Sunday, July 05, 2015

July 4 in Cayucos

 The crowds in Cayucos

Normally, the most patriotic thing we do for July 4th is eat barbecue and watch the Culver City fireworks. This year, however, our friends Candi and Alan invited us to join them for the annual festivities in Cayucos, one of our favorite small beach towns on the Central Coast. Located north of Morro Bay, Cayucos is home to about 2500 people. But on the 4th of July, the population swells at least tenfold as folks flood in from miles around to see the town's parade, compete in a sand sculpture contest, shop at a peddler's faire, watch fireworks, and, of course, eat barbecue.

Alan, Tim and Candi scoping out a spot 
to watch the parade

We arrived after the parade had already begun and so (literally) had to park more than a mile away and walk in. The parade was great: plenty of local businesses, car clubs, and homemade floats. There were 66 participants—slightly smaller than the world-famous Pasadena Rose Parade, but a lot less spectacular! Plus the route in Cayucos is only about three blocks long. Finding the best place to watch the parade is apparently a big deal in Cayucos, because there were signs all over the place warning residents not to save spots before July 3.

"All chairs or items placed on streets or sidewalks
before 6PM, July 3, will be removed"

Lots of classic car clubs


Several bands played on flatbed trucks
And homemade floats
We enjoyed the parade, saw the sand sculptures, shopped at the peddler's faire, and ate, but didn't want to hang around for eight hours, waiting for the fireworks. So we dragged ourselves back to the car and headed to our friends' home. It was an exhausting but wonderful day.

Tim, Candi and Alan

Happy Independence Day, y'all!

Monday, June 29, 2015


The backside of the Golden Gate Bridge, en route to
the Legion of Honor Museum (click on image to enlarge)
What a wonderful weekend. Not only was it the annual American Library Association (ALA) conference, but on Friday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay couples have the same right to marry as everyone else. And the perfect place to hear such glorious news? Why, San Francisco, of course, which was also hosting its annual Gay Pride celebration this weekend. Rainbow flags were flying everywhere and librarians gave gay rights lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who was already scheduled to give the ALA opening session keynote address, not one but two standing ovations. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place. Everyone was jubilant. We all had reasons to be proud this weekend.

As for ALA conference: lots of good professional networking and some interesting, but fun presentations. I saw the Today Show’s Al Roker, who keynoted breakfast on Saturday—a highly entertaining speaker. Tim and I sneak-previewed the new Martin Scorsese documentary, called The 50 Year Argument, about the New York Review of Books (excellent!). Plus I heard a fascinating talk about early 1900s librarians in Redondo Beach.

On Saturday afternoon, we played hooky and schlepped out to the Legion of Honor Museum to see the fabulous “High Style” fashion exhibit, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Me, in my favorite Mary Blair skirt, in
front of a 1961 Arnold Scaasi evening
ensemble—as if! (A girl can dream,
can't she?) 

And Tim took in a Giants game on Sunday. 

Giants stadium: the view from Tim's seat

Everyone else was either attending the conference or cheering wildly at the Gay Pride Parade, which lasted the entire day. By the way, if you need to get across Market Street during the parade, go under at the BART stations. Otherwise, put on a crazy costume and join in the fun, because there’s no way to avoid the festivities!

Monday, June 08, 2015

Disneyland's 60th Anniversary

Dressed up for its diamond anniversary—
blue bunting everywhere!
Tim and I were on our cruise when Disneyland launched its yearlong 60th anniversary celebration on May 22. Karen emailed us regular updates from the L.A. Times and Orange County Register, but it wasn’t quite the same.

Finally, yesterday, the three of us found time to go to Anaheim. My goals were very specific: (1) see the new “Disneyland Forever” fireworks show and “Paint the Night” parade; and (2) shop for 60th anniversary merchandise.

We arrived at the resort at 4PM. After a quick bite at the Earl of Sandwich (still one of the best BLTs in the world!), we headed toward Disneyland. Our first stop inside the park was the Disneyana art gallery. Many of the stores on Main Street specialize in specific items: jewelry, clothing, and even magic tricks. Disneyana carries high-end collectibles and original art. Tim's eyes were practically bugging out of his head, staring at the $37,500 crystal castle for sale. 

The crystal castle
But my eye was immediately drawn to a limited-edition, mixed-media collage celebrating Disneyland’s opening day: a miniature felt Disneyland flag and flattened popcorn box, a reproduction of Roy Disney’s famous first-day ticket (#1), plus pins and other vintage memorabilia—what’s not to love? It took me all of five minutes to buy it—a lucky thing, too, because the piece was sold-out by the time I returned to pick it up before leaving the park.

Much better in person, but you get the idea
(click on image to enlarge)

Next stop: Showcase, which always has a nice assortment of new items. Sure enough, I found a set of commemorative glasses, plus several gifts for my sister, who also turned 60 this year. 

 Commemorative glasses

Then it was on to the China Closet, where Karen cleverly spied salt-and-pepper shakers made to look like the Mad Hatter teacup ride, a family favorite. T00 cute!


After a not-so-quick jaunt to DCA—Mousewait lied when it said there was only a 10-minute wait for the Radiator Springs racer ride!—we returned to Disneyland a whole hour before the parade was due to begin. The plan was to find a place to stand where we could watch both the fireworks and the parade, but to no avail. Instead, we ended up directly in front of the castle—perfect for the fireworks; not so much for the parade.

While Tim and Karen guarded our spots, I went in search of the latest popcorn premium: Cinderella’s carriage. (See my post about hunting down the Dumbo premium several months ago.) I waited on line for 30 minutes, but so what? Who can resist such a fabulous popcorn container?

Too darling for popcorn

It was almost dark by the time I rejoined Tim and Karen. They had already made friends with the people around them, as everyone anxiously awaited the new fireworks show. First, however, was the new “Paint the Night” parade. Even from a distance, we could see how spectacular it is. The former electrical parade pales in comparison; though if you listen close enough, you can hear some strains of the old parade music.

YouTube video of the parade 
We were repositioning ourselves for the fireworks, when a familiar male voice suddenly spoke overhead ("Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls . . ."). Although the weather was fine where we were, he warned that the fireworks might be canceled due to high gusty winds. Everyone booed, but held fast, until about 20 minutes later when the show was indeed canceled. It was a major disappointment—especially since this was one of the main reasons we had gone to the park, in the first place—but now we have an excuse to go back! 

 Sleeping Beauty's castle: 60 years old and still looking fine

Update, June 17

As promised, we returned to the resort last night to see the new parade and fireworks show. The parks were far less crowded—maybe because it was a weekday—still, we decided to find our viewing spot well before either of the shows began. We had heard that the best place to see the parade, as well as the fireworks, was Main Street, so we staked our claim there a full two hours ahead of time.  

Staking our claim: can you find me in the crowd? 
We were joined by a Texas family of five with three kids under the age of 10. The kids were none too enthused about waiting for two hours; but as soon as the parade began, they forgot all about being bored and were thrilled. We were, too! The parade was absolutely amazing.

Tim and his new friend, comparing notes on their favorite 
Disney princesses

As soon as the parade ended, we were directed into the middle of Main Street, so we could see the fireworks and make room for people exiting the park. The new fireworks show was truly wonderful: a raucous, but moving trip down memory lane as favorite Disney movie scenes were recreated on the facades of the Main Street buildings. (You haven't reached Disney heaven until you've seen a six-and-a-half-foot-tall man hugging his three-year-old daughter, while singing "Let It Go"!) I didn't know which way to turn my head next!

YouTube video of the fireworks
Besides the Disneyland shows, we also wanted to see the new "World of Color" show at Disney's California Adventure (DCA) at 10:15PM. The fireworks ended at 9:45PM, giving us only 15 minutes to get over to DCA. Zipping through the crowd, we entered the other park 5 minutes before the gates closed! Catching our breath, we quickly walked over to Paradise Pier. Although it was windy enough to smudge the projected images, the show did go on and was wonderful. But by the end, my two old feet were exhausted, so we hobbled our way over to the Grand Californian, where we gratefully spent the night.
YouTube video of "World of Color"
Happy Anniversary, Disneyland!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Retro Row, Long Beach

As reported elsewhere on this blog, we are big fans of Charles Phoenix and have seen most of his wonderful slide shows. On Saturday, he premiered a new one about Long Beach—L.A. county's second largest city and a place that both of us briefly called home long before we met each other. Like many towns in the L.A. area, Long Beach is enjoying something of a renaissance as young hipster families are moving in and renovating the city's many mid-century neighborhoods.

The show was held at the Art Theatre, a small moviehouse built in 1924, located on 4th Street's now trendy Retro Row. As usual, Charles was a laugh riot, as long-time residents screamed in glee at photos of obscure as well as beloved Long Beach landmarks. Lots of images of restaurants, both here and gone—so many, in fact, that we were starving by the end of the show. But first, a quick jog down Retro Row, home to several excellent vintage clothing and furniture stores. Our favorites: Inretrospect, where I snagged a collectible, but reasonably priced, Disneyland ashtray, and Songbird, which had a Box of Cheese photo booth, where we took these terrific (if I may say so, myself!) pix. A very fun day. By the way, we ended up eating at Social List, almost adjacent to the theater. Great food.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Repositioning Cruise

Waiting topside for fireworks to begin

 We loved our Disney cruise to Alaska so much, last August, that we signed up for a second cruise before even leaving the ship. Of course, they made it very tempting, offering a 10% discount, plus $100 on-board credit. We were an easy sale. But I did insist on staying in the same stateroom, which they were happy to do as soon as Tim pulled out his credit card.

So here we are back on the Disney Wonder, this time going from San Diego to Vancouver. Ours is a repositioning cruise—that is, the ship is changing routes from Mexico to Alaska—so there’s lots of down-time (to eat, rest, and then eat again!) and only one stop in San Francisco. We left on Wednesday.

We thought we were clever taking the train from L.A. to San Diego. But as soon as we reached the SD train station, half the passengers followed behind as we walked the three long blocks to the boat. There she was, docked and waiting.

“I’m starting to get excited,” Tim whispered as the ship came into view. 

Disney Wonder docked in San Diego
We checked our luggage and then queued up to go aboard. Although we were still very much on U.S. soil, we had to show our passports, because we’ll be debarking in Canada. Next stop: collecting our “Key to the World” cards (room key and credit card all in one) and taking a digital photo of us. All on-board identification is done through face recognition. So even when the staff photographer takes anonymous pictures of us at dinner or on deck, the photos always mysteriously show-up in our digital file for future purchase. Very efficient, but a tad creepy, too.

Since this is our second cruise, we are now “silver members” of the Castaway Club. As a reward, we were given a silver-and-black daypack and white lanyards to carry our “Key to the World” cards. We thought we were pretty special, until we noticed multiple-cruise passengers wearing gold- and even platinum-colored lanyards and correspondingly colored daypacks. Something for us to aspire toward!

As soon as we got on board, we ran up to the ninth floor and the Beach Blanket Buffet for lunch. I, of course, remembered exactly where everything was—especially the food. We stuffed ourselves as if we hadn’t eaten since August! We then did it all over again, four hours later, at dinner. Although dinner rotates among the ship’s three main restaurants, we’re assigned the same group of tablemates every night: three couples our age--all of whom have grown children and varying degrees of fascination with all things Disney. At least we have one thing in common. 

Breakfast buffet

As we learned on our first Disney cruise, dinner often has a theme, which informs how you should dress. Thursday’s theme was “pirates”—no big deal for families whose kids dress-up like pirates everyday, but quite the challenge for a middle-aged couple who hasn’t gone to a costume party in decades! We made a special trip to Disneyland to buy appropriate headgear and consulted several creative friends. You be the judge, but I think we ended up looking pretty damn good. Tim, especially, was a hit in eyeliner, earring and fake black hair. He held his own well against Disney’s faux Jack Sparrow

Captain Tim Sparrow and his first mate at dinner

With Jack Sparrow

We set the alarm early on Friday, so we could see the boat pull into San Francisco bay. Several hundred people were topside when we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge around 6:30AM—breathtaking! 

 Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge

Almost there . . .

Getting closer . . .

Passing under the bridge

 On deck

 Pulling into San Francisco

After breakfast, we hopped aboard a tour bus that took us over the bridge to Sausalito and then back again, so we could take a ferry to Alcatraz, which was just amazing (see my blog entry below).

 On the way to Sausalito

Blooming in Sausalito

So what else is there to do on a cruise with only one stop? We’ve watched several recent Disney movies--including McFarland, USA (terrific movie—bring Kleenex!), the new Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tomorrowland--in the two excellent theaters on board. We’ve won a couple of trivia contests: one on general information and one on 50s/60s music (Tim’s big specialty). We walk as much as possible around the ship. And, of course, we’ve learned to always carry a camera, because you never know when you’re going to run into a Disney character roaming the halls.

Walking around deck 4: 3 laps = 1 mile

 With Daisy Duck

And Goofy
But mostly we’re just relaxing. Tim can take a nap whenever he wants and I don’t have to cook or cleanup our stateroom. It’s Disney heaven on earth!

Relaxed and happy

 Docked in San Francisco

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Tim and I have been to San Francisco countless times, but never to Alcatraz Island. Known as "The Rock," Alcatraz served as a military base during the Civil War and then, more infamously, as a federal prison for the most notorious criminals, including Al Capone. The prison closed in 1963. Today the island is a national park, accessible only by ferry—a very hard ticket to get, by the way. Luckily we were on a Disney tour, otherwise we would have had to return the following Thursday!

The prison was fascinating to see. But even better were the gardens, left over from the prison employee families who lived on the island. The contrast between the stark concrete prison and the beautiful spring blooms was spectacular.

Prison entry


 Staircase up to cells

 Gardens on east side

Remnants from American Indian occupation in the 
late 1960s/early 70s


 Cells (exterior)

Cells (interior)

Cells side-by-side

Inside a cell, including escape hole in wall

 Looking from inside out

Spiral staircase

Ruins of the warden's home


Beauty vs despair

Gardens: home to wild egrets

 The view from the island: San Francisco and the Disney Wonder
(on left)