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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Live Your Dream

Do you remember your first? Mine was black. It was a steel string Ibanez. My mother bought it for me with enthusiasm. She wanted me to be a Flamenco guitar player but that was her dream. My dreams were filled with banging on the strings and spitting into the microphone. I practiced. I learned. I wrote shitty tunes. My first acoustic retired after thirty-years when the back came unglued from the neck. I never named it, other than "My First" but it was special to me nonetheless.

My husband understood when I was reluctant to toss it. We're both guitarists - he on bass and me on guitar. We were once dubbed the "Toxic Twins" for various vices. On our wedding invitation card, we took a picture of his Pedulla in a bow tie and my Les Paul in a veil. It was about the only "cute" thing we ever did. Well...that and creating two adorable boys that lead me to excessive drinking.

For our ten year wedding anniversary, our goal was to take the Martin Guitar factory tour - thus the family tour of Pennsyltucky.

The factory tour was amazing to say the least. Among our seventeen-or-so guitars, we only own one Martin guitar. It belongs to our older son believe it or not but I enjoy playing it after I tune it for him.

Neither of our boys show any real interest in playing guitar. By guitar, I mean a guitar with strings - not blue, green, red and yellow buttons.

Sure, our motive for taking the boys on the tour may seem completely selfish but I consider it a "Take Your Son To Work" day - only it's not my work.

It paid off. Zuki was mesmerized watching a woman glue on the ribbon (reinforcement). The four-year old wouldn't move along when he saw the buffering robot. I just drooled over everything.

All in all, we learned a thing or two. Thing one: if you order a Brazilian Rosewood guitar from Martin the cost would be a whopping sixty-thousand dollars!

$60,000.00 US dollars, you heard me?

Thing two: the factory turns out two-hundred and fifty guitars a day. Every single guitar is already sold. And they still can't keep up with demands.

"Even in this economy," our tour guide said, "people are still buying guitars. You can't stop people from wanting to live their dreams."

That's inspiration, right there.

My dream? To get my hands on one of those Brazilian Rosewood guitars someday. Perhaps at some yard sale or better yet at Guitar Center in Nashville - the sales people were so awesome and less intimidating than Gruhn Guitars. In a climate-controlled soundproof room, I could just sit and play. And yes, I promise I won't play "Stairway To Heaven."

Ohhh....come to Mama

Necks that like to get choked

Take your Daughter/Son to work day - somebody's work day

The Possibilities

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vacation Irene

So far, the hardest part of our family vacation was getting through the Lincoln Tunnel on a Friday afternoon. I guess that's a good thing considering we also had Hurricane Irene to deal with, too. No family vacation is complete without a hitch, right?

For our ten year wedding anniversary, the husband and I decided to take the kids to Pennsylvania. Most people who know me are thinking, what's with you and Pennsylvania? If my dad were still here, he'd bring up the time I took off to Philly just because I could afford the bus ticket. My father said to me then, "What are you going to see - the Liberty Bell?"

The truth is, Pennsylvania is a very family friendly state. We discovered this two years ago, when we took the boys for a weekend getaway to the Crayola Factory in Easton. Pennsylvania also has awesome beer. Fun places for the kids, breweries for Daddy and Mommy - who could argue with that?

This year, we tagged on two extra nights and started off at Lancaster. All I knew about Lancaster was they are famous for their quilts and strange looking Amish people. After visiting, we noticed they have a lot of cows and horses in their backyards, too..

Our plans to go to Dutch Wonderland were squashed thanks to Irene but our boys didn't mind. They're still at that age where it's easy to divert their attention with something shiny. We took them to the Toy Train Museum instead and they were happy. On the way, we also stopped at the Red Caboose Restaurant - they have goats, chickens and horses out front and our four-year old got to see his beloved farm animals up close.

He found out first hand that animals may be cute but their poop smells like shit.

He's got a thing about stinky shit.

"Can I have a turtle?" He once asked me.

"Well, you know...they really stink."

"You can put him in a Ziploc bag when he goes poopy." He suggested.

Yeah. No.

And then he wonders why we don't allow him to have pets.

Anyway, the eve of the hurricane turned out to be...not so bad. The boys were happy we at least took them some place. Daddy was happy to have lunch at Stoudt's Brewery. The food was excellent, the beer was Stoudt's - one of PA's tasty microbrews. If you're ever in the Tri-state area and come across a six pack, I highly recommend the American Pale Ale or their Fat Dog Stout.

Thus far, I'd say the score is Family Fun: two and Hurricane Irene: zero. It was kind of a blessing really. All our boys cared about was staying at a hotel and playing in its swimming pool and if there's a hurricane going on outside, what else is there to do, right? Besides, they got to see livestock - that's a bonus.

The night of the hurricane, we hung out at the hotel's banquet hall. They posted a big sign at the entrance that dubbed it "Hurricane Central." Guests were invited to use the facility in any manner they wished and were we savvy enough, we would've ordered a pizza and hunkered down earlier. Regardless, we watched the big screen TV they set up in the center of the room with some after dinner drinks. What do we care? The hotel bar was open until midnight and the boys had a full fledged dance floor to get their Ya-ya's out.

As the news broadcasted reporters in New York getting whipped around by high winds and pelted by rain our boys danced some crazy Power Rangers choreography on the dance floor and had a grand old time. Now that's a positive attitude, if you ask me.

Morning one

Rear view angle


Scarfing down leftovers

Stoudt's American Pale Ale

C'mon Irene...oh, I swear

The first picture my husband took of me in ten years


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Spin Me

When it comes to kids movies, I'm never too concerned with the rating as much what they're going to rephrase. You never know what is going to stick into a kid's brain. Usually, it's not the taboo phrases or George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" you can't say on TV. What sticks is the deviant line that makes us stop and ask, "Where did you hear that?"

The other day during dinner, the four-year old interrupted our meal by saying, "Hey, I'm WALKING here!"

My husband and I exchanged looks. I knew there was no way my son managed an accidental showing of "Midnight Cowboy" and since I don't normally do movies with the kids, my husband knew it wasn't me.

Just to make sure, we asked our four-year old to repeat the line.

For emphasis, Samu stood up on his chair and in the thickest New York accent he could muster, he said, "Hey! I'm waulkin' heeeyah."

We agreed, that's Dustin Hoffman alright, but where in the world did he pick it up?

Turns out, it's in the new Smurfs movie. My mother, for lack of better things to do, took the boys to see it - twice. I guess if the line is good enough for Ratso, it's good enough for a blue whatever-the-heck-a-Smurf-is and yeah, it molds easily into a pre-schooler's mind.

Thank goodness they had the right mind not to use any memorable lines from "Taxi Driver." I mean, if they're going to confront somebody with a "you talkin' ta me," I'd rather they learn from the master De Niro himself rather than some Disney CG fairy character. But whatever.

Like "Baby Einstein," sometimes I don't know whether to thank them for introducing them to creations I'd never expose them to or write a letter to say...Tipper Gore asking if she's going to do something about the girl chipmunks singing "if you liked it then ya shoulda put a ring on it."

And speaking of "Alvin and the Chipmunks," in it's questionable soundtrack, our four-year old found a new loop to sing. It went something like, "Maw-maw-baby, maw-maw like a maw-maw baby, maw-maw."

I recognized the melody as "You Spin Me Round," by Dead Or Alive. Well, as songs that stick-in-your-head will have it, inevitably I started singing the song and kindled a new found fascination with that 80's tune by showing them the video (love YouTube). Soon, Samu replaced his "maw-maw" for the actual words, "you spin me right round baby right round, like a record baby, right round".

First of all, I was grateful it didn't occur to him to ask me what a record was. It saved me a lot of unused brain cells. There's a lot of transcendent ancient equipment that require explanation: telex machines, tape recorders...pen and paper. I'm still recovering from "baby brain," why lose what little brain cells I have left explaining vinyl?

But it wasn't innocent ignorance that caused him to overlook the lyrics. It was Pete Burns - the singer of the band "Dead or Alive." Perhaps if we lived in San Francisco, he wouldn't have been so mesmerized by a man dressing up like a woman. Of course my husband was no help. All he kept repeating was that Pete Burns, had a sex change operation.

Thanks, Daddy. Regardless of whether that's true, I need to explain that, too. At least they haven't remade "Doogie Howser, MD"...yet.








Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day Forty-seven As Home Camp Counselor

Children's laughter often sounds angelic, unless there's a "pop" sound of a Nerf gun preceding it. Then it can be heard as the harbinger of destruction. That was my day for an entire rainy afternoon. As men are only interested in butts, boobs and copulation; boys can be entertained for hours if it concerns farts, falling down and suction cups.

For an hour, I heard soft giggles of my two little monkeys. They conspired feverishly, slurping back involuntary salivation from the concentration it required. Then the click of the Nerf air gun as it was cocked and ready to go.

"Zuki-Zuki-Zuki!" My four-year old said.

The room fell silent. He must have been diverting his older brother's attention to something because Zuki started laughing prematurely, obviously delighted by the prospect.

POP - the gun went off and they cracked up like a couple of wild hyenas. This is what I saw.

That is a Nerf suction cup bullet stuck to the wall above the doorway. This is the boys answer to my asking them to do something more productive than watch television. True, it kept them entertained but when the suction cup failed to un-suck and fall off, guess who had to retrieve it?

As with the rest of those bullets, this one went MIA, too. It's probably behind the sofa accompanying Power Rangers action figure body parts, Bakugan balls and Lego pieces.

That's what I get for asking them to pick up. The other day, Daddy tried being slick by being more specific. "Zuki, clean up the Magnetixs and Samu - get the action figures."

They're ten minutes into doing their jobs silently, my husband was proud of himself for having discovered the key to global understanding. Then I overheard Zuki telling his little brother to pick up the toy swords.

"No, Zuki - they're not action figures."

He's such a smart ass - the four-year old menace.

Lately, as a rebuttal to my rejection of buying him an actual dog, he decided he will "be" one. He won't answer my questions, he just barks - one for yes, two for no. Even then, he won't bark unless I call him Lou.

He won't listen to my commands, but he'll listen to his big brother - oddly enough. Zuki's a terrible master - he's too nice. Sit, roll over, gimme five! What normal big brother wouldn't seize the opportunity to torture a younger brother who was dumb enough to be his dog? Something like a game of fetch and throwing the frisbee to second floor landing would be more like it.

Since Zuki won't torture him, I do.

"Mommy, Lou wants cookie and milk," the dog boy asked.

"I thought you were a dog. Dogs don't talk. They don't drink milk either."

Lou whimpered in his own self-pity-wee-wee-pads.

That's when I laid into his inflicted Dogness. "You can't have chocolate, Lou. Dogs can't eat chocolate. Get off the sofa, Lou - dogs can't be on the sofa either. And by the way, Lou - dogs have their teeth brushed, too."

"What?!"

"By a Doc-torrrrr..."

He marched off like a Munchkin in search of Oz. He was in fact, in search of the Nerf suction cup bullet, no doubt.

It's only been fourteen days but I felt like asking Noah if the flood was over yet - asking Mick Jagger if the the nineteenth nervous breakdown actually took nineteen days or was it hours - because I'm overdue. Like, way over.

My back is fine, by the way - thanks for asking - apparently the brain can only feel pain in one area at a time. Now, I'm afraid my sanity's hurting.

So.

That's six of one, half a dozen of the other - as they say. And this is like some horror flick diary. I see that now.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Can Be Endless

There is a down side to having kids at a "mature" age and that is: age itself. I am tired. If I were a car, I'd have a bright orange sticker on my forehead saying, "We are going to tow your mom/wife in 15 days unless you come and claim her." Today, I plopped down on the daybed out of pain and exhaustion of trying to wear out my boys. It was when I finally told my six-year old he could turn on the forbidden-Satan-infused television that he actually became concerned.

Every five minutes, he brought me a glass of water.

I drank it, of course, so as not to hurt his feelings. But all I wanted to do was shut my eyes and fade away. My back is a contraption for pain right now. Could be the humidity, could be the hundreds of pounds I pack into my backpack everyday to schlep the boys all across the city. Could be...I'm just getting old. All I know was after the fifth time my boy woke me up to give me a glass of water, I was wishing that a drug dealing Jesus would intercept a refill and say, "Here, little guy - give your mom these percocets to accompany that."

No such luck.

In my daily journal, I wrote "Why do I torture myself so."

What's the torture, you say? Trying to take two boys on adventurous adventures that don't cost money other than the five bucks I have to pay for my subway fare. That's what. It means packing a lunch, tons of water, change of clothes and a gallon of sunblock. By the end of the day, you bet I'm ready to chug a pint or five of whatever is on sale.

Recently, I came upon a blog entry by Single Mama NYC about working out. It was gospel. Though I can't say that I hate working out, it is a necessity I'd give up if I didn't find myself needing it. I've done friggin' P90X with my husband for the past year and a half and I have to say, it's not as torturous as dragging around two boys on the subway to a free pool or park or whatever, All. Freaking. Day. Long.

Although, it may sound like it - I'm really not complaining. I love challenges. It's why I tried to be the first female-Japanese/American-Rock-Guitarist and married my husband and gave birth to a future drummer (future Ozzy Osborne employees in my book).

My mother will be the first to tell you - if she hasn't already - I never take the easy road.

This is not a gimmick. Stay tuned just to see if I survive this August as camp counselor.

Return To The Urn

I lost my younger sister to leukemia twelve years ago. Although it was a long time ago, it's still hard to accept. The one regret I have is that my boys missed out on knowing her as an aunt. They would've adored each other. She had that affect on children because she was so small. Like Yoda or the clairvoyant in Poltergeist - I used to call her Dr. Ruth not just because they were the same size but because people always asked my sister for advice.

She was also, an excellent cook. I'd bet she would have my four-year old eating out of the palm of her hand - literally.

The reason I bring her up is because the other night I had a very drawn out dream with her in it. It had been a while since I'd seen her in dreams and it was strange in that there was no occasion to provoke it. The first year after she died, I had dreams of her almost every night. That dwindled to anniversaries and finally to sporadic memory triggers like hearing her favorite song being used for a car commercial.

This recent dream, however, was odd in many ways. Apart from being unable to figure out why she appeared, she was unusually vocal, too. In most dreams, she's silent - even if I ask her a question. But this time, she called out my name - as neighborhood kids do to come out and play. She told me she had "returned" and was ready to "kick some butt."

That morning, I recounted the dream to my six-year old. He listened intently because he thinks he's a dream analyst. When I was done his response was, "Kick butt like Iron Man?"

I've thought of my sister as a lot of things, but Iron Man was a first.

When the session was over, we went about our business and that's when I noticed white ash was spewed across the alter that enshrines my sister and my father's ashes. I assumed it was the incense burner but then I saw it was intact. What was turned over was the miniature urn which held my sister's ashes.

My first thought was, how do I clean this up with respect?

I couldn't just scoop her up with a sponge and wash it down the sink. Couldn't throw her in the garbage or suck her up with the Dyson! I meticulously collected what I could by hand and what was unable - or unwilling - to return to the urn, I scattered into our garden.

It was fitting. Her name means garden, anyway.

Next came the interrogation.

"What happened?" I asked the boys.

Talk about brotherly love, they sold each other up the river in a split second. There was no loyalty whatsoever. They started off by pointing the finger at each other.

"Well he swung the sword -"

"No, he jumped off the-"

"But he hit the -"

Let's hope these boys never join an organization like the police or the mob that requires having each others back.

They were interrogated separately and it turned out, a Power Rangers fight with the Last Air Bender staff knocked over the urn. It was the day I had my dream. That explained why my sister said she was "ready to kick butt," and why she called out my name.

When all was restored, we each offered incense. Then I gave both my boys a hug - contrary to what they had expected.

They accidentally raised the dead and as a result, I got to see my sister. The way I see it, anytime she pays me a visit, even if it is to "kick butt," it's a wonderful gift.
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