Saturday, January 30, 2010

But I'm not

Things I should be doing right now:

Cleaning the bathrooms
Cleaning the kitchen
Cleaning things in general
Teaching G to do something useful
Making beds
Vacuuming
Laundry
Calling my grandmother
Grocery shopping
Taking G out to spend her birthday money
Exercising
Removing my chipped nail polish
Organizing closets
Learning a foreign language
Walking in the park
Making G turn off the Wii and get dressed
Sorting through the Leaning Tower of Mail
Finishing the book I'm reading
Writing a book of my own
Calling to complain about the increase in my AmEx interest rate
Trimming the cats' nails
Unloading the dishwasher
Getting my hair cut
Working for world peace
Becoming omniscient
Evolving into a higher life form

Sunday, January 24, 2010

No one can say she's not honest

G: Go downstairs and get me the TV remote.
Me: Go downstairs and get it yourself.
G: I can't.
Me: Why not?
G: I'm lazy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not what I had in mind

Except for a few good days, this year has sucked donkey balls so far.

I want a do-over.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Her Majesty the Queen

Some photos from this weekend's trip to the Queen Mary.







In a part of the country that has 274 days of sunshine a year, you might wonder how we always manage to pick the non-sunny days for these excursions. So do we.













Pretty much all the corridors looked as if they ought to have a ghost or a floating candelabra or something at the end.













Our stateroom was about three times bigger and ten times more posh than the one we had on a Royal Caribbean cruise a few years ago. But when you consider how stinking rich the original passengers on the Queen Mary would have been (our tour guide said that a first-class ticket in the 1930s cost $1,000, or roughly the price of a house), it makes sense.













Water options in our shower: hot salt, cold salt, hot fresh and cold fresh. Why anyone would want a hot saltwater shower is beyond me, but people liked strange things in the past.










The supposedly haunted nursery.













Queen Mary herself.










Instruments in the wheelhouse. It was raining during our tour and we got soaked on the way up here, adding to the authentic crossing-the-Atlantic experience.













Our tour guide outside the first-class swimming pool, supposedly the most haunted location on board. I'm not easily frightened, but this was one of the creepiest places I've ever been. I couldn't get a photo inside because there wasn't enough light (they all came out black), but imagine a massive vaulted room the size of a high-school gym, almost completely dark, and full of shadows and echoes and whispers. It was divided into two levels: a second-floor gallery, where we stood looking down, and a lower level with the drained pool sunk deep into its floor. At the opposite end of the room from us were a pair of staircases that came from left and right and merged into one grand central staircase (picture the sort of thing ladies walked down in the old Busby Berkeley films, and you'll have it), and to either side of those were dark openings leading off into unknown territory. Everything smelled of ancient chemicals and saltwater and damp, and you were afraid to raise your voice above a whisper.

The ceiling was tiled with thousands of shimmering milky quartz pieces, which, according to our tour guide, have been identified by psychics as the substance that absorbs spiritual energy and leads to all the haunting. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but I can tell you that the place freaked me right the hell out. The guide played the ghost angle up a bit by suddenly stopping his spiel and saying "I thought I just heard something over there," but he really didn't need to, because it was more than spooky enough all on its own. I actually did hear a noise at one point - like a single, hollow clap coming from the far side of the room - but neither he nor anyone else commented on that one. G was nervous and stuck very close to me, but it didn't stop her from recording the whole thing on her flip cam; will have to see if I can upload it to YouTube later.










View from our room's porthole around midnight. The portholes actually opened (I stuck the camera through to take this photo) which seemed really dangerous given the number of drunk people on the ship. They must have lots of insurance.










The same view at dawn. The reason I was awake to take this photo was because I had woken up abruptly at about six a.m. At G's request, I had left a few lights on when we went to bed, and as I was lying there, trying to go back to sleep, all of them abruptly went out, plunging the room into near darkness. I waited, and after about five minutes, the lights came back on, and I got up and went to look out the porthole. The city lights looked so pretty through the soft blue-grey mist that I decided I needed a picture, and here it is. (No, I don't think ghosts turned off the lights. I think the rain and wind outside knocked something offline for a few minutes. It gave me a shock, though.)

Anyway, we checked out around eleven o'clock this morning, bought a few souvenirs in the shops on the Promenade Deck, and then came home. G says she had a great time and is glad she chose this for her birthday - sounds like a success to me!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Partying with the spirits

For the first time ever this year, G did not want a birthday party. Her birthdays have gotten smaller over the last couple of years, from big kid-style parties to outings and sleepovers with a few select friends, but not wanting a party at all at made me suspicious. I asked all sorts of carefully calculated questions, trying to determine if there was some deep motivation for this (trouble with friends was my first thought, but no), and at last I shrugged and accepted her explanation that she wanted an "educational trip" rather than a party.

We kicked around a couple of ideas, and the "educational trip" she chose was to spend the night on the RMS Queen Mary, widely regarded as the most haunted structure in America. P and I did the regular tour of the ship years ago, just after the Titanic movie came out, and I didn't see any ghosts then, although some of the service areas and the engine room felt creepy as hell. It will be interesting to see if anything turns up* during our stay tomorrow night. G, for her part, is planning to bring her video camera and capture ghosts on film -- she wants to take the official Haunted Tour, even though you're supposed to be over 12 to do it, but I suspect she'll change her mind once the sun goes down.

Her actual birthday is on the 26th (we're doing the ship thing this weekend because it's almost 50 percent cheaper for some reason), so we'll celebrate then with presents and dinner at her favorite Italian restaurant. She mentioned wanting to take cupcakes to school, too, so I'll have to e-mail her teacher and make sure it's okay. I just can't believe she's going to be 11. It sounds so much older than 10 somehow!

*P asked me several times if I believed in ghosts, the last time not long before he died, and I always said I didn't have enough evidence to believe or not believe. Sometimes I wonder if he's spent the last four years trying to prove it to me and is getting annoyed with my stubbornness.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oh, Onion, I love you

Man Gets Life in Order for 36 Minutes

I had that feeling once. I don't think I made it past 27 minutes, though.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Day trip

I've been meaning to write about our excursion to Santa Barbara on Wednesday. G had been on an overnight train trip before, as well as a shorter one, but she was three and a half the first time and six the second time, so she didn't remember either trip and was intrigued by the idea. Intrigued enough, in fact, that she was willing to forgo her preferred vacation schedule of sleeping in until 10 or 11 and get up at dawn to catch the train.













It was cold on the platform at 7:30 a.m.












Chilly mist and trees through the train window. See that bit of G's book in the lower right-hand corner? It won't be the last time you see it.










The ride to Santa Barbara takes just under four hours. For the last hour(ish), you're right beside the ocean.

We got off the train at about 11:30 in the morning and walked down to the waterfront, where we ate pizza and waited for the misty drizzle to stop. When it was over, we walked to the end of Stearns Wharf, admired the view, and watched a lone seal swimming in the ocean. On the sand, we also saw one of the more original approaches to panhandling I've ever encountered:










The sign propped against the table says "Just Plain Hungry" and the one below the donation bowl says "Make a Wish," inviting passersby to throw money off the pier. The creator of this diorama was about 10 yards away, working on an amazingly good sand sculpture of a mermaid. I gave him a dollar for creativity.










Next, we took the electric shuttle up to the top of State Street and walked down, stopping in various shops along the way. This photo was right outside Borders, where G used some of her Christmas money to buy the next three books in the series she was reading.













This was actually a bit of a problem, because all she wanted to do was read. Every time I turned around, she'd sat down somewhere and started reading again. We finally found a coffee shop and spent a long time there, having tea and cocoa and croissants, so she could get some reading in. They had a really cool machine that was roasting the coffee beans right out in the open, and I made her put down her book for two minutes to go and look at it. She wasn't impressed.

Eventually we made our way back to the train station to wait for the train home. The station was built in 1905 and had some interesting bits in it, including this random fireplace located in the women's restroom, which I imagine was probably in the original station and got built around during a renovation. There was a defunct iron radiator to the right of it, providing train travelers of the past with options for keeping warm.













We'd had a nonstop train on the way up, but coming home we had to change trains at Union Station in Los Angeles. G had finished her book and started the second one in the series at that point, and she spent our 45 minutes there leaning against a pillar, oblivious to the Art Deco architecture all around her, as she read on. I was exactly like this as a kid, so I empathize, but at the same time, I now know why my parents were always nagging me to "take your nose out of that book and look at [the Lincoln Memorial/the Empire State Building/those skydiving nuns]."

Anyway, it was a pleasant day, despite G being distracted most of the time. I think if we were to go again, I'd want to stay at a hotel - there are some nice-looking ones on State Street - and have more time to see some of the other sights, including the museums and the mission. G said she'd be up for that, so perhaps we'll try a weekend trip later in the year.