Here is a little slice on the dining out with the family. We drag them here and there to show them the wonders of the world. Do they care? Do we? Have we all lost our ability to be civilized when we travel?
I think I have a problem.
I can’t stop volunteering.
A few months ago I was elected head of my neighborhood association. 10 Saturdays out of the year I run the meetings, bring the refreshments and in general voice the concerns of our community to the city. So far I threw a block party, helped get some trees planted, advocated for some issues with our local councilman, and got a website up.
The jewel in my unpaid work history was my mayoral appointment to the Central Area Planning Committee. Roughly twice a month I am one vote on planning issues that come before us. I get to go to city hall and I have a laminated pass. Never has anyone felt so excited to be accepted as a civil servant. Maybe because of all the years of freelancing, I like going to an important building with a clip on badge and working.. albeit with no salary.
I’m also on a few committee’s for my daughter’s school. ( charter, underfunded). So I take some interest in the school board races. There are few that do. It’s pretty un sexy, but in LA we have a mammoth school district and unlike other cities the mayor and the council have no control over them. So, it’s a whole other empire. Charter’s, while somewhat apart from regular public schools, still must be granted their charter through the school district. So, the LA school board is “our” school board as well. Teacher’s unions tend to not like charters because the teacher’s are outside of the union. Charter’s are suspicious of teacher’s unions and afraid they will try to shut them down.
My take on all this is that parent’s are discerning consumers of education. So, charter’s magnets, traditional, private they will be existing with each other. But, we need to put our best foot forward. There are people in our area who would be interested in going to the local public school, but they don’t offer tours. “Why?’ is what we have heard more than once when calling the school…that sound you here is the interested parent filling out an application for a charter lottery. No surprise, it’s under enrolled. A mile away a traditional public school does do tours and shows itself well. That school is humming along.
So, heard some charter parents were rally around one candidate in a special election to be held August 12th. Good lord, the only thing lamer than having a special election in the dog days of summer would be starting school that day. OH, that is what LA unified is doing. I spoke to some of my political mentors about one candidate, George McKenna. He is a retired teacher and administrator. Years ago they made a “Stand and Deliver” type movie about his work turning around a tough school starring Denzel Washington. A friend set up a lunch for us to meet and I went, even though he looks nothing like Denzel. While not a movie star, I found a charming Southern man who was very thoughtful and earnest about helping children. Before I could order an ice tea he was talking about trying to get mental health services to students in LA schools who come from troubled places. It was one of the concerns that reminded me of how vast the LA school system is. By the way since I was a kid I have thought the district should be broken up, but fat chance of that happening. But, what can happen is for the grip to be loosened a bit on school so that a school can cater to their particular community. This was something Mckenna and I agreed on. Well, we agreed on quite a bit. From the good deviled egg appetizer to how a lousy principal can sink a school.
I told him, look the charter’s are scared of you. He didn’t know why. “I’ve gone on record as saying if a local school is working, charters wouldn’t exist”. He was surprised the Teacher’s union backed him because of this. He believes in traditional, charters, magnets, whatever works for children, not one ideology. I was touched by his sincerity and persuaded by his intellect and experience. He is being outspent. “Can Denzel give you some money?”
“I don’t know how to get to him.” he said.
So, before my after lunch espresso arrived I volunteered AGAIN.
“George, maybe I can throw you an event.” My dear husband was eager to hear about my lunch. Later we attended a political meeting that a neighbor of ours had invited us too. On the way out he met George. The candidate was walking by himself having just thanked the group we were attending for their support and was on to the next.
“You need to go to 5 events a day.” Mark said earnestly.
“I wish it was only 5.” George said in his honey dripping accent.
We walked away and Mark said, “Let’s do grilled cheese.” He was totally on board. We must have done at least 3 grilled cheese events for Garcetti. Now that the famous Thursday grilled cheese nights at Campanile are gone for good, it might be a bit of a draw for folks. Former council members Nate Holden and Jan Perry who are my friends are also hosting.
The story has been picked up by a local online publication. Come by if you care about educating the young, or just want to eat. Don’t make my volunteering in vain!
There are so many public service announcements for stuff like earthquake preparedness or keeping kids off drugs, yeah, yeah, where is the one for the stuff that really relates to my life? Well, here is one.
Slow down summer! My hair has been in a dirty ponytail for weeks and I don’t have to be anywhere before 9. This is living.. So the trip I mentioned a few weeks ago continued up to Mendocino. North of SF you see a lot more green and drivers let you change lanes on the freeway. Definitely out of LA. I like it aesthetically up there more, though when I have lived in No. Cal. I did miss the dynamism of LA.
We stopped for lunch at a small, old town, Hopland. So many towns up there you could scamper around and make a trip out of.
Eventually we got to our prize, Dr. Dean’s home. Many acres of nature and fun. The smell is always striking as is the quiet. The constant noise we experience in cities makes us deaf and crazy, yet I don’t notice it till I’m far away. There was a fawn born on their land days before our arrival. Breathtaking to see such a deer and we hoped her mom would be able to protect her from other wildlife…not always the case.
Last time we were there they were hollowing out a great old redwood stump for their grandkids to play in. This trip it had been masionized.
The kids loved it and it was no surprise when I saw recorded on the Edell’s DVR “Extreme tree houses”.
Rex wants them to put in an elevator. One morning he got up early to speak to the carpenter working on it. He was trying out his favorite joke.
Rex: “why are you under there?
carpenter: “I’m working.”
Rex: “But, Why are you under there?”
It took a while but finally pay dirt.
Carpenter: “Under Where?”
Rex “I got you to say underwear!”
Trying to be a good guest I made an error that is causing me discomfort still. I decided to repair the wood borders of the path to their river spot. I moved a bunch of sticks that had been the border of the path, but had moved during the winter. I went near one shady spot at the base of a redwood to pull up a longer downed branch to make a border and then felt pain. I looked down and there were yellow jackets all around me. Mark had been stung on an off beaten trail the day before and Dean’s wife Sharon had told us the best thing to do is run. I did just that. Into the river. I pulled out a stinger when I got there. It was much worse than a bee sting. My arms and ankle swelled and got flushed. The cold of the river worked as an analgesic.
I sipped a beer and tried to calm myself. It felt bad. By dinner I was a bit better and Sharon gave me two Benadryls to help. Before desert I was face down.
Dean: “You can’t handle that! I knew you when!” Sure, in my twenties my ability to process foreign substances was far greater. I crawled to bed. “Get up” Dean exhorted me. “We got s’mores ready for the kids.”
Okay, I staggered to the gathering, but after shoving one melted marshmallow in my mouth I limped off to bed and sank.
A week later back home the swelling returned. My hair follicles burst upward and the itching was intense. A non drowsy antihistamine helped, but now back to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which is the biggest help for my annoying skin.
Another way we try to be good guests is we cook. Well, easy when you travel with Mark Peel sure, but I jump in as well. It’s easy with Sharon’s garden and she went to Fort Bragg and got a whole, fresh wild salmon that Chef Peel did his handiwork to. You don’t get salmon like that everyday! Melt in your mouth.
There was a cauliflower dish I am refining I enjoyed and one morning made these scones. Some mornings you need something fresh baked! They have yogurt in them so they are a little less decadent than a normal scone. I put orange zest in them, but I want to tweak some more and add more orange flavor and some whole wheat flour.
Better than a bottle of wine as a host present, Mark brought the fixins to make a tree swing. I swooned when he put ours up. Using a sling shot and some creative thinking he did the same for Dean and Sharon. He spent days searching for the perfect tree.
On the trip I didn’t let my damaged skin get me down. It’s always hard to leave their paradise, but a dose of reality in the country marked our departure. They are off the grid so we took some trash to the dump for them when we left. The chain smoking ladies in pajamas and their tatted up men folk dropping of their waste showed us we were not at Kennebunkport. (Note: file that character away for a sketch one day)
Caught lunch on the way
and then a big, good smelling whiff of nature when we rolled into Marin County to stay with our friends and my god daughter. Next day headed to Santa Cruz, saw another friend and then took the kids to Santa Cruz beach Boardwalk.
Back when I was a little kid we use to “summer in Salinas”. ( Yeah, not the Cape) We would spend a couple of weeks with my cousins after our Yosemite camping trips. My folks barely slowed the car as they push us out and speed off to Monterey for a couple of nights of child free time. At the time I thought, “Why do they need to leave us behind?” Now, of course, I get it!
My cousins were hilarious and we loved going to the boardwalk. It could never be built today. Coastal commission, what have you , so it’s great to walk on it’s creaky boards and smell the frying of corn dogs. When I was little — I was the youngest of all the cousins I tripped over a $5 bill. The cousins and my sisters surrounded me. “If you don’t buy us tickets with that money we all have to go home.” Oh, sure, I don’t want to go home.
Cut to I’m playing skee ball with my kids and you have to spend about $800 in tokens to earn enough tickets to redeem for a fruit shaped eraser. The kids were a few tickets short when I — NOTKIDDING- FOUND A $5 BILL!! I bought tokens and won a few more tickets for my kids. Still not enough for a back scratcher though. One thing that is different so many years later… the rides where I have to go in loops make me VERY ill. I can feel the plaque on my brain crumbling. I’m sure I’ve sped up aging on a tilt a whirl. Mark and Rex are the daredevils in the family.
We stayed so late we couldn’t make it far down the 101. So our one non coach surfing night was in a hotel in Salinas. You know how I said you can find so many towns in Sonoma and Mendocino that you could explore and enjoy? Salinas not so much. 35 years later and gentrification never stopped here. I found a good little coffee place down town, but most of the patrons looked like they would have been friends with my uncle. The only hipster in the place was the barista. There were empty store fronts nearby. I once asked my cousins, “what do you do in Salinas?” They replied, “Go to Monterey.”
We stopped back at Vines on the Marycrest and I stocked up on more wine. I had given out most of my host presents and now I needed a gift as I went back to the noise of the city. For the smell maybe I should tape a piece of lavender to my upper lip.
We all gaze at our kids when they are little. Their little noises, lips, legs. All so cute. So when I saw Rex standing in the TV room with only his shirt on I did what any loving mom would do. I kissed his butt. “Oh, you are so cute, baby.”
“Mommy, I just went poo.”
“And you just kissed me butt!”
“Oh, well, do you need some help with that?” Realizing that he was standing just outside the open door of the bathroom.
“No.” Oh, good I thought he has been listening to my lectures about how no one will wipe him in Kindgarten and he has to do it all himself.
“I’m not done yet.”
“Oh”. He kept getting less, and less cute and my actions seemed rash in retrospect.
A quick cautionary tale…
Rex is in swim classes, so on the 4th when we were at my sister’s pool I let him swim a bit without his floaty vest. He loved jumping in the pool and swimming out. He has progressed quit a bit. I was always by his side. At one point I thought his eyes were looking very red.
“It’s time you got out Rex.” NO! He wouldn’t he was having too much fun. A little while later we all piled out for dinner. Rex called for me as he walked across the patio, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good. My head hurts.” I panicked thinking of the stories I’ve heard of dry drownings. Mark said, I’ve never hear of that? I replied “well, you don’t foresee the dangers I do!”
I took Rex to the bathroom and he proceed to be sick with copious amounts of water. “Rex, did you remember to blow out like the teacher told you?”
“No, mommy. I didn’t” More sick.
I thought of taking him to the ER. But, gosh I hate going there. I figured it was good he was getting the water out. A lot came up and then he fell asleep for hours. We took him home and I thought he was better, but he got sick one more time. Then he fell asleep next to me. I kept there all night so I could watch him. The following morning he was fine.
Just one more summer worry for you!
I go to a restaurant and I want to eat in peace and not be thrown out so I give my kid my phone. Later I find many, many photos on my phone that I delete. But sometimes there is a gem. Perhaps I should an curate art show. “Shots my kid took that were actually good.” I bet, you have found some good ones as well? By the way… Who puts Venetian plaster on a ceiling? When you travel as we just did, you do go to restaurants more than at home. So it’s good to have your batteries charged. The ones in your phone, for your human battieries, you get out of town. But, when you are watching the dollars, HOW? We did a couch surfing through California trip. It helps if your friends live in cool places. Our first stop is with the Abascals at their Vines of the Marycrest winery. Victor family knew my family so when our kids play we are gazing upon a third generation friendship. They live in Paso Robles and we speed up the road so we could get to the town square in time for Paso’s first concert in the park of the summer. I love this picture, except I’m not sure why I have my hand like that. Perhaps my hand wanted more wine since it’s pointing in the direction of Vic’s winery. We are Culver City kids and he planted his first vines on our hill at the top which is called Marycrest Manor. Objectively, the wine is great and I’m a wine snob. You can’t find it in stores unless you live in Paso, so order some! We use to serve one of his reds, “Heart of Glass” at Campanile when it was, well, you know… open. The most recent vintage of Heart that I tasted has a great smokey taste to it. Now, in general I’m not a fan of California wines. I tend to like the taste of old world wines more. More restrained. Victor has found the balance of restraint with the fruit flavor we get from our California reds. Plus, his rose’ “Summertime” is so good I bought a case and passed them out like Johnny Appleseed as host presents to all those who put us up for the night. Another reason my first stop is his place. I’m a white wine nut, usually French whites, which, I use to be surprised by, are often cheaper than California whites. I like the dry, crisp, mineral nature of them. However, once again Culver City boy has made a white I love. Appropriately titled, “At Last”. You can see he likes music. None of the overly fruit, buttery Cal syrup I can’t stand. Goes great with fish, cheese, the leftovers I’m eating right now standing in front of my fridge. Oh, we’ll skip that. I love the dry air up in Paso there and we walked the vineyards before hitting the road to San Fran which has cold damp air that I don’t love. All 26 acres was covered in almond trees and Victor took them out himself. So, you could buy some crap wine that has the muscle to get into a supermarket, but why? Often for the same price you can buy quality stuff from people who don’t have the marketing budget. Please, don’t tell me there is good wine at Trader Joe’s. There isn’t. Back in the car the next day.. if I’m not driving I watch a movie with the kids. “Nanny McPhee” is good. Guess Rex had seen enough. There is never enough time to see all the friends I want to in Nor. Cal. I lived there for 12 years. We had expensive dinner in SF. It was good, largely seafood, but I was surprised at the cost. No wonder I cook at home more often than not these days. The problem is where to source good ingredients. My local markets fish, eh at best. I just got ground beef that was neither smart, but certainly final, the final time I buy meat from them. I digress. We save on a hotel though.. a friend left the keys to her SF pad for us ( she was in Tahoe). My kids were so charmed by the small balcony and little back yard. I think Rex started to go nihilistic urban I tried to explain that this was a good amount of space for the City, but they didn’t care. They perched themselves on the tiny metal balcony and watched people go by. Time to head back to the country…. ( Next post)