5 Star Kind of Gal

While celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this weekend at the beautiful and historic Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, I had a disheartening revelation. I am a 5 star kind of gal. I am too fond of the heart palpitations I get as I slide my pink card into the horizontal slot on the heavy cream colored door, turn the heavy gold lever handle and push the door open. I am too in love with the reveal of a foyer with a wooden table, and off to the right, the glimpse of an acre of all white bedding, the corner room with heavy silk striped drapes closed, cocooning the room against the late afternoon sun. My ear is way too comfortable with finding and enjoying the classical music which plays on the clock next to the bed, a svelte, easy-to-operate rectangle of convenience, with a clear one button on switch, and a port for my iPhone should I choose to play my tunes.

The marble-encrusted bathroom suite with its wide array of queen bed sized bath towels and elegant toiletries in the leather box, the tub which is long enough for me and my husband to sit in toe to toe without bending our knees (practically, and we never would fill up that Mariana’s Trench of a tub in this drought). All of these things make me swoon, and we had just arrived.

The lamps all have sliding on/off switches which allow us to set the mood in the room- bright for reading, dim for gradually beginning to shut out the concerns of the day. But as I have come to realize, in the five star world, there are few if any concerns.

When we stepped out of our car, someone took it and parked it, bringing our luggage to our room, brought us ice.
The fluffy robes were there, as were the simple white slippers, wrapped in their wrapping which let us know that they were first and only intended for our use.

We will have afternoon tea in the hotel lobby at 12:30 today. Each juncture of our stay has been thoughtfully marked, as someone has always asked “are you celebrating anything today?” And I, with pride, have said, “our 30th anniversary.” This has resulted in a card on our table at dinner which read “Happy 30th Anniversary, Mr. And Mrs. Collins!” evoking a slew of giggles from us both, as we are name-abundant, my husband using two, a professional and a legal name and I having clutched onto my own, even 30 years ago when it was not the fashion; so he has been afforded a third name at our dinner together.

Our table looked out onto the horseshoe garden, configured with an army of white chairs to face the terrace, and we sat and watched the fastest wedding ever unfold between our Caesar salad and our entrees. The bride, gorgeous in her fluffy tiered feathery waterfall of a dress, the groom handsome in his formal black suit, and the guests rapt as the ceremony unfolded on the terrace, just out of our view. It was also silent, but we could see the musicians, a trio of strings, bowing enthusiastically just in front of our window, with the photographer darting around taking shots. There is nothing more appropriate than watching a wedding on your 30th anniversary to remind you of what has come before. A perfect, five star synchronicity.

The petals strewn on the bed when we returned from dinner were pink and numerous. Had I been there when it came time to get into the bed, I would have allowed them to cascade down on the floor around the bed with nary a care as to their collection. My husband, however, is too kind and generous to be a five star kind of guy. He is a three star man from simple roots. He picked them up off the bed and threw them into the trash bin whiled I was going home to get the pills I had forgotten at home. (Whole other opus, that).

By the time we arose from the depths and splendor a of the white acre of sleep, when I peeked through the curtains, the army of chairs had doubled, and repositioned themselves with their backs to the terrace now, standing at the ready to face a small stage on the lawn in front of them.

At breakfast in the Terrace Restaurant, which fronts out onto the pool, we sat at a window at the spacious, round table large enough to deposit the New York Times in the center without inconvenience, and ate our simple breakfast; my usual steel cut oatmeal with berries, and Jimmie a special one, eggs Benedict. And while we ate, near us on the restaurant mezzanine level, a pianist and a bass player softly serenaded us with pop tunes from the 40s.

So, moving on, back to our very comfortable, mind you, three star life, here are my plans.

1) I will engage a concierge who can make my dinner reservations. That should be a fairly simple job, because more often than not we go to CPK, where reservations are not necessary.

2) The piano bass accompaniment to my oatmeal breakfast will be a very steady gig for the two musicians I hire. I have the piano, and they can zip in and zip out over the span of the breakfast, which usually falls between 8:20 and 8:45. Contact me if you are interested….

3) The rose petals and the subsequent clean up (my husband can be re-trained to let them fall by the bed so we can tromp them all over the apartment) are, again, a nightly visit and a morning clean up, but feel free to contact me if you are interested.

4) The rest, the lovely patio with the water fall, is a bit large for the scope of our balcony, but then, we can always retire to our condo’s poolside terrace for our late morning second cup of coffee. We may need a butler to help that become a five star experience.

Returning to the life we love will be hard, but we always know where to come for refuge.

30 Years – 30 Memories

To my darling Jimmie Greene on our 30th Wedding Anniversary – September 1, 2014.

Do you remember?

Els headshot
Els’ headshot. Taken in Venice by a friend. Els fancied that she would return to the US to become an actress….
The real actor’s headshot about the same time we met.

1) Meeting at the McCarter Theatre because you had the coolest dog on the planet and I was delivering balloons to your dressing room from an admirer and interrupted you as you were working on your crossword puzzle…in pen? What a turn on: a dog lover, someone who was loved drake-hotelby someone enough to send balloons, and smart, to boot.

2) Staying at The Drak/Rake Hotel in Philly (remember the letters were out on the sign?), and how we ran (literally)  together in a group, went out for drinks together in a group, then had our first date alone together?

WeddingRehearsal3) How you looked like a lamb being led to slaughter at our wedding rehearsal? You were so nervous. Come to think of it, so was I.

4) Hiring a limousine on the day of our wedding to go from our apartment on 70th  St. to the church on 71st St. and then to the restaurant on 72nd St. When we got to the church there was a dumpster blocking the street so I had to get out in my wedding dress and walk to the church. We hailed a cab after the wedding reception on 72nd. Quickest cab hail in the history of the world. ElsJimReceptionSongs

5) Running together in Central Park as the snow fell and it was so silent. Running around the reservoir and looking at the skyline on Central Park South.

6) Acting together the one and only time In Hartford, CT in Desire Under the Elms.


As I remember, this photo was taken by Scott Smith on the day Jimmie, Jasper and Els left New York for California

7) Driving cross country in my grandmother’s Bonneville with Jasper and staying in some real fleabag hotels like in Elko, Nevada and Els getting a speeding ticket outside the Grand Canyon. Where did that guy come from?


                                                         8) I was working on an MFA student’s thesis film as the costume designer and needed an ironing board from home which you drove over from the valley without complaint. You have always been there for me.

9) The day we went Christmas shopping in separate cars and ended up on the 405 right behind each other at rush hour?

10) When you were in The Iceman Cometh and I walked over nightly from the Magic Hotel with Jasper to pick you up after the show? And didn’t worry about my safety. Times have changed in Hollywood!

11) Dinner at Butterfield’s, a restaurant clinging to the cliff on Sunset to celebrate your being cast in The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd and having no idea what that would mean for you or for us but being amazingly happy.

EarlyPixChris12) Buying our first house and fixing it up. Removing the weird sand corrals in the back yard with old Jack, who was hired by Scott  (at a bar) to  break up the concrete with a sledgehammer?

13) Going to North Hollywood park and signing up for the adoption orientation offered by the Department of Children’s Services.

14) The day we finalized the adoption?AdoptionFinalized

15) Taking turns lacing up Chris’ ice skates in the trailer near the hockey rink in Van Nuys?

16) Our four trips to Hawaii? The first one, when we arrived in Waikiki at the hotel where the entire hotel was under construction?


The third summer in Montana.

17) Four summers in Whitefish, Montana? Especially the first one when we drove up with Lizzie and she was so frightened by the thunder storms that she  tried to chew her way out of the cabin through the wall next to the door? Lying in bed and listening to the thunder storm rage overhead and how from then on every time we brought out a flash camera, Lizzie began to tremble?

18) Our five trips to Chatham?

19) You and Chris and me bicycling to Beeman Park from Ranchito Avenue?

20) All those opening nights we attended together, with the knowledge that after the opening we would have some time together during the days.

21) Logging the hours in the car during the hockey years.

One of our happy Whale Watching trips in Provincetown, MA

22) Fried clams at the Lobster claw in Orleans, MA.

23) Tea at the Huntington Gardens.

24) Leaving your home in Van Nuys to go on your 12 Angry Men tour and returning  to your new home in Downtown LA?

IMG_375225) Our cruise to the Canary Islands, and our cruise to Alaska?

Peter Harvey’s Painting

26) Attending Peter Harvey’s art show in LA and buying the painting, the only one that didn’t involve orgiastic cocks at play.

27) The 1994 Northridge Earthquake on my birthday? I couldn’t believe you went back to bed, leaving Chris and me in the den. I think I made popcorn on the stove that morning, a ridiculously dangerous choice, but I wanted to use my new popcorn popper, just one of a thousand thoughtful gifts from you in our 30 years together.

Jimmie sees Fenway after 50 years away.

28) Our trip to Fenway Park last summer where you returned after 50 years away and I was so moved about your first glimpse of the inside of the park?

a $60.00 hummingbird

29) When we decided to create a hummingbird garden on our patio downtown and we sat out there for two days amortizing the cost of the patio furniture against the number of birds visiting? When each bird cost $60.00. And now the birds are paying us to visit?

30)Waking up this morning next to the man who makes me feel incredibly luck every day. I may not look as sassy as I once did, but it’s been a hell of a ride. I love you, Jimmie.

Travel Transformation

Coming home from a special trip like our recent one to Alaska, I found myself thinking about what was so transformational about it. Here are the top 8 I came up with.
1. I could appreciate that there was a next phase to my life in which work was not the primary driving force.
2. I had found a comfortable model for travel with like-minded folks looking to get some exercise and see some beauty in nature. Realistically, this means I will need to work longer because that model is expensive.
3. I felt more relaxed than I have in years with regard to my work.
4. My family is wonderful. Tough sometimes, but wonderful.
5. I felt like a I had broken the compulsion to check my Emil, FB etc. and was able to do some writing instead. Even in limited time situations, it is possible to use that time constructively.
6. I had written a poem which I read on the last night of the cruise, and someone asked me if I was a writer and I said “Yes” and the writing Gestapo didn’t appear to cart me away.
7. My life is really good. I have a wonderful husband in my life who will not be with me forever. It is time to appreciate him and us. Our 30th anniversary is in 3 days. You won’t find us this weekend.
8. You don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth to appreciate what you have in your local life.

First Week of School – Catering 101

The week has ended. The first week of school. I know it was a success because even the final event of the week, cookies and ice cream and a lecture on Emergency Preparedness went well.

That is, until I accepted the kind offer from my colleague Tina for a ride home. I stepped out of the car, turned to wave to her as she drove off, then  rifled through my purse for my house keys only to extract them attached to  my car key – meaning I had just left my car back in the parking structure at USC.

So I went upstairs to view the newly painted kitchen (Emergency Kitchen Remodel! | lifeinthethe8tre), then I pulled out my cell phone, ordered an uber car and went back to school to get my car.


The first week of school was actually amazing – we kicked off the events last week with:

1) The New Student BBQ on Thursday,

2) The Faculty Staff Lunch on Friday

3)  The BFA and BA Production Student meeting on Monday

4) The All School Pizza Party on Tuesday

5) And finally, today, the Emergency Preparedness meeting with cookies and ice cream.

Credit for 3 out of 5 of these events (1,2, and 4) goes to our extremely talented Events Manager, Marissa. I can only take credit for 2.

I am now spherical, but that’s okay, because, as I told a new student, next week the free food just ends like that. Dries up. There will be no free food, just classes and the beginnings of rehearsals for 5 shows. So it’s a little like the squirrels that stockpile the nuts for winter. We meet and greet and eat and greet and meet and then we dash about for the next 14 weeks like crazy people producing 8 shows.

So, isn’t it a good thing that my kitchen was completed today? The walls a pale blue by Behr called “Airy,” the cabinets a warm white “Swiss Coffee.” New hinges on the cabinets and the loveliest little black felt pads on the tops and bottoms of the doors that make a quiet little “whomp” sound when you close the cabinets. Now I can cook like there’s no food tomorrow at school. Which there won’t be.


The Time to Start Measuring Up is Now

Events in the past three weeks have been shocking and have smacked me upside the head. On the macro level, more young black men were gunned down in the streets, more cops assassinated. Every time I turned on the TV it seems like ISIS or some wannabe fringe extremist has killed another 125 people.  I’ve become de-sensitized to random acts of terrorism, both international and national. And it’s not because I don’t care about my fellow human beings. It’s just not possible to be in a constant state of shock or rage or worry or grief. Especially if you’re a “there-must-be-a-pony-here-somewhere” type of person like I am. Unfortunately, events like these have hardened me enough  that I don’t have to curl up in a corner 24-7. Because if there were no auto-protective features, that’s where we’d all be, right?

But on Monday,  when I received a call from Virginia, our guiding Senior Business Officer about the recent and sudden death of one of my faculty colleagues, Paul Backer, I cried out. “What?” So shocking was the loss of someone so integral to our work place, and ostensibly so healthy, that the news reached out of the phone and punched me in the gut. “I wanted you to know before you heard it from someone else,” she said.

Paul Backer, tall, with boyish good looks, a large head filled with facts about the theatre, and the broadest spectrum of interests, was a fixture of the School of Dramatic Arts at USC since 1984 when he began teaching there. He attend all the productions, both those that were curricular, as well as all the Independent Student Productions. As the production manager, I am the last person to sign off on the ISP contracts, and Paul was the faculty advisor for 99.9% of them. He was a sterling director, directing the first show of each fall semester in the McClintock Theatre. This was a tight rehearsal period, four weeks to tech, one which required exquisite preparation. The plays were challenging contemporary, open-ended types of plays, and Paul somehow found the time to sit with the play, conceptualize his approach, get the research done, and send off no less than 30 pages of analysis with research images, with metaphors for what he wanted to achieve in his/our production. thumb_IMG_5149 3_1024His production last fall, Love and Information, was a huge learning experience for our production and design students. A few weeks ago, I received his first ideas about how  he wanted to stage Julie Jensen’s Mockingbird, with the casual tag line, “details to follow. Pb.” That made me smile, typically understated.

To get an idea of how ecumenically Paul approached his productions you only have to read a little about the subject of his dissertation, to quote SDA’s website: 

“Shakespeare, Alchemy and Dao: The Inner Alchemical Theatre. It was an interdisciplinary and cross cultural analysis of Shakespeare and the Renaissance esoteric traditions as seen through the lens of classical Chinese Daoism, particularly the philosophy and practice of “Inner Alchemy” or neidan.

USC School of Dramatic Arts

Paul slipped off this mortal coil in his sleep, at 59 years of youth, sometime before Monday when I heard about it from Virginia. And as I processed the news, even before the official email came telling his SDA family about our tragic loss, the ripple effect among Paul’s “children,” his former and current students, was immediate, tsunamic.  I saw Paul’s last post on FB honored an alum, who passed away July 2nd. Paul attended his memorial just last Tuesday, spending an hour  after the memorial in the parking lot chatting with one of his former students. She called me to commiserate that afternoon. She shared that she had asked Paul about what to say to a parent who demands “when are you going to give up this theatre stuff and get a real job?” They’d talked about how hard it must be for a parent to bury their child, and how attending services like these felt terrible in the same way.

Paul was there for his students. He was there for his colleagues, picking up the role of interim chair of Critical Studies when his supervisor had to step away to deal with her own tragedy.

Paul’s death has got me thinking a lot about legacy. As we watched Paul’s legacy unfurl through the devastated testimonies from former students, I thought that Paul probably never ever thought about what his legacy would be. He just built it one relationship at a time. He showed up. He witnessed the work. He demonstrated how he cared, one conversation, one hug at a time. And then he was gone. One of my colleagues said in a recent emotional email,

The time to start measuring up is now.

My tribute to Paul on FB garnered 270 views. That’s a whole lot for me, like by a multiple of ten. We are Paul’s family, vast and interesting and varied, just like his mind, his theatre practice, and his life.

I am and I know the rest of the SDA/SOT community are in a stunned state of grief about the loss of Paul Backer. There is a significant hole in the fabric of the universe. Paul was always there, always supportive, always creative and collaborative. He attended all the shows, was witness to people’s important life events. He gave all of himself to us. Thank you for your calls today to talk about Paul Backer and to cry a little about our loss. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the posts from students and alumni about the impact Paul had on your lives. It really helps to try to understand this loss. I took this photo last September during tech of Love and Information. I wish I’d waited until he turned around.

Love and Information, Fall 2015: Scenic Design, Projections and Lighting by G. Austin Allen

Rest in peace, dear Paul.

Tender Tinder

The ladies who lunch in my building have recently amused themselves with a post prandial game of what I will call Tinder-round-robin. After we eat our various luncheon options,  mine likely leftover Quinoa and black bean salad with a lime and cumin vinaigrette, the others’ burgers from The Habit, or healthy-by-the-pound food from Lemonade, they begin to pass a phone around the table taking turns swiping and discarding human beings at a rate of about 15 per minute.

I’ve heard of speed dating, but 4 seconds to eliminate someone from your sphere on the basis of what–their hair style? The color of their T-shirt? The fact that they are wearing a T-shirt rather than a suit? Their pork pie hat? Their dog’s pork pie hat? That seems insane.

I don’t need to explain how the Tinder app works for most of you millennials, but for those of you who are either old and married, or old and single and more inclined to the speed of speed dating, or are less familiar with the bells and whistles on the mini computer you carry  in your pockets, here’s how I understand it works. (Hyper-speed daters, please feel  free to correct me if I have got it wrong.)

You sign up. You create a profile saying what it is you are looking for in a date. You start playing. Presumably it sorts your audience into the opposite gender, and by age and race. Hmmm. I wonder if there is an LGBT Tinder app? Nope. I just looked. You can thank me later for the idea. You can call it Glinder. That might be particularly challenging – the sorting function, I mean.

Tinder App

Anyway. Ready to play? You begin to see the faces of your potential dates on the screen, and according to the direction you swipe their pictures, to the left for no, to the right for yes,  you determine if they have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting to talk to you or date you or…not.

This is extremely entertaining to those of us with our single colleague’s best interests in mind, and discussion ensues about the cuter guys who flit across the screen. It is actually much more entertaining for me  to watch their faces as they swipe. Unified wide eyes and open mouths gasping or chortling as an arrogant-looking man’s face pops up on the screen. There is a lot of  armchair quarterbacking going on here. These women know what they want in a man for their friend. 95% of the swipes are to the negative side. Those people are lost in the tinder abyss, never to resurface again. Even the ones you inadvertently swipe the wrong direction. Oh no! There went Mr. Right!

The 5% of possibles are debated. The phone is quickly passed across the table to the phone’s owner, who looks at the pictures (one is allowed to include several) and tersely adjudicates yes or no.The sorting continues. One fellow merited the phone pass and a yes, with permission given to swipe yes. About five minutes later, the player holding phone suddenly yelped and said “you got a match” whereupon, the owner of the phone authorized a chat with this fellow.

Wow did I feel  sympathy for this guy; he didn’t know what was coming with 8 women, the median age being about 45 (yes, I skewed the age up) assembling tinder texts by committee.

Cut to last night, when our son arrived home for his birthday weekend with his girlfriend, Whitney.

After a lovely steak dinner, we gathered in the living room to watch the Red Sox get trounced again by Seattle, where our guest was from. I tried to be gracious about that, but it was hard.

“So, how did you two meet?” I wanted the meet cute story directly from the two of them.

Chris laughed nervously and said,  “I’ve been waiting for that. Uh, we met through a dating app.”

“You met through Tinder?????!!!!!!” I practically shouted. I got so excited. Here was an anthropology experiment in progress and I could observe the after-effects of this dangerous dating app.

“Tell me everything,” I said, trying not to look too eager.

Chris is not the most linear story teller, but the gist of it goes something like this:

The two of them met on Tinder, and after chatting a bit by text message, Chris sharing a bunchabullshit with her about being a dolphin trainer (no, not a Miami Dolphin trainer, an actual porpoise professor), and, in spite of that, she suggested that they meet for a coffee.

He lives on a boat at Fisherman’s wharf, she in a studio apartment on Nob Hill, and so they chose to meet at Cafe Divine, in North Beach.

7849301 cafe_divine_exterior_2


Chris arrived first, walked into the cafe, looking around for the cute girl he had met on Tinder. He spotted her, the first girl he saw, but, wait….she was about 15 and sitting with her parents. What?????!!!

When Chris told this part of the story, he looked physically ill, his eyes widened, and he gulped incredulously at this un-intended match up. He shook his head, continuing to scan the place, not seeing anyone else who resembled his match.

“I need a beer,” he thought, and in his confusion, marched over to the counter and ordered a beer.

Whitney picked up the story now.

“After we had talked a while on Tinder,” she said, her face lit with the same kind of affectionate forgiveness that I frequently sport, ” we decided to meet for a coffee. I walked in for the coffee, and Chris was there with a beer in his hand. I decided to have a beer instead, and we ended up talking until the place closed.”

“Did you tell her what happened when you walked into the restaurant? That you thought the 15-year-old was her?”

“Of course,”  he laughed, laying his hand  on Whitney’s knee. She laughed. We all turned back to the game.

Here they were sitting in our living room, happy as clams, having found each other through a 4 second encounter on their smart phones. Dang it, if that isn’t enough to make me a convert to technology, I don’t know what is.

GoPro Smart Not Stupid – digital birthday card….

Image of Ink Painting by Irene Neal

Chris, you are turning 25 today. Happy Birthday, son. You have always been a taker of risks, a free spirit, someone who is willing to try anything, no matter how challenging the idea is. Your Dad and I love that about you.

(Recently, when we were talking on the phone, you mentioned that you wished you had a GoPro camera to record the fishing trips you have gone on with the captain of my brother’s boat.)

Fishermen are colorful. Your fishermen are particularly colorful. Your stories as recounted via our running  three year long text message conversation are astonishing in the extremes of drunkenness, and idiocy that some of your colleagues exhibit.

Your last captain, ignominiously named after a farm animal asked you to be his IT Manager and organize an account for him on Ashley Madison, a social media site geared at married people seeking extra-marital liaisons. Honestly, son, you have way more good writing material  than anyone I know.

It was with some trepidation that we purchased the Go Pro camera for your 25th birthday. I could easily see you failing to respect the privacy boundaries of someone on the street, or, because you have the GoPro strapped to your head, feeling the need to do something wild to capture it on camera. Here are my top ten instructions for you, Chris, for using your new birthday present.

1) Do not get arrested. I will not bail you out if you get arrested for something stupid related to your GoPro Camera.

2) Please don’t  get beaten up.

3) Don’t go all Scorsese when you have been drinking. Nothing good will come of that, and whatever happens will then be evidence for the police to prosecute you.

4) By all means avoid recording other people who have been drinking. The person you are filming who is drunk may get physical and given your track record, will most likely hurt you.

5) Do not get arrested.  Oh, I guess I already said that one.

6) Use your new camera to make beautiful things – beautiful movies, not movies of the rats on the dumpsters (though that might be useful in getting the port to clean up the area)

7) Do not use the camera while you are driving. If you think a cell phone is distracting….or infuriating to others around you…

8) If you do get arrested, do not try to talk your way out of anything. Keep your damn mouth shut.  And turn the camera off. This is not the time to argue  or try to film the police.

9) Keep the camera at least waist high – have you watched the news lately? Men have been arrested and prosecuted for looking under women’s skirts – even if that’s not what you are trying to film, it will look that way to the people who arrest you. See 1 and 5 above.

10) I think you may be the next Huell Howser in the vlogging world. Showing us the dark, menacing and insanely comic underbelly of the world in which you reside. Be a risk taker. But be a judicious risk taker.

I think that just about covers it. We love you and just stay out of the newspaper on your birthday, okay?

Emergency Kitchen Remodel!

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am rarely as happy as when I am having work done. Most women my age who would make that kind of statement might be referring to cosmetic surgery.  But those who know me know  that that isn’t about to happen. Not here.

For me, the cosmetic changes I thrive on are home repairs.

And so, last week, when I got the garbage disposal replaced in our condo, it was a good day.

Two days later, when I turned on the disposal and green water came up through both sinks, I felt outrage at a job poorly done. I got on the phone and, indignation simmering in my heart, I dialed the contractor and told him what had happened.

My husband and I were on our way out for the evening to the theatre; it was Saturday night, so I knew there was really no resolution in sight until Monday. This meant, of course, that the full dishwasher sat for two days, and I was unable to cook in the kitchen. Drat! We’ll have to eat out, I told him. Off we went to CPK.

On Monday morning, the contractor came out and after laying his plunger in the sink, and showing me the dripping pipe under the sink, explained to me that the pipe leading to the drain was bad and would need to be replaced.

Living in a condo and being on the 11th floor, I felt like we had just won the lottery – that the pipe hadn’t burst while the dishwasher was running and flooded our downstairs neighbors’ apartment.

And that’s when I got happy.

“Wait,” I said. “While we’re in there, what would it take to replace these 30-year-old tiles on the counter top? And the sink?” And just like that I was entering my happy renovator mode.

In our old house in Van  Nuys, I had envisioned, planned, and realized a complete remodel of the kitchen. The process took about 6 weeks, during which time we relocated the refrigerator and microwave to another room in the house and camped out. That part was brutal and horrible, but the final results were magnificent.

This time, the contractor left me the countertop samples that night, I picked the granite with a little help from my FB friends, and then shopped for backsplash tiles at Home Depot by text message with my friend Michael.

IMG_2619“Here’s what the granite looks like. Stay tuned for tile choices,” I texted him. Then, without even a response back, I proceeded to bombard him with some of the ugliest tile pictures known to man.




IMG_2626 IMG_2627Diplomatically, he texted me back “keep it simple.” I moved on to different choices, finally electing a small tan subway mosaic tile, and a pretty border IMG_2630of tan and brown tiles. This after a few more back and forths with Michael about texture, color, etc. 

Tuesday, they replaced the pipe, allowing me to run the dishwasher and restore temporary order to the kitchen.
Wednesday, they demoed the counters in the kitchen and ripped out the sink and disposal. By the time I got home at 4:30, they were just screwing down the plywood for the new counter tops.

IMG_2634Tomorrow, they will install the granite and the tile backsplash and by the time my husband and I get home from work, we should have a new kitchen. Granted this is a smaller project than the one in Van Nuys, but I’m thinking I might just have found the contractor to do the guest bath…. Happy Dance in the new kitchen!

Rats! They Did It Again!

Chris has always thrived against adversity. Not just thrived against it, but most of the time actually sought it out. In addition to being an apparent chick magnet (you may have read about his episode in Barcelona with the stripper from Essex),  of late, he has had extremely bad luck with of all things, rodents.

Last November, my husband and I  purchased a new-to-me-but-used car and we gave Chris our old 2006 Honda civic hybrid so that he would be able to drive back and forth from SF to LA to see us. Off he drove, up the 5 to SF, where he parked the car near the pier;  he lives there on my brother’s fishing boat, The Autumn Gale.

Because he was working during  crab season, Chris didn’t use the car very much. But when he tried to drive over to my brother’s house on Superbowl Sunday, the car slowed down and he had to pull over to the side of the road, where he called AAA to come get him. They towed him  to the  repair shop.

The technicians opened the front hood and discovered that rats had invaded the car and had eaten just about every hose and wire under the hood. Chris called Judy, our State Farm agent  (insurance agents know where all the bodies are buried)  and $3,800.00 later, Chris was able to drive down to see us again in LA. Plug for good old State Farm. But wait – it gets better.

Cut to two months later; Chris has been salmon fishing  in Fort Bragg, for about 6 weeks. When he returned to the wharf, exhausted from the trip and  glad to get home, he went to get his car so he could drive to his girlfriend’s house. The car wouldn’t start. He called me first,  then AAA again, and the same guy who towed him to the Honda dealer the last time showed up again, towed him to Honda.

He told the Honda folks what had happened, and the technician went to look at the car. Chris said he returned a few minutes later, sweating and visibly shakened. “I can’t work on the car,” he said.

“Why?” Chris asked.

“Because there are rats still in the car!” Apparently a really big one had jumped out when the technician opened the hood of the car. Chris now learned that they have some special hot sauce they can put on the wires in your car to keep rats from chewing the wires.

“Why am I only hearing about this now, the second time I’m here?” Chris quite reasonably asked.

Chris says that if you go shine a light on the dumpsters near the wharf at night you will see a steady stream of foot long rats climbing out of the dumpsters and pouring down the side. Blech and retch.

He called Judy’s office again and sure enough, “State Farm is there” for him again. He plans on bringing his car home and parking it in LA for a while while they work on trying to bring the rats to the Port’s attention.  The moral of the story – don’t buy a monthly pass at a parking lot near Fisherman’s Wharf or you may get more than you bargained for. Oh yes, and get a State Farm auto policy.



reasons to be pretty (with apologies to neil labute)

This has been an exciting week – full of visitations from my teenage self in the midst of my current grown-up life. On Wednesday, one of my friends with whom I attended both boarding school and college came to visit me at work, with two poised, articulate, artistically inclined daughters in tow. Her younger daughter is looking at colleges, and her older daughter attends one, back on the east coast. But both are creatures after my heart, theatrically scalloped, with strong outside interests in history, english lit, and languages. My friend and her husband have done very well, obviously. They are confident, affectionate with their mom, and excited about their learning paths and lives – sponges about everything that surrounds them. Well done, Holly!

We met on campus in my office, currently without an A/C unit, the previous one having died a loud and horrible death, and we walked together to the center of campus to the Tudor Campus Center, where we had lunch out in what I want to call the piazza, in front of the campus center – I swear that if I were to take more advantage of that space, I would never be stressed out, because a half hour sitting under an umbrella there takes me back to sipping un cappuccio in Campo Santo Stefano in Venice. 


Well, almost.

 But with Holly and the girls, it was as close to that state of blissful youth as I am likely to encounter at my job site.

But first, a wonderful thing happened, that I promise will eventually tie back into Neil LaBute.

I was chatting with one of my professorial colleagues, there in the hopefully temporary swelter of my upstairs office, when she turned her head and began beaming at the airspace outside my door. I could hear the steps of several people coming up, and sure enough, it was Holly and her girls coming up the stairs. Introductions were made and then we left my colleague there and went to our lunch.IMG_4028

Later, after having left Holly and the girls to take a tour of the program, I came back, and my colleague said to me – “Your friend is lovely. She walked up those stairs beaming at me even though she didn’t know me from Adam and it would have been a great example for one of my students to see about how to be in the world.” People really do like to see a pleasant person coming toward them. Opportunities will open for someone who brings light with them into the room.

You know that, right? Another of my colleagues (I work with amazing people) once put the converse principle even more succinctly. “You don’t want to be one of those people who people see coming toward them and they duck away from or try to avoid them.” And no, I don’t. So it was especially nice to have Mary Joan see that Holly is such a light bearer. As she herself is. Maybe most of us tend to gravitate toward those types of people.

IMG_2601 Later that evening, as I sat and watched four distinctly not-light-bearing characters on stage in “reasons to be pretty” at the Geffen Playhouse, I struggled to embrace the play. After all, I like to be challenged when I go to the theatre, right? I thought it was extremely well-acted. The setting was beautifully realized by Takeshi Kata, another of my colleagues at USC. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the show by talking too much about it – suffice it to say that Tak accomplished a lot with what was ostensibly quite simple at the beginning of the show. Endlessly unfolding into new scenes, each more expertly arrived at than the last. The lighting was lovely, the sound terrific, the costumes perfect. The direction was bold, as was required by the script. These were no shrinking violets on stage. They were each frankly, terrifying in two or three distinctly fascinating ways.

But I didn’t like any of them. And my take away was that the reasons to be pretty are that if you aren’t, things can go pretty badly for you. And it is possible to say nice things to the people around us and god knows we should because time moves apace and you can lose everything if you don’t. And it isn’t the outside, transient things that matter, but how we treat each other as we pass through this world.

I’m sorry, Neil LaBute – I think, just on the basis of seeing several of your plays, that you have had a life filled with very dark-souled people. You are an artist – a powerful one at that. Please forgive me if I have difficulty living within your dramatic world. There is so much darkness in the world that if I have a choice, and I think I do, to minimize the darkness in my life to the extent that I am able, I will choose light-bearing over not. I guess probably that’s exactly what I am supposed to take away.