Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As Thanksgiving Traditions Go, This One's a Gamble

I was thumbing through a magazine recently and came across an article on Thanksgiving traditions. There was a woman who was talking about something she does every year with her family that involves a little tree that sits on their table - they call it the Thankful Tree or some name like that. Starting on November 1st they all take turns attaching pieces of paper to the tree that have things they're thankful for written on them, things like, "I'm thankful for my wonderful kids" or "I'm thankful for stretch denim." Then on Thanksgiving day they read them out loud to each other and they get all emotional and everyone cries, even the men and the people with no feelings.

That got me thinking about something that I started a few months ago with my own extended family that I've decided to make into my Thanksgiving tradition. Something that has brought us together like nothing else, a simple activity that has brought new meaning to our family gatherings and has brought joy to everyone from my 87-year-old mother to my own 10-year-old daughter.

Yes, I'm talking about Bingo.

And really, what could make you more grateful than winning a fistful of dollar bills away from family members in a pseudo-gambling game that rewards you for getting five dots in a row?

Okay, so maybe it isn't as 'special' as getting a little note that tells you how much you're loved, but how many times do you have to hear that in one year? And tell me - are those sweet little notes going to pay the gas bill, or put a nice hunk of Stilton in your refrigerator? I didn't think so. And trust me - you'll see there's plenty to be thankful for when you yell out 'Bingo' and someone walks over and puts a big soft pile of money in your lap.

My little tradition started a few months ago before a family get-together. We had been trying to plan a family trip to Las Vegas but couldn't accommodate all our different schedules, so I thought the Bingo idea would satisfy everyone's gambling jones for the time being. We'd pour ourselves a drink, put our dollar bills in the pot, and feel the rush of uncertainty as we waited to see if we would win. It would be just like Vegas, except without the smoke and the ever present fear of accidentally walking into a Celine Dion show.

But this wouldn't be your kid's Bingo game -I wanted the feel of a real Bingo parlor. I journeyed into a strange part of town to a store called Bingo World and bought a deluxe Bingo cage, and ink daubers to use instead of those cheap plastic markers that could fall off your card. I wanted everyone to feel like they were actually playing in a church rec room, or spending a few hours with old ladies wearing fanny packs and crammed into an empty storefront next to a gun shop. When the person next to you asked to borrow a quarter I wanted his breath to smell just like cigarettes and day-old Slim Jims.

And what a fun time we had! There's nothing like seeing your elderly mother coming at you with a fistful of bills and hissing, "Here's five dollars. Now give me a good card this time" or seeing your schoolteacher sister jump up and do a little T-Pain grind when she realizes she just won the pot for the second time in a row. Kiyomi was the official Bingo caller and when I saw how she yelled out in a strong, clear voice, "B-29!" and "What part of N-70 didn't you understand?" I felt so proud and knew I had done my job as a parent.

I'm telling you - you can't buy these kinds of memories. I see this tradition as living on in our family for generations, long after that other family's Thankful Tree has been stuffed in a box and carted off to Goodwill. My kids will look back fondly on these gatherings, and wistfully say, "Remember the fourth game during Thanksgiving '08? I'll never forget the look on mom's face when she finally won and how her hands trembled as she counted out her thirty-eight dollars. Man, those were good times."

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Decorating Tip, Courtesy of Office Depot

I don't know about you, but for me trying to re-decorate a room is an agonizing process. First there's trying to decide what color to paint it, and then what type of art to hang on the walls. And should all the walls be painted one color? How about some sort of nauseating checkerboard pattern? Or maybe I'll get all Martha Stewart and make everything the colors of springtime flowers that I've gathered at my house in Maine and then paint the ceiling a pleasing rose, the same color of the blush on my neighbor's granddaughter's cheeks.

Problem is I don't live in Maine, and my neighbor's granddaughter's cheeks are always smeared with a combination of YooHoo and grape jelly. So five months later the walls are still dirty white, and there's a poster of kittens stapled to the wall and a couple of Doonesbury cartoons taped to the light switch. I've picked up some paint swatches but those have gotten smooshed between a stack of Oprah magazines and a month-old sandwich. When people come to visit, I tell them we're "in the process of redecorating" but that only lasts for so long and pretty soon they're rolling their eyes and saying things like, "Oh right - redecorating" while using those obnoxious air quotes that make you want to punch them.

Then I came across this and was instantly inspired. This guy decorated his entire basement room with $10 worth of Sharpies. Who knew that the answer to my decorating dilemma could be found in the office supply store? I'm ditching Home Depot for Office Depot, where I can pick up my box of markers and shop for post-its and printer cartridges while I'm at it.

Like all good things, I'm sure the whole decorating-with-office-supplies thing will soon become the latest fad and be horribly commercialized. It won't be long before Martha comes out with her own line of room decorating markers complete with matching tableware and pillow shams, and expect to see an entire episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where they surprise a family of 29 with a new home built entirely of push pins and manila envelopes.

You can see an amazing, 360° view of the room here.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday: Paz Vega, The Jonas Brothers and a Huge Fire

Friday was one of those exhausting, surreal, running-on-adrenaline-and-espresso kind of days. The kind where you vaguely recollect what you did, but then aren't sure exactly how you got there, what transpired or exactly what the outcome was. It's like looking at pictures of a college party and then going, "Oh, I was wondering how I ended up at that coffee shop, wearing my bathrobe and covered in Sharpie scribbles." Well, Friday wasn't that bad, but was such a whirlwind I'm still taking it all in. I did wake up this morning with a wristband on, though, and the smell of smoke in my hair. Come to think of it, it was exactly like a college party.

The day started off with a lunch interview with Paz Vega. She was great - I got there late, though, which I hate since it throws me off and takes me a few minutes to get my bearings. She got to see me arrive breathless and sweaty and then fumbling for tape recorders in my purse while Ralphs receipts and mints tumbled out. Also, it looks really, really professional when you pull our your iPhone and there's a hunk of granola bar stuck to the bottom.

Went to the private Jonas Brothers Concert at the Roxy that I mentioned before. When I say we were close to the stage, I'm talking about leaning up against it - Kiyomi had her Shirley Temple parked there before the security guy removed it. And then - omigod Kevin and Joe leaned over and touched their hands. Kiyomi swears she'll never wash that hand again, which is already getting a little scary after the pizza, chicken wings and Ring Pop she had today. (Note: If you see her you might want to do more of a fist-bump rather than a full-on handshake.)

I once again witnessed Kira working the security guys down front like she did at the last concert we took her to, which is alarming. There were two of them, talking and laughing with her, and I was getting ready to move in if I heard them say the words, "I'm with the band." Kiyomi scored a guitar pick from some guy, as well. Rigel and I have decided that from now on the only concerts they'll be allowed to attend are those where the security guys are really old gay men.

Evacuated Rigel's dad from the Sylmar fire. If you've been watching the news, you know that we have more than a few fires going on here in Southern California. Rigel picked up his dad at around 2am, and said he saw palm trees on fire a block away from his house. We're sad for everyone who lost their homes - there is so much devastation. We're more than a few miles away from the fire, but our eyes are stinging and the air smells like smoke. There was an earthquake in Filmore, too, and now they're warning of blackouts. I'm preparing for locusts next, or crop circles on our front lawn.

Today, Saturday, was blissfully uneventful. It's 10:15 pm and we're starting to talk about what to have for dinner, Kiyomi is still in her pajamas and I just had a double cappuccino at 8:30. Like I said, a totally normal day.

(Remember, you can watch the Jonas Brother's concert here on line at 3pm est. You might see us.)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Blogging Thing Ain't So Bad After All

jonas-brothers-concert-roxy-tickets-american-eagle-77kidsA couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of the other moms at Kiyomi's school, and she asked me what I did for a living. I find this question so daunting these days; after being an art director for 20+ years, it's been hard for me to actually describe myself as a writer, and then once I do there's the whole thing with blogging. Most of you know how hard it is to describe it to people: "Well, I write about...stuff, and then, um, people read it and hopefully comment, and then uh, yeah, sometimes - get this - I actually get paid for it." I could already see what she was thinking: Well now, that sounds like a sound career! Maybe someday you'll get promoted to Head Nacho Maker or get a real job like that guy on TV that sells the Shamwow.

Then come the puzzled looks, and the prodding questions, "Now tell me - why would anyone want to read about your life again?" and "So, just so I get this clear - you spend hours writing on this blog-thing of yours, but don't always get paid?" and then the career advice, "Have you considered a night course at the junior college in office management?"

But then once in awhile something like this comes along and I realize how cool this whole blogging thing really is: Friday night, the girls and I have been invited to a private, VIP Jonas Brothers concert at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip. 77 screaming kids to launch 77kids, a new clothing line from American Eagle, and we'll be among the lucky few.

I'm thinking I'll snap a few pictures at the show and send one along to that inquiring mom with this note: Money made blogging today: $0. Picture of your daughters standing mere feet away from the world's biggest teen band: Priceless.

On Sunday, November 16, you can watch the concert online here, and register to win some cool free stuff, too.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

And you thought your local news was bad

newspaper-ignores-obama-victory-terrell-tribune-obama-acceptance-speech-michelle-obamaOne of my favorite pastimes is making fun of our local newscasts. This being L.A., most of them are not known for their hard hitting news. For example, there might be a national crisis of some sort going on, but they'll probably skip over that story if Angelina Jolie takes her twelve kids shopping for socks, or if an episode of "The Hills" is being filmed at The Ivy and a reporter happens to get a quote from Heidi Montag about the economy.

But nothing could compare to this story I just saw, where the Terrell Tribune, a newspaper in Kaufman County, Texas ignored Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. presidential election and instead ran a story about a local race for county commissioner. The story wasn't just pushed back to the second page, or even the third page - it wasn't covered at all. This means that if you lived in Kaufman County and picked up the paper on Wednesday morning, you may not have known that we had a new president at all. You might have glanced at the front page, tossed it aside and skipped right to the coupons and WordJumble just like you did every other morning.

Bill Jordan, the publisher of the newspaper, had this to say:

"We run a newspaper, not a memory book service. We covered the local commissioner's race. We thought that was more important."

Hey, Bill Jordan - I have a headline for tomorrow's paper! Public Finds Out That Newspaper Is Published By Biggest Douchebag Ever.

To be fair, that County Commisioner race looked like a darn exciting one, with Democrat J.C. Jackson beating Kenneth Schoen with 3,097 votes to his opponents 2,864. Schoen ran on a platform of road improvements. After his news-making victory Jackson said of his voters, "I think they were looking for a change and I think that’s the way they voted. They made it clear they’re looking for something different.”

Hey - some other guy made a speech on Tuesday night that kind of said the same thing.

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tags: | terrell tribune | |

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Friday, November 07, 2008

I Was Wrong About The Election

barack-obama-victory-speech-election-night-michelle-obama-malia-obama-sasha-obama-obama-acceptance-speech-michelle-obama-videoTuesday was surreal. My 87-year-old mother went to the polls for the first time in 25 years to cast her vote for Barack Obama. Kira was talking to her friends online about electoral votes, and not about gym class or their MySpace profiles. My afternoon cappuccino slipped my mind completely. We had lawn signs. Then, to top it all off, the cat actually buried his own poop, which I thought for sure was an ominous sign that something bad was about to happen.

I was hoping I was wrong.

It's hard to put into words what that night felt like. We had a few friends over to watch the returns, but none of us knew what to expect. I told them I'd be making martinis and ordering food, and we could all hang out and celebrate or end the evening consoling each other. Either way there'd be alcohol involved, and some sort of dip from Costco.

I was still paranoid from what happened in the last two elections, so I was fully expecting to be devastated this time as well. I pictured us all at the end of the evening, staring with disbelief at the TV screen as McCain gave his victory speech and the number '271' flashed in big letters behind him. And there would be Sarah Palin, pumping her fist in the air as she danced around the stage in her $700 Manolos and that coat of hers that looks like it shrunk, singing "I'm Every Woman" at the top of her lungs. Then I pictured all of us attacking the TV at that point, cursing and smashing the screen with our martini glasses. After that I suppose we'd have to get a new TV, maybe that new plasma I'd been wanting, so really a McCain win wouldn't be ALL bad.

But I'm so glad I was wrong.

It was an amazing evening, and I'm grateful that I was with friends to see the events unfold. It felt good, and right, to experience the moment with a like-minded group of people, all of us wishing and hoping for the same outcome. And it was that much more special to see our kids, ages five to fifteen, sitting in front of the television holding Kiyomi's homemade Obama signs, completely silent and riveted by what was going on. And when that moment came, when CNN first called it, I think everyone in the room was holding back tears. I know I was. It was followed by such a huge feeling of relief, of validation, that for once it was how it should be. That things had finally gone our way.

The kids all ran outside and charged down the street yelling, "Obama!" while the rest of us adults, still in shock, remained glued to the TV screen. I think we were all waiting for it to collapse, to be a big mistake because of a hanging chad or a few boxes of ballots that hadn't been counted because they were in the back of some volunteer's car who was stuck in the Burger King drive-thru.

But I'm so glad we were wrong.

I feel proud of our country, and hopeful. But mostly, I feel gratitude for Barack Obama and what he's done to inspire and bring together a nation that seemed so hopelessly broken. I didn't think I would ever see a day when a person of color would become president, when so many people in our country would look beyond race and stand behind the man who they felt, plain and simple, was the best man for the job. I didn't think it would ever happen.

I'm so, so glad I was wrong.

For anyone who wants to see Obama's victory speech again, here it is in its entirety.

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tags: | obama victory speech |

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Monday, November 03, 2008

What my interview with Paris Hilton has to do with tomorrow's election

A few weeks ago I interviewed Paris Hilton for Genlux magazine. The issue is now out on the newsstands, and it seems a quote from my article is making its way around the blogosphere - even Perez Hilton used it. I'm thinking of sending him a bill for $10,000 or at least making him send me one of his Gossip Gangster hoodies.

The quote comes at the very end of the article, and was in response to me asking whether or not it was true that Paris had booked a seat on Richard Branson's Virgin Enterprise Rocket, which is set to blast into space in 2009. Her answer was:

"With the whole light-years thing, what if I come back ten-thousand years later and everyone I know is dead? I'll be like, "Great. Now I have to start all over."
To her credit, the response was given with a wink, but the quote is being used as just another example of her ditziness. But I'm sure Paris doesn't care - as she's said before, she's laughing all the way to the bank. After all, this is a woman who makes six-figures just by getting occasionally photographed without her panties on, something most of us do for free.

While the idea of a rocket ship ride into space didn't seem appealing at first, I have to say after considering Paris' words I might be willing to cough up a few grand to take that ride. If the election doesn't go the way I'd like tomorrow, packing up the family, blasting off into the cosmos and returning ten-thousand years later may be the only thing left to do.

You can read the article here. I'm pretty excited, as I'm thinking it's probably the only time my words will ever be on the same page as a dress that costs $16,000.

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tags: | genlux magazine |

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