Thursday, June 28, 2018

Alaska or bust. I hope we don't bust.

I took Lucien to see Les Miserables his first week of summer vacation. It was my 10th time seeing the show. I'd see it again tomorrow if I could. I will never stop.

I remember my parents returning home after they first saw it in the 1980s. They raved about it, and brought home a souvenir, a Les Miz documentary called "Stage by Stage." I didn't go with them that first time but I watched the first few moments of that video and I was hooked. I was obsessed. I remember a warm feeling coursing through my body and a sense of "I now know what love feels like." Don't you dare tell me a musical can't love me back because I know it does.

I was very happy to share my favorite story with my son date.


The Loosh asked about twenty minutes before we left for the theatre, "Mom, what's the story about?" and I said, "Oh! It's a super short story written by Victor Hugo about love, redemption, compassion, rebellion, you can read it quickly before we leave!" He nodded enthusiastically and I threw my dogeared copy of the nearly 1,500-page novel at him. He looked so shocked.


READ, LUCIEN, READ LIKE YOU'VE NEVER READ BEFORE.

This was my least favorite production I've seen of Les Miz. It's become something of a soap opera up there, with most actors throwing themselves all over the place in melodramatic fashion. They were being VERY SERIOUS actors but honestly, the story speaks for itself, you don't gotta sell it so hard.

The staging has changed, too. The sets used to be minimal and understated, which added to the charm of the thing. There was a revolving stage, so when people walked somewhere "far," they really walked in the same place as the stage rotated and props passed them by. Now there is no more rotation. When Jean Valjean gets Cosette at the well and takes her off for a better life, they just kind of wander all over the stage in lazy S shapes. What the hell are you guys doing up there?

One of the most effective scenes in the musical used to utilize the rotating stage to perfection. When Enjolras is killed at the barricade and falls off the front, the barricade later turns to show him laying upside down on top of the giant red rebel flag as music swells. That scene is gone without the revolving part; now they just kind of wheel a dead Enjolras across the stage in a cart. He's still with his big red flag but... what? Where's my big crying moment? It's gone, as gone as Enjolras.

I'm not done complaining yet! Another point of contention: Marius sings "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" while limping around in the darkness instead of sitting at the bar with all the chairs and tables he's singing about. How can you sing about empty chairs at empty tables when there are zero dang chairs and zero dang tables? Sit down in the damn bar and mourn your dead friends properly, Marius.

Don't even get me started on how audiences have changed. I swear half the audience was late so had to be seated at the first scene break, about fifteen minutes after the show began. Then there just streams of people walking in carrying wine cups, and chatting, and blocking our view entirely for the next ten minutes of the show. Lucien didn't even get to see Fantine become a prostitute properly.

I'll distract myself from my crabby old lady Les Miz mutterings by showing before and nearly-after pictures of our master bathroom project. It's still not 100% finished but I sure like looking at it. It brings a little circa-1900 character to the space at last, and is even better than I'd envisioned.

Before:
we had no bathroom.




Almost After:
we very nearly have a gorgeous bathroom.

So gorgeous, we have decided to do all our entertaining from now on
in our bathroom. 




With the bathroom project nearly finished, our six years of Banister Abbey renovations are almost kinda complete. There is still a long list of small things to do but this, aside from the landscaping, which we hope to get to someday, is our last major undertaking in bringing this pretty old dame of a house back to life. Banister Abbey has been a labor of love. There is so much love. But as is involved in most labors, there has also been a shit ton of pain.

Summer is going well. There have been many water gun fights and buckets of water dumped on each other on the hot days --


And lemonade stands --


brilliant idea to offer the lemonade for free
but "except" donations.
They made a killing.

And kids running wild in the streets of Seattle --



And my beautiful sister, who is showcasing her art in her very first solo show in West Seattle. Her talent is astounding and I'm so happy she's getting the recognition she deserves.


That's Coco in front of "her" painting with Cecil the lion.

And finally, a fun event at the grocery store. Coco came with me to load up on the essentials for our big road trip. In the checkout lane, Coco loudly announced to the checker, "My mom and dad have a drinking problem." And I froze, and the checker froze, and we looked at each other, then both looked down at the items I was buying. There wasn't even any alcohol. So.... what's happening right now.

I said, "Umm, what?" and Coco said, throwing her arms into the air in exasperation, "You guys drink, like, twelve bubbly waters A DAY." True enough, I had five cases of La Croix on the belt and they're not likely to last a week. I've never loved a beverage so much in my life. It has actually replaced coffee as my morning drink of choice, it's that serious of a relationship.

Then the checker laughed and I laughed and the checker said, "Oooh boy, it got real awkward there for a second." Yes, yes it did. Coco can't come to the grocery store with me anymore.

I gotta go, it's crunch time, we're leaving for Alaska in t-minus not many hours. We'll be gone a long time, just shy of a month. Imagine the insanely long posts I'm going to write when I return! I'm really gonna write this trip into the ground, I can feel it.

Our journey to the Great North involves a stop in Watson Lake, in the Yukon. Watson Lake is known for its "Sign Post Forest," a labyrinth of almost 80,000 signs brought from the hometowns of people making the trek up the Alaska Highway. We have our sign ready. We will leave our mark at Watson Lake, as nearly 80,000 people have apparently done before us.



I hope it's the best road trip of our lives,
and I hope they put Les Miz back the way it used to be.
MJ

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Storing fat for Alaska


This good girl doesn't know
we're fixin' to leave her for three-and-a-half weeks.

I'm eating, sleeping and breathing Alaska to plan our upcoming road trip. So much to know to plot the route and plan the itinerary, so many internet searches like, "Is such-and-such a road safe to drive in an RV or is it another Tiller Trail?" There are also novels to read to get into the spirit of the place, tour companies to contact, and purchases to make such as bear spray and warm lined rain boots and mosquito nets that cover your whole head. Do you know how many ways there are to die up there?? Hundreds!

The kids are using my intense road trip focus against me. I found Lucien eating a secret bag of potato chips in the TV room this past week. He looked guilty for a second but thought fast and said, "I'm storing fat for Alaska." I took the chips away and said, "You know there is plenty of food in Alaska..." but he followed me out of the room saying, "No! We're gonna have to craft our own bows and arrows to shoot deer, and do you know how to cut down a tree yet? We're also gonna have to fish, lay traps, and forage for berries!"

He was on a roll then. He entertains himself thoroughly when he thinks he's onto a juicy joke. (apple, meet tree...)

".... but we'll have Coco taste the berries first, obviously, to make sure they're not poisonous!" I gave him a severe "Mom look" after that comment and he said, "She's the youngest, Mom, if anyone's gotta die out there in the nothingness of our summer vacation, it's gotta be her. And if anyone's gonna live, it's going to be me, because of the chips!"

Lucien is now, at this very moment, musing aloud we may have to resort to cannibalism. I guess anything less than that will be considered a smashing success of a trip.

I took the Winnie B into the RV shop to fix everything that needs fixing. There's always a lot on such a complicated vehicle but as of now, all seems to be in good working order. I pretty much told the guy, "We're driving to Alaska, just replace everything with new things." I'm being extra cautious because I can't imagine much worse of a disappointment than suffering RV failure in the middle of the Yukon.


Good luck, us.
(Good girl still doesn't know...)

In these few weeks remaining before we drive off towards the Arctic Circle, we are caught up in the whirlwind of end-of-school-year chaos. The performances, presentation nights, carnivals, etc. are really stacking up but we're knocking them down one by one with rapidly fatiguing fists.

Lucien's big end-of-year Humanities project involved an in-depth report on biodiversity's role in healthy ecosystems, a subject for which he organically feels much passion so it was a natural choice. As part of his project, he had to take an "action step." For his action step, he decided to print up flyers and educate the public by handing them out and starting conversations one-on-one and in small groups. His original plan was to do that at the beach on a sunny day but we're a little tired here at the end of the school year so instead it took place at a friend's party the day before the project was due. Our closest friends were all there, and had been drinking beer and eating tacos for hours.

I had to document the action step to include in his PowerPoint presentation. I told this group of friends to look natural, as if Lucien was educating them about the alarming rate of loss of species at that very second and it was the first they'd heard of it.


Nailed it. 
Totally natural.
(I love this photo, and you bet we used it.)

I volunteered to work a couple booths at Coco's school carnival this past weekend. First shift was at the Fish Pond game, where Coco acted as assistant by sitting hidden behind the screen and attaching toys to the end of the fishing pole whenever some little tyke tossed his line over the side. The prizes were mostly very small so came grouped together in Ziploc grab bags. Coco didn't understand the entire bag was the prize and instead opened all the bags and began attaching teeny tiny toys one at a time.

You should have seen that four-year-old carnival enthusiast's face when he handed me his ticket, threw his line over the booth, and received a mini doll shoe the size of his pinkie nail. His eyes were big sad adorable question marks when he looked up at me and I said, "Oh hell no, not on my watch," threw his line back over the side and whispered around the corner to Coco, "Give him the whole bag, give him the whole bag, for the love of God!!" The volunteer working next door at the "Dig in the Hay" game had a good laugh about that one.

Not sure what she's laughing at, that volunteer had her own questionable game going on. The "Dig in the Hay" game is usually a big pile of hay kids dig through until they find a prize. But this year, to the confusion of many, there was no hay, only a small inflatable pool filled with plastic balls. The "Dig in the Hay" sign still stood boldly behind the pool, which left many scratching their heads. I guess carnival organizers didn't feel compelled to rename "Dig in the Hay" to "Dig in the Balls" and who can blame them for that.

I worked the ticket booth second shift with two of my favorite friends. We thought it would be fun to do it together because we could chat and catch up during lulls. That's a laugh of an idea; there are no lulls at school carnival ticket booths. The ticket booth is mayhem with people swarming you constantly waving fistfuls of money and asking questions like, "why can't I use this food ticket to play games?" As you tried to explain the intricacy of the school's ticketing system, some errant wanderer would inevitably walk up and order a cotton candy. I'd be like, "Does it look like I got cotton candy back here, buddy?" while punching furiously at iPad buttons because I was three reported ticket sales behind.

I'm still around for a bit but for the record, I'm hoping to post some short blog updates during our weeks of driving through the mountainous abyss of the great North. Not surprisingly, I hear there's not a whole lot of WiFi nor cell phone service in Northern British Columbia and the Yukon. We may have better luck once in Alaska, but by then we may have eaten each other so there may not be much to post about.

If the grizzlies don't get ya, the other grizzlies will.
MJ

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Awesome or scary

Lucien just walked up to me and said, "Hey Mom, I think "Ukraine" sounds like a do-it-yourself crane company, kind of like U-Haul, only no hauling and with cranes....." and then he walked off to continue thinking deep thoughts. I'll be damned if he isn't right. Why did I never think of that before.

The Loosh has also become interested in horror movies recently, a development that could possibly be genetic. I grew up on horror movies. It wasn't exactly my choice, my family just likes them, my brother especially. It may not be normal to grow up with The Shining and The Amityville Horror playing on the regular in your TV room but I must say, it's raised me to anticipate many of life's terrifying calamities, like serial killers and vengeful demons and zombies and killer clowns.

I am just now considering that watching many horror movies as a young person may be a root cause of my terrible adult anxiety. Sorry in advance, son.

I started Lucien on the classics, primarily Hitchcock films. Our first foray into mother-son horror movie nights (while Alex dangled shiny objects in front of Coco in another room because she was pissed off not to be invited to scary movie night) began with The Birds. An hour into the film, Lucien turned to me and yelled, "Mom, WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN BIRDS?" He's got a real potty mouth these days, that one, but I have to agree classic horror movies move agonizingly slow by today's jump scare standards. There were no birds for a long, long time. Then there were lots of birds. Then it was over.

I also took The Loosh to see A Quiet Place in the theater that weekend (as Alex grew increasingly frazzled trying to entertain an increasingly pissed off younger sibling who doesn't like to be left out of anything, ever) and we both agreed that movie is pretty perfect. We've also watched Get Out. Lucien quickly picked up on the racial themes of that movie but I wasn't surprised. He's pretty socially aware, is the kid who said about his sister's Barbie TV show, "You shouldn't be watching this, it's pretty much the complete dismantling of feminism" and Coco responded, "It's not up to boys to decide what is and isn't OK for girls to watch" and I like them both so, so much.



The Fremont troll clutches a VW Bug in one hand and a child in the other.


In keeping with our current family horror theme, we did a "murder mystery dinner" at a friend's house recently. We were all assigned characters beforehand and had to come dressed as our character. My character was a jazz singer/contract killer in 1930s Chicago. Alex was a golfer who wore argyle socks pulled up to his knees. We arrived to many other festively dressed friends and immediately got down to business determining which of us was a cold blooded killer.

I am not an auditory learner so all the information sprung on us in the beginning of the evening did not seep into my consciousness even a little bit. It just went in one ear and out the other, no way I'm keeping all those dates and train schedules and relationship triangles straight. I spent most of the evening whispering to "Silky," the mysterious brothel owner and bootlegger to my right, "What the hell is going on?"

During the course of murder mystery evenings, you have to ask many questions of other players to uncover the killer. You also must ad-lib when people ask you information about yourself you do not want to reveal. I am not great at thinking on the fly, which is why, when asked where I went all those nights I left my jazz singing job early (I was out killing people with my Tommy Gun) I replied, "My mom has been very sick. With leprosy. She has only two toes left" and when asked how I made all my extra money to afford my extravagant evening gowns, I said I sang at birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, picked up the odd babysitting job, and mowed lawns.

As the night went on and I lost the plot more and more, I would usually answer, "I dunno" and occupy myself with errant threads on my dress. I now know I am not good at these kinds of games and bow in respect to friends who were able to weave believable responses on the fly. Though I now suspect they are always lying to me in our daily lives.


In big summer news, this year I will cross an item off my bucket list. To anyone who's met me or read much of this blog, they know I'm a roadtrip enthusiast. I love crafting roadtrip itineraries, the bigger the better. We've done many through the Western United States, one through Costa Rica, and our most recent was through Mexico.

Those were easy trips compared to the most recent endeavor. This year we're doing the granddaddy of them all, the Holy Grail roadtrip for RV owners, the one that makes people hesitate slightly before responding "I don't know if that's awesome or scary" upon hearing our plans. (The answer is "both.")


We are driving to ALASKA.
(the real Alaska, not Roslyn, WA)

This will be my finest success if everything goes well, and my worst failure if we get a flat tire in the middle of the Yukon with nobody around for a hundred miles.

Alex and I have been busy prepping the Winnie B for the trip and unfortunately discovered we have a water leak behind one of the walls. It's likely a cracked pipe, a vexing result of our disastrous frozen winter camping attempt at Sun Peaks back in February. We're scrambling to get it fixed before our planned departure date at the end of June but RV service places are jam packed with people itching to ready their rigs for summer trips. If we can't get it fixed in time... well I'm going to need to process it at length if this trip has to be cancelled.

We are crossing our fingers and moving ahead with plans. I've prepped the children for the Alaskan wilderness adventure by showing them Into The Wild and Grizzly Man. They are now very scared to get anywhere near a car with me at the steering wheel.


And Coco has been dressed as a hot dog for two days.

Yukon. U-kon.
U-con.
It's a do-it-yourself company for murder mystery dinner parties.
MJ

Friday, May 4, 2018

Northern Exposure

We spent a long weekend at Suncadia with friends at the tail end of Spring Break. One of those friends put the wrong kind of soap in the dishwasher, squirted liquid dish soap into it instead of the stuff made for machines. Our friends are a smart and savvy group of people but when we all get together, it gets kind of chaotic and we're often just trying to get through the day without somebody ending up in the ER. "Details" often become "details schmetails."


Here come the happy little bubbles
escaping out the bottom
while we all stand around staring at it.



The adults said "shit" but the kids said "cool."

My search history for our time in Suncadia reads as follows on my iPhone: "wrong soap in dishwasher" followed by "squawking sound coming from refrigerator" followed by "what is Supertramp's greatest hit" and that is a surprisingly good summary of the weekend.

Suncadia is a resort community outside Roslyn, Washington. Roslyn is a textbook "sleepy town" whose claim to fame is being the filming location for the '90s TV show Northern Exposure. The show is supposed to take place in Alaska but that was a TV falsehood, it is downright Washington around here.


There are no moose in Roslyn. The famous shot of the moose in the Northern Exposure opening credits was created, so we're told, by "borrowing" a moose, building a fence around the entire town, and letting the moose wander around. And wander he did, straight past The Roslyn Cafe at one point, a business that still exists, which straight up told the audience they weren't looking at Alaska.

Our group took a few hikes together during our days in Suncadia/Roslyn, including this one where we went offroad and walked 'round and 'round in the forest somewhat disoriented, joking nervously about how no one had come prepared with backpacks, bottles of water, food, that kind of basic hiking survival stuff --


What are we even doing? 
Buncha city people
 wandering around with no trail and no water.

Again, details schmetails. We had been grateful just to get everyone out the door and into cars and accounted for at the trailhead.

It's no joking matter with these people, really, we should have been better prepared. These are the same people with whom we have weathered intense windstorms, terrible injuries and disgusting hot tub rashes. We should be careful when we're together. There is something about the energy we put out into the universe that makes the universe want to do things to us.


Looking at this pic, who can blame it?
We're just begging to be taken down a peg.



It's like The Beatles crossing Abbey Road but more Twilight-y.

Since our older kids are capable babysitters now, we left the mess of kids (or is it a tangle of kids?) at the house with some mac-n-cheese and went out for grown-up dinner in Roslyn.

We went to the town tavern, The Brick, after dinner to play some shuffleboard. The Brick is rumored to be the oldest operating tavern in our state, established in 1889, but we were more impressed with the unabashedly phallic sign out front.


well hello there, fella.

The Brick has a "running water spittoon" still operating in front of the bar stools --


These water-filled floor troughs were originally installed for tobacco spit but soon enough men began using them to relieve themselves pee-wise so they didn't have to get up from their stools. I think it was a wise decision the TV people focused on the moose and left out the piss trough for the Northern Exposure opening credits.


I wonder what gross secondary use they devised for the shuffleboard.
Likely butt exfoliation.

Alex went back to Mexico City for work soon after our Suncadia trip. I took the kids to another area of Washington while he was away, the northern part, where tulip fields bloom like Holland in the Spring. It's quite a draw for the people of our state -- such a draw, in fact, the kids and I had to wait in a car line for over an hour just to pull into the parking lot from the main road We all agreed it was good Alex wasn't with us at that point; he would have lost his damn mind because the man has no patience for sitting still.


The tulip fields are gorgeous, like paintings come to life plus hundreds of tourists. I tried to take nice pictures of my children but they soon made it clear I'm never going to have a normal picture of them ever again.




...for the love of god, children.

Sometimes I would think I had a good one of both of them smiling at the camera only to zoom in and realize Lucien was giving me the middle finger. I am really enjoying the age of 12.


whoomp, there it is.


Unabashedly Phallic would be a good name for a band.
Seems fitting for heavy metal,
but would be funnier for a classical string quartet.
MJ

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A thin layer of drywall dust



There is a thin layer of drywall dust in this house. There is a thin layer of drywall dust on the kitchen counters even though the kitchen is a full floor away from where the drywall is happening. There is a thin layer of drywall dust in our linen closet even with a tightly closed door. There is probably a thin layer of drywall dust up on the roof of the house. There is a thin layer of drywall dust on my soul.

Most impossibly, there is a thin layer of drywall dust in the TV room even though Natani, the crazy desert dog, is always running around in there like a goddamn maniac so makes the settling of dust very difficult. She excels at constant breeze-making.


I think my dog broke.

She sleeps like this sometimes.
She is one crazy goddamn dog.

If it sounds like I'm complaining about the drywall dust, rest assured it is the opposite. This is my happiest of places, fixing up spaces very much in need of fixing up. If I had all the money in the world, I would buy all the houses and fix up all the rooms. I would live with a perpetual thin layer of drywall dust on my clothing and in between my teeth but I would happily show it off by twirling in circles to watch it fly and smiling with a wide open mouth.

Banister Abbey is a labor of love and six years in, we are still laboring. Most of the big decisions have been made for the master bath project and it's going to be a beauty. I am happy with the direction it is taking -- even happier I found a general contractor who doesn't mind I'm sitting on a stool next to him munching popcorn in anticipation while watching the spreading of mortar and the installation of waterproof membranes. It's a vision coming to life before my eyes, with perhaps a few unplanned popcorn kernels embedded in the grout.

I'm going to call my contractor "Peter Gabriel" because I'm listening to one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs on KEXP right now. He's a keeper, that Peter Gabriel contractor. I've worked with many and he's the only one I would invite to Christmas dinner with my family -- and he would probably get most of the presents under the tree. He is a gentle soul with a keen eye for detail and an impeccable ability to keep it all moving along cheerfully no matter how complicated the project.

The only issue I have with Peter Gabriel is he smiles all the time. He may be delivering bad news but he's smiling and cheerful so at first I'm not sure what's going on. Wait... the electrical inspector won't approve the light fixture I love so much, the one I based the entire bathroom design around, because it's not 500 miles away from the nearest water source? That's bad news, right? But you're smiling so widely, is that actually happy news? I never know when he approaches me smiling if he's about to make my day, break my heart, or just ask me the time.

I am now fixating on the third floor bathroom. We're adding one for guests who stay up there so they don't have to walk through the kids' rooms to access a toilet in the middle of the night. It used to be that, at whatever time, guests had to walk down these steep stairs where my favorite print hangs, the dapper dudes dueling with Nintendo guns --


-- and choose which kid to wake up to use the jack-n-jill bathroom between their rooms --


Choose your door wisely.
Choosing the door means means choosing the kid
who scowls at you the next morning over breakfast
and loves you slightly less.

Third floor needed at least a toilet and a sink. The only option was the long skinny closet that houses the furnace. We can't move the furnace and can't block or cover it for air circulation purposes. We're putting a toilet in there anyway.


That's the furnace lurking
inside the bathroom/closet.

I'm considering embracing the industrial aspect of the space and making it a furnace themed bathroom. Everything gray and white, toilet made out of pipes, super hot at all times. Peter Gabriel Contractor joked he'll bring old sections of pipe and we can suspend them from the ceiling with fishing wire. Anything goes in a furnace bathroom.

I'll finish this post with some Bobo. Bobo the bearded dragon is slowing down. He's lived a happy 12 years, 4 of them with us (still Lucien's favorite birthday present ever and a happy memory, especially the escaped crickets) and that's getting close to all you can expect from a pet beardie. He doesn't move very fast anymore, and sometimes misses the dinner crickets hopping around his tank. He can't climb all the way up his log anymore either, instead sleeps like this, with his little dangly arms down at his sides --



We often assume he's died during the night when we wake up and he looks like this. We approach his tank reverently, holding hands and speaking in hushed voices. As we all cluster around, staring down at him with affection and beginning our eulogies, he wakes with a start and his eyes get super wide and he's like, "GAH!"


And then we're like, "GAH!"
And he's like "OMG!"


And we're like, "YOU'RE ALIVE!"
And he's like, "OF COURSE I AM."


Then we feel happy and walk away as Bobo's eyes go back to normal size and his body relaxes a bit. You can tell he's thinking, "Jesus, there's something wrong with these people."


Sorry, dude. Live on, majestic lizard. 


Insult to injury,
there is also a thin layer of drywall dust on Bobo.
MJ

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Whistler and the magic meatball

Lucien and I bought the game Monopoly while out running errands not long ago. It was an impulse buy -- a fit of nostalgia for me and a desire for world economic domination for him. We have since played it several times, none of the games ever ending and all of them becoming increasingly more frustrating as time plods on. The threats get ugly as we get worn down and crabby after hours of play, threats like, "If you put one more house on that property, I swear to God I'm going to eat a pickle then breathe in your face." (That one was from me. My kids hate pickles.)

I had Coco backed into a corner during one game. I owned 75% of the properties and she was running low on cash but she just kept squeaking by with a determined look on her face for approximately seven more hours until I was so sick of Monopoly, I told her she won on account of her grit and stamina. Now she thinks she's some kind of Monopoly whiz kid. I'd take her down a peg by demanding a rematch but I don't have thirteen more hours to spend playing that stupid game.

We're in the middle of the kids' Spring Breaks and just returned from a week up at Whistler outside Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia. We fell in love with Whistler and briefly dreamed of owning a slopeside condo there until we did a real estate search and discovered even the most basic of slopeside condos run about 1.7 million dollars. A short lived dream indeed, but lovely while it lasted.


Dang, Whistler. 
Well done on the view situation.

Skiing is the weirdest thing. You spend more time sitting on a chairlift than actually skiing, and the equipment is annoyingly cumbersome and unwieldy. Walking in ski boots is one of the least graceful things a person can do. It's a clomp clomp clomp robot walk. Clomp clomp clomp fills the air at a ski resort, people clomp clomp clomping all over the place as if it was a normal thing to do. God forbid you need to go down any stairs -- then you're suddenly sidestepping with a jerky heel/toe like the least graceful dancer descending the grand staircase in the Ziegfeld Follies.

When the awkward walking and the clomp clomp is over, though, a transformation! As soon as you strap on skis, you become the lightest thing on the planet, gliding across the snow and swooping down the slope like a bird. Unless you're like me, then you're swooping around more like a cow. I don't mean I'm big like a cow, more that I'm a bit derpy and people like to push me over when I'm sleeping. 

What? I just wanted to say I can ski but I'm not super graceful on skis. The metaphor went rogue up there. 

There is a gondola at Whistler called the Peak 2 Peak, which joins the two neighbor mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb. The Peak 2 Peak is a Guinness World Record holder for both "highest gondola" and "gondola with the longest span between support poles." I don't think there should be an award for a gondola having fewer support poles. I also think the Peak 2 Peak should be renamed the Shit 2 Pants.


I distracted myself from my fear by taking pictures of my family members, who were also feeling slightly uneasy. Anyone who isn't feeling uneasy dangling from a cable way up there with no support poles is a prime candidate for a Darwin award.



Coco took this picture of us at lunch at an Irish pub.
We agree it's one of the stranger pictures we've taken.

We embarrassed Lucien our final afternoon in Whistler as we sat in the Crystal Hut at the top of the mountain eating waffles. "Don't Stop Believing" came on the sound system and that's me and Al's jam. We busted our best moves - we sang into air microphones, we played air guitar, we danced the best we could in a crowded cabin surrounded by people eating waffles. In his younger years he would have joined us but Lucien is now at the age where he embarrasses easily. He turned red, slunk down in his chair and said through clenched teeth, "You guys.... everybody..... is...... watching." I feel it's payback for all the times in Paris Lucien made me the center of attention when I most definitely did not want to be. That kid was crazy!


The kids running towards dinner in the village.
Our slopeside condo is there to the left. 
It was a brief, intoxicating, 
very expensive dream.


On our final run down the mountain, the finale of our glorious 2017-2018 ski season, we made a wrong turn and ended up on a run with moguls, a.k.a bumpy enemies. Moguls are like small snow mountains on all sides of you, some so tall you can just barely make out the top of Coco's blond head a few bumps over. They take a certain style of skiing to navigate, a style I've never gotten the hang of, one that requires very bouncy knees and very sharp turns to ski between the bumps. We decided we were going to take the moguls one by one, one turn at a time, slowly, and would get down the hill cautiously and together. 

Coco didn't quite get that memo and just took off straight down, bouncing up and down over the moguls with a dududududud. Her tiny person bounced over the tops of those things with a rattly bounce similar to that of a car driving over many speed bumps in a row at full speed. We were briefly concerned for her safety until the hilarity hit us, she looked so funny, and then we were laughing too hard to see her anymore. Coco bouncing over those things like an out of control rag doll was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Lucien laughed so hard he fell over, which is a totally normal thing to do in moguls so he didn't stand out too much. We, the parents, pointing and laughing at our child hurtling towards possible grievous bodily injury may have stood out a little more.

But nobody knows Coco like we know Coco. Coco's strong as hell and Coco's a beast. She made it through the mogul minefield upright, finally falling towards the bottom in a soft non-catastophic fall where she sat and laughed at herself until we'd caught up to her, all of us incredulous she had made it down the run in the most unconventional of mogul skiing ways.


She will shock the hell out of future Olympics
with her trademark mogul style

It was raining hard our final day in Whistler (Spring skiing = weather crapshoot) so we skipped the skiing and looked for indoor fun. The best option was determined to be Escape Whistler, an escape room experience. An escape room is where you get locked in a small room for an hour and the whole room is a giant puzzle. You follow clues and solve riddles and break codes until you either free yourself from the room or fail miserably and must live forever in great shame. 

Given I'm a moderate claustrophobe, it might seem a strange thing for me to agree to do. My family thought so. Lucien joked on the way there that I was going to last five seconds inside the room before I freaked out, crashed through the door leaving a Mom-shaped hole as I yelled "See ya later, suckas!" and disappeared towards the horizon. I must admit I also thought that was the way it was gonna go down.

Our escape room scenario was a ski cabin buried by an avalanche. The production value was high in our tiny room with authentic log cabin walls, rumbling snow sound effects and a crackly fake fire in a potbelly stove. I did not freak out inside the room; it was actually kind of cozy to be in a little cabin full of ski equipment, of which I am very fond despite their cumbersome nature. It was like being surrounded by little old clomp clomp friends.

Coziness aside, that escape room was the hardest damn thing. Alex and I are not really puzzle people. I do not enjoy code breaking and have absolutely no patience for riddles. If someone presents me with a riddle, I am likely to say immediately, "I don't know, just tell me the answer, I'm not getting any younger here." 

We were so confused in that room, we kind of just wandered around and bumped into each other. We had to ask for many clues via walkie-talkie to the staff outside. At one point, we veered so solidly off reality's course, we decided we were supposed to pry off a couple of those authentic log cabin wall pieces using a wrench we'd found in a suitcase. To our credit, we checked with the walkie-talkie people before we began destroying the room. "Are we supposed to pry the boards off the wall?" The reply came quickly and a little panicked, "No, no, please don't do that." 

Keeping everyone on their toes, that's just what we do.

We didn't even come close to "escaping." If the escape room had been a marathon, we maybe made it to mile 7. And that's being generous. The staff reassured our bummed out family that we were not stupid, that in fact the "Buried Cabin" was one of the two hardest rooms they had, with only a 20% success rate. I wish we would have known that earlier. We might have chosen the "abducted by pirates" scenario instead, the beginner level room with a 90% success rate. We probably still would have considered ripping the walls apart, though. 

Bye, Whistler. We loved everything about you except for the Shit 2 Pants gondola. That thing is insane.



In closing, a technology story. Alex is a big fan of the Amazon Echo device, nicknamed "Alexa." We have several Echos around the house. We have one in the kitchen, one in the TV room, and one in the master bedroom. This is too many Alexas, in my opinion.

I hate Alexa. I do not find Alexa helpful. Every time I try to ask her something, she usually tells me she doesn't understand me or she can't help me with that information. I mean come on, Alexa, how hard is it to tell me how many nickles it would take to fill a human stomach? (Lucien had a unit on measurement for homework and we got weird with it.)

Alex sometimes uses his Echo device to search for movies for us to watch at night. He asked Alexa for information on I, Tonya and instead of giving us info about the movie, Alexa said, "OK. Here is your short bedtime story about the magic meatball" and began reading to us from some whacked out kids book. I laughed and laughed but Alex just looked annoyed. He always takes it personally when Alexa lets him down.

Ever since that night, as Alex talks to Alexa in our bedroom about setting his alarm for the A.M., I yell behind him, "Hey Alexa, tell me more about that magic meatball" and I'll be damned if Alex still doesn't look annoyed. Come to my side, man, it's so fun to hate that thing.

See ya later, suckas.
*Mom-shaped hole in the door*
MJ

Friday, March 30, 2018

Small Shiny Witch

I'm here giving the "short-n-sweet" blog post a try. This likely means I'll still be working on it two weeks from now and it will be the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica A-Z upon completion. I am what I am.

Lucien is nearing the end of an intense two week tiny home building seminar at school. The kids are building a tiny home and examining whether or not tiny homes are an effective part of the solution for homelessness. When they're not actively working on the tiny home, they're meeting with homeless shelter directors and handing out warm socks to the homeless on downtown streets. I love that he's engaged, interested, and thinking about big complex issues for which there are no easy answers. That's daily life as an adult, kid, might as well practice now.

What I haven't loved about these tiny home building weeks is Lucien's refusal to wear a jacket. Even on the coldest, rainiest days, The Loosh slips into his Converse sneakers, pulls on a thin-ish hoodie over his favorite jeans with giant holes in the knees and calls it good. It offends every shred of maternal instinct I possess. When I attempt to tackle him in the front hallway with a jacket -- "at least wear this, it's raining and you're building a tiny home outside, you fool!" -- he ducks and weaves away from that jacket as if it was made of vegetables.

It seemed a losing battle. Then I received an emailed picture of the tiny home building team from Lucien's teacher. I couldn't find Lucien at first but soon enough deduced he was the one wearing a garbage bag. His teacher, fed up with a cold and sopping wet Lucien day after day, cut arm holes in a garbage bag, made another hole for his head to poke through, and cut a second garbage bag into the shape of a pointy hat. The Loosh looked like a small shiny witch, or perhaps a glossy black Crayola crayon. All I could see of his person were his little eyes peeking out between the layers of garbage bag. His eyes did not appear to be smiling.

The very next morning, Lucien put on a jacket without being asked. And that's why we pay the big bucks for private school.

Moving on from kids to rats. We've got a rat problem in the basement. It's starting to feel like we will always have a rat problem in the basement because it's an issue that has followed us from house to house for years. Those rats can't get enough of us.

I've worked with a few teams of rodent specialists over the years and they all seem to share a few things in common. They sometimes trail off mid sentence to suddenly dive under your house. They often enthusiastically show you their old raccoon bites. And they get really excited about things not usually considered exciting, like rat poop.

The man I had here last week jumped around and clapped his hands and said, "I'm so excited, I found a bunch of poop!" I think he meant it in the context that he may have discovered a potential entry point into our basement but I don't know.... he seemed awfully happy about just the poop itself.

While I'm talking about being a little different... there's another collective group of folks that are also a little different: the audience at a George Clinton concert. A group of us went to see G.C. perform Saturday night because when presented with the opportunity, one should always go see George Clinton. He's a living legend, innovator of funk music with the P-Funk, always decked out in outlandish outfits and technicolor dreadlocks. He is so much cooler than I will ever be.

I see a lot of live music. It is one of my favorite things to do. I've seen all kinds of shows with all kinds of artists, so trust me as a source when I say no audience compares to the variety found in a George Clinton audience. The people are black and white and the entire rainbow of colors; they are very old and very young and every age in between. Some are drag queens, some are not. Some are dressed like Janis Joplin and some look more like Animal from the Muppets. Many seem lucid but many, many others are possibly still enjoying the hallucinogenics from the early 1970s P-Funk heyday.

The few common denominators between attendees resulted in a fascinating yet distracting experience. I think I spent more time looking around at all the different kinds of people standing around me than I did looking at George Clinton -- and he came out wearing some type of rams head headdress so was quite eye-catching. I didn't see George emerge onto the stage because I was too busy looking at the guy next to me thinking, "Damn, that dude is really rocking the Black Panther meets Willy Wonka look."

There is, however, one commonality between a George Clinton audience and any other audience -- and that is the large number of people being dicks and shoving past you to get closer to the stage. It's the similarity that unifies us all -- losing a touch of our humanity for a chance to get marginally closer to a famous person.

We're off for Spring Break next week. Spring Break isn't as crazy as adults as it was back when we were in college, but it is still highly likely Alex will do a keg stand and enter a wet t-shirt contest. The fact that we are skiing and not on a beach will not deter him in the slightest. Go, Al, go.

May we all get as excited about something this week,
as excited as that guy was about finding rat poop,
MJ