Friday, August 31, 2012

Guerrilla Grammar

A few weeks ago I finally signed up for our new neighborhood's e-mail listserv. I figured it would be far less interesting than the one in our old neighborhood, which regularly included complaints about chickens, warnings about loose dogs, and conspiracy theories about helicopters buzzing the area at night (really). We're in the suburbs now, where everything is nice and "normal."


The first message I saw was about how someone had yelled at the nice high school boys who had started their own ice cream truck business, and couldn't we give the nice boys selling ice cream a pass on the whole "no soliciting" thing.


Fortunately, most people were joining in on the side of nice ice cream boys. The interesting e-mails were from people yelling at anyone who would dare tell kids they can't sell ice cream. It descended very quickly into telling people to go form their own town if they didn't like living here and suggesting that maybe we have armed guards at the entrance checking everyone's ID.

The moderator stepped in at this point and reminded everyone that personal attacks aren't allowed and that maybe people could reconsider their enthusiastic use of the "reply all" feature.

In response, several cranky people formed a rogue neighborhood listserv, where everyone would be free from rude interruptions from a rude monitor who was squelching free exchange of ideas.

The other big topic on the listserv is the condition of the many "ponds" in our area. They are supposed to be decorative and provide habitat for birds and such. They are a nice touch. However, right now, they are mostly empty, with just a bit of green slime at the bottom. The people whose houses back to the ponds are not pleased, to say the least. Nevermind that we haven't had rain in months and farmers are losing crops and herds because there's no water. The entitled suburbanites want their water features.

There's been lots of chatter on the listserv about who, exactly, is to blame. Is it the HOA? The builders? The water supply company? There's lots of finger pointing going on.

Finally, the HOA sent out an e-mail reassuring residents that they were aware of the problem with the ponds and were in the process of addressing it. Apparently their way of addressing it was to put up signs.

It's nice of them to warn us that "decaying plants, discolored water and odor IS expected."

Obviously this is a grammar error up with which I cannot put. So I pulled over and changed a few of the signs. While I was working on the first one, a woman stopped to see what I was up to, laughed and drove away. Phew.

I doctored the second sign when I had Ella with me, and she was MORTIFIED. "Mom! You are vandalizing. You could get arrested. You need to wipe it off."

She then told on me to the neighbor, who looked at her son and said, "See! I'm not the only mom who corrects grammar."

I was pleased to see that my edits were still there this morning. They may be small and hard to see, but I feel better knowing that the signs now have subject-verb agreement.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pocket-Sized Disney

Growing up in Florida, I went to Disney World a lot.

(Excuse me, I mean "The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World." I briefly dated a guy who worked there and he insisted on using the full name each and every time. Part of the reason I only dated him briefly.)

We'd leave home at 6:00 am and be at TMKWDW by the time the gates opened. After a full day, we'd watch the fireworks as we rode the paddle steamer across the Lagoon to parking lots. It was easy. Now, apparently, to go the TMKWDW, you have spend a whole week there, staying in the resorts and eating meals with characters and spending all day, every day at one of the parks.

No thank you.

Even though I've been to TMKWDW dozens of times, it's been at least 20 years since my last visit. But what I remember is that the place was huge and spread out and it really was its very own world. The outside didn't intrude at all. I also remember it as spotlessly clean with pairs of garbage people following visitors around sweeping up. And cast members were always in perfectly fitted, pressed uniforms, despite the wilting Florida heat and humidity.

When I planned my trip to LA to visit my sister, one of my requests was that we go to Disney Land. I'd never been to the original Happiest Place on Earth and figured it would be fun to go without kids. Fortunately Sarah and her BF are good sports and humored my request.

I decided to just throw myself into the spirit of being at Disney Land. No matter how bad the crowds or how long the lines, I would have fun, mostly because I wasn't dragging four hot, tired, whiny kids along with me. And it worked. I had a great day. While it was hot, the crowds weren't bad and the lines weren't too long.

But I was shocked at how different Disney Land is from TMKWDW. It's so small; the castle doesn't dominate the skyline like it does in Orlando. I actually asked my sister where the castle was when we arrived. It just sort of blended in.

There it is, in the distance.

Everything seemed so packed together. The entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean was right next to the Haunted Mansion, which was right across from Splash Mountain. The sidewalks were narrower, and there weren't the large plazas I remember. Everything also seemed just a little shabby and run down. I saw cast members in wrinkled, ill-fitting costumes; there was trash here and there, even on the sides of the roller coasters; and the condition of It's a Small World would probably make Uncle Walt cry. 

The stucco on the outside was peeling and stained and dated looking. Disney at some point decided to add characters from their movies to the collection of dolls - Woody, Buzz, Alice, Peter Pan, and Ariel all make an appearance - but they seem to be just randomly inserted wherever there was space. And they don't match the other creepy dolls in style at all. A lot of the original dolls were broken down. The creepiest were the dolls with one eye stuck either open or shut. Shudder. Adding insult to injury, the ride jammed just before our boat got to the landing. We were stuck in the bright sun, listening to that damn song over and over again. I think Sarah's BF may have said something along the lines of, "I told you so."

The highlight of the day was Splash Mountain. Somehow, despite there being one at TMKWDW, I'd never been on the ride. It was the only long line of the day, mostly because it was so damn hot that everyone was looking to get wet. It was so much fun, and we got soaked to the skin.

I cheated and took a picture of the photo they wanted to sell us. I'm the second person. 

We left just as we started to get punchy. All around us were parents with kids absolutely melting down, which made me even happier my kids weren't there. I'll take them next time. 

Knittergran still can't believe that Sarah and I went to Disney instead of someplace like the Getty. But it was very much the day I needed. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Princess and the Queen

Sounds like a bad drag act, doesn't it.

A few weeks ago, my sister sent me a link to an article about an exhibit of Princess Diana's dresses on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.  The ensuing text messages went something like this:

Me: OMG!
Sarah: OMG good or OMG terrible?
Me: OMG jealous. I would love to see that.
Sarah: Come out to visit.

I went out to visit, and we went to the Queen Mary. The exhibit did not come anywhere close to living up to our expectations. After we left Sarah said, "I'd apologize for dragging you to that, but there was no way to know ahead of time." I pointed out that I'd been a willing participant.

We started with a tour of the Queen Mary, which is a cruise ship permanently docked in Long Beach. In its glory days, it was one of the poshest ships and movies stars and quasi-royals sailed on her. Now it's a kind of shabby hotel and special events venue. Sarah and I got tickets for the dress exhibit and the self-guided tour. Turns out the self-guided tour means they scribble a few arrows on a map and set you loose in the stern of the ship to wander. It's only because there were a few strangely placed exits signs that we found our way out of the engine room. At times it reminded me of a carnival fun house, with sheets hanging between different displays. 

We knew we were in the right place when we saw the four-story tall Princess Diana.


One of the ship's propellers. For some reason, this freaked me out. You walk through a hole in the hull and look down into a specially constructed and lit tank. The whole thing gave me the willies. 

A cut open scale model of the Titanic. Probably not the most auspicious or cheerful way to start the tour. If it had been up to me, I would have added little icebergs and lifeboats, and a blue Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Seeing the bridge was kind of cool. However, the ship's horn blew to signal noon just as we walked in. Sarah and I both jumped about two feet. 

After we wandered the ship, we headed to the Princess Diana exhibit, which wasn't exactly as advertised. The bulk of the displays were pictures, commemorative tea towels, tea cups, and framed newspaper articles. It looked like they raided the Franklin Mint and someone's grannie's china chest for the items. 

Throughout, there were big signs with information on the various members of the royal family, and they could not have been more fawning in their praise. The members of the royal family were all solely dedicated to their loyal subjects and their country and always acted in the interest of their people. Even the section about Princess Diana's disaster of a marriage was given a good spin - it was true love at first, at least for Diana. She desperately wanted to make the fairy tale work. 

Cameras were forbidden in the exhibit, so I had to be content with pretending to text while sneaking pictures. I'm such a rebel. 

Curio cabinets stuffed with random items and dolls. 

The bottom half of a dress. 

A crooked dress.

Sadly, I had a dress like this in high school. I thought it was the height of fashion. 

A replica of the famous see-through dress that that shameless hussy Kate Middleton wore to snare Prince William, only $250. I offered to pick up one for a high school friend, but she declined. I can't imagine why. 

Sarah was most looking forward to seeing the Spencer Tiara and the Lover's Knot Tiara, which were listed as being on exhibit. She was very disappointed. Instead of real royal jewels, we saw poor copies sitting under a plexiglass case on a tacky dressing table. Sarah pulled up pictures of the real items on her phone to compare, and the ones on display weren't even close. The tiaras for sale in the gift shop looked more authentic. 

Also on display was the back-up wedding dress for Sarah, the Duchess of York. It looked like a cheap prom dress and was all yellowed. There were also a few dresses on loan from Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, which was kind of odd. Included in the dresses was the original see-through dress, complete with a picture of Kate wearing it and a glamour shot of the dress's American Ambassador. The dress has an ambassador. I just can't even.

Sarah and I decided that the problem was that this was a collection of privately owned items, all purchased at auction after Diana's death. The exhibit was not professionally curated, and the clothes had not been stored correctly at all. Most looked a little faded and threadbare.  Sarah even asked if there was a curator on site, and the woman in the gift shop just shrugged. 

On our way out we decided against buying a tiara or a replica of the sapphire engagement ring. 

We also visited the ship's "Shopping Alley," where we could have bought any number of Queen Mary commemorative items, including t-shirts, key rings and shot glasses. There was a store that carried items  "from" Scotland, but many of the kilts on display had become faded and dusty. I'm guessing they don't sell a lot there.  But I could have bought a book about the ghosts of the Alamo. Cool.

It was an adventure, and despite the whole thing not living up to expectations, Sarah and I had fun. It will become one of those shared, fond memories - "Remember that time. . ?" And Sarah now knows not to include it on the itinerary when Knittergran and Runnerdude visit next week. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

At least it was a dry heat

Last Friday morning, I flew out at o'dark early, headed for Los Angeles. One of the things I was most looking forward to, aside from seeing my sister, seeing our aunt and uncle, having breakfast with Lisa Rosenberg (who is absolutely lovely), and going to Disney Land, was escaping the heat. We've hit the point of the summer when I become hostile about the heat and take it personally. It's hot out just to make me miserable. I've lived here 18 years, and I've never adjusted to the heat, and I moved here from Florida.

Unfortunately, I chose the weekend that LA was having its worst heat wave of the summer to visit. Everyone who found out I was from out of town, apologized for the heat. "It's NEVER this hot," they'd say. In Texas, when a visitor complains about the heat, we usually say, "This? This is nothing. You should have been here last year. Last year was worse."

So it was hot, but it wasn't as hot as Austin, in that we could actually be outside without bursting into flames.

And that is the only complaint I have about my trip.

It was just the right amount of doing cool stuff and sitting around and watching trash TV. Knittergran still can't believe we didn't go to the beach or to the Getty, but I'm saving those for the next trip.

Our one culturally significant trip was to the Griffith Observatory, which sits high in the hills above LA. The view was pretty spectacular.

The Hollywood sign


The Griffith Observatory itself is pretty neat. We wandered around inside for a while and then poked around the the grounds. 

The main entrance

Some big allegorical mural on the ceiling

The dome that houses the 12 inch Zeiss telescope

Once we stopped playing tourist, Sarah and I went to the movie studio where her boyfriend works. I'm not sure I'm allowed to say which studio and which show or whether we were even allowed to be there. 
The show he works on was taping, and we got to sit in the VIP area and watch the action on the monitors. Turns out watching a TV show be taped is very boring. And the craft services table looks like a church potluck. 

We bailed out of the taping after an hour, and wandered around the backlot. I was stunned at how deserted it was. We could have wandered anywhere without a problem. But we didn't. 

A city street

THE Ghostbusters car, Ecto 1

We got to the studio just as a taping of Wheel of Fortune was letting out, and we had to walk the wrong way through the herds of fans leaving. Many members of the audience were morbidly obese and on hoverround scooters, which somehow seemed appropriate. 

As we were walking, a very well-preserved blond lady waved at us cheerfully from her car. Turns out it was Vannah White. My first celebrity sighting!

I had a celebrity sighting in the wild the next day at the grocery store. Sarah nudged me and said, sotto voce, "It's Jim Parsons." I turned and saw DR SHELDON COOPER standing next to me. It took all the self control I had to just play it cool and not go all screaming fangirl on him. But he was there doing his Saturday shopping, and no one else was bugging him, so I didn't take a picture or ask for an autograph. Ella is very disappointed in me. 

I got home at 2:00 am Tuesday to a spotless house, folded laundry and sleeping children. I think I should go away more often. But I'm still having trouble adjusting to real life, where there aren't celebrities at the grocery store and craft services tables with lots of baked goods. Sigh. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The doldrums

We’ve hit the low point of the summer. We’re all bored and tired and hot. Going to the pool isn’t as much fun as it was a few weeks ago; it’s too hot to ride bikes and scooters; watching hours of Scooby Doo just isn’t as appealing.

I’m spending my days refereeing fights over who did what to whom, negotiating just how long a “turn” on the computer is, and listening to the kids tell me they’re bored every 30 seconds. To keep kips entertained I’ve resorted to doing things like taking them to the Snake Farm and to see movies (I hate movies and snakes). But I’m running out of options.

The good news is that I leave at o’dark hundred on Friday to go to Los Angeles for a few days. It will be cool there. And I won’t have four kids to take care of. I may never come back.

In the meantime, a cute hedgehog picture.