July 29, 2010


I'm baaaack.  Actually, I've been back home for about a week and a half.  One thing I like about vacation is unplugging, literally. I logged onto the internet maybe once  in the 10 days that we were gone, and rejoiced in how Facebook completely fell off my personal radar. (I guess it goes without saying that a soul as conflicted as mine feels totally conflicted about the wonder evil that is Facebook.)  

So I've been lying low and being very lazy, living in both denial and increasing anticipation of the fact that the kids will start back to school in less than 2 weeks. Crazy!  A 9 week summer vacation isn't at all the 3-month season that I had as a kid.  We were out of school mid-June and didn't return until after Labor Day.   And we liked it that way, sonny! 

I took the photo above at a rinky-dink little amusement park called Oaks Park, located a little southeast of Portland, Oregon.  It's very retro, in a boardwalk/carnival sort of way. It even has a roller rink!  My children loved it.  I loved that my 5-year-old son, who can be a bit of a nervous nelly, mustered up the guts to ride on the kiddie roller-coaster with me -- and then rode another 4 times with his big sister. Such joy on his face! 

I also loved that when I was standing there, taking the above shot of the colorful "Rock & Roll" spinny ride, the PA system was blaring Manfred Mann's version of "Blinded By the Light." Something about that song just sorta screams 70s summertime to me, and it was a good moment. 

We were in the Portland area for 6 days, visiting my in-laws. My in-laws fled the arid high desert of Southern California for green, drippy rural Oregon about 20 years ago (before I was on the scene) and they seem to love it.  As for me, I like Portland plenty -- especially the miracle that is Powell's bookstore, where I got to spend a couple of glorious hours alone one evening -- but I doubt I could take the weather for too long.   I will probably always live in California, and if not, I would still opt to move somewhere in the southwest or south -- something in me just drifts that direction, as opposed to the chilly and bundled up north.  Give me my palm trees!  

This final week and a half before school will be a weird combo of lazy and ambitious: sometimes staying in our PJs until noon, sometimes me taking 2 kids alone to the beach, the local pool, the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  Double scoops of ice cream still need to be consumed!  Same for peanut butter sandwiches, eaten with grains of sand crunching in our mouths at a beach picnic.  

As for Cherry Icee induced brain freezes? 

July 8, 2010

The Unlikely Bonfire

The world is such a wonderful, weird place. Ditto that, for the internet.  Without this old world, and the still-new internet, I would not have found myself at Ocean Beach two weeks ago, with someone I'd assumed I would never meet. 

The person I got to meet was sweet Jenn Mattern, of the blog Breed 'Em and Weep.  I've been reading Jenn for oh, around three years now, when I found her blog. I started reading her because at that time, she was writing a lot about the ghosts in her old house. Which I found both fun and creepy, and reading her late at night would sometimes give me the willies.  (I'm a big fan of the concept of ghosts and the paranormal from way, way back. Remember "In Search Of.." narrated by Leonard Nimoy? Like, almost the best. show. ever. Right up there with Emergency! And, as if right on genetic cue, the Monkey Girl is suddenly fascinated with ghosts and aliens and "weird stuff" too.) 

I digress. Anyway: I had just assumed I'd never meet Jenn, that she'd only ever exist for me as a voice out there in Blogland, because Jenn is from way back yonder over in Massachusets, and I'm way over here in Southern California.  Also, when Jenn writes about the places she imagines herself, it's clear that she fancies some cold, remote, windswept kind of life.  Iceland and Newfoundland? She's so there. 

However, thanks to the vagaries of life and the wonders of the internet, Jenn had the opportunity to spend her 40th birthday not in Iceland, as she'd long planned, but in a rather stunning turn of events, right down south in sunny, ever-pleasant San  Diego. Even more of stunner, she celebrated her actual birthday with a hot-air balloon tour right here in the wine country region of my own little 'burb. You can see her, here. Doesn't she look all happy and glowy? 

Suffice it to say, Jenn has had a bit of a rough time lately, lately being the last couple of years: divorce, dying pets, mental illness and mean commenters, to name just a few.  Much of her deepest and darkest emotions have been bravely and beautifully written about on her blog, and I admit that sometimes, during her most challenging, darkest days, I would click on her link and wince a little, afraid for her and her smart young girls, dreading some awful note from her mother, or some new twist of the knife dealt by the Fates.

So when Jenn sent out an open invitation for anyone in the San Diego area to join her at a celebratory Birthday Bonfire at Ocean Beach, I was quick to say: I'm so there!

And here we are:
How typical: West Coast in bright pink, East Coast in black.

There were s'mores, and contraband champagne drunk from the back of a car. There was much talk, talk, talking, and delight (on my part) to see Jenn in person, to see how lively and animated she is, and also, how very, very awed she was on this evening:  by the Pacific, by the concept of "the West," specifically SoCal, and  mostly so awed at the magical hands of fate, and our own industrious, creative hands out here on the interwebs, that made the whole night happen at all.  

Thank you, interwebs! And thanks to my friend Becky who was quick to agree to accompany me on an evening bonfire meet-up with a whole passle of strangers. Thanks to Jenn, and Ed, and all the other bloggers and friends who were gathered 'round the fire on that evening. 
I'm heading out myself for a while here. Back later in the month, with tales of summer adventures to share. 

July 6, 2010

F.U., Lakehouse!

If you spend enough time on the net  (which you DO, because you found ME) you've probably heard of the hilarious blog, F.U. Penguin (actually, Fuck You, Penguin), where the site host writes mean, taunting dispatches to adorable, fuzzy, and/or just weird-looking members of the animal kingdom.  (Or as the subtitle says: "A blog where I tell cute animals what's what.")  The blog seems to be on a bit of a hiatus, but the owner did get a book out of the whole enterprise. (I saw it on the table at B&N this holiday season and spent several minutes flipping through and giggling out loud.  Here is a primo sample post.

So anyhow, I was bumbling around the 'net in my usual parenting-avoidance state the other day, and stumbled on the first picture below, of that perfect bed.  And I clicked on it, which led to the Flickr set of a whole buncha related photos from this pristine, unbelievable lakehouse in the Adirondacks. The Adirondacks! A whole style of summer outdoor chair from a mountain range, which about sums up the history and mystique of the area.
Just look at that bed, that little nook of a room.  The quilt, the pillows, the white iron bed. The vintage mirror, the lighting sconces, the paned window. That yellow floral comforter that I love so much, I want to eat it.   When I saw the bed, I didn't know where or what that window might look out on, but poking around on the Flickr set led me to the whole house.

Which is where I encountered other pictures of the same house, with this kind of idyllic crap:
A hammock. In a sunporch.  Not just any hammock -- look at the sweet and vintage-y cover.  Not just any sunporch, for look at that 180-degree view of the lake.  I have never slept or spent any significant time in a sunporch.  Ditto for the concept of hanging out a hammock, with or without a juicy novel, or a cute boy, or a sweating glass of icy sun tea or whatever the hell you're supposed to have with you in a hammock. Two of my most favorite words, in one dreamy place. This was just about when The Uglies kicked in.  That's the only good name I have for the wash of vile green envy and pure, degrading lust that flows over me when I see certain houses, certain glimpses into a way of life that are real enough, but completely foreign and pretty much unattainable to the lowly likes of me.

Hence, my post title. Please take it in the same spirit of the more famous blog I'm copying.  This is too adorable, too perfect, too hard to believe that it exists alongside us all on God's green earth. In short: Fuck you, lakehouse!
Here's the exterior of the house.  Green, green trees, green water (me, green with envy).  Imagine waking in the fresh morning, walking down to the deck with a cup of hot coffee.  Listening to and watching the birds, the water lapping soft against the pilings. 
In the attic bedroom with the window view out to the lake, the children will sleep in late every single morning, exhausted by the sun and swimming and late nights. The girl Monkey gets the pink-painted bed on the left; Monkey boy gets the green.
The Monkeys especially won't be waking in the middle the night to disturb their 2 parents, especially since mom was up late again, reading one of the books conveniently shelved on her side of the bed.  (Also? Mom might well be sleeping alone in that Perfect Bedroom up top, hogging the bed all to herself.)

If I had found this house in a magazine, like Cottage Living or such, I don't think my envy would have kicked in so strongly. After all, one expects such perfection in a styled magazine spread. But to stumble upon it on Flickr, sitting there all innocent-like for anyone to find -- or not -- made it all the more unbelievable, at least for me.

It makes me feel somewhat better to know that this house isn't lived in full-time by one extremely lucky family. Instead, it's listed as a weekly rental  for anyone to have -- anyone who can ante up $1700 a week.  That price, plus the airfare it would cost my family of 4 to haul ourselves that far back east, probably makes this an unlikely destination for us.  Still, one can dream. 

And in the meantime? You there, lovely lake in the Adirondacks providing the perfect setting for the perfect lakehouse?
Yeah, fuck you, too. And just so you know? I have a lake in my town! And just because it's a man-made little pond surrounded by cheaply made, cookie-cutter faux-Cape Cods here in this arid suburban sprawl, and just because the city closes it down at dusk, doesn't make it any less.....
Wet. So there.

All photos courtesy of here, where you can also find rental information for your own Perfect Lakeside Summer. 
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