scarlettina: (Default)
This weekend started out with almost no plans on Saturday and no plans at all on Monday. Within the space of 15 minutes, I had plans for Saturday, and now have plans for Monday. Holy cats, things heat up quickly!

Yesterday, I stopped by Fusion Beads because they were having a trunk show by a Portland lapidary whose work I quite like, and who often has Fordite available. Scored two beautiful pieces--one for a gift and one to make a pendant for myself--and took off.

Picked up CM and headed over to the Rocky Pond Winery tasting room in Woodinville, there to see [personal profile] lagilman and to taste Rocky Pond's new rose which is, I have to say, terrific. CM and I had an excellent catch up, lunch at Mazatlan, and then came home. We'd considered doing more tasting (Woodinville is lousy with tasting rooms--you couldn't possibly do them all even in a single weekend), but we both had other things to take care of.

I got home and ended up napping--that's what I get for drinking wine before lunch! And then I was off to parts south to meet TB for dinner and to do barcon at PaizoCon. It was a charming evening. My friend Stan! was impressed by my schmoozing skills; apparently he's never seen me in action at a convention before. I was entertained by how gobsmacked he seemed. It was a little strange, too, at the same time, until I realized that even though we've known each other for years and we're both convention denizens, we've never been at the same convention together. TB was a charming dinner partner and I expect we'll get together again.

And that was just the first day of the weekend! I hope that today will be a little less frenzied (even though yesterday was great). I need to slow down in the heat a bit.
scarlettina: (Christmas ornament)
It's clearly holiday time because All the Gatherings are gathering.

On Friday night, I kept a promise to see SL play with her band, Vixy & Tony at the Wayward Coffeehouse. It was their new CD release party. They played two sets, a combination of original music, covers, and filks. (It's the first time I've ever heard a mash-up of the Mahnah Mahnah Song and Kashmir--and probably the last! It worked way better than it had any right to. It takes a special kind of genius to come up with that.) I had the pleasure of seeing [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus, along with LS, AH and a number of others. The show was great, a lot of fun, and certainly the most purely fannish thing I've done in months.

Saturday was Productive Day: chores around the house and holiday shopping (of which I've done nearly none this year, but more on that in a moment). Saturday evening was NK's annual holiday party. Usually the agenda is chat, hors d'hoevres, drinks and charades. Two of the guests rebelled against charades, which has been a staple of the party for years. They proposed a different game, which never got played. NK was somewhat dismayed, but in the end, a good time was had by all and I was glad to be there.

Sunday was about getting more chores done. Gifts were completed and wrapped, and I attended [livejournal.com profile] varina8's annual holiday gathering. It was smaller this year due to V's slimming the list and people being unwell. It was good to see her C; given his ongoing illness, he was actually looking good, and was in fine spirits and good form. And of course it's always a delight to spend an evening with the usual suspects: EB, [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden and her C, [livejournal.com profile] mimerki and [livejournal.com profile] butterflydrming. I was glad for a quieter get-together. After the weekend--and the year, frankly--it was a welcome thing.

Regarding holiday shopping: there's been almost none this year. Finances are tight right now as I continue to pay off medical bills. I also spent quite a bit preparing for the company craft fair. I probably broke even there, but still have plenty of stock should I decide to indulge in such madness again. I suppose I ought to write about that experience at some point. But I digress.

In any case, the second half of the year has been at least as expensive as the first. The first half of the year's costs involved travel and bathroom renovation; the second my hospital stay. I've promised myself some serious financial discipline for the first few month of the new year to try to repair the financial damage. We'll see how it goes.

And now, on to the work week....

Kate

Wed, Oct. 5th, 2016 06:48 am
scarlettina: (Candle)
My friend [livejournal.com profile] kateyule died this afternoon after struggling with brain cancer. Kate and I have known each other 20+ years and were very close the last ten or so. We shared a lot of things--art and craft and books and some very personal things. She was funny and very smart, very practical and creative. Kate and her husband [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and I went to Disney World together, perhaps one of my favorite memories with her; we had so much fun. I introduced her to pin collecting, and she put up with my penny smashing. We did the Buzz Lightyear ride together twice because it was her favorite, and I still have the picture of the two of us madly shooting at aliens. Kate and I baked cookies for David when he took his simulated Mars trip. Astronaut cookies. When she went to the hospital for her first brain surgery I was there with David and her family for the three or four days she had to stay. I couldn't be anywhere else. When I was in the hospital she and David came to see me. That was the last time I saw her, standing at the end of my hospital bed, as I'd stood at the end of hers. I wrote her a note a couple of weeks ago to thank her for, well, everything we shared. David said she smiled when she read it. She knew I loved her. And now she's gone.

Mid-April update

Mon, Apr. 18th, 2016 07:26 am
scarlettina: (Just Keep Swimming!)
Time continues to fly. I think it's partly because our perception of time changes as we get older and partly because I've been keeping enormously busy. Yesterday, my body finally said, "Enough!" I spent the morning alternately sleeping and getting little things done (and Skyping with [livejournal.com profile] skidspoppe). I spent the afternoon being productive. I spent dinner with [livejournal.com profile] suricattus and later an hour or so Skyping with [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine--good visits, both.

Things in general can be summed up as follows:

Work: Someone at the office may be keeping tabs on my LJ. Why do I think this? Because within days of my last post, whence I complained about not feeling challenged, I was named product owner for the shopping experience on the website for 2017. (Of course, I mentioned in my annual self review that my biggest challenge at work was that my ambition and skill set outstripped my authority, my influence and my reach. That may have had something to do with it.) It's a big responsibility, and I suspect that it's a test run for work yet to come. I'm excited and scared and hoping that I can rock it like a rocking thing. We'll see.

Travel: My trip to San Francisco looms. I'm looking forward to seeing the family and to seeing local friends. I'm looking forward to sightseeing as well. My brother and sister-in-law travel a little differently than I do, so it will be interesting to see whether or not our styles mesh. But overriding it, I suspect, will just be getting to see them and my niece. Also, EB and I have purchased our tickets to fly to Ireland in July. Very excited about that. I've been reading a history of Ireland; I'm up to the early 1600s. That's a lot of warfare for such a small place! Next on the planning schedule is figuring out where we're going and staying. We've made up a wishlist of things to see and do; more to come when I get back from California.

Bathroom renovation: I've gotten the prep instructions from the contractor. The letter is calling for my clearing 200 square feet of space so they can stage the work. Also, to cover anything near the work area in plastic. I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do all that, but it seems clear that it will be necessary. I've got a weekend put aside specifically for this work, so I'll get it done, one way or another.

Ecumenism R us: I attended the baptism of MG's son on Saturday. I've never attended the actual service for such a thing before, only the after-party. But MG needed someone to be a photographer and I stepped up. Religious ritual in general interests me, always has, and getting a glimpse into Catholic practice was fascinating. There is some commonality with Jewish practice, but where there are differences, they are dramatic. It was lovely to see MG so happy and excited, and I was happy to be present. At the same time, there was a moment when I was distinctly uncomfortable. The reading from the Gospel was, well, pretty hostile to Jews. I was a guest; I didn't say anything about it. But clearly I was not the audience for this particular thing. And it was not in anyone's interest for me to rain on what was, for MG, clearly a special day. I took about 130 pictures, winnowed them down to the 30-or-so best of the bunch and shared them. The after-party was small but pleasant. And I learned a thing or two about Catholicism that I didn't know before. As long as I'm learning, I'm good.

I go into this week with a pretty clear schedule of Things That Must Be Done: dentist appointment, haircut, Pesach plans, and then a flight to parts south. It's going to be busy, but I'm hoping it's all going to be good. Fingers crossed!
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
I think I've posted about this before, but it struck me again this afternoon and I need to write about it again.

In high school, I was in drama club and there was a guy who worked lights who wasn't very nice to me. I didn't know what his beef was, but it was persistent and when I left, I didn't really think about him again, except to remember him being a pretty unpleasant person.

Skip forward ~35 years to my getting onto Facebook. In the rush of folks who friended me after I joined, there he was--RP. I was surprised that he friended me. And then I decided that I was going to be so nice to him that he was going to feel bad. Well, two weeks later, he pinged me and apologized for how he treated me in high school. I was surprised and kind of delighted. Ever since then, we've been friendly, joked around, flirted a little, traded postcards when we travel. Whaddaya know? We're friends! And I'm pretty gratified with it.

Tonight we were chatting, and I was talking about how I'm going to Norwescon as a fan for the first time in years, rather than being on programming. This meant I could think about doing things like showing up in my black leather halter top. He teased me about it. Then he told me he'll be going to Florida two weeks from now and promised a postcard. I thanked him and he said, "Anything for you." My inner response was, "Wow, if our high school selves could see us now, they wouldn't believe it," and I had to laugh.

I think they call this growing up. Sometimes? It's not so bad.
scarlettina: (Geek Crossing)
Saturday started with breakfast back at Sante--so good we had to do it twice. This time, [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and I got there earlier and enjoyed our meal with rather better service. The company was different; we met AS (with whom I used to work at Bantam, lo these many years ago) and her husband DKM, their son, and a friend of theirs, and [livejournal.com profile] bjcooper. It's only within the last year or so that I'm back in touch with AS and DKM; they are delightful people who have had a very rough time over the last decade for personal reasons I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that those days are over and I'm so happy that they're returning to conventions and a wider social circle. Our breakfast was scheduled earlier both because there was another beading event I wanted to attempt to attend, and because other folks had programming on which they were scheduled to appear.

I made it back to the convention center with time to spare. I wanted to attend a program called the Beadwork Stitch & Bitch--but if you read the description in the program more closely, it was actually a lesson in Lakota lazy stitch or lane stitch beadwork. I was delighted to find [livejournal.com profile] madrobins in attendance. I'll pass over the challenges of the workshop (particular attendees were not congenial to the environment) and say instead that the instructor, Mir Plemmons, was very good indeed, sharing cultural context for the style of beadwork she was teaching and then teaching it very well. An hour was not nearly long enough; I ended up staying a little longer. I very much want to get back and try this technique again. I've seen its results before and it produces beautiful things that take hours and hours and hours to create.

Lunch was with [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] madrobins, all in all a much better opportunity for us to talk a bit. A lot of what we talked about was getting lost in historical research connected to fiction writing. I regret not taking a picture of us all together; ah well, there will be other opportunities!

After lunch, I took my penny-smashing kit and my camera off across the river to Riverside Park. The weather was beautiful in the wake of Friday's terrible air, the sky blue and clear. The contrast was marked. Look at how lovely--and contrast it to my previous WorldCon post picture of the sky!

View from the convention center to Riverside Park | Click to embiggen
View from the convention center to Riverside Park

I got my pennies--eight coins, four each from different machines--and strolled around just enjoying the quiet (the convention center was very noisy) and the relative lack of people (I was kind of peopled out).

When I went back to the convention center, I ran into [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus and some friends in the dealer's room. I learned from them that tickets for assigned seating were going to be required for the Hugo Awards ceremony. This was news to me and, as it turned out, news to a great many folks. Apparently, the previous night, the convention had set up a ticketing system for the masquerade, mainly to keep people from standing out in the terrible air waiting to get into the main auditorium. It worked very well indeed and they decided to institute it for the Hugos as well. I took it upon myself to text almost everyone I knew attending the con who might want to go to let them know about this, and then ran to get changed.

Once I got changed, I got into the rather impressive line. The wait was no more than 20 minutes.

Line for Hugo tickets

Tickets acquired, I met David and Betsy for dinner at Luigi's, the huge Italian restaurant near the convention center. I had the chicken marsala, which was very good indeed. We shared garlic bread and salads, too.

The virtue of the assigned-seating ticketing was that once tickets were in hand, we could get in at any time before the ceremony and be assured of seating. As it turned out, this was a blessing. It allowed us to have a pretty leisurely meal (even though I started out feeling panicked about having enough time to at), and to take our time about getting seated when the time came.

And when the time came, we went to the auditorium lobby, met some friends there, admired everyone's bling, and then went to get seated.

I'm going to talk about the Hugos, the Hugo Loser's Party and my thoughts about this year's whole Puppy debacle in the next post. There's too much to say and I want to address it all discretely. In the meanwhile, here's a pic of me and my seatmates, pre-awards-ceremony, with David and Betsy, and me in the middle.

scarlettina: (Geek Crossing)
Friday at WorldCon started with a delicious, if belated, breakfast at a place called Sante just a couple of blocks from the convention center. A group of us ([livejournal.com profile] davidlevine, [livejournal.com profile] suricattus, her twinling and the twinling's daughter) walked over as early as we reasonably could. The air smelled of woodsmoke and the sky seemed overcast. It was a harbinger of things to come. The place was lovely, really, with a kind of country French feel to the decor--spare but elegant. I had a delicious meal--pancakes with fluffy raspberry foule (sp?). The conversation was fun. [livejournal.com profile] suricattus asked for discussion ideas for her upcoming panel; I asked for ideas for mine. Twinling's daughter showed off some of her artwork. [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine showed off the cover art for his upcoming novel from Tor. We talked about the return of the autograph book. Apparently, with the advent of ebooks, people have started keeping autograph books again. I signed one myself at my first panel, as had others at the table. Interesting phenomenon.

Somehow, though the food and company were both quite fine, I never managed to find particularly good humor. The server took a very long time coming to take our order; I was sugar crashing pretty hard; the air was taking its toll; and I very much wanted to get to a 10 AM beading workshop. With the meal coming so late, I wasn't able to leave until 10:10ish, and by the time I got to the convention center, though I hoofed it as hard as I could, the workshop was full and the door was shut.

Disappointed and frustrated, I looked at the pocket program to see what else I might drop in on. There was a panel on aging that interested me, so I sat in there and listened to three authors and neuroscientist discuss the science of aging, the research on same, and our preferences with regard to what kind of heroes we like to read about. Interesting discussion.

After it was over, I wandered around the convention center for a while when a friend stopped me and asked me if I was OK, saying that I didn't look well. At that point, I realized that I felt like a zombie. I stopped by program ops, told them I wouldn't make my 1 PM panel, went back to the room and slept until nearly 2 PM.

One of the high points of the day was my late lunch engagement. I met the delightful [livejournal.com profile] desperance, the always entertaining [livejournal.com profile] markjferrari, and the ever pleasant [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch at Spencer's, the hotel's steak house. I believe we talked about Mark's latest escapades in the world of publishing. Chaz wrangled an invitation to my home (he had to twist my arm; really, there was violence). It was all very silly and exactly perfect. I believe that I owe Mark at least a meal, or possibly a bottle of good wine. I think we probably went until 3 or 3:30ish. My meal compatriots had to be off.

I don't actually remember what I did after lunch. Strolled the con a bit more? Attended more programming? No freaking' idea. What I do remember is that eventually it was time to go to [livejournal.com profile] bedii's memorial, to be held outside by a large Japanese sculpture at one end of the convention center. The air had gotten nearly toxic outside. All the smoke from the Okanogan and Upper Skagit Complex fires was taking its toll. The sky was yellow/brown, the sun a peachy-red ball, the air full of grit and mustiness. The convention (or the convention center, I'm not sure which) had put up warning signs about the air hazard. I was surprised, actually, that we were still going to do this out of doors, but the choice wasn't mine to make and so I went with it.

Apocalyptic Spokane: so smoky that the sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Click to embiggen.
Smoky Spokane: a view from behind the convention center out over the park

We all met by the sculpture, a group of maybe 12 of us, and told stories about [livejournal.com profile] bedii, just remembering. It was a good thing and I'm glad I was there. At the same time, I couldn't stay there too long; the air began to really take a toll, and we headed inside after about 30-45 minutes. At that point, we all went our separate ways.

[livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and I headed over to the Book View Cafe party. David does key work with BVC and awesome people are involved with said effort, so being there was important. Awesome people included [livejournal.com profile] madrobins, [livejournal.com profile] suricattus and a bunch of names already mentioned above, plus a whole other crowd of lovely people. Mad made a three-tiered cake in honor of Vonda McIntyre featuring a sweet mermaid made of fondant. The cake was a delicious thing.

Our second stop was the Fairwood Press party with many more wonderful people in attendance. [livejournal.com profile] bjcooper was celebrating the release of her new collection of short stories, among others. Patrick Swenson always throws a good bash. I met a couple of people whose names I've known but never met in person. A good time.

In all the years I've known [livejournal.com profile] bjcooper, we've never taken a picture together. Voila! Problem solved.
Brenda and Janna

As happens at these things, you don't realize that you're hitting the wall until you hit the wall. We met some friends and headed out, getting a lift back to the hotel at exactly the right moment. I didn't realize it until later, but my pink denim jacket came away smelling like smoke.
scarlettina: (Angel)
We arrived in Spokane on Thursday afternoon. I dropped BM off at her hotel and headed to mine. Time was of the essence. I had to check in. I wanted to take a little decompression time in the wake of all the driving. I had to find dinner of some kind and get ready for one of the two panels on which I was to appear. I actually did pretty well, with enough time to get registered, get my guest packet, do a turn through half of the dealer's room, and buy myself a beautiful new ring with three semi-precious stones in it. I had an . . . adequate sandwich at the convention center snack bar before my first panel.

So dinner was a Thing. See, when you hang around conventions and fandom long enough, you get to know the names of the BNFs (big name fans) and you begin to recognize people who surely won't recognize you. I was sitting at a table where two older women were seated, mainly because all the other tables were full. They were chatting in clearly New York accents about filk and about people they knew. And one oft them, for some reason, seemed familiar. There was something about her that I seemed to know though I couldn't place her. I looked at her name badge, and she turned out to be Roberta Rogow, a well-known fan writer and filker whose work I'd known back when I was active in New York and media fandom. That was a kind of nice surprise. We chatted a little bit. She talked about her self-published book. And then we went our separate ways.

I was off to my first panel, on using role-playing games as a writer's tool. It was not a satisfying experience. I understand why I was put on the panel, but I had my doubts about it from the start. Mostly two particular people talked a lot; getting a word in was challenging. And while I've edited game-related works, my experience as an RPG player is limited. Most of what I had to say was more about writing than gaming, and another editor on the panel pretty much took care of that material. By the end of the panel I felt a little frustrated and, I admit, a little irritated and outgunned. I got out of the room as soon as I could.

The rest of the evening proved much more satisfying. Earlier in the day, I was invited to a private party and spent the better part of the evening there, catching up with friends and basking in the sort of convention energy I just love. What became clear, though, by about 10 PM was that after a six-hour drive and a lot of excitement, I was wiped and it was time to retire.

This is a terrible picture of me, but it's a great picture with friends at the party.

Me, Daniel Keyes Moran, David Gerrold, and Amy Stout
scarlettina: (Happy Birthday)
It was awesome.

OK. Wait. That doesn't actually constitute a full and accurate description. Strike that. Let's begin again.

I had a couple of goals for the day: 1) See friends. 2) Do whatever I want.

See friends
I started the day with breakfast at Icon Grill in the company of EB and MO-K. I chose this location because the food is flat-out terrific and because I love the environment. I've purchased art off of its very walls and I love seeing what else might be available. I chose the company because it was bound to be fine, and it was. I had pancakes with strawberries and blueberries. It came with white-chocolate syrup, but I chose not to partake of that particular indulgence--too much, too sweet, too early. There was bacon. There was an egg. There was a mimosa. There was tea. There was excellent conversation. I left happy.

Do whatever I want
The heatwave that has been baking Seattle to a crisp finally broke on Thursday, which meant that I could finally enjoy my balcony a bit. I spent the next couple of hours sitting on said balcony on my folding beach chaise with a book and cats. Lovely, relaxing, good.

The afternoon, I spent at Apollo Nail Spa at the top of Queen Anne getting a mani-pedi in the company of, again, EB and MO-K. I chose my favorite neutral for my fingertips, mainly because it has a shimmery quality that I like and because if it chips, it's not crazy-obvious. For my toes, I picked a metal-flecked gold. My toenails look like they've been touched by King Midas. :-)

I had dinner at Roti with [livejournal.com profile] suricattus, whom I haven't seen in far too long. We talked books, books, books, and then headed over to this week's Clarion West party. A great many good folks were in attendance, too many to name check here, but enough of the local sf-f literati to make it a pleasant literary group. We decamped a little earlier than I would have preferred--but it was probably the better part of valor.

Sadly, I didn't sleep very well, with neighbors coming and going at all hours, and cats being, well, cats, it was a night of constantly interrupted sleep. There may be a nap later today. In fact, I'm pretty sure there will be.

All in all, though, it was a fine way to close out kind of a tough year and to open a new chapter. We'll see what this new one has in store.
scarlettina: (Happy Sun)
It's been busy days around chez [livejournal.com profile] scarlettina. Planning for this past weekend actually started months ago when [livejournal.com profile] garyomaha told me that he and [livejournal.com profile] elusivem were going to be in Seattle for a visit. We made some plans--and then suddenly [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine was available for a visit the self same weekend. And so began the social whirlwind that this weekend became.

David arrived on Friday night. Saturday we spent the afternoon at the Fremont Solstice Parade, which David hadn't attended since his Clarion West sojourn in Seattle. The parade has exploded since then both in terms of attendance and the scope of the event itself. The day was sunny and warm, and we arrived early to secure a good spot in the shade. It was, as always, raucous, political, joyful. I think my favorite entries in the pageant-cum-party were the stilt walkers, the giant preying mantis puppet, the portrayal of a spouting oil rig surrounded by kayaktivists, the giant bigfoot on the Cascadia Now float, the sharknado (a tornado festooned with blow-up sharks and air sleeve sharks) and, of course, the naked bicyclists. We had to leave before the parade's end, however, because we had plans for the evening with Gary and M.

I haven't seen Gary and M since JayWake, and this was a much better circumstance overall for a visit. We met them, along with their friends Don and Clark and (forgive me) a woman whose name I've forgotten, for dinner at the 5 Spot at the top of Queen Anne. It was lovely seeing them; I was so delighted. It was a nice chance to catch up before we headed down the hill for the evening's entertainment: a concert by the Seattle Men's Chorus, a program of music by Queen.

I've never seen SMC before. They're sort of a musical institution in Seattle and it seems ridiculous that I've waited this long to see them. A couple of the men who sang with SLGC sing with them now. Between the program and a chance to see those folks and, of course, the company, I was very much looking forward to the evening. Its also one of the last shows to be directed by the chorus' long-time, well-respected director Dennis Coleman. And they put on quite a show, with a guest actor/singer who strongly resembled Freddie Mercury singing lead on a couple of numbers, some excellent soloists (stronger, I thought, than their guest Freddie) and some terrific vocal arrangements. I've sung Queen in concert; I know how hard some of the music actually is on examination, so I had a great appreciation for what the chorus was doing, and they did it very well indeed. We had a marvelous time, and I think many people, like myself, left the hall bouncing and singing.

Sunday was a much quieter, more low-key day, and very much what the doctor ordered. In the morning, David and I met the usual suspects for writing at Ballard Coffee Works. We had lunch at The Market Arms and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Ballard, strolling around the locks and just soaking up the sun. A bagpipe band was performing on the green. A classic car show was being held with a parade of absolutely gorgeous classic cars. Down by the locks, two seals dipped in and out of the water trolling for salmon smolt; a heron looked on, dipping for smolt as they passed by. We saw salmon swimming through the fish ladder, and watched as the gates of the locks opened and closed for pleasure craft navigating the passage.

The evening was quiet, pleasant. We watched the second episode of "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," which I've been quite enjoying. David took off yesterday morning.

Lovely weekend. Pleasant. Full of good people, good things. The coming week promises more goodness. We shall see.
scarlettina: (Portlandia)
So it's Wednesday morning. I kind of can't believe it's Wednesday morning, but because the weekend didn't actually end until Monday night, more or less, I suppose that makes sense. See, I went to Portland to visit [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch and [livejournal.com profile] markjferrari for the weekend, with JB--left Seattle Friday morning; returned Monday afternoon. It mostly went the way it was supposed to, except for the end there--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, I left Seattle Friday morning on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, their long-haul sleeper train, mainly because its departure time meant that I wouldn't have to get to King Street Station at oh-God-thirty in the morning. It's a lovely train, with spacious seats, a nice dining car and the option to book a room and bed if you're going state-to-state. My plan, seeing as how state-to-state in this case was only a four-hour trip, was that I'd work on the train. Except that when I got on, I discovered that there was no wifi service. After spending about an hour trying to troubleshoot and discovering there was just no way for me to connect to the office, I settled down to do background reading on one particular project. I got into the Rose City at about 2ish and got settled in with my gracious hosts for the afternoon. JB didn't join us until late, his doctors appointments in town keeping him longer than originally planned.

Much of the weekend, as is often the case with Jews and Italians, was centered upon food and talk, and my goodness, our hosts spoiled us! There was the vigorous and theatrical production of delicious homemade ravioli on Friday night, and tasty savory and sweet crepes on Saturday morning. I fed us dinner on Saturday night--the family brisket, which was a hit. (Personal criticisms of my work: I still can't seem to get the gravy just right; and I forgot the bay leaves again. But I tried adding sun-dried tomatoes, which added a hit of sweetness that I liked so much that I may continue to include it.)

Friday and Saturday nights both involved playing games. I introduced everyone to Mexican Train and gifted our hosts with a Fluxx deck, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Sunday morning, the four of us trooped over to [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] kateyule's place with a bagel brunch in hand (a dozen bagels, two kinds of cheese, smoked salmon, hummus, berries and fruits, cold cuts, coffee and tea). Brenda Cooper was there to round out the group to seven people, and we had a delightful morning noshing and catching up.

At that point, [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch went home to get some work done, and [livejournal.com profile] markjferrari, JB and I headed out to the Chocolate Festival. We spent a couple of hours tasting wine and chocolate of all sorts. I spent part of the afternoon a little tipsy as a result of all the wine tasting. We didn't find any wine that was especially fine, though it was all good, but we did each bring home some lovely chocolate treats. From there, we went to Powell's for the ritual pilgrimmage. I came home with copies of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (at seemingly everyone's urging this weekend) and The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (whose novel The Shadow of the Wind I so adored). I also bought a poster that will eventually be framed and hung somewhere here in the house (still have no idea where; I need a TARDIS to properly display all the art I have, all the art I want, and all the art I create).

We spent Sunday evening working on a special project for Mark, and then Monday, after a scrumptious eggy-sausagey scramble breakfast, we were off on our separate ways. The original plan was that JB was going to drive me back to Seattle and stay a couple of days. Because he unexpectedly needed to stay in Portland for a couple more days, I ended up taking the train back to Seattle--and there was wifi, though it was spotty at best. The current plan is that JB will be up here sometime this weekend.

So, yes, it was a long, lovely weekend weekend, and I couldn't have been happier with it. I am blessed with such marvelous people in my life, and I'm grateful to have had such (tasty) quality time with so many of them.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Cartoon Menorah)
Several friends have mentioned to me this week that they had attended Chanukah parties. These friends are all far away. No one locally is having Chanukah parties; such a small percentage of my local friends are Jewish, and most of them are involved with their families. No parties were in the offing. So yesterday, as is so often the case when I want to have a Thing, I decided to have a Chanukah/latke party this afternoon for myself, which is what I did.

I invited about 10 people over, only one of whom is actually a member of the tribe (that being my most fine and precious [livejournal.com profile] suricattus). She brought delicious home-made apple sauce. EB and CH brought Martinelli's Sparkling Cider. [livejournal.com profile] varina8 brought veggies and hummus. I made and served many latkes. I lit my chanukiah. I read everyone a charming little picture book called "The Hanukkah Mice." And I enjoyed the company of my friends. It was a goodness.

Janna reading The Hanukkah Mice

And now the house is quiet and still, and smells like latkes. It was quiet and still before the party and I felt terribly lonely. I don't quite feel that way now, but I'm not ready to go to bed. Perhaps I'll read for a while and then hit the sack. I hope the kitties come to sleep with me. It's always better when they're both there.
scarlettina: (Reality Check)
Night before last, I had an interesting dream. (Well, interesting to me anyway.) I was in Seattle Center at the Armory (formerly the Center House) having lunch with my brother. He got up to get some ketchup and my far-away friend BK came by to say hello. We hugged, chatted and he left. My brother came back and I told him he'd missed BK. "Well, crap," he said. "It would have been cool to meet him." I got up to go look for BK, to see if I could catch him before he left the area. When I went outside to find him, I discovered that people were leaving the area and then I came face to face with the reason why: a big Serengeti lion was stalking towards me. That's when I woke up.

I'm a pretty cognitive dreamer. I know what this dream was about.

BK is a rather formidable guy with a LOT of brains, a strong military background and a ferociously independent political streak. More than any other veteran I know, he--and his wife--are outspoken, plain-spoken, and have no time for bullshit, so when debates flare up on Facebook, they waste no time in telling you exactly what they think in unvarnished and often pretty brutal terms. You return the volley or admit you're outgunned and step away. On the one hand, I admire this forthrightness. On the other hand, it's hard to be on the business end of such fire, especially given the premium I put on being careful, polite, and thoughtful with those about whom I care.

I was on the business end of such fire recently, and it upset me. I stepped away from the exchange pretty quickly, understanding that a) political debates on Facebook get very heated very fast, B) I don't always have the presence of mind to manage my own response in such situations in a measured, objective way, and C) my investment in the substance of the debate was pretty low but my response to the language used in my direction was pretty high. It wasn't personal; it was debate, which is why I've weighed my response so carefully.

In the wake of that exchange, though, I've made a point to keep political debate off of my Facebook wall, and I've kept some distance between myself and BK online. BK has shown up in conversations on my wall since then, responding in friendly, pretty benign ways. The dream I noted above came in the wake of his posting a humorous video to my wall that entertained me and that was meant as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. The dream was a reminder that, like a lion, which is strong and beautiful and appealing, my friend is also a formidable, dangerous man and to act accordingly.

BK and I live very different lives. It's one of the reasons that I've maintained the connection--not the only one, by any means, but it's an important aspect of the friendship to me. I live in such a comfortable bubble, surrounded by people who live in ways very similar to mine. He has gone places and done things that I don't know if I'd have the fortitude to do, even with training. This friendship--maybe friendly acquaintanceship is a better description--is a reminder to be aware that not everyone lives the safe, comfortable life that I do, that people make choices significantly different than the ones I make, have different priorities and perspectives. It's important. But it's not always easy.
scarlettina: (Rainy Day)
Right now, I'm looking for reasons to be cheerful. So here's a list:

1) I got to spend a lovely, quiet Thursday evening with [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden, who was perfect company after a tough week. W had pizza for dinner, then sat by the fireplace place talking, drinking whiskey, and discussing girl things. It was a perfect visit.

2) I got to attend a friend's large, fun 60th birthday this past weekend. She booked the Fremont Abbey for the event, which turned out to be a pretty terrific party venue. She had a DJ and bar upstairs, and a gaming room and food downstairs. I invited [livejournal.com profile] suricattus along to meet some of the locals and party along with us. I danced a lot because I really wanted to, and without realizing it ended up leading some folks doing the Time Warp. Apparently this is now one of my roles--and one I gladly embrace. Rocky Horror was so formative an experience for me; the Time Warp seems to have become my personal folk dance. We had a pretty great time.

3) I had a small group of friends over this past Sunday night to watch the series premier of The Librarians, the new TV series based on the three Noah Wylie TV movies. It was light, goofy fun, very much what was needed. I was glad to have friends over--EB, [livejournal.com profile] suricattus, [livejournal.com profile] varina8 and [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus--for a pleasant, low-key evening.

4) I've been reading a book on loan from [livejournal.com profile] varina8 called People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and quite enjoying it. It's about an old, mysterious, and beautiful haggadah, and the book restorer who's been asked to conserve it and learn about its history. The book alternates between stories from the haggadah's history and the conservator's search and her life. It's very well-written, very well-managed. As I continue to try to navigate my way through writing my own novel, I find myself examining things like structure from an entirely new perspective and it's a fascinating way to read.

5) I spent so much time away from home last week that I've been savoring being home with the kitties. It's hard for me to leave for work--for pretty much anywhere right now--that will mean being away from my four-footed housemates. With the coming of the cold, they've both been pretty cuddly, and I can't say that I object.

I've been feeling and thinking about other things, too, how relentlessly dark it's been, how I seem to be coming down with a cold, how I'm not ready for the holidays, how unhappy I am with my weight right now. But I'm not going to dwell upon them here. Right now, it would serve no purpose. I'm going to go spend some time playing with Zeke. I don't think there's been quite enough of that.
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
1) Loving my swing dance class. The last session is next Tuesday, and the instructors suggest that students proceed to Jitterbug 1. I'm thinking about that. I'm thinking either that or West Coast swing because one ought to be bicoastal. No decision yet but it's coming. Also, many of the take-aways from my first class (see second-to-last paragraph) still hold.

2) My Halloween costume was a huge hit. Haven't taken the time to write about putting it together--especially the makeup--yet but I still really want to, even though Halloween is nearly two weeks in the past. For those who haven't seen it, here's a glimpse: What if Jane Austen were assimilated by the Borg? She'd be Austen, Powered....

Austen, Powered
Austen, Powered: prosthetic by me and [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden, makeup by [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden, dress created by and on loan from [livejournal.com profile] akirlu

More pics, and a how-we-did-it post to come...

3) By every reasonable measure, the Kobold Guide to Combat book signing at University Bookstore was a success. We had five of the contributors plus me at the store and ran a panel on combat in games. We all signed books. Other events around the signing conspired to take some of the celebratory sweetness out of it for me, and I'm still sort of recovering from that. A lot to process, but it's not my stuff to talk about. Here's a pic of all of us.

KoboldPanelPic
Left to right: John A. Pitts [livejournal.com profile] bravado111, Rob Heinsoo, Chris Pramas, Jeff Grubb, Steve Winter, yours truly

4) My kitchen light fixture broke in my hands when I tried to clean it last week. I've got a temporary fix in place that is satisfactory for the moment, but it looks like I'll be spending some money to replace it. I wasn't a big fan of the fixture in any case; I just wasn't planning on attending to it right now.

5) There are things about which I'm feeling discontent and impatient about in my life right now, but some of them are just beyond my ability to change. It's making me cranky.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
Sunday morning we rose to meet [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine, [livejournal.com profile] kateyule, Amanda and her husband Brad for breakfast at David's. It was a clearly a local joint, the place everyone goes to for brekkies, the wait staff familiar and friendly to the patrons. Breakfast was basic and hearty--eggs, more eggs, pancakes, and eggs. For me, it was exactly the way to start the day, in good company with the kind of breakfast I really enjoy when I travel.

We parted company at that point, with David, Kate, Amanda and Brad hitting the road back to parts north. Jeremy and I met Elizabeth at the place where she was having brunch with the bridal party. We saw Shannon and Mark there and arranged for dinner that evening. Then three of us hit the road for some sightseeing.

Our first stop was Mendocino Chocolate Company in Fort Bragg. We each purchased some treats, used the nearby cash machine and then continued on.

We headed south to Mendocino proper, which turned out to be this adorable little tourist town perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. Our main goal there was to get some knitting needles for Elizabeth, but we ended up poking around the shops. Predictably, she came away with not just needles but yarn as well. At the same shop, I bought some buttons for a button bracelet project I'd like to do. The gardens around the shops were beautiful, with all sorts of native plants that bloomed with flowers we'd never seen before. We stopped at a jewelry shop called Silver & Stone, where E purchased a very chic pendant, a trio of what I think were glass ovals each progressively smaller than the one above, really lovely. As an early holiday gift to me, she chipped in for a gorgeous pair of earrings featuring carved abalone which I wore for the rest of the weekend.

We strolled about town a bit more, admiring the view of the rocky shore and the crashing waves, the eccentric sculpture above the bank called "Time and the Maiden," and the sweetness of the small shops and cottages along the streets.

Expand for pictures )

We headed back toward Fort Bragg and made two stops along the way. The first was at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Jeremy was inspired by the gardens we saw in town and is plotting his gardening at his new place, so we poked around the nursery on the grounds for ideas. Lovely plants, and I would have purchased one or two if there hadn't been a flight between there and home. Our second stop was the Sea Glass Museum, where we learned about the different kinds of sea glass and its source. The pictures on the web site make the place look much bigger than it is; it's really a tiny house split up into three or four rooms of exhibits with a lot of samples and some history, as well as a gift and book shop. There, we acquired a map of the glass beaches around town and planned for some beach combing.

As it turned out, beach combing required our navigating a path around some construction, and then scrambling down some pretty steep bluffs to get to the shoreline. Jeremy was the only one really dressed for any kind of scrambling or climbing, so he took a totebag, scrambled down the bluff, and retrieved a bag full of treasures that we picked through for souvenirs. There will be art and jewelry making this weekend if I can help it.

More pics )

It rapidly became clear to my companions--because apparently it's rarely clear to me--that I was sugar crashing. We found a restaurant with a coastal view and stopped for wine and a salad. Afterwards, more beachcombing, this time at the mouth of the Noyo River, resulted in Elizabeth finding a three-pound hunk of beach jade nearly the size of a brick. Veiny and gorgeous and richly green, it's a real treasure.

We went back to the hotel so I could change for dinner and so that Jeremy could stretch out for a bit, and then we headed out to meet Mark and Shannon. We were also joined by Mark's mother and his friend Mike who had acted as DJ for the party. Dinner was sushi of all kinds, and it was a delight to be able to sit with a small group including the bride and groom and just catch up a bit. Mike was pleasant and engaging, Mark's mother very lovely. At the end of the meal, Jeremy arranged for a knife and plates so that he could meticulously carve up each of eight truffles that he, Elizabeth and I had collectively purchased, and share them among the group. It was a mini-chocolate tasting and a great ending to the meal.

The day ended with another soak in the hotel's hot tub, and then it was to bed in preparation for the trip back to Oakland.

For the drive back the next day, we took a slightly different route which took us along more windy, twisty-turny roads, but this time through farm land and redwood forest. We listened to compilations of mash-ups, sang and talked, and got me to the airport with plenty of time to spare before my flight. I met Elizabeth only about 5 minutes after arrival. We sat in one of the airport restaurants and caught up, and ended up being able to sit together on the flight home.

I don't think I could have asked for a better trip, all in all. It was wonderful to see Mark and Shannon married after all this time, and great to be able the share the adventure in such good company. I've been home now a day and a half and my head's still not really back in the game of daily life yet. I suspect it won't be for a day or two more. The cold and the rain are working hard to ground me back in Seattle, but the sunshine and the emotional journey this weekend keep pulling me back to northern California. My head may stay there for a while yet.
scarlettina: (Angel)
And so, last Friday morning, I was off to Mendocino county for a wedding, specifically to see my friends [livejournal.com profile] calendula_witch and [livejournal.com profile] markjferrari get married. What a fabulous weekend!

The drive north
I was met at Oakland Airport by my companion for the weekend, Jeremy B. He grabbed me at noon and, before really starting the road trip, we stopped for lunch at Taki Japanese Restaurant in Novato, California, just south of Petaluma, off route 101. It was a delicious lunch (we each had a roll and miso soup). When we exited the restaurant, across the shopping plaza, we saw a space suit just standing in front of a storefront. Turns out that, in a delightful turn of events, we had discovered The Space Station Museum, a two-store-front establishment only large enough to show 10 percent of their holdings, which included a lot of Russian artifacts from or related to the International Space Station (consoles and control panels, pressure suits, and more), and full-size replicas of a lunar lander and a lunar rover, among other things. We poked around the exhibits and had a long conversation with a volunteer who had worked building space craft. Serendipity!

Once we were on the road, we took 101 north, but eventually scooted westward to highway 1 for the drive to Fort Bragg. And what a beautiful drive it was! The landscape in this part of California is just breathtaking: rugged, rocky coastline, ocean that changes color with the light from dark blue-gray to an unearthly blue-green, waves crashing on the rocks, birds with gigantic wingspans reeling overhead.

Northern California coastline
Click to embiggen. Really, it's gorgeous up there.

The further north we went, the twistier the road became, and I told Jeremy that I had driving envy because it looked like it was so much fun to take the road the way he was. His SUV is a stick shift; I could never have taken a turn at the wheel but, oh, how I wanted to! Still, not driving meant that I could fully enjoy the scenery as well as the music we listened to along the way. We talked and sang together, and breathed in that marvelous air. We shared a delicious bar of dark chocolate with blueberries--rich, pungent stuff. We stopped at a couple of scenic viewpoints to just admire the general splendor. We noted interesting names along the way like Gualala State Park and Russian Gulch Park ("Nostrovia, pardner!).

Finally, nearly 6 hours later, we arrived at Cleone Gardens Inn where we'd spend the weekend. [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] kateyule were already there and preparing to head out for dinner. We got checked in and then together the four of us went to a nearby Mexican restaurant. The food was hearty and plentiful. I had a chicken quesadilla; I never did get the name of the place. Back at the hotel, the four of us played a couple of games of Anomia--great fun--and then Jeremy and I got settled in our room. The only thing left to do for the evening was go soak in the hot tub, which we did--the two of us--and talked for quite some time.

Wedding!
On Saturday morning, we got started a little later than planned, but early enough to have a quick bite in the room and get ready for the wedding. We took the shuttle bus that Mark and Shannon had arranged for, along with several members of the wedding party, up to Simcha Ranch, a horse ranch at the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific. It was breezy and beautiful up there. The celebration area was set up with chairs, a podium, and red-and-white banners all set out for a ceremony under the sun. The barn had been transformed into a party space, hung with more red-and-white banners, and organized with long trestle tables set with red table clothes and white and gold trim, and little stones of red and clear glass.

Wedding pictures! )

And then? It was time to party! We gathered a group to sit together: me, Jeremy, David and Kate, Amanda C and her husband Brad, and -- oh, I know I'm forgetting some names. But we had a congenial group to enjoy food and wine together. (We may have had the largest concentration of Jews in one place that Fort Bragg has ever seen.) Predictably, this being Shannon and Mark, the wine was delicious (and I need to get the wine list from her when she's settled), and all the food was delectable. All the rituals were observed: first dance, cake cutting, toasts -- a lot of happiness and good feeling all around. When at last the food was done, the music started. From my perspective, it took a little time for the real dance music to start, but once it did, Jeremy and I danced -- almost a half hour without break -- until I was so dizzy I couldn't see straight, and smiling so broadly my cheeks hurt.

We took the 8 PM shuttle back to the hotel, and then it was off to the hot tub for another soak, this time under a sparkling sky so clear that you could see the Milky Way. I saw a shooting star. A great way to end a great day.

More about our sightseeing and the drive back anon....

Powwow!

Sun, Aug. 31st, 2014 08:30 am
scarlettina: (Angel)
I promised myself at the beginning of the summer that I was going to do at least three things I've never done before. Well, as it turned out, I spent most of the summer doing something I've done any number of times before--editing a book. But yesterday I finally did one thing I've never done before. Over the last year or two, I've gotten back in touch with someone I used to work with at Wizards of the Coast (JM), and I met his charming wife (DM) who, as it turns out, is Native American. When I mentioned that I'd never been to a powwow, she got all excited and found one for us to attend.

I did some reading beforehand to get a sense of what the event might be like and, because I knew that it was a spiritual event as much as a social one, I wanted to be sure that I didn't do anything inappropriate, like take pictures. Wikipedia's entry on powwows was actually pretty faithful to my experience, but it's one thing to read about something and another to experience it.

And so it begins . . .  )

I enjoyed the day a great deal. This step into a different cultural experience was tasty both literally and emotionally. I'm certain that there were layers of meaning and relevance of which I was completely unaware, but I'm grateful to have had the opportunity at least to peek inside. It was a good day indeed.
scarlettina: (Happy Sun)
I'm nearly a week behind recording my trip notes, but I don't want to stint on my trip reporting mainly because there's so much I want to remember.

Breakfast
Sunday I got up early. My friend AC picked me up at the hotel for breakfast at the Egg Plantation, home of 101 omelets. The place is hugely popular locally, and though they don't take reservations, A managed our arrival so that we were seated minutes after we arrived. As it happens, I didn't choose one of those many omelettes; I had the quiche with fruit, which was absolutely delicious. Visiting with A was a delight. She's a friend that I met through penny-smashing, and I haven't seen her in more than a decade. She's the reason, in fact, that I got into Disney pin collecting. I had forgotten how much we have in common, between our collecting and our crafting, and we chattered like girls through the whole meal.

Museum
When we concluded our meal, we realized that I had time before I needed to be back at the hotel to prepare to attend my cousin's wedding, so we headed over to the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum to poke around. Neither of us realized how much silent film history and Western film history the place would cover. Our timing was such that while we could walk the grounds and do the self-guided tour of the bunk house (which featured some interesting architectural detail, some cool memorabilia, and beautiful tack) we couldn't take the mansion tour. We did see some of the resident bison herd, but they were pretty far off from the overlook point. Had we been within easy reach of A's truck, we might have gone back and driven down to the corral to see them up close. As it is, I've made a mental note to return on a future trip when there's more time.

Wedding
I was back at the hotel by 1 PM, napped, showered, did my hair and make-up, and got into my party duds. My brother, sister-in-law and I drove over the venue--the clubhouse at the development where my cousins will be living moving forward. It's a beautiful facility, with a spacious foyer, a courtyard, a vaulted-ceiling great room, and a sprawling porch overlooking a lake in the heart of the development.

The evening started with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Soon enough, we were herded into the great room for the ceremony. The place was festooned with flowers in jewel tones, and the bouquets all featured silk butterflies (a lifelong interest of my cousin P's). Every chair was wrapped with a burgundy swag tied with a bow and a rose. A string quartet played while we waited for the wedding party to line up. The processional included my cousin P's god daughters, his fiance's grandchildren, and then P and then his fiance accompanied by her sons. The bride wore a form-fitting, dark gray gown with a neckline that was somewhere between a boatneck and an off-the-shoulder affair, with a paler gray ruffle that trailed down her back. It was quite elegant, very lovely. Given everything that each of them has been through, there wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end of the ceremony. I was delighted to see P so happy, and S so clearly devoted to him.

After the ceremony, we vacated the room so that the caterers could switch it over for dinner and dancing. The switch happened quickly while we were all offering hugs and congratulations. Once the tables were set up and the band stand was erected, we were invited back in for a kiddush with an epic-sized challah (seriously, the thing must have been 10 feet long). Dinner was a choice of beef or salmon, with some vegetarian option in there that I completely missed. And then we danced until the party broke up at about 9ish (we started at 4 PM).

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out in my room and talking about all sorts of things. We had a long, deep conversation of a kind we haven't really had in a long while. When we all finally did get sleepy, we brkoe up the party. I was probably asleep within 20 minutes--a fine, satisfying day.
scarlettina: (Angel)
This weekend is an emotional journey and a day-to-day journey. I'm going to talk about the day-to-day journey in this entry. While I'll talk a little about the emotional journey, well, I won't write about it too deeply right now; I still have a lot to assimilate and consider. I may write about it at some point, but probably in a locked post and probably not this morning. Some things I don't need to share with the Entire World of the Internets.

Mani-pedis and family bonding
Friday morning, my cousin PL's fiance SS picked up my sister-in-law and myself at the hotel, and we all headed off to get mani/pedis. This was a plan that I had proposed because I wanted an opportunity to get to know SS a little better, and because I know that sis-in-law would have done this before she left Long Island anyway. Seemed like a nice way to bond with the girls a bit. I was pleased when SS jumped at the chance; I knew that sis-in-law would be into it. I still feel like I have new skin, two days later. My original thought was to get a French manicure on my fingers and some color on my toes. I ended up getting a sort of pale yellow/gold on both because it was close to my skin tone. As I've spent time in the unrelenting sun here in southern CA, the contrast between my nails and my skin has intensified. So much for a neutral color treatment! Having never gotten a pedicure before, I felt completely pampered and almost embarrassed by all the attention. My sister-in-law was entertained by my reactions to the whole thing.

We followed that up with having lunch at the restaurant that's catering the wedding on Sunday. The food was fresh and light and delicious. We got to know my sister-in-law much better over lunch. She was admirably frank about her personal history, a harrowing and in some respects horrifying odyssey (not mine to share). The fact that she's so together and so remarkably level-headed and, in fact, so vivacious and charming in the wake of all that left a profound impression on me. She clearly adores my cousin (I am biased in the opinion that he deserves such adoration), and I think they are very good for each other.

Tchaikovsky!
Friday evening, my cousin treated 19 of us who had come in from out of town to a dinner and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The program was Tchaikovsky featuring violin soloist Alexandra Soumm (a positively pyrotechnic performance!), and the evening closed out with the 1812 Overture featuring the USC Marching Band (apparently a big deal around here) and fireworks. The evening was nearly perfect, with the exception of an unsettling encounter with another cousin with whom, well, things were tense, to put it mildly. Two sleeps later, the encounter has dwindled in my perception, but it cast a pall.

Hiking and personal history
Saturday morning, my brother, sister-in-law and I were up early. My cousin PL picked us up and we headed over to Vasquez Rocks for a hike. My brother didn't know where we were going--PL and I deliberately kept it a secret--so when we got there, I was treated to his delight at hiking around the rock formations that featured so prominently in several episodes of Star Trek. My cousin is a docent at another nature center locally, so as we hiked, we were treated to his insights about the local flora and fauna. We are all so clearly related, snapping pictures, examining the littlest things, just sort of soaking up the experience. It was such a great excursion. Unfortunately, the heat took its toll on my sister-in-law, who suffered quite a bit from nausea as a result. By the time we got to a restaurant for lunch afterwards, she was wilting pretty badly. The food helped revive her a little.

After lunch, PL took us over to his house. The place--a 4,000 square-foot mansion which he shared with his first wife--is up for sale. He's staying there until the wedding. This was the first time I'd ever visited the place, and it's beautiful, with skylights and stretches of windows that overlook the entire valley. I've been to large homes before, and the thing that impressed me about this place was that though it's very large, the rooms were of a scale so as not to make it feel overwhelming. Furnished in the pastels that his late wife preferred (the shade dusty rose was a big thing for her; not to my taste but she made it work), it was tranquil even in the lavishness of its furnishings.

As a result of his impending move, PL is downsizing his possessions pretty significantly. At one point, PL said to me, "I have something for you." What he had was a needlepoint that his mother, my much-beloved Aunt Shirley, had made, of a girl reading a book. I've always loved that piece and it will find an honored place on the walls of my home. He also gifted me with one of his late wife's several cameos. I'll be wearing it to the wedding. He gifted my brother with his grandfather's pocketwatch, and my sister-in-law with a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings, again, that belonged to his late wife. I have spent the whole weekend overwhelmed by his love and generosity.

In the wake of all this, I found myself crashing both physically and emotionally. G-d bless [livejournal.com profile] varina8 for her love and support when I called her to talk. She is smart and wise and knows me very, very well. I was grateful for the time we spent on the phone together.

Barbecue and chillin' out
Saturday evening, a small group of us went over to SS's home for a little barbecue. It was a fairly small crowd and, as I think about it now, a pretty intimate one in that it was mainly immediate family and very close friends. I was honored to be part of this gathering. I spent a little time talking to PL's goddaughters--lovely girls--whom I've never met before, and chatting with SS's closest friends. The day remained warm but breezes cooled things off to a comfortable temperature. The food was basic barbecue fare: burgers, salad, fruit, topped off with a raspberry lemon bundt cake. A nice relaxing way to close the day.

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out together in my room at the hotel, planning for our Monday excursion and catching up a bit.

Notes
I have spent most of my life pretty estranged from what little family I have. As I experienced last year with my cousin M's funeral, the reconnection with the family has been a pretty emotional journey for me. While I won't get into specifics, it has provoked a lot of reflection. I received an email from my cousin PL this morning expressing his gratitude for my presence this weekend and promising regular visits to Seattle. I . . . don't know how to express my reaction to such a confession and promise. It feels remarkable to me. I have a lot to process.

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