Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good Evening Mr. & Mrs. America and also to our ships at sea ....

Everyone, from time to time, has had that moment of "spark" when you hear a song on the radio, or in an elevator, or in this case, Starbucks ... and it transports you back to a time and place in your past ... brings a smile to your face or a tear to your eye.

Recently, I had accompanied my husband into town. I had a laundry list of items to tend to while he was at work; one of them being a Starbucks run. Generally, I take advantage of the drive-thru services, or place my order inside and leave. But, today afforded me the luxury of taking my laptop inside and cuddling  up in a little corner chair with my triple espresso caramel latte.

While I checked my work emails and checked in with my facebook friends, a melody came across the air that took me back in time to my childhood when my parents would play the oldies as we'd drive across this country of ours. A melody full of life, and happiness, and energy...The song was the Glenn Miller musical rendition of In The Mood, a song well-played and worn out during the days of WWII.  I am more accustomed to the Andrew Sisters singing the lyrics rather than just the melody, and found myself singing the words as they came to me...something I'm sure my fellow latte-lovers would have rather not witnessed. 

As the song enveloped me, it was all I could do to not get up from my chair, approach the elderly gentleman to my left, pull him up to his feet, and engage him in a full-on Dancing With The Stars moment right there in Starbucks! Shocking to most of you who know me, I did NOT do this as I normally would, mostly because this gentleman was elbow-deep in an anti-something political discussion with a much younger man sitting across from him. (then again, maybe he really could have benefited from the distraction). And, most importantly, I do not know how to do anything remotely resembling the dances of the time. 

I did manage to sit in my chair, cheerfully singing out loud, chiming in with trombone and trumpet players when appropriate  (which, I'm certain, was never appropriate if you asked the other patrons). I also took a moment away from my keyboard (miracle, right?) to take joy in some "jazz hands" moments while I chair danced...yep, I danced and wiggled in my chair throwing up some jazz hands while making my trumpet noises! I'm sure it was quite the sight and I think I heard someone tell the barista that they'd have "whatever it was that crazy lady with the jazz hands in the corner is having."

The Andrews Sisters are well before my time. Actually, a lot of the music I enjoy is! I blame this squarely on my parents; and love them for it. At a time when I was growing up and conventional music on the radio was far too mature for my little ears, my parents invested in 8-track tapes with music and stories and songs from eras long since past.
 I  enjoyed the music of The Andrews Sisters, The Glenn Miller Band, Roger Miller, Dinah Shore, and a wonderful tape of old radio stories including The Shadow and Baby Snooks.

Now, as I write this and look back at some of my favorite old-timey diddies, I realize that they weren't as wholesome as perhaps my parents had thought (Chug a Lug, Chug A Lug...Hmmmm....can you guess what that song was about?)
But, in their minds, anything was better than Rod Stewart singing to us impressionable girls that Tonight's The Night and how Donna Summer Works Hard For Her Money. 

Below are some links to some of my favorite songs as well as some excerpts from the radio shows I enjoyed as a child... with the internet and listening alternatives while ticking away the hours in our cars, I'd hope that other parents take the time to introduce some of these classics to their children. The kids will, more than likely, roll their eyes like I did, but who's to say what memories will be ingrained in their minds 30 or 40  years from now.

I hope you take a moment to treat yourself to these links to our past ...and for goodness sakes! Try to control those jazz hands !!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Subliminal Steps Backwards...

Subliminal advertising, or subliminal shepherding, as it sometimes is. We've all been subjected to it when we go to the movies... you want something specific to eat or drink, you want a specific brand or style of shoes or handbag. See a movie that makes you feel good, sad, angry, and we seem to emulate the behavior.

Product placement, as well as significant methods of mass propaganda  in the entertainment industry has been around since the early days of moving picture media. Subtle, but effective. Sometimes, we wouldn't even know that these messages were being streamed into our subconscious.

While other times, we catch a glimpse of the image, a behavior, or an emotion and it truly affects our direction.

Safe to say that we are steered, guided if you will, by things we see on television and in movies. A quick reference from Wikipedia states that subliminal stimuli was introduced in 1895, the concept became controversial as "subliminal messages" in 1957 when marketing practitioners claimed its potential use in persuasion. An excerpt from a later wiki passage is a bit alarming as reference to  perception without awareness, or unconscious perception. We do things without even thinking about it or realizing the behavior.

I refer to this and start this posting with the reference to this type of stimuli that we can all relate to. But what about those stimuli that we don't recognize? Those instances of unconscious perception?

I recently witnessed the effects of this psychological effect on us as human beings, and it's not always  pretty. In fact, this instance saddened me. Saddened me to the point that I wanted to write about it here. I hope my personal observations are not offensive to any of my readers.

This past summer I saw the trailer commercials for a movie that I thought would be interesting; funny, a feel-good movie. The movie I speak of is The Help, based on a novel by Katheryn Stockett.

I called a dear friend for a long over-due lunch and movie date. We shared the latest of our lives over burgers and diet coke. Laughed and delighted in the fact that although we had not seen each other in almost two years, we picked right up where we had left off; a quality, she shared with me later, is not often found in this day and age.  Female camaraderie is a beautiful thing and is to be celebrated, cherished.

And that female camaraderie  is a strong foundation from which this movie is built. But along the journey of these culturally diverse, yet affixed women, we are re-educated on the cruel, harsh realities of what life what like prior to the Civil Rights Movement  in the early 1960's.

Women and men of color were treated like little more than property and held a lower status than that of the domesticated dog. What I thought was going to be a movie full of smart and sassy moments reminiscent of Florence from the Jefferson's turned out to be a lesson in humanity, humility, and empathy.

One of the key points driven home in this movie is the deprivation of basic human needs as simple as utilizing the restroom. People of color were not allowed to use the restrooms not only in public, but in the very establishments and homes they cleaned and cared for. Some were subjected to painful instances of not being able to relieve themselves while others were to be "thankful" that their employers or town officials built them separate restrooms that make today's port-a-potties seem luxurious.

The struggle for bathroom equality was a key point throughout the movie, as well as other atrocities of the time. Injustices, heartbreak, fear.

The movie did offer plenty of  moments of that Florence-esque humor I was expecting. Not many of us will go though life not laughing at a "Two-Slice Hilly" reference.I could see Florence doing something like that to Mr. Jefferson.

There were the touching moments that just made you yearn to reach out and hug the women on the screen.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." 

As well as those moments that made you think; that made you cry. All-in-all it was a wonderful movie and I was happy for the injection of empathy; appreciation for my fellow man and those who strive for equality in any form or fashion.

As the credits began to roll, my friend excused herself to the restroom. I assured her that I would catch up.  I exited the theater seating,  pleased in our progress as the human race, pleased that I walked alongside my fellow woman, white and black alike; equal.

I waited outside the restroom not wanting to get caught in the fray of jockeying for a stall with all the women  who had exited that movie. It didn't take long for me to notice a strange instance unfolding right before my very eyes.

There were two entrances into the Ladies Room.

Two separate doors. Equal. No significant signage or indication that there was a difference.
Yet as every, and I mean EVERY, woman approached those doors, they stalled and seemed to become perplexed.

I watched in sadness as one by one, the white women chose one door and the black women chose the other. They had all just left a movie educating us in the woes of human injustice and the fight to end segregation, yet they had succumbed to the unconscious perception left in their minds and had subconsciously segregated themselves.

My spirit sunk a little as I realized the sadness of this event and I could imagine those Civil Rights icons,  such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, crying right along with me.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Frugal Adventures

Take a moment as you begin reading this entry to think about the one word that describes you. Are you funny? Loyal? Genuine? Impulsive? Adventurous? Quiet? ....

When I take a moment and do this for myself, one word comes to mind:  impulsive.

 I continually push the proverbial envelope in some form or fashion in an effort to feed my impulsive appetite; acting before I really think things all the way through. I've always been this way, and as I grow older, I find that this trait gets me into more and more trouble, hence providing blog-writing fodder and the basis for stories to last the test of time; the latest being that I am a potential shark attack victim!

Seriously... I was almost eaten by a shark !!! It is a true story that I find myself sharing with new acquaintances on a daily basis; "What happened to your arm?" ...."Oh, I'm a potential shark attack victim"
Quite a few eyebrows have been raised over the past months, especially during "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel.

                                                                'my new life mantra'

How does an average, coupon-clipping  wife, mother, and grandmother become a potential shark attack victim?? The internet! Modern-day advances in technology have done nothing but fuel the flame for my recklessness via sites that offer a money-saving deal here and there. I have a folder in my car chock-full of coupons for my next adventure or unique dining experience.

Much like those whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs, my appetite for impulsive adventures far outweigh my physical and mental capabilities. Despite the concerns voiced by friends and family alike, I jump before looking.

Last October, despite the warnings, I happily skipped off into the Southern California horizon, husband in tow,  to cash in on my latest internet deal ~ 50% savings on a 90-minute guided ocean kayak adventure. Sounds, right? I mean, anyone can kayak!


Dressed appropriately in light-weight layers of cotton apparel and slathered in sunscreen, Jim and I set out for our location on that beautiful fall morning. We arrived early, which considering I am late EVERYWHERE I go, this should have been an indicator of our impending doom. I checked in with our guide,  happily relinquished my coupon and waited. Our surfer-dude guide suggested that we stroll on down to the beach while we waited for the rest of our scheduled group to arrive.
                                                               "Look, I saved 50%"

The short, two block stroll did nothing but whet my appetite for sand and salt water, kayaks and paddles, laughter and memories...adventure!!!  At the beach, children were playing, surfers were surfing, fire fighters were jogging....

Yes, fire fighters...jogging...on the beach... Strapping young men in their shorts and fire department tees keeping themselves in pique physical condition for occasional rescues and on-demand pectoral flexes. As we passed them, I jokingly quipped, out loud, about how they should stick around...I might be needing their services later. Why do I tempt fate so?

Equipped with a kayak, paddles, about 50 pounds of safety equipment, and 20 or so witnesses, we headed back to the shore for a quick lesson and our adventure of a lifetime.

Kayaking 101 Tip: Tandem kayaks require balance and skill. Tandem anything is not as romantic as is sounds. Do not attempt.
                                                            ' Selecting our tandem kayak'

Educated in Kayak 101 and acting like the know-it-alls that we are...(ok, the know-it-all that I am) we take our guide-assigned tandem kayak to the shore and entered the chilly 58degree waters of the Pacific and mounted our trusty, yellow water-steed. No sooner had Jim taken his place behind me and I had gained some semblance of balance, we were slammed sideways by the breaking surf and promptly thrown out on our asses!

Mother of Pearl !!!  Dazed, embarrassed, soaking wet, and now with a fine layer of sand in my undies, I climb back into the kayak, balance myself while Jim gets in and SLAM !!! Another wave tosses us like rag dolls! This time, the current has gotten up under my helmet and I am dragged under water by my melon for what seems like an eternity! When I come up for air, Jim declares our surrender and wants to throw in the towel. I beg him to try one more time. I spent money on this and was not going to give up easily!

Our guide, who is thoroughly entertained,  suggests that we wade a little further out into the water to get past the breaking surf. Hanging on to our kayak, striding through the water on foot, we found ourselves in chest-deep water when I hear the voice of someone from our group calmly say, "Cool, look at that shark!"

               'Image Disclaimer: This shark is bigger. Potential victim is safely in his kayak.
Story Fact: I was in the water and "my" shark was big enough to scare the crap out of me'

It didn't take long for my brain to transmit panic to every muscle in my body as I looked to my right and there, just in front of me, was a 6' shark cruising along the ocean floor, looking for lunch and heading straight for ME!!! And here I am, an all-you-can-eat buffet ... every sharks dream!!!

Shark Survival 101 Tip: When Confronted By A Shark,  Do Not Thrash About

As I thrashed about, trying to get my fat ass back into the kayak while avoiding becoming lunch, I recall the guide advising me that this particular shark was a bottom feeder and wouldn't hurt me. Oh, yeah, like I'm gonna fall for that one, buddy. I've seen JAWS and who do you think you are claiming to know this shark, like he's a close, personal friend of yours ...a shark is a shark is a shark and we're gonna need a bigger boat!!! I start screaming hysterically that my feet are on the bottom where the shark was looking for a snack and I want my ass back in the boat, NOW!!!

In full-fledged panic, (and cursing like a sailor, which also heightens a shark's appetite), I repeatedly attempted to pull my terrified, exhausted, water-logged, sand-cracked self out of harm's way whilst Jim has both hands prominently placed on my backside literally trying to shove my ass back up into the kayak and our giggling guide is tugging on my life vest, attempting the same feat as Jim. We were quite the show, I assure you.  When you find the video on youtube, please let me know.

Still cursing, I  right myself in the kayak yet again, and refuse to admit defeat. Jim reluctantly gets back  in the kayak, and our poor guide has to swim us out past the surf where the rest of our group is waiting; dry as a bone and stifling their laughter.

'Notice how dry everyone is!! One happy adventurer even brought their Boxer dog, and he managed to stay dry!!!'

The next hour and a half consisted of Jim paddling laboriously while I put every ounce of energy I possessed into not falling over again and looking for those baywatch-esque firemen. I may need them after all.
If I fell in again, there was no way I was going to be able to get myself back into the kayak. I would either have to surrender myself to the sea or cling to the closest buoy until help arrived...

The water was topped with sea foam (which is so much prettier when followed by the word 'green') and the surf was unrelenting. Below us were stingrays, bat rays, fish, and more sharks. I was paralyzed with fear and stared at my water shoes the entire time.

 As we posed our "look-what-we-did" photo, with fake smiles plastered on our faces, Jim whispered through his clenched teeth::

" We are never doing anything tandem again...not kayaks, not bicycles-built-for-two....
hell, woman, you are not even allowed on the escalator at the same time as me at the mall" ... And I'm saying, " OK, OK, I get it, I get it...seriously? not even the mall??"

Eleven months later and I sadly must report that my $50 in savings have resulted in hundreds of dollars in medical bills, cortisone shots, physical and occupational therapies, and continual pain due to a tendon that was torn while trying to get back into the kayak.  I might have been better off letting the shark get me!!!  Twelve weeks of rest while on disability will, hopefully, keep me from the surgeon's scalpel.

I have more coupons to redeem in my quest for frugal adventures. Since I only have 3 working appendages, I traded my coupon for a guided Segway tour along the cliffs above the very cove where we kayaked for a coupon for a guided walking tour of San Diego's brothels of yesteryear....sounds like an adventure...sounds, right? I mean, anyone can walk!

Friday, September 2, 2011

...and, we're back

It's been a while since I've had the creative energy to drop a line here and there. I've taken some hits, emotionally and physically that have kept me from sharing these past few months. That, and we've had some issues with internet connection since our move to our permanent location  (more to follow on those recent developments later).

But, for now, I thank those of you that are still around. I've got more stories to come; including one involving a shark! No, seriously, a shark!

Now to get my thoughts in order ...another story coming soon....