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.


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 were 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.

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.

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.