Homer's Travels: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

San Gabriel Mission and a Return to Olvera Street and Chinatown

After our trip to Olvera Street, the wife mentioned our trip to one of her friends, let's call her 'J', who expressed her interest in going. On Sunday we decided to go back with 'J' in tow to look for more treasures. We decided to add one of the California Missions (Mission San Gabriel) to our trip to add something new for us.

We started our Sunday trip with a hearty breakfast at Uncle Herb's. The staff were all dressed up in Halloween fare. There was a fog machine and everything was decorated. There were several young children who wouldn't go in because it was too scary. We had a great breakfast which included some of the best pancakes on the planet.

We then drove down the PCH and made our way to Mission San Gabriel. We toured the mission and the gardens. The mission was cool but there was a volunteer guide who spoke too loud and was generally obnoxious. We have now visited 5 missions - only 16 to go.

We continued on to Olvera Street. The market place and park was much more crowded then it was two weeks earlier. There were Dia De Los Muertos displays honoring dead relatives and children and adults alike were having their faces painted like skulls. Mariachis were playing and singing and the crowd were having a great time. I separated from the wife and 'J' and looked around the area while they shopped. The architecture is fascinating with buildings from the 1800s and the early 1900s. I found an interesting mural near the park, a real cool firehouse, and walked through the Dia de los Muertos exhibits at the Pico House. Along with the tributes to the family dead was a war memorial consisting of panels hung from the ceiling, their bottom edge resting a a box of sand, listing US Military casualties on one side and civilian casualties on the other.

We regrouped and moved on to Chinatown. We discovered that the main street was once part of historic route 66. We walked through the dragon gate and took in the sites. We had never been to Chinatown so late in the day and the crowds were small. There was a show starting in the little square where we saw the lion dance but it was getting late so we headed home. Here are some links to more pictures of Olvera Street, Chinatown, and Mission San Gabriel.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mount Rainier Upon Reflection ...

One of these days I will post about my 1995 roadtrip around the west. But, for now, let's just reflect upon Mount Rainier:

Taken near Mount Rainier, September 1995

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TV: The Season So Far

Well its been a few weeks since the new series started and here is a rundown on the two new dramas that I started to watch. The first is Jericho. All I can say about Jericho is that last week it was nuked by America's Next Top Model. We turned the channel to watch Jericho and I looked at the wife and said, are you as uninterested in Jericho as I am? She agreed and we switched to ANTM. The fact is, we don't miss it. It was too slow and too humorless to hold our attention and interest.

Heroes is a whole different story. What a great show. We are really enjoying this superhero romp. The story is interesting. The drama is deftly balanced with humor. We groan when the episode ends - we are left wanting for more. If you aren't watching Heroes, you are missing out on a fun, entertaining show. The show has to have one of the best tag lines ever ... in the world ... a lot:

Save the cheerleader ... Save the World!

So to sum it up - Jericho Nuked by Models. Heroes romp.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Southwest 1998

Here is the third installment of our past vacations. This was our first major roadtrip as a married couple. The plan was a 12 day tour of the southwestern U.S. - Arizona, New Mexico, Las Vegas. We started on the road on 27 June and drove to Phoenix.

In Phoenix we had tickets for the Lilith Fair concert on the 28th. We spent most of the day there lounging by the pool since the concert didn't started until late afternoon. When we arrived at the Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion it was well over 100ºF. The venue was an open air amphitheater and the sun was beating down on the seats. I bought some water and some watermelon which really helped. The wife only had some water if I remember right. Around the concession area they had mist-ers set up but the mist evaporated in the heat before it reached the crowd below. The first band up was Liz Phair. I was already a big fan of hers and I really enjoyed her set. At the first break, the wife said she wasn't feeling very well. We headed to the restrooms and the concession area. On the way she almost passed out. I sat her down propped up against a wall and went and bought her a cold glass of fruit punch. She downed that and I bought her a second one. We then bought a couple of hamburgers and more water. The fruit punch seemed to heal her. This may have been her first experience with heat stroke - it sneaks up on you. We bought more water and returned to our seats and watched the rest of the concert without incident. The sun was going down and things cooled down. We listened to the Indigo Girls , Sarah McLachlan , and Erykah Badu. We enjoyed the performances. There were multiple stages so we missed several of the smaller, less known performers. Even with the heat and the whole passing out thing, this was an awesome start to our Southwest explorations.

The next day we drove to Tombstone, AZ . We did tour of the town on a horse drawn carriage. The guide would point at some souvenir shop and say that used to be the Saloon and then she pointed at another souvenir shop and said that was where Doc Holiday set up shop. It seemed that everywhere that was once important was now a souvenir shop and little, if anything, left of the original function. The tour ended at the O.K. Corral . The whole place was a big tourist trap. I was disappointed. We left town and headed East.

We arrived in El Paso just before dark. We passed hotel after hotel as we entered the city but I decided to drive through the town and find a hotel on the way out - BAD MOVE. There were no hotels on the East side and it got dark real fast. We ended up turning around and coming back into the city and found a hotel next to the airport. I'm glad we turned around since we found out the next day that there was nothing East of El Paso for 160 miles.

The next day was weird. We left El Paso and headed for Carlsbad, NM. We were on 180 which goes through desolate salt flats and scrubby ranches. At times it was like we were driving on the Moon. The wife needed a rest stop and after driving an hour we came upon a filling station literally out in the middle of nowhere. On an old bus seat sat the boy from Deliverance. All he was missing was the banjo. The dueling banjo song kept going through my head. We had pulled in after a minivan. The mother and her kids got out and headed to the bathroom first. She came out shortly after and told her kids and the wife: "You do not have to go that bad!" The kids and the wife got back in our respective vehicles and we moved on.

We arrived at Carlsbad, NM and went spelunking. Carlsbad Caverns were impressive. We rented the self-guided CD tour and made our way down into the cave. We both enjoyed the caves. Unfortunately I did not have a camera at the time so no pictures were taken. If you are in the area and are interested in Caves or just natural beauty, Carlsbad Caverns is worth a visit. Around the mouth of the cave there are bleachers set up for people to observe the bats that leave the mouth every evening at sundown. We sat is the heat waiting for the bats, which supposedly numbered in the hundreds of thousands. One, 1, uno, bat flew out of the cave. That was it. Turns out the bats are more intelligent then the humans. As we were out in the 100 degree heat sweating our keasters off, the bats were lounging in the cool cave and taking the night off. I would have liked to see the bats but the caves did not disappoint.

The next day we drove on the Roswell, NM site of a famous UFO incident. All the stores had UFO, Alien, some other space reference in their names. We visited the museum , ate lunch and moved on. By the way, no aliens were seen while we were in Roswell.

The real weirdness started after we left Roswell. We headed west on 380 planning to link up with the 25 and drive north into Albuquerque. Before we got to the 25 is got really dark, started raining like there was no tomorrow, and hailed. We were really freaked out at how severe it was. We finally drove out of it but then, to the North where we were heading, we saw the darkest, blackest, ugliest weather on Earth. We got on the 25 and the rain got harder and harder. People were parked under the overpasses to get out of the rain. You couldn't see ten feet in front of the car, it was raining so hard. We pulled off the road in Bellen, NM and found a hotel to wait out the weather. The whole town was flooded. We ate at a nice steak house not too far from our hotel and listened to the rain and thunder.

The next morning the weather had cleared and we made it to Albuquerque. We didn't spend too much time there. A little shopping and looking around. We rode a tram that overlooked the city.

The next day was Santa Fe, NM. We decided to do a walking tour which was interesting. On the tour we visited the Loretto Chapel famous for it's spiral staircase.

Next stop was Taos, NM. We took a horse drawn tour that I don't remember being very memorable. They did point out that part of Easy Rider was filmed there. We did some more shopping and found a store full of Mexican goods - reminded me of Pier 1 - where we bought Morty the table cat and the Sun (the one shown here as part of the ND shrine).

Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos were interesting but nothing there thrilled me. I supposed if you liked the Southwest style of art and architecture you would like it. I was under-whelmed.

We left Taos and drove to Chama, NM to ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The train ride was fun for the first 30 minutes or so but then the seats became uncomfortable and the scenery became monotonous. At the half way point we got off and were served a Mexican buffet lunch - I do not like Mexican and didn't eat much so I was starving when we got back to Chama. The day was still young so we decided to drive on.

We ended up in a small town - I can't remember if it was Bloomfield, NM or Farmington, NM. There is a casino there and not much else. We looked for a laundromat to wash some clothes and found one getting ready to close. They kept it open for us and we got our laundry done. A very little girl approached the wife while we waited and started talking. The wife was surprised when the little girl asked "Have you ever had sexes?" The wife artfully dodged the question telling her that that was not an appropriate question for such a young lady.

We left New Mexico and set our sights on the Grand Canyon. We decided to use Williams, AZ as our base of operations. Williams is a nice little town that's on old route 66 and has gun fight shows on main street in the early evenings for the young'uns. It was a pleasant town a straight shot south from the Grand Canyon. We got some grub at Rod's Steakhouse and were going to watch the gunslingers when the sky got really dark and the thunder and lightning show of force drove the wife and I back to the safety of our hotel room.

The next day we drove to the South rim and saw the awesome sights. Then we made the mistake. I had been there back in 1995 and I had wanted to walk the rim, an 8 mile hike. The problem was that the shuttle van had been discontinued for the season which essentially doubled the hike. This time, the shuttle was still running so I suggested doing the 8 mile hike. We started off with full water bottles and enthusiasm. The trail started OK but the distance between the trail and the edge of oblivion grew shorter and shorter to the point that we were both a little nervous. We found a parallel trail further away from the edge and walked on. Soon, the water started running low and our enthusiasm turned into thoughts of hatred and slow torture. I expected that there would be water at the various view stops along the rim. I was wrong. No bathrooms, no water. Finally, at mile 7 we gave up and got on the shuttle. The shuttle took us to the end of the trail where we bought water, soda, and ice cream to hydrate us and cool us down. The rim hike is now fondly remembered as the Death March.

When we started this vacation, we intended to stop in Vegas on the way back but we soon discovered that 10 days in a car was our limit. To make it worse, the AC in the car was mediocre at best so we were hot and miserable while we were in the car. After the Grand Canyon death march we decided it was time to go home.

This vacation was a mix of the good (Lilith Fair, Carlsbad Caverns), the bad (heatstroke, the death march), and the weird (Deliverance boy and the freaky weather) but all in all we had a good time. We learned about our limits and have become better vacation planners. We enjoyed the desert views and had our fill of the southwest.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Walking on the Ventura Beach

Another weekend and another walk on the beach. This time I went out to the Ventura Harbor and walked up the beach towards surfer's point, location of Seaside Park and the Ventura County Fairgrounds. This beach is different from the Hueneme Beach in that it is lined with million dollar beach homes and is much more crowded. Hueneme beach goes along a wetlands area and is rarely crowded. I reached the Ventura Pier, the longest wooden pier on the west coast, that is before it was shortened by the relentless destructive force of wind and wave. The pier has been damaged and rebuilt several times in its history and the latest incarnation is shorter and sturdier.

I decided to have some lunch on the pier at a little grill. The sign was a little scary but I figured if I stuck with the Chicken Sandwich then I probably wouldn't end up with any bait. Nearby someone decided that a warning sign needed embellishing.

After eating I walked out to the end of the pier and watched the fishermen, families, and tourists moving about. I saw a homeless man lying on a bench strumming a banjo, his grocery cart full of his life's possessions and his fishing pole close by. I couldn't hear what he was playing since I was listening to This American Life but I heard enough to know that he wasn't half bad. I walked through Seaside Park and ended up at Surfer's Point. Surfers and their dogs were all over the place - in the water and sitting of the tailgates of their trucks chillin'.

It was time to turn around and walk back. On my little jaunt I witnessed the full spectrum of life: I saw young children being introduced to the Pacific Ocean for their first time, young lovers walking lip-to-lip, Two beach marriages (One near the pier and one in someone's backyard ... urrr ... back-beach?), older couples sharing their lives in the sun, and elders clinging to their faltering memories of the sea breezes and ocean waves. At seaside park I saw the memories. The walk is lined with benches, each marked with a plaque dedicated to someone's memory. One couple are now forever, together, facing the beach I am sure they loved.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Morrow Bay 1998

Our second roadtrip was a short little jaunt to Morrow Bay and places yonder. Once again I chose a crappy hotel that had very little going for it. It was not near the beach and really wasn't near anything. The lesson here is cheap is not always better and location is, as they say, King. The one thing that made this trip worth while was a visit to Harmony and Cambria.

We drove to Harmony hoping to have lunch at the cafe there but it turned out to have closed in 1997. The only thing open in the tiny town, that straddles Old Creamery Road, was a pottery store. It did have a weird ghost town feel to it and I have always wanted to return and take some pictures but haven't done it ... yet.

We continued up the road to Cambria. Cambria is one of our favorite destinations. We usually go there twice a year when we need a change of scenery. This was also our first time in town and we had our first Tri-Tip sandwiches at the Main Street Grill. We have only eaten in two restaurants here and the Main Street Grill is the one that keeps luring us back for more. We did some exploratory shopping - I don't think we bought anything at the time. We have bought more cool stuff in our subsequent visits.

That was pretty much it. Morrow Bay was disappointing but the discovery of Cambria enriched our lives.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book: Philip Roth's The Plot Against America

My latest read is Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America". The book is set in a counter-factual 1940's where Charles Lindbergh , running on a Republican, America First, stay-out-of-the-war platform, defeats FDR during his run for a third term. The book follows the Roth family, a Jewish family living in Newark, NJ, try to cope with a more and more hostile America as the pro-Nazi, Anti-Semitic administration slowly tries to tear their family apart. The book is a good read until the last two chapters. The next to last chapter, "Bad Days," feels like it was tacked on when the author couldn't figure how to end the book. The chapter acts like a reset button that makes Lindbergh disappear, make the anti-Semitic violence reach a crescendo and then disappear, and returns FDR to power just in time for Pearl Harbor. This chapter destroys the counter-factual background of the book. Unfortunately, it was the counter-factual nature of the book that interested me the most. The last chapter, "Perpetual Fear," returns the book back to the events affecting the family that was more like the rest of the novel but it seemed chaotic and felt like an afterthought. My expectations for this book were high and, unfortunately because of the last two chapters, the novel did not live up to them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Few Corrections

After I posted about Olvera Street and Chinatown, I was talking with the wife about the little incident with the Crazy Chinese Lady. It turns out I was totally wrong about a few things. The wife didn't think she was saying our last name. Neither was she saying Hawaii. I pretty much was wrong about everything. The Crazy Chinese Lady, as the wife correctly pointed out, was saying "Hauli" which means: Hawaiian slang for a white person not from Hawaii.

I stand corrected!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Olvera Street & Chinatown

On Sunday we went down to Olvera Street down in Los Angeles. Olvera Street is the site of the Pueblo, founded in 1781, that grew to become modern LA. The one block area is now a pedestrian market where you can find all sorts of Mexican crafts, clothes, and leather goods. El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) festival will be taking place there on 1 - 2 November and the marketplace was decorated with skulls and skeletons, symbols synonymous with El Dia de los Muertos. We strolled through the shops and the wife purchased a couple shawls and a gnarly bag with skulls and roses. We also found some magnets to adorn our fridge.

After completing a couple of circuits around the market, we found a place to eat before moving on to Chinatown. Chinatown is only a few blocks from Olvera Street so it was convenient. It was strange passing Chinese restaurants, their signs all in Chinese Lettering, with Mexican mariachi music blaring out the windows. The melting pot lives on.

We headed towards the old entrance of Chinatown which has a bunch of interesting little shops. The area is decorated with paper lanterns and fountains. There was a group of old Chinese men playing some game I didn’t recognize. The board was similar to a checker board and the pieces were round but it didn’t look like checkers or mahjong. We visited some shops and did some more shopping – a few scarves and another shawl/blouse thing. We also got a cool stamp that is supposed to say "Homer" in Chinese. Of course, it could say "Stupid American" for all I know.

We were walking through the common area when a lady comes up behind us, saying “Hawli! Hawli! Don’t go yet! There a show at 2 o’clock! Don’t Go Hawli! Not yet!” We were both a little spooked since she looked a little crazy and she kept tugging my shirt. The wife thought she was saying a butchered form of our last name - it did sort of sound like it. The shirt I was wearing was a t-shirt that I had bought on the big island of Hawaii. She was actually saying Hawaii and it turns out that there was a show at 2:00.

At 2:00 a crowd gathered around the Hop Sing Tong Benevolent Association’s front door where a troop of teenagers did a Lion Dance. There were poles 4-6 ft tall with small, 12 – 18 inches in diameter, platforms on them. Two b
oys in the Lion costume (similar to the old comedy horse – one person in the head and one person in the rear) danced around and then jumped up on the small platforms and danced to the sound of booming drums and crashing cymbals. It was very impressive and fun to watch. Thank you crazy Chinese Lady!

On the way back to the car we passed a man playing “Oh Susanna” on an electric Erhu – Surreal.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hueneme Beach, This American Life, and Balloon Vacations

Over the last year or so, I have been going down to the beach and walking for an hour or two on the weekends. I haven't been consistent with my walking. The wife suggest I go walking today and that was very good idea. I have been spending too much time in front of the confuser. So, after catching up on my weekly Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica fix, I went to my favorite beach - Hueneme Beach (Pronounced Why-Knee-Me). The beach is clean and rarely crowded. A lot of our beaches have tar balls from the nearby oil rigs and be very messy on the shoes. Hueneme Beach is one of the clean ones since it faces more to the south. I park near the Hueneme Pier and walk towards Point Mugu Naval Air Station (part of Naval Base Ventura County). The total walk there and back is about two hours.

My walk today was delightful. It was windy but not cold. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds. I had my MP3 player full of This American Life episodes. This American Life is an NPR radio show that tries to tell the American Story. The stories are interesting and often fascinating. By the way, for those who care, This American Life is now available as a FREE podcast. I have been waiting for this for a long time. I have some 288 episodes downloaded and now I will have a new one every Monday starting on the 16th. My big problem is finding the time to listen. I estimate that it will take some 6 years to listen to them all.

This was the first time I walked with my camera. Once I saw a Jelly Fish washed up on shore. It looked like a translucent mountain - a crystal Mount Rainier. I regretted not having my camera. When I headed back toward the pier the visitor was gone - washed back to sea by the tide.

I was ready this time. I took a few pictures, as you can see. The fence attempting to divide the ocean marks the boundary of Point Mugu.

I am sure you have always wondered, like I have, where balloons go when they want to vacation, relax, and unwind. They go to Hueneme Beach, of course. I caught this clan frolicking in the sun. They look so relaxed.

What's a Typewriter?

Typewriter? What's a Typewriter?

I Survived The Party

The party went well last night. People arrived after the homecoming game around 9:30 -10:00 PM-ish. They are all nice people. Generally a lot younger then the wife's old co-workers. About half the faculty showed up and talked up a storm. The night was perfect - no wind - no rain - slight chill in the air easily overcome by the fire pit. Beer was drank, snackies were eaten. The party broke up around 12:30 AM

Friday, October 13, 2006

Party Tonight At Our House

We're having a little post-homecoming party at our house tonight. I'm not much of a party animal but it will give me an opportunity to match names with faces. Hopefully it will be short and sweet. I'm shopping for party food, beer, and ice later today - my contribution to the party preparations.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

San Fransisco 1997

This is a first in a series of posts about previous vacations that the wife and I have taken since we got married.

Our first trip together as a married couple, besides our Honeymoon, was a roadtrip to San Francisco. I'd been there twice before to visit old friends - one from High School and one from College. We drove up the evening before Thanksgiving, spending the night in San Simeon. On Thanksgiving day we finished to drive to San Francisco. Highway 1 between San Simeon and San Francisco was closed due to road work so we had to go up the less picturesque 101. On the way we drove highway 46 which connects 1 with the 101. This road runs through wineries and there are beautiful views of the Morro Bay area along the way. It is one of our favorite drives - too short though.

We reached the bay area and made our way to our hotel. On the way there, as we drove around trying to figure the shortest way, I made a turn down this incredibly steep road. Anyone who has ever been to San Francisco knows that is it a very hilly city. This road was so steep it looked like we were driving off a cliff. The wife, realizing where the car was heading started saying "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!" The string of OH MY GODs was briefly broken when the wife looked up and said "Look! There's Alcatraz! before continuing with the OH MY GODs. Funny.

We made it to our hotel, an unimpressive place called the Royal Pacific Motor Inn which happened to be in in the perfect location. The hotel was on the edge of Chinatown, a block or so from the cable car line, and a few blocks from the City Lights bookstore. We started out walking through Chinatown taking in the exotic sights, sounds, and smells. Many of the foods displayed in the windows and hanging outside the stores were totally alien to the both of us. The wife picked up some strange root-like thing and was going to smell it in an attempt to identify it when a Chinese lady came at her with a rolled up newspaper and chased her out of the store. There were other people touching the food in the store so we never could figure out what the wife did to receive the wrath of the proprietor. We laughed at it all and moved on with our exploration. San Francisco is an imminently walkable city. Everything that we were interested in was within walking distance or at least a cable car ride away. The only other city I've been to that is similar is New York (Manhattan).

On Friday we moved out of Chinatown and headed toward Fisherman's Wharf. On the way, once again conveniently close to our hotel, we visited Lombard Street the famous twisty-turny road. Arriving at the Wharf, we looked into going out to Alcatraz but were disappointed to find that you need a reservation and we would not be able to go out to the island prison. We returned back to the hotel and went to the City Lights bookstore . Most of you may know that the wife is interested in Beat Literature, especially Kerouac . City Lights played a part in Kerouac's life. It was a meeting place for many of the Beat Generation bigwigs and the alley between the bookstore and the nearby bar is named Jack Kerouac Alley. We purchased a poster for the wife's classroom and went out for dinner and a movie - I can't recall the name.

On Saturday we connected up with the wife's Aunt and we did some catching up and some sightseeing. We visited Coit Tower a looked at the murals and the view of the city from Telegraph Hill. We ended up back at Fisherman's Wharf and, inevitably, Ghirardelli Square. I am a major chocoholic and I am hooked on Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate. At least they say that Dark Chocolate may be good for the heart - it is definitely good for the taste buds.

At this point in the day we had been walking around for hours and I was getting hot and tired. This is not a good thing since I often get crabby when I am hot and tired. I was tired - I was hot - I was crabby - I came close to ruining a good day. We saw the wife's Aunt off at the ferry terminal where she caught a ride home and we took the cable car back to the hotel. The ride back was quiet since the wife was royally pissed at my crabby/crappy behavior (and rightly so). We've grown better at recognizing my approaching crabbiness and getting it under control.

We drove back home on Sunday. All in all an O.K. vacation.

You may have noticed that San Francisco is on the list of Future Destinations. We have become much more savvy travelers since out first trip and we want to return to see the things we missed - Alcatraz and Angel Island being two places we want to visit.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sausage Kingdom

We went to the outlet mall to do some clothes shopping and ended up eating at the Sausage Kingdom. How would you like to work at a joint named the Sausage Kingdom?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Addition to Homer's Travels: Spiffy Travel Magnets

You may have noticed the new section on the sidebar titled: "Travel Magnets."Since our first major vacation as a married couple back in 1998, we have been buying souvenir magnets everywhere we go. We don't always find them but in most places we have been lucky. The main criteria is that they have to be of a place we have been and the magnets have to have some level of cool-osity. This first magnet is an Eskimo head purchased in Alaska in 2002. This is one of my favorite and Alaska was one of my favorite vacations (surpassed only by Peru).

I plan to post a new magnet every week or so in no particular order. Enjoy!

Notre Dame, Mary, and Wiraqocha

I mentioned in an earlier post that the wife builds a shrine next to the TV when she watches Notre Dame football. While most of the readers may already be aware of this, a few of you may not be familiar with the wife's football habits. Here is a picture of the shrine. The main components are a Fighting Irish Leprechaun figurine, a statue of Mary draped with a rosary, and a lit candle ( a green candle, of course). The rosary was purchased at the Notre Dame bookstore during our visit in 2004 (Purdue vs. Notre Dame - my last live game - Notre Dame lost). The Sun in the background was purchased in Taos, New Mexico back in 1998 and has been on the speaker ever since.

The statue of Mary is from Peru. We bought her in a market in the town of Pisac. My clumsiness resulted in Mary being dropped before we even got back on the bus but fortunately the wife managed to repair her when we got home. There is some significance to the shape of Mary's vestments. When the Spanish conquered the Incas, they converted all of the natives. The natives were recruited to build the churches and statuary. The local artisans would combine the Christian symbols with their own Incan symbols. The triangular shape of Mary's vestments represents the sacred mountains where
Wiraqocha, the Sun God, and the Moon Goddess lived. Mary is often shown with a halo - a Christian symbol that also represents the rays of the Sun at the top of the mountain. I guess its appropriate that the Sun is in the shrine since that is the most important god to the Inca and fits in with the symbolism of the Mary statue.

The shrine seems to be working since Notre Dame is having a winning season. Go Irish!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy Birthday to The Wife!

Today is the wife's birthday! All together now ...

Happy Birthday To You!
Happy Birthday To You!
Happy Birthday Dear Wi-ife!
Happy Birthday To YOUUUUU!

Make a Wish and Blow out the candles!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Santa Monica Experience

We started Sunday morning heading down the Pasific Coast Highway (the PCH) towards Santa Monica. The day was overcast and drizzly. This was the first rain we've seen since spring. I guess winter is just around the corner. Anyway, we arrive at the Santa Monica pier at about 11:30 AM and found a parking spot. We were met by the unexpected sight of white markers (crosses, a few Stars of David, and Islamic Crecents) stuck in the sand next to the pier in neat, straight rows. 2,713 to mark the fallen in Iraq. A sobering start to our day if sightseeing. The display is known as Arlington West. We paid our respects.

We continued on to the pier. The rides were closed for a private party until 1:00 PM so we decided to walk around the pier and get some lunch. The drizzle continued as we walked around but cleared up before we ate lunch. We were expecting a cold day but the temperature was comfortable and there was little wind. The pier was lined with some fun flags advertising attractions of the past. We also saw Hot Dog Stick - the very first Hot Dog on a Stick food joint in the world. This is where the Milliner from Hell came up with the terrible multicolored hats that the servers are forced to wear.

Once the rides were open to the public we went straight for the Ferris wheel. It had been decades since the last time we rode one. The wife does not like to be dipped and twirled but she was looking forward to riding. Well, after we rode we have come to the conclusion that the wife cannot be dipped and twirled in any direction - horizontally or vertically. I think amusement parks are off our travel list. A haiku:

Walking on the Pier
Drizzle on the Fallen Heroes
Ride the Carnival Rides

Since the afternoon was still young, we decided to move on to the 3rd Street Promanade. The Promenade is a shopping district where the road is closed for about three blocks allowing people to wander at their leisure from store to store. Where the street once was, street performers were playing music and dancing for spare change. Some of the musicians were pretty good. I wasn't sure about the kilted bagpiper but I guess he wasn't bad. The street performers were more interesting then the stores - mostly high end clothing stores. We did see Larry David , from the show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and Vincent , one of the designers on Project: Runway. We decided to find some ice cream and were disappointed when we couldn't find any anywhere on the Promenade. Outrageous! We both decided that our curiosity had been sated and there really wasn't any reason to return to the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade.

We got back on the PCH and started back home. We stopped at a little shop which specialized in statuary. Interesting Hindu, Budda, and Christian statues. Priced out of our range. We didn't buy anything.

Our need for ice cream was finally satisfied by a couple McFlurries at the Malibu McDonalds - the place has a lounge (padded chairs with a coffee table) and a flat screen TV showing Football.

On the way home we detoured to visit a Hindu Temple tucked up in the Santa Monica Mountains. Unfortunately when we arrived, a service/ceremony/celebration was taking place and we felt like we were intruding. I took one picture and we got back in the car and went home.

See more pictures from our Santa Monica visit Here.