Sunday, November 30, 2008

California Part 2 Star Gazing

Sunset Boulevard:

So here we are on a mission to discover California’s most notable landmarks. And since it’s Trina’s first trip, we have to see the really hot spots. We’re hitting the A-list.

First stop: Sunset Boulevard and Grauman’s Chinese theater where movie stars are canonized in concrete . Trina has heard of George Clooney, but wonders, who are all these other people. Jane Russell? Marilyn Monroe? John Wayne? Losing interest quickly, we switch to a new form of sidewalk entertainment, the Walk of Fame. I have my photo taken with Nat King Cole’s marker. Trina poses with Celine Dion’s star. A lot of aspiring actors are hanging around pretending to be famous celebs. One is dressed (more of less) like Spiderman. Another appears to be Freddie Krueger. And there are two Marilyn Monroe look-alikes wearing white dresses, waiting for a passing subway breeze. They volunteer to pose for photos and then hit you up for a “donation”. I take a pass and suddenly one of those dreamy Marilyn Monroes gives me a dementedly dangerous look. Thank God I stayed away from Freddie Kreuger! We ask a security guard where to go to get a good view of the famed HOLLYWOOD sign. He tells us to go around the corner and look up. Clearly, we are tourists.

I drive Trina down Rodeo drive. She is unimpressed. Especially since she knows I can’t afford to buy anything there. Who’s the genius who decided it's pronounced Row- Day-Oh instead of Row Dee-Oh. Oh, Oh Pleeeeze!

Trina decides she needs to take a tour of the Movie Star homes. With visions of Cellulose Celebrity Sightings, we speedily embark in our rented Suzuki Sidekick. Well, we go as fast as you can in a Sidekick. Apparently a lot of people have taken the tour of Movie Stars’ homes. And it would appear that after the first bazillion tourists stopped in to say hi, all the Movie Stars took evasive action to protect their privacy. They installed very high hedges and imposing iron gates around their properties. So, we spend two hours touring hedges and gates. We see Courtney Cox’s hedge. We pass by Paul McCartney’s Gate, and Ringo Starr’s gate too. Or was it George Harrison’s? Paul was always my favorite. He has a lovely gate. We also go to see Ellen DeGeneres’ gate. This is a little embarrassing. The road leading to Ellen’s house is fairly narrow… and when we get to the end of it, there’s a BIG gate. It’s a private road. Sorry Ellen! I have to k-turn about 6 times to turn around, pretending not to notice the agitated looks from Ellen's household staff as they glare through the bars of Ellen's Mega-Gate. But hey, I’m here to tell you. It is one heck of a gate. Undaunted, we press ahead, up into the Hollywood Hills. We tool around Muholland drive and see Jack Nicholson’s gate. It’s not that impressive. But I understand he has quite a nice compound in there. We also see the gate for Britney Spears’ home. That doesn't really count because Britney lives in a gated community. So, while we did see her gate, that particular gate also belongs to a lot of other people.

We accidentally drive up to an overlook with a beautiful view of the HOLLYWOOD sign. There are lots of other tourists there, a busload of Germans having just pulled in. We ask one of them to take our picture. This German guy claims to be a serious photographer. And later, when we see the picture we can tell he is good. It’s a nice photo of Trina and me. Unfortunately, you can barely see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign behind us.

Melrose Drive:

The following day we visit our friends, Jon & Jean. Trina wants to shop on Melrose Avenue. Once there, we find lots and lots of Thrift shops. Apparently, Movie Stars like to sell their expensive wardrobes to us peons. Sadly, Jon and I do not find any Givenchy gowns for $15. And we don’t find anything for Trina either. Suddenly, there is a hubbub! People with cameras start running around. It is the famed Paparazzi!! One of them explains that Michael Jackson has returned from the MiddleEast and is going shopping. We wait expectantly, hoping the gloved one will stop to say hi. (We're feeling especially needy after being snubbed over at Ellen’s place.) Suddenly, there he is. Or rather, there is a fleet of Cadillac Escalades with tinted windows speeding down Melrose. People on the street jump up and down and wave. I’m sure inside one of those massive SUV’s Michael is waving back. The next day, the tabloids are full of reports explaining that Michael went furniture shopping, in his pajamas. But we depart Melrose Avenue with no gowns, not even one of Michael’s sequined gloves. It’s now getting late. We hop on the freeway. Traffic stops dead. An accident? A naked girl running down the median? Michael in his PJ's? Nope. It’s a wildfire. One of the biggest highways in LA is closed at rush hour just because flames threaten to incinerate us commuters. We go the back way home, past Jack Nicholson’s gate, past Dr. Phil’s massive concrete wall. After a quick 2 hour detour we have covered 12 miles and we are home for dinner fashionably late, at 8:30pm. Jon’s lovely wife Joan has kept the meal simmering. Supper is delayed but delicious. We chat into the night, sitting by Jon & Jean's gorgeous outdoor pool, keeping a watchful eye out for scary nocturnal creatures lurking out in the sagebrush. Coyotes. Owls. Michael Jackson.

Next time, Sea Elephants Meet the Velvet Fog

Copyright 2008

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No part can be reprinted or reused in any way without express written permission from the author

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank You! Thank You!

Thankfully Thanksgiving

Once again, Thanksgiving is upon us. A time to give thanks. For starters, I'm thankful that Thanksgiving is an honest to God, unadulterated, four day holiday weekend. You can't say that about the 4th of July, Memorial Day or any of the other less-regal three day holidays.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that us people are very thankful that we're not turkeys. Of course, I'm referring to turkeys in the drumstick and stuffing sense. Those of you who are real turkeys will have to suffer through Thanksgiving just like you do the other 364 days of the year.

I'm thankful for Mom's scalloped potatoes, yams, those little skinny sweet pickles in the relish tray and all the other yummy stuff we stuff ourselves with.

I'm extremely thankful for my wife Trina who loves me. And I'm really thankful my incredibly intelligent wife hasn't figured out what a boob she really married. Life is full of strange wonders to be thankful for!

I'm thankful for our golden retriever, Mika, and for our cats Barney & Bailey. My life would be much less full without them. Mostly, it would be less full of cleaning up various forms of pet poop & puke (and wondering which element came from which animal).

I'm thankful for Thanksgiving parades, football games and post-gorging naps on the couch. Especially football. It's just such an exciting sport to watch. And it's an All American sport to boot.

I'm thankful that Washington politicians take a "holiday recess", spending Thanksgiving in their home districts. It's just one less chance they get to "bless" us Americans with their special talents. I'll bet Barack Obama is thankful he won the election. And I'll bet right now he's scared to death. John McCain is probably thankful he doesn't have to campaign anymore. And I'll bet McCain is secretly happy he doesn't have to spend the next four years with his new BFF Sarah Palin. I wonder what George Bush is thankful for this year? For starters, he still has a job and a place to stay. But like a lot of us, his job status and home address are about to change.

I'm equally thankful that Wall Street and all the other financial institutions close their doors for national holidays. We would probably be even more thankful if they would close down a little more often.
On a related subject, I'm thankful that my investments haven't lost all their value. I'm pretty sure there's still some spare change hiding in my sofa. Some enterprising capitalist tool will eventually get around to scamming me out of whatever money is left. With that in mind, there's reason to be thankful that retirement is many, many, many years away. With this economy, I'll be working for eons, whether I want to or not.

Speaking of money, I'm thankful that Donald trump hasn't been around much lately. I haven't missed his icky hairdo either. No joke here. I'm just thankful.

I'm thankful I haven't received an invitation to appear on Dr. Phil, Oprah, or Jerry Springer. That's probably a good thing. But I have to admit, sometimes I think I must be the only person in America who hasn't gotten the call.

I'm thankful that we've all been seeing less of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and that guy "Carrot Top". I don't know why, but they all scare me. At least I can't prove Carrot Top goes carousing without any panties... Now, there's a mental image I'm not so thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2008

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No part can be reprinted or reused in any way without express written permission from the author

Sunday, November 23, 2008

California Dreaming

Trina and I just spent two magical weeks in California. For those of us who normally reside on the right coast, California is like visiting another country. We fly into Los Angeles on Virgin America. Very fitting since this is my wife's first visit to LaLa Land.

San Diego:

As Trina and I drive South to visit friends near San Diego we pass through awe inspiring territory. Namely, a mountain wilderness packed with enough dead brush to kindle one of those massive wildfires California is famous for. That is, when they’re not having mudslides, earthquakes, plague, etc. We hurtle down the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic so dense you can get out and walk across the moving cars. Adding to the excitement are deep pockets of fog. It’s the kind of fog you see on those TV News reports about thousand car pile-ups. Stopping to stretch our legs and de-whiten my knuckles, there are signs warning us to watch out for Rattlesnakes. Now this is paradise! Our friends, Tom & Marcy, take us to lunch at a very nice outdoor restaurant. We chat about old times while fighter jets from Miramar dive-bomb our table. Nothing like the deafening roar of turbocharged afterburners to enhance any fine dining experience.

Laguna Beach:

Most people don’t know this. But the name Laguna Beach comes from a Native American word meaning, “people with suitcases filled with cash”. This is a great place to watch wealthy people at play. Hummers, Rolls Royces, Ferraris and Maseratis, all jam into shopping malls filled with expensive restaurants and shops. Again, we stay with friends, Tim & Patty. Tim takes us out on their boat. We motor along past an armada of luxury sailboats, yachts, and ocean-going catamarans. Hordes of Sea Lions are draped across the main decks of the boats that don’t have security guards. Those Sea Lion-infested boats are filthy! But the beasts seem quite happy camped out on their pirated vessels. Trina, our wilderness photographer, quickly snaps 32-hundred photos, having fallen in love with Sea Lions. Sadly, our boat ride is cut short. Dangerous currents? A hurricane? Tidal waves? No. Just more impenetrable fog. Once back on shore it's time for dinner. Fortunately, Tim & Patty know the best places to eat. And they can help us pronounce the names of all the fancy dishes on the menu. We eat at the Chez Moritz. That’s Native American for “leave your first born with the Maitre d’.


Hollywood! And our encounter with Michael Jackson in his PJs!!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holy Holidays!

Look around your neighborhood the next time you’re out driving around. Know what you’ll see? The gray ghosts of Halloween past. Long gone is the day when little ghouls and goblins flood the streets, entranced by a devilish spell of a chocoholic binge. Today, sticky strands of fake spider webs fill the trees. Pumpkin guts spill onto the sidewalks. And creepy zombie creatures still dangle from wire nooses like hanged desperadoes. But now comes a much scarier specter.

It’s almost Thanksgiving. And that can only mean one thing. It’s time to go holiday shopping. Just the thought of buying all those presents fills your tormented soul with raw terror. What will you get Aunt Shirley? She hates everything. And don’t get me started on Uncle Fred. Heck, you don’t even like your Nephew Artie -- he’s a coal-worthy mole if ever there was one. And your sister Mary, she got you an aerobics tape last year. Hint, hint, fatty. It’s time to plot sweet holiday revenge! As you can see, holiday gift shoppers have a lot on their demented minds.

My wife Trina and I are already finished shopping! Eat your heart out. Yessiree, we’re way ahead of the curve. But in this economy, we probably paid way more than the rest of you will. Unsold gifts are piling up on store shelves. And unless people suddenly start buying like banshees, retailers are going to be chopping prices like the guy with the axe in one of those Halloween horror flicks.

This brings us to a truly macabre aspect of holiday shopping. It’s not trying to figure out what to buy for all those people. It’s not even trying to pay for all that junk. It’s Made In America. With so many Americans out of work, wouldn’t you really like to buy something that was actually produced in the states? Sure you would. Just try.

Here’s how we made out:

* Electronics – made in Korea.
* We bought a fancy crystal bracelet from Thailand. It has a warranty card that says “not applicable in the USA”. I’m not kidding. You can’t make this stuff up.
* Clothing - from India, Thailand and China.
* Disney’s Winnie-the-Pooh toy phone - China.
* The George Foreman Grill - made in China.
* Hasbro’s Iron Man toy with
Repulsor Power - China. (I didn’t have the guts to even look at the Captain America toys.)
* And the kick in the gut? The gift tags to put on our gifts - you guessed it, made in China.

Trina and I really tried hard to buy American. Really. We bought some zesty Barbecue Spices from a company based in Illinois. Of course, that company’s name is Xcell International Corp. Hmmm. Out of all the gifts we purchased, we found some bath gel (you know, over-priced soap) that says it’s made in the USA and some homegrown cat nip for our cats, Barney & Bailey. As if those crazy beasts need to get stoned again? The last time they shredded the curtains and part of my leg. But we’ll save that screed for another day.

I was so upset with the results of our holiday shopping spree I came home, went to the fridge, and grabbed a cool, refreshing, All-American bottle of Budweiser. Then I remembered that Anheuser-Busch was just bought out by a liquor conglomerate based in Belgium. Sigh. Next year I’m giving everybody a gift that for now at least is still Made In America. Cash.

Copyright 2008

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No part can be reprinted or reused in any way without express written permission from the author

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Something Old, Something New

I Do!

Over the weekend I traveled to Western Pennsylvania to attend a wedding. The bride is the daughter of an old college buddy, Brad, and his wife Deb. You realize what this means? No amount of Grecian Formula can hide it. I am Old. My friends and I have aged to the point where we don’t just have kids. Our kids are getting married and they’re having kids. My friends are still in their 40’s. Don’t you have to be, like, 78 before you can be a grandparent??

The Ceremony!

I search a crowded church. It’s a gray sea of familiar Old faces. I see the Finalles, the Millers, the Balls, the Murrays, the Kriners, Brad Anderson, Ken States, and the Hoffers. All of my Old friends fill the pews. And once again, Old is the operative word. Look at those wrinkled faces, receding hairlines, and ever-expanding bellies. The playmates of my youth now look like a casting call for a Metamucil commercial. I am saved from this horrifying realization by the first strains of the Wedding March.

The ceremony starts promptly at 5:00pm. The bride, Kacie Jo, is radiant in white. The groom, Daniel, is dashing and debonair. They are sooo young. They are clearly overcome with thoughts of matrimonial bliss. The entire bridal party seems strangely unaware that it is surrounded by the Depends crowd. I don’t remember hearing any promises to Honor and Obey. Only us Old fogies said things like that. There isn't a dry eye in the house. It is a beautiful, moving ceremony. In other words, it is short. We are back on the street in 35 minutes. It is time for,

The Reception!

Two words. Open bar! This is the gold standard for any wedding. If you can get the parents to pay for an open bar, you are a rock star! The families being joined together live in a small town where everybody knows just about everyone. It’s the kind of town where wedding receptions are always held at fire halls and community centers. Dinner is buffet-style. The chow is very good but never too fancy. No Veal ala Especiales in Vichy Brandy Glaze. And thanks to that open bar, the cuisine, the atmosphere, and even the air, tastes better and better as the night wears on. The wedding cake is served. Delicious. I feel my own belly expanding in wrinkled excitement.

In towns like this, musical entertainment is always provided by some DJ known to all as “Magic Mel the Music Man”. Mel is cranking ‘em out. The kids go first. It’s the classic Chicken Dance! Then everyone starts line-dancing. The music is different. But the steps look familiar to my ever-aging brain. It is The Macarena.

I call to the flower girl, Madee. She is a darling. A bright-eyed nymph with ultra-blond ringlets cascading down her shoulders. This innocent child looks up at me, a wheezing, aging Old man. And then, she runs for her life.

Slowly. Very slowly. The geriatrics hit the dance floor. Mel blasts out “Shout!” that immortal "Oldie" from the Animal House movie.

Say that you love me
Say that you need me

We’re all out there, lurching around like a pack of crazed senior citizens whacked out on Geritol.

You know you make me wanna Shout!
Kick my heels up and Shout!

With each chorus of “Shout”, my buddy Dean and I throw up our arms.

Don’t forget to say-ay-ay-ay-ay

Say you will

Say it right now baby

Say you will

Shout! Shout! Shout! We fall to the ground with our hands and feet flailing skyward and wriggle around on our backs just like John Belushi did in the movie. My friends’ children laugh nervously. Maybe these old geezers are having seizures? Maybe somebody should dial 911? Dean and I hobble away. My hernia is acting up. Dean reveals plans for a total knee replacement. Yes, he is balding too.

I look around the dance floor. Now, it’s wall-to-wall teenagers, stomping through a haze of hormones. It is amazing. I was there when these children were born. I used to tickle them and chase them around, giggling as their diapers drooped. Suddenly, they are nearly grown up. I see young women brimming with poise and promise. Their fathers are filled with pride. And terror. Those fathers undoubtedly would like to lock their daughters in a closet until they're 35. Teenage boys are getting too close for comfort. And worse, the girls seem to enjoy it.

The mother of the bride takes over for the bartender. My beer is suddenly filled with foam. Somebody knocks over a candle at the bridal table and the centerpiece bursts into flame. I heroically sacrifice my over-sudsy brew and douse the inferno. The bride and groom are safe.

The End!

My wife Trina and I are among the last to leave. But the teenagers are still reveling in their near adulthood. We leave them still dancing. Their parents sitting. Watching. Gasping for breath. For the record, I would never lock a teenage daughter in the closet. The garage is probably a more secure spot.

Copyright 2008

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No part can be reprinted or reused in any way without express written permission from the author

Photos Courtesy Trina Bauer Photography

Monday, November 17, 2008

Riding The E-Coli Express

Here’s a news flash for you. I just saw a story about the dangers of grocery store shopping carts. No, the carts themselves aren’t dangerous. Unless you’re a parked car. The focus of this news report is about a danger that’s in the carts. We’re talking about kids. Very little, yet to grow up, toddler types. Those little germ factories with runny noses, and diapers full of baby guano. Which reminds me, the quality of the produce in most local supermarkets is disappointing, to say the least. But that’s a screed for another day. So this story (featured on NBC News) is about germs that wind up on the cart where you carry your food. The problem, it seems is that parents put their little kids in those little seats in the carts. And the toddlers do what comes naturally. They leave behind loads of (family warning here) fecal matter and who knows what else. So think about it. Kids & Their Poop. You & Your Food. Perfect together. You see where this is going. They take samples from the carts and send ‘em off to the lab. And sure enough, they find enough WMD’s to take out the Fighting 88th Division. We’re talking biological warfare. And it’s in that cart you’re pushing around and loading up with stuff you’re gonna put in your mouth. So, there are a couple of solutions. One, parents can bring their own portable baby seat—and hopefully when they leave the grocery, they take the baby and all of those deadly germs with ‘em. Or, customers (that’s you) can bring a portable Hazmat team. Or, you, Joe Customer can scrub down the whole cart with some of those sanitizing wipes. And the bonus there is your hands get that pleasing lemony-ammonia smell. To defuse that smell you really will need a Hazmat squad. So that’s the story. Bring sanitizing wipes to the grocery or risk your family’s health. Oh sure, those kids are cute. But who knows WHERE that baby’s been. OR where it’s going. And that’s where NBC dropped the ball. They forgot the big picture. There are baby’s everywhere. Touching stuff. Your stuff.

Maybe this is what took down the Roman Empire. Little Ceasar’s backside… Sarah Palin has like, what, two dozen kids. Look what happened to the Republicans. Coincidence? And how many Moms have you seen take their kids out of those shopping carts and plop them down on the counter when they’re checking out? That’s where the real danger lies, or in this case, sits. Mom, that kid’s caboose is a toxic time bomb. I’m begging you. Get him off the counter before we’re all toast. Me? I’ll be out in the parking suiting up with the Hazmat guys.

Copyright 2008

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No part can be reprinted or reused in any way without express written permission from the author