Thursday, September 27, 2007

Touch and Go

They sped up the highway, quickly gaining ground on the ambulance.

“I’m not sure we should do this,” she shouted, hoping that he would hear through the rushing wind and thick helmet.

“Now’s not the time to chicken out, Sweetheart.” He revved the engine, jolting forward enough that she tightened her hold around his waist. “A biker’s woman ain’t afraid of anything.” Cars blurred by as he closed in.

A biker’s woman. The past few weeks had been a blur of late nights at some divey bar, where her shoes stuck to the floor and smoke filled the air in a thick fog. House parties lasting until god knew what time of the morning to be followed by hours of nothing to do. The endless drone of motors seeping into her dreams and killing any chance at sleep. The same thing, over and over and over.

“Get ready,” he shouted over his left shoulder. The motorcycle passed the back end of the ambulance.

She gripped the fingers of her left hand, feeling the broken tips of the nails, the once bright polish flaking off at the slightest touch. Her fingers felt aged, the skin rougher.

“Stand a bit. Reach your hand out.”

She buried her head into his jacket, wanting to cry, wanting to scream, wanting to tumble off the bike and leave him for good.

“Do it now!” he ordered.

She cautiously stretched her left arm toward the bright red of the ambulance, and allowed her fingers to graze the cool metal. A cleansing surge of adrenalin powered through her, and she closed her eyes, smiling laughing hollering for the first time in she didn’t know how long.

She grinned and held her open fingers toward the ambulance, splitting the wind as the motorcycle edged away.

A work of fiction © G.A. Carter, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Gayest Weekend EVER!!!

CM left early Saturday morning -- after the rains, of course -- for a work event at Griffith Park. Which meant that he would be shuttling people around in a company van for five to six hours. I decided to spend some time at Disneyland rather than sit at home so I cleaned up, made my way to the park in record time, and opted to go to California Adventure first. I tumbled through the turnstile and was struck almost immediately by the gigantic pieces of candy corn suspended from the mock Golden Gate Bridge spelling Happy Hallowe'en. Two weeks of September left and another four until big and little children decked out in scary finery begging for treats and already, Disney was jumping into the Hallowe'en spirit. Walking forward, hundreds of people circled the Sun Plaza to watch a candy corn-inspired show -- complete with Heimlich from A Bug's Life munching on a huge candy kernel. Just as I pulled out my camera, the show ended so I continued into the Hollywood Backlot to ride my favorite attractions: Monsters, Inc. - Mike and Sulley to the Rescue and the Tower of Terror.

After scremaing my lungs out on the Tower, I quickly crossed the promenade to Disneyland, feeling the faintest pinpricks of sprinkles along my hands. Looking around, the Sun gently beat down on those of us waiting in the queue to get in the park, a slight cool breeze blew and very few clouds seemed to float by so the sprinkles felt out of place. I told myself that if it did start to rain, I would return home, pop in a DVD or finish one of my many books. The drops faded away as I headed toward a quick lunch at the Hungry Bear, passing by the newly re-opened Haunted Mansion. The imagineers had already completed their holiday sprucing of the attraction to fit with Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and by the line trailing from its entrance gates around a fountain and into the shops, I figured a Fast Pass to be the way to go if I wanted to ride.

With my ticket in pocket, I rushed up to the Hungry Bear and placed my order as the sprinkles began again, a bit stronger than before. By the time my food arrived, the sprinkles turned into a steady drizzle. Guests crowded the tables beneath the canopies and downstairs so I made do with a mostly-dry table as close to the bulding as I could. Two bites into the chicken burger, and the rain poured. Large drops seeped through the canopies, people grabbed their food and kids, racing to find shelter beneath the eave of the restaurant. I looked around at the crowds pressed sardine-like against one another and continued eating, inching left and right as the larger drops fell. Afterwards, I quickstepped to every shop I could, trying to find an umbrella, but the storefronts were packed with people staring into the rain, not allowing enough space for a single person to slip inside. So I wound up in the Emporium on Main Street, water running in rivulets down my face, hair plastered to my scalp, rain pooled at the bottom of my glasses. I finally found an umbrella and dashed to the closest restroom to dry off as much as possible. As luck would have it, the rain stopped and the Sun beat down again once I opened the umbrella. I allowed the Sun to dry my clothes and hair while waiting in line for the Submarines, rushed back to the Haunted Mansion with my ticket to ride, and left the park as soon as I could.

Sunday, after the latest random moment, we cleaned up for our trip to the Hollywood Bowl to see Rufus Wainwright in concert. We packed a jacket for me and a sweatshirt for CM in his car, then headed to the Lakewood Shopping Center for a quick stop at Togo's and to catch the bus to the Bowl. (The Hollywood Bowl provides a roundtrip bus service at $5 per person from various locations around LA County. Thank goodness for this because if we had had to drive ourselves, we would probably still be at the Bowl trying to leave the parking lot.) I was surprised at the people on the bus, ranging from many gay men who were obviously going to see Rufus to older straight couples more than likely preparing to enjoy a night filled with the songs of Judy Garland.

Approaching the Bowl, we passed a beautiful white fountain with an Egyptian figure seated peacfully on top while water splashed down steps on either side. Traffic cops directed the bus up the hill, quickly past the fountain, to a stop about halfway from the entrance to the Bowl. I looked out the window as I approached the exit doors and almost gasped at the numerous gay men milling about, walking up and down the paths in groups and alone, seated on benches drinking wine or beer. It's like Gay Pride meets the Hollywood Bowl, I think I said in awe to CM. He pushed me out the door and toward the refreshment stand to buy drinks for the sandwiches. We ran into a former co-worker of his who sat beside us on a bench while we ate and people-watched. I felt a bit embarrassed as we were also on the receiving end of the staring, and I kept checking my shirt thinking that I'd spilled some mustard or a bit of dressing on it. But the throngs of gay men continued climbing the hill with the occasional celebrity intermixed: Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn, Julia Sweeney, Bruce Villanch.

With thirty mintues to go until showtime, CM and I trudged up the remainder of the hill, bypassing the escalators on the way to the top entrance. I've seen PBS concerts and other pictures of what the Bowl is like, but they pale in comparison to stepping through the gates and gaping at the immensity of the space: special boxes up close to the stage with waiters rushing back and forth serving food and drinks to high-paying guests seated at tables; other boxes separated from the former by and aisle, but those guests also sat at tables serving themselves; then rows upon rows of long wodden benches stretching up well past where we stood almost into the forest directly behind the Bowl. 18,000 seats and very few of them empty. We found our seats, and staring at the stage, I was glad for the four giant monitors that showed center stage because the tiny musicians warming up appeared like ants without them. The lights dimmed around 7pm with the orchestra diving into a medley of Judy Garland classics, then Rufus sauntered on stage and wowed the crowd. He recreated -- song for song, and break for break -- Judy Garland's concert at Carnegie Hall, and it was pure magic. His rough voice connected with the audience on the slower songs, such as A Foggy Day in London Town and a slowed version of I Can't Give You Anthing But Love which he dedicated to all the gay men who attended Judy's concert back in the '60s. He camped it up on the faster-paced songs, once forgetting the words but having fun with it. He dedicated a song to his boyfriend, brought both his sister and mother on stage, sang a duet with Lorna Luft, and even re-created a kiss that Judy gave to Rock Hudson during the concert -- only he surprised everyone by selecting Debbie Reynolds. The highlight, though, came with the encore, when the orchestra began to play Get Happy, at first we didn't realize Rufus ran onto the stage. Someone dressed just like Judy Garland -- black fedora, black suit jacket just a bit too long to hide the shorts, black sheer stockings and high heels -- dashed to center stage and began to sing, then everyone applauded laughed hooted hollered because Rufus was Judy.

An amazing show, but we left just as he and his guests were taking bows in order to make it to the bus in time. down the hill, holding hands and dodging slower people, almost tripping down the steps to cross below Hollywood Blvd., and up to our bus. We were the last two on before the doors shut and we zoomed down the freeway.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Random Long Beach Moments

On Sunday while we waited to hang a left onto Loynes Dr. from PCH, an ambulance passed. No sirens shrieking or lights flashing to scare people from its path. Probably traveling back to its station. Three motorcycles trailed closely, the first two with single riders. On the thrid cycle, closest to the ambulance, a woman hugged the driver and slowly started to rise from her seat. They neared the ambulance, swiftly picking up just enough speed, and the woman extended her left hand, grazing it alongside the red metal for a brief distance then slammed back to her seated position. As they sped away from the ambulance, the woman raised a fist, punching the air a few times.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Family Time

My Grandmother didn't recognize me as I waved shyly, but when I drew closer, her eyes lit with surprise, a smile moved her lips. I was surprised, too: The 91 years now showed with how she sat in the chair clutching the arms of her walker, her slowed movements. Her hair had turned almost completely white with a few patches of light gray scattered here and there, a very distinguishing look for her. She absently scratched at a few raised, dry patches of skin that stood out on her forearms in desparate need of lotion to smooth them away.

We kissed, then I pulled up a chair to chat for a while and to wish her a Happy Birthday. She struggled with removing the card from its envelope -- and so did I, almost ripping the card in the process. I read the few words about how I lovd her not just on her birthday but every day of the year. "Oh, how nice!" Then she told me that my parents took her for a drive earlier and out to lunch. They stopped many times along the beach -- "Your Mother knows all those little places" -- and walked out on the pier a ways, watching the sail boats traveling in and out of the harbor. For lunch, she ate a hamburger, all the French fries on her plate, and a piece of pie. "They won't let me have pie here," she mentioned while glancing at the two caregivers who just smiled and politely shook their heads. (She wasn't supposed to have pie as it was, but for her birthday....why not?) The brief trip wore her out, I could tell, but she enjoyed talking about the drive, the golf course behind her house, and how she and Grandpa used to live in a house just at the bottom of the hill. "During the War, your Grandpa would head out for work, leaving me in this little house. I used to go outside and watch all the sailors come in on those boats. Some would jump, fall to their knees on the ground, and a few of 'em fell right into the water." Her entire face brightened as she laughed. We sat and talked about my Brother's wedding, my new car, the calls from my Cousin and Aunt from Spain, until she yawned once, twice. She said she was tired so I thought it best to head for my folks. She gripped the edges of her walker, hoisted herself slowly to a crouched position complaining of how much her knees hurt. I held the walker until she stood upright, and together, we walked to the door.


I treated my Mom and Dad to dinner at Mimi's, though Dad couldn't eat much. His radiation was scheduled to begin on Thursday so the doctor told him to hold off the green veggies, the nuts, an fruit with a skin unless it could be peeled off. He ordered a salad for dinner, anyway, and ate only the chicken pieces and a few carrots. He was ordered to eat as much protein as he wanted, the reason being that radiation wore a body down so the heartier the food, the better for the body to combat the side effects. It still amazed me that the nearness of the treatments didn't bother him; he simply wanted them over and done with so that he could "get back to normal."

My Mom and I discussed books, what we were reading, what we thought of Berendt's latest book about Venice. She asked if I finally stopped by the library just down the street from my apartment, and I confessed that I had, even going so far as to check out a few books. I told her that it was a good size for a neighborhood library, cozy but with quite a few new authors, books and DVDs as well as many computer terminals for the community's use. "You'll have to show it to me when we come up, one of these days."

Later, back at their house, they surprised me with an early birthday gift, which I told them would help with CM's and my trip to Disneyworld in April. My Dad promised to call if he needed anything once the treatments started, then ambled back into the house. I waved to my Mom as I pulled away from the curb.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy Birthday
To my Grandmother today, celebrating 91 years. I love you!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random Long Beach Moments

CM and I were walking down Broadway this afternoon toward Rite-Aid, after a late lunch at Mi Lupita's. A young man, skinny, close-shaved head, sunglasses, heading the opposite direction, stepped into the intersection at the same moment we did, glanced at us and shouted:

"My cock itches!"

and continued on his way. I asked CM afterwards if the young man had crabs or scabies. Or, perhaps he thought we were doctors. CM thought it very brave to openly admit to having such a problem.

Kudos to you, Itchy Cock Man!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Frankly Speaking

"Are you ready, Jack?"

"Yes! for Pete's sake. Hurry up and unveil the damned thing."

"Okay, one...two...voilà!"


"Well? What do you think?"

"Hmm.... Give me a moment to take it all in."

"You don't like it."

"Well, it certainly is...different."

"But you don't like it."

"Now, I didn't say--"

"You don't have to. You're scratching your chin and squinting. You always do that when you hate something."


"Remember when I showed you my Still Life with Daisies? You scratched open a pimple and bled all over your shirt."

"C'mon, Frank. Paisley daisies sprouting from the middle of a kitchen table? And the fruit looked glued to the walls. The colors didn't even--Oh, don't do that. Stop crying."

"Why don't you like my work?"

"Frank --"

"You've hated every piece I've shown you, I'll bet."

"Not every piece."

"Okay. Name one you liked."


"See?! You hate my work!"

"Frank, you know I'm no art critic. My opinion doesn't mean squat."

"It does too! Jack, you're my best friend. And best friends are supposed to support and encourage each other."

"I do support you. This...this is just paint on canvas. It's not real."

"If you don't like my work, then you don't like me. You don't like me, either, do you, Jack?"

"Calm down, Frank."

"You scratched your chin! Damnit, you scratched your chin!"

"It itched, that's all."

"Don't lie to me! You've never really likd me, have you? I'm not up to you oh-so-high standards so what better way to say it than by hating my work."

"You're jumping to--"

"SHUT UP! Just, shut up!"

"Frank, I think it would be best if I left right now. You need to calm down. Look, give me a call later -- when you feel like it -- and we can go out and get drunk. Okay? I'll...I'll talk to you later."


"Frank! Don't--"

* * * * *

"So, what do you think?"


"You mean, you like it?"

"Quite, Mr. Matis--"


"--Frank. Stunning use of color around the eyes and mouth."

"Thank you."

"Your media are plaster and paint, of course."


"Wonderful work. Especially those paintbrushes, stabbing through the heart with the splashes of red almost oozing from the area. And the facial expression. How ever did you make it so lifelike?"

"Well, I can't take all the credit. My best friend helped with some of the colors."

A work of fiction © G.A. Carter. 1995

Friday, September 14, 2007

And Now for Some Good News

My insurance claims adjustor called yesterday with news about my car accident from July. The other driver's carrier accepted fault (misdemeanor hit-and-run) so I will be getting my deductible back as well as what I paid for the rental car! It was touch and go for a while there as the insruance info listed on the accident report for the other driver turned out to be incorrect. About two weeks ago, I received a call from a claims management company, drilling me for information about the accident; I politely referred him to my adjuster and waited.

I'd almost written off any chance of getting my money back until yesterday so I consider it extra money. Which now goes into our Walt Disney World Vacation fund. We checked a few vacation package options and found a 6-night stay in a moderate resort -- in fact, the same one in which I stayed in 1997 -- with airfare included for about $2800 all together. It's still tentative, but I think I can pressure CM enough to encourage the trip. So those bloggers living in or around Orlando, FL, BEWARE!! We may be in the area sometime in April 2008!!!

And finally, I re-discovered a CD bought 10 years ago and have it in non-stop rotation in my car stereo: Storm by Vanessa-Mae.

I love her take on classical music, and blast this one loud and proud while driving along the 405.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dad Holding Water
My Dad's radiation treatments were scheduled to begin yesterday: 5 consecutive days a week, with a 2-day break, for the next 8-1/2 weeks. The day before, he went for a final CT scan of his bladder so the doctors could pinpoint the correct target area, and part of the process included drinking a few glasses of water and holding it during the exam. Well, my Dad is in his 70s, and he will tell you that it's almost impossible for him to hold water that long. They insisted he would be okay, that they would have him in and out in no time. So he drinks the water and sits in the waiting room. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. Almost 40 minutes and not a single nurse or doctor has called him back to the exam room. From what he told me, he squirmed up to the receptionists and asked how much longer because his bladder was ready to burst. She insisted it would only be a few more minutes and if he could hold it a little bit longer.... He flat out told them, No, that he needed to go now.

She pointed him to the bathroom and off he went. Unfortunately, this meant that the CT needed to be re-scheduled. Which, in turn, delayed the start of his radiation treatments so instead of yesterday serving as the first day, he must wait until next Wednesday to start. Keep your fingers crossed that he should be finished with everything by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Little Scraping Music

Sunday started well enough. I woke around 8am, finished reading Maisie Dobbs while CM slept another hour or so. We watched an episode I Love Lucy and While You Were Out until he finally roused himself to get ready for a visit with his folks. Once he left, I cleaned up, deciding that our trip to the theater tonight required a clean car, and headed down the back stairs. The Neighbor immediately scrambled back into his apartment, slamming the screen as I descended. Ha!, I smiled, glorying in the fact that he knew that I knew what he'd done to my car.

I click off the alarm, walk around to the back because I noticed how close The Neighbor had parked to my car, and wished I could scream loud enough to shatter the windows of his Acura. Two new scratches, both down to the dark plastic beneath the paint of the left bumper/fender/whatever. And sure enough, on the right front bumper/fender/whatever of his car, I saw my blue paint on his silver car. I returned to his back door to confront him, but he had his music playing much too loud and wouldn't respond to my banging.

So I left to cool down, got the paper, ran a few errands, vented to CM before my cell phone died and vowed not to park behind the apartment -- in the spot provided by our rent -- for fear of winding up with my bumper potentially dragging on the ground or in pieces along the alley. By the time I returned home, my anger subsided quite a bit replaced with disappointment at how disrespectful The Neighbor was. Not even a note or knocking on the door to say he'd scraped my car. Some kind of acknowledgement would have made things more palatable. I didn't know if I should say anything to the landlord because what would he be able to do?

His car was gone so I finished a few chores around the apartment, watched a few cheesy zombie films on the Sci-Fi channel, worked on a crossword puzzle until CM walked through the back door. He hugged me, told me he was sorry about the car. I just shrugged it off, and we both changed for our trip to the theater, me hoping that this would lighten my mood. Whic it did: a Blues burger from Ruby's with a turkey patty and a whole wheat bun for me, the Hickory burger also with a turkey pattey and wheat bun for CM. And French fries!! (So much for the diet.) Then, we splurged with a peanut butter shake. Followed by an evening at South Coast Repertory for a production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Stephanie Zimbalist played Desirée Armfeldt, an actress trying to recapture the love of her life. (She sang Send in the Clowns, which was decent if not great. Fine acting, though.) Mark Jacoby played Fredrik Egerman, Desirée's love, while Damon Kirsche kept us laughing as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, Desirée's current lover. Joe Farrell (from TLC's Trading Spaces: Family) was equally funny as Henrik Egerman, a divinity student who is hopelessly in love with his step-mother. Teri Ralston shined as Madame Armfeldt, bringing a dark lightheartedness to the song Liaisons. But by far the best performance was Amanda Naughton as Countess Charlotte Malcolm, who knows that her husband is sleeping with Desirée but feels powerless to do anything about it. A fantastic voice and she managed to creat a great blend of deadpan humor and a longing to be loved. The cast did an admirable job with they typical Sondheim verbal trickery and fast-paced words/rhythms. The only item that bothered me was the excess noise from the props and some of the costumes. One of the Countess' gowns, though very beautiful, was lined with rhinestones along the bottom which scraped across the stage as she exited. Also, a few pieces of scenery whirred onto stage loudly in the silence between scenes. All in all, not a bad performance.

When we returned to Long Beach, I couldn't find parking along the street close to the apartment and wound up roughly six blocks away. But somehow I felt safer last night with my car on the street rather than in the alley. Plus, I needed to walk off the peanut butter shake.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Why Can't I Have Nice Things? Revisited

The apartment building stands two stories tall, with our apartment taking the entire second floor while the first floor is separated into two units. Wednesday evening, I spoke with the woman who lives in #1. Did she hear anything on Sunday or Monday evening? Something out of the ordinary? She said that she didn't hear anything and asked why so I told her about the rear bumper/fender/whatever of my car being scratched. She didn't remember hearing anything and felt bad that my new car was already damamged. During our brief conversation, she kept glancing toward the other neighbor's back door and hesitatingly suggested I should check with him.

A few hours later, I rounded the corner to head upstairs when the other neighbor's dog ran at my legs, jumping, wagging his tail and barking happily. I greeted the little pup while said neighbor scolded the dog to calm down. Since he was outside, I asked him in a roundabout way if he heard anything Sunday or Monday because someone scratched the back of my car fairly bad. no dents, but paint scraped away to the black underneath. He never looked me in the eyes while he answered that he hadn't heard anything. I continued playing with the dog and finally mentioned that he should be careful in case someone's oing through the alley scratching cars. Then, walked upstairs to my apartment.

Inside my head, I screamed at him that he was to blame, that he'd fucked-up my new car after all the crap I'd gone through just months before. But me, being very non-confrontational, just left it at that, so he knows that I know. Maybe that will scare him just a bit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

3 Movie Reviews for the Price of One!

Not that anyone's paying to read this. I hope.
Arctic Tale I remember watching the trailer for this a few months ago. The announcer mentioned that this was from the same people who brought us March of the Penguins. Images of a baby walrus swimming gleefully through the icy waters as a mother polar bear and her cubs foraged for dwindling food sources on the ice flashed across the screen, and I convinced myself to see it. So as I sat in the theater a little over a week ago, watching the grainy images that obviously came from different sources (perhaps even stock footage), I realized that the only thing Arctic Tale had in common with Penguins was National Geographic. No breathtaking visuals. A flimsy thread to connect the two stories -- of a polar bear cub and a young walrus. At times almost too preachy about global warming, especially with the various children giving messages about how to save the environment as the credits scrolled. The insertion of folksy songs during the film to try to capture the feel of Happy Feet. A few times, the film did creep away from the documentary feel to add a bit of empathy for the animals, but it quickly darted back to the feel of watching a video in a college Wildlife Management class.
Stardust When young Tristan sees a falling star land, he decides to bring it back to the woman he believes to be his true love. But, in order to do so, he must cross the wall that separates his small English town of Wall from the magical realm of Stormhold. Once on the other side, it's a race against time as Tristan has seven days to save the falling star from falling into the hands of the evil Queen of the Witches and her sisters who want nothing more than to eat its heart, giving them youth and beauty. A great fantasy-adventure, filled with fantastic special effects (which almost take a backseat to the action), wonderful acting and cameos by quite a few actors: Rupert Everett, Peter O'Toole, Ricky Gervais, and Sir Ian McKellen. Michelle Pfeiffer gives a wicked turn as the evil Queen Witch, and Robert DeNiro turns gay as the sky pirate who hordes a stash of dresses and can style hair like there's no tomorrow. Clair Danes portrays the falling star and Charlie Cox is Tristan, both changing and growing as the story progresses. Definitely a fun film!
Superbad Two outcast high-school seniors, about to graduate in two weeks, finally get the chance of a lifetime: they're invited to a grad party, but it's up to them to bring the alcohol. What follows is a wild night of fake id's, police chases from two of the most inept cops imaginable, a bit of dirty dancing and a potential friendship-ending fight about college that had CM and I laughing to the point of tears. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera make the perfect team for this buddy film about growing up, but it's Christopher Mintz-Plasse (pictured) who steals the movie as Fogell (a.k.a. McLovin) with his chicka-chicka ways and his fake id. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's hilarious script is turned into a comic masterpiece by director Greg Mottola. A fine job from everyone involved.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Venting: Why Can't I Have Nice Things?

I intended to write about the movies we watched this weekend, but after seeing my car this morning, I'm fuming! I believe my neighbor may have scraped the back left fender/bumper/whatever of my car. A huge gash along the edge plus a nickel-sized chunk of paint gone down to the metal. The only reason I believe it to be caused by the neighbor is the damage to the front right fender/bumper/whatever of his car. He didn't have the decency to leave a note or to knock on our door to apologize about the damage to my car. The buttwipe -- sorry, alleged buttwipe -- probably went to bed, hoping the damage wouldn't be noticed.

Close vent.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Our friends, C&G from Las Vegas, left yesterday after a week-long visit which saw CM and I breaking our diets just a tad. Tuesday evening found us munching tapas with C's family at Café Sevilla. The restaurant was located along Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach, sandwiched between two sports bars. The interior was a bit on the darkside, meaning very poor lighting if you sat in the cubbyhole with the booths. Not the best to read menus by. The owners tried for a Spanish theme, with stone facades and murals of life in Seville, but personally think they went a bit too far with the mirrored ceiling and red velvet wallpaper in our dining area. The food was wonderful, though: mouthwatering chicken croquetas, mashed potatoes with manchego cheese melted in, filet mignon tips in a tangy paprika sauce, and platefulls of other delicious dishes. I struggled to keep from shoving the morsels into my mouth and politely declined dessert.

CM and I both played hookey on Wednesday and accompanied C&G to Disneyland. C&G were astonished at how few people were at the park, either due to many schools already back in session or to the oven warmth of the Sun. We started the day at City Hall in Main Street, obtaining C's birthday badge to wear around the park. In fact, quite a few guests wore the birthday badges, but it wasn't until almost two hours later that a Cast Member (i.e., Disney employee) even acknowledged the badge. In New Orleans Square, we rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and quite a few other attractions before lunch at 11:45. I surpsied C&G with reservations at The Blue Bayou, having learned only the day before that I could call to make them. After the Tesoro chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and a Monte Cristo, we waddled through the rest of the park, trying to stay cool in the sparsely provided shade.

We finished the day in California Adventure, which neither C nor G had visited. First to the Aladdin show then to the other sights and attractions. We braved the Grizzly River Run twice thanks to the heat. We closed the park with a final trip on Soarin' Over California then dined at The Storyteller Cafe. Over 12 hours later, and we all crashed in our beds. None of us even heard the thunderstorm during the early morning hours. (See the pics from the trip here.)

Thursday, C&G treated us to dinner at Lasher's as a thank you for putting them up for almost a week. We started with Fried Green Tomatoes which melted in your mouth followed by a Macadmia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi for me, Cranberry Glazed Meatloaf for CM, a Prime New York Steak for G and the Braised Short Rib of Beef for C. I'm surprised we made it to The Paradise afterwards to meet RG and his new boyfriend for karaoke. Each step along the sidewalk made me realize just how much I'd eaten.

Good thing I managed to make it to the gym twice during their visit.