Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tournament of Roses

Tournament of Rose Association logo
It's been many moons since either of us has seen the Rose Parade in person—been-there-done-that when we were much younger and far more foolish! But I do love the spectacle of the parade and so get up early to watch it live on TV every year. No wonder then that I was thrilled when Tim's friend Art invited us to the big Tournament of Roses holiday party at the Wrigley Mansion, in Pasadena, a couple of weeks ago.

Mansion entrance
For the past 115 years, the parade has been managed by the Tournament of Roses Association, a volunteer-run organization that utilizes the talents of some 1000 people (including our friend Art) year-round to prepare for both the parade and Rose Bowl game. The Association's headquarters is located inside the Wrigley Mansion, an 18,500 square-foot Italian Renaissance-style home built 1905-1914 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. The mansion was donated to the city of Pasadena in 1958 with the understanding that it would house the Tournament of Roses. Once a year, the home is opened to the friends and family of Association volunteers to celebrate the holidays and the upcoming parade and Rose Bowl game.

 Front door decorated for Christmas 

We've driven by the house, located on Orange Grove Blvd., probably hundreds of times, but had never been inside. For a large mansion, it was remarkably cozy, especially with hundreds of other gawkers milling around! Art showed us the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame room upstairs and the room where the Rose queen and her princesses get ready for the parade.

 Rose Bowl Hall of Fame honorees

 Team helmets

The Royal Court's powder room
We then went downstairs—along with everyone else—for a buffet meal that included salads, sandwiches and an array of desserts. We lost Art in the crowd early on, but rejoined him before leaving the grounds. Among the special things we saw was an illustrated line-up of the 2016 floats—looks like it's going to be another excellent parade! I can hardly wait.

The buffet line

Flagpole from the 1960 Winter Olympics,
donated by Walt Disney, chair of pageantry

Front door plaque

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015!

Christmas cheer
Season's greetings to you all! It was a fun year and we're looking forward to even more fun as an old retired couple, starting January 1st! See you then.

Holiday selfie: Count Basie orchestra Christmas Concert, 
last night at Disney Hall in downtown L.A.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Force Awakens

Han Solo movie poster
Like everyone else in the universe, we're counting the days till the new Star Wars movie officially opens on Friday. To hold us over, we recently made a quick trip to Disneyland, where Tomorrowland has been transformed into the "Season of the Force," complete with a Launch Bay exhibit promoting the new movie and elite collectibles (a $4000 Darth Vader costume and $12,000 life-sized Storm trooper statue—yikes!). We rode "Star Tours," which has been updated to include Force Awakens characters (excellent!), but opted not to wait 90 minutes on line for the temporarily revamped "Space Mountain" ride.

 Updated Storm trooper

Millennium Falcon model


Imperial starcruiser model

Bring me the head of Darth Vader . . . 
as a cotton candy container—only at

After successfully avoiding all reviews—and after re-watching the original Star Wars movies the night before—we made our way to our local multiplex yesterday morning for the 8:30AM show. It was already the third screening of the day. The theater wasn't full, but several large groups of adults entered togetherI speculated they were employees of Sony and Culver Studios, both within walking distance. As usual, the audience was mostly male.

Tim and I loved the movie. Director J.J. Abrams got it exactly right. Filled with familiar imagery, plot lines and themes, it is the perfect sequel to the original three Star Wars films. (Prequels? What prequels?) Plus it was wonderful seeing all our favorite characters and spaceships. (The Millennium Falcon got a huge round of applause.) I won't spoil the story, which is filled with surprises. Suffice it to say, fans will laugh and cry (like I did), but will be overjoyed to be back in the world they love.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Cake and champagne to celebrate Sinatra's birthday
One of the things that drew Tim and me together, 30 years ago, was a common love of Frank Sinatra. We both grew-up listening to his music and watching his films. His infatuation with Ava Gardner was romantically epic; plus he was, for a little while at least, a friend of the Kennedys. What's not to love?

Yesterday would have been Frank's 100th birthday. To celebrate, we schlepped over the hill to see John Pizzarelli—another favorite singer—perform iconic Sinatra songs at the Valley Performing Arts Center. We were certainly among peers: everyone there was either our age or older. Cake and champagne were served during intermission, after we all sang "Happy Birthday" to the one-and-only Chairman of the Board.

BTW, if you're a fan, there's an interesting Sinatra exhibit running through February 2016 at the Grammy Museum. Lots of film-clips and memorabilia to see and a good overview of his career.

Me and the elevator at the Grammy Museum—
winter has finally arrived, can you tell?