Archive for March, 2009

The Problem With Going Home

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

my beeeeeeach

Leaving my hometown is like being shoved from Narnia into—well, here: nicked, scuffed and bruised around the edges NoHo, where some residents use tin foil or bedsheets as curtaining. Here, there are multi-colored pedestrian crossings, a low-slung library named for Amelia Earhart (who lived in nearby Toluca Lake until she vanished) and snarly pavement sweepers who don’t mind letting you know they’re outraged you’re strolling your baby and talking on your cell phone at the same time. And there’s that park as large as a small sea—flanked by incessantly hissing freeway. And here there are many vacant lots losing all of their prosperous-potential via massive sinkholes from the recent rains, rusting chainlink fencing afflicted with a sag and sway lacking any poetry. Any.

Not that I haven’t found beauty in NoHo, in our own silly, sad vacant lot that sticks around, or in some trees.

But though Santa Barbara was encased in gray cloud on my last visit—still my beach offered a quiet walk next to ruffled surf and wending dolphins, a brisk/brusque wind in my face clearing NoHo from my eyes. Though I couldn’t see Santa Cruz Island offshore, just knowing it was there was certain antidote to stressing over house hunting. Peace. I felt some peace for about 53 hours, give or take T’s middle of the-night-wakings. And joy. I felt some of that, too.

When my husband returned from work this evening to tell me our offer was not accepted on the little house we’re rabidly interested in, when he told me there were 17 offers on the little house with the huge yard we so coveted, 8 of them cash offers, finding, or rather recalling that Santa Barbara peace here, in NoHo, is the test, my test, especially tomorrow, when, beach-deprived, I drive my son to yet another park as substitute for no back yard. Becuase I’m not going to cry. Or punch holes in walls or closets, or all alone bemoan our outcast state. Obviously, we’re not outcasts—we’re lucky lakeside condo owners. Obviously, I’m not alone–and by the beard of Zeus (or somebody’s beard or, more likely, boobs) I have that baby. I will keep having faith—in that I can have faith—faith in the universe, say, and its winking favorably on house hunters wishing for back yards and, someday, ocean views in my hometown where my small family will be casually, causally (right? right! because, Auntie Em, I want to come home) living, faith-held. And with Obama as President.

The problem with going home and feasting on excessive beauty? No problem. No problem at all. Just—

by the boobs of Zeus, give the kid a yard. Please?
giant baby needs yard!

Getting Older…

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Travel Town lecture series

My son is 16 months old. My father? A mere 66. In 2001 my dad had a stroke that should have killed him–but he was too stubborn about living to die. The doctors herded my sisters and I into a tiny room at the hospital where my dad struggled, stubbornly, in the ICU. They showed us eerily glowing scans of my dad’s brain. See here? And this mass here? they asked us and we nodded, wincing–who wants to see their dad’s BRAIN? Not us. Brain cancer! we were told and we nodded again, upset. But my dad was too stubborn about–about everything, apparently–to have brain cancer. To this day my sisters and I muse to each other, Hey–remember dad’s brain cancer? Whatever happened to that? And we give little shrugs that mean: I have no f****** clue, Man…

For 8 years since his stroke and misdiagnosed brain cancer my dad has lived a retired man’s dream in a seaside condo in silly, tiny, OC-surrounded Dana Point. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t drink alcohol. He reads. A lot. The New Yorker, the New Republic, the New York Times, many novels going at once: the John Adams biography, the latest tome on string theory, re-reads of the Master and Commander series and a biography on O’Brian, Gruen’s Water For Elephants (oddly!). And he watches CNN. And accompanies us to the Scripp’s Institute aquarium. And takes the train to visit us and we wander Travel Town so he can lecture on the creepy old steam engines, or we wander LACMA, or the Getty up there on its kingly hill. I want my son to have memories of his Gdad. And since the mysteriously vanishing brain cancer incident, I’ve just assumed my dad is invincible, despite his gout, his need for frequent bench-breaks when we’re wandering, the occasional wheeze between his lengthy, five-minute sentences.

This week my dad was diagnosed with COPD, a double-whammy disease–emphysema and chronic bronchitis (hence that wheezing). COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in this country. Apparently you can have it for years and not know it–then, one day, it blooms full force and your doctor prescribes an inhaler, later an oxygen canister, later assisted living as the disease, incurable, progresses at its private pace. Next week my dad will have a Cat Scan and an MRI as his doctors look for: lung cancer and that old, elusive brain cancer. I’m thinking the COPD is enough for my dad to live with. I’m thinking whatever deal he made with the cancer to stay away will stick. I’m thinking if my dad can just make it for another few years, or 10, my son will have definite, ingrained memories of his Gdad. I’m thinking I knew this was going to happen, my husband and I have discussed it, our parents getting older, diagnosed with “things”, and at some point—to put it not unkindly, but bluntly—checking out. Such discussions make us feel incurably adult-like and mortal. If we feel this way, how does my dad feel? Don’t ask him. He won’t tell you. Oh he’ll lecture to you all about COPD, but he won’t tell you how he feels about having COPD. He prefers it that way…So stubborn…

T and I will pick up his Gdad from Uni Station next week and motor up to Santa Barbara. We’ll take the Gdad for a wander on Hendry’s Beach and that weekend his daughters will gather and we’ll have a kind of party with grandkids and sons-in-laws and dogs and the BBQ and bottles of lemonade. We’ll have a party for my big, talkative, slightly stumbling, COPD dad who never smiles for the camera, even though he is having a good time. And—because what else is there to do except emulate a Greek Chorus and that gets old very, extremely fast and would completely annoy my dad in any case—for now we’ll just keep on with the old, Him? Oh, him! Don’t worry about him. That stubborn dude will live forever…And I’ll keep stubbornly thrusting T into my dad’s awkward, deceptively capable, arms.

Gdad almost smiles

Blog Break: Whaleshark…

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Pretty sure this is illegal in many, many countries…

Whaleshark fry!

Celebrity Sighting: Travel Town…

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Travel Town!

A problem with Los Angeles is that you can’t always have a low-key family outing to Griffith Park’s Travel Town (of all the funky, super-unglamorous, kid-infested spots in LA, yes there’s the sweet—considerably creaky—train ride, but please, the rest of the site is weird, is where trains come to die and if you’re inside a train it’s so musty parents and children rock the antique cars with their sneezes), can’t have a benign family stroll in your grungy clothes with other sleepless parents in their rumpled clothes, bed-head, splotches of morning banana cereal on our jeans, can’t just stroll in the odd, out-of-the-way LA venue without, even here, running into celebrities toting their born-famous brood, designer diaper bags and, sadly, completely all got-up.

Today, as we neared the only passenger car without a Thomas The Train or Sponge Bob party raging inside of it, a car where we usually let T run from one musty end to the other with the secret plan of wearing him out for his afternoon nap, I became vaguley aware of IT emanating from parents leaving the area, their faces frozen in the didyousee, didyousee expression that can only mean CELEBRITY—IT, i.e., body-slamming waves of celebrity-sighting-euphoria. Still not totally conscious of what was happening, I lifted T to take him up the awkward steps of the train.

Before we could go up, she descended with her kid in her arms to a bunch of her peeps waiting for her outside the train, peeps who had glared at me when I pushed politely through them in my zeal to get my son inside the train and running nap-laps, glares I realized later signaled that the peeps were being protective of their mommy celebrity, in case I was some star-gazing stalker-mommy who didn’t care she was committing a major celebrity-personal-space violation, because everyone who lives in LA knows that once a celebrity enters Travel Town it is no longer a public venue. Rules change. Cameras flash. People mutter and stare blatantly, jaws slack. Distances are kept. After she disembarked from the passenger car (slow motion descension, her coiffed celebrityness penetrating my sunglasses: ribbon-shiny platinum hair, chic black shawl, combat boots, the signature red lipstick–so important to wear lipstick in Travel Town) and made off with her protective peeps, my husband grabbed my arm. “Did you see who that was??? Did you see??? Now THAT’S a major celebrity sighting!” he hissed, IT emanating from him so intensely T and I were almost body-slammed to Travel Town’s loose rock surface.

I regained my footing, shifted T in my arms, shrugged. “So?”

To which he responded, disgruntled and disbelieving and suspicious, “Come on, babe! You’ve got to admit that’s a pretty major sighting.”

To which I did not respond, but ascended into the train and set our son loose, focusing on him and only him, the subject of the celebrity sighting have gone on way too long for my peace of mind. Later, waiting to ride the creaky train, we noticed heads turning in unison to our right—and there she was again with her kid and her peeps and suddenly those in line were making snide-ish comments about her, from her platinum hair to her boots to her “stupid bright orange bag” (a man said), a bright orange designer diaper bag slung from her shoulder. And then I turned and then I looked.

The bag was bright, clashing I’m not sure how smartly with her chic black shawl. Her peeps, I noticed, weren’t dressed like her. No lipstick. No combat boots. Her dad or father-in-law carried her other kid, a sweet-faced little baby wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. All I could think about was seeing her in that music video where she wears a cape, silly leotard, tights and boots, marching around, uttering the same inane, de-feminizing lyric over and over. And I recalled an article I skimmed in some magazine where she claimed to drop her clothes all over the house and luckily had “people” to pick everything up after her. Her big house. Her hugely huge mansion. With, no doubt, a park for a back yard, ponies trotting around freely, fountains, roses, frolicking labradors…

I hate seeing celebrities. It’s not that I want to be one. I do want a few things, but it’s not that ever-hopeful wanting that irks me and will bring on the recurring nightmare that I’m Brangelina’s stressed-out nanny once I close my eyes in the king sized bed tonight. It’s IT that irks me: the hype and the lipstick and the gazes and the cameras and the snide comments and the slack jaws. Look to your own backyard. Who said that? Because in your own backyard is a little boy with amazing blue eyes and a laugh that goes into your bones and shakes them into a revitalized You. Is this really so hard to remember when confronted with celebrities out in public? I don’t know. When you’re sleepless parents, it’s hard to remember anything, easier just to look, slack-jawed, rumpled, then look away. Take your husband’s hand. Squeeze it. And go and have some lunch.

Travel Town Train!

Pre-Spring Beach Break…

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

O Trees!

The good old rollicky Pacific is the antidote to house hunting mania or any stresses in life. By 8a.m. we were on the road, the minivan loaded in T’s wagon loaded in towels, diaper bag, sippy cup, baby food and a breakfast consisting of freshly popped popcorn, a tuna melt from last night’s dinner, smoked salmon and cream cheese finger sandwiches, flattish donuts that come in plastic bags and never need refrigerating, power bars and vegan chocolate chip cookies.

T hasn’t seen the ocean for a couple of months. We were interested in his reaction now that he walks so sturdily and owns the world. He adores water—pavement puddles, bathwater, dishwater—but the last time I took him to the beach all he wanted to do was eat sand. We were hoping that now, at 15 months, he’d be more interested in using his bucket and shovel than putting the beach in his mouth.

I’ll be quiet now.

To the special sand spot

Hm. A bucket.

The bucket wins! vs. Eating sand.

The bucket was a hit! Sand went into its blue interior vs. T’s mouth. As for the water? I had to curb the euphoria in the interest of keeping him alive and hypothermia-free, especially when he wanted to lie on his tummy and reverse bodysurf the waves.

Running for the ocean

jumping waves

early bodysurfing attempt

I so appreciate a successful day at the beach.

such a sweet snoozer