Archives for July 2008

Shake it up baby

My son Sam has always been kind of flamboyant. OK, not “kind of.” But today he arranged the most spectacular event. And who would have suspected?

As I mentioned, he and his wife went out of town (or so they said) yesterday, and this morning, as I sat in this very seat, the entire city of Los Angeles shook. Now this wasn’t a gentle rocking, like I had felt in Jerusalem about 12 or 13 years ago- this was a shake with the place we are staying moving side to side and up and down in a pretty uncoordinated way. For a long time– the mirror on the wall and the wand to close the blind must have still been swaying a couple of minutes after the shaking stopped.

It reminded me of something that happened about 30-some years ago… We were on a bus in the city of Worms, Germany, and the bus driver got too close to the side of the road and scratched the windows of the bus along a sign. Suddenly there was a hush in the bus and a little voice, Sam’s, that said, “At least I didn’t do it.”

I’m thinking he’s going to say the same thing this time. Like that time, I think I’ll believe him.

Was it something I said?

I don’t mean to be paranoid. Really. But let’s look at what happened:

I arrrived in LA to spend time with my son and his family. His wife’s parents and sister have graciously hosted us. Until yesterday. When my daughter-in-law’s parents left for a three day vacation. And this morning, when my son and his wife flew off to Las Vegas for a quick get-away.
Yesterday, we went with my son and his wife and their children to the museum of natural history. We had a great time seeing the animals- African and North American and a dinosaur skeleton that was being restored and some lovely snakes and spiders and other creepy crawlies. After that we went to an ice skating rink where the children had a great time! Many of them skated with little walkers that helped them keep their balance.

Today we went to the sight most yearned for by Americans transplanted to Israel: Target. Yes, it was fun. We even spent a little money there. We bought another bag to transport our goodies in. Then we had lunch (fish) and cashed the rest of the US Savings Bonds we had brought and then went to The Grove, a lovely outdoor shopping area where we wandered around, enjoyed the scenery and marvelled at the amount of money people were spending on the American Girl dolls and all of the clothes and accessories that go with them. We saw one of the dolls set up to look as if she were ironing. I couldn’t help thinking that her owner *should* have the money to buy her a housekeeper.

My husband says I should mention that I displayed great self-control by passing up a blouse that had been reduced from $1800 to a mere $700.

Walking through the Grove, we heard nice music and watched the dancing waters of the fountain that were coordinated with the music. It was a bright and sunny day.

Tomorrow: Our last day in LA

LA LA Land

Our rides through LA on the way to and from my husband’s cousin’s home were really fascinating. we had heard many of the names of roads we drove and roads we passed, of places in the area, of sections of the city, but we were able to put a picture with the name now.

A picnic with the youngest twins (my older daughter has twins and my middle son and his wife have two sets of twins!) in the park was a perfect way to spend a relaxing Friday noon.

Shabbat was lovely– with kind people to talk to and nothing for me to prepare or clean up.

Not much to write… must be that laid-back California feeling is finally getting to me.

“It’s always nice to come home to family! ”

My friend Sandy sent this title as a comment on a recent post. And it is so very true. Despite the fact that we have been having a wonderful vacation and lots of adventures, the very best part of it so far was returning to see my son and his family and my daughter and her two sons. What happiness it is to be in the arms of the people you love!

On Wednesday, when we went to Universal Studios, I enjoyed the free time to talk with my daughter and have some of that mother/daughter time that we lack because she is busy taking care of her own active family and working. It was nice to walk together and to talk about nothing in particular, but just enjoy being together. It was wonderful to see my husband with our daughter and our grandsons enjoying his birthday in such a festive atmosphere. I loved being able to give my grandsons hugs and I was captivated by the smiles of my youngest grandson, now four months old and completely happy all day long! Last night, I enjoyed hearing my son’s stories about the cruise he was on while we were in Alaska. He surely does know how to have adventures! I loved watching him cuddle his older daughter as he sat and talked with us. And I loved talking with another son via Skype this morning. It was so good to hear his voice and to be able to exchange thoughts and ideas.

I suppose this is the reward that some of us parents are lucky enough to get for all of those endless days when we wondered if all of the work and all of the emotional investment would ever be worth it. It was worth it. Every second. It was SO worth it.

And so it is in this context I want to talk about yesterday.

After spending a lovely morning with a lot of the people I have mentioned, we set off to see my husband’s cousin. They are first cousins who last saw each other over 50 years ago!!! For a long time, they were out of contact, but in recent years, through the wonder of email, they reconnected. Although I had never met him or his wife, I felt as if I were seeing family. They were warm and kind and open and friendly and totally delightful despite his being an author of several well-known books and the winner of an Oscar for a screenplay he wrote and her also being an author, well known in her native country. As I watched the two men walking side by side on a sinlit, wind-swept cliff overlooking the Pacific, I was touched by the poignance of older and younger cousin reconnecting and sharing memories and information with each other and each of them finding missing pieces of themselves in the other. Maybe that’s what relating is families is really all about. Maybe when we connect deeply with our family, we are finding pieces of ourselves in them and they in us and all of us are becoming more whole.

As I embraced his wife, I couldn’t help feeling that I would soon be leaving something very precious behind. But I will always treasure the day.

Postcard from L.A.*

** See update at bottom

On our last morning in Seattle, we set out for the Cambodian museum. I had found their web page and was very interested in going and learning more about Cambodia and the Cambodian people. We traveled about 45 minutes, got exactly to the location, and were told that the museum had moved to the Chinese Museum in town. Thirty minutes later we entered the Chinese Museum. It was dedicated to the immigrant experience of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other Asian people who settled in Seattle. The museum was housed on the site of a hotel that was the first home to many of these immigrants and had opened nearly a century ago. It was well-preserved and the guided tour highlighted the poignance of the immigrant experience, one that felt very familiar as I have come to know the history of my own family and how they established themselves in the US. It was an interesting place to visit, but not at all what we would have chosen, nor what we had anticipated. Oh, and a few items from the Cambodian Museum will go on display sometime in the fall.

We flew to Los Angeles, went to pick up our rental car, and found that we could choose a minivan for the same money. We did.

When finally we got to the home of our daughter-in-law’s parents, we were greeted by all of the grandchildren present and by our son and daughter. It was a very very happy homecoming.

This morning, my daughter and I went to Target. Now that doesn’t sound so surprising, but it was the first Target I was in on this trip. I didn’t need anything, but I didn’t think they would let me out of America if I hadn’t had at least one look at it. Impressive. But not worth moving for.

We spent the rest of the day with my daughter and her 12 year old son and her 4 month old son at Universal Studios. It was an enjoyable day. We saw and did a lot of fun things. At 5 p.m., my son’s 12 year old and 10 year old sons joined us. They had been there also with their camp, but when the other campers went home, they stayed on with us. The three big boys really enjoyed spending time together and enjoyed the experiences they had at the park. The minivan came in handy!!

When we returned (at about 9:30) a big and delicious spaghetti dinner was waiting for us. it was a good day… and a wonderful way to spend my husband’s birthday!!!!

* My favorite Joshua Kadison song
** triLcat writes: the song is called “Picture Postcards From LA”

Speechless in Seattle

This is the second time I am writing this. The first time, my explorer crashed and took all of my words of wisdom with it. I suppose it is only poetic justice since I was ruminating about the suitcase I had bought in China last summer that is slowly regaining its former state of volcanic ash. Suffice it to say, that if I lose it, I will ask those looking for it to look for a large rectangular cube of duct tape.

We arrived in Seattle on Sunday morning and drove into town. We parked near the city hall and walked to Pioneer Square, the oldest part of Seattle (settled in about 1852). We then walked north, parallel to the water (Elliot Bay), through the market, and then toward the Space Needle. The Seattle Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and until now, it continues to bring in profits. Actually, the whole area around it is parks and museums (the science museum and the science fiction museum) and fairgrounds and amusement park. The view from the top is spectacular as Seattle is all water and trees as far as the eye can see with that exquisite Mount Rainier in the background, like a floating apparition.

We eventually made it back to the car and finally arrived at the home of friends of our son and daughter-in-law. The view from the front of their home is not to be believed– Mount Rainier and a beautiful lake! (It’s why I am Speechless in Seattle.) This couple is warm and hospitable beyond anything I could have imagined. They have two bright and adorable children.

This morning we went for a walk around a peninsula that juts into the lake just a couple of blocks away. The walk, we are told, is about 2.5 miles, but it was so beautiful that it seemed to be over very quickly.

Later, we went to a Japanese Garden. We had been curious as to what a Japanese garden would look like because we understood that they were quite different from Chinese gardens. Now we understand a lot better. Japanese gardens are very green and very disciplined. Chinese gardens are wilder, contain oddly shaped rocks and representations of animals, and buildings. The garden we saw was very beautiful and it was quiet and calming.

We then went to the Boeing museum of flight. Despite the fact that we had limited time there, we enjoyed reading about and see pictures and films of the early days of flight, of some of the early planes that were built, of how the planes fared in the World War I– it all was fascinating.

To cap an almost perfect day, we went out to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, one that is under kosher supervision, downtown. The food was fantastic!

Tomorrow– on to Los Angeles!

p.s. I have added more pictures here

The cruise to Alaska

I was not able to use the internet from the ship so I kept a diary of our adventures and here it is:

Sunday, July 13
Help! I’m being held hostage in a place where only rich folks can use the internet. The cost for a minute is $.50 if you supply your own computer, however wireless is down which means that I can’t even write offline and then upload. If there is an internet cafe any place we stop, I will try to use it, but we will not be stopping now until Tuesday.

We flew on Virgin American Airlines and the plane was gorgeous. The lights on the sides were purple and there was beautiful purple plastic separating the sections. The crew was friendly and witty and very nice. However, when we pointed out that they had smashed my suitcase to smithereens, they said that way down in the arial .0001 font area of our contract, it said they had no responsibility for external damage to suitcases. We don’t know if my things will all make it to the room here on the ship, but it’s always a good idea to have some mystery going aboard these ships.

The Princess cruise line staff was wonderful and at the airport we went through most of the processing and then we whisked away onto a bus that took us to the harbor and that process was pretty well thought-out.

Although we opted for the least expensive cabin, it is really lovely and has a big king sized bed and even a TV (as if we were going to sit and watch it….but it’s nice to have.)

We enjoyed the salad that they served when we arrived and we also had some nice fruit. The ship is enormous! Huge! Gigantic! (Did I mention BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!) It’s also very beautifully designed. I think we’re going to have a good time.

p.s. The suitcase arrived with all of my clothing intact, but it’s pretty dead. And… we saw some incredible mountain tops that have snow, the most impressive of which is Mount Rainier, about 70 miles away from Seattle, which we could see from Seattle. Amazing!

Monday, July 14

Last night, Sunday night, we were treated to a comedy show that was as good as any comedy routine I’ve ever seen. We slept well to the gentle rocking of the boat.

This morning, we got up and went for breakfast. We sat with an interesting couple from Sacramento by the window and watched the sea go by. We did a bit of window shopping at the boutiques that are located on the ship. The ship has a three story atrium that has shops, a piano where often there is a player, and bars and sitting areas. There are a number of different dining rooms on the ship, some that require additional payment (there’s a special Italian dining room that serves a 17 course meal!) We are eating at three of the restaurants: for breakfast, we eat at the restaurant that is open 24 hours a day. They have a buffet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables all the time as well as packaged cereals, lox, juice, and of course, coffee and tea. For lunch and supper, we are in two different dining rooms both run by the same supervisor. He asks us a day in advance to order the main dish that we will want for lunch and supper and then they give us lettuce, tomato, and cucumber before the meal is heated and fresh fruit afterwards. The kosher meals come a a large variety and the meat has been good, the vegetables, not so much…

This evening was a formal evening and everyone was told to dress up. Most people did and there was an array of exquisitely dressed people. Among them were Asian women dressed elegantly and Indian women in gorgeous saris. One man was wearing a full kilt outfit!

The entertainment for the evening was a medley of songs from the movies accompanied by wonderful dancing. We are so far north that after the show, it was still bright and sunny outside. Sunset was at about 10:00 pm. We set our clocks back one hour so that tomorrow, when we land at Ketchican, we will be on Alaska time.

Tuesday, July 15

This morning we pulled into Ketchican. Ketchican is a beautiful little city, incredibly picturesque. As we walked along the street, we passed one jewelry store after the other, all of them selling special Alaskan gemstones. One is “Northern Lights” topaz, a grayish stone that reflects in all different colors, one is Ammonite, a rainbow colored gem, and one is Gold Nugget quartz which is a white highly polished stone with gold veins running through it.

All three are beautiful stones.

At one point, in one of the first jewelry stores, we were looking at something and talking about the price and I said to my husband in Hebrew, “I don’t really like it, so it doesn’t really matter.” The seller responded in Hebrew, “So maybe you’d like to see something else.” What a surprise! We spoke with him for a while. He was an Israeli working for the shop owner, a Jewish man originally from Florida- who we also met. He told us that the owner of another jewelry store down the street was Jewish. Later we saw a car with Israeli bumper stickers and still later, a sign in another store that said “Welcome” in Hebrew. At yet another store, the storekeeper with whom we talked called up a man who works for him, someone with a Hebrew name who speaks Hebrew. We thought it surprising that within a couple of hours, on a walk through ten or so blocks of the town, we had already discovered half a minyan– and this was in Ketchican, Alaska, a city of 13,000 people!

While there, we went up an inclined railway, we spoke to lots of people, and we took lots of pictures. We were lucky that the temperature was decent and that the weather was fair. We bought a lot of trinkets and returned to the boat happy.

The view from the deck was very lush and green as we sailed off in the direction of Tracy Arm, a Fiord.

Wednesday July 16

This morning, at about 6, I was on deck, experiencing the beauty of Tracy Arm, a fiord just south of Juneau. In addition to the tall mountains on both sides that are covered with tall trees, small pieces of the glacier that have broken off were floating on either side of the ship. It was, however, cold and windy. Still, it was worth it as you will see from the pictures.

When we arrived in Juneau, I was surprised to find that it was a small town! It looked as if the downtown area along the docks had been constructed last week for the four cruise ships that were docked there. Our guide on the bus tour we took, a native American Indian who has lived in Alaska his whole life, told us that in Juneau many people earn their entire year’s salary in the five months that the tourists come. Of course, in addition to tourism, there is salmon fishing and processing. The state capitol is in Juneau. But there is a movement to change it to Anchorage, Alaska’s most populous city. In fact, Juneau has been losing population in the last several years.

On our tour we traveled to a couple of places where we could take pictures of the scenery and then we went to the Mendenhall Glacier. It was spectacular! Although we had seen another glacier (even from close-up) this one was amazing.

Shopping in town was similar to shopping in Ketchican. In both places, there are coupons that we were given to use in the store as well as “specials” that get us into the store in the hopes that we will buy more. We have bought quite a few gifts and so it’s been fun. One of my purchases was nail polish that changes color in the sun (I bought a light pink that turns a deep rose). I can’t wait to try it out. I think the grandchildren will love it!

Thursday July 17

Today was spent in Skagway. Now this is a small town! They tell us that there are around 800 year round residents and a school with a graduating class of 6. They waited until the summer guides (mostly young people) showed up before they held the prom for those 6 graduates. Presumably there were about 120 people at the prom, most of them not dressed up, since the summer guides are used to wearing casual clothing. The town is about 7 blocks long and about 3 blocks wide,

While there, one of the sales people asked us where we were from and she told us that she loves to visit Israel and comes every year or two. She had been writing grants for an Israeli charity, but now she has friends and enjoys visiting. “Oh,” she said, “And by the way, I’m Jewish.” She said that the man who owned the international grocery down the block is Israeli. It might be said that the sun never sets on the Jewish empire…

We enjoyed walking around and seeing the local color, although it was cold outside and windy too. We returned to the ship for dinner and then saw a show that featured Broadway tunes. It was very well done.

Through the night, we were rocked by the boat in the somewhat wavy sea, but it had been very pleasant.

Friday & Saturday

We had two days at sea that were relaxing and fun. I can’t say we did much. We talked to some interesting people, we heard some lovely music– a string quartet, a rock-type band, and everything in between. The weather was a bit brighter as we traveled southward.

At about 5 this evening (Saturday) we docked in Victoria, British Columbia which looks very pretty and quaint from the deck. Although we were unable to see it, we had a nice time watching from afar and watching the two other cruise ships that came in just after us. It seems that there is much money to be made from cruise ships traveling to Alaska.

I have a few thoughts about cruise ships:

First: WOW! they are huge huge operations that seem to work like clockwork. We should have some cruise ship people running things like our energy companies and the United States. Things are coordinated. People are friendly and helpful as well as efficient and they seem to enjoy their jobs and working together.

Second: They are their own little world that gets recreated every week (or so) as the passengers change.

Third: The passengers all get along nicely. People are friendly and polite and patient. Our cruise had people who spoke many different languages and from many different ethnic groups. We had a very large number of Asian people. And everyone was polite and kind to each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world were like this?

Fourth: Our only news came from CNN. It is really true that CNN runs the same story for days until something more interesting comes along. Yuk. If I hear one more time about the New Yorker cartoon of Obama, I believe I will be sick. They should invest in new writers. Better yet, they should get a cruise director to reorganize their entire operation.

No comment

We are on the cruise, but unfortunately, the wireless is down and the computer time is outrageously expensive. I am keeping a diary, so I will have a full report after we finish the cruise.

We visited Ketchican today and it is very beautiful. Check it out on the web!

To Los Angeles

Friday morning I awoke with anticipation. After all, after two weeks of traveling across the US, we were finally only about 3 hours from Los Angeles!

Mapquest instructions in hand, we set off from Indio (just outside of Palm Springs). As we approached Palm Springs, we saw the largest (by far) wind farm we had ever seen. There were 4000 (yes, really!) windmills!!!!

We drove past all sorts of places whose names we had heard many times, but we had never seen. The directions were very good and we had no trouble finding the home of our daughter-in-law’s parents.

What a joy it was to see all of the incredibly wonderful grandchildren! Each, in his or her own way, related to us so very nicely and spending shabbat with everyone was simply delightful. This area of Los Angeles is very beautiful. I loved walking on the street and looking at the beautiful homes and the gorgeous landscaping around them. It was pleasantly warm, but not oppressively hot– which was a real treat after days of triple digit heat.

Early early this morning (it’s already after 1 a.m.) we leave for the airport to fly off to Seattle where we will be taking a one week cruise to Alaska! (No triple digit temperatures there!)

Stay tuned

Some like it hot

Some, perhaps. But I am not among them. A drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles, through the desert on Interstate 10 in the heat is not all that much fun. At one point the temperature outside plunged to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. For most of the time, the temperature was in the 100-105 range. Although the car is air conditioned and we had cold water and cold cokes with us, the drive was hot and difficult. Fortunately, my husband was driving because I immediately responded to the heat by getting enormously tired and could barely keep my eyes open. The winds were so high that we couldn’t even eat at the rest stop as the lettuce pieces began taking flight from our salad.

For that reason, we stopped early and are in a comfortable room in a motel near Palm Springs. Tomorrow, we are planning to go to Los Angeles! I can hardly wait to see my daughter-in-law and my six precious grandchildren who are there for the summer and getting to spend some time with them. Then we’ll feel as if we’ve really arrived!