Some things should just stay private. Be assured that I did something that was on my list that I had never done before. Was it what I expected? Not really. Would I do it again? Maybe, but in a different way.
I’ve been in physical pain lately, so what’s a little more pain? I had previously scheduled an appointment with visiting tattoo artist Soane Tavataina Paninia, who is French Polynesian and now makes his home in Rapa Nui on Easter Island. It was his last week in San Diego inking at the Island TAT Tattoo Shop in Lemon Grove, so I was determined to keep my appointment and make sure my tattoo would be something special.
Getting a tattoo was on my 50 Weeks list, but with a question mark. I have always been hesitant to having something on my body so permanent. But this time, quite frankly, I was going to be a hypocrite. I always warned my kids not to get a tattoo because what you like now may not be something you want on your body 50 years from now. Well, now that I’m approaching 50, I’m a little more certain of what I want, just a little.
I wanted a dragon and scorpion tattoo. Why? Well, my astrological sign is Scorpio, and I was born in the Year of the Dragon. What a combo, right? So, I thought it would make a nice combo in a tattoo.
My friend Rosey suggested Island TAT, which hey I do come from a country with over 7,000 islands, and I’ve always liked the island/tribal look. And since Soane was visiting just at this time and had a couple openings, I felt it was meant to be. Because of the language barrier (Soane speaks French and Spanish), Island TAT resident artist Felix Santos was the one who I consulted with for my design and actually drew it for me. The dragon and scorpion intertwined, with an island tribal feel – perfect.
So one afternoon we go to Island TAT for my tattoo. Gigi went with me for support, especially since she has been my unofficial nurse during my pain filled days. Again, I was still in some pain that day, but what the heck, it’s now or never.
We go to the tattoo room, and we verify the location of my tattoo — a secret spot (see if you can figure it out – oh wait, the pictures give it away). I lay down, expose myself, and close my eyes. I grab Gigi’s hand, tight squeeze as if I’m in labor. He rubs alcohol on the spot, and I hear the tattoo machine turn on. This is why I haven’t been to the dentist in ages, I hate hearing the machines. Soane begins. Hmm, doesn’t really hurt, so I let go of Gigi’s hand. I think I will take a nap.
Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced the pain of childbirth, including getting induced with pitocin with no epidural for hours — I was trying to be supermom and give birth without drugs, stupid me. But the insertion of the tattoo needles wasn’t that painful at all. Depending on the area he was working on, the worst I felt was a sort of pinching. I think the more fat you have, the less pain you experience. Later when Soane was filling in certain areas, it actually seemed a little ticklish.
The inking procedure lasted a little more than an hour, and I was pretty relaxed the whole time laying there. My other pain seemed to have diminished too. It was almost like getting a massage, but not really.
When it was complete and I took a look, wow, I immediately thought it was beautiful. I admit it was larger than what it seemed on paper, but I suddenly felt so proud to have such an artistic piece on my body. Now, I sort of wished it was in a more visible part of my body. I want to show it off, but I will need to find some creative cut out clothing designs.
Although getting a tattoo was a question mark item on my 50 Weeks list, I’m glad I got inked. Would I get another one? Yes, but it has been commented to me that it’s great that I got it checked off my list, but please do not get another one. I guess I will comply.
What do my teenage sons think? They think I’m crazy. That I’m getting old and it will become a glob later. And it’s a good thing I didn’t get a tramp stamp.
As Nike says, just do it.
Island TAT Tattoo Shop, 7912 Lester Ave., Lemon Grove, CA 91945, 619.469.1583, www.islandtat2.com, Facebook: Island TAT Tattoo Shop. Tattoos are not cheap, my design total was $200, designed by Felix and inked by Saone. Elaborate tattoos can take hours, and over several days and will be priced accordingly. Soane returns to San Diego once a year and is also on Facebook: Soane Tavataina Paninia
I Love Lucy, and one of my favorite episodes was Lucy’s Italian Movie shown in 1956 — of course I was watching reruns. While in Italy, a film producer asks Lucy if she’d be interested in auditioning for his new film entitled “Bitter Grapes.” To do some research for the audition, Lucy goes to one of the only non-automated wineries left in the area outside of Rome, gets picked to crush the grapes due to her large feet. And as situations always go with Lucy, she eventually gets in a falling down, grape soaked brawl with the Italian woman stomping in the barrel alongside her.
Being that grape stomping was on my list (A few of Lucy’s antics are on my list, and for one I just couldn’t get that candy factory job!), and we were starting birthday month celebrations for my friend Lynn, the annual Julian Grape Stomp Festa was the perfect activity for this week.
It was another hot weekend, but we didn’t think much of it. Mistake. As Lynn, Gigi and I make our way north, then east, through Poway and past trailheads to popular mountain hikes, down the main street of Ramona to rolling hills to Santa Ysabel, then a right into the curvy mountain roads when at Wynola we turn left towards the outskirts of Julian to our final destination: the Menghini Winery. I look at the temperature and it was the high 80s. It is hot. Am I repeating the miserableness of last week’s pow wow? Nah, I think this may be worse.
As usual, we’re not as prepared as we should be. We park in the dusty dirt lot and get in line for admission. We start to see people with beach umbrellas and folding chairs. Hmm, I have a picnic blanket in the car, but no shade. With our admission of $15, we get a souvenir wine glass good for stomping on the grapes. We did not realize it did not include any wine tastings. Good thing we got some cash.
Well, the actual stomping hasn’t started yet, so we were all hungry and decide to get food. There weren’t as many food vendors as we expected, and it looked like some people brought their own provisions. (Darn, I had a ton of picnic food at home.) The BBQ place didn’t have enough food ready, so we turned to the one other food vendor (there also was an ice cream place); I got a pizza slice, Gigi and Lynn ordered sausages with grilled veggies. We found some seating at the end of a table, but not under any shade. We ate quickly since the festivities were beginning.
The “parade” starts, which is a tractor bringing out the grapes with the host dancers sitting up front. Everyone gathers round and cheers them on and they stop in front of the two wooden barrels — one large, one small. Before we begin, the priest gives the Grape Stomp Festa Blessing. And once completed the crowd is invited to grab the buckets of grapes and dump them into the barrels. Once all dumped, the stomping begins.
Time to get in line. Well, note to self, next time get in line as soon as you get there, because there was a reason people were getting in line prior to the official start — it got long really fast. And once you figure out it will be some time for each group to get in, stomp around a little, take the obligatory pictures; you realize this will be one long afternoon. Well, we drove all this way, we are going to crush some grapes gosh darn it.
We look around and see all the people that must have done this before. They brought their own canopies, chairs, tables, etc. I jealously feel that they all look so comfortable…and cool. We were sweltering already. What the heck, all the wine tasting booths were surrounding us, what shall we try first? But because of the heat, and knowing too much wine will make us loopy, we decide to settle for a glass of some very tasty Sangria. Hey, I’m the driver, so I need to be responsible and take care of my gals.
Even though it was miserably hot, we did have a great time waiting under the hot sun for almost two hours. Primarily due to, as Lynn said, a “wildly entertaining group of three women.” These women, with Italian heritages, had driven to Julian with their husbands from San Gabriel, a Los Angeles valley suburb. We got to talking with them (what else are you going to do but make new friends) and shared funny and true stories about life, marriage, family, kids, sex, and aging. They talked about their lives, we talked about ours, and we commiserated together — about the weather, what people were taking way too much time stomping in the barrel (that chick in the white tee – you know who you are), and is this stomping thing sanitary?
The ladies very generously shared their beach umbrella with us, all six of us squeezing under our shaded territory, which was very much appreciated. There were the occasional and welcomed cool breezes, and we kept seeing some clouds in the distance and wished for them to hurry our way and provide relief from the sun. Their husbands were sitting relaxed in tree-shaded chairs. One of the event volunteers starting going around and spritzing us with a spray bottle, just like what we would do for the kids when they are playing games on hot days.
Yes, we are almost there! Hold on, you mean all those people who paid for the $50 VIP tickets get to cut in line whenever they want? Reminds me of the Disneyland Fast Pass. I am ready to strangle someone since I thought we were next, yet it seems all these VIP ticket holders decide to show up right at our moment! Please hurry up and go back to your white tents and appetizer filled tables. We should have paid the extra, but then we wouldn’t have met Marie, Carmella and Sylvia.
Okay, we are next. Finally. First, we need to soak our feet in a tub of vodka, I assume to sterilize our feet. Well, I don’t know how many people stuck their feet in there, but it doesn’t look very clean itself. I bravely stick my feet in. Oh well, the grape juice collected isn’t for consumption anyway. It’s bottled as a souvenir for next year.
In we go…I slowly climb down the ladder as it seems slippery…I stick my right foot in, then my left…hmm, mushy feeling. Gigi and Lynn get in, we take a few pictures. Then Marie, Carmella and Sylvia get in, their husbands having walked over to watch. More photos. We stomp around, trying to look like we are actually crushing grapes. By the time we get in most of the whole bunches have been crushed, but we find a few in the bottom recesses of the large barrel using our toes. We stomp around a bit, and take more pictures. We want to take our sweet time, heck we waited so long in the first place, but we are also aware that many more are waiting for their turn. Basically, we want to make it worth our while.
Time to get out. As we get out of the barrel, we were glad we experienced it, but ready to go on. Hugs and goodbyes were wholeheartedly given to our new friends, as we go our separate ways, but living through common memories.
The ice cream line was too long, it was still hot, and we weren’t in the mood to shop the vendor booths. So now what? Time to head back down the hill for a stop at the Julian Pie Company in Santa Ysabel. Hey, what else would you expect from me? Of course, as we leave, the rain clouds start to mosey on over and cause a bit of trouble. We get to Santa Ysabel just in time to get out of the pouring rain, sit at the counter and comfortably scarf down apple pie slices with vanilla ice cream, pure deliciousness.
Once fulfilled, we make a quick stop at Dudley’s Bakery, because if you’re driving all this way, you’re going to get some fresh bread and baked goods too. My parents will be happy with the squaw bread and coffee cake rounds. Quite content, we get into our cars for the leisurely drive home…so we thought.
Almost immediately after getting back on the road, our phones start squeaking about the flash flood warnings for the area. And wouldn’t you know it, the clouds opened up on top of us at that very moment, and for the life of me I could not see the roads. That’s what you call a timely app! Being the responsible driver that I am, I decide to pull over and wait it out. It died down about 15 minutes later, but still heavily raining. As we start to leave the area, I carefully try to drive through the roads and mini-rivers of water. At one point it looked like some sort of water tank fell into the road. Where the heck did that come from?
It wasn’t that much further that it was dry as a martini. Was it our imagination? Couldn’t have been, because my car looked clean from the natural car wash. Oh well, it seems none of these adventures ever go smoothly.
Oh, remember the I Love Lucy episode, well Lucy returns to their hotel room all messed up and grape stained, meanwhile Desi had the producer waiting for her. But after seeing her, he informs her the movie isn’t about winemaking because the title for the film was a metaphor. He was actually looking for someone to play the part of a typical American tourist. Therefore, he gives the role to Ethel. Lesson here, bitter grapes isn’t worth your energy.
Although both Julian Pies and Dudley Bakery items are now found in many local grocery and specialty stores, visit Julian Pie Company locations in Julian and Santa Ysabel, www.julianpie.com and Dudley Bakery in Santa Ysabel, which also has a deli and gift shop, www.dudleysbakery.com. Both can be found at the intersection of Highways 78 and 79 in Santa Ysabel, CA.
I Love Lucy episodes available on cbs.com, Hulu, and Netflix DVD.
The official festivities of the Barona Pow Wow are over, but I lay here in the middle of the night listening to the true soul and spirit of the Native Americans who have gathered together this past Labor Day weekend. Out of the public eye, we listen to the beating drums while men and women sing in harmony to wordless songs, but telling of a strong and emotional story.
I have always admired the Native American culture. My interest started during my college days when a former boyfriend had family in New Mexico and I went out to visit. I later went on a solo research excursion for my Cultural Anthropology class to the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblos, located north of Santa Fe. There, I was welcomed to view private collections of galleries, local homes, a high school basketball game, dinner, and introduced as if I was one of their cousins. Those heartfelt moments inspired me to begin collecting black pottery as mementos of time spent with them. I chose black pottery because I liked the look of the black on black designs as it was popularized by Maria Martinez who was from San Ildefonso, and who had learned techniques from the Tafoya family of the Santa Clara Pueblo.
Thus, attending a Pow Wow was on my 50 Weeks list. The Barona Reservation hosts a yearly Pow Wow on Labor Day weekend, and they offer free admission and camping. How welcoming they are to visitors. It was definitely time to visit a Pow Wow.
The day didn’t start off so great…it was actually horrible. As Richard and I begin the trek to the Barona Reservation for the Pow Wow, we first hit construction traffic near my house, which was a big pain in the you know where. Really, construction on a holiday weekend, really? Then as we leave the bank ATM, our exit was blocked by a delivery truck, and no driver seemed to be around. Finally, the truck was moved. Thankfully we are on the freeway headed east. Besides the escalating heat, everything seemed fine now. We get to the pow wow (the baseball fields) and the locate the campsites — basically any spot amongst the eucalyptus trees. We find a nice cozy area with shade and start to unpack and put the tent together. The tent was borrowed from a friend, and as we try to sort out the pieces, we realize the main tent itself was missing. Are you kidding? Now what? Richard decides that we will go north to Ramona, buy a tent and return. Okay. So we head on to Ramona, on some scenic roads that I had never driven on, find a Kmart and buy a tent for $25.
These things happen in threes right, so hopefully that is it. We quickly regain our campsite, and put up the tent. In hindsight, buying a new tent was a better choice, as the borrowed one looked very complicated. Tent in place, we then decide to head on over to the Pow Wow and see what’s going on. First thing we see are all the merchandise vendors; later. We head on over to the food vendors and I get a much needed ice cold lemonade, and Richard inhales an overloaded chili cheese dog. (I’m going to start calling him Hoover.)
We sit under one of the humongous white tents, plopping down in the middle of all the other saved chairs. We can’t tell if the areas are reserved for certain groups, but oh well, I guess we will sit until someone tells us to leave. There is some Gourd Dancing contests going on, primarily with the younger age groups. We notice there are two groups of drummers, the center drum circle which look to be elder types and experienced, and the outer drum circle, which seemed younger and more energetic.
But we are still so hot and miserable from what transpired earlier, I contact my friend Rosey, who coincidentally is staying at the Barona Resort down the road. We leave the Pow Wow to meet her, and as soon as we walk into the Casino, greeters hand us lemonade, such a nice touch. I like this place already. Rosey finds us, gives us a quick tour and hands us a keycard for the pool area. We cool down in the pool, and relax on the shaded chaise loungers. And to top it off, she gives us two buffet vouchers. Rosey, you are a lifesaver!
Once refreshed at the pool, and bellies filled, it was time to return to the Pow Wow for the main events. Another friend, Lisa-Marie, had decided to go to the Pow Wow with her husband Jimmy and their sons. We meet them in the grandstands just in time for more Gourd Dancing and the Grand Entry. It’s really quite an amazing sight. Men, women and children enter the center one by one dressed in full finery, while the drums continue to be played. Some in feathers, other with metal decorations. Some in buckskin, others in soft cottons. The colorful parade continues with one person after another entering, creating a spiral formation. The younger males with the double feathered regalia are the ones doing the fancy dancing, twisting, turning, leaping — what energy they have and they keep going and going like Energizer bunnies.
Eventually a break is taken for the Pow Wow blessing, honoring those who have traveled far and near, and keeping in mind those who have served our country and who are still serving our country. For a group of people whose lands were taken over through bloody force, Native Americans are very patriotic and feel a strong connection to our country. Various dignitaries are introduced and more drumming and dancing. It was also pointed out to us that the Barona tribal chairman was sitting there amongst the crowd in a black shirt and jeans, just one of the guys.
We decide to hit the vendors and check out the goods. Lots of interesting things: thin-skinned drums, hand carved wooden flutes, animal skins, rugs, ponchos, tons of jewelry, pottery, dream catchers. My favorite booth was the one from The Indian Store of Vista which housed all sorts of things like the skins, books, costume items, medicinal herbs, everything.
After looking at every single booth, listening to and watching more drumming and dancing (I do wish they had some sort of official program, because I couldn’t understand a word being said through their speaker system), we decide to turn in. From the campsite, we can hear the Pow Wow continuing, but little did we know that our true adventure would be experienced right in the privacy of our tent. (Oh, I know you reader #9, get your mind out of the gutter!)
Many Pow Wow participants are staying overnight in the campgrounds and have gathered together out of the public eye to reconnect with friends and family. They come to Barona year after year, continuing the tradition of the Pow Wow. And like most cultures, any gathering is a good reason to celebrate. (My own Filipino culture loves to honor every saint with a fiesta.) Well, those that hitched up their tents in the campsite came to party!
Just when it seemed that it was silent enough where I could hear the stars twinkle, the drumming begins. Then the singers join. Are you kidding me? Aren’t they tired? The Pow Wow has been going all day, and festivities start again the next afternoon. Don’t they know we are trying to sleep in here? Ugh…hmm…the music is actually…quite beautiful.
The drumming, the singing, the passion. You can hear it in their voices. The soul of the men and the heart of the women singing of vocables (no actual words) combine to provide those around with a glimpse into the rawness of their spirit.
I close my eyes and dreamily listen. I dare not walk outside to physically intrude, but I am trespassing on their impromptu private moments. I imagine them all gathered around the in-ground fire pit we had seen dug up earlier in the night, with boiling pots steaming on top of a metal grill. One by one the camp dwellers walk on over, each adding their individual vocal talent to the operatic menu. The drumming, the singing, the passion continues, and I admit, I don’t want them to stop. But after a final crescendo, they do stop…for a moment.
The laughter begins. Okay, yes they were probably drinking some adult beverages, but these type of gatherings are meant for such activities. Again, I felt somewhat of an intruder, listening in on their conversations. I dared not leave the tent, but rather I observe with my ears. I learn to enjoy the sing song laughter of the women after a good joke, the choruses of their ayes. And boy did we pick the location alright, as we can hear several camp parties forming all around us. I did have to get up and pee, and yes indeed, I see that all around us were groups standing, sitting here and there, enjoying the company of friends new and old. Secrets were shared, and egos were boastful. I wonder if they knew someone was listening in on their private moments. I’m not a gossip columnist, really.
Before you know it, someone starts singing, and again, one by one others walk over and join in, like a flash mob. The drumming, the singing, the passion continues all night…and into the morning…5:00 am to be exact.
Yes, it did bother me at first, but I soon felt privileged to experience this true view of the people of the Pow Wow. Pow Wows are meant for Native Americans to gather, and the campsite lets them do just that, away from the public eye of those that want to experience culture for the a couple hours. To capture the depth of another culture is truly a gift, and I felt we were given a gift that night. And it wasn’t only me, Richard felt the same way commenting that they are the “happiest people I’ve ever run into” and that “everyone needs to go to a Pow Wow just to forget about our materialistic society.” Ditto.
The impromptu gathering brought out their naked souls and gave them all true joy. Hearing and feeling their emotions made the bad start to our trip worth it. I would gladly camp amongst the Native Americans again, next time I will crawl out of our tent and try to sing along…wait, with my voice, drumming may be more neighborly.
Barona Indian Reservation is located outside of Lakeside. The Pow Wow is usually held over Labor Day weekend, and 2015 will mark the 45th annual celebration. www.barona-nsn.gov
The reservation also has a museum that provides insights into Barona’s history and the Kumeyaay-San Diegueno culture. www.baronamuseum.org
The Barona Resort and Casino is an excellent place to stay for both an adult getaway or for family excursions. Besides the casino, there is a pool, day spa, golf course, and lots of dining options. Make sure to join Club Barona for discounts and free offers. www.barona.com
For more info about Pow Wows throughout the United States, go to www.powwows.com.
May the Wind welcome you with softness
May the Sun bless you with warm hands
May you fly so high and so well
that God joins you in laughter
and may He sit you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth!
Words from the Balloonist’s Irish Blessing that our pilot Bill recited to us, as we enjoyed a champagne toast after landing from our lovely hot air balloon ride, over the rolling hills of Rancho Santa Fe.
Hot Air Ballooning was not only on my 50 Weeks list, but also on my youngest sister Roselma’s wish list. She had recently turned 40, so my other sister Liza and I decided the balloon ride would be the perfect present. Along with our sister from another mother Sharon, we made up a fun foursome for the sunset ride.
We first meet the rest of the group in a Del Mar shopping center, and were directed to find the silver van at the side of the bank. Once there, our contact Jamie informed us that because of the incoming clouds, there was a slight possibility that the flight may not happen. Safety first he said, which was okay by us. Falling from the sky while in a hot air balloon was not on my 50 Weeks list.
Once we get the a-ok, a dozen of us pile into the van (we should of had one of these during our Little League days) to head to our takeoff spot. Us four get the back row of the van, which Jamie tells us means we are the VIPs. But considering how tight it was to get seated in the back seat, I wonder how we’ll be in the balloon.
There are three other hot air balloons at the takeoff spot in Rancho Santa Fe, which I honestly can’t remember where it was. A couple of the balloons were already getting filled up, and once we were there, the ground crew started prepping our balloon. And since the balloon is about 10 stories high, it takes a while. The basket, where all of us will squeeze on to, starts off on its side, and once the balloon is full of hot air, the basket is turned upright. We are then to climb over the side of the basket using the cut out foot holes. Boy, it’s a good thing we wore sneakers.
You can not only see the flames heat up the air for the balloon, but you can definitely feel it. Before you know it, the balloon is filled with hot air and is ready for boarding. I get to climb in first, then my sisters with Sharon following. It’s a somewhat clumsy feeling going over the basket side, as you basically fall into the huge woven basket. I felt like I was a little birdie being dropped into a nest. And being so short, the basket sides are high enough that there’s no way I would accidentally fall over mid air.
Soon enough, the rest of the passengers are in, Bill gives a quick spiel on safety, and that he will be continuing to add hot air to the balloon throughout the ride and that it’s very loud — which it is and I was right under it. Next thing you know, I happen to look down and we’re already up in the air. Up we go, floating higher and higher, enjoying the views of the ocean and estate dotted hillsides.
Boy, Bill did a fabulous job of piloting the balloon up and down, and around so smoothly. You couldn’t even tell when we were rising or falling; movements were seamless. The ride was peaceful, yes very peaceful. Looking at the beautiful landscape of San Diego’s rolling hills and ocean vistas was calming. And the estates of Rancho Santa Fe put you in a dreamlike state. You think, okay one day I will have a house like that, or oh I like that home’s style better than that other one. Or I will also put in a vineyard or rows of fruit trees on my estate. Or I like the shape of that infinity pool. Ahh, one day.
Bill also pointed out homes of various celebs such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Phil Mickelson, and Bill Gates. We saw burnt hillsides that creeped up close to homes. Then there was the deer sighting in one of the canyons, I never even knew there was wild deer in our areas. And I especially loved that people who lived below would come out of their homes and wave to us. People are so friendly.
Other balloons were flying too and we all followed the same general path, making sure to communicate via walkie talkie with each other so as not to knock one over. The clouds were slowly dissipating, making way for the brilliant sunset colors that San Diego gifts us.
I could have fallen asleep if I wasn’t so entranced by the vistas. Maybe this is why we will pay a premium for homes, or hotel rooms with a view. It’s very relaxing to sit and look. I start to think, wouldn’t it be great to have a dinner party up in a balloon? I wonder if they make passenger baskets with clear sides? Although, that might be a little scarier for my dinner guests, we wouldn’t want them losing their dinner.
Before I get a chance to nod off, Bill informs us that we will be landing soon and yes indeed we are headed towards a vacant construction lot. That past hour went by very smoothly. But, apparently we may have a bumpy landing, so we are told to hang on and bend our legs to lessen the impact. And since my sisters and I were short in the first place, we couldn’t see over the basket sides, and right as we landed…the ground crew popped up right in front of us to help hold the basket down. The sudden appearance of their faces spooked us and you would have thought we were on a haunted trail. The scariest part of the ride.
The basket did slide quite a bit, but the landing wasn’t that bad. We slowly wait our turn to clumsily again climb over the basket onto terra firma. The ground crew quickly pushes out the air to flatten the balloon. We then realize that it actually is quite windy on the ground. Up in the air, we didn’t notice at all.
We gather under the orange red sunset skies, while Bill recites the Irish Blessing. As we raise up our champagne plastic cups, we toast the very successful and gorgeous flight.
Hot air ballooning is a luxury well worth enjoying. No life lessons to be learned this week. Only the acknowledgment that every now and then, we all deserve to do something special for ourselves.
Panorama Balloon Tours, www.gohotair.com. They offer hot air balloon rides in Del Mar (sunset), Temecula (sunrise), Palm Springs, and Albuquerque. The Del Mar sunset rides are $270 weekdays, and $299 weekends per person. Look for regular Internet discounts and Groupon deals — ours was $270 for two.
The first manned hot air flight was in Ireland on January 19, 1785. A good website to find info on hot air ballooning is www.irishballooning.com.
Several areas have hot air balloon festivals such as the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival in late May, www.tvwbf.com; the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year on October 4 – 12, www.balloonfiesta.com; and the Irish Hot Air Balloon Meet on September 21 – 26 in County Waterford.
It’s dark, it’s hot, and I’m sure the little black specks I see are mouse droppings. I’m on vacation, and I’m crawling around in the attic of a rehab Habitat for Humanity home. Yes, an exciting vacation indeed!
There are many ways to give back to the community and one group that I always wanted to help with was Habitat for Humanity. It was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, but I didn’t get around to signing up until recently. I found that most of the project volunteer days are during the week, and all the Saturdays I looked into were full. I think people like volunteering with projects where they can actually see the results. So I was taking a vacation week and was out of town for most, but not all of the time, so I figured what the heck, might as well help during the week.
I signed up for a rehab house in National City. The San Diego Habitat for Humanity affiliate will occasionally obtain homes that have been abandoned and fix them up and find a family that qualifies under their low-income standards. Those that live in San Diego know that housing is expensive and can be tough for anyone to afford. And since home rehabs is somewhat the family business, I thought helping on a rehab project was an appropriate way to give back.
I drive to National City early one morning under dark skies with thunder and lightning threatening. I was worried that rain may delay the project. And yes when I arrived Dale, the project supervisor, informed us that the project was delayed. Not due to weather though, but because the plumbing and electrical work that was to be completed, was not. Those who have had remodeling projects can sympathize. So today we were assigned clean up type duties. Darn, I was looking forward to nailing in something, I like working with hammers.
Lucky short, I say petite, me gets sent up to the attic. Along with one of the shorter guys (but Navy tough), we are to clean up the attic and make sure it’s not a fire hazard prior to putting in the new insulation. The others get sent to the crawl space underneath the home, which is actually about four feet in height, so they could somewhat standup primal like. I probably could have stood upright. Whoohoo, the advantages of being short, I mean petite!
We climb up the ladder, flashlights in hand. Yup, it’s pretty dark up there and very low. How the heck are we supposed to reach the corners and edges? Dale tells us that we can’t put weight on the attic floor (ceiling) so as to not fall through. That we need to move along the joists (I think that’s what they’re called?). There are wooden planks that we can place on top of the joists and use to crawl, or shimmy on to get to outlying areas. This wasn’t really what I was expecting this morning, but someone has to do it right?
So we use the flashlight to guide us along and show the way to the areas that need cleanup. Gloves are on, and we use masks to keep dust particles, and who knows what else, out of our lungs. I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out how to move from one place to another without stepping on the floor. Good thing I didn’t have a camera filming my backside, because that would have been a sight to see as I tried to angle and position my way around. I move planks along as I try to reach that one piece of wood or old insulation in the far recesses of the ceiling. Inch by inch I would slide towards that elusive excess wood, one stretch of the fingertips, and yes success! Okay, the rest of the attic to go.
As we slowly clean it up, the temperature gets hotter and hotter, and breathing with a mask on makes it worse. We take a break to breathe without the mask. But as we continue I do keep it on, because looking the attic floor, who knows what critters were up here and left who knows what in their droppings. When we are done, I climb down last — for a while I think Dale was going to leave me there, as my short legs barely reached the ladder top.
Dale talks to us some more about Habitat as we gather in front of the house. There’s a little bit of digging to be done around the pipes. So the group stands around and watches while one guy digs. You see, there really wasn’t much more for us to do today. We try and use up time picking up miscellaneous debris left outside and in the backyard. Volunteers can actually do quite a bit more — put up walls, floors, drywall, paint, roof, etc. I will definitely have to sign up again so I can do other building work. Think of it as being a construction intern. The skills you learn may prove to be useful in the future.
But as we stand around, Dale shares with us some of his experiences with Habitat for Humanity projects. They have a couple of new multi-home building projects, one in Imperial Beach and one in Escondido. His favorite projects are those that fall under the Repair Corps category. Repair Corps helps with home fixes for veterans, many who have been wounded. Habitat volunteers will come in and upgrade the home in many ways, including building wheelchair ramps and install walk-in bathtubs. He recalls listening to the vets’ war stories — Pearl Harbor survivor, World War II vets, and Vietnam War vets who told about their experiences of having to fight hand to hand with their bayonets, only camouflaged by the jungle flora. Guys that honorably sacrificed themselves for our country. Dale says the best part is that so many of them are so grateful for what Habitat does for them, and that they get letters of thanks all the time.
We really should write more thank you notes. And thanks to people like Dale who works for an organization making a difference in people’s lives.
We volunteers had a short work day. The group consisted of me, Rebecca who works in real estate so she has a flexible work schedule, and three Navy guys helping on their time off. I think it’s great that we had the opportunity to help with Habitat, because face it, it’s expensive to live in San Diego, and affordable housing is one of the biggest problems. For many families it may be the choice between keeping a roof over their head or food. How much of your income can you feasibly allocate for housing, while trying to feed a family, pay for transportation, utilities, taxes, etc. You all know – it all adds up. It’s a problem I saw when I stayed overnight at the San Diego Rescue Mission (see Week 5), it’s hard to find affordable housing when you are already struggling. I’m honored to help in even the teeny tiny way I did with Habitat. Whoever wants to join me in the future, we can plan a group activity on a Saturday.
Now, reflecting back about our own communities. Many of us like to think only certain neighborhoods need this kind of assistance. But even in my neighborhood, there’s always that one house that seems to be a blight. Do we know their story? Have we ever asked why their properties are being neglected. Maybe an elderly person lives there and can’t maintain or doesn’t have the means to help maintain the property due to physical reasons. Some probably feel too proud to ask for help. Look around your community. If you live in one like University City where I live, homes are getting at that age where repairs and maintenance are needed. And if you bought your home over 30 years ago, are still living in it with now a fixed retirement income, it’s not that you don’t want to fix up your home, you just don’t have the means to – physically and financially. Maybe it’s time to bring the Habitat model to the hyper-local level and make it a project of our neighborhood watches. We can truly watch and take care of each other. It only takes an afternoon to make a difference in someone’s life. All you need to do is ask.
About Habitat for Humanity: The San Diego affiliate of Habitat for Humanity is governed locally, raises funds locally, and builds locally. As with the international group, SDHFH’s mission is to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope. Recipients of HFH homes are required to put in sweat equity into their own home or other projects. They have new build projects, rehab projects and special projects for veterans – Repair Corps and Building for the Brave. Other special events include Builders Blitzes and Women Build. SDHFH also runs ReStore, a home improvement outlet store that accepts donations of and sells used building materials. There are two ReStore locations in Mission Valley and Escondido. Individuals and groups can volunteer on the building projects, at the ReStore locations, and with administrative duties. Minimum age to volunteer is 16, but sometimes younger children can help with parental supervision. And I’m serious about planning a group. UC Mamas, are you all in?
San Diego Habitat for Humanity: www.sdhfh.org
I feel like I’m floating on air. This must be how it feels like if clouds were your mattress. I close my eyes, and drift away…slowly my mind thinks of …nothing…
After my Walking Dead Escape night during Comic Con, I figured that I should actually watch the episodes. So all of last week and this past weekend, I spent my free nights watching all the available episodes on Netflix — three seasons of Walking Dead. I got hooked after the first episode and had to complete my Walking Dead viewing marathon as fast as I could. I get obsessive that way, like when I have to finish reading a captivating book — I can’t stop. So what if the kids need dinner. Unfortunately Season Four isn’t out yet, and won’t be until a few weeks before Season Five starts on AMC (mark your calendars for October 12!). A side effect of all this exposure to zombies and survival mode characters, is that I think my mind turned me into a dead head. I became sluggish and was in a funk. It seemed that I was still taking to heart my role as a walker and was continuing to be slow and lethargic. (See Week 34)
As for the survivor lifestyle I was viewing, I was starting to think that survivalists really had a point, and that I should stock up on supplies (Costco sells Spam right?). I was also making sure that I could properly swing my collection of baseball bats that I keep by my bed – the old aluminum t-ball bat my kids used, a commemorative Tony Gwynn 3,000th hit wooden bat, and a souvenir Padres hard plastic Padres bat (it probably won’t do much damage, like how the Padres’ bats really are). My swings had to be able to knock off zombie heads you know.
By this past Monday, I knew I had to re-energize myself somehow. So along comes the usual emails from Groupon and Living Social, some which included deals to float spas. Hmm. One hour of floatation therapy. I had heard about these before, and float therapy was known to help your physical and mental well-being. My aging body could use some relaxation, and let’s face it, I was getting mental. It’s also supposedly helpful with any creative blocks you may be experiencing. I do have a few business articles to write. Okay, I sold myself on it, a couple clicks here and there, voila. Now, a quick call to Cocoon Float Spa and my appointment to float away was made.
Oh yes, I ended up picking the float spa that offered the isolation tanks that looked like cocoons. They reminded me of the movie Cocoon and the ability of the aliens’ energy to provide healing powers through the waters. Makes perfect sense to me now, I’ll spend some time in the cocoon’s chamber, get re-energized and live forever, hahahaha! Then comes world domination! Okay, just kidding.
I get to Cocoon Float Spa and realized it was the same building Lacy and I parked in for the Pride Parade. (See Week 33). What a coincidence. The spa had very modern, clean furnishings that really complemented the look of the cocoons. I liked the solid white background, with touches of blues. My favorite color. And they had a great floor they created themselves with beach pebbles and epoxy. You sign-in for your treatments via iPads, plus first timers are to watch a short animated video on what to expect and what to do. Simple enough, you float and relax.
The very nice male attendant (I forgot to ask his name), showed me to my chamber which includes a private shower. You go in the float tank butt naked, and need to shower immediately before and immediately after your session. A ton of Epsom salt is in the water, which is what helps you float. He showed me how to close and open the cocoon; there is no lock and it uses hydraulic bars, so it opens easily. I wouldn’t want to get trapped in there. He also showed me how to turn on and off the lights and Muzak, and he told me that most people turn them off about five minutes into the session. Part of the float therapy is in experiencing sensory deprivation, which is why it’s dark and quiet. I’m also given ear plugs to help deafen any noise. He also lets me know that the music and lights will automatically turn on when I have five minutes left of my session.
Okie, dokie. I’m then left alone to float my troubles away. I shower quickly, and step on in. The water feels soothing and warm. The tank is also built to warm the water to your body temperature. I slowly close the door, but wait, the attendant mentioned I could place a towel down so the door doesn’t completely shut and a crack of light seeps through. I decide to do that. A neck floatie is also provided to help keep your head up. At first I try without it, but felt I was straining myself, so I use the floatable pillow and feel much more comfortable. Okay, I’m floating, getting comfy, time to turn off the lights. Whoa…that is dark. I lose my sense of direction in this tiny tank (although bigger than what I expected), and am pushed away by my own current and need to sit up, open my eyes and find the light button again so I can turn off the music. Now I can turn them both off.
Back to business. With both the lights and music off, I try to relax, and simply float. What do I think about in here? Do I think about work? No. Do I think about my friend’s problems with her daughter? I’m so glad I have sons. Should I have a garage sale or not? Still undecided. Is orange really the new black? Darn, my whole wardrobe is basically black. Then I get distracted by the slightest of sounds. Geez, I forgot to put on those ear plugs. I can’t remember instructions given to me five minutes before I start? I don’t want to get out to grab them; I just know some alarm would sound off if I did. So I try not to pay attention to the barely audible humming sound I hear, to the gurgling sounds my body is making (no it wasn’t a fart), and to the noises my floatie pillow is now making which do sound like farts. I adjust my pillow.
What do I do with my hands? I try to lay them across my chest mummy style. No, too deathly. Then I place them on each side in a V formation. No, too loose. I rest them behind my neck underneath my floatie. Yes, just right. Too much thinking going on here. I take some deep breaths to help me relax more. The video also mentioned toning, just making noise in the cocoon. I start doing so as if I was in yoga. Hey, sounds pretty cool in here, but no echo. Maybe it’s like in the shower, my voice may actually sound good singing. I try to sing that new song I’m hooked on: “All About that Bass” by Meghan Trainor. Nope, I still can’t sing, even in a cocoon pod.
My nose is itchy. I scratch it and some of the water from my finger drips onto my lips. Yuck! That salty water is disgusting. I forgetfully try to wipe my mouth which makes the taste worse. And I get a few drops in my eyes, which quickly stings me. There is a spray bottle of fresh water to get it out, but I don’t feel like trying to find it. So I take it and eventually the stinging goes away.
I eventually relax enough where I do feel like I am floating on air. It really is relaxing. It feels like there is nothing below me or around me. This must be how it feels to be weightless. I imagine myself in space, like Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity. Oops, that was not a good thought. I start to feel like I need to touch something. I move myself towards the door so that my feet touch the cocoon walls. That’s better. Now with that swishing around, I created some subtle waves which makes me feel like I am moving, yet when I look towards the sliver of light through the door’s crack as a reference point, I realize I’m not moving. Am I getting motion sickness now? I am so lame. I’m starting to feel nauseous, and very bloated. I can’t float anymore. I sit.
This all occurred roughly more than halfway through my session. So taking into account getting adjusted to everything, I think I may have had a solid 20-25 minutes of relaxed floating. Now, I’ve freaked myself out too much, I can’t get back into that state. I try. Maybe about three more times. And I was just about to fall asleep, maybe that’s what scared me too, I didn’t want to fall asleep in water. But the water is so buoyant from all the Epsom salt, that you naturally conform to a floating position. Not wearing ear plugs didn’t help either. I kept hearing a buzzing sound, until I realized it was my phone notifying me of incoming texts. I can’t get out to look, the point of float therapy is sensory deprivation. So I sit there, naked, arms around my knees, my bottom heated by the salty water (I do have a hot bottom), waiting for my session to end. I only sit there about five minutes before miraculously the lights turn on and the music starts playing. Thank God! I sit there a little while longer for good measure, and slowly get out.
I take a really long shower (sorry, I know we’re in a drought), and use every product they provided. I’m still trying to take deep breaths in the shower to calm myself. I was still feeling nauseous and bloated. Before I leave, I share my truthful experience with the attendant, who seems very puzzled at what I am saying. Am I the only one to not come out raving about how life changing it was? He says it could be that I have a lot of toxins to rid. Huh. He gives me a bunch of discount cards to use for next time, or to give out to friends. The guy who was in the cocoon room next to me came out saying that “it was amazing!” I left at that point.
Now, I don’t think it was a bad experience. I did relax at the beginning and enjoyed it, until I felt that I did need to use some of my senses. I needed to use at least one sense – like touching the walls. The isolation tank was invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly, and scientists started using them in the late 1970s to experiment on the therapeutic benefits and called it “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” (REST). REST. It may have been better for me if I could have started with only 30 minutes of sensory deprivation. Why is it that everything is booked in hours? Massages, acupuncture, exercise classes. I probably experienced some sort of sensory withdrawal. I’m usually on sensory overload. At the office, I have two screens going, with many windows open, and a number of projects being worked on daily. And my phone is like a mini computer, or the TV is on news or sports or House Hunters International, the laptop connects me to Netflix, in the car the radio is on. I’m screwed. This is also why I still haven’t been able to really meditate. I’m addicted to being on sensory overload. My name is Jemma, and I am a sensory addict.
Seriously folks, I did get a very good nights sleep. I fell asleep by 10:00pm, which is early for me. And I’m pretty sure I was snoring. My back pain seemed to have gone away. And boy, my skin sure feels soft. You do have to clean yourself up really good afterwards, as midday the next day it was kinda gross when I realized I had a some residual dried salt on my earlobes, and I’m wiping the salt out with my fingers. Ehh, touching my earlobes does calm me. I could still feel a slight sting of salt in my eyes too, they’re looking pretty red.
Would I try it again. Maybe. I do believe in trying things at least twice to confirm one way or the other. Like the time I tried that stinky but supposedly tasty fruit durian during a trip to Thailand. Well, the first time yes it was stinky and it was not tasty. I’m sure I made a horrified face when I took a bite. On a future trip to the Philippines, I decided to try it again, and the results were the same. So what is the lesson I learned from this experience? There’s no way I could be an astronaut.
Cocoon Float Spa, 3969 4th Ave. #201, San Diego, CA 92103, 619.688.3978, www.cocoonfloatspa.com. $90 for 60 minutes (I have discount cards if you want one.) $150 couples – not in the same cocoon (I wish), same time. Membership packages available. Free parking.
Just because I was thinking of this song while in the tank, here are the lyrics to Meghan Trainor’s song:
“All About That Bass”
Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I’m supposed to do
Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places
I see the magazines workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty beauty, just raise ’em up
Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top
Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along
Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top
Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along
Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this bass
I became aware of the Walking Dead show a few months ago and watched some episodes. But that was the fourth season and was told I really should watch from the beginning. Watching four seasons of life after a zombie apocalypse wasn’t too appealing at the time so I didn’t. The show haunted me again when soon thereafter, my friend Marie B. sent sent me a link about The Watching Dead Escape (TWDE) and that it may be something we may want to do. Why not? Who wouldn’t want to dress up like zombies and try to infect good paying people with the virus? Sounds like fun to me!
Since TWDE was during Comic Con, we thought we could get some of the kids to participate — no go. Guess it’s not cool to dress up like a zombie with your mom. Oh well, so Marie, my friend Jamie, and I got into our zombie mindset this past Saturday night. Prior to going, we make sure to wear old clothing that we don’t mind getting dirtied up. I find old sweats, a surgical shirt and a medical smock (probably remains from a prior Halloween costume).
We drive to Old Town where we plan to catch the trolley since we know it’s going to be packed downtown. Once we finished driving around to find a parking spot, we rush to make the next trolley as we are already running late. We’re supposed to be there two hours prior to our walking time of 9:00 pm, so that TWDE folks can apply the zombie make-up. Now, you know Comic Con is in town when a ton of people dressed up in various costumes from superheroes to sexy vixens get on the trolley and no one bats an eye. I still can’t figure out how some of those women are comfortable walking around in 6-inch heels. I would fall over and sprain an ankle or two.
Once off the trolley, we rush to Petco Park to check-in. It’s pretty organized, you first sit to wait for instructions. Then you get up and move to sit in another section while the main zombie dude gives you a quick training session on how to be a zombie. He reiterates over and over again that you are to always remain in character (because people pay to be spectators, so we are always being watched by someone), and zombies are slow and lethargic…slow and lethargic…slow and lethargic…I am s l o w and l e t h a r g i c. We are not to hide and scare people (what, that’s fun), or try to attack them outright. As zombies, our muscles go into atrophy and we really can’t see. So we are to slowly, and lethargically walk with our shoulders and eyes downward. We can hear noises, and smell survivors within two arms length distance. That’s how we can “infect” the survivors (the people paying more good money to run the course). Remember, slow and lethargic. We can do that, I think.
On to make-up, the fun part. We get into different assembly lines of make-up artists from the actual show. Artists from either Los Angeles or Atlanta who get paid to turn people into zombies, now that’s a profession! First make-up base is sponged on our hands and faces to pale us down, then a splattering of black and red (a trick we will have to remember). Then we’re air sprayed more white or black coloring on our faces and arms, which smelled like it had a trace of rubbing alcohol. Last came the thick and sticky fake blood made with corn syrup splattered all over my face to look like we had been eating flesh. Jamie had her guy make it look like she had a head wound. Marie and I wanted more blood — we are blood thirsty B8#@*%? — we go back in line for more blood, which was why I wore a white smock in the first place, so the blood would be very visible. The make-up artist does just that this time, smearing blood all over me, which eventually ends up in places I didn’t imagine. I asked for more blood, and I sure did get it.
Now we wait in the holding area until our time slot. As I look around, we have an interesting group of zombies standing around doing nothing. I guess we are getting into character. There were people of all ages, yet skewed to those in their 20s or 30s. A few young children too. Many were dressed up to fit in with the Comic Con crowd. So you got your zombies wearing pajamas, orange prison wear, sailor zombies, bride zombie, zombie superheroes, and the FEMA guy — oh wait, he’s one of the course characters. This is when we take most of our pictures, because once we’re let out to infect survivors, we can’t be walking around with our iPhone cameras snapping away. Next year — GoPro. Remember, slow and lethargic.
The time has arrived for us zombies to greet the waves of survivors! We are assigned to a group upstairs in a section where a horde of zombies await the survivors as they turn a corner. We end up liking this zombie section because we can make comments to each other in low zombie voices as we slowly and lethargically drag ourselves around. But as we start our zombieing, it’s hard to infect anyone. These survivors run you down, I mean really run you down as if they really are going to get infected by you. I think Jamie was struck to the ground three times! I know I was hit quite a bit, but I admit I really tried to block them too. And when I try to reach out, I realize the location of my hands may not be the best area to grab people. I mean I didn’t want to be accused of sexually harassing anyone. But we soon get into the zombie mindset of wandering around aimlessly until we hear steps or they get close enough to smell. There’s usually someone that will make noise as a distraction for the group, so us zombies mob towards the direction of the noise while the other survivors move quietly around us. So nice of them to sacrifice themselves. Our group was able to trap one guy in a corner, he just sat hunched down on the ground not moving a bit. Eventually us zombies forgot about him and he quietly slipped that away. Remember that if you get overwhelmed by zombies in the future.
Some zombies really get into character, making grunting noises, falling due to our failing muscles. Sometimes we bump into each other like a slam dance. The spectators try to tell the survivors which way to go, or yell out to us that we could have gotten them. TWDE hecklers, who would have thought. Hey, we’re all trying here, give us a break, we paid even more good money to walk around slowly and lethargically.
After about an hour though (we have an hour and a half total walking slot), we decided to go rogue. I mean, us three were getting antsy, we’re very active women here. We find out that we can walk the rest of the course as long as we stay in character, so we decide to slowly and lethargically see what the survivors have to do. Well, everyone is in total character around here, the actors really get on the survivors to move it. There are all kinds of obstacles set up throughout half of the ballpark. And we only saw a part of it, there was so much more (see YouTube links at the end), and it looks like the survivors need to be somewhat fit (note to self – train for next year). We find the end, and the military group manning the area there was very nice to us, taking pics, and letting us experience the finale. They were a family of volunteers, which is another option to get involved with TWDE, but volunteer slots fill up quickly.
As the survivors young and old are herded into the safe zone, I’m sure they felt relief that they weren’t infected. A fun time for all.
TWDE is just plain fun. Another chance to reinvent yourselves in a minor way playing dress-up. We’re all kids at heart and love to play. Would we do it again? Absolutely! While we were zombieing around, we kept getting ideas on what to do for next year. First, we would be survivors too and participate both ways. We would wear wigs, so we don’t get all that sticky blood goop in our hair and waste all that water showering at 2:00 in the morning. Oh, and we had all kinds of ideas on fun, freaky costumes to wear. It’s still in the planning stages, so I won’t share all our secrets yet. Yup, I admit it’s kind of a nerdy thing to do, but hey nerds rule the world, and we are looking for world domination!
Walking around like a zombie was somewhat a form of meditation. No really. Think about it — you’re walking around in a somewhat vegetative state, slowly and lethargically aimlessly meandering about. Thinking and doing nothing is, well, relaxing. I think I will include zombieing in my daily routine…where can I fit that in my schedule?
As we were discussing meditation on our way to the Gaslamp, some guy overhears and starts talking to us, asking what we were doing dressed up as zombies. It becomes a familiar question the rest of the night, as we make our way through the late evening Comic Con crowd for some midnight breakfast. Even in this setting, three petite female zombies is a sight to behold. We were sitting at the outdoor bar at Ascension (MaryJane’s at Hard Rock, SyFy channel takes it over for Comic Con) where there’s a glass partition separating you from the sidewalk. While devouring breakfast food (there’s only so much human flesh you can take), people kept walking by, pointing and smiling at us.
We also had a great time people watching, I mean it’s Comic Con, who needs a ticket, just grab a seat and watch. We see Mario Bros., octopus like creatures, more superheroes, Luche Libre type guys, some young construction guy that wanted us to stay and have a drink (we are not cougars), and a line of prostitutes, oh wait they were real ones. There were celebrity sightings too, Orlando Bloom went by us, supposedly Megan Fox was in the place, and Christopher Nolan (starring in Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey) was signing autographs right in front of us. We should have shoved a piece of paper over the glass wall for an autograph..
On the trolley ride home, you would have thought that superheroes and zombies are normal late night passengers. Me, I was happy to go home and wash all the blood and make-up off of me, because it’s really hard to pee when the toilet paper is sticking to your corn syrupy bloody hands.
Maybe I should watch all the Walking Dead episodes now, it’s on Netflix right?
The Walking Dead Escape, http://www.thewalkingdeadescape.com/, $20 to be a spectator, $75 survivor, $95 walker, $150 VIP – survivor and walker. (We were able to find a Living Social deal to be a walker for $42.) Tickets did sell out, so if you plan to do it next year, you may not want to wait for a deal and just buy a ticket. The next TWDE is scheduled for October 25 in Miami, and other cities to be determined. But remember TWDE for next year’s Comic Con weekend, as we will walk again!
youtube videos (there’s plenty, just search the walking dead escape san diego:
Early last week, a friend forwarded me an email request asking for volunteers during the annual Pride Festival. But my kids had basketball and baseball games, and other plans had been made, so the timing of the volunteer slots didn’t work. I had never been to the Pride Festival or watched the Parade, so it got me thinking maybe I should at least go and watch. Then without having mentioned it to her, my friend Lacy asked if I wanted to go to the Parade. I took that as a sign that going to the Pride Parade would be my 50 Weeks activity for Week 33.
As with many of my activities with friends we take the time going to and from the destination catching up on life. Lacy had just returned from her sister’s wedding in Jamaica, so I was getting the scoop. We soon drive into the Hillcrest area and after once around the block we park and walk to the Starbucks.
If Starbucks was an indication of the large crowd to be expected, it’s going to be huge. The line for morning lattes reached the door, and more importantly the bathroom line was just as long (of course I forgot to go before leaving the house and needed to stand in this line). Once getting relief and getting introduced to Kelly and Hank (friends of Lacy’s), we leave to find a spot along the parade route. It is already packed with many people bringing chairs and canopies. Luckily it wasn’t that hot of a day.
We claim a great location at the corner of University and Sixth, where we figured was a spot that Parade participants needed to stop and turn the corner. Already I can tell this is going to be one fun parade. Many spectators themselves were dressed for the occasion, Kelly had on a cute rainbow tutu. Lacy was wearing a colorful blocked dress (later a drag queen commented how she loved Lacy’s dress, and a gay guy said to his boyfriend to look at her great tits).There was a lovely family next to us whose young boy designed a rainbow t-shirt for them to wear, with labels of Dad, Dad, Daughter and Son on the backs. Lots of skimpy clothing too — both men and women. I just had to look at a woman’s ass that was half exposed, you couldn’t miss it.
Once the parade started with a leather clad bike club leading the way, there came lots and lots and lots of participating groups. Pretty much every local politician was there, many legal associations, churches, banks, medical groups, nightclubs, radio stations, and of course, all the LGBT associated groups. I was having fun just being there since I haven’t watched a parade since…I can’t even remember, probably when I was a little girl. (I’ve always wanted to watch the Rose Parade too, but I have been to the Rose Bowl.)
You really have to experience the Parade to truly enjoy it, which is why this blog is mostly pictures because there was so much to see — and there was so much more that I didn’t include, need to edit you know. What was my favorite? So much…all the cute guys (so what if they’re gay, still great eye candy, especially the half naked ones with ripped bodies, is there a gay strip club I can go to?), the foam truck, all the fun giveaways (I was given a bunch of condoms), the Chipotle truck with the giant riding burrito, the costumes, and all the signs expressing love for all (“I love all my children, even the straight ones”, “God loves us all”, and “size matters” — oh wait, well still a great sign).
The vibe of the Parade and the festival is one of acceptance. No matter your sexual preference, race, religion, big or little, how you looked, favorite dog breed or bank affiliation, Pride welcomes all and judges no one. Well, the anti-circumcision group drew a few “not the right place for that, honey” type of comments, but overall it was a fun gathering of people enjoying life and who they are. Always take pride in yourself — you are beautiful, inside and out!
San Diego Pride, https://sdpride.org/. This was the Pride festival’s 40th anniversary, which drew a 300,000 parade attendance (yes, it was really, really crowded), 40,000 music festival attendance, and 940 volunteers. Be prepared, with so many groups participating, the Parade was long, over 3 hours (we had time to eat fish tacos at Oscar’s during the parade, http://www.oscarsmexicanseafood.com). The music festival was only $20 for both Saturday and Sunday, so plan for next year. Lacy and I are trying to figure out how to participate in the parade next year — anyone have a flatbed truck, DJ equipment, and racy costumes we can borrow?
On the road or on your toes, it’s all about the journey.
Keys Creek Lavender Farm.
We were all chatting and catching up with friends the evening of the Fourth of July, and Linda mentioned reading about the lavender farm in San Diego. Now, when I envision the rolling purple hillsides of lavender farms, I think of Provence. Something I had hoped to do whenever I get a chance to visit France again. The idea that there was one in my own county, well add that to my 50 Weeks list.
That weekend I tried to locate info about the lavender farm, and I was brought to the website of Keys Creek Lavender Farm. And what do you know, the season was extended into two more weekends in July (normal season is May and June). I took this as a sign that a visit was in order, so next thing you know I’m emailing Linda and Sharon (who was in on the discussion) and we made plans to go. Since we all had some weekend activities scheduled (we all have boys in summer sports, that should explain it all), we had to squeeze in a visit this past Saturday afternoon.
We know it will be hot, so we grab our hats and off we drive away. And you know when they say it’s not the destination but the journey, well that was partially true for this trip. As we ramble up the 15 corridor, we continue to chat away and get caught up on life. We unintentionally make a wrong turn somewhere, and didn’t realize it until we couldn’t find the “Yellow Deli” landmark as noted in the website’s directions. We decide to check our blue dot location on Google Maps and figure out our way back, which led us to one of the curviest roads I’ve ever been on in the mainland. (For those of you who have been on the Road to Hana in Maui, think of the road we took as the same pattern, but without the lush green waterfalls to your right and the deep ocean blues to your left.)
After driving this windy road, thankfully we all kept our stomach contents intact, we get to a main road and soon pass the Yellow Deli. We turn right onto a dirt road, and as we start to drive it I’m thinking “thank goodness my lease is up next month!” A mile and a half later of driving up and down short hills, passing through tree groves, we arrive at the entrance to the farm.
I will admit that I was disappointed at first at not seeing rows and rows of purple. But we soon realized that was because all the lavender stems in the lower fields that we first came upon had already been harvested. We did come at the end of the season, so that is to be expected. Now that we know about the place, we can visit earlier next year. As we continue walking towards the main visitor’s area under the hot sun, we soon get a whiff of the fresh lavender scent. Ahhh, here’s our journeys destination.
We pass the welcoming gate and you can immediately sense a feeling of calm. Quirky plant displays and repurposed furniture greet us. First thing we do — walk into the gift shop. Everything lavenderish you can think of, they’ve got. Oils, lotions, bath products, teas, candles, lavender. I try to sample the oil and accidently pour way too much on my hands — Sharon, do you need some oil? We leisurely look at all the products, and after a taste sampling — or two, or was it three — amongst us we take home a variety of goods (tea, lemonade, scone mix, sachets, caramel sauce, jelly, and of course, lavender sprigs).
We mosey up the dirt path to Mrs. Jones Tea House. Like the gift shop, the tea house is a cozy wooden cabin, painted in olive green with lavender trim that blends so comfortably with the surrounding fields. The wrap around porch provides views of the picturesque hillside, plus desired shade while we sip on lavender iced tea and lemonade, and munch on lemon lavender cookies and scones.
There was a very lovely couple from Germany, Clarissa and Marc, tending the tea house, who was helping out at the farm for a few weeks. They were part of the WWOOFing program which pairs volunteers to work at organic farms in exchange for room and board (sign me up!). Clarissa and Marc have been able to travel all over the world as part of this exchange. We kept chatting with them about the program, since it was so interesting to us, and we were all wondering if that lifestyle would fit into our retirement plans — I think so. Okay kids, hurry up, finish college, and start supporting yourself, cuz mom is hitting the road!
It was time to actually walk amongst the lavender bushes, where we can read about the different varieties. (They grow 20+ varieties.) There were lots of bees around, which the farm is trying to help preserve theri population. We walk around to the far fields where lies a bougainvillea archway leading you to a lavender labyrinth and meditation garden. The whole setting was so serene, so peaceful, so natural. When I think of living in the countryside, this is what I would envision.
As we head back home, on a shorter and less windier road, you can’t help but begin to think about ways to live like this. Maybe true innovation in the future will be a way to combine technology for use in smaller and less stressful communities. Not just for those who have the luxury to do so, because in my mind, living on a farm such as Keys Creek is a luxury.
There are lots of canyons around San Diego, and my neighborhood of University City is surrounded by Rose Canyon. The city maintains hiking trails in the canyon and for the almost 15 years that I have lived here, I am ashamed to admit that I have never been in Rose Canyon, until now.
Walking through Rose Canyon was on my 50 Weeks list because it was one of those activities that’s so easy and so accessible that you always think, oh I’ll do that next week, next month, next year. Our elementary school would have field trips into the canyons, yet for some reason or another those were dates I was unable to chaperone.
How did I finally get down into Rose Canyon? After our lively lavender seeking drive to Valley Center, I felt it was warranted to take a nap. Well, before I could get into the dream stage, Gigi texted me to see if I was up for a walk in the neighborhood. Sure, why not, I need the exercise and it was a lovely evening. And she too came back from a long drive to Los Angeles and wanted to move her legs about. So off we went on a typical walk through the UC hood.
At one point we came close to the trailhead on Regents Road, I had pointed us towards Starbucks, but Gigi wanted to know what was down there. We looked at the posted map, down the hill towards a hidden creek, and a asked a gentleman who was jogging down into the trail about how far a hike would it be. He said that he usually turns around at a certain point and comes back, but I knew there was a way out the other side — not only by looking at the map, but because my kids have been known to play in the canyons with their friends.
We each had a water bottle, the sun was still out, and you know I love these impromptu adventures. Plus it was on my list, the time was now.
Down into the canyon we go, first into a steep well worn dirt path. We seemed to have lost the creek. But we meet it up again at the bottom as we cross over it on a very nicely built bridge. The path then opens up onto a wide trail that parallels the canyon with the train tracks on the north side. We notice a huge tree that was either burned or hit by lightning. Tiny wildflowers decorate the canyon.
Quite a few people are down in the canyon, mostly of the running, sweaty types. Us, we walk. And we walk, and we walk. I assured Gigi there was a way out if we continue, and there was no need to turn around. (Gigi – I know you were questioning me.) But after a while I must admit I wasn’t sure if we would be out before dark, because I thought there would be a shortcut up the hill ending up at the west end of Governor Drive. If there was, it wasn’t visible from the path we were taking. So we walk.
We stay on the path and were rewarded with surprising rustic charm. Besides the beauty of the natural habitat, some of the trail was lined with ranch-like wooden fences, areas lined off for regrowth, and plank bridges. I loved part of the path that was enclosed by trees, kinda spooky. Eventually it leads up on a bare narrow ledge around the west end of the canyon, where you can wave to the train passengers and watch the freeway traffic. As we head down we once again encounter the gentleman we first talked too and his young son riding a dirt bike. He reassured us that we were almost there. He and his son were heading back the other way. We were happy we made it this far.
As we see the end leading back to our neighborhood, we also notice other paths that lead to Marian Bear Park and its trails — next time. Because right now the hardest part was ahead of us — the killer walk up the steep Bothe Avenue!
In both activities, the time spent with friends getting to the destination became what was cherished. In both trips, there were times we weren’t really sure where we were going, but we kept trudging along eager to get to the final stop…must have been the full moon. In both, we met wonderfully nice people who we chatted up and learned new insights. In both, we discovered places that seemed so remote, yet were in our own backyards. And in both, we ended up enjoying the excursions so much, we found ourselves planning for “next time.” Our children may have brought us all together in the first place, but our growing friendships have lasted. Here’s to more journeys together my friends!
Keys Creek Lavender Farm, 12460 Keys Creek Road, Valley Center, CA 760.742.3844, www.kclfarm.com. The season is over for now, which is usually during the months of May and June. Entrance fee is $5 per person. During the season they hold special events and classes such as distillation workshops, soap making classes, English High Teas, and Jazz Concerts. The farm is available for special events. Their products are also available at farmer’s markets, including Ocean Beach, Little Italy, and La Jolla.
Friends of Rose Canyon, www.rosecanyon.org. A non-profit volunteer-run organization which helps preserve Rose Canyon. They offer student field trips, bird walks, and volunteer preservation opportunities. The website contains some information filled videos.
City of San Diego, http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/oscp/ – useful info and trail maps.