Week 31: A Mixed Bag

Sometimes a week can unexpectedly provide a few fun firsts. This was one of those weeks.

 fabfair

Fab Fair Four

Thursday, the 3rd of July. Who’s really working this day? Apparently hardly anyone, therefore our office decided to lock up shop midday. What to do with this extra time — go to the San Diego Fair! I hadn’t been in ages, probably close to a decade, and my co-worker Rosey hadn’t been yet this season, so what the heck, we were going to the Fair.

 

Going to the Fair was somewhat on my 50 Weeks list, primarily because I’ve never tried those oh so bad for you fried foods. Like I mentioned, the last time I had been to the Fair was years ago, and when I did go it was to take my little boys to the kiddie section. We had never ventured into the adult areas, with all the vendors, exhibits, and food stalls (lots and lots of food stalls). I ended up doing a few firsts while there.

fairoxybar

Oxygen Bar. I had seen ads about oxygen bars in places like Los Angeles and New York, but thought really? A place to go pay to inhale oxygen, don’t we get it for free? Well, there was an oxygen bar at the Fair, and we were waiting around for one of the bands to start, so I thought what the heck, I’ve never done that before. The guy manning the bar gave me the spiel, it’s one of the healthiest things to do at the Fair, it’s 92% pure oxygen, and refreshes you from the inside. Also note, this guy only started doing this for the Fair, so what he’s telling me is from what was told to him. But, it was only $7 for 12 minutes, so what the heck, tube me up.

 

I get to pick the color tube I want (you keep it for a souvenir I guess) — green, and he showed me how to loop it around my ears and to place the inserts into my nostrils. It’s then connected to the machine that has four different scents that you can pick – one, or mix and match. You can adjust the scents as you please throughout the 12 minutes. You smell the different flavors because the oxygen is bubbled through the bottles before getting to your nose. I start off with Sex on the Beach (no comments please), which contains various fruit extracts and is described as “euphoric, sensual, exotic.” Then I add some Beach flavor which is wisteria and is to be “visualizing, exotic, relaxing.” After a few minutes, I thought might as well throw in some Mango Madness and give me an “exotically sweet and invigorating” flavor too. Wow, as I breath in through my nose, and exhale through my mouth (very yoga like), it feels like there’s a party in my nose.

fairoxybottles  fairoxyjemma

I enjoyed breathing in that combination of flavors. I wonder if I could just sit at one of these machines and breath in chocolate, or potato chip flavors — would that take away my cravings for such foods? Maybe it could be a whole new diet fad, breath your way to weight loss! It did feel refreshing, and gave me a short boost of energy, but I didn’t feel any real lasting effects. Maybe I needed more oxygen, who knows. Maybe visiting the animal pens and breathing in their aromas right after may have negated the benefits of my visit to the oxygen bar…

 fairpearl

Pearl for a Jem. One of the many vendors we passed by in the huge exhibit halls was the AM Import Pearl booth, where you can pick your own oyster and keep the pearl inside for $12.95. Again, what the heck. Rosey was very excited about this booth and she studiously looked at the oysters, found the ugliest one and pulled it out. It produced a beautiful pearl with a bluish tint. She had the touch, so she poked around looking for one for me, and I selected a pretty pitiful looking one too. After opening, getting doused with salt, rubbed shiny, I too had a beautiful silver blue pearl, with an estimated value of $69. That was the first time I ever got a pearl from it’s source. How special. Should I find a ring setting for it, or maybe wear it as a necklace?

 fairskyride

Skyway Jitters. One of the prominent attractions at the Fair is the Skyway ride which takes you from the middle of all the food vendors to the depths of the Kiddie Zone. It looked like a nice leisure ride which would save us a bit of walking on the way to the other side of the Fair, since we got a round trip pass. And again I had never gone on that ride, plus it would give us a great view of the Fair and oncoming sunset. So up we go and it’s like a ski lift, so the seats come around, scoops you up, the attendant drops down the bar and you’re lifted into the sky. What a great view, I’m taking pictures left and right. This is pretty cool. I’m trying to make sure I don’t lose my phone (anyone make me a phone neck holder yet?), and therefore not holding on to the bar. I then notice the sign on the back of the seat ahead of us which warns riders to sit up straight and hold on to the bar. Hmm, I start to think, if I start relaxing too much and slouch would I fall underneath the bar, would the crowd below catch me? I then grab the bar and hold on. I did manage to take a few pictures.

 fairtopview  fairskycrowds

Food. Food. Food. Okay, the real reason I wanted to go to the Fair was to give myself yet another excuse to eat unhealthy, fatty, but ohh so yummy food. Those TV news stories about the newest deep fried something are always so tempting. I finally get to partake. Yes, this was on my 50 Weeks list. So much to choose, where should we go first?

 fairnavtaco

We hadn’t had lunch, so I start off with a Navajo Taco, which is beans, chili, lettuce, cheese and salsa on Indian Fry Bread. Rosey started with a corn dog. We each had a little bit of each, which was plenty. We were stuffed, but we couldn’t help but notice what others folks were eating, and thinking we should get some of that. To walk some of it off we head into the exhibit halls, where I notice a mini donut stand. It was so cute, their mini donut machines frying the donuts right in front of you. I love watching those machines, the dough is dropped in the hot oil in a perfect donut shape. They bobble along until they get to the turning thig-a-ma-jig, they halt for a second then they are plopped on to the other side. The donuts bobble along a little more until they are pulled out and sprinkled with sugar. Now that is an invention! I refrain and only get a half dozen as a quick treat to tide us over til later.

 fairminidonuts

Sooner, rather than later, we decide it’s time for Rosey’s Fair craving — funnel cake! You’ve got to love fried dough (that’s really the gist of fair food). Covered with strawberries and whipped cream, what a sweet delight. We were tempted to get a bacon maple donut, but that would have sent me to the emergency room (or at least to a nice comfy bed for a nap). Afterwards we walk over to the Paddock area and wait for the band and get a Happy Hour beverage. We run into one of our favorite elementary school teachers, Shawn Nelson, who along with her friend Debra, sit with us and rest our feetsies. (Shawn took the oxygen bar photos.) After we parted, Rosey and I look for more food finds. We almost got some fried cheese curds, but after a sample from some guy who just got some, our taste buds decided naw. We did find the stall that makes deep fried Twinkies and Oreos – an order of each please! Twinkles, ehh a little too sweet; Oreos – YES!

 fairfunnelcake  fairbacondonut

fairfoodoreostwinkies

It was soon time for us to leave, so we gathered a few things to take to go. Rosey: a huge turkey leg wrapped with a pound of bacon, yours for only $20. Me: chocolate covered bacon (after tasting I felt the chocolate drowns the bacon flavor), and Mackinac Island chocolate nut fudge – which makes a delicious breakfast with a cold glass of milk.

 fairturkeyleg  fairchocbacon

It was an impromptu Fair visit, so we didn’t have time to plan much, because afterwards I realized there was a lot we missed which would have given me a few more firsts. Plus we should go in a group of four to share the treats. There’s always next year.

 fairbaconsign

Water Play at Waterfront Park

Saturday night, post holiday. What to do, what to do? My friend Gigi was hungry, and we were both in the mood for seafood. I suggested a drive downtown to grab fish and chips at Anthony’s Fishette. Off we went, took a while to find parking (I forget we live in a tourist town), and next thing you know we’re munching away. The night is still young, so what the heck, we walk a number of blocks towards Extraordinary Desserts, another fave. We each get desserts to die for, with boxes to go. We take a different route on the way back to our car, which takes us along the south side of the new Waterfront Park at the county building. We decide to take a look, since we have never seen it. First off, it’s just so much nicer than the huge concrete parking lot that was there previously, as all parking is now underground.

 waterfrontpark

We immediately are entranced by the evening lights with the historic county building looming in the center of the park. Then what do I see in front of me — shallow pools with splashing fountains along the edge. I can’t resist. The fountains are dragging me in to come and play — “Jemma, come in the water and play with us.” I’ve always loved running through sprinklers, and these were just as fun. The water was very shallow (no chance of drowning here) and was very refreshing on this humid night. A little boy joined me and dared me to put my entire body underneath the fountain. Although I was tempted, the practical side of me remembered that I didn’t have a towel with me and didn’t want to soak Gigi’s car. And as the sun was setting with the historic Star of India sailing ship resting on the San Diego Harbor, I had to be thankful once again to live where I do.

 waterplayboy

Playing in the Waterfront Park that night reminded me that aging doesn’t mean you can’t have some kid-like fun. The simple joys you found as children are always within you. Let the kid in you out every once in a while. You’ll be a happier adult.

 watership

Ticket for One Please

Sunday afternoon. No plans. Empty house. I had been wanting to see the movie Jersey Boys (then plan to follow-up by watching the play), and going to see a movie by myself was actually on my 50 Weeks list, so what the heck, the time is now. I search my handy dandy Fandango app, Jersey Boys was showing at my local AMC (the one with the leather recliners) in 45 minutes, so I click the buy tab – one ticket.

 movies

I finish up the laundry, grab myself and off I went. I have just enough time to get popcorn and butter thoroughly. I had picked an aisle seat in advance which I plopped myself down in, pressed the button to recline all the way back, and the previews begin. The theatre was full, and I looked like the youngest person there. I loved the movie and all the music. I did have the urge to start singing along at times, and to get up and dance. Do you think they will come out with a sing-a-long version? I would have to go with a group of friends for that one.

 

Although most of you know that I’m a social, people-person, going to a movie by myself wasn’t that bad. I didn’t have to compromise on the movie I wanted to see, I left when I was ready, and most importantly — I got to watch all the credits at the end without feeling like I was holding up the rest of my group. Yes, I would do this again.

 

What did I learn? It’s not a big deal to do stuff by yourself. Now I have done some things by myself, primarily on business trips, where eating alone and reading paperwork felt normal. And I have actually vacationed by myself (only once) during college when researching for a Cultural Anthropology paper. Plus I’ve done a few 50 Weeks activities by myself (meditation center, homeless shelter, colonics). You can be alone and not be lonely. A good thing to learn, as my kids are growing up and will be off to college soon enough. Although for retirement, I have discussed the idea of communal living with some girlfriends, like our version of the Golden Girls.

 

It’s also a good learning experience to know that you don’t need to rely on others to enjoy what you want to do. Does this make us selfish? I guess it depends on the person, but if you are happy with yourself and with what you are doing, then I would think it makes you a happier person when you’re around the people you love, who in turn want to spend more time with you. Does that make sense? You can still share experiences with those you care about, without actually doing them together. There is joy in sharing. Quite frankly, those you love may not always want to do the same things as you, but that’s what makes each other interesting, we’re not all the same.

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San Diego County Fair (the Del Mar fair to me), www.sdfair.com. The Fair, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, starts early June to the weekend of 4th of July. The 2015 theme is Planes/Aircraft. (The Del Mar Racing season starts soon!)

 

Waterfront Park, located at the San Diego County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, 92101. http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/parks/Waterfrontpark.html. Park hours are from 6:00am to 10:00pm. When we were there, it was $20 for underground parking. Drive around and you can usually find a spot, if you don’t mind walking.

 

AMC Theatres, www.amctheatres.com. AMC La Jolla, 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, 92037. It was recently announced that AMC will be installing recliner seats in all its theatres. Get the Fandango app to easily buy tickets.

Week 30: Wax On, Wax Off…Ouch!

Before we go on, there are some subjects that can be considered TMI (too much information) for some of you folks, especially to my male readers — all one of you. You know who you are, so thank you for your loyal support, but you can stop reading now if you’d like. Otherwise, remember I warned you.

 

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Okay, it’s bikini season (a one-piece for me)…therefore, yes I got a Bikini Wax. Not a big deal, but again, it was something I had never done and which was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list. I had been thinking about doing this for months, years really, and every time I would think about it I would laugh. Because it seems so silly. Why should I bother, who’s going to see? Don’t answer that. Plus I wanted to spend more time at the beach this summer, and I didn’t want to be constantly looking at my pelvic area to make sure no stray hairs were sticking out. Am I the only one that does that?

 

But again, this year long journey of mine is about trying new things, and waxing my lower regions would be a new experience for me. Occasionally, I do get my eyebrows waxed and I started only after getting my eyebrow virginity broken by the best — Anastasia from Beverly Hills (yes, I am name dropping), who has worked on many celebs — courtesy of my sister’s connections at Orange Coast Magazine (thanks Linda Goldstein). Now I get mine done through Anastasia’s locally trained affiliates in La Jolla at the Brow Lounge (I go to Annie), a short walk away from my office. I remember that getting my eyebrows waxed made such a difference in how I looked, that I wondered would that make my genitalia pretty too.

bikini 

By now, you all know how much I love my Groupon and Living Social deals. Well, there was a Groupon available to get a Bikini Wax done at Our Little Secret Salon & Beauty Bar, also in La Jolla. After thinking about it and laughing to myself while picturing in my mind what they are going to do to my very private parts, I figured what the heck, it’s just a Bikini Wax, not a full Brazilian where everything is waxed off.

 

I buy the Groupon (only $17) and I log onto their website and make an appointment for the next day. Boy that was easy; now I can’t chicken out, I’ve paid the money. And I was so busy at the office the next day, I had no time to think about it. I had to hurry up after work and get to the hidden salon.

OLS

When they named it Our Little Secret, they meant it. The salon is tucked away in a very nondescript shopping center off Mt. Soledad Road that blends in so nicely with the surrounding community, you would have thought it some homes. I’ve driven by there many times in the past and never noticed it. My appointment was with esthetician Kelly, who was waiting for me and ready to go. I let her know this was my very first time getting a Bikini wax ever — I was a virgin.

 

Kelly was very nice, explained that I need to take off only my pants, place the towel over me, and I could keep my panties on for a Bikini wax. Really, because I was ready to take them off. When you’ve given birth with doctors and nurses coming in and out of your room looking at the lower regions, showing those parts to strangers doesn’t seem like a big deal…well for medical type reasons…I mean, I wouldn’t show them to some random stranger…what do you think of me…don’t answer that.

 

Anyhoo, Kelly and I were discussing the procedure and she mentioned I didn’t look that bad. Why thank you Kelly. Embarrassingly I explained that I had attempted to pluck my own hairs, but it was taking forever. Plus, I was always worried that one of my sons would walk in on me (because they haven’t learned the knocking thing yet), and what kind of explanation would I give them.

 

Before you know it, Kelly was applying wax along the sides of my mound, and whoosh, pulled off the strips. I had a delayed reaction because we were chatting away, then it hit me. Okay, ouch, stings a little, but not too much. For some reason I thought it would be worse than childbirth. But, no it was fine, yes Kelly go on and wax away my pubes. And before you know it, my Bikini wax experience was over. It took less than 15 minutes.

OLS Kelly 

Not so bad. I may have to try the full Brazilian next time. If I do, I’ll be sure not to let you know. But apparently Kelly says more women come in getting a Brazilian than the Bikini. Or I could meet in the middle and get a landing strip wax – a landing strip for who? The after effects of my first waxing experience was minimal, just some redness which oils and lotions helped relieve. The pain was hardly worth all the time I spent getting worried about it. Soon afterwards, I was off shopping.

 

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After all that, no big deal. So ladies, if you’ve thought about waxing down there and was worried about the pain, just do it. OLS can even host parties, shall we have a waxing party? But the things we do for so-called “beauty.” Who ever thought of waxing off our pubic hairs in the first place? Probably some man. And the Brazilian, did some Brazilian man think of that? Did they think of Brazilian Blow Outs too? Who gets that job?

 

Now I get the “I don’t want hair in my mouth” thing, but then male partners should reciprocate don’t you think? Guys can get some manscaping done, and get a wax around their private parts. Let’s see who’s crying in pain. And think about it, that if your partner wants you all bare down there, isn’t that a little creepy. I mean, then he prefers a pubescent look. What, does he have child molester tendencies? Or trying to live out virgin type fantasies? Weirdo.

 

Again, it’s the ongoing debate over what is considered beautiful. All vaginas are beautiful, hair or no hair. Ladies, you are all beautiful, inside and out…including your lower regions. Who gets to decide what is beautiful — each of you, for yourself? Celebrate the beauty of your vagina (and control of it too). Do I need to start a Jemma’s Beauty blog, and tell it how it is? The beauty brands wouldn’t like me very much then, because I would probably say why spend your money on such things, go spend it on feeding starving children. But again, here I am getting sucked in by my own curiosity and spending money on such things. I do have a nicely trimmed triangle now, want to see…no, not you! Wait, what’s that…is that a gray…okay, Brazilian next time.

 

When you think about it, if doing such beauty treatments makes you feel more beautiful on the outside, then your increased self-esteem makes you feel better on the inside. Right after my wax, a friend saw me driving down the street and texted me that I looked real happy. I texted back (not while driving) that “I just got a bikini wax!” Ahh, the little things that make us happy.

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The Brow Lounge, 933 Silverado Street, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.459.9800, http://www.browlounge.net. They are known for their brow shaping. Other services are waxing, skin treatments, make-up, and spray tans.

Our Little Secret Salon & Beauty Bar (OLS), 6437 Caminito Blythefield, Suite A, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.454.7444, www.ourlittlesecretsd.com

Bikini Wax regularly priced at $35, Landing Strip $45, and Brazilian $50. Besides all types of waxing, OLS is a full service salon (for men and women) and offers make-up application, eyelash extensions, facials, spray tanning, and hair services – cuts, styles, coloring, updo, and blow outs. Membership packages available. OLS Happy Hour specials each day – check website for info.

OLS can also add a Vajazzle or body art if you get a Brazilian – that is a design element down there. OLS Vajazzle designs use Swarovski crystals, and high quality glitter for the body art. Perfect for that special private occasion, or Friday nights.

If any men are still reading this, wasn’t this very informative? I try to provide a pubic service.

 

Week 29: Boy, that’s for Dam big!

No, that’s not what she said. I’m talking about the Dam, you know the Hoover Dam. It’s that big man made thing that helps save water and creates power for places like…Southern California.

 

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You know how there are those places that you always say to yourself, ok next time we visit so and so we’ll go there. Well, everytime I visit Las Vegas I tell myself that the Hoover Dam should be on the agenda. This past week, I made sure I did. Visiting the Hoover Dam was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, and darn it, I was going to visit the damn Dam!

 

I was in Vegas for business, no really, for the week. My parents had tagged along too. We decided to stay an extra day and take the time to visit the Dam, which was only about 30 minutes away. And if you’ve ever ventured away from the Las Vegas Strip, the rest of the area is well like…most other communities — new housing developments arising, strip malls, baseball fields, freeways. You know you are close by the Dam when you exit off the freeway and Dam tourist souvenir stores start to spring up. And the streets are lined with fast food establishments. I was tempted to stop by the A&W restaurant since we don’t have any in San Diego.

 

There’s a short curvy road you take from Boulder City to the Dam, and I notice that they have their own police station which looked to have a pretty large presence. I assume it’s to prevent anyone from causing major damage to the Dam, because that would be a major domestic terrorist attack. You then notice all the electrical poles, then you turn a corner and there’s the Dam.

dam2

We pay the $10 to park in the parking garage (where else are we supposed to park), and as we step outside our comfortable air-conditioned car, are immediately greeted by the dry, hot desert air. I don’t know how Vegas folks stand the heat. I guess you get use to it. We hurriedly get into an elevator (the theme of the visit) from the garage to the street level, so that we can take an escalator down to the Visitor Center and get back into someplace with air conditioning.

 

The longer Dam tour where you get to wear hard hats wasn’t available by the time we get there (I was in seminars all morning, so we arrived in the afternoon), and we have to settle for the shorter Dam Powerplant Tour, which lasts about 45 minutes including a short film documenting the water reclamation reasons for having a Dam, and building of the Dam itself. It was actually very interesting, and we learned that construction took five years, which was two years ahead of schedule, and it created Lake Mead, the largest man made lake in the U.S. They had to build smaller dams and diversion tunnels prior to the big Dam, one of the dams is still buried in the water. Being built during the Depression era, the project helped boost the economy too, and helped develop the surrounding communities. After the film, we are lined up to wait for a large elevator to take the whole group down, down into the Dam facilities. Each group is about 40-50 people, tours run constantly, so lots of people come to visit. I hear many dialects and foreign languages, so it’s a pretty popular Dam destination — being one of the top manmade wonders of the world.

 

Our tour guide is informative and funny. I think a pre-requisite must be a sense of humor if you want to work in this Dam place. As we are packed in like pickles in these elevators, our guide warns us that all those with cameras “can take all the Dam pictures you want.” Boy, people really like to play with that Dam word.

daminside

After the elevator takes us down 530 feet into the rock wall of Black Canyon, we exit into a tunnel that leads to a small glass enclosed room that overlooks a massive 30-foot-diameter pipe, which carries water from Lake Mead to the Dam hydroelectric generators. Apparently 90,000 gallons of water each second. Wow, that’s a lot of water surging underneath us. I’m thinking if there’s some major earthquake or fluke underground flash flood — we’re gone.

damtunnel

We also see some maps detailing the floor plans, showing that the two sides of the Dam facility are identical. Now, for some reason I never realized that the Nevada/Arizona border runs through the middle of the Dam. So they refer to the Dam Nevada side and the Dam Arizona side. We are then lined up one by one to head back into the elevator, and counted twice. I feel like I’m a kid on a field trip.

daminside2

After a short elevator ride we walk through a longer tunnel to the viewing balcony overlooking the room housing the powerplant generators on the Dam Nevada side. You get a nice view of the 650-foot long room and its eight generators, each marked atop with the initial of the state the power is designated for. I love the design of the terrazzo floors, so art deco. After way too many Dam generator pictures, we are once again lined up along the long tunnel rock tunnel, counted twice, and wait for the elevator to arrive. We notice some water leaking down on some areas of the tunnel walls; there’s not going to be an outburst of water through a crack is there, I wonder.

dammuseum

Once back in the elevator, we end the tour at the visitor center, which has a small but informative exhibit hall and an outdoor viewing area overlooking the Dam. Inside the exhibit hall, you learn many facts about construction and use of the Dam. The official death count of those who died during construction is 96, but that number doesn’t include deaths from pneumonia. And although the government says no bodies are buried there, you have to wonder due to the nature of some of those deaths, it’s a gruesome thought.

dam5

Up on the outdoor observation deck, you get a view of the Dam and its grand concrete wall. When they built the Dam, they had to pour smaller 5-foot square concrete blocks with a cooling pipe in the middle of each in order for the concrete to set — otherwise if they would have poured it all together, it would have taken 125 years for the Dam concrete to cool down. How different would our lives be without that innovation of a cooling pipe?

dam3

I took my share of Dam pictures, but I was so worried that I was going to drop my phone down the Dam side, I probably could have taken some with better angles. I would have been lost without my phone. My phone has become so damn important in my life. I wish there was some sort of contraption that holds my phone around my neck for these picture taking purposes — can someone design one for me please. I guess I can design one myself, and mass market and sell it too. I can go on Shark Tank. Okay, I’m getting off topic.

dam2

Let’s see, oh yes, you can then leave the visitor center and walk out on the Dam itself. You see the older visitor center and Dam towers. I love the art deco artwork on the structures. And I didn’t think about it until just now, but I should have taken a picture with my legs straddling the border of Arizona and Nevada — Dam it! And you can’t miss the bronzed Winged Figures of the Republic. Apparently if you rub the toes of the figures, it’s good luck. You do have to pay tribute to those who developed the idea for the Dam, constructed the Dam, and died at the Dam. If the Dam wasn’t built, how would the landscape look like in places like Southern California without the water and power. You don’t want to dwell on the “what ifs” but we can be thankful for the many pioneers before us.

 

When you think about it, many sacrifices have been made for us to have the lives we have today. In the 1930s, when the Dam was built, people were willing to take on such dangerous jobs because they were in the middle of the Depression and wanted a better life for their families. Even our ancestors sacrificed in coming to a new country in the first place. Whether from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, they sacrificed to give us all better lives in the United States. Today there are also many occupations that sacrifice for the benefit of others — police, firemen, military, miners, and more — we can’t thank them enough.

 

Not that everyone should have a dangerous job, but what are we doing in our lives to help benefit future generations, or in the simple sense, to help others. It’s not always about us and it’s not always about the present. When the future is taken care of, the present is so much brighter.

 

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Well, I’ve seen the Dam, and damn glad I did. Check that off the list. What I also didn’t think about until now, is that we could have taken Dam tours from the water. There are apparently lots of vendors that will provide your group with river and lake cruises, or rafting trips — next time. Then there’s helicopter tours too…ugh, I won’t go there. I will say that I’ve always thought that living in Vegas would be hard because of the heat. But the river and its surrounding communities aren’t that far away from Vegas and its jobs…

 

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For Hoover Dam info: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/index.html

Week 28: The Happiest Place on Earth

I have been to Disneyland many, many times. Come on…I grew up in Anaheim Hills. Everybody loved to come visit us, and after a while my parents would say, “here are the directions, have a nice time.” I remember my Grad Nite where we (yes me too) rented tuxedos to wear for the heck of it. As a teen, we would go to the theme parks to go dancing (Knott’s Berry Farm had a great teen club deal too). We even went to Disneyland in college. Afterwards, when dating my future husband, we both played hookie from work and had a day at Disneyland (don’t tell O’Melveny).

 

Later when we moved to San Diego and my boys were young, annual passes were a staple. It helped that one of my sisters lived in Orange – cheap accommodations. Then, who cared if you took a day off from preschool or elementary. In elementary school we even visited Disneyland and California Adventure with one of our favorite teachers (not on a school day).

grad nite bus before

So when the high school was asking for volunteers to chaperone the annual senior Grad Nite trip to Disneyland…well, ya — I’m raising my hand. It didn’t matter that I did not have a senior, all the better, no kids to embarass.

 

There was a nice group of parents that were chaperoning (Brook, Dawn, Lisa C., Claire, John, Scott, Mary, etc.), and I was paired up with my friend Lisa-Marie. Our plan was to eat our way through Disneyland. You see, I did have on my 50 Weeks list to visit Disneyland without kids, because I wanted to eat and shop without kids dragging me around…not that I think my kids are a drag, but you know what I mean.

 

Luckily, our bus had a nice and fairly quiet group of kids. But we did hit some traffic on the way to Disneyland, so by the time we got there, Lisa-Marie and I were both starving. We started off sitting down to a meal at the Carnation Cafe — chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies. We were so hungry, by the time I remembered to take a picture, we were done eating. After sitting a while and people watching, we decided to do the same thing at another restaurant.

grad nite beignets

Yesss…I had been thinking about the Mickey shaped beignets at Cafe Orleans for weeks! Finally, the moment I had been waiting for, sitting down eating beignets, drinking hot chocolate, leisurely people watching. I love their beignets (reminds me of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans), so do my kids. Both Lisa-Marie and I had to buy extra beignets to go (note that by the time my kids had some the next day they were smushed, but were fine after heating in the toaster oven with a fresh sprinkling of powdered sugar). Lisa-Marie had a delicious plate of Bananas Foster crepes. We said hello to a few kids we knew walking by, and soon thereafter we were stuffed.

 

We figured we might as well enjoy some rides, so let’s see what was around that didn’t have too long of a line… oh yes, the Haunted Mansion. Love that ride, especially when they re-decorate for Halloween and the holidays. Then on to my most favorite ride ever — Pirates of the Caribbean! I was so happy when they made the Pirates movies, now they are my most favorite movies ever! While in line, we did what we hated seeing other people do, let a couple kids we knew cut in line. Hey, isn’t that what chaperones are for, to help the kids?

grad nite main street

The Indiana Jones ride was too long (we stayed in line for about a half hour and it was going no where), so we went on the Jungle Cruise instead. It could be ten years later and the jokes are still the same, gotta love consistency. But we all oblige and laugh anyway. Time flies when you’re having fun and it was soon time to head on over to California Adventure. People were lining the streets so looks like the fireworks show was about to start. Which meant that the shops were empty, so we took some time to browse the shops along Main Street. So many cute things. I would need my own Disney Playhouse in the backyard to decorate properly.

grad nite 2

The throngs of Grad Nite participants were all heading on over to California Adventure, because after they officially close at 10:00pm, it stays open until 2:00 am for Grad Nite kids and chaperones only. Woohoo! What to do, what to do? We head to the right and start off with Soarin’ Over California. Love the 4-D effect of smelling the orange blossoms. Then it’s over to the Grizzly River Run…wait, what it’s closed? Oh man, that’s one of my favorites (I love water rides). Ok, well let’s keep going, yes next is the Goofy’s Sky School ride for a nice dose of whiplash. My kids would go on this ride over and over and over again using the single ride line. For me, once is plenty. We do go on a ride I’ve never been on — the Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s like an arcade game as a ride and you rack up points shooting at targets. Anything that spells competition is considered fun in my household, so this was fun to me. The interactive rides are always our favorites (like the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland, I got a million points once…no really).

 

We continue walking to the other side of the Boardwalk, but looks like some of the sidewalk food stalls are out many food items. So we head on over to the Chaperone’s Lounge in Ariel’s Grotto. Lots of people were charging up their phones, some were napping. Outside we see a few other parents we know, and sit for a spell, enjoying sodas and snacks – yummy chocolate chip cookies, and I’ll save that apple for later, thank you.

grad nite cars

Then what I’ve been waiting for all night (ok, besides the previously mentioned eating of beignets), and that is Cars Land. That area wasn’t built when I was there last, so this was really exciting for me. I love that movie. (I’m using the word love a lot aren’t I?) The Cars movie actually inspired us to take a mini-route 66 road trip, including staying overnight in the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino. So even though the line was an hour long for the Radiator Springs Racers ride, we stuck it through. Apparently an hour wait is nothing for that ride. We kept occupied by listening to some of the high schoolers chant (I think we heard a UC, U Know in there somewhere), get appalled at the numbers of kids line cutting, and wondering if we were smelling alcohol on these minors breaths. Once on, the ride was so much fun, racing the car next to you was a blast. The cars actually went faster than what I had expected. Yes worth the wait.

grad nite cones

We watched the kids dancing to the DJ in that area, which was playing rap music. Then we noticed a girl passed out on the floor, but security was on it and an EMT was on the way. Her friends were gathered around, hmm exhaustion, alcohol, drugs? Even as chaperones, how do you really prevent kids from sneaking stuff in? Did you ever sneak such things into Disneyland, honestly? Actually, I don’t think I ever did. I was a good girl.

grad nite flos v8 kids

Next to that area we see the Luigi’s Flying Tires ride which neither of us had been on, so we go. It’s like an oversized tire bumper ride on air, and you move your body towards the direction you want to go. For me, it was somewhat hard to maneuver and I found myself jumping out of my seat, trying to bounce around. As we leave that area, we notice that the girl that was passed out was being attended to by the park medical team, and there was at least a dozen security guards encircling her. I hope she’s okay, you worry as a parent.

grad nite corn

We head on over to see what was happening at Hollywood Land, and that was were the action was…yes we found a street cart selling corn on the cob and chimichangas! So, of course, we were getting hungry again and had to split some. We take our snacks into the dance area where kids were head bopping with hands in the air to a DJ playing some techno dance music – is that what it’s called, I’m really out of it. As we eat, we watch the kids enjoy themselves. This is the area where I would tell  my son to go next year when he’s a senior. Some kids start break dancing, others splashing water on others heads. The joys of young adulthood. I had the urge to get into the middle of it all, but no, I stayed where we were, on the outskirts looking in, wishing we were young again. At least the drug dog didn’t sniff anyone out.

grad nite stage

    grad nite kids stage

Well, the close of the night was soon approaching, so now what. We stroll back towards the Boardwalk thinking we may have time for one more ride. We see a large group of the chaperones heading back, but most of the kids were staying to watch the “Last Kiss” World of Color show created for Grad Nites. We decide to stay and watch and it really was a spectacular show. We were standing towards the back of the group and could still really feel the heat from the fires. Disney really knows their special effects. It did bring me back to my own high school days when we would watch the Dancing Waters show at the Disneyland Hotel. Does anyone else remember those?

grad nite 1

Alas, time to go. The herds of kids quietly and orderly stream out the gates and to the lines for the trams back to the buses. We look at the lines and think, we’re chaperones, we can’t wait this long. We were about to walk back, but then we noticed a line where we can sneak up to the front. Okay, so we took cuts. The kids didn’t say anything. Shouldn’t there be a Fastpass for chaperones anyway? Luckily, the bus driver and the other bus chaperone got there ahead of us and let some of the kids in. All the kids slowly start meandering in, and looking at what they were carrying, many did not take the advice of shopping earlier in the day. Moms know best, take our advice.

grad nite bus home

Eventually, we checked in all the kids, and double-counted. We didn’t want to be the chaperones that left kids a county away from home. The kids were pooped out, and so were we, so it was a very quiet ride home. And before you knew it, we were in bed having our Disney dreams.

 

***

 

I really can’t believe I wrote this much about Grad Nite, and if you’ve read this far, then you must love all things Disney too, or really like my writing. Come on, Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth! (Now, if they built one in Hawaii, whoa, I’m applying for my retirement job.) I think us adults design these outlandishly fun places for kids, because deep down we are all kids. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!

 

Yes, I went as a chaperone, but we all love Disneyland so it was fun for me too. And there’s nothing wrong with reliving some of your young adult memories. So I give you permission to go to Disneyland without the kids. Have fun…and bring me back a beignet or two!

 

***

 

Disneyland and California Adventure, do I really need to tell you where it’s at? www.disneyland.disney.go.com

Prices: $96 for one-day, one park admission for age 10 and older, $150 for a park hopper; for a two-day $178/$217. You can get a Southern California Select Annual Passport for $289, but because of blackout dates, you can’t go most of summer, weekends, and holidays. The ultimate Premium Passport to go anytime with parking included is $699, yup, you read that correctly $699 for one year at the Happiest Place on Earth!

***

P.S. I also helped with the UCHS Grad Nite at the school. I spent all night at the Food Court and let me tell you that serving kids all night was way harder than Disneyland. (My feet are still killing me.) But all the kids seemed to be having fun, they were well-behaved, and appreciated all the food provided. I love that they ate up all the fruit platters. Oh, sushi a big hit too. Making these childhood memories for all our kids is what makes volunteering worthwhile.

Week 27: The Queens’ Gospel

“I would have figured it out Bitch,” was the last thing Kiki said to me. I was explaining to Kiki, our waitress and performer, how we were splitting the bill at the Lips Sunday Gospel Brunch. I should mention that Kiki is one of the drag queens. Yes, I finally went to a drag queen show…and can’t wait to return.

lips trio

Kiki was the one with attitude, and our table of four — me, Marie, Lynn, and Lisa-Marie — got used to being called bitches early on. I will admit, if we needed anything, we looked for the nice young guys wearing the black Lips t-shirts. Kiki scared us.

lips friends

Overall, if you ever plan on going to Lips, you can’t be thin-skinned. Everyone, every age (old, young), every race (Mexicans, Filipinos), every skin color (white, black), every gender (straights, gays) will get picked on…and nobody cares. Our emcee, the “pregnant” Sister Nun of the Above, is a quick-witted queen who will single out anyone, and brings with her (I will refer to the queens in the feminine) sister act a funny, and clever angle where you really don’t feel offended at all. Her accents of various groups were accurately hilarious.

lips group

I’m sure I’m offending someone reading this, but oh well. Let’s see, what were some of the lines…ah yes…remembering to SlapAHoe, that afterwards the guys were welcome to meet in the parking lot to pray on their knees and to bring a kneepad (I’m not sure what that’s alluding to), and being located on El Cajon Blvd. that the gospel brunch crowd was the most righteous group around. There were a lot more great one-liners, but I can’t remember them all now, you just have to experience it all for yourself, and what an experience!

lips 3

The show highlights the queens lip-syncing to various songs (I was hoping they actually sang), performing on stage, dancing around the crowd, and sometimes doing a few acrobatic movements. They certainly all had a lot of energy, and kept the audience entertained and engaged. It was fun, and it was good to laugh.

lips nun

Sister Nun of the Above likes to start out each performance with calling forth the attention of all the brothers and sisters, praising aloud amens and hallelujahs! And she gets everyone in the mindset to have your dollar bills handy (like a strip club I presume), which the audience throws to the queens on stage, like throwing a baseball (my pitches weren’t as accurate as my sons).

lips 2

I did find myself looking at the queens and wondering…can those breasts be real? What do they do with their penises? Strap them down? (In my mind I used different terms.) A friend told me maybe I should take a look. Hmmm.

lips 5

We were there for gospel brunch, and although we didn’t really go there for the food, our choices were very delicious. I decided to play it safe and get a fruit plate (we were being a little fruity anyway) and a side of bacon — what a combo right! The fruit plate was a platter’s worth, and very fresh and delicious. And my side of bacon was a package’s worth, enough for the whole table and perfectly crispy. With brunch, you also get unlimited Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. I’m a Mimosa gal, and boy were those young attendants good about refilling your glass – it was like magic, my glass was always full. I am a half-full, rather than half-empty gal. Good thing Marie was our designated driver. Then you can come to Jesus with a shot of Jesus Juice. Not sure what was in it, some sort of vodka with something that made it taste like cough syrup. That did it for me. Reminder to self: do not mix drinks.

lips food

One of the best parts of the show was when Sister Nun of the Above turns herself into Cher, still pregnant though. Loved all of the performers. And you can tell that the packed audience was thoroughly enjoying themselves. Go in a group, and have it around someone’s birthday so they can get pulled onto the stage. That day, there was a nice young gay couple who just got married that were called up on stage to perform some drinking maneuver on their knees (what’s this knee thing all about?), and Cher was commenting on who she thought was the dominant partner.

lips 4

The crowd is primarily adults, of all ages. Underage kids are allowed too, and I think that if you have kids that are pretty open-minded (your kids do know about different gender groups right, whether you agree with it or not), it would be funny for them too. They probably get all the sexual innuendo better than we do anyway. Plus they will like the music.

***

 

I always think about why do we love comedy. Is it because comedians can say things that the rest of us really can’t say aloud in a day-to-day setting? I mean, if we said half the things we thought, honestly, what would people think of us? Racist, insincere, bitch. Now if a straight person was up on that stage making fun of gays, would we laugh? It always seems to be okay when we make fun of our own group, but if someone else does, well, then they’re being offensive. Is that a double standard, and being hypocritical? Think about that.

 

And why do we have to label people in the first place. Why is it a special thing to go watch a show of drag queens? Can’t it just be a funny musical show, with food thrown in? I don’t know. But I still played into the idea that it was a special to-do by having Lips on my 50 Weeks list.

***

 

One of the lines Sister Nun of the Above mentioned was that all the white folk should look to the colored folk for the rhythm when clapping along to the beat of the songs. Because we all know that, especially white guys, don’t have rhythm. For some reason this made me think of my childhood friend Scott. Scott was good looking, had great hair, dressed well, was white, and boy could he dance. I always thought he was the perfect guy. Then, after taking him to my Sadie Hawkins dance, he revealed to me that he was gay. I was so disappointed, not in him, but I thought he would eventually be my guy. We had lost touch over the years, but I just was able to find him on Facebook – gotta love Facebook. Not sure why I went there, but in that you can’t label everyone. Okay sure I should have seen the signs that Scott was gay, but he’s a white guy that can dance, well yes, he’s gay, oh nevermind.

 

I think my bottom line here is go have some fun, and not take everything so seriously.

***

brunch

Notebook:

Lips, 3036 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92104, 619.295.7900, www.lipssd.com. Make reservations, especially if you have a big group. Sunday Gospel Brunch has a $5 cover, with menu items at $17.95 that includes unlimited Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. Check website for weeknight themes, cover charges and food minimums.

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.

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.

silverbackwin

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.

adrenaline_250

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.

mmalot

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?)

mma

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.

mma5  mma3

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

mma2

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.

mmagirl

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?

silverbackinstagram  silverbackinstagram2

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

silverback

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.

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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.

Week 22: Day Tripping from Farm to Ocean

Week 22: Day Tripping from Farm to Ocean

 

The wild waves and swirling winds captivate my attention. I could sit on this lonely beach for hours staring at the ocean, listening to the roar of the waves, tasting the freedom of time. What I would give to be able to do nothing.

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My Saturday morning started out as planned, working on more auction details, then heading out to pick up additional donations. As with many of my volunteer endeavors, my peeps get dragged along and Gigi is with me for the auction ride again. First stop, Coronado Brewery’s Tasting Room, which is actually in the Tecolote Canyon area (their Brew Pub is in Coronado). We make a quick stop at the location, with its massive metal vats of beer. Since it’s too early to indulge in beer tastings for us (not to many others who were there), we keep going.

 

Next stop, Balboa Park to pick up some museum donations. And since it took forever to find parking, we decide we might as well enjoy the day and take a leisurely lunch at The Prado. The perfect mix of sun and clouds to create a lovely lunch on the patio. After chicken tortilla soup, a trio of skewers, and cream cheese flan with mixed berries, we sit in silence as true friends can, wanting to continue lazily enjoying the sunshine.

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I remembered that today was Strawberry Jam Day at Suzie’s Farm in South San Diego. I had been wanting to visit the farm for a long time now, and had never been able to find time. I mentioned it to Gigi, and she had no plans for the rest of the day. What the heck, plus they were going to donate to the auction too. I type in the address on my handy dandy google maps app and away we go. Oh, I wish I had a convertible on a day like today.

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Now, Gigi has this thing about accidentally ending up in Mexico, so we make sure not to pass the exit prior to Dairy Mart Road (the last before the border), which is Tocayo. After passing a residential neighborhood, we turn down Hollister and to the left we see the farm. The farm is quite expansive, as over the years it has grown to 140 acres, and is the only organic farm in the city of San Diego. We can tell there is quite a crowd gathered, which has a festival feel with the food trucks, music, vendors, children’s activities, and the farm stand. Plus, of course, strawberry picking.

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Before we start, I make sure to find Lucila de Alejandro, who along with husband Robin Taylor owns and created the organic farm just about a decade ago. Lucila and I once belonged to the same book club (back when I had time to read — now my pile of books I plan to read continue to grow bedside). After warm hugs hello, Lucila walks with us to the strawberry fields where many families are walking up and down the rows looking to pluck some red ripe berries. Her friendly farm dogs follow as we pass by the chickens going about their business pecking at the composted produce strewn about. The chickens look happy.

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We start to look for our own strawberries to pick and head back to the furthest row, and walk towards the middle. At first I thought we got here too late, most have been picked over, but there was an abundance of berries. It becomes somewhat of a game, trying to find the ripe berries, some hidden under leaves which you don’t notice until you turn a different angle, bending down to get another view. We find plenty to fill our brown paper bags. Isn’t it funny how sometimes you search and search for something, and it’s right below your nose, you just didn’t happen to look at it the right way the first time.

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After filling up our bags, we wander over to the rest of the Strawberry Jam activities. There’s music, strawberry pickling, face painting, teepees, bean bag toss, ice cream, organic perfumes and soaps, tree swing, and a very welcoming hammock under a pair of trees that if there weren’t crowds of people around I would go and sneak in a nap. We make a visit to the farm stand where we select some produce and jars of strawberry jam, of course you need to get some on Strawberry Jam Day. There’s also some delicious bread pudding courtesy of Snooze Eatery. We find Lucila and say our good-byes.

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Although we say good-bye for now, Suzie’s Farm is such a welcoming place. They have truly created a farm with a true sense of community and welcomes everyone. You feel like the farm belongs to you too. I look forward to returning, especially during an evening event where the openness of the fields and the stillness of the night would create an enchanting evening.

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Since I don’t come down to these parts that often, we explore a little more taking the dirt road towards Suzie’s Warehouse, and around the corner to the horse stables that offers beach rides (a future week activity in the making). The stables looked closed so we had to head back. Wanting our unexpected day trip to continue, I realize that we must not be that far away from Imperial Beach, which during all my years in San Diego, I had never been to. Once we get back to the suburban neighborhoods, we continue a little north, then west to our next destination.

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I guess I expected to find a version of Mission or Pacific Beach. Imperial Beach is quite different. Much quieter, at least at this time of year, few restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. And very uncrowded and clean. We head further south to the end of the road where it stops at the wooden overlook to the Oneonta Slough that connects with the Tijuana River. Although Mexico is still some distance away, you can see the white washed homes of the Playas de Tijuana. What a difference a few miles can make in a family’s history?

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After enjoying the beauty of the still, green marsh lands, we take a few steps over the sand hill to glimpse the restless, blue ocean. What a contrast of scenery just a few steps apart! I envy those who stay here and who can walk from one end of their home to the other and be enveloped in two different moods. (Note to self: check into summer rental rates.) I’m surprised by the solitude that one can find at this stretch of beach. There is only one other person here, and she too looks like a quick visitor. Mexico to the south, Coronado to the north. No wonder the ocean feels torn apart. Do the currents feel the tug of land borders?

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It’s starting to get late and time to head on over to the comfort of our homes. We continue the scenic drive and take the strand. Much of the strand is military, and you immediately notice some high circular fenced in building…hmm wonder what government secrets lie inside. We pass the cays, the military housing (how would you like to be stationed here), Glorietta Bay, and the Hotel del Coronado. Soon we are over the bridge and on the familiar freeway 5 homeward bound.

It’s interesting to me how Imperial Beach property values are so much less than that of Coronado which is not that far away. Perception is everything. Maybe if we looked at Imperial Beach at another angle, we would give it more value.

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What a great day! Being able to wander and discover new places, even in our own backyard is part of my 50 weeks to 50 journey. There is so much to discover…everywhere…people, places, perceptions. Make sure to look at people and places at different angles, you’ll never know what you will discover.


Notebook:  Suzie’s Farms, www.suziesfarm,com, onsite farm stand open on Saturdays from 10:00am to 2:00pm, public and private tours are available. Check their website for info on upcoming events, childrens camps, and u-pick days. You can taste their produce by at select grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Jumbo’s, numerous restaurants and food trucks throughout the county use their produce, or get your CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) boxes available at their farmer’s market locations.