My parents were here last week for a visit. They drove out to Las Vegas from Chicago in February for a couple of months and then came to spend a few days with us. My mom wanted to get the oil changed in her Lexus, so I called the local Lexus dealer and asked for the service department. "How much is an oil change?" I asked. "$74.95" was the answer. Um, no. We Midwesterners think a $74.95 oil change better include a pedicure at the very least. So the oil change would wait. We had a lot of fun, went to Santa Monica, the Farmers Market--my new favorite place in L.A.-- and had lunch with a friend of my dad's at Mel's Drive-In, a retro-y diner. I plugged the address into the GPS in my car, and we were off. The friendly voice of the GPS directed us up La Cienega. I could see the street getting steeper as it approached the hills in the distance. Have I ever mentioned that I have a recurring anxiety dream where I'm driving up a hill and it gets steeper and steeper and my car starts rolling backward? Anyway, we are driving up La Cienega and I can see that there is a stop light almost at the top of the hill--just where we have to make a left turn onto Sunset. Of course, I am the first car that is stopped at the light, still headed uphill, having to make a left turn when the light changes. And there is a big truck in back of me. My heart is pounding. My dream has become my reality. The light turns green. I take my foot off the brake and put it on the gas. In the few seconds between those two actions, my car starts to roll backwards a few inches. Now my heart is really pounding. I step on the gas and thankfully, start going forward and make the turn. I hope this lunch is good, because I'm never going back to this place again. My dad's friend gets there and my heart has returned to a semi-normal rhythm. I ask him if all the streets leading to Sunset are that steep. "No," he says, "that's pretty much the worst one. I usually try to avoid that one." Now he tells me.
As you may or may not know, I have pretty much been a prisoner in my house lately. Waiting for repairmen is my new hobby. So tonight I was actually looking forward to getting out of the house to go to Boy #2's Little League game. We got there a little early so he could warm up and there seemed to be a little buzz in the air. My fellow baseball moms told me that Tom Cruise's son was on the opposing team. Little Connor was actually the catcher. Finally, my subscription to People magazine was paying off--I knew his son's name! We all wondered whether Tom and Katie, or TomKat, as they are known, would show up. The other moms were talking about the paparazzi huddled together on a grassy knoll near the other team's bleachers. "They are not allowed to come any closer." "Can you believe that's their job?" Shortly before the game started, the flash bulbs went wild. TomKat was in the house. I mean, in the park. She is very pretty and very pregnant. He looks exactly like Tom Cruise. All the baseball moms on my team seemed to be on their cell phones alerting their friends. I was watching Katie rub Tom's back, his hand on her leg. I then decided to go hang out by the other bleachers. I mean, I'm new in town. What a great opportunity to make some new friends, right? Up close they look exactly like themselves. They didn't look crazy. And I think you know what I mean. Tom was shouting out encouraging baseball dad stuff to his son. Katie was rubbing his back. I texted a couple of friends the breaking news. One of them told me that she had just seen on Entertainment Tonight that Katie was in Ohio preparing to give birth. "She's sitting on a bleacher 50 feet from me," I said. The other one called me a liar and demanded photos. I actually took a couple of photos when Boy #2 was up at bat that would have been perfect if they weren't so dark. Tom and Katie were in the background. One of the team moms took tons of photos so I actually do have proof. Not that I need any. After all, celebs are all over the place here, right? You practically can't take a walk--not that anyone does out here--without falling over one. And all of us residents are very blase, you know--it's SUCH a common thing. Nothing to get excited about.
OMG!!! Tonight I was doing the dishes when I realized the water in the sink (yes, THAT sink) wasn't draining. I ran the disposal for about 2 seconds --and, nothing, the water was still there. Now, I may have a couple of faults, but I'm a VERY fast learner. I turned off the water, put the rubber gloves down, and backed slowly away from the sink. I then tried to use the other sink in the kitchen, the one with the faucet that needs to be replaced. The faucet that needed to be replaced in 1994, probably. Would you believe that the disposal in THAT sink doesn't work? I know, I know, it boggles the mind. So I grabbed the phone, threw it at Mr. Minivan, told him he could call the landlord, and exited the kitchen. I'm almost to the point where I would welcome the locusts.
Today--or is it tomorrow--has come and is almost gone. No locusts. No frogs. No pestilence. No avian flu. Maybe we have turned the corner. Dare I hope that I can actually get back to unpacking? I think I may be able to. Cross your fingers.
Yesterday morning I went downstairs to the kitchen and made breakfast. After breakfast I started to wash the dishes. By hand, because the dishwasher--a Magic Chef--ever heard of that brand of dishwasher?--doesn't work and is being replaced this week. So I'm washing and the sink fills up with water, and I press the disposal button. And nothing happens. The water doesn't drain--the sink is still full. So I go do something else and come back in a few minutes and press the disposal button. The water starts to drain and then I hear a horrible whooshing sound. A sound that I hope never to hear again. A sound that is still echoing in my brain right now. I open the cabinets under the sink and whoosh--all the water in the double-sided sink as well as all the food particles from the disposal whoosh out of the broken pipe and are all over the kitchen floor. And going into the dining room. And going into the kitchen eating area. I always wanted a pool but this is ridiculous. Luckily, for once during a household crisis, Mr. Minivan is home. We start grabbing towels and paper towels and getting to work. It is disgusting. It is all over. We cannot possibly have enough towels. It is all too much for me. I start to cry as I'm standing on two towels scootching my feet back and forth over the water on the floor. I literally throw in the towel and let him clean up the mess. Right now I'm sitting at home waiting for the plumber who was supposed to be here 3 hours ago. He just called and is still in the middle of a job. But he'll call me in an hour or two when he is done. Oh, and here's the clincher. I just went into the laundry room to fold some laundry. The water heater is leaking. There is water all over the floor. Details to follow.
UPDATE--the plumber came and is picking up a new water heater right now. I'm drinking alone. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.
I have realized why I go to the grocery store every day. Not only is it a break from unpacking, but it is a little bit of face-to-face human contact other than my own family. I find myself chatting up everyone from the deli lady to the produce guy to the checkers. And they have to be nice to me because I'm a customer. I have also noticed that whenever a service person comes to the house I switch into hostess mode. "Would you like a Coke or a bottle of water?" I ask the phone guy and the cable installer. I am days away from offering them cheese and crackers, I fear.
A couple of days ago was Boy #2's first baseball game. A very serious league, this one is. Lots of rules. A real dugout, a real umpire, and a real scoreboard. It was about 68 degrees and I had been running around all day. Besides, I'm from Chicago. That's practically a summer day back home. I wore a tank top. I walked up to the bleachers and saw the other mothers. In. Scarves. And. Fleece. Can you believe it? Actually the temperature did drop soon after I got to the game and I put on my sweatshirt, but really, scarves and 68 degrees? Fragile people. And they all told me I'll be just like they are soon.
The unpacking continues. More observations as they occur.
In some communities, when someone new moves in, the Welcome Wagon visits. Sometimes the neighbors come to introduce themselves, usually bearing cookies or maybe even a bundt cake. L.A. is such a fast-paced city that I didn't really expect the Welcome Wagon, but what I got was so much more.
Last Saturday, as Mr. Minivan was putting yet more trash bags and moving boxes out in the alley to be picked up, he found a smouldering mattress. Yes, that's right, a mattress had been set on fire and then left to smoulder outside our back gate. Maybe it's a local custom involving marshmellows and graham crackers, but since none of those, nor any Welcome Wagon, was to be found, he poured water on it and continued taking out the trash.
Right after that we went to the Little League opening night festivities. Quite the event, with giant inflatable slides, a raffle (I later found out I won a Curt Schilling autographed jersey, but I digress), a silent auction, and lots of food for sale--the local fireman were even grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Very small-town in the middle of the big city. We told the fireman what had happened in the alley and they told us we shouldn't hesitate to call the police or fire departments about something like that. But it was over and we enjoyed the rest of the evening.
Yesterday I was out in front getting the mail and a fully-uniformed fireman walked up the driveway, saying "Hi." How nice, I thought, he's here to welcome us--what a nice surprise even without the bundt cake. But, not exactly. He told me that there were a bunch of fireman out in the back putting out a smouldering mattress and that there was also a burned-out couch back there. He asked if, since we were new here, we were putting extra furniture out in the alley. I was horrified. I explained what had happened on Saturday. The neighbor next door was out in the alley, too, giving me dirty looks. She never did introduce herself. I guess I too would be a little crabby if new neighbors moved in and furniture started spontaneously combusting all in the same week. So, anyway, the policemen took my name as the "reporting party" since the neighbor was too busy glaring at me to get her ID. I told them I didn't want to see my name in the local paper. And now along with unpacking and trying to find my way around, I also have to keep an eye out for my local pyromaniac. All in all, I'd rather have the bundt cake.
Who knew Little League was a great place to spot celebrities? I was talking to one of guys who produced "Glory Road" and over his wife's shoulder I spotted someone who looked a lot like Sela Ward (from Once & Again, Sisters, and House). So I asked his wife and, sure enough, it was Sela Ward. You know, me and Sela Ward, Little League moms. We have so much in common. Once I start drinking coffee I'm sure we'll go grab many lattes together. Then I spotted a bearded man who looked like an older Danny Bonaduce (think Partridge Family) and of course it turned out that he was Danny Bonaduce. I also learned that Tom Cruise turns up at a lot of soccer games, but soccer season is a long way off. More sightings as they occur....
Several hundred boxes, many tears, a lot of dinners out, and many good-byes later, we are in La-La Land. It's beautiful here but a bit strange. These people are freaked out by rain. It was raining the day we went to register the boys at their new school. At 10 in the morning there was a flurry of activity in the office. Several teachers came in to tell the administrator that it was raining and that "we might have to go to the rainy day schedule." An announcement to that effect was made, and I asked what the rainy day schedule was. "Well, the kids don't go outside and they have recess and gym inside." Kind of what is called "indoor recess" at our school back home, where that decision is made 10 minutes before lunch, I guess. And then a little while later the rain stopped and there was yet another big discussion on whether to go off the "rainy day schedule." I also heard a woman on a cell phone at the grocery store assure someone that she was, indeed, "warm and dry." These Californians are very fragile, it seems.
At another grocery store I was behind a woman at the deli counter and she asked to see the ingredients in the turkey. I remember hoping it was an allergy-related request. Then in the produce department I noticed that California-grown avocados were $2.89 each. I asked the produce guy why I paid 99 cents for them in Illinois and they were more than double that in the state where they were grown. "Because this is where all the rich people live," he answered. I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore.
I've had no celebrity sightings yet. I think I will start drinking coffee because it seems that coffee shops are a sure bet for celebrity sightings. Just look thru any issue of People magazine. That, along with unpacking the hundreds of boxes, will be my project for next week.