Sunday, July 31, 2011

California Adventure - Day 2: La Patera Time Capsule Opening

What if someone you were in first grade with, got a hold of you and said "Hey, let's have an elementary school reunion!"  Most people would remember being in first grade, maybe they'd remember the teacher pretty clearly, and perhaps the names of a handful of the students.  But to go back, and be at the school, and rub elbows with 40 or so of your classmates... what would that be like?  Answer:

The Best. Day. Ever.

I'm still shaking my head in utter amazement.

There we were, a bunch of 50-somethings, rockin' our greying hair, hard earned paunches and laugh lines, standing on the stage in the Multi-Purpose Room at La Patera Elementary School, about to pry open a copper box that had been sealed inside a wall since the early 60s, back when most of us looked like this...

...that's me behind the cotton candy in the front row.

And it wasn't just us, there were four generations present!  Us, some of our parents and teachers, some of our kids, and some kids who could be our grandkids. It was a magical moment in time for everyone.

This day, to me at least, was the stunning realization of about 10 months of emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls, planning for and leading up to the event.  And though the news articles, and TV stories that captured this day gave me the credit for coming up with the idea in the first place, all of the fancy footwork it took to pull this off was done by the superhero duo of Jim and Dorothy.  

They tracked down and exhumed the Holy Grail, they secured the room, they marshaled the invitations, Dorothy brought the food, 

and Jim brought the media! 

and more media...

and more...

There were cameras, and reporters everywhere!

Of course we were there to open the time capsule itself, and to see what was in it.  There were newspapers, and programs, and what we all vaguely remembered - a class roster of our names.

There's me - number 20...

But the part that was most amazing to me, were the people that came! And the fact that despite the time that had elapsed, we pretty much all recognized each other.  Aided, no doubt by recent checks of Facebook profile pictures, but still... for Southern California, this group somehow had shunned the botox, boob-jobs, and other airbrushing that has been so obscenely obvious at the high school reunion level.   

Here are Diana and Sue! Diana and I have known each other since kindergarten, when we each had the same red swing style dress, with two red and white polka dot pleats down the front.  We swore then we were destined to be best friends for life.  So far so good!

This is Craig and his lovely mom Dessiree, we grew up on the same street, along with the neighborhood bully named Bill.  Mild-mannered Craig became my hero that day, as his mom told me a story about how, he beat the crap out of Bill one day after seeing him torture one too many kittens, and terrorize one too many little kids.

I think the general feel of this occasion can best be summed up by something Dorothy kept repeating to the reporters in our many interviews that day.  It was that in elementary school, you are innocent, and unaffected by the cliques and peer groups that define high school.  The friends and acquaintances you make at that tender age tend to represent who you really are, and not who you try to be in order to be accepted.  The group that showed up on this day were the ones that had stayed in contact with their inner child, and therefore wore their age proudly.

Then, just to prove that even though we'd aged, we hadn't lost our marbles - we all walked out to the playground field to recreate a strange and unique version of a marbles game that, as far as we know, only existed at La Patera, and then only for a couple of years... It was almost a cross between a carnival game and a twisted swap meet, where marbles were the currency.  Kids carried coffee cans and ice cream cartons full of marbles to class, then at recess they'd set up pyramids of marbles with names like puries, boulders, bumble-bees, and resins, for other kids to toss their marbles at in order to win them.   I may have told one of the reporters that at the height of this craze, it was akin to a marble mafia. 

Here is Ben with his pyramid of marbles set up in front of him while others try their luck at hitting it by tossing their marbles at it.

The cool thing was that the younger kids there that day caught on in no time, and vowed that they would reinvigorate the tradition of marbles at recess.  I'm not quite sure if we inspired them, or corrupted them.

When we were running around playing handball, and wagon wheel, and marbles on this playground so many years ago, who in this group could have ever predicted we'd be posing for this picture?  Like I said before.  Best. Day. Ever.

I was reminded of Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town, which was performed in that very same Multi-Purpose Room, shortly before we graduated. The main character is a girl who dies young, but is magically granted the opportunity to re-live one ordinary day from her life. I think I can safely say I have avoided dying young, but if I, like that main character, ever get the chance to re-live one day, it would surely be this one. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

California Adventure - Day 1

The morning we were leaving for the airport, I had a little skirmish with Downtown Dad over baggage. Not the emotional kind of baggage, though that clearly could have been the root of our dispute. The details of said skirmish weren't nearly interesting enough to recount here, but suffice it to say that it was basically me telling DD that yes I DID need to bring 9 outfits, complete with different shoes for each one, on our 5 day vacation; and DD telling me that I might consider leaving a few things behind, since they do have a 50 pound limit on the one bag each we already paid $25 for to bring on our trip.  I pointed out that if I had to leave any shoes behind, he might want to consider leaving his left leg behind, and not to worry, because I could always fit some of my stuff in his bag.

This discussion continued for most of the three hour drive to Sioux Falls, where he had a quick meeting at the home office before we were to board our plane.

He left me in the office parking lot to rearrange the weight in our bags while he went inside for his meeting.  As he gave me a kiss goodbye he lovingly whispered, “That bag better not weigh more than 50 pounds."  And an hour later as I heaved my giant bag onto the airport scale, the little red electronic numbers read 49.8.  Boo-yah!

Upon touchdown in LA, whatever kerfuffles, tiffs, riffs, or spats we might have had when we left the Heartland had all evaporated into the pressurized cabin air.  It was 100 miles from LA to my home town of Goleta, and 90 miles beyond that, was my cousin Mary and her husband Phil, waiting with dinner and 30 years of stories to share - if I remembered her right - over several glasses of wine.  We'd be there in 3, maybe 3 and a half hours - right around 7pm.

Yeah.  Right.

IF LAX weren't under a complete renovation, allowing us the opportunity to walk the ENTIRE length of the airport just to retrieve our bags.

And IF it there weren't a bazillion people renting cars at the same place and time as we were.

And IF there were no cars on Northbound 405 at 4:57p.m.  Seriously.  At what point in time are there EVER no cars on the 405?  Good God!  I grew up here.  What was I thinking?!

So, we basically parked with a couple million of our closest friends for a couple of hours, while motorcycles zig-zagged in between us, then drove for three hours, arriving at in SLO around 10pm.

And here, I will get a little sappy.  After not having seen or spoken for 30 odd years, it was like no time at all had passed between Phil and Mary and me.  And true to form, Downtown Dad fit in like he'd known them all his life. They immediately became, as DD said later, his new favorite people.  Something they have always been for me.

We drank too much wine for having been up for 12 hours, traversed a time zone, and having done battle with LA traffic.  Never mind that we had to be up and gone early the next morning to drive the 90 miles back down to Goleta for the next chapter in our adventure.

That is 9 AM on the clock behind us... just enough time for us to arrive at tomorrow's chapter...

Friday, July 29, 2011

California Adventure - The Prologue

Despite the fact that we have two kids starting college in August, and a backlog of loan sharks  gambling medical bills to pay, plus the fact that we really don't make nearly as much as we spend, and even though we are on a tightly enforced budget - we went ahead with our trip to California.

Notice the confident "OK baby, we gonna have some  beer,   wine,   booze,  fun now" look on my face, and the "How much is this gonna cost me  OK, whatever she said" look on Downtown Dad's face.

Five days of sand and surf, and hills and highway.  Five days of relaxation, and visiting with old and new friends.  Five days away from the kids,   Five days of .... well, if I told you all of what it was five days of, then you wouldn't need to read the rest of the posts would you?

Starting tomorrow, watch for posts where I regale you with the hilarious antics of two Midwesterners, one of them an expat Cali girl, traipsing around Southern California in search of adventure, family, friends, reunions, closure, beaches, and beer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I have been besieged by life this past month. (Besieged is such a dramatic word, don't you think?) Life, the ebb and flow of it. Not so much ebb and flow in a poetical way, mostly like my life was ebbing while everything else flowed past me.  And that was mostly because I let my hormone prescription lapse. So here I am, perilously behind in not only progesterone, but in recounting - and therefore recording for posterity - the hilarity, tragedy, drudgery, expectation, and excitement that has somehow been just too overwhelming to write about.

None of it is earth shaking, or newsworthy - unless you're me.  I just haven't been able to see the humor in much lately. This is possibly because I'm sleep deprived, likely because I can't sleep at night due to hot flashes, which is possibly because of the hormone deficiency, or honestly, maybe because I'm very likely insane. But honesty is the best policy, it may even be trending on Twitter.  That was supposed to be funny, but now I'm not sure it was.

So, now as I sit in the dark at 2 a.m., unable to sleep, my perhaps ill-considered decision is to just do a bullet point list of everything that's happened, happening, and going to happen, in hopes of getting it off my mind so I can salvage a few hours of sleep.  Bear with me, you've read this far...
  • Soroptimist Garden Tour - done.  Yard looked great.  Don't have to do that ever again.
  • Have been a part of the League of Extraordinary Women from my office who are helping one of the ladies in my office ready her house for sale, and ready herself for a better life as she picks her way through the minefield of her (soon to be ex) husband's suicide attempts, and messy divorce proceedings.
  • Still taking the high road, although seriously, you are missing out on some blisteringly funny passive- aggressive hillbilly humor.
  • Got some tough news about an object of my Internet stalking, old crush, which will have to wait for my hormone replacement drugs to kick in a later post.
  • In exactly one month, my entire world will change when both kids start college.  One, who will still be living at home, and one who will fly off to Washington DC all by himself.
  • Our California Adventure looms draws near with plans coming together quite well for the Time Capsule Opening at my elementary school.  There will be marbles!
  • I was reminded that the cliques from high school never really go away, and that a part of me still wants to be accepted by the popular kids.
  • Conversely, I was reminded of the shallow thinking that causes cliques in high school, and why I wouldn't want to be a part of that, not no how, not no way!
  • I recently reconnected with a long lost cousin through Facebook.  Through that connection, I found out that she is now married to the son of my old Camp Fire Girls leader.  I am still pondering the relative implications of that one.
  • Excited to meet up with a small town mom I met through blogging, then found out that we briefly attended the same high school.
  • Excited to mooch a free night spend some quality time with my cousin Mary on one end of our trip, and my nephew Mark on the other end.
  • Happy that my daughter Tessie, helped me figure out my wardrobe for our trip when she came home to find me weeping over the pile of clothes I had strewn all over my bedroom.  Hormone deficiency again. Ya think?
Maybe that list will give my muse some fodder... and maybe the hormones will help.