A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The End of Summer

It's always a difficult time.

It's been a momentous summer, to say the least. It started with great sadness as my dad died after a quick, horrible experience with pancreatic cancer that spread throughout his body and took, for the last three weeks of his life, his ability to think clearly. He hated that. He died on June 19 and I stayed with my mom for a week after.

Three days after I returned home my older son and his wife moved in for three weeks as they prepared to relocate to Japan. It was a happy, exciting time. It was a sad, stressful time. On the one hand, I can't believe my baby is an ocean away. On the other hand, by all accounts they are settling in nicely and my son seems happier than he has in years. I can't be upset with that!

Shortly after my dad died I took a trip to my favorite Happy Place, Disneyland. A good friend works there and in the course of the afternoon suggested I try Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. To oversimplify, TAW is a personal development system based on daily writing exercises. Also part of the program is a weekly "artist's date." I have embraced the program completely and have found it a source of comfort as well as inspiration. I will always be grateful that this door was opened for me.

As the summer has wound to a close, I have gone overboard with the Artist's Date concept. The AD is supposed to be a two-hour outing. Something to spoil myself. I am well aware that I have taken the idea too far but make no apologies. I had the best three-day vacation and spoiled myself rotten.

On the first day, I started with a trip to the Gene Autry Western Heritage Center in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. I had never been there and can't believe that I have missed it for nearly twenty years. The temporary exhibit that I enjoyed was called "Home Lands - How Women Made the West" tracing women's contributions to the buiding of America's culture of the West starting with Native Americans up through the immigrant experience and into today. There was even an exhibit about the effect on our culture of women + the automobile! Just wonderful.

Next I went into the permanent exhibits which started with a marvelous collection of paintings of the Romantic Era. I was proud that I was able to recognize my Bierstadts without even reading the identification cards!

I loved the way this museum segued from the Romantic era paintings into the West-based entertainments such as Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and from that into the cowboy movies and television shows. They even had the Lone Ranger's costume. A blast from my past!

After the Autry I made my way into Los Angeles to visit Rosedale Cemetery. It is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles and was the first integrated cemetery. It was an interesting experience to see all the different styles of architecture used on headstones and crypts. I did not stay there long however.

Next I made my way into West Hollywood where I had tickets for a play. First, though, I had dinner at a restaurant called Hugo's. The atmosphere was acceptable and it was convenient to the theater. The sauce on the carbonara was to die for.

The play that I went to see was called Circle of Will. It was set in the time between William Shakespeare's last play and his death six years later. Very cleverly plotted and brilliantly acted, the play was thought-provoking as well as hilarious. I had such a good time! Circle of Will was written by Jack Grapes and Bill Cakmis. Events unfolded to get me to it when my son, who had taken a summer writing workshop in 1996 with Grapes, encouraged me to sign up for a class with him as well. When I contacted Grapes about the class, he encouraged me to see the play. I'm so glad I did, and am really looking forward to the workshop starting in October.

The next day my brother, sister-in-law and I returned to the city for a Lewis Black performance in Disney Hall. I have long wanted to see something in this facility and am a huge fan of Lewis Black.

I wasn't disappointed with Black's performance - he was exactly as he is on every HBO special or Comedy Central appearance - but this was just not the venue. Disney Hall is a place where I'd love to hear a concert of the L.A. Phil or even to hear their fabulous organ. But a one-man stand-up? I just would have preferred something more intimate.

Which I got on Sunday of that weekend. Hang with me through that fabulous day.

I started with my first visit to the Getty Art Museum in Los Angeles. Oh, what a breathtaking place! I truly did not want to go inside to see any of the art. The architecture and landscaping of this place is phenomenal.

I did eventually make my way into the museum to see the domestic arts displays (the palace of Louis XIV, et al.) and an exhibit of late middle ages sketches. Also saw the temporary exhibit of the work of Jean-Leon Gerome.

I didn't really want to leave, but had more adventures ahead of me. After the Getty I traveled down Wilshire Blvd. and made my way into Hollywood. I had tickets to see Toy Story III at the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

Originally opened in the 1920s, the El Capitan has been fully restored and is currently owned by the Disney Corporation. After a delicious chocolate shake at the adjoining soda fountain (how long has it been since I had a REAL chocolate milkshake?) I entered the theater in time to enjoy the pre-movie performance of their award-winning organist. Nothing better than well-played arrangements of Disney songs.

The movie was charming - probably the best of the three Toy Story movies - but I think this will be my last visit to this theater. The experience is fairly expensive and (although this is not the theater's fault) ruined by rude patrons. If I'm going to have a movie ruined by thoughtless patrons who insist on talking through the movie on their cell phones, I'd just as soon do it in a theater where I've only paid $6 for the matinee instead of $30.

The highlight of this day was the two comedy shows I saw at the Second City Comedy Training Center just up the street from the El Capitan. This was the intimate comedy experience I had missed with Lewis Black. Talented young people with such energy and passion for what they were doing! VERY funny, and an inexpensive way to spend an evening. I had a delightful dinner with the same friend who guided me to Artist's Way at a nearby Italian restaurant, then drove Sunset to the Pacific Coast Highway and home.

Since that rather momentous growth experience, I've been pretty much just puttering around trying to wrap my head around returning to work. I have, sorry to say, not been struck with any great ideas to "fix" my teaching issues. But, all things considered, I'm returning in a much happier state of mind than I left school in June and am hopeful that I can carry that happy little spark into the classroom with me.

Coming up. Tomorrow is a long-delayed scrapbooking date with my Mom and sister. Monday I take my Mom to Disneyland to enjoy a day with the oh-so-talented Ragtime Michael.

And on Tuesday I will spend the day with my terrific sister-in-law. We were hoping to see the Autry women exhibit again but it ends tomorrow. We will, however, travel some great distance to a cottage garden nursery that we sincerely HOPE is still in business. At the least, we will enjoy each others' company for the duration of the trip.

I have to report back to work Monday, August 30 with students arriving Wednesday, September 1.

And the cycle begins again.

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