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Monday, August 31, 2009

This Too, Shall Pass

I'm feeling a little sad today. The weekend ended a difficult week, and though there was a small reprieve from worry for a few short hours on Saturday, Sunday brought new worries. I know that worry won't solve anything. If there's something that I've kept from my "Christianese" days, it's that worrying won't add an extra minute to my life. In fact, it will take minutes that are just too valuable these days. Yet its difficult sometimes to stop the brain wheels turning.

I don't know what the future holds and right now, the future is looming like a dark cloud over my head. What I do know is that it IS coming and I am certain I have no choice but to deal with it as it comes. I'm scared. But like every other time I've been scared, I will move through it.

After work on Saturday, I went to my dear friend Nancy's house. I met Charlie there. While Nancy and I floated in her pool, Charlie played Cabana Boy and brought us cocktails. We laughed and let the heat of the day leave us and the three of us talked about all the difficulties permeating each of our lives. There's some really hard shit to deal with; job losses, financial hardships, relationships crumbling, loved ones who left only days ago, and loved ones who are now knocking on heaven's door. I know we're not the only ones dealing with the hard shit. Everyone has their burden to bear. It's how you deal with it that makes the difference.

Charlie has always been rock-solid. He deals with stuff matter-of-factly, as it comes. There is no whining, there is just action. Nancy, like her father before her, is a bulldog. You cannot go around the problem, over the problem, or under the problem. You must go THROUGH the problem. Deal with it head-on. These are traits that have been difficult for me to aspire to. I tend to be emotional and I cry first. Then I whine a little. Then I get pissed off. THEN, I deal. I know it sounds heartless, but sometimes, it always makes me feel a little better if I concentrate on someone else's shit for a little bit. When I do that, it makes my shit seems so small by comparison. It didn't take long for someone else's shit to come our way.

On Sunday, we got a big, fat dose of someone else's difficulties and Charlie spent the better part of his weekend being a friend. For me, it was just a half of my Sunday. I don't know what will happen, but a dear friend of ours is in the hospital. It doesn't look good. Even worse, the people on whom he depends are kinda crumbling around him in self-destructive ways because they can't get their head off themselves and rally around him. I've always been the kind of person who won't give up on hope until the door is closed and locked. But it could very well be that hope is walking out that door right now and he's taking our friend with him. Of course, then a new level of hope begins, and there is comfort in that. It's just that there's going to be some heavy crap left behind to deal with.

As I think on these things, it makes my worries small. Not insignificant, but small by comparison. I don't know whether to feel good or bad about that. Maybe grateful is the right word. For now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to Celebrate the End of an Era

Last weekend, my sister reminded me that since her birthday on August 5th, we're the same age. But only for a couple more weeks. In just a short time, I will be in my last year of my forties. It's hard for me to believe that not long ago, I couldn't even SAY the "F" word. I would say "I'm thirty-ten", and the next year "I'm thirty-eleven". Somewhere around "thirty-fourteen" I finally said "fuck it" and got that other "F" word behind me. Like my sister, right now I am forty-eight. But the clock is ticking, and in just two weeks, I will be forty-nine.

Yesterday at the shop, I reflected on this soon-to-be reality out loud. Wes smiled and said "Heyyyy, that's right! How are we going to celebrate?" Jeebers. I never thought about it, but you know what? That's a damn good idea. When Charlie turned 50, I gave him a surprise party. We've been to a couple of parties of celebrants turning 50. I pondered. Why wait until 50? For me, 49 seems to be more a milestone. I don't know why, but for some reason, this last year of the forties seems to hit more of a chord in me than the impending fifth decade.

The problem is, I REALLY don't want a party. Oh I want TO party alright. I just don't want A party. I want to be surrounded by my friends and fam. But not just because it's my natal anniversary. I want it because that's what makes me happy; my friends and family. I don't know what we'll do. In fact, like most birthdays, it will probably pass without much ado and the truth is, I've always been okay with that. Money in the fall has always been short for us because of the beginning of the school year. We've always watched whatever "extra" funds we might have had around August and September go into a shopping cart full of school supplies. Now, there's no actual shopping cart, just a virtual cart where one click of the mouse deducts our bank account for tuition or books. Not to mention, each of my kids has a fall birthday (hey, Charlie and I had some cold winters when we were younger!), so my birthday, rightly so, usually falls by the wayside. Yesterday, Charlie gave Caris and I "the speech" about our state of affairs and how we have to be real careful for the next few months because things are REAL tight. Mickey will give me a free D-Land pass for my b-day, but what fun is that by myself?

So it will probably be dinner at home where I'll do the cooking. My sister said that her hubby cleaned her bathroom for her as a birthday present. Actually, I like the thought of that. Isn't it funny that with the passing of time and the lack of funds, the smallest things become the most treasured? A clean toilet that I did not toil over, or a stack of clean clothes that I did not fold, or even a full dishwasher that I did not load can make me positively giddy (although Caris does a great job of all that). What would make me ecstatic is if all my kids are here. Yes, that's a blatant hint. Not that any of my kids reads this blog anymore, but hey, it couldn't hurt.

So there it is. The answer to the annual question, "What do you want for your birthday?" I want my family. And a bottomless Cosmopolitan.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tiki Crazy

I've put off writing about our trip to Tiki Oasis because I'm tired. It was a lot of work getting ready for it, it was a lot of work working at it, and it's been a lot of work coming back from it. I'm only just now getting caught up from the aftermath of dismantling the store to take everything with us for our booth, and then putting everything back IN th store for regular business. I'm not complaining, you understand. Just stating the facts. The truth is, I kinda pushed Wes into vending there. Ok, I didn't just "kinda" push him. I begged. I pleaded. Okay, okay, I pushed HARD! It's been three years since House of Tiki attended or vended at one of these events. With the economy the way that it's been and the hard time we've had staying afloat, Wes and I both knew we needed to do this. House of Tiki needed a good shot in the arm. I made a deal with Wes. I would take full responsibility for running the booth at Tiki Oasis, and he would go and make himself seen. In other words, he would be the PR department...schmooze and booze with the natives. I liked our plan. I think he did too.

For the last couple of years, Wes has been "laying low" in the Tiki World. I know things have been tough. It was heartbreaking having to close the store on Newport Boulevard and to give up his dream of Hot Lava Java (the coffee shop attached to House of Tiki) after only a few months. The city took so long to get us our permits that it took over a year to actually open, and by the time we did, we missed the much-needed summer tourist crowd. House of Tiki ended up "carrying" the expenses to run the coffeshop, and by then, we just couldn't hold it up anymore. It took the wind out of his sails. In the last couple of years, it's been one setback after another. Many days, it's hurt my heart to see him hurting. He sold his property on the well-traveled, high-traffic Newport Blvd. and we moved into an out of the way warehouse. No customers for a year. Then, we found the funky little quonset hut we now call home. Slow at first, but so much better than the off the beaten track warehouse. People started coming in. They'd say; "We thought you guys went out of business! We're so glad you're still here." Charlie and I started showing up at Tiki events, and people would say; "Where's Wes?" Everywhere we went, "Where's Wes?" I'd tell him, "You're the one they want to see! We've got to get you back out there!" So, I pushed, and he'd shuffle. He totally agreed with me, but he still shuffled. As Tiki Oasis neared, he finally jumped on and said.."Let's do it, Pua!"

So, off we went. We ordered new shirts, new mugs, new stuff. We started telling customers we were going to be there. I saw a new fire in the Big Kahuna. It was good for the soul. He even entered his dune buggy "Bugzooka" into the car show. Trying to keep expenses down, I called my sister and asked her if we could stay at her house instead of paying for a room at the hotel. I also signed Charlie and I up to volunteer for guest check-ins so we could put names to faces and also because it helped me get tickets for Rick and Trent. A few months ago, I told Rick that a bunch of surf bands were playing and since Rick plays with a surf band of his own; Morning Glass, (that's Rick in the foreground!) I thought he would enjoy coming and checking it out. Seeing Rick and Trent for the short time that we did on Saturday night was probably the ONLY off-time we had. And that was all of two hours. Still, it was the best two hours! Thanks for coming Rick and Trent..it was WELL worth those volunteer hours just to see you. Thursday note: Trent is my date tonight for Wicked because Ricky has a gig. And while I'm sorry Rick has to miss Wicked, I'm VERY excited about my date with Trent, Sis, and Phil. Thanks again Ricky!

We worked from sunup to sundown and well past it. While tikiphiles partied, we worked.

While the Big Kahuna Wes PR'd his heart out, we did what we came there to do. I saw my sister all of half an hour the whole weekend. We'd walk in the door at 1 AM and she would give us loving pity and send us off to bed. Then we'd get up before seeing her and get back to the event to work our booth. We're exhausted, all of us. But for Wes, and House of Tiki, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. My pictures are pretty sedate. I didn't get much because, well, we were working the whole time except for the short time we spent listening to The Lively Ones with Rick and Trent. But, to get a "feel" for what was happening at Tiki Oasis from the people who were there to party, go HERE. Because like I said before; words just can't do it justice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Selfish Acts

I'm finally feeling somewhat caught up after the crazy weekend at Tiki Oasis. It was such hard work, but so worth it. I'll have more about that later. Right now, I just feel angry and I've been trying to wrap my head around it since Sunday night.

When we got home from San Diego and Charlie pulled into the drive, I RAN in the house because my poor bladder could not wait another second. While I was inside, Charlie got our luggage and a few things out of Wes' truck. Our neighbor Kathy, who was walking her dog Rex as she does every evening, greeted Charlie and asked about the weekend. After a bit of smalltalk, Charlie asked her how she was. He did not expect the response she gave him. She told him that she'd been very depressed the last few days. That's not like Kathy. She's always a bright, happy spirit. She always has a smile on her face, always something nice to say whenever you see her.

She began to tell Charlie of the source of her pain over this past week. Our tract of homes surrounds a neighborhood park. My kids have grown up playing in that park. It's a popular little park with a very large grassy area. On the weekends, it isn't surprising to see many family picnics happening. A group of seniors often play bocci ball there. Another group practices their Tai Chi. There are sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, and also a racquetball court. Sometimes, Charlie and I like to walk a couple of laps around the park with Ellie in the cool of the evenings. Kathy walks Rex early in the mornings. Very early. Every morning. It seems on her usual early morning walk with Rex last Saturday, she was coming up to a stand of trees when she saw from a distance what appeared to be a dummy slumped up under a branch. Perhaps a joke of some kind that kids might have left after a party. As she got closer, she says her knees began to buckle. She realized it was a person. A person hanging from the tree. A woman.

She says she literally started shaking, and just as she saw this horrific sight, a neighbor whose home literally butts up against the park stepped out of their house to pick up their morning paper. The neighbor screamed and ran into her house to get her husband. Kathy says she froze. Though she had her phone with her, she says she could not get her wits about her enough to dial her phone, and even if she could, she says she was shaking so much, that she couldn't hold her hands still long enough to push the buttons. The neighbor came out and called 911 and soon, the police arrived.

Kathy told Charlie that since this happened, she's been so traumatized that she cannot walk in the park. She's been taking Rex for walks in the opposite direction, away from our tract. Away from the park. She isn't angry yet, she's just sad and depressed. But I'm pretty pissed. I'm pissed that this stupid woman could do something like this in our little park. Our park where our children play. Our park, where so many people find joy. Our park, where Kathy and Rex walked every single day for YEARS. She did it on a Saturday morning, when the likelihood of families arriving for picnics and fun with their kids could possibly see her. I didn't know her story, but to tell you the truth, I didn't care.

Now I DO know her story and I'm even angrier. I did some research yesterday morning and found out that this woman was 51 years old (she would have been 52 on Sunday). She was convicted of defrauding her company and embezzling over $550,000. She was facing 10 years in federal prison. On Friday, she did not show up for her sentence hearing and the FBI put out a warrant for her arrest. The company she works for is little more than a block away from the park. They found her car parked at her work, but no sign of her. That's because the crazy woman walked over to our little park and hung herself.

I know it sounds so harsh. But I have NO sympathy for this behavior. Charlie's father committed suicide and did it in such a way that his family would find him and have to clean up a rather ugly mess. Actually, Charlie was the one who had to do that. A selfish act by a selfish man who never thought about anyone but himself. The last memory he leaves for his only son is to clean up his blood and brain matter spattered in the garage. The only thing I give him is that he did it OUT of public view, behind closed doors. Still, what a jerk to leave your family and your responsibilities that way. Bastard. That's what I think of this woman. A selfish act by a selfish woman. Instead of taking her punishment, she hangs herself in a public park for some innocent, unsuspecting person to find, leaving her family to live through the mess she leaves behind. Poor Kathy, out walking her dog, embracing the new day as she always does, and she walks right into this horror. And now, she says she keeps seeing it over and over. She says she was glad it was early enough that children weren't in the park yet and she wonders about the woman's family. I'm angry for her family. What a cowardly thing to do, and even worse, to do it so openly.

Charlie told Kathy that if she needed to talk, we were here. He understands what she's going through. It's a hard visual to get past. Until it does pass, she can't bring herself to walk in the park. And I'm mad as hell that that stupid woman took that away from Kathy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

East Meadow Bed & Breakfast

We're home. It was, in no uncertain terms, a whirlwind trip. Averie, Caris and I had a pretty easy time getting to New York. While the first flight from Orange County was pretty uneventful, the second leg from Dallas had its moments. We were seated behind Al and Peg Bundy and a little old lady who was kind enough to spray herself and the three of us with Granny perfume. Ahh, the joys of being in a claustrophic flying tin can with copious amounts of Tabu. Two planes and eight hours of travel time later, we were more than happy to see the smiling faces of Jess and Marc waiting for us in baggage claim.

Not knowing if they could fit us and all of our luggage into one car, the boys brought both of their vehicles. Averie and Caris rode home with Marc, and I caught a ride with Jess. We spoke easily of so many things; the weather in New York in summer, the trip, the kids, the coming days of Averie's meetings in the city, and how at that very minute the girls were probably talking Marc's ear off in the other car.

Before I knew it, we were in East Meadow, pulling up to Jess and Marc's lovely home. Soon, we were ooooing and awwwwing over every little thing on our house tour. They quickly gave us the lay of the land, what rooms were available, and who could sleep where. The girls quickly chose the gorgeous Purple Room upstairs having determined that since I suffer from "Personal Summer", I would be more comfortable in the cool of the basement room. I know that sounds like I was relagated, like a bad child, to the less desireable space. But the truth is, Jess and Marc's basement room is beautiful, and as the girls predicted, perfect in "climate" for me. I was in heaven; surrounded by quiet and coolness, with no snoring husband to compete with for bedspace.

As Marc quickly went to the kitchen to work his culinary magic, Jess introduced us to their kids; Bernice the Matriarch, Princess Mandy, and Dodger the Sweet Rascal. The comparisons between their kids and mine did not go unnoticed by me. Two girls, one boy, organized chaos smothered in lovies. We did not lack for attention, nor were we stingy with the returned affection. It wasn't difficult to lose track of time when we were completely enfolded in dog kisses. The love was mutual.

A few months ago, when Jess first mentioned that they had plenty of room at their home should we ever find ourselves on the east coast, I really had no idea that I'd be writing him and asking him if he was serious. Averie had been asked to come to New York and interview at SNL and Late Night. We were tight on funds and since she's basically a starving artist, I knew we would have to cut corners. So, I wrote Jess an email and presented my plight. He did not hesitate even an iota. On the contrary, he excitedly reiterated that indeed, they had the welcome mat out and they were more than happy to have us come and stay with them. Soon, emails were not only being passed between Jess, Marc, and myself, but between Averie, Caris, Jess, and Marc as well. Happily, my girls instantly bonded with my friends, as I had no doubt they would.

I cannot express to you how far these darling men went out of their way for us. Jess made numerous trips back and forth between train stations to drop us off in the mornings and retrieve us in the evenings. Marc created epicurean sensations day in and day out; mango-pineapple salsa, chocolate chip pancakes, homemade chocolate ice cream, carmelized onions with homegrown herbs. Jess kept us on schedule and gave us the definitive NOT FOR TOURISTS guide. He checked train schedules, and told us how to get around once we were in the city. Marc and Caris talked at length about their love for pickles and Bloody Marys. They shared their favorite eateries and told us what sites not to miss. Miss them, we did not. We ate up not only their sound advice, but their food as well. If there was a need, they filled the desire. If there was a desire, they made it come to fruition. We were want for nothing.

Though our time together was truly brief as the boys had to work during the weekdays and we were in the city most of the days, the few hours that we did have the pleasure of their company was sweet. Time passed quickly as life stories were shared and laughter was plenty. As if they hadn't done enough already, they also were kind enough to ask me if there were other blog family members that I wanted to meet. Yes, I have longed for so long to meet some, but didn't want them to go to any trouble when they had already done so much. The response from Jess was quick; "Oh Pua, what am I going to do with you?" By now, with the amount of gracious hosting extended to us, I should know that it was not too much for them, and Jess and Marc made it happen.

On Friday evening, with butterflies in my stomach, I waited at the house with Marc and the girls while Jess made trips to the train station to pick up adorable Jase, wonderful Wayne, my "Kolohe" Patrick, the irrepressibly divine Deidre, new to my heart Patrick L., and last, but certainly not least, the fabulously handsome and celebrated FARB. I was honored, and humbled that these people whom I have adored from afar for YEARS would take time out of their busy lives to get on a train and come out to Long Island to meet me. The food was fabulous, the libations flowed, the laughter filled the house, the warmth filled my heart and my soul was fed. I wanted it to last forever, and though time would not allow it, nothing will ever remove the sweet memory of this night from my mind. A mere "Thank you" seems so completely inadequate for the gift of their presence in my world. When the evening was over, my mind replayed the easy conversations, the humor, the fun, AND not only that, I held in my hands TWO of my books, now signed by my friend, the author, Rob Byrnes. No one will EVER roll their eyes at me again when I say that I know him. So there!

On our last day, we all had a blissful morning sleep-in, and after breakfast, Jess and Marc took us on a tour of Long Island. We went through the Hamptons, had ferry rides from Sag Harbor, and to Shelter Island. All these places we'd only heard about, are now places we can say we've seen. We stopped at Jess and Marc's favorite winery, Pindar, and enjoyed some wine tasting. This was Caris' first time experiencing a wine tasting, and she ended up buying three of the five wines she tasted. Then, having never seen such a large field of sunflowers before, the girls couldn't resist a romp through the stand of flowers, which made Jess, Marc, and I all laugh. We ended our tour at the Modern Snack Bar, where we had some incredibly comfortable comfort food, then all of us waddled back out to the car. Poor Jess, he had to make the long drive home listening to all of us snoring since it didn't take long for that big meal and the lull of the road to send us off to Dreamland.

Soon we were back at what the girls and I were lovingly calling the East Meadow Bed & Breakfast, and all of us were thinking that within hours, this trip would be over. We knew we had to get to bed early since the girls and I had a plane to catch at 6 am. Not once did Jess or Marc complain about us having to get them up at the ungodly hour of 3 am to get us ready and to the airport on time. It was hard to say goodbye to Bernice, Mandy, and Dodger. We got in as many kisses and tummy rubs as we could. Charlie called and told me to PLEASE tell Jess and Marc how grateful he was to them for taking care of his girls. "Please tell them Pua. Make sure you tell them how much I appreciate their hospitality and warmth to you Ave and Caris. It means more to me than they can know." I promised, and I delivered his message to Jess before we said goodnight.

The ride to the airport was so much quieter than the ride to Jess and Marc's home a mere 5 days prior. It all went by so fast. It was more than successful in so many ways. Averie's meetings went better than she expected and she came home to a couple of requests for phone interviews. She gleaned so much wisdom from so many people in her field. But more than that, the three of us gained such a heartfelt love for these two people who opened their hearts and their home to three people that they had never met before. There is no overlooking that.

As they helped us unload our suitcases at the airport, we took turns hugging them. It was hard to say goodbye. Very hard. I wanted to linger longer in those embraces. I hoped that they felt my gratitude. Not only for all they did for me, but for all they did for my girls. I hoped that they knew, truly knew how deeply they now live in my heart.

Pics of the Trip

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fingers Crossed

It's 5:30 A.M. Coffee's on. Caris is in the shower. I'm next. Averie's still between asleep and awake. We're an hour away from leaving for the airport. I'm excited and nervous all wrapped into one anxious ball. I'm sure it's even more intense for Averie. I'm thinking that she probably didn't sleep at all. That's what plane rides are for, I guess.

I have a lot of thoughts running through my head right now. Someone asked yesterday about the most spectacular sunrise you ever witnessed. There were comments about being on some tropic isle, or at the top of a mountain, even a sunrise over New York from a plane. Mine? The first thought that came to mind was the sunrise on Wednesday, September 18, 1985. From my hospital room window somewhere around 6 A.M. It wasn't spectacular. But it was memorable for one reason. I watched it and remembered thinking that it was my first sunrise as a mother. Averie was born just over an hour before and I couldn't help but wonder how this sunset on this day, would be different from every other.

Now it's many sunsets later and as the morning light streams through my window, I'm full of gratitude. Gratitude that I have been here with her through all of these milestones. From birth, through school, through dates, and proms, and graduations, to be here, now,at one of the biggest milestones of her life. Charlie and I were talking while lying in bed last night. How fast did this time go? Weren't we just strapping her into a carseat for the ride home from the hosptial? Now, she's on the threshhold of seeing a lifelong dream possibly come to fruition. The fact that she'll be "this close" to Nirvana; Studio 8H. She's nervous. Her nerves were rattled last night by a crazy LA driver. But once she got down to the business at hand, she was in work mode.

I watched as she stacked the portfolios into neat piles, preparing to pack them into her suitcase. I picked one up and opened it. Very professional. An impressive resume, a prospectus, a script, and a DVD of her web series in every folder. She's ready. As I watched her pack, I wondered..am I ready? It was hard enough watching her carry her furniture and belongings out last year. I had the comfort of knowing that she was only moving 45 miles away. I knew I would see her sporadically. Or when she had no quarters for laundry. Or when she missed her dog. But this is different. What if? What if it goes so well, as we all hope it does, that she ends up getting an offer? Forty-five miles away is one thing. On the other coast of the country is quite another. Oh god. My baby. But then again, this is what we raised her to do. To blossom. To spread her wings and fly. To follow her dreams.

As I looked out my hospital room window on that morning nearly 24 years ago, I never imagined that this day would be here so soon. But here it is. I'm honored that she wants me along on this ride with her. In fact, she's wanted me along on a lot of rides, into a lot of sunsets. I'm so proud. And so grateful. I imagine that one day, someone will ask her about a memorable sunset. I wonder if this day will bring a sunset that she remembers.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

My darling eldest came home for the weekend. To quote her Facebook comment:

"I think I'll be coming home for the weekend. Because I miss you. And to do laundry."

At least she remembered to tell me she missed me first. I was quite sure, once I saw her cargo of laundry, that she's probably trying to save every single penny..er..quarter for the New York trip. (Two more days Jess and Marc!)

It's always nice to have her home. Now that she's living on her own, our visits can sometimes be few, and far between. The truth is, I miss her very much. Her humor and the way she expresses her life experiences just light up Charlie's and my world. I know that when she has what little free time she has, she likes to spend it with her boyfriend Ryan, who also lives and works in Los Angeles. However, Ryan is in Greece right now, basking in the glow of the Parthenon. While Charlie and I are very, very jealous of Ryan, we're also kinda grateful that he went, because he forfeited his time with Averie, and she "awarded" it to us. And our washer and dryer.

Poor Aves. She has lost her bedroom. As I've posted in the past, Ave's old room has become Charlie's and my office. So now, when she comes home for a visit, she either has to sleep on an inflatable mattress, or the couch. She chooses the couch.

This morning, as I walked down the hall with my cup of coffee, I glanced into the living room and saw, over the armrest of the couch, a tuft of hair. I naturally assumed this to be Averie's hair. But as I looked closer, it seemed too dark to me. It was black. Unless Averie dyed her hair after I went to bed, which seems to be a family pastime these days, this was definitely NOT Averie. As I walked around to the other side of the couch where I could get a full view, this is what I saw:

Of course, Ellie was still asleep when I first saw them, and by the time I ran and got the camera, she was awake enough to look at me, wag her tail, and then plop her head down and go back to "sleep". I do notice that whenever Averie visits, Ellie doesn't sleep with Charlie and me. Of course, she does come in and wake Charlie to let her out for her morning lawn-watering. But when Averie's here, she's quite content to sleep on her head.