Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wig in a Box

Clark joined us Saturday night in downtown Santa Ana for a bite to eat at Memphis. None of us had ever eaten there so we didn't know what to expect. The menu outside listed some Southern dishes like zuni fry bread, southern crab cakes and shellfish jambalaya but threw in some modern twists like the bbq'd pulled pork sliders that Caesar tried or my smoked chicken and brie quesadilla. (Smother that in an avocado and corn mash, and I was in foodie heaven!) And let's not forget the sweet potato fries and the moistest chocolate cake ever to pass my lips.
Delicious as it was, the food at Memphis wasn't was brought the three of us together in the heart of Santa Ana. We had tickets for the closing night performance of Hedwig & the Angry Inch at Theatre Out, a gay-themed theater company deep in the heart of conservative Orange County, California. The theater sat across the street from Memphis, sandwiched between an American Apparel and an empty space with a "For Lease" sign taped to the window. My first pass around the block to find parking and I missed it completely, the place was so small. The 40 seats surrounded the cornered stage on three sides, and each one of those seats was occupied -- with six people forced to stand against the side walls during the entire performance -- by the time the show began.

The band entered one by one, tuning their guitars or tapping the drums, until the drummer decided to lay down along the small outcropping of stage. That's when Yitzhak storms onto the stage, clearing the way for the star of the show, Hedwig, an East German, glam rock-singing presence. (That's the only way to describe her -- a presence, a force to be reckoned with. Strong-willed, gender-blurred thanks to a botched surgery, and completely in charge.) Hedwig and the band remain on stage the entire time, presenting a cabaret-style rock concert interspersed with the story of how Hedwig escaped East Germany and lost at love to both the American GI who helped her (as the young boy Hansel) and a young protégé Tommy Speck.

Darius Rose rocked the role of Hedwig, getting into every song, joking with audience, acting the part of the jilted diva. He was Hedwig. Just amazing. Michelle Hernandez proved a worthy foil to Hedwig as Yitzhak, Hedwig's lover and back-up singer. And the production didn't feel small, even though it was mostly Hedwig, Yitzhak and a 5-piece band. The energy made the room feel bigger, as if Hedwig and the Angry Inch were performing at a huge, 500-seat venue. Such an amazing experience that I was in awe as we stepped into the cool night air after the show.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hooked on Ghosts
While Caesar spent last night with his Mom and Sister at Dirty Dancing: The Musical, I curled up on the couch to watch my newest obsession, Ghost Adventures. I've always been a fan of all things ghostly and supernatural so this show -- following three guys as they are locked down in various haunted spots across the U.S. to capture evidence of ghosts -- is right up my alley. Or it could be their hunky leader, Zak Bagans (he's the one in the middle).


To think that they get paid to do this!! Yes, jealousy rears its ugly head....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: The Nun

"The Marquis de Croismare's reply, if he does reply, will serve as the opening lines of this tale."


With these first words, the tale of Suzanne Simonin, a young woman barely in her twenties, who wishes to leave a Paris convent. She describes to the Marquis through her various letters how she came to live in a nunnery thanks to her mother's attempts to hide her daughter's illegitimacy, how she feels little vocation for life as a nun, and worst of all, how the tortures and horrors she endured at the hands of a ruthless and egotistic Mother Superior served to strengthen her resolve to flee.

Author Denis Diderot based this series of letters on an actual incident of 1758 that piqued the interest of his friend the Marquis de Croismare. Though the events in his novel are fictitious, they do paint a damning picture of church practices at the time. At the convent of Longchamp, Suzanne suffers because of her desire to leave: forced to wear a hair-shirt, given little to no food for days, all items stolen from her cell, the lock broken and non-repaired, other sisters entering her cell at all hours to keep her from sleeping so she would hopefully miss a prayer session thus deserving more ridicule and harsher penalties. When Suzanne is removed from Longchamp to another nunnery at Arpajon, she finds herself subjected to another (possible) side of convent life. The Reverend Mother takes a liking to Suzanne, turning her affections away from one of the other Sisters, and unsuccessfully attempts to seduce Suzanne.

For the most part, I empathized with Suzanne, all the trials she endured at Longchamp filling me with disgust at the Sisters' inhumanity. But the empathy began to lessen when she reached Arpajon. Diderot makes Suzanne play dumb to the advances of the Reverend Mother, but not once does he have her attempt to put a stop to it until her confessor from a nearby monastery describes how wicked such tastes are and the would go mad and foam at the mouth (which happens to the Reverend Mother). Only then does she put her foot down and avoid the Reverend Mother, treating her a mixture of pity and disgust. She could have stopped the seduction from escalating, but to me seemed very complicit with events, even to the point of encouraging them at times. It seemed to go against the strong character developed at Longchamp, when Suzanne withstood all the torments and harassment with grace and dignity.

Perhaps I'm more disappointed with Diderot's view on homosexuality as a psychological problem rather than with Suzanne's response to it, and I'm still trying to reconcile my modern day ideas with those of the 18th century.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Belated Happy Fathers Day!

Yes, I'm a day late. I did, however, spend Fathers Day with my Dad who we finally brought home from the hospital Saturday. He's battling pneumonia and recuperating at home -- while my Mom deals with Pink Eye in both eyes as well as bronchitis. So yesterday, I stopped at See's to claim my Dad's free 1-lb. of chocolate creams, bought their groceries, fixed some homemade chicken noodle soup, watched a bit of the U.S. Open, and then I headed for home to let them rest. Not a typical Fathers Day, but a good one.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Opposite Ends of the Comedy Spectrum, Pt 2
Sunday, we headed for Los Angeles -- not to take part in the Pride festivities, but to have an audience with Dame Edna Everage at the Ahmanson. Well, more like to sit in the audience at her First Last Tour. At least we managed orchestra seats.

The began with a call from Dame Edna, who was running late thanks to the LA traffic. She didn't want to waste our time so she had a short film for us to watch revealing her humble roots as an Australian housewife until she arrived. The movie told her story alright, dishing all the tawdry details of the people she stepped on to get to the top. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the entire film as Dame Edna arrived just in time, running onto the stage to rousing applause with a destroyed videotape in her hands. And after apologizing she launched into her bit, calling the audience "Possums", commenting on the venue, and finally picking on a few people in the audience. Somehow, she managed to remember each person she chose from the audience -- their names, where they were from, their occupations -- never once mistaking one for another or forgetting a person. Which helped immensely when she called them onto the stage during the last half of the show for a mock television talk show appearance.

Where Lisa Lampanelli used crude humor to get laughs, Dame Edna added a touch of upper-crust style, treating everyone as if she had deigned to perform for us, giving the little people a taste of the rich and famous. And we all loved it. Caesar and I laughed just as long and as hard as we did at the Saturday show. I'm just sad that neither of us was close enough to receive one of her signature gladiolas that she tossed into the audience toward the show's end.

Afterwards, we headed to La Parrilla for some wonderful chicken, carne asada and tripitas before braving the 710 to Long Beach.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It Takes a Lickin': The Results Show!

"Well, Mr. C_ I have some good news for you." Some? I furrowed my brow and swallowed before asking him to continue. "The results of your stress test were absolutely clear. No signs of any heart problems. Your blood flow is strong, according to the ultrasound. The calcium score shows no signs of plaque or buildup in your arteries. Very good news, especially with someone your age, I would have been surprised to see anything wrong." He said all this while typing into his computer, only occasionally looking at me to gauge my response. The some still hung in my mind when he didn't continue for a few moments.

"The CT scan also showed your heart working normally. The CT also picks up images of your lungs just because they're in the same area. And we noted a small spot on one of your lungs." I felt my eyes widen, my mouth drop open slightly as the breath squeezed from my body. "You don't smoke?" I shook my head. "And I don't see a history of cancer in your family so I doubt that it's cancerous. You do have asthma and mentioned bronchitis and pneumonia. My guess is that it's scar tissue." He continued typing while I clutched the book I'd brought with me. I glanced around the room, from the model of an artery on his desk to the heart chart on the wall opposite, not know what to say or do. "I want to run another CT in about 6 months to determine is the spot has changed, grown larger." Tap, tap, tap. "At that time, we can determine the next course to follow."

"And in four months, I want to see you again for a follow up. You need to loose about 15 lbs." We discussed diets, what my ideal weight should be, avoiding the spot completely. "Other than that, I need to wait for you blood test results, but you should be fine." The nurse said she would call me on Friday if anything didn't jibe with my bloodwork; I mentioned that to the doctor, and he nodded slightly.

And with that, he motioned me to the front desk where I scheduled my two appointments as he hurried down the hall.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opposite Ends of the Comedy Spectrum, Pt. 1

Saturday evening, Caesar and I rode the Passport to Downtown Long Beach for a quick dinner at The Pike. I actually convinced him that we needed to be in the area as early as possible to make sure we didn't miss the show. Unfortunately, we arrived too early and by the time we finished eating, we still had an hour and a half to kill so we wandered through Borders then down toward the fast-spinning ferris wheel.We bypassed that, deciding instead to wander through the Romero Britto art installation.

Britto's 6-foot-tall pieces were set in the grass patches in front of the Laugh Factory. A bit odd to see right along the Shoreline Drive, but passersby stopped to look, take a picture or two with the large objects. I wondered if the lone security guard stayed through until morning. Leaving those out all night in one of the unrulier night spots in Long Beach didn't seem like a good idea. "Probably they work in shifts," Caesar said.

We left the art installation, crossed Shoreline to take in the view of the harbor, then sauntered across one of the bridges to the Performing Arts Center for the main event: Lisa Lampanelli.

For those not in the know, Ms. Lampanelli is known as the "Queen of Mean" and deservedly so. She's an insult comic who leaves no person unscathed, flinging the raunchiest, most un-PC remarks about blacks, Asians, HIspanics, gays, lesbians, straights, whomever lands in her crosshairs.

And for Saturday's performance, she was on a roll. From the beginning, when she came on stage only to find a group of four people in the front row who couldn't find their seats, she let the cannons loose, pounding the stairs into the audience while the insults about the group of four flew left and right. The audience loved it -- and so did those four. She touched on every racial stereotype imaginable, and everyone laughed -- not just polite laughs, but the kind that rock you forward in your seat, hand clamped over your mouth, not believing what just spewed from the stage but unable to stop laughing. I sat there thinking how wrong it was, but when the Latino couple next to me was laughing at the exact same joke about hispanics that I was, or when Caesar and I howled at the gay references ("Once you go fag, your shoes match your bag!"), I never for once thought she was being racist. Rude: yes. Crude: yes. Overtly sexual: most definitely. Yet we all laughed, enjoyed being able to let ourselves go.

During the bus ride back, filled with mostly those of us who had just seen the show, none of us could stop smiling or thinking about what a great time we had.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Takes a Lickin' and Keeps on Tickin', Pt. 2

30 minutes and a large waxed cup of cold water later, the nurse who injected the isotope led me into an imaging room with a flat table much longer than a human body. She directed me to lay on one end of the table and asked me to remove the gown, stretch my arms over my head, while she attached three stickers with metal nodes at the center to both my shoulders and above my right hip. "This scan's going to last about 20 minutes. Keep your hands over your head the entire time." The table slowly raised then glided toward a large brownish square plate at the opposite end of the table. The nurse slipped a set of headphones into my ears once the table stopped moving. "You can wiggle your fingers or toes but try not to move your chest. You may even want to take a nap; most patients do." She disappeared, and an Yanniesque version of Scarborough Fair filtered into my ears. I heard a click and noticed the plate slowly lowering to just above my chest and begin a slow orbit of me. As it circled, another plate came into view, looking like to thick and metallic slices of bread and with the moderate heat pulsing from them, I felt like a rotisserie chicken waiting to be made into a sandwich.

Once we finished, I followed the nurse back across the lobby to the Treadmill #2 room and hopped onto a gurney. "Another nurse will be in soon to get you ready for the treadmill, okay?" I nodded and smiled, returning to my book about a Nun trying to leave a convent in 18th century Paris and all the hardships and disgraces her order set upon her. After 10 pages, the new nurse arrived and jovially explained what was going to happen as she attached more metal nodes to my torso. To these, she clamped an array of gray-covered wires, all feeding into a black box which she belted about my waist. "Now, sit back on the gurney, and I'm going to take your blood pressure so we have an 'at rest' reading." She velcroed the cuff around my right arm, pressed a button on a wall unit which inflated the cuff. "Okay. Now, we're just waiting for the doctor to get here so we can start the treadmill."

And we waited. After 15 minutes, a second nurse appeared and asked why we hadn't started. "We're waiting for the doctor."

"He's still at the hospital, but Dr. S_ is here. He should be able to do it." She left to find the other doctor and soon re=appeared. "He's on his way. Go ahead and get him ready."

I stepped onto the treadmill. The nurse adjusted the wires so as not to get in the way and velcroed another blood pressure cuff, this time to my left arm. "When the machine starts, it's going to be at a regular pace. Every few minutes, the speed will increase and the platform will rise up, okay?" I nodded. The doctor walked in, greeting the nurses and gave the okay to begin. For the next few minutes, I kept pace with the treadmill while the nurse checked my blood pressure. The nurse from the beginning came into the room carrying another radioactive cylinder. Once the first speed increase occurred, she injected more isotope into my IV, then started chatting with the other nurse. Things were going well as far as I could tell, but I felt the blood pressure cuff beginning to slip. I said as much, but apparently not loud enough because they didn't react until I screamed in pain as the cuff slid over my IV and partially ripped its needle from my arm.

Thankfully, the test ended a few minutes after that, and after a painful removal of the tape that held the IV in place (thanks to hairy arms), I was back in the locker room, changing into my jeans and a fresh t-shirt. The nurse from the beginning handed me a cup of cold water and asked me to follow her back to the imaging room. "Just one more scan, and you'll be out of here." I hopped up onto the table where she again clamped the wires to the metal nodes still attached to my chest. This time, I almost fell asleep as the theme from Chariots of Fire wafted through the headphones.

"And, we're done!" I climbed off the table and checked my bag to make sure I had all the papers, my book, cell phone, and such. "Do you have a follow up scheduled?" Yes, it's supposed to be this coming Wednesday. "All right then. You're free to go." I thanked her and quickly walked out the doors to my car, heaving a sigh of relief as I merged onto PCH.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Takes a Lickin' and Keeps on Tickin', Pt. 1

The nurse walked around the corner toward me, carrying a metal cylinder stickered with radioactive symbols. She cautiously slid a syringe of clear liquid from the cylinder, removed the needle's cap and inserted the tip into my IV. "You may feel a little cold when the isotope enters your bloodstream." Will I feel anything else: nauseous, shaky, a third nipple sprouting from the middle of my chest. "No. This is a fairly harmless stuff," she said, quickly slipping the empty needle into the cylinder. "Now, we have to wait for about an hour for the isotope to work its way into the heart muscle, and then I can take the first images in that room over there." She pointed to an open door across the hall. I saw the head and shoulders of an elderly man lying on a table, tousled hair, arms stretched and crossed above his head, apparently asleep while a machine gently whirred. "Let me take you to the waiting room where you can read or watch TV, and I'll be back in about 30 minutes with some water."

As I stood from the chair, the Echo tech arrived ready to whisk me to the other side of the building for an ultrasound of my heart. "You've already injected the isotope." It sounded like a half-question, half-statement.

"Yes," she responded, "he's got to wait a while for the stuff to get to his heart so I didn't want him to wait."

The tech hesitated. "Okay.... Well, the doctor ordered a ultrasound and a cholesterol screening so that should have been done first." He seemed a bit flustered.

"That's okay. He's all set." I gathered my bag and shirt and followed the tech past the older folks waiting in the lobby who stared at me. I'm sure I made an awful sight, carrying a bag and shirt in one hand while an IV dangled from the elbow of the other arm. He lead me through a heavy down, down a maze-like corridor to Treadmill Room #2. "Set your stuff down on that table, and then take off your t-shirt." I looked down at the IV tube then back at him. He was busy typing into a computer so I began by retracting my right arm through the sleeve brought the shirt up and over my head and stopped. The tech looked up. "Ah, let me help you with that." Together, we carefully slid the shirt over my left arm and the IV tube. "Up on the table and lay on your left side." With my arm sticking straight out, I watched as he squeezed some gel onto a soft-tipped tube -- I thought of a bingo dauber for some reason -- and pressed it against my chest. I gasped a bit at the iciness. While he moved the tube and I shifted as he asked, I watched the monitor as a gray and white mass appeared. With every thump of my heart, a tiny flap raised and lowered on the screen. It was a bit mesmerizing, seeing my own heart beating in front of me. The tech said the occasional "good shot" or "hold your breath" while he captured a few screen images then pieced them together, telling me that he was figuring out the size of my heart.

Once we were done, he helped me into a front-closing gown so I wouldn't have to keep removing my shirt then handed me over to another tech to draw a blood sample for the cholesterol screening. He took one look at the IV in my left arm and said, "That's going to hurt when she pulls the tape off. She should have used this." He showed me a roll of blue material tape. "It only sticks to itself. A lot less painful to remove." I thought back to the hospital a few weeks ago, when the nurse used a clear sticker to hold the IV in place. That felt like my skin was being shaved off as she ripped the sticker away, and I cried for the one and only time that day.

The tech sent me back across the staring lobby to the waiting room by the lockers. I changed from my jeans into my gym shorts and realized that I left sneakers at the apartment. If worse comes to worse, I could always do the treadmill in my socks. I slid the locker key around my wrist and sat in the tiny waiting room, trying to read the book I'd brought while the folks on TV panned for tourmaline in San Diego.

...to be continued...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stop and Smell the....













Finally, a short break in the hectic workday to snap a quick pic of some lotuses blooming in my office building's courtyard. One of these days, I'll even be able to eat my lunch out there!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: Let the Right One In

I've always aligned my vision of a vampire with those that appear in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, and Robert McCammon's They Thirst: a terrifying creature, with sharpened fangs ready to wreak havoc and draw a little blood in the process. Those scary tales always managed to get my adrenaline pumping and sometimes spook myself into thinking a vampire was waiting for me just around the next dark corner. But something changed, turned them from the stuff of nightmares into objects of romantic flights of fancy, and my interested ebbed.

Perhaps I'm biased. I like my monsters dark and scary.
Luckily, I've found my way back to the vampire tales, thanks in great part to John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Let the Right One In. Okay, the movie version actually piqued my interest first when we saw it in late December last year, but I was piqued enough to find a copy of the novel.

The story centers around Oskar, a young boy with an interest in the macabre who is constantly picked on by three bullies at school. It's only away from school, when he's either back at the apartment complex re-reading his scrapbook of police news clippings or eating the candy he's stolen from a shop, that he feels the safest. He sometimes acts out how he's going to fight back against the bullies, and it's on just such a night while practice jabbing a small knife at a tree that he runs into Eli, the new girl in his apartment complex. She doesn't talk much, simply staring at him from atop the jungle gym, but when she finally does, it's only to say that they can't be friends before heading back into the complex.

Seemingly innocuous, but as the story progresses, Lindqvist slowly builds the horror by allowing the reader in on the secret, what Oskar doesn't realize: that Eli's a vampire. And one thing this novel does well is to stick to the vampire mythos such as not being able to stand the sunlight (especially during a very vivid scene with one of Eli's victims in a hospital room), the intense dislike of cats (and violent reaction from them), extraordinary strength, and not being allowed to enter a room or house without being invited. (One of the best scenes in the book -- and the movie -- occurs when Oskar decides to test Eli's ability to enter a room without an invitation.)

This is a fantastic novel that does much more than tell a simple, terror-filled vampire tale. The novel creates an interesting relationship between the two main characters, which begins with the reader trying to decide when Eli will attack Oskar and morphs into a strange friendship. The trust between the two becomes so great that Eli decides to reveal her history to Oskar, touching on some very sensitive events. Which leads me to a question I considered when writing my quickie review of the movie. Could the title Let the Right One In have more than one meaning? Does it refer to a vampire's need to be invited into a room, and Oskar's testing of that? Or does it refer to Eli's dropping her wall to tell Oskar her history?

Even if you don't enjoy horror stories, this is one that is definitely worth reading.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Unlike her sisters and contrary to her mother's wishes, Elizabeth Bennett isn't as focused on finding a suitable husband as a girl her age should be. Instead, she would rather focus her energies as her father and her Shaolin Master prepared her, on fighting the mysterious plague affecting England, one that seems to be returning the dead to life. Still, she must keep familial obligations and makes an appearance at a ball. It's here that she meets Mr. Darcy, reknowned to be her equal in the arts of killing the undead. Elizabeth's impression of Mr. Darcy, however, turns unfavorable. She finds him arrogant and full of too much pride and what follows is a comedy of manners and societal divisions as the two verbally spar with one another while trying to keep their true feelings from reaching the surface amidst both their own impressions and their their respective families. Oh, and they must defend against attacks from the undead before England is overrun.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does a wonderfully imaginative job of re-telling Jane Austen's classic tale of romance between two of the most unlikely of lovers -- Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy -- and throwing in a bit of zombie mayhem. While author Seth Grahame-Smith endows many of the characters with special training and combat skills and creates a world in which the undead have been wreaking havoc for 50+ years, he keeps the main focus on the original story between Elizabeth and Darcy. The scenes of zombie mayhem -- many of which are accompanied by woodcarvings/illustrations by Philip Smiley -- fit perfectly into the time period, never seeming over-the-top or horrifically gruesome. In fact, they come across as more tongue-in-cheek and oddly enough, enhance the story.

This book isn't for everyone, and I think many Austen and Pride and Prejudice purists may have a difficult time accepting the Bennett sisters' acumen for killing zombies. But it's all in good fun, and I, for one, was thoroughly entertained. And, it makes me want to read the original to see how closely non-zombie events match in the two tales. (My copy's already in my stack next to the bed.)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Day at the Beach


After running a few errands which took us to the heart of the Orange Curtain (a.k.a. Orange County), we circled back to meet our friend Marci and her twins for a birthday party at the Peninsula in Long Beach. Nothing beats watching two two-year-olds splashing and laughing in the water, pointing at the boats as they pass through the harbor, and eating bits of chocolate cake that we feed to them because their hands are covered with sand.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Failed First Attempt

At least, that's how I feel about the front desk people at my cardiologist's office. Two weeks ago, I scheduled a full battery of tests: blood work to check my cholesterol, a nuclear stress test, a stress echocardiogram and a CT scan of my heart. My co-worker was fine with me taking half a day for everything which should have been today.

However....

Yesterday, the front desk person phoned yesterday as I was walking to lunch. "Um, I forgot that the echo tech [for the echocardiogram] works only part-time and isn't at this location on Wednesdays." I froze in my tracks. "We wanted to know if you could come in again on Thursday for the echocardiogram but still keep your appointment tomorrow for the CT and the nuclear test." Actually, no I couldn't. We have two people in my office now so even taking half the day off for the test required a bit of tweaking to our schedules. And why didn't you know about this two weeks ago when YOU scheduled the appointment? "I'm sorry, sir. I know how you must feel. But we don't have a tech here on Wednesdays." She kept repeating that instead of answering my questions. So I told her I needed to think on it, discuss options with my co-worker.

I called back later yesterday afternoon and was immediately transferred back to that same front desk person. I told her that I wanted everything done on the same day, in one fell swoop. "Can you come to the Newport Beach office? We have a full-time tech there." Can I keep my same appointment? "No, I'm sorry, it's all booked." Grr..... "But the Newport Beach office has many more time slots available." And after listening to her "hmm" for about ten minutes as she checked the calendar, the only time slot she could find was for next Friday at 11:30 AM. I'd had enough of dealing with her so I told her to pencil me in. Then, silly me, I asked about the blood work. "We don't have you scheduled for blood work." You have got to be shitting me!! (Okay, I didn't say that out loud.) The doctor specifically told me that he wanted blood work to check my cholesterol. "Well, we have someone who can draw the blood on-site so you should be okay." Yipee.

Perhaps this was the actual stress test....

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Up with the Twins

When our Friend from Las Vegas visited a few weeks ago, we bought 2fer tickets for Disneyland (for one price, we could visit one park one day, then visit the other park within 30 days). With him already back in Las Vegas, Caesar and I thought it might be a fun idea to take our friend MM and her twins and her new beau to California Adventure. Long story short, she had a free 2fer ticket from her birthday a few weeks before, our extra ticket would be for the beau, twins get in free. So we arranged to meet them in the afternoon at the main gate, giving the twins a chance to rest up before a busy day.

But before we met, Caesar and I decided to catch a matineé of Up at Downtown Disney, just to completely overload ourselves in the Disney experience. So along with a theater filled to almost overflowing with kids (and their parents), we settled into the 3D-ness of the film.
Up tells the story of Carl Frederickson, a widower trying to enjoy his old age in peace. If the city developers have any say about it, however, he'd be resting in a retirement home somewhere. Unluckily for Carl, the city's opportunity soon appears when he attacks a construction worker trying to repair his mailbox, and he soon finds himself getting ready to be shipped off. Carl comes up with a plan -- one that would make his beloved Ellie proud -- and he somehow sneaks hundreds of balloons into his house, the helium carrying him to South America to fulfill a promise made to Ellie. But unbeknownst to Carl, he has a stowaway -- a Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Together, they set off on an adventure to bring Carl's house to Paradise Falls in South America, but find themselves entangled in a hunt for a rare bird and fighting off talking dogs.

Once again, Pixar has crafted an amazing animated film. Great computer work, an incredibly moving story (as always), and 3D that didn't rely on the cheesy, jumping-out-of-the-screen effects. Rather, the 3D added depth to the entire film, making it come alive, seem more realistic. The voices were equally great: how can you go wrong with Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer? But Jordan Nagai as Russell and Bob Peterson as Dug the Dog really made the film for me. Their voices seemed perfectly matched to their computer-generated counterparts.

I think it safe to say that we both enjoyed the movie.

As for the day in the park with the twins, what a workout that turned out to be! We spent much of the time in Redwood Creek, which is a foresty play area modeled after various California State Parks. Trees to climb through, lots of slides, rope bridges and even a tunnel-- the kids wore themselves silly. I think they each slid down the slides at least 10 times. We wandered from there over to A Bug's Land where Disney offered another play area to wear out for the kids to jump and play. This time, they even rode Heimlich's Chew Chew Train and some flying thing that spun and tilted in the air. They laughed and smiled, only fussing a few times (thankfully), and by the end of the night, they were sufficiently pooped out. One of the kids fell asleep in the stroller while we stopped to listen to a guitar player, and the other was fighting valiantly to keep sleep away. We finally left them around 8:30 and headed into the crowd to find something to eat.