à peu près

I'll be posting about our vacation in dribs and drabs as I get the time. Here's how the trip to Chico went:

We left Mom's shortly after noon a week ago Saturday. Successfully navigated the super-tricky quicky-dicky back way through the rice fields and almond orchards, and made it to Lucille and Jeff's shortly after four (we stopped for lunch in Cordelia, where Monstro put premium gas in my dad's generously loaned, 3-month old Mercedes). They weren't home, so we keyed in the code and cautiously led Lex into their living room, where they display many of their collectibles. Our hosts arrived home from a wedding reception shortly thereafter and Jeff busied himself by cleaning their hall closet, because once he got through to the hamper of their sons' and grandchildren's toys he figured he might as well pull everything out. I don't know his final tally of decorative outdoor flags, though 23 umbrellas plus three more (“a bonus for your hard work!” I said) were unearthed.

“How can a woman have so many umbrellas?” Jeff asked.

“Well, sometimes I don't have one when it rains, and other times I've left it at my desk.”

“Or someplace else.”

“Or someplace else,” she agreed.

Lex ran around Lucille's Turtle Garden, fenced around in white mini-fence and marked with an eponymous sign. We hung out on the deck.” Jeff and Lucille have been married for 53 years, so when you take a soda from their outdoor fridge it might be in a '70s can. I opened a 7up that was half empty. It was great.

They invited our luckless buddy Lenny to dinner with us, and after greeting him heartily they were met by the waitress with hugs and happy chattering. Jeff and Lucille had been to the restaurant's other location, the same place that Monstro and I held our rehearsal dinner. The waitress, Alba, told us a story about when her sister asked Jeff and Lucille for man advice, and the next time they came in they asked Alba, “So, have you found a good guy yet?

“I smiled and shrugged,” Alba said, “but thought to myself, 'who are these people and why are they asking me this?'”

Incidentally, Alba and Lex began what I'm certain will be a long-term, everlasting love affair. By the end of the night, I was addressing her has my future daughter-in-law.

We put Lex to bed in our portaged Pack-n-Play, between the twin beds where Monstro and I would sleep much later that evening, and we three (with Lenny) took off in Lenny's Metro, me in the backseat. Parked in the lot of a bank, where we ourselves had never had the guts to park.

“Uh, is it ok to park here?” Monstro asked him.

“They're closed. Do they really need the parking? And are they really going to tow a car that looks like this?”

I unfolded myself from the backseat. “Don't lock it,” Lenny said.

Much of Chico is the same but the new shops and their goods look much more expensive. We made it downstairs to the bar that used to be Team Players but now is Dino's.

“What did that used to be?” Monstro motioned up to the left on ground level. Lenny told him it used to be a tattoo shop (the only place Monstro told me never to enter), “but then my boss bought the whole damn building and kicked out all the places that were disreputable.” Lenny then told us stories about “raw sewage up to your thighs” and a drunken repairman lost in the ductwork between the ground floor and the basement's ceiling. We ordered two pitchers of Sierra Nevada Anniversary (happy anniversary, Sierra Nevada brewery!) and played the world's longest game of darts.

I don't remember who won. I do remember this indiscriminately Asian-type guy sidling into what might as well have been our trio's special room, if not for the more-as-the-night-got-later women, marching toward the Ladies'.

“So,” he asked me. “What are you doing?”

I kept it so cool I don't think Monstro knew that I knew the guy was hitting on me. Honey, I knew. Of course I knew.

But I played it cool. “Playing the world's longest game of darts,” I told the guy.

“How's that working out for you?”

“Not so good,” I said.

(My prophecy came to pass not much later when I dropped a dart point-side-down into my big toe, getting a spot of blood on the cute green sandals I bought at 21st Century in Manhattan)

“You gotta admire his guts… we're practically in a private room, playing a game, two of us are wearing wedding bands, and he hits on you,” Monstro said later. “You knew he was hitting on you, right?”

“Uhm, yes,” I said.

In a move that bummed me out at the time but made me really super happy the next morning, my “let's go somewhere else now!” pleas fell on deaf men's ears. Lenny dropped us off around midnight. I took the bed on the right because it had a footboard that would need to be climbed over.

Six hours later: “Mama? Mama! Da Da!” The kid's awake, it's 6:30, so we piled in the SUV as quietly as possible.

“Jack's?” I asked.


The waitress there sat us on the left-hand side, away from the bikers and the homeless people but in front of two late-teenagers that somehow became eight. One of them threw up on the sidewalk on his way into the place.

“That's why I always carry a toothbrush with me,” he told his buddies, who nodded in agreement. “Good idea,” another said. Their welcome ritual was laden with expletives, prompting the girl in the short plaid skirt and bandaged wrist to apologize on their behalf. They cleaned it up a little, but whenever someone forgot I heard the girl, behind me now, saying “sorry” under her breath. Then they all started talking about acid. It got quieter after that.

My California omelette tasted amazing and we dug into our hashbrowns, yes, hashbrowns with great abandon.

There is more to this but it's too good to rush through, and Lex just awoke. I shall leave you with the taste of hashbrowns in your brain.

no surprise

Lex began nursery school yesterday. He handled it fine, while I was in tears by 10:30, feeling like I'd already failed nursery school. Guess that's normal — I had jet lag and my period working against me, and the environmentally friendly diaper I'd put baby in leaked out his butt, making two vertical smiles of baby-pee on his shorts, and the change of toddler clothes I thought was in the diaper bag was actually in my carry-on, which was at home, plus Monstro bitched at me for not having memorized his schedule (I'd made three copies of it, which were also in the aforementioned carry-on. Damn the carry-on!).

In other news, we are back safely from a three-week vacation. Turns out an old family friend, Dave Houseman, has bucked common belief by being the first person to write about my family's secrets. I think my aunt will be most surprised at this — the down south family hasn't been all that friendly toward me since receiving word of my MFA. Well folks, House was considerably more underhanded than I'd ever be, publishing an interview with my Alzheimer's-addled uncle without getting the other side of the story (like when he deserted his sick kid) from anyone in their right mind. Shoddy journalism, that. My grandma would be ashamed of you, House.

All in all, I'm jet-lagged and beat, yet buzzing from the grande Caffe Verona I just had, while typing this via

Wi-Fi at the closest Barnes & Noble to Lex's nursery school. Prayers appreciated.

on vacay…

Let me warn you that if Southwest Airlines rolls out its new San Antonio trial boarding policy nationwide, you parents of small children will be choosing to take your business elsewhere.

We hadn't been in San Jose longer than two miles before I saw the first “Mystery Spot” bumper sticker. Ten miles later, a Lee Industrial Catering taco truck. It's good to be home.

Sorry dear darling MFA/SJ buddies but I'm pretty wrapped up with parental stuff, not the least of which involves being the officiant at my dad's wedding next weekend, so a trip to see y'all is not in the cards this time. It hurts me more than it hurts you, I'm pretty sure.

Back to laundry!

Heideman Award finalist

I just received word that my play Lindsay Lohan's Birkin has been selected as one of the finalists for the 2007 Heideman Award, top prize for the National Ten-Minute Play Contest (which is a real contest whereto you don't Draw Cubby or submit a three Cheerios box-tops with your entry, thanks Dad). Each playwright can only submit one play and more than 1,200 entries were received this year.

So, between now and December 2007, my play will be considered for winter showcase production at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and also for the 31st Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. This is what one refers to as a Big Deal. No matter what, even if they picked 50 finalists, that means I'm in the top… little-number percent of playwrights nationwide. OK, ten-minute playwrights nationwide.

It's a start.

did I mention?

Did I mention that the other day we'd put the kid down for a nap and later Monstro emerged from the shower. “Do you know he's awake?” I hadn't been aware of that, so I hung up with Anne and went to the nursery. And then I called for Monstro, because I knew he had the baby monitor on in his office (which is how he'd known the boy wasn't asleep).

Monstro walked in and took in the view: Lex had grabbed the plastic “jammie basket” from the top of his changing table, and turned it upside-down in his crib and used it as a step to get out of his crib and atop his changing table, where he sat playing the on-off game with the nightlight on the baby-monitor receiver. Happy as Buddha on the mountaintop.

We moved the changing table away from the crib the moment after we removed the baby from the changing table.


Do you all know that Anne of Illustrative Anne fame has a contract to publish an expanded version of her Master's thesis? Do go congratulate her on her blog. I'm stoked for her.

I'm working on a new “Finnegans Wake” blog for those of you who could give a tinker's damn about Joyce (hello Comtesse!) so watch for that URL soon.

Ugh, it's a bajillion degrees at 147% humidity and I'm going to stroll to my air-conditioned family room and park it on Futon Island for a while. Wonder if the blender cord'll reach?

very cute

My little one is catching on with amazing alacrity. Today we were looking at one of his “first words” books, and he pointed not to the cake but the candles on top.

“Candles,” I said.

He brought the book to his mouth and blew. Make a wish!