Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where Has the Year Gone?

Tomorrow is the last day of work before the holidays. I'll be off until January 4. I love being able to use only two days of vacation to get 11 straight days off. If the furloughs had gone through, we would have been off for three weeks. I'm a little sorry that didn't happen, but I realize it would have been an economic hardship for a lot of people around here.

We picked out our tree on Saturday and it stands unadorned in the dining area of the rental. We tried the living room, but it was just a little too tall and scraped the ceiling. Because of the way renovations were done to the house, part of the dining area has a very low ceiling and part of it is higher than any place else in the house except for a peculiar aspect of the master bedroom bath where there's about a 4' x 4' cathedral height area. I figured we couldn't really open presents in the bathroom, no matter how big it is (the size of a bedroom, actually.)

Our Hallmark ornaments were living with a friend since the fire, so I picked them up a couple of weeks ago along with my Lenox Holiday china. On Sunday, my son and I headed over to our house to get the rest of the decorations and lights from the garage. I'm sure I'll get the tree decorated by Friday.

The house rebuild continues along. We've picked out tile, carpet, counter tops and cabinet doors for the kitchen. The drywall has gone up, so there are rooms again and not just bones. The first picture of the house shows the view from the kitchen through to the living room. The mantle above the fireplace was put in after the 1994 earthquake and it was pretty much the only internal wall left standing after everything was stripped out after the fire. The windows and door to the right of that, which look out onto our eastern yard used to be a pair of French doors. Now it will be a single door with windows on either side, which you can see a little better in the second photograph.

No more floor to ceiling windows anywhere in the house, which is just fine with me and the fire marshal. Also a concession to the fire marshal is a solid sheer wall to protect against the shaking we got in the 1994 earthquake. That's the solid wall on the right of the picture. It has been moved to take over space that was a narrow extension of the garage which was pretty much worthless to us for storage. It jutted out from the front of the house and did little more than collect a lot of leaves from the tree or serve as a vantage for cats who would climb up there and look into the windows which extended in a huge triangle from side to side in the front of the house from about the 8' wall level. We'll have less light streaming into the living room this way, but we've gained about 3' of length to the living room.

The third photograph of the house looks back toward the kitchen area and you can see the open front door on the left and the door out to my kitchen garden. There's a lot of change going on here. There used to be a wall blocking most of this view. When we did work on the kitchen three years ago, we added a pass-through window, added a range with a big oven near where the window is (in addition to the wall oven that used to be just to the right of where the door is going to the garden), and had pull-out shelves in the bottom cabinets under the sink. In the new version of the kitchen, the sink will be under that window, the range with oven will be perpendicular and to this side of where the sink will go, the placement for the refrigerator is blocked by the wall on the right (behind which on the far side will be a pantry and on the near side with be a closet with the washer and dryer), and jutting out from that same wall will be a base cabinet with counter top to serve as a lunch counter and work space. The chairs will tuck in facing toward the kitchen. It is so much more open. And there will be a lot more storage space in the kitchen because of it.

For comparison, you might want to take a look at the blogs I wrote in 2007 when we were renovating the kitchen--something that never quite got finished. Here's a link to what the view from the kitchen through to the living room used to be before/during the make-over. That wall will be gone, replaced partially by a base-counter about 4' long. If you look to the upper right of the picture, you can see the windows that used to be in the upper part of the front wall above the door area. Here's the old back of the kitchen area where the refrigerator will now be in about the center of the wall surrounded by cabinets. The wall oven on the left is gone and the washer and dryer will be moved to their closet in the hall toward the bedrooms. And this lovely area of clutter will soon be the pantry. We only used the laundry sink to empty the washer's water and that will now have proper plumbing. I think things will be much easier to organize and put away with a proper pantry.

In the fourth photograph of the house is the space that used to be my office. It has had quite a bit of rearranging. When we tore up the carpet, we saw the artifacts of a wall that did make the room a fourth bedroom. When Len bought the place, those walls had been removed and the room was open to the hallway and used as a den or dining room. We used it as both at different times, but mostly it was my office. I used filing cabinets to take the place of a wall. It was crowded, but it was mine.

The room had a large closet along the left side of this picture which is no longer there. We took that, and what had been the linen closet in the hall and rearranged the support walls t enlarge the master bedroom's bath. I told Len that I would no longer live in a house where I did not have a separate vanity and storage area in the bathroom from his. While I think the bathroom in the rental is larger than necessary, I do appreciate the two sinks and vanities and I can draw a line down the center to keep his crap from invading my side. It is heavenly. The bath in our house will not be any deeper than it was, but it will be much wider, and we've shifted location and orientation of everything in it to make it a nicer space than it was.

Now the office has a closet (right) and a window-seat (left) for storage, and it still has a nice big window to look out on the side yard. I imagine some little girl sitting on the window seat with a favorite book taking her off to some imaginary land. That's what I'd do there.

We are told the house will be done in February. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Schleese Comes to Chatsworth

It's really cold in L.A. Not cold as many of you would recognize, but cold for L.A. It happens every once in a while. There's snow on the far mountains and I had to scrape my car windows yesterday morning.

We're between promised rain storm right now and I've got fingers and everything else crossed that the next one holds off until Friday afternoon. I finally got an appointment to get my dressage saddle adjusted and Jochen Schleese himself is going to accompany the local fitter. I have no idea how much it will cost--I have a rough idea it's around the cost of tuning up my car. I keep telling myself I'm a four-time Jeopardy! champion, so I can actually afford it. Too bad the money doesn't get here for another three months.

I bought the saddle when I had an unexpected windfall from a personal injury case I had referred to another lawyer four years ago. It was quite a luxury to have a saddle custom made and it felt just grand. The last time I rode in it was two years ago when I lost my seat and really slammed my hip on the ground--I never had the wind knocked out of me before and it was frightening. Ace hasn't been able to wear it for a while, because his body has changed shape (for the better) but he's asymmetrical in the withers/shoulders (I know, most horses are) and he lost enough weight that it just doesn't fit right. He's entitled to a saddle that fits, and Ashley, who does ride him in an English saddle, should be able to use his saddle on him, not her pony's saddle.

The fitting consists of static and dynamic phases. If it rains, we won't be able to do the dynamic part this time around. The local fitter can come back, but Jochen won't be here, and I'd like the saddle maker to oversee it all. I'm not likely to haul Ace out to Pomona for Equine Affaire in February.

I'll try to take pictures.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What? No More 900-0?

By the time I arrived to attend New College at Hofstra University in 1969, Hofstra was well passed any reputation it had for beating Bill Cosby's Temple University football team 900-0. But it was not unusual that the only time people had ever heard of Hofstra (a name my mother can still not pronounce correctly) was because Bill Cosby told this story.

I did actually once meet a Hofstra graduate who had been on those winning football teams, but he was a number of years older than I and I'm not sure I believed him. I remember attending one football game on an autumn evening, but that was before I started dating Bob Mackreth and had better things to do on Friday nights.

Hofstra was, I think, the first college to have astro-turf on its football field. This may have had something to do with it being the summer home of the New York Jets in those days. Broadway Joe was around and we may have gotten a brief look at him before the team left for its season (in the days before football preceded Labor Day.) Astro-turf, as any photographer can tell you, is dangerous stuff. Most of us would rather photograph dirt and grass stains than the blood that sliding on astro-turf is likely to produce.

The university has had a significant basketball team in recent time, but the article I read today said that football seems to face the same indifference from the community and lack of success it did when I attended. The school plans to reallocate the $4.5 million the program costs to other areas. This sounds like a good idea.

When I think about Hofstra, I think about its theatre department, which is outstanding. Actors such as Madeline Kahn, Susan Sullivan, Lainie Kazan, Christopher Walken, Mike Starr, Robert Davi, and Peter Friedman have come out of its program. Davi used to sing opera on the Unispan because of the acoustics and Peter Friedman was the star of the department when I was there. Francis Ford Coppola was an undergraduate. Throw in music and the communications department, and you'll find lots of folks floating around Hollywood. Ray Romano wore a Hofstra sweatshirt on "Everybody Loves Raymond" because show-runner Phil Rosenthal went to Hofstra. Scott Ross, one of the founders of Digital Domain, was my first-year classmate at New College--I got my B.A. in the planned three years, he took a little longer, but obviously he didn't suffer for it. I've seen the name of my college buddy, the charming Arturo Porazzi, in many a Playbill as stage manager, confirmation that his theatre tech major paid off. There are others I wonder about, but with family in that business, I certainly know how difficult it is to succeed.

So, my suggestion would be to tell the university to put its money where its success is: theatre and communications (and maybe some to its very successful law school.) I realize that there are alumni who will be irritated that football is gone, but I've always thought that college sports draws money away from academic pursuits and if they are so important for developing professional talent, pro sports owners should be picking up the tab. More people benefit from a run of Richard III (and Hofstra runs the oldest college Shakespeare festival in the country every spring) than from a football game.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Official Len Wein Day

It has been a year of extreme highs and lows. We've got another high this week: Saturday is Official Len Wein Day in Los Angeles County. We think it has something to do with the creation of Wolverine and the Hero Initiative.

Len is doing a signing event for the Hero Initiative, a charity which was founded to help the older creators of comic books. A just published a book of 100 covers by different artists for Wolverine stories hits shops today and, on Saturday, Len and a number of the artists will sign from 7-10 PM at Collector's Paradise Comics & Gallery, 7131 Winnetka Avenue (just south of Sherman Way) in Winnetka, California (in the western part of the San Fernando Valley) to benefit the charity.

If you live in LA, take the 101 Freeway to the Winnetka Avenue exit and head north about 2 miles. It's on the west side of the street. You could probably take the Orange Line to the Winnetka stop and walk about a mile north, but I think the 243 bus takes that route.

I'm planning on being there to take a few pictures. Feel free to drop by.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Lull before the Holidays

Some of life is calming down a welcome bit. I'm starting prep for Thanksgiving, which includes counting dishes and glassware and hoping I've got enough for the folks who will be attending. I think we'll have a smaller group than last year, since my good china and dining room table are still at the warehouse. I don't even think anything's been done to fix the table yet.

Ace was originally scheduled to do a show yesterday and then do the Arab show over Thanksgiving weekend. Yesterday didn't happen and I think we're going to pass on the Arab show. Ashley's been sick and I haven't bought my membership in the other organization besides AHA that I need to join.

Ace has taken to jumping like a duck takes to water. He's a very happy camper when Ashley gets to take him over things. Just as long as he doesn't decide I need to learn how to jump, we'll be fine.

Did you all watch Zenyatta blow away the boys at the Breeders Cup Classic on Saturday? I happened to remember it was going on and found it on TV about half an hour before post time. What a horse! Ever since Barbaro, I'm rather terrified to watch Thoroughbred racing, but the girls (Rachel Alexandra's the other one) have been quite special this year. I hope Zenyatta's owners retire her. She's definitely earned it. But I bet she's the kind of horse who would rather have that job to do. I do find myself wondering how to get Ron Weschler to get us on a tour that will let us meet her. He knows so many people in racing, but it would be easier if she was at home at Santa Anita and not Hollywood Park.

My friend Kay Reindl was at the race on Saturday and was close by the gate when one of the horses refused to load. It was scary on TV and it was even worse in person. Kay let some joker know how dangerous it was when he stood near her laughing about it. I was amazed that the jockey stuck around on board for so long. It was a good thing that neither the horse nor anyone else got hurt.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jeopardy! Blog

My blog about my appearance on Jeopardy! is up on the Jeopardy! web site. The part which leads up to the games is accurate. The part about the actual games and who I played is not accurate. I had to write the blog within two weeks of my appearance, which was several weeks before the shows ran. I'm sorry to everyone whose name and game I got wrong. It was all a blur, and if I didn't watch the games on TV, I really wouldn't know what happened. I'm still not sure how I won Game 3. Note that I thought the crew was from NBC and doing a Dateline story, when it was from ABC for Nightline!

Monday, November 2, 2009

What a Week It Has Been

By now, you've probably heard that I am a four-time Jeopardy! champion. Some of you might also have seen me on the Nightline segment that ran on Friday night. If you didn't, and want to, here's a link to that bit of reporting.

Nightline spent the day I shot my five episodes of the game doing the story on the show. At the end of my fifth game, I was asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed, and, of course, I was. I'm looking at it as an added bonus of a good run on the show.

My tally hasn't been added to the Hall of Fame for $50,000+ players and my blog about my experience isn't up on the Jeopardy! site yet either. If you are interested in seeing the game boards I played, you can check them out at J-Archive, a really useful site run by fans of the show.

When my blog does go up, you will discover I am an unreliable narrator. The deadline for the blog was two weeks after I shot my episodes, so I had only my fuzzy brain for reference. I refer to my worthy opponents by wrong names, because I couldn't recall who played in which segment. I hereby apologize to each and every one of them. They were all lovely people and very smart.

I want to thank everyone who has wished me well during this experience. I've gotten lovely e-mail from total strangers and notes from folks with whom I now have the Jeopardy! experience in common. The notes are much appreciated.

So now I'm anxious to learn how Chris Rodriguez did on his next appearance, which won't run until November 16. I was glad for Chris that he got more than his long cross-country-by-train trip out of his appearance, and I hope to god he sprung for a sleeper car on his way back to Massachusetts. The cheap seats are not fun on a long-distance train ride, but a sleeper car is relaxing, as I experienced on my trip to New Mexico just a year ago.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jeopardy, Part 2

I'm heading home to watch tonight's Jeopardy with another group of friends. Wherever you are, I hope you'll tune in to see what happens on my second appearance.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jeopardy Promo

Here's the link to Jeopardy's "Home Town Howdees" with me making funny faces. Tune in and tell me what you think!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Is Monday Night?

The answer is its the night when Christine Valada make an appearance on Jeopardy! I'll be a contestant on Monday, October 26. As soon as the Jeopardy! website puts up the "Hometown Howdees," I'll put up a link. Check your local listings for time and channel.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Family Reunion

Growing up, there were always cousins around. My father's immediate family lived 60 miles away and most of my mother's family lived on Long Island but always found reasons to visit the Catskills. There were 21 first cousins on my Dad's side (he was the middle of 5 children) and 19 on my mother's side (she was the oldest of 6 children.) On my mother's side it was actually the full second cousins who were closer to my age, and they came up a lot because my mother was very close to a number of her first cousins who looked to my grandfather as the patriarch of his part of the family. We all did a lot of traveling by car for weekends on "the Island" or day trips to Daddy's brothers and sisters.

I think we were closest to Dad's brother Jack's family. They're the ones I recall spending a lot of time with in the summer, when Jack's two daughters would spend part of the summer with us, or we'd go to Binghamton for picnics and trips to the small amusement parks there.

This weekend, I went to Arizona for the wedding of one of Uncle Jack's grand children. Jason is the son of my cousin Tony, and we met for the first time as I was walking down the resort steps to find the place where the ceremony had taken place. Jason found me on-line when he first moved out to Phoenix around 7 or 8 years ago. We've kept in sporadic touch since, and a few months ago he wrote to let me know he was getting married and wanted me to come to the wedding.

It was the first time I had seen Tony or his older brother Jimmy in more years than I care to contemplate. I know they were both at Tony's wedding, which took place when I was still in high school, and they probably were also at their sister Marie's wedding, but I can't remember if either of them attended my first wedding or those of my sister or brothers. When you're young, that 5-8 year age difference is a lot bigger than it is when you have children of your own.

Tony sounds just like his dad and our uncle Tony. My dad's inflections were a bit different. Jason has a nose that reminds me of his grandfather and his aunt. I also got to meet Tony's beautiful daughter Stefany, her husband, and their three kids. Stefany looks a lot like her mother, who passed away from cancer 10 years ago (which I didn't know until recently.) I also spent time at the wedding with two of Tony's brothers-in-law, who were also kids at Tony and Ceil's wedding so many years ago. I guess we must have met or at least seen each other at that party.

The wedding took place at the Wild Horse Pass Spa and Resort in Chandler, Arizona, somewhere to the west of Phoenix. It was lovely. It's on the Pima-Maricopa reservation, has that unmistakable south-west adobe architecture, and I'd definitely consider going back again for a weekend.

Although it was a small wedding, there was a definite family feel to it. Gracie the flower-girl, Stefany's younger daughter, fell asleep at the reception and cushions were found so she could sleep while the party continued. It reminded me of Uncle Tony's wedding and pushing chairs together so my brother Bert could sleep while the festivities continued.

Tony and Jimmy reminisced about my father taking them deer hunting. I remember watching Yankee games and Bobby Kennedy's funeral at their house. The Yankees game on Saturday night was a big deal to the Valada family--Stefany's husband had his Blackberry out to follow things throughout the reception. The Yanks are a family religion in which my cousin Jimmy refused to participate. He's a Giants fan. Heresy.

I also met one of Jason's cousins from his mother's side of the family. He works for the Phoenix Suns. We exchanged information, so I expect we'll meet up when the Suns play out here. He used to play pro ball himself in Europe, so we discussed the beauty and food of Italy. Nice young man named Stefan.

Tony retired from teaching social studies and lives near Stafany in Florida. I hope that I'll see more of him if he decides to visit Jason in Phoenix. It was an easy flight of just over an hour, and definitely worth the trouble to go see such nice relatives. Eventually, I hope to actually meet Stacy, the bride. There was no reception line, so I never actually met her. I did meet her mother, but not her father. Funny how those things can get lost with all of the excitement.

Jason did let me know that Crate & Barrel had delivered my present, so even if they are as bad as I was about thank-you notes, I know the gift arrived. Or at least one of the two items did, and they were supposed to be shipped together.

My legs still hurt from dancing a little bit on Saturday night. Wearing heels is pretty uncomfortable when your usual foot wear is Nike or Ariat.

My relatives all left the hotel very early on Sunday morning. Jason and Stacy were flying to Cancun for their honeymoon and Tony flew back to Florida with Stefany and her family. I didn't get to see them again after I left the reception on Saturday night, unfortunately. I did spend some more time talking with Tony's brothers and sisters-in-law on Sunday morning as I waited for my ride to the equestrian center on the grounds and they had coffee before heading out to a day trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. I hope they had a wonderful time.

My shuttle to the horses was a bit late because it also returned the riders from the 7 a.m. ride to the hotel. The driver was Roger, a Pima tribe member, who would also be my trail-ride guide. It turned out I was the only rider for what I thought was a group ride. I guess no one else wanted to be up that early or risk being out in the heat--it hit around 100 on Saturday.

The reservation is huge, and we rode for 90 minutes. I was on a pinto named Desperado. I did express doubt about a horse with that name, but he was fine after he did the usual thing of trying to tell me that he was going to go home right when we got started. We got over that right away and he was a good horse the rest of the trip.

Roger rode a dark brown mustangy looking horse named Jack. Jack was a bit skittish--caution due to the fact he'd been bitten by a rattle snake in the past. This was a good thing, because half-way through the ride, Jack spun when he saw/heard a rattlesnake on the path. Roger called for me to get my horse out of there as well. I never actually saw the snake, but I sure heard it. Desperado never panicked when Jack spun in front of us or otherwise acted nervously. He also just handled breaking through the dirt around gopher holes like it was nothing at all. Good horse, that Desperado.

We saw some lizards and heard the snake, but we didn't see any of the 1500 head of wild horses that live out there. Roger told me about hitting a mountain lion with his car recently, and gave me lots of stories about the Pima and Maricopa tribes. He's Pima, because his mother is Pima, but he's also learned much about his father's tribe, the Maricopa. He's a tribal singer, which is why he says he's almost 48 and not married. It takes a lot of effort to learn the songs. Just fascinating.

I had a mid-afternoon pick-up to go back to the airport, so after I got back to the hotel, I had breakfast, cleaned up, packed up, checked out and hung around the lobby relaxing. It was too hot to sit outside by the pool, as far as I was concerned.

The drive back to Phoenix and the airport went quickly. I did see a great blue heron in the small river on our way off the reservation. But no wild horses. Next time, maybe. I went to the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa and the only wild horses I saw were on the tee shirt I bought.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Autumn Arrives

I seem to have found a few days of respite. I finished a blog that will be posted elsewhere (and I'll do a link when it finally gets put up), provided the accountant with information for our taxes (which we'll file after Len adds money to his retirement fund later today), and I'm ready to take an overnight trip to Phoenix to the wedding of my first-cousin-once-removed (whom I look forward to meeting.) I hear the weather will be warmer than it is here in L.A. right now.

The rain started on Monday night as I drove home from talking about copyright to the Women's Artistic Network in Camarillo. It came down much harder yesterday and I had trouble sleeping because of the noise on the plastic awning outside our bedroom window. I hope that the roofers covered things at our house, because I would hate to lose to the rain the rest of the comic books in the garage that the thieves didn't get.

There will be no riding today. Gayle said she's cutting trenches and Ace is irritated that she's not feeding him every time she walks in and out of the gate. I hear that the Santa Cruz area got 10" of rain, scary for the areas where there was fire earlier this year. My friend Erin can't get to her horses again because of mud-slide fears in the L.A. burn areas. Roads have been closed, but we haven't had quite the levels of rain the north has, at least not yet.

We do need the rain. I hope it brings the roses at my house back from near dead. I went into my garden and looked at dead grape vines and tomato plants and herbs and wanted to cry. I had finished planting the garden, putting several hundred dollars into it, the night before the fire. What a shame.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dodging a Bullet

Tamiflu seems to have taken care of whatever was bothering me on Friday. I managed to get out to the flea market on Sunday and found a lovely tri-cornered Nambe bowl for a good price. My friends, whose first visit to the flea market it was, found books and character jelly glasses. We went to tea at the Scarlet Tea Room for lunch. They had mojitos, I was the designated driver.

Len had a good trip to Columbus and met my girlfriend's grand-daughter. He's in New York with my sister where they've caught two musicals so far, but don't ask me what they were. One captured a bunch of Tony awards last time out and the other was in previews. Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig will be Thursday night. Not in a musical, unless you count the singing of someone's cell phone as captured in the very illegal video up on YouTube.

Ace was pronounced in excellent shape by the vet when he came out to do fall shots on Saturday. I showed Dr. Perdue the packet of material I got from Cornell University, which is doing a study of horses. It came with a 10' tape-measure, detailed instructions about what measurements to take, a form for the measurements, and a sheet to attach mane and tail hairs to collect hair-bulbs for DNA analysis. I'll be happy to post the contact information if anyone else would like to have their horses included in the study.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where's the Chicken Soup When You Need It?

I think I may be coming down with the flu. I woke up with a punk stomach and I was chilled and then I got warm. I've got aching in my skull and joints, itchy eyes, and a funny taste in my mouth. I have broken down and taken the Tamiflu we've been hording. I needed to be at work today to check out something that has turned into a bit of a mess. The correction has been made, but there was a timed release of an e-mail which I cannot reverse myself. I'm hoping the boss can recall it and send out the corrected e-mail with the proper link without too much trouble when he finally comes back later today. I've left him voice mail and I may go home if I don't feel better real soon. Fortunately, I am not coughing or sneezing--yet. I worry about spreading anything.

Len's off to Columbus, New York, and Baltimore. Two conventions book-ending meetings at DC Comics, and, most importantly, a night at the theatre with my sister as the guest of the lovely Hugh Jackman. I wish I could jump in a plane to be in New York on Thursday night, but I've got tickets to see August: Osage County here on Friday night and the city-wide King Trivia tournament finals on Saturday afternoon. Much as I would like to see Hugh and meet Daniel Craig (yes, they are invited back stage), I'm delighted my sister gets to meet them in my place. I've got my fingers crossed that she's going to earn her waivers today to finally get her SAG card, and it would be a great way for her to celebrate.

Assuming I'm not coming down with the cooties, I'm planning to treat the Sunday Super Supper Club to an recipe from Marcella Hazen that I love, but Len wouldn't like (he's very limited in the kinds of fish he will try.) Fortunately, it really doesn't take all that long to prepare, because I'm planning on going to the Pasadena City College Swap Meet with Susan and Kathryn on Sunday morning. I figure if I do my shopping and prep of Saturday, I'll be fine.

The Arabian Prince hasn't seen much of me lately. Between the heat and my week, I finally got a chance to stop by yesterday. He's having a great time jumping. As long as he doesn't do it with me, that's fine. I've got the premium for the big Arab show at the Equestrian Center over Thanksgiving weekend, and we're trying to figure out which classes he'll enjoy doing. I'm willing to let Ashley jump him if she wants to. I'd like to get my Schlesse adjusted for him ahead of time, because it's a beautiful and under-used saddle. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a Schlesse clinic near by for quite a while, and I haven't been able to ferry him to one.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another Busy Day

I planned to go shopping for some silk shirts, finish inputting tax info, and make dinner for the Sunday Super Supper Squad because The Amazing Race starts tonight with, get this, two Harlem Globe Trotters on board as contestants. How's that for stunt-casting? Now, I've got to fit in a visit from Tim Prindle, my terrific farrier, who will be leaving for two weeks back east on Thursday and it's time for Ace's toes to be done. Too little time, too much to do. So why am I procrastinating at the keyboard? Probably because it was over 110 yesterday and will be another scorcher today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Hurrieder I Go, the Behinder I Get

It seems a little silly to pop in and say I'm sorry I've been too busy to post. But I just haven't had enough time to finish writing about my trip to New York or cover what else has been going on. One big time-sink I can't even address just yet.

Repairs on the house continue at a snail's pace. We can see improvement on the roof and reframing on the inside, but we're told it will be February until it is ready. I'm guessing we'll be at the rental for the better part of a year, unless I can convince Len to buy while the market is in our favor and then sell the old place when houses are on the upswing. It's not like I couldn't carry that mortgage on my own right now, and it would make a good rental property.

I'm doing a quick in and out of town in a few weeks to go to the wedding of a first cousin once removed. I've never met him, but he found me through the Internet a number of years ago. I'm looking forward to meeting him and seeing his father and uncle for the first time in a zillion years. I'm also hoping to squeeze in time for a ride at the Wild Horse Resort where the wedding is taking place. It looks lovely out there.

Len's had his plate full with follow-up meetings from Comic Con and the several projects he's deeply into. Plus, he's getting a tremendous lot of press because of the X-men Origins: Wolverine movie release. He's on a 15 minute short having a conversation with Stan Lee, which is one of the extras on the disks. Many of the reviews are calling it the best thing about the release. He spent Monday morning with Lauren Shuler Donner and Gavin Hood doing a press junket at a Beverly Hills hotel where he did 35 on-camera interviews in four-and-a-half hours. When his adrenalin dropped, he really crashed. He's not used to being up at 6, and it was a good thing they sent a car for him.

Len gets to go to conventions in Columbus and Baltimore the first two weekends in October, with a five day layover in between in New York, where he hopes to catch the play starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. He also gets to see my sister and my nieces, for which I am most envious. I'm trying to remember what else I saw at Zabar's that he can bring back to me, since my sister's apartment is nearby.

While he's gone, I will finally get to see "August: Osage County." My lovely niece Kristina turned down the opportunity to do the national tour as an understudy, so we aren't enjoying her company for the six weeks the show is in town. She managed to go on 20 times on Broadway, and played three different roles, but she wants to be paid to act instead of being paid to not act. I can understand, but I wish she was here.

We've got fires raging in Southern California again. My friend Erin is not allowed to go to her horses right now, because after they were moved back to their stables (which were saved from the Station Fire), the road has been closed to all except residends. The cops aren't letting people who have other legitimate reasons to be there in, even though names have been provided. There's no indication when this will change. This is likely to damage the business of the boarding facilities and the trainers.

The latest big fire is to the west in the Filmore-Moorpark area. It's major horse territory and they are being evacuated to the Ventura County Fairgrounds. The news said the last big fire out there was in 2002, but there was a pretty big one in Moorpark more recently than that, because my friend Lira had to evacuate her big mare to Pierce. I could see the black cloud over the north-west ridge of the valley this morning. At the moment, I have no reason to worry about it getting near Ace.

Speaking of Ace, we're probably going to enter him in the big Arabian show at the Equestrian Center over Thanksgiving weekend. Ashley wants to ride him and we'll put him in any category she thinks he can do. She's started taking him over jumps and the stinker clearly loves it. As long as he doesn't do it with me on his back, I'm fine with it. He's been getting out on trail a lot more lately, which is good for his brain. I just wish the Schleese saddle fitting folks would do a fitting session near by. His saddle needs some serious adjustment and it would be nice if Ashley could ride in it at the show.

We managed to get to the Los Angeles County Fair on Saturday, where it was Saddlebred show day (pretty but prissy) and I learned that mustangs are "dissidents of the horses brought by the Spaniards to North America." You'd think someone in the BLM took enough English to know the meaning of "dissident" is not the same as "descendant." Spell-check strikes again.

I used the fair to start rebuilding my pearl collection at the Kobe Pearls booth. Len and I each chose 4 oysters to open and I now have a pendant with three large gold-cream pearls. I only got one black this time, so I'll save that until next year. Choosing oysters for pearls has been a long-standing tradition with us and I got one or two a year every year we went to the fair. My collection disappeared in the fire, because they were in an open music box on my dresser (they melt or burn.) My black pearl ring was in a drawer, and that survived. My black pearl drop necklace is a bit damaged, but that piece I still have. I was lucky enough to be wearing my black-pearl earrings. I had several pendant pieces made over the years, but I found none of them in the debris.

The last of the recent time-sinks has been a city-wide team trivia competition that takes place in bars around the city. Our group started late, so we've been doing two nights a week to get enough points to qualify for the final and a prize of $1000. The final is on October 10, and we did qualify. We came in third last night, but we had one three or four nights in a row between that bar and the other one we've gone to regularly. Unfortunately, neither my husband or J. Keith van Straaten will be in town for the night of the final, which will make things a little tougher. But then I remind myself that Jim Newman and his friend Don and I pulled several of those wins off without additional help. I think we can have six members on our team for the final.

Now, if I can just get the damned 2008 tax material ready for the accountant.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meeting Pen Pals

The Internet has brought back some of the skills of written communication that disappeared when people decided the telephone was the best method of communication. I think about pamphleteers and how they must have found each other in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. And what it must have been like when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met each other for the first time, after knowing each other only by the words they wrote. They didn't even have photographs in those days.

One of the fun things I was able to fit in on this trip was arranging to have breakfast with Victoria Cummings of Teachings of the Horse. I've been following her blog ever since it showed up in the list of notable & recommended blogs soon after I started writing mine. I find it insightful and I enjoy her pictures of her two mares and her farm. When she heard I was coming East, Victoria contacted me about getting together and I was really pleased to oblige.

Victoria is as delightful in person as she is on the screen. It turns out we have people in common outside the parameters of the blogosphere because she's worked in Hollywood and lived in California. The world is a very small place.

There wasn't time for more than breakfast. It was Victoria's mother's 95th birthday, and I had to get my car back to the rental office and get into New York. I appreciate the time that Victoria carved out from her busy day to enjoy some poached eggs at the dairy coffee shop and I managed to get back to Enterprise without incurring any charges for overtime.

I'm sorry that Arlene of Grey Horse Matters was out of town during my brief window of opportunity in the North East. She too had extended an invitation to get together, but she had to be out of town. I was hoping to meet Sami, her Arabian rescue, and Sami's mama as well. Perhaps next time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New York, August 15

The reunion has been fun. Actually, it has been perfect.

My friend Gloria (on the right, above), with whom I reconnected because of this blog, managed to get here. She flew directly from Madrid, where she was on business, to JFK, where her brother picked her up and drove her home. She got in about 4:30 this morning and I think that she’s lucky that the time differences worked in her favor coming here.

She looks just great, and we’ve had a fine time catching up. She left mid-way through 8th grade and moved to a small town about 60-90 minutes away. When you don’t drive, that’s just as bad as going to the far side of the moon. I saw her only once after that. I invited her to a party the summer after we both graduated and she came. I am so glad we have reconnected. Her granddaughter is into manga and anime, and is planning to be at the convention where Len’s a guest next month. Gloria is going to instruct her to be sure and go up to Len and introduce herself.

My other best friend, Valerie (center, above), from those days was here with her (relatively) new husband. He’s a little on the quiet side, but that may just be because plus-ones are at a disadvantage at a reunion, unless they went to the same school.

Even with nametags and pictures, it is a little hard to recognize people or remember exactly who they were. Sometimes, there’s the moment when you see a 17 year old face peeking out of middle age and sometimes (like people say about me) it’s because you see their parent’s face.

It’s been fun, but frustrating to be unable to check e-mail or post. When I get back to my world, these posts will be going up one after the other, and now I’ve actually got pictures to go with them. Folks suggested I drive around looking for unsecured wi-fi, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Things can wait until I get to Danbury tomorrow or New York on Monday.

There’s one more gathering to attend: breakfast tomorrow. I’ll leave after that. It’s about a 3 hour drive to Connecticut, so I’ll get there plenty of time before dark. I might even stop to buy a swim-suit—Audrey and Michael have an indoor pool. That’s not necessarily an advantage this time of year, but I will always remember being there in the heated pool in January, with a fire in the fireplace, the lights off and the snow coming down outside. It was bliss.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New York, August 14

What does “no till seeding” mean? Or “no till corn?” Is this a step beyond organic or vegan of which I am unaware.

I passed a field with those signs on my way back from a pilgrimage to Equissentials in Oneonta. There I dropped off a pair of riding britches for “recycling” (they put the deerskin seat on new britches), another pair for exchange (they were much smaller than the other pair I bought at the same time), and gave into my desire for a pair of the full-seat western jodhpurs. Those I bought off the rack. The others will be custom made.

The day is Kodachrome perfect and it makes me wish I actually had some. But then, where would I get it processed? It’s almost time for me to pull out my camera and use it. The afternoon light will soon pick up the warmth I prefer. I think I’m going to drop my car off at my mother’s house and walk for a while. It’s nice to see side walks and there are so many antique shops around. Unlike California, rents are cheap.

I find myself wondering how many of the people I’m walking past might be among those who show up at tonight’s first event of the reunion. It is scary, not knowing what people will look like. A little more frightening to realize I don’t remember their voices either. My father’s voice is vivid in my memory, and he’s been gone 31 years. I’ve seen some of these classmates more recently than that. The only one I can pull up from the data base belongs to Rodney Welch, who teaches and does research at the University of Wisconsin. I sat next to him in school for 13 years, so I should remember what it sounds like.

Yesterday, my friend Gloria called just as my nice and I were seated in a very noisy restaurant in New York. She identified herself, but it was drowned out by the din, so I had to ask for it again. I would never have recognized her by her voice, which sounded a bit like one of my aunts. She called because there is a very small possibility she might make it up from Puerto Rico for the party this weekend. My fingers are definitely crossed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New York, August 13, Evening

I am in some other when.

As I drove up Route 17 to attend my high school reunion, I found myself drawn to things I hadn’t thought about in ages:

There was the house that Gary Catella, another friend of his, and I went to, looking for help after Gary’s car broke down on the way home for Christmas vacation in, I think, 1969. Driving to get us meant my parents were late for Dad’s office Christmas party. Boy was he pissed. Turned out, someone had put sugar in the gas tank of Gary’s car. He spent the three weeks of vacation rebuilding the vehicle.

There was the exit to Liberty I got about 500 yards past when my aunt’s Volkswagon Beetle stopped working. The engine seized up when all the oil leaked out. My uncle told me that it was using “a little oil,” which is a different warning than the one I needed. On old Volkswagons, the oil warning light came on after all the oil was gone. The message it gave was “too late, you idiot.” I had borrowed the car to go home for a weekend in my last year in college when my mother was having some vision problems. Once again, Dad had to come and get me. The other thing I remember vividly about that trip was I was wearing suede-cloth hot pants. My legs were better in those days, but it was not a good choice for being stranded along Route 17 unless I wanted a whole lot of trouble. I didn’t. In the days long before cell phones, it took a while for rescue when I thought it prudent to reject several offers of “rides for help.” Eventually, I walked the 500 yards back to the exit and called AAA and my father.

There was the Roscoe Diner, a land mark for anyone who ever had a friend going to college in Upstate New York. It was THE watering hole, an hour from the nearest college city of any size and the last stop before getting on the highway to head back to New York and Long Island. It looked bigger than I remembered it, but I’ll bet the owners are still Greek and there’s a Greek salad on the menu. Today, I just stopped in the parking lot for a catnap before the final 20 miles of my trip. On Sunday I may stop in to see what swag is available.

I drove past one of New York City’s water sources, a reservoir that was built before I started school. It was very full. I’ve seen years where the water was so low you could see the remains of some of the towns that were flooded over. There are two of these reservoirs within 10 miles of my home town, in opposite directions. Daddy used to take us fishing there. I haven’t been fishing since I became old enough to need a license. My brothers now take their kids fishing in the same places when they go to visit my mother.

I pulled off the overview on the mountain going into town, expecting to take a picture of the valley below. The trees are all grown so tall that there is no longer a view. I noticed that the other view hill seems to have the same problem, and that road is a lot more treacherous. So much for a picture of the town, I guess..

When I got to town, I did a drive around before heading to my mother’s house. The first home my parents owned looked quite nice (above). It’s been repainted and it is nicely maintained. There’s now a terraced retaining wall in front where I just remember a grass hill we would roll down—and the day my 2 year old brother stripped off all of his clothes so he could get sprayed by the hose Daddy was using to clean the car. I remember Dad chasing my brother who immediately realized that standing naked was probably not a good idea.

Tomorrow, I will take the time to walk down town and visit some of the many antique/junk shops that have taken over what used to be a Newberry’s, Five and Dime, a jewelery store, and the Western Auto. What was my grandfather’s jewelry and barber shop (and was later his liquor shop) is empty, with a for-lease sign on it. For many years it was an extension of the clothing store on the corner. That too is empty.

The National Bank is still there, but I didn’t notice the full name. No doubt it is owned by some bigger banking corporation. The big surprise was the McDonalds. Mom said it’s been there a while. And I saw an ad for a Subway. I never thought that fast food franchises would ever find the town.

The town library is as beautiful as ever. Rumor has it I can get on the Internet there, which I will check out in the morning. I’ve had no luck posting anything from anywhere today. I’d feel like I’ve gone off the edge of the universe except I know I can get in my car and leave and Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were on TV tonight. Unfortunately, I discovered my mother’s choice of “news” is the Fox channel, because when I turned on the TV, the odious Bill O’Reilly’s face and voice came on. I couldn’t wait too change the channel.

New York, August 13

Back in New York State after an eight year absence. It’s overcast and humid, something we aren’t used to in L.A.

The young woman I noticed at Bob Hope Airport last night came over to me at the baggage kiosk. Turns out she is Kaitlyn, my friend Zsuzsu’s daughter. She’s here with a play that opens at the NY Fringe Festival this weekend. She noticed I was wearing a jacket from the training barn Zsuzsu ran with Gayle when I moved Ace up to Ranch at the Falls. It is a small world. I’ve asked Kaitlyn to join us for dinner on Monday night. I figured she’d like to meet Kristina & Stephanie, since they are in the same line of work. Kaitlyn is behind the scenes rather than in front of them.

The bus is now making the rounds of the airport stops. There was a police vehicle blocking traffic as we started out of the Jet Blue area. We couldn’t see what the problem was.

I realized that I forgot my point and shoot digital camera. It’s got to be sitting on my desk. Annoying, but not a total loss. I’ve got the Nikon D70 with me. It’s a little bulky for taking to dinner, but it’s faster and better for just about everything.

The flight was o.k. Some minor bumps at the beginning and bigger ones at the end. The couple sitting next to me in the middle and window seat were annoying and loud. I had to get up several times during the night to let them out. I did no more than doze occasionally. I think I might have gone out during Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Nice touch, being able to watch MSNBC in the air. I spent the rest of the night listening to the iPod. I just discovered that I can adjust the balance to the kind of music I like. I’m listening to Tom Paxton singing “The Bravest” and trying not to cry. In a few minutes I’ll have my first view of the New York skyline since September 7, 2001. It will look different.

It did. It’s much shorter in the south end of Manhattan, though the news was about some hummungus steel beam which has been moved into place for the rebuilding of Ground Zero.

Stephanie met me at the bus stop and we went into a busy restaurant across from Grand Central on Park Avenue for breakfast. “Do you have reservations?” asked the manager. Reservations? For breakfast? During the week? In New York? It turned out to be the kind of place that must be used for breakfast business meetings. I was a bit disheveled and ripe from the flight, but they seated us anyway and breakfast was fine. We had about 90 more minutes to kill after we ate and we walked around the renovated Grand Central, which has a fine market—oh the cheese and spice shops were to die for—and where I was able to buy a container with four fresh figs. Mom had expressed her desire for fresh figs, which she hadn’t been able to find at home and which I could not legally bring back with me from California.

Today is my son's birthday and I think it may be the first one I've missed since the days when he spent summers with his father. I miss him and wish that I had been able to plan ahead so he could come along on this trip.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Busy Week and Weekend

When he's standing around on his best behavior (like in this picture), you'd never know what an opinionated horse Ace can be. He's very good at letting us know something is wrong, but not necessarily exactly what isn't right.

Ace has been acting strangely ever since I went to Comic Con. While a visit from the vet/chiropractor last Sunday took care of the physical offness, our lessons this week were hampered by a mental "just not here" thing.

Ashley had a great ride with him on Tuesday or Thursday, after her own huge young horse, Waldo, almost dumped her after a big spook, a huge rear, and a turn. Ace was her comfort horse and then he took care of her when she rode him in a training lesson. Me, not so much this week.

He spooked and nailed my left foot on Wednesday while I was picking his feet on Wednesday. That did no damage because it was a quick on and off. Lucky. On Friday, while I was putting his halter on, he spooked and came down on my right foot full weight. I screamed bloody murder for him to get it off. He did the "oh, I'm sorry mom what was your foot doing there" thing, but he wasn't calming down.

Gayle was going to give him a chance to move before I got on his back, but it turned into a full-fledged join-up session. He simply refused to honestly submit. We actually had to untack him because Gayle was afraid he was so worked up, he'd stumble and go down on his saddle. (I've never, ever had to worry about Ace decided to roll when he's tacked up. He just doesn't do it.) After a long workout, we got him dressed again and I did a little work on him. We aren't use to him exhibiting this much attitude.

It may be that his little buddy the new mini got a new corral which is not as close as the old one. Or maybe there was one too many nail guns or motor cycles going off on the other side of the boundry wall. Or maybe he was unhappy that the little girl who's been fussing over him all week in camp this summer didn't come this week. She's had him all cleaned for me every day when I get there and has turned the front part of his stall into a Japanese rock garden without the rocks. She draws lines in the dirt with the manure rake, I hear. Since he doesn't speak English, although he appears to understand it quite well, we're having a hard time figuring out the problem.

He was a tired horse when he went back into his stall on Friday night, but Saturday was a new day and he was in a much better mood when I got there to tack for an 8:30 ride.

It was the best ride I've had on him in weeks. I was able to trot him long and hard for most of the half hour. At first, it was unusually choppy--his warmed-up trot is the easies thing in the world to sit--but then he got going when he realized I wasn't fooling around and he needed to get his rear legs underneath himself. I was really pleased with him and myself when I was done.

Then it was off to the hairdresser in preparation for the upcoming trip home. I even decided to try a manicure and pedicure (I earned it after Friday night) for the first time. Very indulgent. A little weird, but I'd do it again. All of my nails were about the same length and for a change that didn't mean broken below the quick. I discovered when I painted my nails for New Years that I felt like I wanted to rip my nails off. The polish made them feel funny, like they were suffocating. I don't know how else to describe it. Someone else said they think polish makes their nails feel heavy. I'm glad it is not just me. I decided I'd risk a clear coat, but nothing more. So far, so good.

So my hands looked great for about two hours, until I chipped one of the nails at the bowling alley fundraiser for Horse and Pony Rescue Ranch, Inc. , the non-profit that Gayle and some of her students set up years ago to help place unwanted horses. I had a good time anyway, and was glad to get my husband and son to come out and socialize at a horse-related event. A couple of our friends joined us and we managed to bowl two games in the two hours.

I'm a lousy bowler, but even I managed two strikes and a couple of spares, along with a large number of gutter balls. This morning my right hand, arm and neck hurt from using muscles I don't normally encounter. I'm really pleased that between the folks bowling, pledges made to sponsor the bowlers, and raffle tickets, HAPRRI got about $350 towards horsekeeping expenses. If anyone is interested and has the spare cash to make a donation (and I know what that's like these days), here's a link to HAPRRI's website.

Today, I'm doing laundry and packing for my trip, because later we are off to see Julie & Julia, tomorrow night I've got team trivia, Tuesday night we're attending the taping of the first episode of the season of The Big Bang Theory, and Wednesday, I've got to see my chiropractor and Ace right after work before I go to the airport for the red-eye flight to New York. Busy, busy, busy. But so much fun.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Home Again, but Not for Long

We're home again for a little while. Comicon was exhausting, as always, but we had a fine time. The reaction to the Human Target pilot was enthusiastic and I've been catching press notices about it thanks to Google Alerts. I'm hoping it will be a huge success so I can buy the house I want and hold grand parties in it while Ace grazes in the back yard in a happy retirement.

We got together with James Moran, a British writer who has worked on Dr. Who, Torchwood, and Crusoe, and his wife Jodie Kearns, an opera singer, for dinner last night. We never saw them at Comicon, and they came back to L.A. for a few days before heading back to London. Because of Twitter and Facebook, we knew they were around but it's purely by chance that you run into friends in a crowd of 150,000. Even when you plan a meeting, it's hard to find people. James and Jodie are staying in Santa Monica, so we took them out to El Cholo, an L.A. restaurant that dates back to the 1920s, which has a location close to their hotel. We introduced them to margaritas, table-side-made guacamole, and green corn tamales, which is just about my favorite combination of traditional L.A. cuisine. They were duly impressed, so I suggested they might try The Border Grill before they leave town. That restaurant is walking-distance from their hotel. It was a relaxing dinner with excellent conversation, something that can be lacking in the Comicon environment.

While it was doubtful it would happen until yesterday, I'm taking a quick trip back East to head to the western foothills of the Catskill Mountains for my high school reunion. I'd rather not say how many years, but I have great fondness for that particular year and its place in history.

As I've mentioned before, I haven't gotten on a plane since September 7, 2001, when we flew back from New York. I haven't seen the edited skyline of the city in person. I'm arriving on a red-eye, so that should be interesting.

I'm planning on taking "Talkie Tina," our Magellan GPS unit along with me. She and I don't get along very well, but it will be easier than following a map without a navigator. I'm pretty sure that my automatic pilot will turn on once I get off Long Island (where I attended college) and out of the greater New York City environs. I would be hard pressed to count the number of times I've made the trip by car between New York and Delaware County, but it has been a long stretch since the last time. I doubt there will be enough hours to do all of the things I'd like to cram in the 5 days I'll be there, but I'm going to do as many as I can. I've got my fingers crossed for some good estate sales on Saturday morning, and the county fair should at least be set up before I head back down state on Sunday (it will be open if I wait until Monday, but I'm not sure about doing that.) I hope that my small home town has an Internet cafe or wifi at the library, because I guarantee my mother isn't going to have any kind of a hook-up at home. OMG. What will I do?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Comicon 2009: Saturday

Saturday promised to be a busy day, and it was. I went off to have breakfast with Ginjer Buchanan, an old friend who is an editor in New York. This was her first Comicon. She was attending because one of her authors wrote the novels upon which True Blood is based.

After spending two and a half hours catching up with gossip, she went off to author-wrangle and I stopped at Horton Plaza where I picked up a black pant-suit for an upcoming event. Now I've got to find some silk shells to wear with it. I dropped that off at the room, changed my clothes, and went off to catch Len interviewing his old friend Doug Moench, one of this year's Comicon guests. Doug told a very funny story about working with Dino di Laurentis on Red Sonja. Apparently, the producer does not read English, so all of Doug's drafts were being translated to Italian. It took Doug a while to figure out that when Dino had a meeting with him and insisted there were not to be vampires in Red Sonja. Since Doug had not written any vampires in the script, he began to wonder who was rewriting his work. Then he realized that he did have a scene with leeches, and that leeches were being somehow translated as vampires. It was very funny. And I thought humor didn't translate well.

Len finished the panel and we ran off to the Human Target events, which started with a press conference where the cast, writers, and Len were shuttled in front of a variety of TV and print reporters and asked pretty much the same questions by each of them. Then we went to the room where an audience of some 3000 people were being shown the Human Target pilot, which got a great response. Len, three of the writers, and the three stars were then called up on stage for questions for about half an hour. Then we were shuttled off to the Warner Bros. signing area on the show floor. The plus-ones got to watch from the holding area upstairs.

Here's the photograph I got of Jackie Earle Haley, Len, Mark Valley, and Chi McBride as we were waiting in the back areas of the convention center to get to the Warner Bros. signing booth.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Comicon 2009: Friday Evening

The Warner Bros. Television cocktail party was held on the 4th floor terrace of the Hilton Hotel on the bay. It was a lovely evening with good food and a pretty sunset.The casts of shows like The Big Bang Theory, Dexter, and Heroes, along with writers and directors were there. There was also a good showing of folks from upcoming shows, like The Vampire Diaries and the reason we were invited, The Human Target. I met Mark Valley and Jackie Earle Haley (and Jackie's wife Amelia), chatted with Jim Parsons (above), and hung out with Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady and his wife, and Brian Lowry of Variety.Len met Jackie (together, above) at the Watchmen premier. Len had written the Watchmen video game and Jackie voiced Rorschach for the game and played the role in the movie. He has a newly created character in The Human Target. He's a terrific actor whom I remember fondly from Breaking Away. He and his wife are really lovely people and we had a good time talking with them.

Tomorrow will be Len's busy day. Not only is he doing The Human Target panel and press conference, he's interviewing Doug Moench and doing the Ben 10 panel.

I'm planning to run over to the antique shops at Ocean Beach and get back to take pictures at the press conference and panel tomorrow. Things were so much easier before they built the baseball stadium down here (right next door to our hotel) and the antique shops were within walking distance of our hotel. But urban renewal and Ebay have combined to eliminate the shops, so now only a few remain in far-flung locations. Pity.

Comicon 2009: Friday

Today's the day I actually braved the crowds and went over to the convention center to catch The Big Bang Theory panel. I did cheat a little bit by imposing on my friendship with Bill Prady to ask for guest passes, so we could have decent seats without having to sit in line for hours. I met up with Bill's assistant and got our passes and one for actress Chase Masterson.
The cast, along with co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady put on an hysterical panel. It was preceded by a clip reel of scenes which relate to Comicon attendees. A huge favorite is "Rock, Paper, Sissors, Lizard, Spock" which JimParsons was asked to do live. He can't. Apparently, every one of the 12 or so takes will be available on the Season 2 DVD set, due out in September.

Jim did a great job answering the question about how Sheldon would respond to being nominated for an Emmy Award (as Jim was last week) and what he'd do for an acceptance speech when he wins. Here's the response:

And now, it is time for me to walk over to the Hilton for the Warner Bros. Television reception where I'll see the folks from TBBT and meet the folks who are bringing Len's baby The Human Target to the small screen this winter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

General Musings

I don't like working on my birthday. I'd rather spend the time with Ace. But we're leaving for San Diego tomorrow and I need to conserve my vacation days this year. I'm not even taking off next Monday, which I originally scheduled, because I'm still debating a last-minute trip to my high school reunion back east. The idea of a whirlwind weekend to New York State is not nearly as appealing as a 10 day visit, but I can't be back east for that long right now.

The heat makes riding unappealing. Not so much the riding as the tacking up. I was sick to my stomach after tacking Ace up for an 8:30 lesson on Saturday morning and just didn't have much energy for anything except suppling him for his lesson with Ashley after mine. It worked out alright, but I hate that feeling. When it was 110 at 4:00 yesterday, I canceled my 5:15 lesson. We're supposed to do a lesson at 8:15 tomorrow morning, so I hope it is at least tolerable then.

San Diego is always a great city to visit, but especially so when the temperatures are supposed to be 25 or more degrees cooler than Los Angeles in the summer. A couple of years ago while we were at Comicon, it was 119 degrees at Pierce and there was a horse show going on. They were really lucky that they could use the covered arena, because they had to pretty much cancel the rest of the events that couldn't take place in that shade. I was happy not to be around for it.

I'm looking forward to meeting Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley at the Human Target panel on Saturday. The Human Target is another one of Len's off-spring and it will be a mid-season entry on Fox. We enjoyed the pilot, and the changes from the original material seem to work. Rick Springfield starred in an 8-episode version of it that ran not quite 20 years ago. Can a revived Swamp Thing be far behind?

We're also planning to go to The Big Bang Theory panel on Friday, but not if I have to stand in line. Which is why it is nice to know the show runners. I'm waiting for e-mail from one of them telling us how to by-pass the crowds. Sometimes it is a really good thing to be married to a comic book god. I was sorry that TBBT didn't get nominated for an Emmy, but Jim Parsons richly deserves his nomination for playing the wonderfully quirky Sheldon and I hope he wins.

During the day, except for those times when Len is on a panel, I'm free to wander about greater San Diego. I like to avoid the crush of 150,000 comic book fans all crammed into the convention center. I usually will only do the main floor at the Wednesday evening preview, but I actually prefer it when someone slips us exhibitor passes and we can get in before the preview crowd. That's what we did last year. Because Len was an honored guest last year, I spent a lot more time at the convention than I usually do--he was on a lot more panels. Plus my friends Melinda Snodgrass and Connie Willis were at the convention and on panels and I wanted to support them as well. This year is a lot easier for me to be selfish.

A couple of years ago, when the convention coincided with my birthday, I brought my riding gear along and found a rental stable where I went out with a private tour guide for a couple of hours and we walked and trotted on several thousand acres, including a wildlife preserve, east of San Diego proper. I had a great time, my guide was a very entertaining 15 year old, but the heat was as bad as it was in L.A. I did enjoy riding the dun quarter horse, even when he did a 180 underneath me because a bicycle came zipping up behind us. Luckily, I was relaxed and well stuck to the saddle. Love those well-seasoned trail horses.

We're going to look at a house right after I'm done with work today, before Len takes me out to dinner. We may look at more than one house, because I saw a photograph of a spectacular place in one of the neighborhoods I keep checking out and it's within our feasible range. It wasn't quite where I was looking, but the inside and the patio is definitely worth the consideration. The sink even looks out a window, which is something I really like. What we definitely need is more space, and a chunk of that space needs to be open because we love to give parties.

So, for my birthday, the spousal unit gave me an iPod, which I got to take the place of my Palm Tungsten 5, which gave up its ghost right after I got my netbook last month. I managed to get the Palm information into the netbook before the Palm went to Jesus, but now I'm trying to figure out how to migrate the data to the Mac's address book to sync with the Palm. The netbook is great, and I'm taking that to San Diego rather than a full-sized notebook, but I still don't want to be carrying it around with me all day. I've only had the iPod since Saturday, but I am deeply in love with it. I bought some music, but more importantly, I bought a bunch of reference apps, a couple of trivia games, and even a version of Jeopardy to keep me amused during the trip to San Diego (Len is a lousy passenger, so I am perfectly resigned to letting him do the driving while I nap or do other things.) Tonight, I need to add some pictures of Ace to it, because people always ask about him.

Some of my friends contributed to the restoration of my Hugh Jackman and Viggo Mortensen collections by getting me Blu-ray disks of Hidalgo and Appaloosa and a DVD of Oklahoma. Rounding out the horse theme, I was given a replacement in Blu-ray of Seabiscuit. I can't wait to watch them when we get back.

When Len goes to Toronto in August, I'm going to invite the ladies over so we can watch Viggo in Alatriste, which has not been released in English. I got the Spanish release with subtitles. I've read most of the Perez-Reverte novels about Captain Alatriste (I had them all in hard back, until the fire) so I was disappointed when the film never opened here. I'm always up for a good swashbuckler and Viggo does know how to use a sword.

Monday, July 13, 2009

July Horse Show

Going to a horse show as an owner, but not a rider, is a bit like going to your child's school awards show. It's an emotional experience when you find out other people think he's the best in his class, too. Once again, Ace stepped up to the plate and delivered for the team, making us all very proud of our pretty boy.
Ace looks a little sleepy (or bored) in this picture with Ashley Shrader, but maybe he was just thinking that it was about time he got the recognition he deserves. Ace's wearing the first of four blue ribbons he won at the open horse show sponsored by the Arabian Horse Association of the San Fernando Valley on Sunday in Simi Valley. Ash did a fine job of riding him in six classes and where he wasn't first, he went second and third. (In both of those classes, the win went to an Arab mare who used to be at the same barn as we were, so Ace spent time nickering at her over his back fence. She has a very nice owner who is home from college for the summer. Katie and Ashley have a long history of competing together and against each other.)

The ribbon on his bridle was for the obedience class, in which he took a second in May. Earlier that morning, he had done his first trail class--where we expected him to excel--but the results weren't given until hours later. He did win his division in trail, with no hesitation about anything. Before that class opened, and the kids were all walking the course, he did have an issue with the mail box. But he had a chance to look and smell inside and that was that. Once Ashley was on his back, it was all about the job.

He also got the blue in the open English class and the ground-poles class. Gayle and several of the other adults teased that next time we'd put him in the jumping class, but I said "no thanks." I'm not interested and I'd rather he didn't get an independent idea about it.
In addition to riding Ace, Ashley rode her own pony, Curious Curio (above, with Ace), in all of the cross-rail classes plus a different division of the trail class. She brought home a blue and placed in the others.
It was a fine day for all of the riders from Total Equestrian Experience, as the selection (not the total collection) of ribbons shows. Credit goes to Gayle Paperno, who's a great teacher.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Travel Plans

I've just booked our rooms and got our memberships for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose over Halloween weekend this year. It's been quite a few years since the last time we attended the convention, which is too bad, because we used to go every year. It was our favorite annual convention to attend. Although it used to be a business weekend for me, especially when I was SFWA attorney and when I was working on the portrait project, we liked it because it was relatively small (about 750 people max) and mostly professionals working in publishing fantasy and science fiction.

I met Neil Gaiman for the first time at WFC in Chicago in 1990 and Len and I decided to get married at WFC in Tucson in 1991 (not married at the convention, but on Christmas later that same year.) We spent a week in New Orleans, which included the convention, around 1995. Len missed one in Baltimore because he was sick, but I went alone and saw old friends from DC that trip. We had a great time the weekend it was in Monterey but bailed on a trip to Minneapolis because the fires that year made us uncomfortable about leaving L.A. That's the fun part about WFC and Worldcon: you get to go places you might not otherwise go. On the other hand, there is often little time to enjoy the city in which it is set. We did come to the conclusion that 8 nights is a bit much to visit New Orleans for a 4 day convention, but now we feel no reason to visit the city for Mardi Gras.

The nice thing about San Jose is we don't have to worry about catching a plane. We can take a nice drive up the 101, do a little shopping along the way, and have a car available in case anyone wants to spend a day in San Francisco. Bliss.

I'm doing the math to see if I can take time to go East in August for my high school reunion. Some folks I haven't seen in a very long time are talking about attending and it is incredibly tempting to get my doctor to prescribe enough drugs for me to get on a plane for the trip. Len's got a scheduling conflict, which means I've also got to do my own driving when I get to the East Coast. My home town is in the Catskills, not close to any airport which lands my choice of small plane (nothing smaller than a 737, thank you.) With a day job, I've actually got to count vacation days and, this year, factor in the possibility that we will be furloughed for 7 days at Christmas (which means I won't have to use vacation days to take 2 weeks off, but I will have to worry about how much money I won't be making) plus at least another 3 days at some point during the fiscal year. In case you haven't heard, California is in deep financial crisis and I work for a community college district facing huge budget cuts.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another One Hits the Dust

I am not a fan of Michael Jackson (although I think he was an incredible dancer) but my friend Michael Whelan did the painting on the left for the Victory album and for one evening during the duration of a chocolate and champagne party the original painting hung on the wall of my photography studio in Merrifield, Virginia. The full cover is a wrap-around, so what you can't see is the rest of the star-scape that would be to the left of what is on screen. It is fairly large.

Michael, his wife, and his daughter spent more than a month in L.A. while Michael worked on the cover. Alexa, now a biology Ph.D. from Cal Tech, played with her Barbie dolls on the floor with Michael Jackson. He was, apparently, far more comfortable interacting with a child of 3 or 4 than he was with adults.

When the Jacksons went on the Victory Tour, I was still shooting for the Washington Post on a regular basis. I was sent to RFK stadium to photograph people waiting to get in to one night of the concerts, particularly the folks who were dressing like Michael--shiny gloves on one hand, jackets resembling those in the painting. I found it rather irritating that Michael Jackson took credit for "designing" the clothes on that tour, when they clearly were derived from the drawings that Michael Whelan did for this cover.

My son Michael (please keep them straight, there are so many of them in this post) had what he called a "Michael Jackson jacket." I think it is still in storage because he looked so cute in it, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. It was red, faux leather, and I did a portrait for my portfolio of him in it. I wish I had a digital copy to post.

Days after the party mentioned above, I left my son in the care of my sister and the company of his two cousins, on two years older, one 9 months younger than his almost three years at that time. I headed off to Colorado, and when I got back to Des Moines to pick him up, he was moon-walking. My little John Denver fan had turned into a Michael Jackson fan, courtesy of Kristina and Stephanie. He is one of a generation whose first musical purchase request was for a Michael Jackson recording.

It is strange how male celebrities of 70 or 50 are described as "young" when they die under these circumstances, when most of us who are women or over 40 are put in a position to avoid talking about our ages or risk losing out on work. David Caradine, who lived a few blocks from us, looked like a lot of bad miles and certainly not young. Yet there was shock that "he died so young." Michael Jackson was just plain creepy to me, and clearly had emotional and mental problems from having been a cash cow for 45 years. He never had to grow up, but he never really had a childhood, if you believe the bio-pic of the rise of the Jackson family.

MSNBC looked like the TV Guide channel last night. I missed my Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow government news fixes (Keith was on, but covering this story.) The entire area above the fold of the front page of the Los Angeles Times this morning is devoted to this story. Half of the remaining space goes to Farrah Fawcett. What's going in in Iran is limited to about four inches of text. The Supreme Court ruling on school strip-searches got about six inches of text. The Sanford story was relegated to page 20, following five more full pages of Jackson coverage. There is something not right about that kind of journalistic decision-making, but I'll bet the bean counters will be happy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Day

Today is Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day. I recommend that everyone go out and buy a new book so the writer will see 5-18% of the cover price sometime within the next year.

I've spent a lot of time with SF&F writers in my life, both physically and metaphorically. I started reading SF&F with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Andre Norton when I was a pre-teen, and being carried off to strange new worlds got me through the worst of high school. In college, I met my college boyfriend because of a class in science fiction (and discovered the work of Cordwainer Smith and Clifford Simak, among others, for the first time.) I started photographing SF&F authors, artists, editors, and publishers in the 1980s, and some of that work has appeared on book jackets, in magazines and newspapers, and in encyclopedic works about the genres. I met my husband while working on that project. And by the mid-1990s, I was the lawyer for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Not bad for a kid from a tiny town in upstate New York who just loved the town library.

Of the many wonderful Thanksgiving dinners we've had at our home, none was so entertaining as the year Connie Willis and her family joined us. Connie was guest of honor at the local science fiction convention that year, which is always held Thanksgiving weekend. With Connie sitting on Len's left, and Harlan Ellison sitting on my right, it was like watching a Wimbledon of words. Priceless.

So let me recommend a few writers and books:

Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog; Firewatch, Doomsday Book.
Harlan Ellison: A Boy and His Dog; Any of Harlan's collected works.
Barbara Hambly: Those Who Hunt the Night.
George R.R. Martin: Fevre Dream; Armageddon Rag; A Game of Thrones.
Melinda Snodgrass: Edge of Reason; The Circuit Trilogy; Double Solitaire.
Len Wein: Swamp Thing (his 13 stories have just been collected in one volume); Giant-sized X-men #1.
Michael Cassutt: Missing Man; Red Moon.
Cordwainer Smith: The Instrumentality of Mankind.
Arthur C. Clarke: The Sentinel; The Star; The Nine Billion Names of God.
Clifford Simak: City.
Joe Haldeman: The Forever War; 1968.
Larry Niven: Ringworld.
David Gerrold: The Man Who Folded Himself.
Jack Dann: The Memory Cathedral.
Vonda McIntyre: Dream Snake.
Robert A. Heinlein: Red Planet.
Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars.
J.K. Rowling: The Prisoner of Azkaban.
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings.
Pat Murphy: There and Back Again; The Falling Woman.
C.L. Moore: Shambleau.
Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Bloody Sun.
C.J. Cherryh: The Pride of Chanur; The Faded Sun Trilogy.
Gordon Dickson: The Dragon and the George.
H. Beam Piper: Little Fuzzy.
Octavia Butler: Kindred.
Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book; American Gods.
Harry Bates: Farewell to the Master.
Anne McCaffrey: The Dragonriders of Pern (the first three novels.)

This is by no means an all-encompassing list. It's what I could think of on the fly. I tried to come up with something that would definitely involve horses (other than The Lord of the Rings, of course) but I couldn't think of anything I've read. I hear that one of the Walter Farley books steps into the fantasy or science fiction arena, but I haven't read it. Horse Fantastic is a collection of short stories edited by Marty Greenberg with contributions by writers like Anne McCaffrey who actually know something about horses, but I haven't read that, either. I'm frankly surprised that Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois haven't done an anthology called Horse! because they've done a whole lot of other animals. I must suggest it to them.