Week 26: Lost with Words

You can say that I was lost this past weekend…lost amongst the pages of my books.

 

Memorial Day weekend. I was thinking that I would go on some adventurous road trip where my itinerary would be determined by the whims of the moment. But sometimes plans, even spontaneous ones, don’t come to fruition. Instead, I did get to do something I have never done before, I read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

 

I love to read, and reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories were on my list. I had bought the books a couple months ago, but hadn’t had the time. This weekend I was going to rest, cuddle up in bed, and read. Rather than getting lost on the road, I was happily lost in the words of Tolkien.

 

I have all kinds of lists: travel, restaurants, adventures, and books. My 50 Weeks to 50 list includes parts of all those lists. As I’ve said before, lists of things we want to do don’t always have to be big grandiose plans. The little accomplishments all add up. For me, reading is a simple pleasure that I treasure (I read all day at the office, which is not a simple pleasure). And I love finding stories that highjack your attention away from life’s daily chores.

 

Tolkien’s stories did just that. I could not put The Hobbit down. I quickly read about Bilbo’s adventures (I may need to re-read in the future). I especially loved the section where he matches wits with Gollum and then discovers the power of the ring. As soon as I finished reading The Hobbit, I picked up the much thicker and heavier The Lord of the Rings and continued the journey. This will take me longer to read, as my copy is over a 1,000 pages, plus it’s it’s back to work and weeknight meetings, and as of this writing I am still reading the book.

 

I know that I will enjoy the adventures of Frodo, who starts his journey at the age of 50. How appropriate that I would be reading these stories at this time. So far I am even more enraptured by Tolkien’s words. I love books that make you react as if you are in the pages yourself. As Frodo and his group are being chased, trying to get away, my heart pounds too. Or when they are lingering too long discussing what to do, I’m yelling at them “what are you waiting for, get out of there!” Or when they have the instinct that something is watching them, I go around and make sure drapes and blinds are closed, windows are locked, and shut my bedroom door. When Gandalf returns, I am happy too — everyone loves a wise old wizard. And when there are hints of any romance between characters (since there are hardly any women in the story so far), my heart thinks how sweet is young love.

 

I feel it is a treasure when people can find escape in such simple pleasures as reading. I can’t be transported to the pages of Middle Earth, or back in time to the middle ages, or even forward to the future (I don’t have one of those special DeLoreans), but I can experience fantasy adventures through reading. You can be any age and still be able to climb tall mountains or explore far off galaxies.

 

Once I am done reading The Lord of the Rings, then I will allow myself to watch the movies. I try to read the books prior to watching the movies, because I don’t want my imagination to be influenced by what others think. (I did this with the Harry Potter books – once the last book was written, I purchased a full set and read them all in one week – the kids were on summer break and they thought I was crazy. Then I watched all the movies made at that time.) Let me visualize the characters and the settings for myself first, and later be surprised by another viewpoint. And both can be right.

 

Adventures can be found in many corners, it’s all about attitude. Even reading can be a wonderful journey if you let it. I find that discovering stories and an author that excites your soul is something to cherish. Let’s see what else Tolkien has written…

 

Notebook: Tolkien, J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel), The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1937

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., Three Volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954; The Two Towers, 1954; and The Return of the King, 1955.

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Week 25: Cringing Ringside

Silverback picks up his opponent and slams him against the cage’s metal fence walls. The outline of the fence’s diamond pattern is etched on his back due to the pressure of Silverback’s weight. As the crowd hollers in support, I cringe. I turn away when Silverback’s opponent is thrown on the ground, yet I can’t help but look in frozen awe as brutal strength wins out. No match for Silverback’s ability, this MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match was soon over.

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Why was I here again? Oh yes, my friend Lacy J. (you all know her by now) studies Jiu Jitsu and she knows Silverback, aka Russ Edwards, who is an instructor and was fighting in his first pro MMA match. She wanted to go, and guess who again gets to be the lucky companion. Going to an MMA or boxing match was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list anyway, so it all works out. And again, it was a spur of the moment plan. She had just found out about it that morning. I really had a ton of other things to do (our school 5K was the next morning), but Lacy assured me we wouldn’t be long since we were just going to stay until Russ was done with his match; and for some reason, we assumed (you will see wrongly) he would be fighting early.

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First, we should have realized it would be a long day, when after committing to go, we then found out the matches were in Valley Center, which according to Google Maps would take us almost an hour drive. Ehh, no big deal. Lacy picks me up and we update each other on our lives, and before you know it we exit off the freeway and head east towards the hills past Escondido. After a few miles of windy roads, our Google maps app points us towards an empty hillside, and no place to turn around. We find a way to head back and try to look around towards the other direction of the T in the road. We then see an open dirt lot with white tents, and a big open-sided metal roofed building. We also see a sign that says parking $5 — I guess this is it. Not quite what I expected. What did I expect? I thought it would something like a casual type of boxing match in an enclosed arena setting, and felt I should dress appropriately with a cotton black dress and elevated sandals. I definitely did not expect the matches to be held in an open venue on a dirt lot. Have I been transported to the deep south? Hope I don’t twist my ankle walking along the uneven dirt and rocky landscape.

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Since tickets were what I would consider pricey, we get standing room only seats for $35 each. Luckily we were there early enough to find standing room space pretty close to ringside. Unluckily, we didn’t realize these MMA fights work in Filipino time, meaning they don’t start promptly — not even close. We also didn’t know there were a heck of a lot more matches scheduled than we anticipated, and like boxing, they start with the flyweight divisions — Russ is a heavyweight. Needless to say, the no big deal to stand attitude at the beginning kinda wore us down by the time Russ entered the cage, which was over six hours later at around 9:00 pm. (What time was I supposed to be at the 5k to set up the next morning?)

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Now, I am an MMA novice, I’ve never even watched it on television, but the whole idea of it seemed interesting. The current movement was created through a combination of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling, and popularized by the Gracie family challenges in Brazil, held in gyms and garages starting in the 1920s. The MMA competitions were introduced with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993, and Royce Gracie won the first tournament. The Gracie’s are like the royal family of jiu jitsu and MMA, which by the way Lacy trains under and they have a studio in La Jolla down the street from my office. I like the idea that it is a sport that combines all types of martial arts: Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Muy Thai, Wrestling, Judo, Kickboxing, and yes, Boxing too.

 

I probably paid attention to the first one the most, mainly because these kids could have been my sons. The flyweight division is up to 125 lbs. and they looked like they were still in high school. Well, actually yes, the amateur winner had to immediately leave to go to his prom. Apparently the limo was waiting, I hope he took a shower first. He had his parents there along with a bunch of friends, very exciting for him. Good thing the match wasn’t that long. He knocked out his opponent in the first round.

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What did I notice during the numerous fights we witnessed:

  • they make sure the cage is locked real tight, like they’re wild animals that might get let loose
  • the EMTs were very handsome
  • the fighting reminded me of all the wrestling matches I watched in high school (Go Canyon Comanches)
  • I liked it when the fighters bowed and greeted their opponents and used more of the eastern martial art techniques with lots of kicks
  • it seemed to be a pretty young crowd, lots of tattoos, shaved heads and beards, and lots and lots of muscles
  • they do cup checks and make sure there isn’t Vaseline rubbed on the shoulders
  • you can’t kick the groin, but you can kick the inner thighs
  • there was your typical T&A going on – the girls walking inside the cage announcing the round, and the vendor girls in skimpy shirts and undies, I mean shorts (shouldn’t there be guys walking around barely naked for the female fights, just saying, equal rights you know)
  • it was hard watching the match when there was a “ground and pound” move going on – one guy is basically sitting on top of the other and pounding his head
  • there’s a lot of guillotine chokeholds that are tried, many that end up getting called
  • it seems smart to use the fence to push off towards your opponent
  • it was a fun atmosphere, with random strangers talking to each other

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Again I will note that I have never seen a headline professional MMA match, even on television, and I hear they are much bloodier. But I felt the matches I saw were really quite civilized and not too brutal – which is why I really hate to watch boxing matches, to me they seem brutal. But as part of my journey, I’m trying to put myself in situations that may not always be comfortable. As a side note, I have also seen cock fighting matches in the Philippines. I know it is illegal in the U.S. and people have gone to jail for holding such fights, but in the Philippines it is part of the culture and is big business, with lots of gambling going on.

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For the most part, the fights we saw did not last long. Many were knockouts, the losing opponent tapping out (relinquished), or for the handful that lasted all three rounds, it was a unanimous decision. Oh, I forgot to explain, there are only three rounds of five minutes. I believe that championship matches last five rounds. Although a very amateur spectator myself, the matches did seem to increase in ability as the evening progressed. I was also told the professional guys later in the night are fighting harder to try and get picked up by the UFC or obtain sponsors. I do think the officials do a very good job of watching the fighters and calling the match to prevent any more injuries to the losing guy or gal.

 

I will say there was one match that was very scary, and it happened to be the one female title match. The two women both looked tough, and I would not want to get into an argument with either one. It soon was evident that one was better than the other. They lasted into the second round, when eventually there was a ground and pound maneuver. Soon the referee called it and as the winner got off the girl with the pink hair on the ground to celebrate, we saw pink girl’s feet to start uncontrollably shaking — she was having a seizure. As a spectator, it was pretty scary to watch helplessly as this is happening. And it seemed like a long time before the paramedics returned (They had left to take away someone who drank too much in the heat – isn’t it proper protocol to make sure there is another ambulance in place before you leave?) Finally, they got her onto a gurney, but the fighter in her was evident as pink girl fought to get out of those straps. Maybe it was an aftereffect of getting pounded and possibly a concussion, but you can tell that she did not want to go. I hope she is doing well.

 

***

You’ve got to hand it to these fighters. Like most sports that you are dedicated to, in MMA you too must concentrate full time if you are serious about competition. You can’t just have one coach or trainer, you need to be knowledgeable in many martial art styles.

 

Yes I had fun. Met some interesting people, including a law professor who you would not imagine to be an MMA fan and martial arts student. I liked that there was a DJ playing music which gave it a club-like atmosphere, which sounded like the music my kids listen too (profane lyrics and all, hey I like the beat). We also loved the variety of the players walk-up music, which ranged from soft country to hard core rap. All us legal-minded folks that I met thought it would be pretty cool if they played walk-up music in the courtrooms – when the judge walks in, attorney’s opening statements, when witnesses are introduced. Right? What would your personal walk-up song be?

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So by the time Silverback entered the cage, we had seen a full range of fights. And before you knew it, the match we had been waiting all day to see was over. Darkness had enveloped the outdoor arena, the crowd had gotten bigger, and there were people in the beer garden that had no plans of leaving. But we were tired, I had a big event the next morning, we were starving and hopefully something would be open along the road home. In MMA speak, we were tapping out, we had enough for one day.

 

Can I do that in my everyday life, tap out when I’ve had enough?

 

***

I’m surprised that I didn’t think the fights were that bad. I still haven’t seen a pro MMA fight on TV, which everyone tells me are pretty bloody. Maybe I would think differently if blood was splattered all over the mat. I do think you have to be not only skilled in many forms of martial arts, but smart enough to figure out which technique to use when. That’s what makes you a champion. My opinion after one day of fights — it seems rules have been put in place to keep fighters from getting damaged too much. The girl having a seizure was still frightening, and the ground and pound sequences made me want to run in and stop them; it’s a good thing the refs do so. And afterwards, the camaraderie amongst the fighters seemed pretty strong.

 

Like all sports, you respect your opposition and can learn from them. It’s like life, when you get beat down, take it as a learning experience and figure out what went wrong and try not to repeat. Some of us learn from those life lessons, others don’t and make the same mistakes over and over again. We’re all on the same team, with coaches trained by different experiences. Each can give you advice. Take the relevant advice, play smart, and fight like hell. You’ll always come out the winner.

 

(At this time, I would like to thank all of my life coaches…you have helped me create such extraordinary experiences.)

 

***

There’s one more story I want to share. Earlier this week, I saw a story about a Filipino MMA fighter named Mike Pantangco, who in an amateur fight in Michigan was clearly beating his opponent. In order to prevent further physical damage to that opponent, Pantangco decided to tap out, conceding the match. He was concerned about the safety of his opponent, because hey, they’re amateurs, no one gets paid to get beat up. They’re not all out there brutally destroying someone else for fun. It’s like when our baseball teams play another team who are making tons of errors, can’t hit and you’re winning 15-0 — it’s not fun for either team. That is sportsmanship, and Pantangco is the winner in my book. Apparently, Manny Pacquiao did something similar in his career too. See the story at: https://ph.sports.yahoo.com/news/pinoy-mma-fighter-taps-out-to-save-opponent-from-getting-seriously-hurt-044321079-mma.html

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Notebook:

Gracie Jiu Jitsu La Jolla, 7598 Eads Ave., La Jolla, 858.454.5345, http://www.graciejiu-jitsulajolla.com/

San Marcos Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Silverback Competition Team, 456 E. Mission Road, San Marcos, 619.550.9884, http://www.sanmarcosbrazilianjiujitsu.com/

Xpolde Fight Series – www.xplodefightseries.com

Week 24: Face It

I look in the mirror, smile, then start counting wrinkles around my eyes. I make a bigger smile, one that I really would look silly doing in public, and check if it creates more wrinkles. Then I notice a few more gray hairs sprouting at my temples, and one sticking out from my right side, I pluck it. Something about turning 50 and all of a sudden I’m worried about looking older.

 

We all do it, right? I know it’s not just me. It’s funny because as I look at my kids who are now both in high school, I think back to when I was their age, when we all wanted to look older. In high school, I wore so much more makeup and hair product than I do now, oh and heels when going out. Yikes. I decided to wear heels to the Taste of the Triangle and my feet are still killing me — and that’s almost two weeks ago.

 

So what did I do this past weekend? Got a facial.

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Yes, getting a facial was on my original 50 Weeks to 50 list. A very typical thing to do, but I never had. Now I love going to spas and I have my Massage Envy membership, but I have never actually gotten a facial. And it was about time. I mean really, I’m almost 50. So, my friend Sharon and I went to the About You Day Spa and Salon in Solana Beach for a two-hour massage/facial combo package. (Amy, we’ll get you there.) We had our handy dandy Groupon that was expiring, and it was Mother’s Day weekend. Us mommas needed some of that pampering.

 

I won’t go into the massage part too much, since I’ve received lots of those in many places around the world (including on the beach in the Philippines for less than $10, and a real Thai massage in Thailand where they stand over you moving limbs all over the place and massage your chest – yup). Because paying a guy to touch your naked body and rub oil all over you…and it’s legal too, what else can I say about getting massages. So as I’m laying on the massage table, soothing music playing in the background, the aesthetician comes in to perform the facial. Now the facial is an hour long too, so I wasn’t really sure what was to be done. Well, let me tell ya, I think my facial was much more relaxing than my massage.

 

She pulls back my hair with a hair band, and starts to tell me about all the different creams, masks, scrubs and stuff that she’s going to put on my face. But I soon forget it all as she starts to massage my face. In all the massages I’ve had, I don’t recall anyone ever massaging my face, scalp yes, but face no. And it felt goood. Between creams and masks, those oh so relaxing hot towels are placed on my face and neck. I guess the hot towels help open up your pores and that is good for absorbing whatever type of moisturizer is being used. Which I guess would be a good reason to hit the steam room at the gym.

 

At one point she uses that rotating brush thingy to exfoliate my skin. I actually enjoyed that scrubbing feeling. It reminds me of when getting your teeth cleaned and they scrub your teeth with gritty paste using a circular brush, like that. I know, I’m weird. And more hot towels, love it! Then she uses some large skin looking glass, to find any blemishes, and it felt like she was scraping them off. It didn’t hurt though. She tells me I have tight pores. It’s good to be tight.

 

After one last facial massage and cream, I’m left to just relax. I think I actually nodded off, suddenly jolting myself awake at the first sign of a snore. I was so relaxed. And my skin…it did feel very smooth. No really, touch it…not there, touch my face.

 

The aesthetician comments that I don’t even need to put make-up on when I go out that night. Let’s not go that far.

 

***

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Why do we worry about how we look? If we look younger, do we somehow think we will live longer? When I get home, I look in the mirror some more telling myself maybe I don’t need make-up. Ehh, I put some on anyway. But I do like this facial thing. I start to look through my bathroom drawers for all those skin treatment samples I get whenever there’s a giveaway at the Clinique counter. Maybe I should use those products and start a bedtime skin treatment routine. Nah, that seems like too much work. I never even take off make-up at night, and yes for some of you that probably sounds disgusting. I’ll just have to make sure to get facials on a regular basis, it’s part of the aging process.

***

aubreyrosewelcome

Although not part of my original blog topic, I will talk a little about Mother’s Day and my mom. We had a lovely time taking afternoon tea at the Aubrey Rose Tea Room in La Mesa. (I love afternoon tea.) Everything was delicious (the spring squash soup was divine, and the lemon lavender scone was scrumptious), we had a nice cozy corner table surrounded by cute rose covered tea things, and all the women there (I only counted two men) were having a glorious time. But as I was looking at photos of my mom that day, she really does look great for her age. We all age differently, but if I can age as beautifully as my mom, well that would be just fine with me. And she’s beautiful on the inside too.

 

Face it ladies, and gents, no matter how beautiful you are on the outside (and depending on whoever’s definition of beauty you are using), beauty from within is what’s most lasting. Internal beauty will keep you young at heart.

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***

Notebook: About You Day Spa and Salon, 983D Lomas Santa Fe Dr, Solana Beach, 858.792.7143, www.aboutudayspa.com. Our Groupon deal for massage and facial was $99. Go on the website for rates and services. A variety of monthly specials are offered.

Aubrey Rose Tea Room, 8362 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, 619.461.4832, www.theaubreyrosetearoom.com. Open Wednesday – Saturday, Sundays on Mother’s Day and in December, check website for times. Assorted tea menu options available. Private parties for groups of 40 or more.

*Not too many photos this week. I forgot to ask them to take pics while I was getting a facial, I was too relaxed to remember. I tried to take a selfie of me that night without make-up, but I must have messed up that rotation option on my phone.

 

 

Week 23: Who Dunnit?

Hiding behind her tears of sorrow, was a woman who was distraught over the untimely execution of her husband, or was she? Her now late husband, the esteemed Mayor Topdraw, was made to look like he planned a murder against known shyster Fast Frank; then was killed himself legally by the town executioner, Mr. Guillotine. The Mayor had already gasped his last breath of air before the townsfolk realized his death was a mistake, he himself had been framed. But by who? Could everyone have been so blind? Was the Mayor totally innocent? Who wanted Fast Frank dead? Who would benefit from their deaths, financially and emotionally? Who framed Mayor Topdraw?

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***

Those were the questions we had to answer one cool night during The Murder Mystery Company’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”  mystery dinner show at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Going to a crime solving dinner show was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, something I had never done before, plus I bought a Groupon. You know how I love those Groupons, and it was one that I would actually use before the expiration date. This time I took my friend Marie, who also had never been to a mystery dinner. She deserved a night out after working a long and grueling tax season.

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And wouldn’t you know it, Marie had to work at the show — she was tapped to play the role as Pearl de Vere, the fashion shop owner, aka the Madame. That’s what happens when you sit at the end of the booth. Yes, Marie the Madame was the local brothel owner, and had a bevy of women at another table who all worked for her. And what a lively group of broads they were, not sure how many tequila shots they had throughout the night, but they were having a grand ole time.

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Marie did a great job of acting. She kept wearing the frilly hat given to her, and she hates hats, and spoke in a southern accent, which mixed real well with her natural Philly tongue. She was given a binder of instructions, which gave her information about her character and helped her answer questions from the other guests trying to solve the murder mystery. Our team, which included a nice young college couple that were seated across from us, was given information that only we knew about Miss Pearl. Yes, secrets…but if anyone were to ask the right questions…Marie was supposed to answer the truth. Which meant we needed to figure out answer provoking types of questions for the other characters.

 

Who else were the characters being played? Besides Marie and her gals, plus the already mentioned Mayor Topdraw, Fast Frank and Mr. Guillotine, there was Sandy Crack, the town reporter; Jeremy Irons, blacksmith; Doc Klutz, the doctor who was vacationing from another town; Miss Ann Tique, the Mayor’s widow and school teacher; Cam Pain, the town treasurer; Dee Frog, detective; Miss BeeHave, saloon dancer; Bonnie N. Clyde, event organizer; the Little Tijuana tribe table; and Dicky Quick or Quickie Dick – whatever his name was. Not sure what his role was supposed to be, he was just in and out.

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The actual “murders” happen early on in the evening, and you spend the time between dinner courses going around asking the other characters questions. Some played their roles really well, while others had the I can’t believe my wife dragged me here look. Many of the guests also dressed up in cowboy hats, and period looking dresses with a feather boa here and there. I grabbed my red flannel shirt that I wore to my high school Sadie Hawkins dance. Yes, I still have it, it’s sentimental…who did I go with?

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So what did we learn? Well, the scuttlebug was that: the Mayor was having an affair with Miss BeeHave; Jeremy Irons received a letter, forged as if from Mayor Topdraw, telling him to replace the blank bullets in the Dick’s gun with the real ones that killed Fast Frank; the Mayor built his house on land owned by Little Tijuana and he had not paid them in full; Ann Tique would inherit the Mayor’s estate in full; Bonnie N. Clyde used to date Fast Frank; Cam Pain becomes the new Mayor and felt that Sandy Crack was two-faced; Fast Frank had killed the Doc’s wife in another town; and only a few townsfolk could read and write. What else did we secretly know? That our own Marie, Pearl de Vere, was a forger and disliked Fast Frank for using her girls’ services without payment. Hmm…

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The event host, aka the Sheriff, also had to remind characters when it was time to inform the group of relevant information to help solve the mystery. I’ve probably divulged enough (did I sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement?); I wouldn’t want to give it all away for those who want to attend a future show of the same theme. But when it was time to prepare our submission of who dunnit, we decided to play against the odds and pick a longshot — our own Pearl de Vere. Hey, she had motive and was a forger. No one else seemed to suspect her. And since there was supposedly a $10 million prize, we didn’t want to share. What did I learn about trying to solve a mystery? Be direct with your questions, and the most obvious suspect is most likely the actual culprit. So did you figure out who the killer is? (Comment if you’d like.)

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Overall, we had a roaring good time. There was activity, we met some very nice people, and heck, The Spaghetti Factory’s spaghetti with meat sauce and Mizithra cheese has always been my favorite! We would love to come back for another theme, with a group of fun-loving friends who get the sexual innuendos.

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***

You know what’s fun about playing roles in situations like the Murder Mystery show, you get to reinvent yourself. Even if just for a little while, you get to be someone different. In life and in play, are you living in your own reality show? Do people see who you really are, or are you in character? Are you pretending, or being true to yourself? Can one person play multiple roles and be comfortable in all of them?

 

Even the questions you may or may not ask can give you insight to answer your personal doubts. And are you direct with your questions, maybe you don’t want to know the answer? Some facts you ignore and some you give more weight, possibly because that’s what you want to believe. And sometimes when you find the answers, you then realize those answers were right there all along. Why did you miss the clues?

 

Maybe life is meant to played like an ongoing puzzle. With new clues to its mystery being found everyday. It’s the journey that counts right? We may never really solve the puzzle, but we might as well have fun trying!

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Notebook:

The Murder Mystery Company, www.themurdermysterycompany.com, 888.643.2583 (CLUE), tickets $60 each (find a Groupon), in San Diego the Wanted Dead or Alive theme is scheduled through August. They will also hold private events with themes such as: Crime and Pun-ishment, A Dance with Death, The Most Wonderful Crime of the Year, Murder at the Masquerade, Now You See It Now You Don’t, Of Sound Mind and Dead Body, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, and Totally 80’s Totally Murder.
The Old Spaghetti Factory, www.osf.com, 619.233.4323, San Diego Gaslamp location at 275 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, 92101, murders held at the upstairs Dussini Loft Bar area. Delicious food at a great price.