Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hwy 52 sighting

I saw her again. The rock and roller who feels so passionate about music that she wants to share it with every commuter the passes under the walkway over Hwy 52 between Concord St. and Butler Ave. Not quite sure how she plugs in that Fender - she had a microphone this time but no amp. She's like clockwork. It was close to 5:00 the last time I saw her and again, as I passed under the bridge I glanced at my car clock, 4:45. Does she play the same song? Does she have a repertoire? It's too bad no one can hear her. The next time I see her, do I drive to where the walkway starts, get out of my car and listen? Maybe that is the point she is trying to make... are we hearing each other or is there just too much noise?

Monday, July 30, 2007

What DIDN'T I do this weekend?

Soccer, soccer and more soccer - that is what I did, along with a few other things. Julian had a soccer game on Friday night, a soccer game on Saturday at 9:00 am and one at the same time on Sunday. His U14 team is playing for the State cup. They play four games and the 2 teams who get the most points get to play each other on Friday for the title. So far Julian's team lost one and won two. The got all the possible points on Sunday's game by shutting out the other team 9-0. So, we'll see what happens on Wednesday at 5:00. It is going to be hot - probably 90+ degrees. The one game they lost was a 5:00 game. I just hope that time slot is not jinxed. It would be nice to see them go on to play for the title - although, every parent who has to drive their kid in rush hour 30 miles north of the city to a 5:00 game is also secretly wishing that soccer season would end yesterday!
When I wasn't at a soccer game, I played taxi driver for the 14 year old and his friends. I maneuvered the city's giant freeway loop from the movie theater to our house repeatedly. Don't get me wrong, I volunteered to do it, I am glad that Julian has friends to hang out with. Also, by offering my services this time I have built up good karma, meaning that next time I will get to stay home while some other parent plays taxi. Julian also has his own earned income this summer so I don't feel like I am going broke in the process. He is working hard doing landscaping plus doing chores around the house, and mowing our lawn and his grandma's.

When I wasn't at a soccer game or driving the kid around, I assisted the other child in cleaning his room. This job should only take an hour, maybe two but it ends up taking DAYS! Sometimes I think he makes more of a mess while cleaning because he discovers long, lost, loved things that need to be played with. Just let me say, it STILL isn't done.

When I wasn't at a soccer game, driving the kid around, cleaning the other kid's room, I was at a neighborhood potluck. It wasn't actually in our neighborhood but the people who put it on USED to live in our neighborhood and they invite all their old neighbors. They usually get a great turn-out with hoards of kids running around - they block off the street for a band and the kids ride their many varied wheeled vehicles in the street, a rare treat! When a child is occupied for hours running outside with kids and dogs, the parents actually get to talk to other adults....that, my friend is a good potluck!

When I wasn't at a soccer game, driving the kids around, cleaning the other kid's room or at a potluck, I was preparing the house for a birthday party and then subsequently throwing a birthday party worthy of my eight year old's critical nature. Kailash's birthday was weeks ago. His summer birthday somehow throws me off. I find it hard to organize a party and by July (all the other family birthdays are in the spring), I am all partied out. Yet, this child is a party planner. He loves all holidays and would throw a party for each and every one of them. He had started gathering Hawaiian relics months ago in anticipation for his theme birthday party. Palm trees, leis, seashells, dolls with grass skirts - we had it all! Oh, and did I mention that he also wanted to have a volcano cake? Yes, I created a volcano cake to the best of my ability. It was multi-layered with chocolate chip fudge frosting to hold it together and red icing for the lava. Julian also had the great idea to use red gummy worms for an added 3-D effect for the lava. We adorned the cake with long candles in the hole in the middle and made it appear as if it were really spewing fire!My mother, my middle sister and two of Kailash's friends from school joined us to celebrate his day. Let me just say that these three children were attracted to each other from the first time they met. They have a certain flair or color about them. It wasn't until after a couple of years of knowing them that I found out the source of their attraction... both sets of parents were/are theater people! We attract like minded people...isn't that the law? Well, these three together are a hoot. Kailash generally is the ring leader or better said, the artistic director of all the activities. At his party these activities included swimming with the mermaid in his homemade pond, dressing up as princes and princesses and plunging plastic parachuting men from off the banister.
Grandma and Auntie Amy enjoying the party

7:00 pm on Sunday could not come soon enough. Although I enjoyed Kailash's happy face throughout the evening and Julian's thrill of victory, I was dog-tired and needed some down time. The parents came to gather their brood, my mom and sister went home. I smiled a weary smile at my husband as he cleaned the kitchen and I descended the basement stairs to start the laundry.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Moonshine and Trumpet Vines

These white flowers only open in the moonlight. Kailash says that some of them only open when the moon is full. This was the first time that we saw them open. We planted the flowers from seeds that were given to us by our good friend Paul. Paul and Kailash had a long discussion one evening last summer about flowers. At some point during the evening, the conversation turned to flowers that would only come out with the moon. Shortly after that night, we received these seeds in the mail.

Given a little dirt, water and sunshine, it amazes me what Mother Earth births.
I also added pictures of our stunning Trumpet Vines - what a brillant orange they are!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Cycles: an interval of time during which a sequence of
a recurring succession of events or phenomena is completed

Motorcycle: a 2-wheeled automotive vehicle for one or two people

Motor scooter: a low 2- or 3-wheeled automotive vehicle resembling a child's scooter and having a seat so that the rider does not straddle the engine

For the past months, Tom and I have been debating about getting some kind of cycle. For years Tom has half joked about wanting to be a chain wallet, leather wearing, bandanna boasting motorcycle man. I always said, "No way, too dangerous - you know what leather pants do to me." Haha. No, I knew the statistics, the way people drive it would be suicide. This is what I thought...until lately.

What changed my mind? Maybe turning 40 did it - a mid-life thing. Could be, but I really attribute the change to GBW. NO, not GBV(for all you fans out there)...GWB. Gas prices, this war, the economy...George W pushed me to it. I can no longer AFFORD to drive my mini-van solo around the Twin Cities while Tom drives his V-8 engined Buick Regal...it is just too damn expensive! I am also concerned about the environment and believe that global warming IS happening. A smaller vehicle would at least help me to do my part to put less poisonous gasses into the air.

For awhile we went back and forth between Motor Scooter and Motor Cycle. Tom's father was selling a Harley and would give us a good deal on it but it was big and potentially TOO big for me to ride. So, we started looking at buying two motorcycles. We got all excited and signed up for the motorcycle instruction class and everything. We TOLD people. THEN, we looked at our money situation and the lack of it. Some of you would say that we should have done that first - well, as creative souls we tend to operate in this way. So, we had to wait.

Months later, with a little more research under our belt and a budget, we found a place in St. Paul that sells and works on both scooters and motorcycles. We liked the sound of that, somewhere in town, supporting the local economy and small business. It is located on Vandalia Street under the water tower and when I left a message, the owner Ryan, called me right back. Blue Cat Garage. We even like the name.

It is such a thrill to go shopping for a vehicle. It can be a little stressful too. We had done the research though and were pretty positive about what we wanted. We chose a motor scooter. One, they are less expensive than the type of motorcycles we were looking at. Two, we liked the European look of the scooters. Tom had just been in Vietnam and had seen all types of scooters, it seemed just the way to go. Blue Cat had the kind we were looking for, SYM HD 200.

The SYM HD 200 can go 80-90 mph. It has the speed that you get with 200 cc's but the advantages of a scooter...automatic transmission and you are not straddling the engine. Tom drove it home July 13.

Now, even though it's a motor scooter, it is considered a motorcycle because it is over 50 cc's so you have to get a motorcycle license endorsement. After having enrolled in a motorcycle course months back and withdrawing, we thought we might be able to do without the course. We both studied the motorcycle manual for the permit test and passed the permit no problem. We started to gather our cycle "things". Helmets, gloves, goggles/sunglasses; bought myself a pair of Doc Martens. Yet, every cycle person we encountered seem to say the same thing, "Take the motorcycle class." They offered a couple through the state that were cheaper than the one through the private company we originally signed up for. They had an opening at Dakota County Technical College for Friday, Saturday and Sunday the 20th- 22nd. Cool, we would take the class and get licensed.The first evening is all classroom instruction. The next two afternoons, from 2:00-7:00 is range driving and then lastly, the test. We could have used our scooter but ultimately one of us would have had to use a motorcycle since we only had the one scooter, so we both decided it would just be easier to learn how to ride a motorcycle since that is what they provided AND we wouldn't have to be concerned about driving the scooter on the highway to get to the class (which neither of us had done yet).

Everyone got to choose their cycle, first come first serve.

This is mine. A 250 CC Kawasaki cruiser.

This is Tom's, also a 250 CC cruiser.

This is our instructor's cycle, a Gold Wing.

It is appropriate that this photo of our instructor is shadowy, that is how I would describe him. He reminded me of the "Cigarette Smoking Man" in the X-files, better known as CSM. It was a father and daughter instructing team. His daughter is there on the left. They BOTH smoked. We got many cigarette breaks.

I thought that the instruction was fair. They would set up the course and describe what the purpose of the drill was and how we would go about doing it. If you had never driven a cycle before, the instruction may have gone a bit fast. The boyfriend in my 20's with the motorcycle had changed the fact that I was not a novice. For me if was a bit like dancing. Follow and lead, hands and feet, together, apart, leaning side to side. I never had any problem picking up dance steps fairly quickly. It was a bit different for Tom. I could tell he was struggling after the first day. He had a hard time turning his head and looking where he wanted to go, trusting that the cycle would not fall over. I tried to be helpful and give him some tips - but when he is focused, the last thing he wants is "tips" from his wife who is having an easy time of it. I was getting praise from the instructor while he was not.

In life, it all comes down to a moment, "an interval of time" (see above definition of cycle). The moment for the test came. It didn't matter how you had done the hours before or how you would drive hours later. It was short and particular.

I ended up having to re-do part of the test because they said I wasn't going fast enough. That made me nervous but the rest of it went very well. Tom looked very nervous.

I passed.

Tom did not.

The elation I would liked to have felt was dampened by my best friend feeling let down. Like all best friends, he was happy for me (still is) but down because we both thought we would come out of this course with our motorcycle license endorsement.

Tom said to me, "It's a coordination thing. You have always been more coordinated than I." True. I was not picked last for kickball in elementary school because I missed the ball when I went to go kick it, Tom was.
Yet, the bottom line is - we don't own a motorcycle, we own a motor scooter. If you remember the definition from above it is the perfect cycle for us!
Motor scooter: a low 2- or 3-wheeled automotive vehicle resembling a child's scooter and having a seat so that the rider does not straddle the engine
Tom will pass the test with the scooter - and then the cycle will be complete.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A weekend with the Z Boys

Downhill: skating as fast as you can down the steepest of hills for the greatest of adrenaline rushes.

The "West Side" of Saint Paul is 1, 948 miles from "Dogtown", Los Angeles. A 28 hour car ride. Yet, there are comparisons. We've got the 3 G's, gangs, graffiti and garbage. We don't have an ocean or surfing scene but we do have the Mississippi River and a downhill scene. You can't go anywhere without going up or down a hill from our house. This would be an issue for some people but for my family they are viewed as good "downhill" spots.

How did this all start? I'll tell you.

My 39 year old husband (the Tony Alva of the family), bought the movie "Dogtown and the Z Boys" while we were on vacation the other week. Our 14 year old son, Julian, has been a skater for years so I thought it would be a movie that would help us to bond with our teenager. Tom had heard it was a good documentary and is always interested in historical origins. It is an amazing video with incredible footage of the original Zephyr team. Awesome interviews and out of this world still shots that even an amateur can appreciate. Ever since that night, the 39 year old male has wanted to relive his youth!
Some men who are approaching 40 go out and spend an exorbitant amount of money on a red corvette and change their name to "Buck". My man goes to Target and buys a $30 skateboard. He rode it into work the next day from his parking spot 15 minutes from the building he works in. He started watching YouTube videos of skaters and found a web site with a forum for "old school" skateboarders (http://www.oldschoolskateboarding.com/). He started listening to Julian who was telling him that he needed a long board to ride into work. Two days later, he bought a $150 Sector 9 longboard and a pair of VANS.

Julian has always been the most active of our family members. He was walking at nine months and running by the next. He plays competitive soccer and is on the high school swim team. He unicycles (straight unicycling and then has a Trials that you jump on and off things with like garage roofs, concrete walls, picnic tables etc...). He rides trick bikes and regular bikes; he has a pogo stick that propels him up into the air 6 -10 feet. In the winter he snowboards. He will play any sport with you for fun and is generally able to pick up any sport he tries. Until now, we have found it hard to keep up with him. We like to watch but it isn't the same as participating. His Dad's new found interest in one of his passions has lit a fire in both of their hearts and put wheels on their feet.
This weekend I posed as professional sports photographer to capture the amazing feats of the "Z boys" of the West Side. Even our 8 year old who is our Thespian and not our athlete has wanted in on the action but prefers to stay a little lower to the ground. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rockin' and Rollin' above Hwy 52

I don't know who she was. I didn't hear the tune she played. Yet, the visual energy she sent out as I caught site of her at 60 mph - just as she left my vision- made a lasting impression.
She was a rockin' and a rollin', jammin' on her electric guitar, sandy brown hair blowin' in the wind, Fender Strat strung low across her blue jeans high above Hwy 52 during rush hour. I passed her twice...once heading south between Belvidere and Butler Ave. and then 1/2 hour later heading north. She was still there, blowing in the wind and rockin' to the tune in her head. She held no sign, she waved no American flag. Just her and her guitar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the mouth of babes...

My 8 year old son is very wise...an old soul. He says things that you wouldn't believe have come from a child's mouth. Yet then again it seems to me that children in general say the wisest things. The profoundness of his thoughts is the inspiration for me starting this blog. I have been thinking about blogging for some months now, first inspired by Petite Flower's site. So, here it goes...
After weeks of summer vacation where he could stay up late (until 10:00 is very late for him) and enjoy the long summer days...not go to bed until dark (again, 9:30-10:00 CDT) and sleep in the morning until it so moved him to get up, this week he has had to wake up at 6:30 am to go to "Camp Runestone for Wizards". He likes the camp, for he may have been a wizard in another life, BUT he does not like getting up in the morning. He is a bit like his mother that way.
After pulling off his covers, turning on the light and gently telling him it is time to get up, he still does not open his eyes. I pull out his clothes for the day, plop them on his bed and again gently say, "time to wake up", now with a back rub and a tickle. He moans, grumbles that he is sooo tired, opens his eyes for a brief moment and then closes them again. This is about the time I finish getting myself ready and come back for another try in 5-10 minutes.
We finally get to the point in our morning where we are in the car, we have dropped off his brother at work and we are headed down the city street to Camp Runestone. We haven't said much in the car for the ten or so blocks we have gone. The radio is off and all we hear is the hum of the engine and the wheels turning on new blacktop.
The wise sage speaks from the back,
"Yes," I say.
"I like it in the morning when we are riding along and it is quiet like this and we have nothing to talk about and the smell of the morning dew is in the air. We look at new houses, no one is mowing their lawn (long pause)...I like that feeling."
"Yes," I say. "That is a wonderful feeling."