Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Changes

When you are an adult Easter becomes one of those weird holidays if you don't live near your family and don't have kids of your own. While it has sentimental value it is not really something you are going to take off work for to go visit your parents like Christmas. Easter also loses a bit of luster when it is no longer attached to a weeklong vacation like spring break. Yet you do not want to ignore it altogether.

Even as teenagers it became a bit of a tug-of-war. You wanted to spend time with your parents and do the whole egg hunt, chocolate bunny thing, but that meant taking time away from spring break, the parties and the general absence of homework. In Junior High there was even the Easter trip to Europe which had nothing to do with Easter and everything to do with insanity. Move on to college and it becomes even more complicated. Your parents want you to come home as much as possible, but your friends had other ideas. Unlike other Americans who enjoy the Florida spring break experience, growing up there it was kind of the last place I wanted to go for the big holiday, so instead I took off to California. I suppose a little foreshadowing of things to come. Another spring break was spent in New Orleans, because where else would a college kid want to go? For awhile Easter seemed marked with travel.

The years continue to tick by and I moved on to a ski town, where Easter is the beginning of the sun really breaking through. Easter was marked with sled races, emergency room visits and the employee party as Canyon Lodge closed down. Then came LA where you could go to the Grove and sit on the Easter Bunny's lap, yes that's a little weird. My little urban family and I developed our own Easter potluck tradition. We got all the good food but instead of having big family time it came with a bottle of wine and in true California style a gathering on the roof, near a pool, in the sun. As with so many other things, times have changed. People have moved, that pool is no longer accessible and everyone committing to a single gathering day has become more complicated. It has almost gone full circle back to being with family for the holiday but instead it is the family who have taken me in and new traditions are beginning. I think in this world of far-flung families and friends across the globe holidays change even more quickly than before. If I had the money I would go to NYC every year for the Easter Bonnet competition on Broadway! Instead I will take the time to remember how fun it is to dye Easter eggs and each time is its own unique eggspierience. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hitler’s Birthday and a Holocaust Survivor: A Fitting “F You!”

My father-in-law has a curious obsession with Hitler, Nazis and what Germany managed to accomplish. At first I thought this was rather strange, but in hearing some of his thoughts and seeing his angle I realize it is more about the huge leaps in technology happening at the time and the overall fascination with the fact one person could so warp the minds of so many people. The true corruption of power, the deep power of suggestion and the disturbing strength of hate still seem impossible, how could one person get such a strong hold?

Now the irony of the situation lays in my own morbid curiosity on the topic, forced onto me by one of the projects I worked on early in my career, “Hitler, The Rise of Evil.” Aside from the fact I am certain to be on every FBI watch list for the sheer volumes of Hitler and Nazi books I had to purchase from Amazon while we were researching the project. I also tracked down one of the last VHS copies of Leni Riefenstahl’s work. For this I am probably on the fast track to hell. It has been at least seven years and Amazon often still “suggest” interesting Nazi books to me. Is there any way to erase my past purchases other than starting a new account?

Unbeknownst to Chris or I we went to visit Paul on Hitler’s birthday. Silly us, we thought it was just another day, but it was in fact the birthday of someone who changed the landscape of the world irrevocably for decades. The entire mini-series I worked on had explored just that, how someone grows up to be “that” guy. Is it truly just a psych issue? Could he have benefited from Paxil? Should he have been institutionalized for taking the yet unnamed narcissistic personality disorder to epic proportions? No matter what you think of the man, he still had a mother, a father and a birthday.

We kind of laughed off the idea because what else are you going to do? You can’t really make him unborn, so we went out for Italian. At the next table was an adorable old woman doted on by all the waiters who obviously knew her as a regular. We chatted with her briefly on her way out. She appeared to need some help but she rebuffed Paul’s advances because she wanted the much younger waiter to help her. She’s at least in her late 80’s so who can blame her! The staff then informed us she was a Holocaust survivor. I have met a few in my day but never at such a poignant moment. Here was the living embodiment of someone who truly could say “F You” to Hitler and his birthday.

He may have been born, he may have caused unimaginable suffering but he also created this feisty old woman who loved and enjoyed her life. Much like the heroic stories of Irene Gut-Updyke, Oskar Schindler, Irena Sendler and Anne Frank every person has been touched in some way by the birth of Hitler. Do I wish I could erase all the horror? Of course, but along the lines of “accepting things I cannot change,” I choose to look at all the amazing people who survived, no thrived, in the face of such adversity. The same people who have gone on to have families and change the world for good. For all of them I say “Happy F’in Birthday, Hitler! People are stronger than your hate and always will be.”

**Side note…look up Irene if you don’t know her..an amazing Polish woman. And should I be concerned that my spell check knew how to spell Riefenstahl?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Grand Prix and the Ineffective Alcohol Police

My husband is NOT a morning person. I am a morning person if I have had enough sleep, but no matter what I am way better about getting out of bed first thing in the morning. That is apparently not true when there are fast moving motorized vehicles involved. Having recently moved to Long Beach we were both excited to see the Indy race through the streets around our apartment. But I was not expecting my husband to bounce out of bed at the crack of dawn.

At first I thought it was just a fluke. I assumed he was off going to the bathroom and would soon be back in bed. Instead I heard the distinct pop of his morning Monster. I still roll back over thinking I must be going crazy. Suddenly inches from my face is Chris's face just staring at me. I cautiously open one eye. With bug-eyed enthusiasm he announces, "I hear the cars!" After filling my camelback with iced coffee I was ready to go.

I could not help but be enamoured with his childlike excitement. I felt as though I was catching a glimpse of what a five-year-old Chris must have been like on Christmas morning. He bounced all around the apartment as we got ready to go watch the fast, fast cars. It was the perfect start to a fun weekend. We made dollar bets on many cars and as usual I proved picking by liking someones name or the sponsor of the car is the way to go if you want to win a racing bet. By the way Ashley Judd's husband who drives the Target car placed third, I win!

The one question I was left with has to do with the "rules" establishments attempt to make in order to keep people from getting too drunk. First, who determines what is too drunk? Second, the rules are inconsistent and do not seem to really do anything. At this event they choose to make beer cost an arm and a leg. I find this completely counter productive. Instead, those determined to get drunk consume mass amounts of alcohol in the parking lot. We all know a fast intake of shots does not hit you until later, so they now come through the gates, sit in the sun and the next thing you know they are hammered, not even able to stand. The company has made no more money and merely made the problem worse. Slowly consuming beer would be a better option.

Then you have a restaurant with reasonable drinks who can serve food on the extended patio but not alcohol. Everyone stands at the rail, leaning over to consume their alcohol. Seriously? How is this different than serving it in the two feet past the rail? No one checked my camelback. I had coffee, but I could have had the entire thing filled with vodka for all they would know. When are places going to realize rules have to be consistent and it should be about people taking responsibility for their actions? You act like a jerk, tossed, no questions asked.

Add that to the guy who screams at every single car that goes by like the driver can hear him and you wind up with many people to poke fun at. I am not even convinced that guy had ANY alcohol, though if I was a LA County fireman I would have ripped the shirt off his back so he would stop embarrassing them. The race was awesome, but the people watching made it that much better. From totally vamped out OC brats who didn't even know cars were there to the redneck with the gear like he was a driver, to the adorable little kids with ear protection the size of their heads, it was a great time :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Teens for Borrow

When my Mom asked me to come and "watch" my siblings while she and her husband were out of town, my answer was a resounding "yes," as it always is. I of course realized my role in this capacity had changed as I was no longer "babysitting" but rather expecting to referee and make sure both children (and the house) lived through the experience. All plans for fun went out the window as Mallory came down with an inexplicable rash and a temperature. Coming from a medical family, we do not go to the doctor for much, but this was perplexing.

I took on my role a nursemaid with a sense of spunk. I succumbed to every culinary wish, provided movies, gossip magazines, and a comfy bed. While the whining was a little trying, I thought about how too soon she would be off in college and have to take care of herself. I miss the days of being able to curl up all on my own, or with someone rubbing your head until you fall asleep. (My husband does do this for me, but I went for years with "suck it up.") I kept her company and made sure she stayed hydrated while still keeping up with Ryan and sneaking off to watch a movie with him as I didn't want him to feel left out. I introduced him to "The Orphan," I don't think he will ever forgive me, but it was fun to watch him scared to death.

We ended up having many deep conversations only to find out my mother has entirely thrown me under the bus! I do not claim to have been a golden child, but I was not a hideous one. In the interest of keeping their father's escapades away from impressionable ears, apparently the only "bad teen" moments relayed to my siblings are my questionable moments. Are you serious? Ken was so much worse than I ever was and he knows that's true! I do not regret my mistakes or learning experiences but don't make me sound like I was the only one who had them. I suppose they will figure out the truth soon enough but I am rather proud of myself for keeping what I know quiet. I also do claim 15 year old angst mixed with divorce and a rather young step dad but that's a topic for another blog ;)

Back to taking care of the ill. I never thought about how often you end up going to the same store as Mallory went through more cravings than a pregnant woman. Good for Ryan and I as I got to give him plenty of practice driving his new stick shift car. By the end of the weekend I had been to Publix no fewer than a dozen times in three days. Spent hours at the clinic on Saturday only to meet the lamest doctor ever, who not only could not provide an answer, he really didn't seem that interested in actually examining her. This lead to an even more frustrated teen who could only think about how she wanted to be better. That accompanied with Mallory complaining about being there, like this was some sort of picnic for me? A new respect for all parents out there. Not only do you have to suffer through your own illnesses but everyone else's...ick!

On one of the many trips to the market I learned what taking a teenage boy to the grocery store meant. I couldn't believe how much junk he could throw in the cart as I only turned down the medicine aisle for a moment. When I questioned the hot pockets he said he didn't like the bagels Mom had purchased because it was "pre-packaged, pre-cooked food." And in fifteen year old speak that sentence makes sense. This led to one of the nicest brother/sister moments I saw as Ryan ran into Mallory's sick haven to show how he had picked up her cinnamon toast Eggos. A moment of sweetness. Followed by a "get out of here and leave me alone." Short lived but still cute.

Today, Mallory finally made it out of her funk and I dragged her out of the house because I had to go SOMEWHERE. We did spend another 2 hours in the doctor's office which has dictated we spend more time at the lab and xray locations tomorrow, but at least we were outside for a chunk of the day. My sis seemed to be back to her "almost" self until the nurse announced she had a temperature of 102 and we were forced to wait longer. She quickly regressed to a "whoa is me" cry, but I had become immune. Good at the fake smile and the rubbing of her head so she couldn't see me making a list of the things I would rather be doing in my head. A little Tylenol and she was back to normal which became a "be careful what you wish for" moment once Ryan got home from school. They were back to constant arguing in no time flat. I have to say it made me wish for a reason to keep one of them in a locked room all the time. Maybe Rapunzel was just the unlucky sister who was sent to be on her own for the sanity of others. You think they flipped a coin?

The question I am left with, is it better to suffer through a slightly needy child in order to offer some modicum of peace and a sweet, cuddly teen or is it better to suffer the 70 decibel arguments over whose friends are better and why the other one is totally given special treatment? Anyone have an answer? No, I didn't think so. What I do know is this is going to be one of those trips I remember forever. Not anything that we planned but a bonding moment full of laughter through tears and frustration. Bonding through being locked up together and ultimately a lucky older sister who got to be here for it all. I did still leave a message for Lisa who is planning on having children in the next year or so..."In 2026 remember this message as I dance a jig around you singing a chorus of I told you so!" Maybe I will borrow her teens too in case I have forgotten the message.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comfort TV Part 2....Friday Night Lights

In homage to the final season of Friday Night Lights coming out on DVD soon, I have decided to discuss comfort TV again. I am a football junkie making it not remotely surprising I wanted to get involved with a football show. Add to it the stress of southern football and a town more entranced with muscled up teenagers than education and you had a debate I wanted to get into. I must admit, I watched the first episode of FNL wanting to love it and left feeling super disappointed. It did not take me long to realize that I had entered the showing with the wrong attitude. Much like other TV if you are thinking one thing you can ruin your experience by placing unfair expectations on what you are about to see. I sat down for a second viewing with a much more open mind.

I am not quite sure why I expected something more "Any Given Sunday," but I did. It did not take me long to grow into the complex characters that drew me in and kept me coming back for more. I know some of my friends will slap me for this given their experience with different show runners, but I couldn't help but feel as though I had walked into "Dawson's Creek" with more realistic dialogue. I quickly loved the tone of the show and the way the football brought out an important side of all these characters. Now I was a Creek fan, but this was so much more honest as to what people might face with the added joy of Kyle Chandler as coach. Then it hit me...I've grown up. I don't want to grow up and don't think of myself as a grown up and I definitely don't act like one a majority of the time, but liking this teary, heartfelt type of television more than overly articulated teenage angst, well that's a change. Is it a good one? Probably.

The speeches and lessons these kids learned, especially the hard way, did not feel as though they were being spoken down to. "Dawson's Creek" tried to do that by giving the characters a vocabulary out of their reach, especially Pacey...best lines but a high school failure, what? Instead these moments from family troubles, marriage issues, school funding problems, and even inflated egos were dealt with on a level that seemed genuine and often led to tears. And you do still get to feel a bit like a kid as you are dragged into the minds of the teenagers but you balance it out with well written adult characters. Adults you actually wouldn't mind being. I can't think of a single adult I would want to be on the Creek, they were flat, boring people. Is TV the reason I don't like the word grown-up? I was ecstatic when they found a way to keep the show going for another few seasons with a Direct TV deal, even though it meant I had to wait longer than others to see it.

Now as the series comes to a close I find myself saddened by the fact I won't have the coach to offer me sage advice. I won't have random debates to have with idiot boys who believe the new curly haired girl is just as good as Lila Garrity in different ways. (I call her not-Lila, he calls her Lila 2, as if!) I want the coach to turn the "loser" school into the best football school as a big "in your face" to the jerks now heading the Panthers. I want Tami Taylor to win out and get some funding for books and necessities, proving education does mean something to these kids in the long run.

It is funny how a show becomes associated with a time in your life, how you can be pulled in by the complexity of it as an escape rather than a stress. I am sure it will live on in my collection as one of the things I pull out when I need to hear what coach has to say just as I sometimes need to relapse into pop culture insanity via "Gilmore Girls." The only question that remains, do I lock myself up for 24 hours and have single FNL blow out or do I savor it and force myself to enjoy it slowly? Who am I kidding, I am horrible at self-control, it's gonna be a single all out marathon of television greatness where I hope Riggins and Lila find their way back to one another. Then I will go back to watching "Parenthood," another Jason Katims helmed show that will make you cry. It's not coach but the cast is stellar and the writing impeccable. I am certain I will be writing an ode to it as well someday.