact that even though I have been eating everything horrible this week while celebrating my birthday, and this includes the all-the-meat-I-could-eat Brazilian BBQ Dinner, I have actually lost weight this week!
Have I converted the roomie into a DWTS watcher? Now she says that it's because she can't watch anything else while it's recording on the Tivo. And that is true. Although the Tivo has two tuners, it isn't really compatible with our DirecTV service and so it only works on one tuner.
However, not only have I come out of my room, where I am watching it on the basic cable connection, to find her watching it in the living room, but I have also come home to find her watching it in progress when I wasn't even there.
So she must secretly want to watch it. Because she could be watching DVDs or something already recorded on the Tivo. Or, she could not be watching anything at all.
I await the beginning of Season 7 in September for further investigation on this subject.
Today's best thing was an easy choice - though it accounted for a late night which is why I am posting this late:
The chance to sit behind home plate to see the Dodgers play the Reds.
The Dodgers won 4-1. The field level has Grilled Dodger Dogs at every food stand. The seats are comfortable. I had such a good time, and the game was quick so I still made it home in time to see live the end of the finale of Dancing With The Stars (which I had Tivoed so I was able to watch the whole thing eventually).
Today was my birthday and there were a lot of really great things that happened today. I got a birthday song on my voicemail from my auntie. My boss took me out to lunch. I got to leave work spot on time. There was no traffic on the way home. The weather was cool enough to enjoy the walk to my birthday dinner. We got seated right away at the restaurant. I got really cool cards from my friends. The waiter gave me a dessert and had the piano player play Happy Birthday.
But the neatest thing of all was re-connecting with someone from High School via Facebook. They sent me a video message which was really cool. That was completely unexpected and so I think I am going to choose that as today's best thing.
Today, as if not noteworthy enough for being MY birthday, also is a pretty historic day in history so here are some tidbits thanks to todayinhistory.com:
1536 - Anne Boleyn beheaded 1568 - Mary Queen of Scots arrested by Elizabeth I 1848 - Mexico gives Texas to the United States 1863 - Siege of Vicksburg 1864 - Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne 1865 - Capture of Jefferson Davis 1884 - First performance of Ringling Brothers Circus 1890 - Birth of Ho Chi Minh 1892 - Founding of Colonial Dames Society of America (which I am eligible to join!) 1910 - Cy Young's 500th win 1915 - Birth of Pol Pot 1921 - Congress establishes National Immigration Quota system 1925 - Birth of Malcom X 1928 - 1st Annual Frog Jumping Jubilee in Angel's Camp, CA 1930 - Women win the right to vote in South Africa 1935 - NFL adopts the college draft; also death of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) 1941 - Birth Of Nora Ephron 1943 - Churchill pledges full support of Britain to the United States against Japan 1945 - Birth of Pete Townshend 1952 - Birth of Joey Ramone 1958 - US & Canada form NORAD 1964 - US Embassy in Moscow discovers it is bugged (also my birthday!) 1967 - US bombing of Hanoi (1967 is the only year at the Vietnam Memorial to cover multiple panels) 1971 - Death of Ogden Nash 1973 - Secretariat wins Preakness 1975 - 1st woman climbs Mt Everest 1994 - Death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
So there you have it. The famous, the infamous, the noteworthy.
To my fellow Taureminis - and you know who you are - Happy Birthday!
So now I just have to: find out what flight my friends are booking, schedule the airport transport, book a hotel in Barcelona, book my day trips to Morocco and Gibraltar, and, here it comes, ask my boss for the days off.
Now you might think I would have already done that last bit. Well, I sort of did. I told her that I wanted to go in November on a particular week and for as much of the preceding week as possible and she said I couldn't have the entire preceding week. So I am only taking three days. But since I haven't actually given her specific dates, I guess I technically haven't asked for the time off.
Something to remedy tout suite.
Ooops, gotta stop parlezing francaise and start habloing espanol.
Tomorrow is my birthday and I want to try and do something different, beginning tomorrow and lasting for the next 365 days.
My new blogosphere column is going to be about "today's best thing". I am going to try and reflect on the best thing about that day. It could be a concert I went to, an email or phone call from someone, the sunset, whatever.
I am going to try and smell the roses along the way this coming year and I am going to use my blog to help me remember those special moments.
Then when things are getting me down, I can go back and look at my list and see how special small things can be.
Some may be obvious, but I am hoping to capture the things each day that made me say "how neat" but were quickly forgotten when work and life overtook me.
When it turned out that I would be going on my East Coast adventure by myself, I had the brilliant idea to contact a chum from EWS who has recently returned to the States after living in Eastern Europe for a few years.
Now living and work in suburban Mass, she had not yet experienced the frolicking adventure that is the Boston Duck Tour. So naturally, we had to try it!
After a tricky moment with her Charlie Card in the ticket machine, we were on the T "riding (not forever) 'neath the streets of Boston" and emerging at the Prudential Center.
What a great idea to connect several office buildings and hotels with an indoor arcade cum shopping mall! We purchased our Duck Tour tickets, had lunch, found a nice clean ladies room and did it all in air-conditioned comfort. I'm sure the climate control is even more appreciated in the winter! They even had a Catholic Chapel!! In a mall!!
It was quite windy at the Duck Stop, but we had a nice conversation with a young couple from England. They had just arrived from a stop in Canada where they had been impressed with the amount of snow. Apparently, no one piles on the snow like a Canadian, or something like that...
Our Duck Captain, Captain Kidding, wasn't super-duper funny, but he was amusing enough. Probably the highlight for me was crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I know, I was on a Duck, but still, I have the photo to prove it! Bet you can't say that!
Speaking of being on a Duck, that is really what the vehicles are called. They are WWII amphibious landing craft to be precise. But it is just easier to call them Ducks. The second most fun part of the tour was going in and out of the Charles River.
After retrieving the car, we drove through the Big Dig tunnels and then got lost on the Tobin Bridge. No worries, just a short tour of Chelsea and Sommerville and then we were back on the right highway again.
After a brief tour of my friend's home and office, we headed to Lawrence for a nice dinner in an old factory. There are many old factories and mills along the river. it is nice that some of them have been reclaimed and re-purposed. Plus the food was pretty darn good! I think the place was called Salvatore's. My friend definitely plans to try it again.
We were both pretty tired after our day in Boston and decided to turn in early. I was staying in her daughter's room, with a bed under the eaves. I love that stuff!
Tomorrow, a bit of sightseeing and then back to New York on the ACELA.
I must say that the current production of Sunday In The Park With George in New York is fabulous. I laughed, I cried, I had an excellent time.
I could tell that there were people who had never seen this show and were not familiar with either the story or, in fact, with Seurat himself. So I am not sure that anyone enjoyed it half as well as I.
But that is not important.
Because April is "Broadway Cares" month, at the end of the performance, the actor portraying George, Daniel Evans, announced that, not only would they be collecting cash, but they would also be selling signed playbills and posters and the sketches he does during Act I. YAY! I know what my souvenirs from this trip will be!
I purchased a playbill and a sketch - of the two dogs.
As I left, I noticed that the leading lady, Jenna Russell, was still collecting at the door. I stopped briefly to tell her how much I had enjoyed the show and her performance. I was nearly in tears I had liked it so much. She was geniuinely pleased at the compliment and thanked me profusely for coming and for stopping to say so.
I think if she had known that I had flown there from LA, she may have been doubly impressed.
Still humming as I left the theatre, I made my way to the subway and returned to the hotel. Exiting at Grand Central, I decided to buy dinner at the Grand Central Market. I purchased asparagus, my favourite thing, cheese, bread, sliced turkey and some fresh fruit. I was feeling slightly sleepy and there was a Starbucks right there so I had to imbibe again! I returned to my room, kicked off my shoes and had an excellent picnic while watching shows I had transferred from my Tivo to my laptop. Probably not the most exciting night, but I had really had no sleep the night before.
About 8:30pm, I was in bed and trying to get some sleep before having to get up at 4:15 to catch the morning train to Boston. At 10:30, I was up again because the gentleman speaking Japanese on his cell phone right outside my door made it a bit difficult to sleep. Plus I was awfully warm. So I turned on the AC and opened the window. About midnight, my phone rang. I had turned on the sound so I could use the alarm. The person who called had no idea that I was not in California and at least they left a message so I knew it was somewhat important. At 2am, I woke up freezing and got up to close the window and turn off the AC. That was really my complaint about the hotel - it was very difficult to control the temperature.
Anyway, my alarm went off on time, and I was up and packed and checking out at 5:20am right on time. There was a cab waiting and I was at Penn Station by 5:50 which was plenty of time for my 6:20 train.
I was taking the ACELA express. I highly recommend this form of transit if you are ever in need of going from DC to NY or Boston or somewhere in between. It is all business-class and first-class service. It is the most eco-friendly. It is reasonably priced and highly civilized. It is also extremely reliable time-wise. We arrived at Boston South Station at 10:10am which I believe was pretty darn close to on-time.
My high school chum was waiting in the station and we were off on our Boston Adventure. More on that later...
The main purpose of this trip to New York was to see a production of my favourite musical "Sunday In The Park With George". The award-winning London production was moved lock, stock and barrel to New York for a limited run. With no guarantee that it would come to LA, I knew I had to go to New York so I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale. Of course, since then, the run has been extended twice, but I am still glad that I made my plans when I did.
I asked several people to see who might like to go with me, but it ended up being just me which proved to my advantage later but I was somewhat disappointed to have no one to share my wonderful theatre experience with.
I took the red-eye from LA on Tuesday night, arriving from JFK at my midtown hotel, The Tudor Hotel At The United Nations, at 7:30am. I had booked on Priceline and was quite impressed with the result.
You can read my review on www.tripadvisor.com. I am Grandduchess there as well as here.
I had a few errands to run after check-in - pick up some things from the store, go to the bank (I had gotten paid while in the air), get some breakfast and a cup of coffee.
The Tudor is in a great location for someone who is comfortable enough in New York to walk, take the subway, or ride the bus. If you have a phobia of such things, it may not be the hotel for you. There are crosstown busses stopping directly in front, Grand Central with its many train and subway offerings is just a few short blocks. There are many shops, eateries, and services within easy walking distance.
My first stop was the nearest Starbucks. Not always my first coffee choice in New York, but as I was running on empty sleep-wise, I needed the nearest caffeine fix and Starbucks was on the corner opposite the hotel.
After Starbucks, the bank was my next destination. I knew there were WAMUs in the neighborhood, but couldn't remember exactly where. In my sleep-deprived state, I actually walked right past one, until I ended up at the WAMU Loan Center at Grand Central. The kind receptionist gave me directions to the branch I had passed.
My banking finished, I began to feel rather peckish. I went to the store and picked up the items I needed for the hotel room, but couldn't decide what I wanted for breakfast. I decided to head back to the hotel.
I arrived at the hotel, left everything in my room and prepared to spend the day on the town. Heading downstairs, I realized that I had missed breakfast in the hotel and would definitely have to forage. But this being New York, a bagel shop was just the other side of that first Starbucks, so I headed there for a bagel and a shmear which I think is a pretty good New York breakfast.
After breakfast, I made my way to Grand Central where I caught the 7 train to Times Square and then the C train uptown to the theatre. I arrived pretty early, but I wanted to see where the theatre was before having lunch.
I decided to head to my favourite little lunch place - Europe Cafe which is at 57th & 7th (I could have taken the subway directly there if I hadn't wanted to check out the theatre first). I had a lovely lunch and walked back in time for the lobby doors to open.
I waited in line with other hardy theatre-goers for the house doors to open and admit us.
I really enjoyed hearing the stories of the two couples in front of me in line who had seen every play that had had every big star imaginable (Liz Taylor, Mary Martin, etc.). I am sure they were amused by my story of having flown in from the coast to see this play.
As the lights went down, I knew I was going to be in for a wonderful experience. I was not disappointed...
Today I joined Twitter. I have a friend who is on all my social networking sites and he is on Twitter. Plus I am always hearing Bob Boilen on NPR talk about Twitter so I decided to go ahead and sign up.
The best part is that I was able to add a banner to my blog so that my updates will post here and, Gentle Readers, you will be able to know what I am up to even if I am less than diligent about blogging.
Buenos dias! Me llamo Tsarina. Soy de Los Estados Unidos. Tengo un hermano. Se llama Esteban. Yo no tengo una hermana. Soy soltera. Trabajo en un station de radio. Me gusta mi trabajo. Adios! Hasta Pronto!
I feel like I have really learned a lot since I started listening to Coffee Break Spanish.
Today we had the lesson on where we work and they didn't cover accounting or radio stations so I asked that Spanish-speaking co-worker again and I used his answer above.
I feel so confident about my learning of Spanish that I even updated my resume to say I am currently learning Spanish.
For this first time in a long time, I thought there would be a candidate for President that I could really get behind. But John Edwards has dropped out of the race. I am disappointed and sad, but I can understand his decision.
I will be checking the nominees over with a fine tooth comb come November. Let's just say that anyone who chooses John as a running mate, or names him to a Cabinet Post, will definitely have my enthusiastic support.
I've read on some blogs that folks think he would make a good Attorney General and I am for that as well.
So, now we wait until the conventions to see how this whole thing turns out...
Tonight I was browsing my wine bar and decided to open a bottle of Concannon Limited Release Pinot Noir 2005. I think I was inspired to purchase this wine by a story on Women & Wine Radio. I have to say that I am impressed. When I opened the wine, the first thing that impressed me was the cork. It is really quite pretty with the vineyard logo imprinted on it. But when I poured it, I noticed what a beautiful ruby colour it was, and it looked so nice in the glass. Plus, with a glass now out of the bottle, the embossing of the logo on the bottle was more easily visible, also quite pretty.
But really what counts is the taste, right? This is SMOOTH. I am sipping it and it is just lovely.
So if you are ever in the Livermore Valley, or if you come across Concannon in your local wine purveyor's establishment, I highly recommend it!!