Friday, June 7, 2019

The Devil's Fortune Cookies

My latest foster dog, a six-year-old German Shepherd mix, was adopted last weekend by the sweetest couple. It was sad because I loved him with the strength of many suns but even worse, within two hours of being with his new family, he bolted and was hit by a car. He's injured but will be OK. The poor boy must be so confused and scared, surrounded by people he doesn't know in a place he doesn't know.

I wish he could recover here with me and the kids instead.... sooo hey, does anybody have any surefire dognapping tips? Asking for a friend. We did not have this conversation.

I miss you, good boy. 
Get better soon.

I'm getting back to the California road trip now to get my mind off poor Rocky and his collapsed lung.

Last time I checked in, which admittedly was a long time ago once again, the kids and I were headed to Big Sur on Highway 1 in beautiful California. It was a fast swervy ride, as it should be. The kids had vomit bags at the ready but more importantly they had Dramamine, which made them so drowsy they were kinda like "whooooo" all quiet-like with eyes half closed. The vomit bags thankfully went unused and quickly returned to their previous status as garbage bags.

Lucien has an interest in photography. Here he is trying to get a picture of a possible sea lion in the water but Coco and I kept bugging him. Hang in there, Lulu, we are indeed annoying --

Hearst Castle in San Simeon sits just off Highway 1. The Hearst Castle tour is boring compared to the Winchester House Tour because there are no ghosts. Hearst built a big impressive house, sure, but you barely see any of it because you spend too much time in each of the rooms. We could have seen many more rooms if we didn't have to stand around hearing for the 100th time that Charlie Chaplin played poker with Walt Disney in that very room or whatever. Stop with the name dropping and show me more house.

I am totally pretending I live here. I've just joined this tour to mingle with the commoners
 and keep myself down to earth.

We stayed that evening in the infamously quirky Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. I can't recommend it enough, especially if you are a fan of sensory overload --

This is just the dining room

The rooms at the Madonna Inn are themed. Our room had an "1850s San Francisco" theme which, from what I could tell, pretty much meant "brothel." Think black lampshades, gold mirrors, red shaggy carpet and red walls with a gold lace overlay. I was pretty jealous of the pioneer themed room next door because it had half of a real covered wagon in there. The wagon added something special, added authenticity to the theme. I am very relieved we did not have half a prostitute to add authenticity to ours.

The Madonna Inn is the place local couples come to dance like nobody's watching, often in matching outfits, to live bands. I took Coco for a few twirls on the dance floor after dinner but Lucien chose to stay at the table and cover his face with a napkin in horrified embarrassment.

That boy has become less fun since turning 13. I went to pick him up early from school last week in one of my favorite outfits -- a pair of super high-waisted wide-legged jeans and a cropped top with a wide belt. My style game was on point and I was feeling sooo fine but when Lucien saw me in the office, he was mortified. He actually pulled on my arm to get me out of the school as quickly as possible. I was like, "Dude, what is your issue? I'm amazing!" and he said "God, Mom, you look like one of those hippies from the 80s." He then informed me that bell bottoms are hopelessly out of style (false) but I didn't really hear that because I was stuck on the horrifying "hippies from the 80s" part.

(... Lucien thinks the hippies were in the 80s... I guess because the 80s seem so impossibly long ago to him... so now I have a choice to make. Either I wear the exact same hippie outfit to school every time I pick him up OR I can pull out the true 80s gear -- maybe a Wham t-shirt worn off one shoulder, pegged jeans, jelly shoes -- and jazzercise into the building.)

Our brothel themed room at The Madonna Inn neighbored a group of people from L.A. celebrating their friend's 30th birthday. I know all this because we could easily hear them next door through the thin wall, calling each other by their insufferable names like Magnolia and Blaine and Thaddeus -- and forgive me but sweet baby Jesus, I hated them.

One male (I think it was Rolston but my voice identification is not 100%) said at one point, "My actor's diction coach got injured pretty badly at the tennis club but he wanted to take his SUV to the emergency room instead of my convertible because he doesn't like what my convertible does to his hair" and I sat straight up in my bed and said aloud, "I HATE YOU PEOPLE" and then immediately heard Lucien laugh from over in his bed. I did not model mature parental behavior there but at least The Loosh concurred.

We didn't sleep well that night because as cool as The Madonna Inn is, its walls are apparently made of paper. I hated our room's walls more than I hated Rolston and that's saying a lot.

The next morning, bleary-eyed, I bought a cup of coffee at the bar and the woman working there said, "the condiments are over there" and pointed at a table across the room. I immediately blurted out, "Oh! Do you have mustard?"

My mind had jumped to a thought I'd had from the previous day, you see, when the kids and I were eating lunch at a rest area. I was eating cheese and salami on crackers and thought, "It's a little dry. Mustard would be great with this. I need to find little packets of mustard for next time."

Upon hearing the word "condiment" my mind had not gone towards cream and sugar. It had gone straight back to mustard. Maybe it wasn't a totally unreasonable connection for me but I think it struck the woman behind the bar as completely baffling. She stared at me slightly wide-eyed, slightly open-mouthed, until I mumbled "never mind" and shuffled off. I'm sure she watched me go and said aloud to no one in particular, "My god, that woman puts mustard in her coffee."

Our next stop on the itinerary was the reason for the whole road trip, the ultimate goal -- Death Valley National Park in the Mohave Desert. I'd never been to Death Valley before but knew enough to avoid it during the summer because we would probably DIE.

Even in Spring, it's toasty in Death Valley with temps in the mid-90s. It is also a humongous park. I asked a ranger about one hike in particular and was told it was a four-and-a-half hour drive to the trailhead, which unfortunately meant a four-and-a-half hour drive back, too. I laughed out loud -- what a silly ranger telling me jokes! -- but she was serious. We skipped that hike.

My two dot kids

Death Valley immediately became not just one of our favorite national parks, but one of our favorite places ever. You have to marvel at the remoteness and the wildness of it all, the extremes it embraces with snow capped peaks above and one of the hottest places in the world below in the salt flats, 282 feet below sea level.

The kids shopped for my birthday gifts in San Luis Obispo.
I became the proud owner of a shark hand puppet,
and a lucky road trip car charm,
and a bunch of fake mustaches at the the age of 44.
It's gonna be a good year.

Coco two miles out into the salt flats,
wishing the car was parked closer.

I almost lost the kids to an overheated crabby revolt in the sand dunes.  The handheld misting fans got us through --

For the Star Wars fans, Death Valley was Tatooine
and these sand dunes are where C3PO and R2D2 got lost.
The kids got sick of me scouting all filming locations
and tried to leave me
as I ran after them yelling, "You guys! It's a classic!"

Death Valley is full of natural features with ominous names like "Dante's View" and "Devil's Golf Course" and "Devil's Haystack." Lucien said at one point, while reading from a book we had purchased at the gift shop, that there was a super cool feature we had to see called "Devil's Fortune Cookies." I scoured my park map but couldn't find anything labeled Devil's Fortune Cookies so walked into the visitor center to ask a ranger their whereabouts. The ranger laughed out loud, said there was no such thing in Death Valley, and that someone must be mistaken or was playing a joke on me.

I turned to see Lucien doubled over with laughter. He could barely choke out the words, "I can't believe you believed me and I can't believe you asked!" as I marched him back to the car. He was so very pleased with himself.

Devil's Golf Course.
A real place.

I get frustrated sometimes on these road trips because even if I'm pointing out something amazing outside the car, the kids rarely look out the window. I pulled over in the middle of a gigantic wind farm (amazing!) to give them a talkin' to. I said they were missing some of the best parts, the journey parts, and that I wanted them to notice when I pointed out something interesting along the road. If they didn't get it together and enjoy absolutely everything I told them to enjoy at all times, I was going to take away their screens.

We soon happened upon a gorgeous old bridge above a deep valley. I said, "You guys better look out the window and appreciate this old bridge." and Lucien yelled from the backseat, "OH WOW, thanks for pointing that out, Mom, this bridge really butters my biscuit!"


We're not done with this trip yet, sorry. I pointed the car north and aimed for a different type of valley, Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is classic beauty in your face, some of nature's finest offerings.

I splurged on the accommodations in Yosemite. We stayed at the fancy pants Majestic Yosemite Lodge. It wasn't cheap but it was worth it because it reminded Lucien of The Shining and I really love creeping out the kids.

waiting for blood to pour out of this elevator...

I'm not sure if we enjoyed driving around the park more or sitting in the lodge's sun room more. The Majestic Yosemite has board games to lend its guests and we borrowed them ALL. It's good to have the quality downtime in between insisting the kids enjoy things they very much do not enjoy.

I've got to wind this road trip down but there's still one more stop! Plus... a special guest!

The last stop was San Francisco and the special guest was Alex, who flew in just for the weekend to join us in one of our favorite cities. Alex and I are no longer together as a couple but we still like each other as people and are doing well keeping our separation friendly and peaceful. High five, Al, we make breaking up after 20 years look like easy fun. (It's not)

The kids said it was "kind of weird" we were all together again on a trip but also "kind of nice." I think that sums up how we all felt about it.

Coco being sent to solitary confinement on Alcatraz

This is where the real hippies were from, 
not those 80s ones.

Coco got very tired after about 500 blocks of uphill San Francisco walking
so she said "eff it" and started crawling.

Same sculpture eleven years later. 
The kid looks different, though.

I'm plotting my next road trip already. So I guess that means I'm plotting two things now -- another road trip and (allegedly) stealing my foster dog back from his new family. I could incorporate the two, maybe, because once I've stolen the dog I should probably skip town for a little bit.

I'm  going to do these trips with them until they are 100 years old.

In the meantime, back in Seattle,

She's a sloth now.

Life goes on. And everyone is OK.

Those Devil's Fortune Cookies really butter my biscuit,