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Monday, December 28, 2009

A Year in Pages

At the start of 2009 I tried my very best to read American Pastoral but never finished. I carried it around to places, got affirmation from hip people (as an aside, I recently learned from a twelve year-old that hip people don’t say hip) but one hundred pages into it, I just couldn’t do it. But I was able to knock off the list below (including a few others I never finished) with stars (five being best…

American Pastoral (never finished)

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
, two stars

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
(I was in a Chinese phase), four and half stars

Rain of Gold, four and three quarters stars

White Oleander
, four and half stars

Ham on Rye,(not by choice, it was a book club selection)negative sixteen stars

Wonder Boys
, three stars

Hope’s Boy, three stars

The Same Kind of Different as Me
, three and half stars

A Love Undetected
(never finished…)

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
, four and half stars

Losing my Religion
, three and half stars

About a Boy, three and quarter stars

Jayber Crow, four stars

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
, five stars

The Unlikely Disciple
, three stars

The Time Traveler’s Wife
, three and half stars

The White Tiger, three and a quarter stars

Olive Kitteridge
, four stars

Homeland (never finished…)

Wishing and Hoping
, in process…

Next year, I’ll read more and I’ll keep you guys posted as I go along.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

kaiser

Yesterday, I had a doctor’s appointment at the Sunset location of Kaiser. Not to be derailed by a much needed rant about HMO’s and the fate of health care – I’ll save that for Senators Boxer and Feinstein – another topic. If you have never been to the Sunset Kaiser, holding my tongue, it is a several city blocks wide/long dizzying maze of health care where even my brief description leaves me frustrated, overwhelmed and feeling so much like a meaningless cog in some gianormous corporate machine. Don’t even get me started on the parking garage.

Yesterday, through some stroke of a miracle, I was able to find my way into the right building and the right elevator a bit ahead of schedule for my 9:45 appointment. Entering the elevator with me was what appeared to be a young family – mom, dad and two children pushed in one of those strollers that seems designed for off-roading. The father looked familiar, but at 9:15, without make-up and on our way to the doctor, it felt too much to strike up a conversation. The family seemed a bit somber and faintly mentioned something about staying there through lunch. I got off before them and probably halfway through my doctor’s visit, I placed the man – he used to work with a friend of mine and is still involved in a program that I network with from time to time.

On my way out, I entered the same elevator realizing that there was only one floor above the one I was on and it had only one listing – Oncology. My heart sank. Some member of this precious gap ad family was dealing with cancer and on Christmas Eve Eve of all days. Maybe they are alone in this difficult season and maybe I completely misinterpreted the whole scenario. It is Kaiser after all, and like me they might have been in the wrong building – I pray. But maybe I am right, and they are sitting home now agonizing over some dreadful news that will forever punctuate their family’s story. Please think of them and others who during this holiday season have little to celebrate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BCS Tickets


Tomorrow morning, I will join the throngs of Pasadena residents clamoring for a shot at BCS tickets. Yes, of course, our Trojans will be lucky to get invited to the Emerald Bowl and watching them defeat, of all teams, my Arizona Wildcats later in the afternoon at the Coliseum is salt in the wounds of a dreadful, dreadful season. However, for us Pasadena a resident, one of our strange perks is the shot at purchasing tickets to the annual Rose Bowl game which every five years (including 2010) hosts the BCS Game. Call me greedy, call me desperately in “need” of a new couch but my entire reason to buy tickets is for the shot to resell them for more than face value. So my friends, Older Than Matt Barkley will return later on a game day morning that doesn’t involve me showing up at 7am anywhere.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Older than Matt Barkley, Part IV



I believed this little bear hadn’t survived the years of moving – but alas, I found him this morning! Indeed, what you are looking at is a tiny stuffed Bruin strung up on a noose. We bought him from a Coliseum bootlegger (we’ve all done it) in the late eighties making him significantly older than our dear QB. Today, he will return to the Coliseum where he hasn’t been in well over ten years – I know, what kind of USC fan am I? Interestingly, in 1994 he made the front page of the Arizona Star and was the key ingredient to sneaking in three college basketball fanatics into McKale Center for a sold-out matchup between an Arizona team that would go on to make the Final Four (losing to Bill Clinton’s Razorbacks) and the first year of the O’Bannon brothers tenure as Bruins.

Here’s to hoping his magic is back today for USC, God knows they need it. Also, as I have said before, and perhaps I am one of the only USC fans who feels this way, but Norm Chow, please come home, all is forgiven.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Punctuation Marks


This is the last week of the after-school program I coordinate until late January. We have opted to take the entire stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas off, which for us adults will be here and gone before we know it, but for elementary school students will seem like an eternity. All week, we have been giving out prizes and certificates – in part to honor the kids’ participation – but also to offer these wee ones closure. Maybe the gesture is simple and for many of the children somewhat obligatory, in my experience, there is something to be said for offering a space to recognize the end of a season – not matter how small or brief.

As I left this afternoon, it occurred to me that amidst this small turn of a page, tomorrow is my last session with my therapist. I know, it is kind of weird to own in this small venue of mine that indeed I have been seeing a therapist for just shy of three years, but there it is – out there. And over the course of our therapeutic relationship, I have certainly grown, feel more comfortable in my own skin and have been generally grateful for the experience. At the same time, recently the whole endeavor, and I am not sure why, has struck me self-indulgent and most sessions I arrive feeling like I have absolutely nothing to talk about. We have, as I believe they say in the business, plateau-ed.

Maybe it was the sixty certificates I handed out this week, but driving home tonight, I decided to get my therapist a parting gift, which according to two of my friends who are therapists, is not that unusual. I bought a copy of Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, which happens to be perhaps my favorite book of all time and features a plot line revolving around a therapeutic relationship. It seems apt and good way to punctuate this end.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dodging Bullets


Today I needed to have five separate conversations where the basic gist was, “I think this thing I did might have irritated or straight up pissed you off, so let’s talk about it.” Two conversations were pieces of cake – neither person was at all mad. Good, chalk it up to better to err on the side of caution. One conversation was fairly easy, ill-timed, but the person was indeed not mad at me and appreciated me taking the initiative to air any grievance. One conversation never occurred, which I trust means all is calm on the western front but the fireworks of the last conversation, makes me believe it quite possible I am destined to never do anything again without pissing off large groups of people, and, at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if that fifth person who the jury is still out on is planting a car bomb in my car as we speak (phew, my car is parked in the garage).

I know, I am being dramatic and over-reacting, but we’ve all been there, right? I know life is lived in relationships, but after a day like today where I am feeling so much like a bull in a china cabinet relationally, I can help but wonder if I’d be better off living the rest of my life like Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away. I know, I wouldn’t last a day and I probably would kill Wilson – but I am feeling like such a relational failure. And regrettably the tragedy of this whole unfortunate misunderstanding, which I imagine is very often the case for so many of my fellow bulls (living in china cabinets that is), is that I didn’t mean to do any of it. The “it” just sort of unfolded and in my heart of hearts I wish I could just take a relational mulligan.

For the firework conversation, the sober-minded person with exactly five psychology classes under my proverbial belt, would like to rest in the assumption conflict/anger is very often-misplaced and wrongly allocated. I hope the ire I received today stemmed from some larger pain in this person’s life. Or at the very least, it is easier to think that then to sit in the very uncomfortable tension of the possibility that I indeed may in fact be a terrible, barbarian of a person incapable of relational success or anything remotely close to sensitivity.

And maybe the worst part of all of this conflict is that they all happened at church. Church is supposed to be a place of handshakes, hot chocolate and warm fuzzies – not a place where you routinely dodge bullets. Or is it? Maybe dodging bullets is an exaggeration, but I wonder if there are others out there who find this endeavor of the Christian journey together difficult, fraught with conflict and something, many days, leaving you wanting to cash in your proverbial chips on. Tomorrow, I hope I will wake up renewed and ready to mend, but for tonight, I need to go into the cave.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Older than Matt Barkley, part III


Up early on a Saturday morning, primping for my tailgate party and finishing Older than Matt Barkley: part III just under the wire. Here goes, and yes I know the Mexican blanket doesn’t at all match my room.

In the summer of 1974, my family and another family drove from sunny Los Angeles to Mexico City. My entire family missed Nixon’s resignation because they were amidst this crazy caravan trek, the stories of which have become family legends at this point. In the end, missing watching Nixon’s speech with all of America was a small price to pay for the epic cross-continent vacation. I was not there, nor was my counterpart, the youngest son of the other family, who turns 35 this March (so if you do the math he was kind of there, and had his parents not “decided” to have one more kid, who knows, maybe my parents wouldn’t have either).

But somewhere along the way, my mother purchased this bright (bordering obnoxious) Mexican blanket. I stole it about five or six years ago, and while although these types of blankets are easy to come by, I maintain that they don’t make ‘em like they did in the mid-seventies (which is true of a lot of things). I use it seasonally. In my old apartment, our entire place was just so ugly, that it didn’t really matter the blanket was so off. Now that I am starting to nest and care very much about how my house looks, I am beginning to wonder if I should move on from this old blanket I love so much. But for our purposes today, it well makes the cut of being Older than Matt Barkley – FIGHT ON and beat the Cardinal.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

To get a dog or not…


This weekend, I was lucky enough to dog sit for my friend’s precious one-year old lab mix, Ashwa. Ashwa was a wonderful house guest and if I could figure out a way to do so without getting caught, I would dog-nap her. During her stay, among other things, we were able to visit the dog park on Orange Grove, pictured above, which was also an absolute delight.

But this jaunt into dog sitting has got my juices flowing about getting a dog. I have been a dog lover from as long as I can remember. Growing up, we always had all sorts of dogs. During my long, painfully long, stint as an apartment liver, I always told myself, as soon as I get a home, I will get a dog. And now here I am, new house but no dog (mind you it has been less than a month).

Let’s open up the conversation about the pros and cons of dog ownership – all serving as a divergence to a dismal update on my lack of any new developments with my JCrew model-esque teacher crush that I have to date still not had an actual conversation with (what is my problem??). Back to the dog question.

Pros. A dog would offer protection, companionship and a bona fide reason to hang out at the dog park on a regular basis. The idea of rescuing a dog appeals to me very much but I can hardly look at the humane society web site because the thought of those dogs getting euthanized breaks my heart.

Cons. A dog requires a lot of attention, routine and availability. Would the dog get lonely while I was slaving away at work? An adult dog might be better-adjusted – but what if it had a bad habit like urinating on my beige carpet? A dog also could prove to be expensive – what if I need to take it to the vet and how much are these congs everyone rants and raves about?

Breed. I had a very good experience with the mixed breed and I’ve only heard good things about labs. I need a dog with shorter hair because of my allergies to that end; I can officially eliminate German Shepherds. I don’t want a yelper but I also don’t want a huge dog. I like pugs, but they are super expensive and I’ve believe they have respiratory problems.

Final verdict? My inclination is towards a chocolate lab mix around a year old. Anyone know of one up for adoption?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Older than Matt Barkley, Part II


In high school, I worked as a hostess at the Olive Garden – Hospitaliano was our motto. As it happened then, not sure if Olive Garden still has this policy, we host staff were required to serve as doormen/people which for me, as a gregarious sixteen year old, was a good fit. Except for the weather and that year, as I am told is the case this year, was an El Nino. So there I was, rushing out the door to make my shift at the OG when I needed a jacket. Why I didn’t grab a jacket of my own, I don’t know, but I stopped at the closet in the entry way of my parents house and grabbed my dad’s caramel-colored corduroy lined with chocolate brown faux fur which much to the chagrin of my father has been mine ever since.

I have it on good authority my father has not been able to fit into this jacket since he stopped smoking in 1984, so it wasn’t much of a loss for him. I believe this jacket was purchased at JC Penny’s in the mid-seventies, making it a good fifteen years older than our beloved QB. I don’t wear it as much as I used to, but without fail every time I do, I get many, many compliments. In fact, over the years, I have had more than one person offer to buy it right off my back – can you believe it?

And so today, as the Trojans take on the Sun Devils, not to be confused with the devil incarnate and recent World Series Winners who’s MVP instead of Matsui ought to have been cold, hard cash, Fight On and let’s win out our games. Emerald Bowl, here we come!

PS: Don’t you just love my new patio furniture? I heart Craig’s List.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Older than Matt Barkley Part I


It occurred to me earlier this season that USC’s new (future Heisman) QB was born in 1990. As is the case for many of us out there, I remember 1990 well. Matt Barkley being such a youngin’ makes me feel painfully old. To this end, I have decided for the duration of USC season, around each game I will do a post featuring an item I own or have in my possession that is indeed older than Matt Barkley.

Item #1 Older Than Matt Barkley, my couch. Yes, ladies and gentlemen the tactfully covered couch featured above is approximately 25 years old. My parents bought it at then Price Club circa 1985 giving me a good five year cushion on number 7.

Fight on tonight and let’s break our three year losing streak in Oregon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

U2 360


Last night, along with tens of thousands of other devotees, in what is estimated to be the largest crowd in the history of the Rose Bowl, I saw U2’s 360 show. Apologies for the lack of pictures, I’ll post when my home life is a bit more settled and I have wireless at home. But a few quick thoughts on 360 during this jaunt to the local Bean Town for blissful wireless access…

Despite knowing all the words to all of the songs on Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum and Achung Baby, I figured out mid-week, that Achtung Baby was the most recent U2 album I owned. And the use of word recent if probably far from appropriate as I estimate I purchased it in 1992 when I wore a size six. Sunday in a reprieve from unpacking and the joys of being a home owner (I already have two things that aren’t working right, BTW), I bought U2’s Best of 1990-2000 (I think) and quickly got caught up.

It is funny, because I never stopped loving U2, maybe we were just on a bit of a break. Seeing U2 perform many of my faves in a spectacle of multi-media extravaganza unrivaled in contemporary music/concert going, well, we are back on. By the way, through discreet eavesdropping, I just “learned” that the giant, round/sphere screen took 100 eighteen wheelers to transport. I don’t have any eloquent bow to tie up this post with, but I am for one glad I was able to be part of history last night at the Rose Bowl, the icing on the cake was it prevented me from seeing the devil incarnate clinch the American League Pennant.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Rocking Horse Mug


The hope of a freeway series is fading – instead it looks the World Series will be a matchup between the Phillies and the Devil Incarnate.

By week’s end, I will have turned a year older (gulp), moved into a home I own, seen the devil incarnate play in Anaheim (and game 7 at Chavez Ravine if there is one or homecoming for the Trojans) and my first ever U2 concert. But back to packing, cleaning, sorting organizing, making lists, agonizing over appliances and all of the craziness of moving. I am very grateful for PTOs and having negotiated three weeks of vacation.

I have lived in no fewer than eleven different places with fifteen different people (plus nine months with my parents in my mid-twenties) in the last sixteen years. In that time I have lived in dorms, crappy apartments, townhouses, houses, guest houses, gated communities, and more crappy apartments in four different cities in two different states.

All of that ends Thursday when I move into a home I own.

As the gypsy/bohemian chapter of my life comes to a close, I am grasping to make sense of this wonderful and unexpected turn of a page. Sifting through the unbelievable amount of possessions I have, I came across this rocking horse mug pictured above. I believe he (the rocking horse mug) was given to me at a Christmas party in either 1993 or 1994 having come wrapped in red cellophane and filled with hot chocolate mix. I don’t know how or why he made the cut; with each of the previous moves I certainly purged many, many items as I am doing this time around. Perhaps I kept him all of this time because I so love the friends who gave him (the rocking horse mug) to me who now live five states away. Perhaps it reminds me of childhood and my penchant for rocking and carousel horses. Whatever the case, he (the rocking horse mug) now lives in my new house cleaned and stored with all of his friends, the other coffee mugs of course. He will continue, as he has for the better part of fifteen years, to bear witness to my life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Manny Ramirez, a freeway series and domestic violence


As a much needed diversion from boxes, researching appliances and trolling Craig’s list, today I will be at Chavez Ravine for a game that hopefully goes better than last night’s. And hopefully better than the NLCS game I went to in 2008. With all of this talk of a freeway series looming, I suppose we ought to worry about winning the pennant first.

I was, as probably many other Dodger fans were, ecstatic when Manny Ramirez hit a homerun last night – perhaps the slump is finally over? I can’t help but wonder every time Manny is up to bat if my feeling is at all similar to what women in abusive relationships feel right before their partner’s come home. (I know I just lost most of my readers right there.) This feeling is amplified at the stadium – Mannywood in our line of sight, #99 jerseys are everywhere and the ubiquitous dred lock wigs – but as he heads to the plate, I know I feel a twinge of, “this time it is going to be different,” and instead of striking out, the Manny we fell in love with last season, pre-suspension, will, well return. How we all loved saying and celebrating Manny being Manny last year. Today, I hope instead of striking out, Manny doesn’t let us down and things continue to be different.

Don’t think I am not also very aware that our Trojans are in South Bend gearing up to beat the Irish. And will Obama hang with W this weekend? It is the most wonderful time of year, indeed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chaos


Today is the last day before the chaos begins. I am moving in exactly one week and tonight instead of packing like a mad fool (or at the very least organizing/pre-packing) I am instead, for one last night savoring my dear little apartment. Never again will it be as it is now – my feeble attempts at décor and organization will all begin to unravel within 24 hours. Soon my life will be flooded with boxes and the pursuit of boxes, packing tape, markers, incomprehensible disarray and the looming hope/fear of will I in fact get all of my deposit back. But for the time being, I will try to ponder the four (or has it been five?) years I have lived in this little apartment as they are slowing drawing to a close.

In the time (four/five years) I have lived in this crappy two bedroom two bath apartment (praise God my apartment living days are nearly over) many crazy things have happened. I have changed roommates, marrying one off (so-to speak), I have changed jobs (but that topic has been really over done on my blog), I have changed computers, I have changed phones about eighteen times finally landing on an iPhone, I have changed presidents – but really so has everyone, right, and well those are about all of the notable changes I can think of. Oh yeah, and I am finally on a diet after all of this moaning about pants not fitting I have finally decided to make a change and to date I have lost 3 pounds (OK, 2.5 but 3 sounds so much better).

What is it about moving that brings on such nostalgia? I believe I am one especially prone to be overly nostalgic – friends have heard me say at casual gatherings things like “we will never all be together again.” And maybe this particular move as it is not only a huge milestone – for the love I am buying a house – but it coincides with my birthday, which there again is always an occasion I tend to fret over for weeks prior – has upped my schmaltzy factor.

I wish I had some eloquent and elaborate direction for this blog, I don’t. On the ride home I agonized over blog topics wanting so much to keep my posting consistent but hedging off the chaos was the best I could do. I thought about a blog on Manny Ramirez but the right words just couldn’t seem to come (maybe tomorrow in anticipation of going to game 2 of the NLCS). I thought blogging about a Michael Scott-esque antidote that happened at work yesterday but decided it is too risky as, well, too many of my readers would quickly know exactly who I was talking about. I thought about blogging on Jesus’ 33 years on earth but figured I could do it next week. I thought about blogging about the communities, small group and videos but decided I didn’t have the moral fortitude to go there, perhaps in November. And, TK, I also thought about blogging on the museum of miniatures but as that would be such a short post, I figured I could squeeze that in over my lunch break one day when I am totally out of material. And so this entry will end, I will try to pick up some of the loose ends I always seem to leave when I feel inspired.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Smiles


A lot of days I think I am the least professional person in the history of the world, generally terrible at my job, in a nut shell a failure – well, if you read my blog you’ve heard my excessive self-deprecation theme. But today was not one of those days. Allow me to share a delightful tidbit from my work day.

So there I was juggling my normal balls of tutoring precocious eight-year olds, encouraging volunteers, building relationships with teachers and school staff (as a side note today that included buying a popsicle from the JCREW model-esque teacher some of the moms call Mr. Hot) and generally putting out fires during program when the cutest thing happened. This is just our second week of tutoring and in that time I’ve begun to banter a bit with one particular boy who for our purposes (because his name is so unusual) I will refer to as Andre (not to be confused with our own Andre Ethier).

Andre has the kind of smile that lights up a room. The banter between us has to do with me going on and on about how great his smile is. Trust me, if you met Andre, you couldn’t help but also notice his contagious smile. The banter makes him smile more sort of fuel for my fire in terms of teasing. Today after having come from an ad hoc meeting with his teacher, I said to Andre something along the lines – “I don’t see how anyone can pay attention to anything in your class when you are smiling.” To which Andre replied, and this is the part that made me a bit misty, “I only smile when I come here.”

Maybe I won’t make a million dollars, and more than likely I won’t get a promotion anytime in the next decade, but I believe I will sleep better knowing, even for the briefest of instances, I made Andre smile.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The big news is…


Ladies and gentlemen, with no further adieus, the big news is, cue drum roll, I bought a house! And not just any house, it was the earlier described avocado house. Through twists and turns, it looks as though I will be moving in by the month’s end, around the time of my upcoming birthday. No doubt this milestone will be a topic of many, many blogs.

Immediately I am painfully aware that homeowners ought to have buckets. What I mean by that and/or where I am going with the bucket line is there are a lot of little to medium size items (for example buckets) that you just have to have when you own a house. In an apartment they are impractical and unnecessary, but in a house, well, you have to have a bucket. You never know when you will wash your car, pick avocados, need to wash out something – you get the point. With all of these little looming things on the horizon, I am starting to feel like any left over money I have will be spent on buckets and so forth.

And still no NL West Champs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Magic Number: 2!


2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2! 2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2! 2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2!2! Of course, my excitement with 2 revolves around the Dodger’s magic number as of approximately nine o’clock PST. One Dodger win + one Rocky loss opens the door to the possibility of clinching the NL West tomorrow if today’s trend of Dodger win/Rocky loss continues. Indeed, it is the most wonderful time of the year! Keep an eye on those box scores, and no, this is not my good news, stay tuned.

Travels




Last weekend I flew into Denver, Colorado just in time to see my beloved Trojans fall to last year’s winless Washington Huskies. Gone are any BCS hopes USC might have had in a way all too familiar to the last few seasons. But otherwise, my time there was amazing! Including a visit to the biggest REI Store I have ever seen, much good beer, Jason Mraz @ Red Rocks, quality time with friends, two wonderful days in Boulder and a comprehensive training to coordinate a mentoring program that I am completely excited about it. Big news around the corner ladies and gentlemen – stay tuned!

Friday, September 18, 2009

David and Goliath


Tonight I am packing for yet another trip to Colorado. I should be excited – and I suppose there are pieces of this trip I am looking forward to Jason Mraz at Red Rocks, catching up with dear friends, and being trained to lead a mentoring program that I think is amazing – I am sort of tired of traveling. I never thought I would get to this point and I suppose it doesn’t help that very recently I traveled to the Rocky Mountain State, but I am dragging my feet in packing.

I am also totally worried our beloved Trojans might lose tomorrow. I know the Huskies are a nothing team, but wasn’t it about this time last year they were able to beat Ohio State only to fall to Oregon State? Please never schedule a Thursday game again Mike Garrett (or whoever decides these matters). But consider our past few regular season losses – obviously Oregon State ’08, Stanford ’07 and Oregon State again in ’06 and lastly and perhaps most painfully UCLA ’06. Rankings or not, USC has a Goliath complex and we all know how that story ends.

And of all people, I believe Steve Sarkisian (who I was happy to see go last year) would love to beat his former boss tomorrow. He knows this team; he knows these players and this win would make his season. All other eyes might be on the swamp or such places but I hope Goliath keeps an eye out for small boys with slingshots (aka Steve Sarkisian’s Washington Huskies).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Central Park


One theme (for me at least) of The fab four take Manhattan was to attempt to have a non-tourist bona fide New Yorker experience. And save for visiting Times Square and Rockefeller Center, catching a Broadway Show and taking pictures on the Subway (which I just learned is one of the most vulnerable targets to the ever looming threat of terrorists attacks – guess we were really rolling the dice on that) I think we did just that.

High on the list of the “we’re not tourists week” was the glorious Saturday we spent in Central Park. The magnitude of the park was more than I expected. It was bustling with people but still did not seem crowded. I loved that there seemed to be all walks of life there – races, ages, socioeconomic class (OK, I couldn’t really tell that, but in My Saturday Afternoon in Central Park it would be so) and a healthy showing of pets. On a side note, I was very surprised the number of New Yorkers with dogs which as much as I love dogs; it does seem like a difficult place to be a dog owner.

But back to the park, how do I even begin to explain the street performers? Remind me to do a whole separate blog on them; I have a good Rob Bell idea. And the make-shift roller rink that included guy thigh and dancing – I would never have imagined. The grandeur of the views – absolutely amazing. The water? I had no idea. The architecture – splendid.

The best Southern California Summer Saturday equivalent I can think of is perhaps a jaunt to the beach but minus the crowds, lifeguards and herculean task of parking. Or maybe five free slightly less manicured/beautiful Huntington Gardens rolled into one.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New York, New York!





Please play Frank Sinatra while viewing this post. But I was spiraling the other night, all is fixed and things are looking up. More to come up our fabulous time in NYC, but some previews.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The death of my computer and other dreadful developments


After more than an hour and a half on the phone with tech support, it appears as though very little hope remains। I was directed to back-up all of my files, but even that is not working। BLAST! My Indian call center rep who I spent all of this frantic time with, is going to call back any minute and my only response will be – I couldn’t do it. I have left THREE frantic messages with tech savvy friends, but apparently Thursday 7:30 is a tough time.

This comes on the heels of a visit to the pharmacy to pick up (remind me to blog about the averted skin cancer scare that preempted the meds) what I thought would be a routine prescription that cost me nearly $300!!! What the heck? Bring on universal health care, my taxes are already unbearably high.

This comes on the heels of (okay, I might be using “on the heels” of loosely) paying over $1000 in TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS. Yes, you read that right, and yes I have a pending court date where it is quite possible not only will my license suspended but there will be more fines. And to boot, the state of California recently informed me I didn’t pay enough and there is an over due balance for my 2008 return.

When will this end? I think the only hope I can safely cling to at this point is the RAPTURE.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The fabulous four take Manhattan


Move over Muppets, a new foursome has taken over Manhattan। I will post more thoroughly when I solve my computer problems (maybe I should have bought a Mac after all, urgh!), but from 8/31-YESTERDAY (I know you are all jealous) I was in New York City with three of my closest friends on the planet। We had adventures of all sorts, some of which I will post but my apologies for the gap in posts। More to come, more to come indeed. And no new house, but my avocado house still hasn’t sold – pray friends, pray



Saturday, August 29, 2009

Golden, Colorado


Earlier this week, I spent two days in Denver – which for good reason has been dubbed the Napa Valley of Beer. Included on our itinerary was a stop in Golden to, among other things, tour the Coors Brewery. For those who have completed this tour, your highlight might have been the three free beers at the end, and not that I minded those, I found Adolph Coors’ story to be very inspiring.

Coors, orphaned at a young age, learned to brew beer during his apprenticeship in his native Prussia in the 19th century. He stowed away on a ship to America in order to evade conscription – indeed our hero was a draft-dodger. Over time, he eventually made it out west working along the way as a brick-layer, fireman, a foreman at a brewery and finally in Denver as an owner of a bottle making plant – indeed our hero pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.

Coors might have made a great living and still have been an immigrant success story had he swallowed his dream of establishing his own brewery and just been a bottle maker. However, while running a successful bottle-making plant, Coors devoted a day a week to fulfilling his dream by (drum role please) relentlessly looking for the perfect spot and conditions to do just that. Of course, he did just that in Golden, Colorado and the rest is history.
So for anyone out there who has a dream, be it beer making, folk singing or novel writing, take it from Adolph Coors that it is never too late and no obstacles are insurmountable to fulfill that dream. My only caution is to avoid windows in Virginia Beach hotel rooms

Thursday, August 27, 2009

वही इस माय टाइटल ट्रांस्लातेद इन्तो हिन्दी?


Over the weekend I made my first official bid on a house. I tried very hard to be sober minded about the whole endeavor – telling both my parents and the realtor that I hadn’t formed an emotional attachment to the property (even though it had!) because after all as scores of friends have shared, it often takes many, many offers for one to work. And indeed those of scores of friends were right, my offer got turned down.

And so, my modest, humble, yellow three bedroom house with an avocado tree in the backyard close enough to literally throw a rock to the house of some of my best friends and an address that would keep me in Pasadena but VERY close to Sierra Madre will be lived in by someone other than me.

UNTIL, my realtor emailed me that the offer didn’t close! Alas, there is hope. I am still not packing my bags or prepping to make the gallons of guacamole that will inevitably manifest themselves with all of the avocados at my disposal, but the plot thickens.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Eeyore's Hope


I haven’t blogged in quite awhile. I don’t know if it is the heat, Brett Favre becoming a Viking, my dad’s recent 70th birthday, house hunting (that is right, despite all odds, home ownership is on the horizon), writer’s block, the countdown to my upcoming vacation to the big apple, my semi-monthly episode of malaise/mind-numbing cynicism or that the sky is falling – maybe my friends are right, I am Eeyore! Whatever the case maybe, I’ve decided to get back on the proverbial horse again. So, here goes.

Lately most of my professional life has revolved around organizing a backpack drive for at-risk kids in an under-resourced school district. (Social Justice speak for needy/underprivileged poor kids) This endeavor is not dissimilar to other projects I have participated in both as a volunteer and a community leader working in skid row. Not to be too theological or over-spiritualize, but my experience has been that these kinds of things require much prayer and a lot of shots in the dark/knocking on doors yet tend to work out in the end.

But backpack drive 2009 has really gotten me down as of yet. I suppose it might be because I am (too oversimplify things greatly) on the other side this time where collaboration has proven easier said than done. It was much easier to be the novelty on the outside representing homeless kids instead of the person a cubicle over who fill in the blank. And maybe if I was honest, five days before the deadline of these sorts of endeavors I tend to have these sorts of episodes, Brett Favre notwithstanding.

Tonight, though something that restored my faith in humanity and sincere Christ-following transpired. My co-worker invited me to share with a group he leads about the drive and then he would send them out to shop for backpacks and school supplies. He gave a very appropriate lesson pointing to kingdom models of stewards and investment. I gave some woefully inadequate descriptives and elaborations clouded by stage-fright (even though, I tend to be pretty good in front of crowds) before the crowd was dismissed to their charge. After, I mingled awkwardly, catching up with old friends but more than anything worrying that I had royally blew the whole assignment.

Amid this mild dose of self-pity, I was approached by a TOTAL STRANGER who wanted to basically give me a check instead of buy backpacks. We talked for awhile before he handed me a folded up check. I left shortly after, detouring at the grocery store where in the parking lot I unfolded the check more to remember the guy’s name than anything else only to discover that the amount was in quadruple digits! I was shocked. I thought maybe a few hundred at best; mind you I had never met this person, but four digits? Because we didn’t know each other, I really believe this man acted out of his honest belief and application of the brief teaching my co-worker shared. His generosity and humility reminded me there are people out there who simply follow Christ.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sarah Palin and all other quitters...


Today marks the last day of Sarah Palin’s term as governor of Alaska and as the torch is passed to her lieutenant governor, I can’t help but wonder a few things about untimely resignation.

For starters, her announcement came precisely in the middle of the MJ death extravaganza, on the eve of the fourth of July and most notably, twelve hours into John Stewart’s vacation – a very deliberate day for a somewhat controversial subject to fly under the proverbial radar.

Secondly, (borrowing much material from John Stewart) while although her announcement was steeped in odd metaphors, to date she has given no specific explanation for leaving office with more than a year remaining in her term. Yes, she has said it is “out of the box,” “unconventional,” likened herself to a driving point guard and, perhaps most aptly, her desire to distinguish herself from a dead fish going with the flow. Don’t we all want to do that, really?

But beneath all of her bizarre explanations (or lack thereof), the fact of the matter is Sarah Palin is quitting. Indeed, our maverick former VP candidate is joining the ranks of disgruntled employees everywhere by saying, albeit publically, take this job and shove it. And in case you ever miss that, when someone quits a job to do NOTHING, as Ms. Palin has done, something is up. They might also, although probably with more eloquence and tact than the ex-Governor has, skirt the issue of the real reason for departures. Keep an eye out for those who do not wish to distinguish themselves from dead fish and simply go along with the flow.

Best of luck, Sarah Palin and all others who refuse to go with the flow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ray and the Bowl


Delayed by mourning of the untimely death of Jacko, the return of Manny and swarms of bees…

I first met Ray when my crazy friend Mike gave our other friend Sharon a burnt CD with the words “Shelter,” “Ray” and a bunch of letters that didn’t quite amount to LaMontagne. I ended up stealing the burnt CD because I couldn’t get enough of it – and if you have listened to Ray LaMontagne, you understand – until I finally did the right thing and bought one so Ray could get the royalties I had long cheated him out of.

Ray and I have been together ever since. Last night I was finally able to see him in concert at what might be one of LA’s finest venues the Hollywood Bowl. Wine, mangoes, chocolates, hummus and an array of Trader Joe’s cuisine shared with friends made for a truly amazing evening.

Ray, I last night discovered after some friendly banter back and forth with friends ending with our new imperative – Google it! – is a married father of two who does not live in LA (we were all wrong) but on a farm in Maine. But more compelling than our errors about Ray’s personal life is the true story (according to Wikipedia, mind you http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_LaMontagne) of the beginnings of his musical career. It seems that our somewhat younger but equally New Englander Walt Whitman, quit his job at a shoe factory after hearing a Stephen Stills (at 4 a.m. mind you!) to become a singer-songwriter. Very boldly, very brazenly and in a way that ought to be heralded as a torch to any and all of us in the throes of a quarter-life crisis he quite literally took this job and shoved it. On behalf of Ray fans everywhere, we are the better for his chutzpah.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Fourth of July


I love the Fourth of July. Not because I am particularly patriotic. Not because of any affinity to fireworks. Not because of all of the watermelon. Not because of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Basically, not because of any of the reasons one might associate with the holiday. Instead, it comes from a subconscious internalized freedom (not political freedom) to celebrate the holiday any way I want. Other holidays, Christmas most notably, come with expectations both familial and cultural. Not only do all of our families expect certain things to happen in a certain order on Christmas – Madison Avenue expects our lives to be Norman Rockwell paintings for the entire month of December. Depressed people commit suicide over the holidays for a reason. And not usually, do you worry about the rise of suicides coinciding with the Fourth of July. Plus, the weather is a lot nicer in July than December.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

John & Kate + 8 and Iran's Fate


Today I am trying to join bloggers all over to promote the cause of Iran. However, I am pretty sure most American’s know more about the state of John and Kate and their failing marriage than the real life events unfolding in Iran. Moreover, those who might have been lining up to protest at the Federal Building in Westwood are, I fear, being overshadowed by the mourners in Encino at the Jackson compound.

Is this a reflection of our bubble gum culture’s demise or our just general apathy about the global cause? Aren’t we the country’s whose roots and heritage come from revolution, overthrowing tyranny and establishing democracy? How did we get to the place where we care more about the stars of a reality show than democracy being thwarted by a tyrannical dictator who may or may not have nuclear weapons pointed at us?

Give me liberty or give me more reality TV shows?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

lucky's IPA festival


I love Sierra Madre. This is no secret, despite the birds that frequent TOPT, despite the unruly kids who often over run Bean Town, despite the lack of affordable housing – Sierra Madre is an absolute treat. High on my list of attractions is Lucky Baldwin’s – much better than the Old Town location, no weird smell, no difficulty finding parking, no wobbly stairs, no terrible bathroom and quirky bartenders who remember you – it is the quintessential neighborhood bar perhaps the San Gabriel Valley’s own version of Cheers.

Over extending its’ schedule through the 27th is Lucky’s IPA festival where if you buy a glass you can get refills for as low as $3 a glass throughout the duration of the festival. Their 60+ tap list features some true faves – Pliny the Elder, Ruination, Firestone’s Union Jack, Lagunitas, Hop Ottin’ and of course a Craftsman IPA. A non-IPA notable, Firestone’s Honey Blonde sold at the festival rate.

What is an IPA you ask?

An IPA, Indian Pale Ale (not to be confused with the International Phonetic Alphabet), is according to beertown.org is “the prototypical hoppy ale,” “deceptive pale, golden ale” and “most tip the scales at 6% alcohol b volume.” What is not to like – right? Take a break from the non-stop coverage of MJ mourning and join the celebration before it ends Sunday. This is truly as the LA Times describes it IPA mania. Enjoy dear friends, enjoy often. Paired with a French Dip, the IPA list is not to be missed.

Note: another piece of evidence typing the scales in favor of the Sierra Madre location’s supremacy to the Old Town location – if you forget your glass, in Sierra Madre they will more than likely give you the benefit of the doubt. This is not the case in Old Town, where a bartender who I have never seen before shamed me and charged me the higher rate. Blast.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cats and Fish


I have heard an awful lot about the untimely death of Michael Jackson -- may I offer a lighter note?

I am sure somewhere in the annals of the internet there must be posts and/or musings about this deep philosophical question I’d like to revisit. I know I am not the first person to have wondered about it and Lord knows my friends are sick and tired of me asking it – but here goes.

We all know how cats love fish, right? A stroll down the cat food aisle will affirm this as I imagine it will very likely be stocked with many cans of fish flavored kitty food. But we all also know how cats hate water, right? Picture yourself at one of your cat loving friends homes – what do they do to “punish” kitty? Use a spray bottle filled with water to squirt kitty into line. Or in my case, my brothers threw my poor cat into the pool.


My question, one that haunts me in the middle of the night, is how can this be? Why do cats hate water but love fish? Cats are undoubtedly predators, but I’ve never seen one hunt a fish. Bears yes, dogs yes, ducks, yes, pelicans, yes –but cats don’t even go near the water. Why do they like fish? Is it that they, like so many of us, want what they can’t have?

I know some have offered theories that not all cats hate water, but I for one have never, ever seen a cat that doesn’t. Doesn’t it seem reasonable from a sort of biological standpoint that with this seemingly universal built in aversion to water – they wouldn’t have a pallet for fish? Is this some weird quirk of domesticating cats? Maybe wild cats either also hate water but don’t like fish or like water and hence have a taste for fish.

I don’t get it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Update on Clown School


Last week I wrote about “clown school” – a quick update:

Something very remarkable happened at our last installment of clown school. We brought pizza and sodas for the boys but right before we were to eat our slices, the boy who is the most devious of the bunch asked if he could say grace for the meal. In the whole of our time with these boys we have talked very little if at all about our faith though our understanding of who Christ is, be it often unrefined and at times misguided, is and has been our whole motivation to volunteer at an under-resourced school. We were happy for the boy to say grace and the other boys also somewhat excitedly consented to it.

If ever there was a time in my life I wish I had a voice recorder, I wished I had one that day to record his prayer. He rattled off a brief list of very standard pre-meal prayer material but ended by thanking God for me and the other woman who has faithfully co-lead clown school for the last few months calling us his most favorite staff. Maybe we didn’t turn this clown into a saint or do much measurable “good” at the school as a whole, but even for the briefest of windows, I am proud to have mattered to this young child.

The next time I am plagued by self-doubt or find myself in the midst of yet another quarter-life crisis, I’d play his prayer to remind me of something I can be proud of. And I believe it is very likely, I will not ever be applauded for my role in creating a school-based ministry churches all of the country learn from, but I can take pride in the theology lesson I learned in clown-school.

Coming soon – Lucky’s IPA festival, cats and fish and superman.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

cyber-church


The other day I was sick and stayed home from church. I stumbled onto the crazy Christian network and after watching a bit of the crackpot preacher’s latest dose of crazy, I thought I ought to stream live the morning service of my own church – after all it is 2009, right? Sure enough, I caught most of the service including a baptism, the offering mediation and of course the sermon. Did I mention the Doobie Brothers song?

I can’t decide, though if this phenomenon – streaming of church services – is a good or bad thing? Not meaning to bite the hand that feeds me, I hope a healthy dialogue on 21st century church/spirituality might ensue. Certainly, for those out there unable to make it to church – because of injury or distance or what have you, there is a benefit for cyber-church, right? But I can’t help but wonder what difference it makes if one ever shows up to the actual building or not if I can “be” there in my PJs lounging on the couch? Or, in the fashion of a consumer, why wouldn’t I opt to stream the most popular sermon/church out there even if the physical church is a world away? Could I actually be a cyber member of a congregation a world away in effect?

On an unrelated note, why would I subscribe to my own church’s sermon podcast through iTunes when I could hear the sermon from the horse’s mouth every Sunday (so-to-speak)?

Earlier in the week, I hung out with a friend who’s church couldn’t be more different than mine. Every time we hang out, we manage to delve into a friendly banter on our own understanding of ecclesiology. We both affirmed church ought to be more like singing karaoke than attending a rock concert. (Neither one of us came up with this but we couldn’t remember where we had heard the metaphor) But to elaborate, church ought to be a setting where, like singing karaoke, everyone there is expected to participate and very little prep is needed. In fact the most meaningful material often comes from those who have absolutely no formal voice training but because of their sheer vulnerability inspire. On the other hand, a rock concert, save for the benefit of my ticket revenue, the show is not really at all affected by me in the audience. Sure I might sing along, cheer or even goes as far as holding up a lighter; but I’m never really a part of the show in the same way as the performer is a part of the show.

Be honest, would you rather go to karaoke church or rock concert church?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jacaranda trees…


In an effort to get on board with the Pasadena blogging community, I decided to post about jacaranda trees.

For most of my life, I wrote off the jacaranda trees because of their mess. Our neighbor’s tree spilled over into our pool area leaving those charming little lavender flowers all over everything. If any of you have romanticized ideals about these trees, talk to someone who has one in their front yard. However, maybe it is time I reconsidered these bizarre and wonderful little pieces of natural quirk.

Driving around town today, the curious beauty of these crazy pastel purple trees was unavoidable. Are they straight out of Thomas Kincaid painting or more apt to be part of an acclaimed landscape artist’s work fit to be hung in a museum?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Laker hater?


I don’t like the LA Lakers.  I know for my fellow Angelinos out there, this will be ire invoking.  For my family, simply hasn’t come to terms with it – the elephant in the room.  I wonder if this is what gay people who “come out” only to have their loved one still set them up with members of the opposite sex. 

My dad in particular will often ask me if I watched the game even despite us having the talk about my Laker preference.  My oldest brother gave me a Laker tee-shirt to commemorate their 2001 championship in what I think was his attempt to change my mind about the Lakers.  It didn’t. 

I grew up in a sports family.  Our family’s routine often revolved around sports.  Monday night football meant dinner during half-time.  Of course, the NFL was just as much of Thanksgiving fixture at our house as turkey and stuffing.  I swam with Vin Scully and Orel Hershiser in the summers.  Well it felt like that because my dad was always listening to the Dodger game on his cordless AM radio poolside. You get the point. 

For the most part, I have followed suit in my devotion to sports – I love the Dodgers, the USC Trojans and March Madness.  I deviated a bit by becoming a fan of the Green Bay Packers but at least I know they will never move to another city.  However, I never really got on board when it came to becoming a fan of the Lakers. 

And so tonight as the Lakers clinched the championship, I am glad the NBA season is over.  I am glad the finals have not stretched any longer than the eight months it already is.  I am glad the sports pages will no longer be plastered with pictures of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. And most of all I am glad the Laker flags will go back into the closets of Laker fans hopeful to soon be replaced by either USC flags or Dodger flags.