Tuesday, May 08, 2007

vay-cay-shun 2007, Part One

I couldn't wait until Madrid in July so I took some time off to treat myself. I hadn't visited my hometown since Christmas so I split my vacation into two parts: two days upstate, one night in NYC before flying out to L.A. the next morning. It basically took me four days to completely unwind that I was actually on vacation without the pager as my umbilical cord to work. It was the morning, Tuesday, I think when I caught some Magnum PI or I Love Lucy on television with Alexa, whom I stayed with for the first part of my LA stay. I enjoyed the last two remaining days much as possible, even missing my flight because I dawdled at the airport and missed it by mere moments.

I took the Amtrak upstate and I made sure to take the primary seats on the right side, with the view of the Hudson River for the next two hours. The last half hour off, the train tracks would veer more inland approaching Albany. I was fortunate to catch the sunset over the river which was dazzling. I'd been in the city way too long to remember what the wide open sky looked like and things not moving. When I looked at the clouds I spaced out a bit imaging what shapes and forms they took. The Catskills and Hudson Valley looked like home to me since I grew up around Schoharie and Mohawk valleys. There was no food on the train so I texted my dad asking him to pick up some McDonald's. yeah, yeah, McDonald's but Albany being Albany and I don't know the town well for some late night munchies. I wasn't sure if I could last a further 45 minute trip on the car without food. Cheeseburger, fries, and milkshake never tasted so good!

The next day, Mom and I drove to Syracuse for a bit of genealogy research on my dad's side of the family, the first ones from Ireland to settle in the state. The first generation continues to elude my mother since no concrete information between 1850 and 1870s. We did do some elimination on other members to narrow down the right relatives and wrong ones following what information and family line my mom had on her research (15+ years worth). We had some lunch and beer at a local pub then headed back home. I took a leisurely nap and watched "The Queen" with my parents.

The next morning, mom and I went up to Saratoga area to see my grandparents who live in their "camp", built by my great-grandfather (see how proud I am of my family?). They had a Nor'easter (that monster rain storm, remember?) several weeks back and I was saddened to see some of the trees which I climbed as a kid, to be very brittle or split apart in some places. Quite a number of fallen branches for my grandfather and uncle to cut for firewood. We had a snack (my grandmother made chocolate cookie pie - yummy) by the window facing part of their yard that is full of bird feeders and some grub for my grandfather's beloved chipmunks. My grandfather (a spry 90 something) was grousing about a rat invading their yard. Sure enough, I saw it. Compared to rats I see in NYC - it appeared to be smaller, plump with a glossy fur even! the rat chased the chipmunk away from his grub and my grandfather was muttering that he would shoot it (with his BB gun). I haven't inquired whatever happened to it, but I'm sure it's gone by now.

Later in the day, my younger brother came in for several hours to do laundry and hang out for a bit. He drove me to Albany to drop me off at the train station. We took in some dinner before that - a great sushi place with some decent sake, chatted some more. Before we left, my brother went to the bathroom - he returned, marveled at the hair gel and body spray stash in there. I checked the ladies room. Tampons. That's all.

The train ride was uneventful and I arrived back to the city to pack for the 2nd part of my vacation - to LA. The clothes I packed was barely warm enough - LA for the WHOLE week was in 60s and 70s. God. I was pissed off about it but hey, I got over it.

I took a direct flight to Burbank (good ol' jetBlue) and I was too jet-lagged to figure out the bus and train system to LA from the airport. Even Ireland with many villages in the sticks had better transport! But then, LA is mobile by car. That's me in the picture waiting for the Metrolink train by the airport until I found the schedule - the next train into LA wasn't due for another two or three hours. Fuck that shit. I had already changed my clothes, already hot from walking with my rucksack on my back. I sucked it in and took a cab to Culver City where Deafwest's "Sleeping Beauty Awakes" was showing on stage.

After a scenic ride in the cab on one of LA's freeways (don't ask me which one), some food at a Thai place across from the theatre, I was finally able to do one of the major things I flew to LA for: see Alexa as Beauty in the play. The production featured Deaf talents other than Alexa, Deanne Bray (as the sleep disorder clinic director/the Bad Fairy - very delicious!), Troy Kostur as the accidentprone sleepwalker/Prince Charming - performed with his usual flavor of antics and overbearing charm, and Russell Havard who's currently the It actor, a very versatile performer - the gardener's son/orderly. The play, a modern twist to Sleeping Beauty happening in two different time period - Beauty going back and forth to her castle and a sleeping disorder clinic. Very charming play and I'm a sucker for fairy-tales-with-a-twist.

The next morning I was able to catch up a bit with Alexa on her day off once we'd gotten some sleep. Actually I got up earlier due to the time difference and since her boarder has a small patio in the courtyard, I fancied a cereal outside with a book to read. I found myself locked out but fortunately it wasn't too chilly and I had my pager. I paged Alexa letting her know where I was. Half hour later she let me in with a grin on her face.

We had some lunch at the Grove nearby and wandered in the World Market store - so many fun and quality stuff at cheap prices. We then met up with my high school friend's husband who entertained us while she was at work. Dave is something of a local historian - he drove us around parts of the city - Sunset Bvld, West Hollywood, Century City, Beverly Hills, Wilshire Drive, a street name I forget an equivalent to NYC's 5th Avenue. His knowledge is so vast that I even quizzed him about a mansion that Ed Murphy made himself home in in "Beverly Hills Cop" as Axel Foley. I did it out of jest and boy was I surprised when Dave replied in detail about what happened to the house after the filming wrapped (for inquiring minds, some guy bought it , painted it in such gaudy colors that neighbors complained. He ended up selling it some time later. Recently it was torn down and a new school or something is being built in its place) and he EVEN DROVE ME to where the house was at. We stopped at the Chinese Kodak Theatre and saw the cement hand and footprints, a cigar print (George Burns) and a partial face print (Jimmy Stewart, I think). I saw my birthplace celebrity - Kirk Douglas from Amsterdam, NY - his prints. Too bad that I didn't bring my camera - I must've been so relaxed, not thinking to take my camera anyplace. I think Dave took a few of me and Alexa wandering around on the cement. We felt like we were desecrating it by walking on sacred ground. I think Bette Davis hand print size matched my hands. I had tried it when Alexa and Dave remarked how small prints Bette had. Either she's tall with small hands or feet or is small in proportion like me. We walked part of the famed Hollywood Walk with stars stretching for blocks and blocks. We even found a new star for Forrest Whitaker (who won an Oscar for his portrayal as Idi Amin in "King of Scotland") but someone misspelled his name as "forest". eegads.

Alexa went home to rest up for the performance that was to happen the next morning, so Dave and I met up with his wife Tiffany, an old classmate of mine. I'd only seen her once since we graduated in 1999. She works as a lawyer now, we compared our profession working with deaf clients of varying background and education. We did plenty of catching up and she is her same old feisty-eye rolling self.

The next day, Alexa went back to work and I vegged out in front of the TV. I momentarily lost interest in the book I was reading and watched CNN for 2 or 3 hours. It's the first time I watched it with full attention for more than 15 minutes in a year or so. I try to read about the real world in magazines such as "In Touch" and "the Economist" but I guess images sums up more. Alexa returned and we bummed about, more catching up before I was handed over to Ty for the next two days. Before we went to his apartment in the valley, he drove up Mulholland drive and Laurel Canyon. He particularly enjoyed driving up and down the drive with quite a few hairpin turns in quick successions. Ty showed me the view of LA from mulholland drive ( i think?) . The vast expanse of LA at night from our viewpoint - he explained that's only the 1/4 of LA we looked at. Golly!

Ty works at CSUN so I explored the campus while he taught a class. The trip to LA consisted a lot of Firsts for me - seeing the city, and later I would see the pacific beach side of the States. Nice and expansive campus with tall palm trees swaying around. I found a small building that hosted National Center on Deafness. I spoke to a couple folks there who explained to me about services they offer to deaf students and those with hearing loss.

Ty and I met up with Alexa and Allen, another old face for me in Santa Monica. Very lovely beach and we hit a pizza joint and later, a bar. We did a lot of catching up since I hadn't seen Allen in years - only once since our theatre camp in '97, Allen hadn't seen Alexa and Ty in quite a while, same for Alexa and Ty together, as you can imagine a happy little reunion and toasting we made. On the way to the pizza place, we visited the beach, rolled up our pant legs and waded in. I saw my first ocean sunset (after years of watching sunrises over eastern beaches). Once the sun sunk in behind the mountains up the beach (Allen told me that was NOT a proper beach sunset since it didn't go into the water - ok, allen - still good enough for me!).

Before I caught my flight back to New York, Ty and I went to Whole Food Market for some grub and I was floored. Compared to New York's huge and sleek whole food market with people specially hired to control the long lines to cash registers - the Whole Food Market appeared as a small and ordinary health food grocery store. Another culture shock to contend with. Ty pointed out that WFM originated in Hollywood years ago.

Ty dropped me off at the airport with plenty of time to spare - I checked in my rucksack and took my time finishing my breakfast. From the outside, the airport appeared to be on a small side and I'd been long accustomed to terminal gates arranged in small clusters. Well that terminal appeared to be miles long and my flight was due to leave at 10:40 am. I arrived to the gate at 10:35 and they'd already closed up the plane for take off. Damn. Fortunately, the next flight to New York would be in several hours and some seats available.

However, the next flight left late (why didn't it happen to my original flight?!) and an hour later or so, I felt the plane beginning to descend. I found out from a passenger that we were stopping at Salt Lake City to refuel (huh?) for about 30-40 minutes. He assured me that we will continue our flight to New York.

I was blessed with a good window and I was able to see the foothills of the Rockies and the Great Salt Lake - another first for me and very lovely. Eventually we continued the flight to NYC. The longer we travelled, the more I became convinced I'd never see the end of the flight off this cramped coach seat. I lost interest in my reading materials and flipped through 36 channels on my small direct tv. No captions. something to address the airline with no matter how small the caption text would be.

I finally got home at 1am - I don't take cabs into city from JFK and I'd forgotten that the E train goes on local track instead of express after midnight. I didn't mind all these transport woes as I was still on vacation mode, squeezing out every last moment.

Next - Madrid in July!


Anonymous Mr. Sandman said...

Yep, yep-- that's me, the historian. *grin* I enjoyed taking you around. Allen's right-- the best sunset is one that ends with the sun sinking into the ocean. Perhaps next time? :)

5/09/2007 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'll post so many pix you'll feel like you stayed another week!

love you. glad you had a good time unwinding and hanging with your gals--allen and ty included. i met allen and david for the first time myself, so i was just continuing your path through los angeles.

5/10/2007 1:56 PM  
Blogger breenie said...

mr sandman - so nice meeting you in person. i'll definitely give you a tour of NYC!

merf - aww, thanks. mwah!

5/10/2007 8:49 PM  

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