Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gaudeamus Igitur?

Is it with "youthful zest" that I come back to this blog after almost two years? Maybe. Someone on "Life Journal" made a comment on one of my previous posts on the subject. This was the title of a song/words I learned in college. Wikipedia says it is a "drinking song". Well, I didn't drink to it then or now. I also remember the "Whiffenpoof Song" which was a drinking song...ie. "We are poor little lamb who have gone astray... Gentlemen (songsters) flyers off on a spree, doomed from here to eternity..." I learned that one in Jr. Hi. I prefer the former.

I will say that a key part of my life work/career has been working with children as a teacher. I just came from subbing in a Kindergarten class or three. I have fun with them ie. sing and play games with dominos. This is the way I have stayed/felt "young". I highly recommend it. I'm not a deep thinker and I think this also helps. I live in the moment most of the time. I meditate. I swim...almost daily. So, I have reason to "rejoice". mobius_bob

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hoy Es Un Regalo!

Ayer se fue, historia,

Manana es un misterio

Hoy es un regalo!

Yesterday has gone, history,

Tomorrow is a mystery

Today is a gift!

I was given this saying by our dinner companions from New York City as a bit of wisdom from their mother country, Puerto Rico. They were two retired teacher/counselors also traveling on the Star Princess on our Baltic Cruise. We also made some fascinating friends in Mary and Betty from Oahu, Hawaii. Mary is a free-lance forensic pathologist and Betty ran a trucking business. Great conversationalists and dinner companions.

What follows here are highlights, fond memories and gifts from our recent 22 days abroad. Yes, there were and always are challenges and frustrations with transatlantic travel but there was such a wealth of experiences that they will last a life time. These are what I'd like to remember and share.

Of course, it would've been no fun without Betty, my love, my wife and companion now for almost 45 years. The first day in Copenhagen we just happened to find a private boat with her name on the life preserver...how appropriate for the theme of this my last post on this blog. We celebrated alittle early with a rare and exquisite alexandrite pendant we found duty free on board ship. We had been looking for just the right one (birthstone) for years. One in a million have a real one from Russia. We also found a drawing of a symbol of our love in an airplane magazine. Brett, our jeweler son, is going to make it for us to share from the gold of my wedding ring I had to cut off.

So this is what we did. We greeted each day as a gift and had the best time seeing places we had always wanted to see and doing fun things and sharing our mutual joy of finally experiencing Sweden and its beautiful countryside of forests and friendly people. We had to miss Gdynia, Poland (Gdansk) because it was so stormy the ship couldn't risk docking. No matter, we had another day on board ship with lots of food and entertainment. We enjoyed cappucinos from our last cruise and this one had a card you could buy that would get you those specialty coffee drinks at a discount. We bought two "Java Jake" cards and just about used them up. We found that their idea of a cappucino was more like a latte. So we ordered double espressos and had them add spray cream to the top. Delicious. Our main barista was Olga from the Ukraine. She was so sweet and barely spoke or understood our jokes in English. She spoke with her eyes though and was so very friendly. The Troika Dancer from St. Petersburg, Russia were invited onboard for one performance they were also fabulous especially in their nightclub costumes looking like snowflakes. They were hard to capture on film. So were so many of my attempts at pictures in the Hermitage and the Gold Room. We had an excellent guide who had just graduated from the University there majoring in Cultural History. I hope she finds a job.

One thing we did not share was my tour of backstage on the ship. It was fascinating to me and not of interest to Betty. I had lots of questions for the Stage/Production Manager. It is all state of the art and no one pulls a rope...digital machines to within 1/16 th of an inch. The sound and light designs and special effects (pyro too) were out of this world. Costumes and makeup are the responsibility of each member of the cast. (few props)

Our time in Stockholm was too brief. We saw the Vasa Ship, 95% preserved and brought up from the harbor. It wasn't ready last time Betty was there. It was too dark to get any really good pix in that huge building. They only brought up one tiny gold ring in all that wreckage. It is a very large, cosmopolitan city of several islands and we felt frustrated with so little time there. Betty's mother was born there but we didn't know where or the names to look up.

Helsinki was a pleasant surprise. We visited a chuch hewn out of solid granite and went to a quaint country home for traditional afternoon coffee and pastries. Got some wonderful picture there. i.e. their sauna, antiques, a nature hike and an old mariner's church and graveyard surrounded by bright yellow fields of rape seed. (brighter than mustard) They had my favorite, rhubarb pie. We all loved it and felt so at home in their quaint, antiquiy home. They take tour buses twice a week.

In the ancient village part of Tallinn, Estonia we were too hasty and had our first bad cup of coffee. (the ship's buffet coffee wasn't too good either) They were just opening the town square where all the vendors dress in old fashion costumes and sell all kinds of local craft items. We did find a little covered wagon with a large kettle that made (not kettle corn) but warm almonds layered with all kinds of secret spices (cinnamon and clove mainly) Delicious snack. Fascinating walking tour with many quaint shops and stalls.
In St. Petersburg, we took the short excursion the first day and didn't enter any famous churches with the multicolored spiral cupolas. We saw children begging around the tour buses in the shade of the gold leaf overlayed towers. It was depressing. We were warned many times by our guides to watch out for pickpockets and the "distraction commotions". The next day was gloriously spent at the apex of art collections, The Hermitage. It is massive in 4 or 5 buildings that are different colors and well kept.(as are their Arts buildings i.e. Opera, Ballet etc.) The gold room had a Russian-speaking guide who didn't think our English-speaking guide was giving the full translation and chastized her. English phrasing is much shorter and clipped compared to Russian phrasing. Many of the painting were too dark to photo but the statuary was fantastic as was the inlaid, parkayed flooring and mosaic ceilings (matching) and the GOLD Chandeliers.
It was very crowded and confusing at times. The guide moved quickly from room to room without warning or gesture. Oh well...
In Oslo, Norway (and Stockholm) the harbor entrance is fjord-like and full of little islands. Very picturesque. We went to the Viking Ship building and I think I enjoyed them more than my wife. Then to their giant ski jump that is scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt. Hollemkollen was the name I think. It gained fame in the '52 Olympics I think. Spectacular in size alone but not a real treat for Betty. By the way, it has a small lake/pond at the bottom; frozen over in winter of course. The absolute hit was the Statue Garden of Vigland. What a tour-de-force in sculpture. Took many a pix and the flowers above are from their gardens there. The statues look rough but are actually very smooth and so true-to-life...especially the "mad little kid" one.

The best meal on board ship for me was the twin lobsters and the Flaming Baked Alaska Tradition with the waiters parading. Francisco and Victor were the best we've had. Javier, our room attendant was very friendly but we had to remind and wait for some things our neighbors already had. We gave everyone an excellent review and tipped them all as already deducted from our ship's account. One particularly funny/exasperating incident was in the ship's library with Adrian, from Poland. I had a thumb nail that was catching on everything and I just had to clip it right there and then. Adrian was on me like a "heat-seeking missle". I had the clipping in my hand when he came over and said, "We have a spa up on deck 15 for that." Yeah right, I'm going to get on the elevator and go up 10 decks/floors for one snaggle nail?
Sorry, this was not a gift we enjoyed from Adrian, so we left the ship's library. I did enjoy the daily quizzes posted in the game room next to the library though. Had to stump everyone at breakfast in my exasperatingly teacherish way.

We disembarked early without a hitch and our luggage was waiting for us at the airport where we were to pick up our Volvo stationwagon for our 8-Day tour of the back roads of Sweden. All of our excursions were well managed by the ship's personnel. This was our last with them...to the airport. We barely fit in the car. It was very tight for the ladies in the backseat. By the time they bought all their souvenirs, seven days later, they had to hold some in their laps almost. It was oh so jolly and fun with all the crazy signs and maps to read. I was helping with the navigating but the trip was well planned. Two new words of many that we chuckled over were "infart" and "utfart" which were little sign near drive throughs, fast food, gas stations. I think they meant "fast in" and "fast out". In Copenhagen, near the lifting bridge they had a sign "pissor" for the a public restroom of the standing variety. The other one their had an attendant with a stall key that expected the equivolent of 10cents. It was clean. In fact, very little grafetti could be seen in any of the major cities, not like Rome etc.

On the way to our first night in the Swedish countryside was a small village stop in Venga. Here Patti was looking for her father's church and where in grew up. We got lucky and found a neighbor lady out picking strawberries (yordgubba) in the wooded areas nearby the old church yard. Roy speaks enough Swedish (8 yr. old learned) that he was able to communicate. She was very helpful and was able to put us in touch with the church caretaker, who let us in. This is an ancient, but active Luthern church. No records there but then just 300m away was a little "stuga" with a little old lady who had all the town's records on micro fische. She spoke no English. Most all younger Swedes do. Patti was in tears of joy because she found all the records and family. We looked but found no graves in the neat, well-kept church graveyard.

By 3PM. we made our first Inn, Stufvenas Gastgifveri (some missing omlauts). It was built in the 16th century but mondernized and building a big spa in the back. I was on a long dirt road through heavily wooded forests of mixed evergrees and birch. So lush with moss and fern undergrowth. On our walk to the nearby lake we almost stepped on a big black slug with a yellow dot on its end. Must've been 3-4 inches long. We discovered several others on the way. The girls loved them. They move so slow no wonder they are hermaphydytes. In the hallway to our rooms were two stuffed snowy ferrits. We had already noticed the quietness of the forests on our walks...no squirrels, very few bird's chirps. The owner said that they had had a heatwave in May that killed off wildlife, mosquitos and winds that felled many a tree in spots. We continued to notice this on our long road trip. The rooms were comfortable, gourmet evening meal was delicious but expensive. A former elite cruise line chef and his girl friend ran the place. Got some lovely pix.

Next stop was in the little village of Gransholm and was called, in it's hayday the Villa Gransholm - an old victorian, white, two-story with manicured lawns. It was near the glass-blowing district and Orefors which was our goal for the next day. I was the first to go in and register and the place was empty. There was a note on the desk to make ourselves at home and our room keys for upstairs, uniquely decorated rooms. The owner was off with their new boat we found out. I toured the village the next morning and found the pond, dam and roaring stream near the only business of the orginal owner of the Villa, a paper factory (all the trees). Now it is a AC fan factory that ships all over the world. The girls loved the fact that we were alone in the monstrous manor with old time, black and white albums and setees. We found out that the kitchen was closed for "dinner" but would serve the typical Swedish breakfast buffet at 8AM. We found other food in a nearby town that night. Very quaint and full of history, the whole area. Out in the yard, fenced in, I found some "blonde, furry ducks" We jokingly called them "Swedish Ducks" along with the blonde cows we had seen earlier on the way. The owner said they belonged to her three girls and were kept to keep the snails and slugs down. I found another slug on the front steps and fed it to them. Lots of pix again. We also had "egg-rurra" for breakfast. My mom used to make it, runny, scrambled eggs. I was the only one who liked them. We had too many eggs during the trip, on board ship and countryside. I'm sure my cholesterol is way up.

The next half day or so was spent at the famous glass factories of Orefors and Kosta Boda. The ladies went wild. We took the tour, fascinating and had "elva coffee" (11AM coffee at the Crystal Cafe Coffe Bar. Very sparkly and stunningly modern in design. Yummy pastries and a cute, Swedish, blond barista. Betty got some outlet type bowls and Patti found her leaded crystal girl looking at the stars, a close out and a bargain. Wow! On the way to Orebro, our next stop (a major city) we saw the IKEA headquarters and distribution center. Roy wouldn't stop, we were on course/target for his boyhood haunts in Orebro and his cousin's country, summer home in Asbro near the lake. A real challenge finding the place through backroads etc. but finally, hugs and lots of memories with Monica and Ulf. She's a retired nurse and he's a retired Director of Social Service on the State. (big in Sweden's Social Serviced economy where there are 50%+ taxes for these services) They had quite a lovely, well kept yard and three little "bedroom stugas" on their property, all red and white. Satellites for their kids and grandkids to visit. They had an outdoor shower and a "chemical toilette" because they were too close to the lake for other kinds of sewage. Dense underbrush surrounded their yard where they go to pick blueberries (we had them, yum) raspberries and new potato plants. They pulled some up for out evening meal at their city flat over looking the local Orebro river (? name) They were consummate hosts and took us on the tours, i.e. The Swampen a giant, mushroom-shaped water tower. Betty and Roy had taken pictures there back in 1960 on her original trip. What a beautiful city. We stay in a downtown hotel within walking distance to their flat. Our room was right over a sidewalk pub and it was Friday night. The next morning I insisted on a room move to one overlooking the inner court. It had a balcony, and much quieter for the second night. Every three days or so I had to do my underware laundry and so I hung it our on the balcony. On our final night there we ate at an Argentine beef place owned by a Turkish man. Excellent shrimp for us and good conversation. We also toured the Orebro Castle in the center of town. They had college students doing a dramatic, in character, tour of the olde time life there. I enjoyed it but it was not all that informative, they never "broke character" once, kitchen maids, mad queens, mayors and butlers. What a kick!

We had to go next to the state of Dalarnas (north) and the town where they make the little red and blue horses, chickens and pigs out of whittled, painted(rosemalled) soft pine. We were allowed to personally lead our own tour of the "factory" and I joked with the finger-bandaged, old whittler because I had a bandage on my finger too. Again, the girls went wild and bought all kinds of souvenirs and decorative items. Betty has decorated our home in Sun Lakes with many of these items, especially at Christmas time. On the day going to this area we visited Carl Larsson's home. This was a dream come true for Betty who has collected his paintings etc. and loves his technique, (the Swedish Monet) His home is much smaller than we expected but just packed with his and his wife's artwork, tapestries, sculptures and interior designs. The grounds around the home are immense and very picturesque. No wonder he was so inspired to paint. We saw many of the actural settings, picnic areas he used. Even I bought some things at their small gift shop. Again, many pix. We stayed for two nights at our best place, the Historic Klockargarden Hotell. We had our own three-room flat in our own separate stugga. Patti and Roy had the upstairs. It was very nice with a double jacuzzi tub that we used both nights. This was especially fun after our gourmet dinner, too expensive wine and dessert at the main house. I saw dried an dead midsummer/maypoles but no clocks. They had some ancient wooden log homes on display and some old car collections including a mint condition, converitble monza. (I had a monza in '63) We had dinner the next night at cheaper town restaurant highly recommended called the Bosporan. It was a "Pizza-Kabab" place but not all that fast food. There are the above kinds of places all over, in each town run by middle easterns. Quite popular I guess. The pizza was delicious and thin crust. I pulled it apart like in Rome. Proper ettiquette in Sweden, I guess, is to use fork and knife in reversed (American) hands. I wasn't too good at that. Met an interesting couple and their mother from Seattle and Irvine at the next table. We split the pizza (margarite), ten kroner charge for the split and a carlsburg. Betty wanted a glass of water, 10 kroner please, no ice. no service, no tip. On the wall were pictures of the blue mosque and minarets but all the service personel were Swedish. Lovely big Swedish families getting together with twins(?) maybe, they all look so cute toe headed and they sound so sweet. We were used to only our parents and grandparents speaking Swedish and it sounds so neat to hear kids doing it.
Now on our way back south and the big bridge/tunnel crossing to Copenhagen, our last stop was at an imposing, 13th Century Convent called Vadstena Klosterhotel. It had a very scenic setting on the 2nd largest lake in Sweden, Lake Vetdnern(?) very long and wide. The monestary was very austere and we felt like monks climbing the two sets of well-worn steps to our tiny rooms. It has a blue plaque showing a 4-star rating for Historic Hotels in Sweden, but it was not as good as all the other 3-star ones. Must be the settting. We tried to snack at the terrace but a freak wind burst crashed an umbrella on Roy and he got some more korv (sausage) when his plate smashed and the gross-looking grackle crows were on it. The nearby konditorri was somewhat better with prettier waitresses but it was grossly over priced. We walked along the lake and Roy thoroughly checked out the marina. The girls and I check the village shops and pedestrian traffic mixed with lost tourist cars. We found our konditorri for the A.M. departure and Betty's birthday treat. It was a long night, as were most, with no setting sun or darkness until 11pm or midnight and no darkening shades in the convent rooms. I put up a blanket and then no air in a very humid climate. Betty had her worst night with her fever finally breaking and relief finally from the cold/flu she had been suffering from the past two days. Perfect for her birthday drive to Molmo and Copenhagen next. By now the car was jam-packed with gifts and the ladies could hardly move in the back seat.
We stopped for gas at a place that had a Mickey D's, a Burger King and a Max (Sweden's equivolent) Mac Donald's was crowded and smelly, there was a big restroom line at B.K. so we took our chances at MAX. Wow! So clean and neatly designed including the restrooms. Betty proclaimed this her Birthday Lunch and wanted a veggie burger with pineapple. Nope. So she had a fish (philsh) burger with pineapple. I ordered a veggie and an aloha burger w/ pineapple and then took the slice of pineapple and put it on the veggie patty. Roy took the other patty. Betty was happy and we had alot of fun. Max rules!
We hit the bridge earlier than expected and I video taped for Roy. Quite a montrous bridge and tunnel and I guess they are planning another where the ferry is. In Copenhagen (Kopenhaven) we had fun searching in the city traffic and one-way streets for H.C. Anderson Blvd. #9 The Alexandra Hotel. We finally found it by risking life and limb and parking/unloading in the designated, very busy bike lanes (some near crashes) Again, we were located on the second floor, rm. 222 right above the corner traffic of a very busy intersections. I immediately went and complained and got us moved to the 4th floor and down the way. It was next to the typical European caged elevators you find in these turn-of-the-century hotels. It was alot less noisy with double windows we left closed and a little electric fan, our first, that we adored. We were two blocks from Tivoli Gardens (planned) and so we spent the early evening of Betty's Birthday having a share lite Carlberg at Cafe Ultimo next to the lake, and the weeping willows. A big, brass Danish, redcoated band marched by right at 7PM. Lots of pix again. The place had changed quite a bit since Betty had been there and seen Punch and Judy and the Flea Circus. We were very tired so we went to crash knowing we had an early start (5:45AM) to finish reorganizing our luggage for the airplane's required limits. We had gotten an extra sports duffel at an outlet along the way for only 100 kroner ($15). We were in good shape weight wise.
With only two mistakes, loading near a trash truck pickup and missing a airport (little airplane sign) turn while getting a fill up we returned our rental to the 4th floor of the rental car garage and put all our luggage on three carts. (By the way, in Europe they are free, at Ontario they are $3.) We then had some time for a breakfast snack after our Duty Free stop and refund to our credit card of about $65. in tax. Then we hit the Delta 767 and Patti and Roy used their saved up 90,000 pts. each to ride "business class" lucky ducks while we were sardined with loud children nearby. We opted not for out vegetarian meals but pasta. Our next stop in Atlanta was delayed due to rerouting and storms nearby. We were lucky and got out, Patti and Roy were stuck all night in the airport in line with 300 others trying to get to Wisconsin or Michigan. They had their grandsons to pick up in Greenbay and barely made it I guess after a sleepless night. What they do for those kids!
SuperShuttle was no where to be found at the Ontario Island of Taxis so we called and complained. They came again about a half hour late and we were alone in a large van. It had electrical problems nearing Banning but we made it by 10PM on at day that started in Copenhagen at 5:45AM their time (add 9 hours) So we were zonked again but happy to be home and in our wonderfully soft bed. Now, 3 days later, we are still feeling the effects of jet lag i.e. getting sleepy at 3PM and waking up at 3AM. Oh well, we did it and it was WUNDERBAR!
I'm sure there are many more things I'll remember later and cherish. We loved it and felt it was a "gift" of a lifetime. We got to know each other even better and realize how much we love each other and need each other as we grow older together. We are quite a team, a couple, and true buddies. We'll travel again, but only to Alaska, Canada or Hawaii. No long flights and to a world that is becoming increasingly anti -American.
I'm now ending this blog. It has been a great exercise for me and I've truly enjoyed doing it. It has helped me bring back memories and relate them to my present retired life. It has been a "life preserver" for me and, I hope, a record of my thoughts and ideas up to now. It helped me with my personal "demons" which are all but licked I think.
I'm going to start a new phase of my life, substitute teaching in classes of my choice two to 4 days a week as long as I feel healthy about it. I can only earn so much and still draw my teacher's retirement. I'm also renewing my Real Estate License even though it is not with a Broker. Who knows, I may do that again also. Blogging is a thing of the past now...unless...I get tempted to do it anonymously...just for fun. Who knows?
So I'll end this endeavor as I began it:
"El que da,
El que ensene,
"He who gives,
He who teaches,
Keep on Bobbin'

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Majoring in Minors for 68 years

Today is my birthday. (6/27/39) It is the 178th day of the year. (187 to go) It is less than 10 days to halfway through this calendar year. It must be a holiday somewhere. Let's see: It is Independence Day in Djibouti. (that's a fun place to say, but I wonder where it is?) It is the Feast Day of St. Cyril of Alexandria, (Egypt?), St. Zoilus and St. Samson of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey - been there)

James Smithson died today in 1829 leaving his vast fortune to establish the Smithsonian Inst. in Wash. D.C. I'm a member and will be taking my favorite magazine with me on my trip. In 1893, the New York Stock Market crashed. (I used to live on York Blvd. and I love to sing/teach about the "Grand Ol' Duke of York") In 2003, more than 735,000 phone numbers were registered on the first day of a "national do-not-call list". It hasn't worked well with me yet. In 2005, the BTK serial killer pleaded guilty to 10 murders in Wichita, Kansas. He is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences and won't have the possibility of parole for 175 years. (much better than a lethal shot)

Also born on this date: 1859, Mildred J. Hill, the American Composer of "Happy Birthday to You" and "Good Morning to You" (with her sister, Patty Smith Hill) (but could she sing, "Estas Son Las Mananitas"?) 1880, Helen Keller, American Author, educator and advocate for the blind. 1827, Bob Keeshan, American actor, "Captain Kangaroo" (now here's a Bob I can relate to) 1930, Ross Perot (I voted for him) and 1975, Tobey Maguire, American Actor -"Spiderman" (can't relate)

Died on this date: 1844, Joseph Smith, Mormon founder and his brother, Hyrum, killed by a mob in Carthage, Ill. 2001, Jack Lemmon, Am. Actor (I can relate, "everyman") 2002, John Entwistle, bassist for "The Who" (can't picture him) 2005, John Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam. (just went to their store today)

I had lunch with my oldest son, his wife and their son, Xavier, yesterday. Loving family. I'll see Soren, his other son soon, I hope. Had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory with my third oldest son and his wife and two Grand Children last weekend. Wonderful group. Got an email from my second son, and his lovely wife today. He has great plans to search the stars and vacation with his ol' bud Scott. Just talked to my youngest son and his girl on the phone. They are in love.
All is well with the Burgan Clan.

We are going on a Baltic Cruise tomorrow. It will be a trip of a lifetime for us. My wife has been to Sweden before so she'll show me around with her sister and brother-in-law. We are excited. What a Birthday Present!

The above may seem minor to you, but they are "major" to me in this, my 68th year. I've lived nine years longer than my dad was allowed to. I still miss him. My mom was 83 before she passed. She was a teacher of all 8 grades in one room when she started. I'm retired from teaching 2nd -8th for 38 years. I've just made the decision to do some Substitute Teaching in our local schools this next semester. We'll see how that goes. I do miss the eager smiles and joys of learning with these "Minors". It just gets in your blood I guess.

So, I don't mind saying that "I've majored in minors." It has been a good life and hopefully will continue to be the best. "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the type of house I lived in, the kind of car I drove, where I cruised,...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child...or children." Keeping that child-like humor and openness is my continued goal. Bob!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Exclusive Club 33

You talk about exclusive, even their logo can't be copied or pasted off the internet. It just makes it that much more mysterious and unattainable for most of us. Club 33 is a rarely advertised restaurant in New Orleans Square in Disneyland. It is only marked by a single green door next to the Blue Bayoo Restaurant entrance and the address marker "33". It is locked. There is a doorbell and a speaker phone but no one responds without the secret code. Yes, very mysterious, indeed. The significance of the number "33" is just an address: 33 Royal St. in the park, so it could serve alcoholic beverages.

Walt Disney himself started it back when he was alive for wining and dining potential investors and celebrities. It has only been open for "business" after his death around 1967. It has earned many strange rumors and tales on the internet. i.e. a talking vulture, microphones in the lobby near the antique, glass elevator. (you can also use the stairs, it's upstairs above N.O.S. There is a gourmet buffet and a very small, dark and lushly appointed dining room with appolstered everything. How do I know?

My wife and I have been lucky enough to be invited there, separately. We didn't even have to pay. Oh yes, we're celebrities now!...not really. You see, my wife's sister has inlaws who are members of the exclusively small list and they are invited annually(probably to renew their investment in it). They are guests of the park for the day with special entertainment and then dinner. Oh so posh! I, on the other hand, was part of a group of So. Calif. Pardee Employees who had a party there two or three years ago. I'm guessing the Pardee Brothers, true blue southland developers, who go way back, were connected to the originally building or the land where Disneyland is. They still have a corporate membership. At least for now...with new homes not selling much nowadays, maybe they won't be able to pay ther annual fees either. These are rumored to be: initial: $25,000. and then annual: $5,925. Whereas the individuals only have to pay $9,500. and $3,175 annually. This wouldn't be so bad, but the list is only 487 people/companies long. They are in the news, L.A. Times Business Section because they are thinking of increasing the list to 500. Big whoop, 13 +!
Still there are over 1000 on the waiting list or more just dying to get in and experience it, spend their money and try the buffet. There's even a website hosted by Dale Mattson who has been on the list since 2001 http://www.disneylandclub33/ Think how frustrated he must be.

Elton John, Kobe Bryant and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all dined there. (not together, I'll bet) When I went, it capped a day of "Trivial Pursuit" with 20 questions our team had to find the answer for to be revealed at Club 33 that evening. Our group came in third. We got most of our answers on Main Street at the "Memorabilia Store" from a friendly clerk...who may have been pulling our collective "leg".

As a family we used to go once a year, free, because my wife was the "Employee Group Rep." for places like Disneyland, Knotts, Magic Mountain etc. This was great when you have four boys and like to stand in lines alot. We got a free annual picture with Mickey or Minnie and we just loved it. Later on, I went with my church choir at Christmas and or took my own classes there as rewards in classroom contests. I've already mentioned in this blog that I've seen "behind the sets/streets" because several of my students (Jr. Hi.) were picked up for "shoplifiting" and their parents had to be called. I met them at the Disneyland Police Station (full size). Come on, we couldn't watch them all the time. We'd let them go off for acouple hours and then "touch base" or check-in before we let them go again. No one could leave until all had checked in...bummer with the late-comers.

Now we have So.Cal. Season tickets and try to take our grandchildren when they aren't busy, in school, etc. This is difficult. So we usually just spend a day there ourselves and reminisce. "Soaring over California" is our favorite. We are looking forward to getting back on those submarines too. The last time they were in operation, I got claustrophobic and had to sit by the door (hatch?) It should be better this time. (and dryer)

What is it with this attraction to "exclusivity"? We all want to think we are special or different or something, don't we. I wonder if this is the way Walt wanted it to be? Probably. After all, when you're at the "Happiest Place on Earth", what more could you want? Rat...atouille? Bob!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Have you ever wanted your own musical theme which always accompanies you wherever you go? I have. And, at times, I do have one; inside my head. It is not one of those nagging pop tunes that just keeps repeating itself mindlessly once you hear it. It is changeable though, according to my mood and circumstance. Sometimes there are lyrics with it, sometimes not. It is not that profound or mood changing, but it is just a part of me.

Dictionary.com's "Word of the Day" says: 1. In music drama, it is a marked melodic phrase or short passage which always accompanies the reappearance of a certain person, situation, abstract idea or allusion in the course of a play or opera; a sort of musical label. 2. A dominant and recurring theme.

Leitmotif (leitmotiv) is from German Leitmotiv, "leading motif", from leiten, "to lead" (from Old High German leitan) + Motiv, "motif" from the French. It is especially associated with the operas of German composer Richard Wagner.

An up-to-date example of its modern use would be in my wife's favorite "Soap" DOOL* "Days of our Lives". The archetypal villain, Sephano Dimara, has just reappeared, like the "phoenix" of old to complicate and threaten the good lives of the "Bradys" etc. and his leitmotif is his constant playing of "Die Valkyrie" from "Der Ring des Nibelungen" by Richard Wagner. It is classically ominous. Even though he is Italian and he has a vendetta against the Bradys, an Irish family, he just loves this Norse themed opera. It just heightens the suspense and flesh-crawling quality of the soap's summer episodes.

There are those in my family to whom I could easily assign a leitmotif. They would also vary but have an over-riding theme and mood. It is fun to do. Music has that ability to move me and help me understand life's circumstances and those around me. The classic example for my wife and I was my choosing the theme from "Tristan und Isolde" (also Wagnerian) for one of our Wedding songs. Of course we had the traditional ones, sung by our favorite baritone, wedding singer from our church, but I just had to have this leitmotif. I wouldn't use the word "pathos" for our wedding, but it has that quality of yearning. There are certain Italian Opera Arias, especially tenor ones, which also have the same effect on me.

Voltaire is quoted: "Anything too stupid to be said, is sung." I disagreed, sorry, Voltaire. I would say, "Anything too profound to be said, is sung." From the early cavemen, who probably gathered for the first concerts at the mouth of enormous caves with the first percussion insturments and vocal to the latest rock concerts under the stars in gigantic amphitheaters, trivial and profound communication does take place and we are moved. Digital recordings of it now just don't do it justice. Live performances stir the soul for me. I only wish that the best concert venues, i.e. The Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., weren't so out of reach for me. Rarely do you get any big concerts, even at the colleges anymore. Everything is eventually recorded and put on the smallest of screens like ipods etc. Big thrill!

Maybe that's what "heaven" (or hell) will be like for me...one massive concert after another of all my LEITMOTIFS forever after... Ah Bliss! Bob!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ten Thousand Veiled Suns

Pardons begged from Khaled Hosseini and his latest best seller, "A Thousand Splendid Suns". This is a quote from one of his favorite Farsi Poets about the beauty of Afghanistan. It may have been a land of beauty to some but to me, the culture that continues to barely survive there is anything but Splendid. Now we are hearing of the return of the Taliban. I can only imagine with horror what atrocities will also return.

Hosseini's first book, "Kite Runner" was a wonderful book. I blogged on it here. Now, I guess, it is being considered for a movie. It gave just the beginning insights into the "Male Dominated" culture of Afghanistan a few years back. What an eye-opener. It is so hard to believe that such a "tribal mentality" still exists in this world, especially in the Islamic World. Now his second book continues to reveal this primitve culture from the "Submissive Female" point of view. Actually, these women are only outwardly submissive. His story offers a glimmer of hope for those who can survive the physical part of the domination. (a feeling of "safety" inside a burka is reported) In an recent article in the L.A. Times, he expresses the hope that this society will progress and evolve to one of equality but not through "Macho American Intervention" i.e. forced democracy etc. like we are trying to do in Iraq.

How can any society hope to make it when they discount half of their human resources, hiding them in burkas and let the other half blow themselves up? There was an excellent commentary on Good Morning America today with Diane Sawyer about this very situaltion in the Gaza Strip. When you have jihadists blowing up their own, not just Jews and Christians, what have you really got...idiotsy. How long can they continue to do this? Their sense of frustration is so great, with their daily needs not being met by any kind of civil government, that they just continue to self destruct. (Almost like rats in a blistering hot desert cage)

A few days ago the L.A. Times had another excellent article in their "Column One" feature on the left of the front page entitled: "A Veiled-eye View of Saudi Segregation" It was a heart-felt report from Megan K. Stack who was recently back from being "embedded" in the above culture (Saudi) based in Egypt for many years. What insights she had, being a female reporter and having to wear the abaya, which, I guess is similar to the burka. She expressed an exasperation with it from the moment she had to don the full-length veil in the airplane arriving, to when she threw it off departing. And no one seemed to notice her frustration. It was as though women were expected to cover themselves completely so they won't "tempt" the men into any "unholsome thoughts or acts". Ridiculous! And yet, it wasn't too long ago that our leading presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, had to publically confess that he had "lust in his heart" when he looked at certain women. And then, of course, there's Bill Clinton.

What is so fearful about an "empowered woman"? Is she going to cut your "you know what off"? Is she going to "swallow you up" with her superior competence? Are we that threatened by them? Our pop culture sure has fallen for the young, lean ones lately, who "kick butt". Jessica Alba after all is one of the "Fantastic Four". She better watch out, look what happen eventually to Jane Fonda...hip replacement from all that aerobisizing.

Seriously though, what will Islamic women have to do to be considered equal and valued. The poor heroine in "Thousand" eventually had to kill her husband in self-defence. Then she was summarily sentenced to a swift death in the arena. This was less than 10 years ago in Kabul (in the book) but I bet it is still happening all over the Islamic world. They just don't have a chance, even with increased educational opportunities. They are allowed to be doctors, teachers etc. all service and helping occupations, but not leaders politically or scientifically.

When we visited Istanbul, Turkey last year around this time I was struck with a number of incongrueties: gigantic mosques, lavishly carpeted, (smelly too) but only for the men; women beggars, who turned out to be pick-pockets, used by men in cues of tourists; proud husbands (heads up) carrying their male infants to the mosque to be dedicated with the dutiful wife(s) following the appropriate steps behind, heads downcast; circles of men only chanting and beating themselves in a public display of sadistic sanctitude(?). So they not only beat on their women.

What do we (our culture) have to fear from such a "primitive one"? Much. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, read the Koran for just this reason. When he was president, he had "dealings" with this culture and it was not even then in its early stages. We are the "infidel" and we are to be eliminated, not assimilated as we might try to do. i.e. Congressman Ellison's swearing on T.J.'s Koran recently. What are we thinking? We are not "The Borg"! Bob

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Once in a Blue Moon

Tonight we will have a "Blue Moon". It is the first in nearly three years. They happen approximately every 2.7 years and our next one is in December of 2009.(another month with 31 days) Full moons happen every 29 1/2 nights so they don't neatly fit into human calendars. I like that about them, being a "moon child" myself (and my wife) So, this month, we get two full moons, not one, but two, count them. They don't happen everywhere in the world i.e. Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. They will not have the full moon until June 1st., tomorrow. The next full moon will be June 30, and we'll be on The Baltic, on a Princess Cruise. I bet it will be so romantic out on the deck. (I just checked with our travel agent and she verified it) Maybe I'll have to "croon in June under the moon" to her.

Just some other facts here before I move on to my "musings". In the Pacific Time Zone, tonight the moon will be full at 6:04 P.M.. It will barely be dark by then. The current meaning of the term "blue moon" is only 61 years old.(I'm older) Starting in 1932, the Maine Farmers' Almanac suggested that when a season had four full moons, instead of the typical three, the third full moon should be called a "blue moon". A 1946 Sky and Telescope magazine article misinterpreted this rule to mean the second full moon in a calendar month. The first use of "blue moon" appeared to be in an English verse in 1528. There it meant "never". Now, it connotes "very rare" or seldom for an uncommon event, but it originally meant "never" and then "absurd" according to the International Planetarium Society. The moon can appear to be blue after volcanoes or forest fires emit clouds of particles of a certain size. (refracting/reflecting just part of the spectrum-longer rays) In 1883, ash from the massive eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia caused a "blue moon" in parts of the world for years.

I remember being in a talent show in high school in the late '50's where one of our most talented singers, I think her name was Sylvia, sang "Blue Moon" the old standard in such a romantic way that the staff/faculty was "not pleased". At the time, we didn't associate the "scientific meaning" with the "song's meaning"...if you catch my meaning. Come on, we were just high school boys with one thought on our minds...

Speaking of thoughts...if you get a chance, go and see the current movie, "Waitress" with Kari Russell. It is a gem. This kind of "old fashioned movie" only happens, "once in a blue moon". It is so quaint and architypal(?) in it's roles and message. She is so cute, the kind of girl, you want to bring home. (not the current popular kind, who "kick butt") Without spoiling the show, she expresses herself through her pie-making ability. ala "Can she make a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?" Boy, can she! This was a popular song for my parents. My dad's name was Bill (William) and boy, could my mom cook. (yes, I know, the song has "other meanings") Anyway, she, Keri, is the only one who can get along with the old, cranky, demanding codger played by Andy Griffith(?) or Griffin. Yes, he's getting old and playing marvelously "against type" He becomes her mentor and saviour. Such a sweet movie...yes, a chic flic, and I'm recommending it.

Of course, "Waitress" reminds me of one I chanced to meet in Claremont many years ago now. Her name, as I recall was June, as in tomorrow, the first day of the famous month. She was true to that song from one of those Rogers and Hammerstein Musicals, I forget which one, that is about the month of June... She too, worked at a Pie Place and I'd stop there once in awhile for a slice. We got to talking and I found out that she was going to college and preparing to be a teacher. Well, as it goes, things just worked out. Our school, Oakmont, was looking for a "teacher's Aide", an open position. I told her to go apply. She did and was hired by Dorothy Bromage. She didn't work with me but helped with kids who were having trouble reading. She was so well liked as an Aide that she was hired by the Principal at Sycamore as a 1st grade teacher. We became "friends" with her and her husband and they moved to a big house on Indian Hill. We renewed our "wedding vows" in their backyard with them. We even went with them and a group to the Renaissance Faire one year. That was the last time we saw them. The movie reminded me of them in a way. I wonder whatever happened to them. I wonder if they wonder whatever happened to us? Maybe we'll do it tonight, under a big "blue moon". Bob!