Friday, April 29, 2016

Taking the Understatement High Road

My granddaughter Sequoia is three years old, at this writing. Most children of this age, when presented with a less-than-desirable proposal, like steamed broccoli or an ill-timed bath, would un-apologetically scream in protest: 
"I don't like it!" 
"I. Don't. Want. To." 
"I hate broccoli!" 

Not long ago, while her mom and dad took a long weekend in California for a wedding, I watched Sequioa and her brother, Phoenix. On our first night, the dinner choices were many but the most direct path to full bellies, without having to pack the kiddles in the car, was to order a pizza. 

After Sequioa gave the pizza delivery guy the stink-eye and he was on his way, she looked at the box in my hands with blatant contempt. 
"Pizza!" I said, enthusiastically, thinking that single word would fix both her hunger and suspicion. Her eyes narrowed. 
"Pizza," I repeated, opening the box with a flourish, thinking the visual would bring her around. 
She crossed her arms over her chest and calmly stated, "Pizza is not my favorite!" 

I love this girl and think she may have a future as a diplomat. We should all re-frame our statements of preference. Instead of all the hating we Tweet, Facebook and otherwise inflict upon each other, we should take the understatement high-road and simply say "It isn't my favorite." 

It might sound like this: "Trump is not my favorite." "Hillary is not my favorite." "Tweekers are not my favorite." "Starbucks is not my favorite." "The Patriots are not my favorite." "Cookie dough ice cream is not my favorite." 

And for me, I happen to agree with Sequoia. Pizza is not my favorite. 

More on that later. 

For a a moment, let me share, in no specific order, just a few more pictures and a couple short tales of: 
Barbie's Adventures in Panama

My year. My make/model and my exact tint job. 
Identical, in fact, down to the condensation in the tail light housing. 
Maybe that's factory?

Our last evening in Panama.

Might should have veered right.

The black spots in this shot are Capybaras. Jackie was fascinated by these animals. She wanted to get closer, make friends.

I passed on that. Turns out (according to Wikipedia), they are the world's largest rodent.
Capybaras looks like the lovechild of a guinea pig and a hippo.
Not the cutest creature ever.

Not all businesses in Panama are air conditioned. 
But when you walk out of one that is, your glasses do this. 
And so does your camera lens.

Putting babies to sleep is but one of my superpowers. 

Traffic alert that there's an accident up ahead....? 

And speaking of accidents....
Late one night we were traveling back home to the 'compound,' on what Ciara and Ephraim referred to as The Jungle Road. 
It was long and dark and curvy. Lined on either side, by what could only be called the jungle. And there may have been an official speed limit for this road, but it didn't appear to be widely known. Or, just as parlay, maybe more of a guideline.
On this night, we were flying along when we came up to abruptly stopped traffic. We sat there for a long time without moving at all. It was pitch black except for headlights. And whatever the blockage, it was far ahead and around a corner. A couple cars made u-turns but we decided to wait it out. 
At some point, Ephraim walked up the Jungle Road to see what the problem was. Apparently a coconut tree had fallen across the road. But it's okay, says Ephraim. A couple guys pulled machetes out of their cars and were working to get it out of the way. Wait, what? 
Yeah, I guess it's like the Panamanian equivalent to the Pacific Northwest, chainsaw in every jacked-up truck on the road. You just never know when you might need one.

We ordered this almost every where we went: ceviche. Quasi-cooked fish or seafood. Before the trip to Panama, I had never seen it on a menu or in any store in the United States. Now it's everywhere.

It fills a lot of space here, but honestly these pictures and little stories are just a smattering. 
I never even got to the tale of the Widow-maker shower head in Ciara & Eph's apartment bathroom. Or the poor, underpaid woman at the Panama airport, scanning my passport, who felt so bad for me as I stood crying in front of everyone, having to fly away from Ciara. 

Throughout the writing of the New Things, I've tried to slant toward the lighthearted in each adventure. Not wanting to take myself too seriously. Deliberately searching out and celebrating the humor of each situation. Overall, I'm happy with the results.

It would be great to tie up the Panama trip with a pretty red ribbon. Wrap it up, nice and neat and smiley. But, 'Panama,' as it turns out is not just a spot on the atlas. Everything about it was a big deal. And the writing did not just trip me up. It fucking kicked my ass. I cannot adequately explain it to myself, much less to you. I just have no idea, so don't ask me. Can you hear the self-flagellation from where you sit? What the fuck!

I could, quite accurately, title this post: Panama - 50 New Things Speed-Bump.

Before Ciara informed me that she and Ephraim and their six-month old grand daughter, Sequoia were moving to Panama, I had recently been witness to another set of parents reacting badly when given similar news:
"Mom, Dad, I'm quitting my job to follow my heart."
This bombshell did not go over well. And I suspect caused some lasting damage, although I would not know first-hand.
But at the time of Ciara's news, their reaction was a fresh memory. Those parents pitched a fucking fit! They begged and pleaded.
"Don't go!"
"Where did we go wrong?!?"
"Why do you hate us?"
I will always be grateful to these two people. It was the perfect display of HOW NOT TO DO IT!

Sitting upstairs at Gibson's Frozen Yogurt when she told me they would be moving, my heart broke. But I believe I said something like: "Okay, how can we make this happen?" "What can I do to help?"

So .... about Ciara and Ephraim's collective heart for missions and Peace Corps-esque adventures: Intellectually, I get it. I do not share their passion but I respect it and support it as well as I can. That being said, helping them plan, prepare and pack for their move ..... then watching Ciara fly away to Panama with Sequoia in her arms was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. And I had to do it. I had no choice. I could only stand by and weep.

No matter how I turn it over in my hand. 
No matter from which angle it looks most shiny. 
Panama is not my favorite. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Thing #36 ~ Guy Wades Into a Bar....

What's that quote about 'the best laid plans?'

New Thing #34 was my first time traveling to another country: Panama.

(If you're new here, and some of your are, this post is New Thing #36 in the year of Barbie's 50 New Things. If you're anything like me, linear as hell, you might want to click back to the original post and start there. If you're nothing like me, and celebrate disorder, send me your physical address so I can schedule you for an intervention. Either way, thanks for reading!)

Weeks before leaving for Panama, my best laid plan was to incorporate additional New Things into the trip.  At least two.

Um......okay, okay, I confess. The truth is, when I left for Panama I planned to include any New Thing I could possibly manage. Any and all!  (Do not judge me, people!! Time was running short.)

This plan, best laid or not, flew directly in the face of ...
Barbie's 50 New Things Prime Directive
.....something about not lumping multiple New Things together and the Space/Time continuum.
Blah, blah, blah...

Two things I specifically intended to include:   
(#1) Swimming in the Caribbean and (#2) Surfing.

In fact, before leaving Seattle, I was so sure about these two things that I thought of them as foregone conclusiond. Upon arrival in Panama, however, it was clear that things would not go as planned. And that these two things were highly unlikely. Unforeseen circumstances and all.

After being there for a couple days, we rather spontaneously decided to splurge and book a room at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Our dual motivation was to provide Ciara and Ephraim with a get-away from the base where they lived and worked (more details later).
And to have an indulgent vacation-within-a-vacation for Jackie and I.

When we made our reservation, I had no idea what the resort would be like. Although the word 'resort' is often a good sign. And as you may be well aware, I love hotels! So I was quite excited about staying at one in another country.

Soon, we were packed and in the community van.   Then, after ...
  • surviving another perilous and death-defying Panamanian road trip to get there, 
  • checking into the opulent resort
  • drinking our ruby-red, tooty-fruity tropical Welcome beverage, 
  • ooo'ing and aah'ing over our room and the hammock on our balcony,
 ... we finally got to walk around the huge complex, taking it all in. And much to our surprise and delight, we discovered that there was a pool bar. Okay, mostly just my surprise and delight because I knew we'd stumbled upon a New Thing.

Pool bar! We are not talking about a bar in close proximity to a pool. But a bar IN THE POOL!
One that you swim up to and sit on a bar stool that is under the water!
Actually luxuriating IN THE WATER as you sip your umbrella'd cocktail, your cerveza or your repeat ruby-red, tooty-fruity, tropical Welcome beverage !! An opportunity for a New Thing if ever there was one.

"But wait," you say?  "This bar looks suspiciously bare....hmmm."
Well if you think this bar looks completely empty, you're absolutely right! In fact, it was virtually abandoned. We happened to be there during Panama's off-season (Translation: Really frickin' HOT Season). And it turned out that the bar wasn't actually staffed. At least 'officially.' Although we didn't know that at the time. Oddly enough, there wasn't a "No Bartender On Duty" pool sign.

So there we sat, in the pool bar, with no bar service.
"Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!" (S. T. Coleridge)

We sat in this state of 'Pool Bar Denial' for some time. We chatted and let our feet kick easily under the water. Thinking that maybe, if we sat there long enough, some resort staff member would notice and take pity upon our thirsty tourist faces and come down to serve us ... something. Anything.
Seriously, I'll take tap water! But could it please have a brightly colored umbrella in it?

I'm not sure how long we waited. But at some point, one of us noticed that nearby there were a couple of plastic cups that were half empty (or half full, depending) of something. The cups were clearly abandoned. We decided, for the sake of photo documentation, we'd snag these as props.
"Ephraim, take our picture!"
I mean, technically, the New Thing was being at a pool bar. Drinking, as usual, would be optional. So, we took pictures for the blog. Yay! New Thing #36 done, right?
Come on, you know me better than that.

As it turned out, posing with cups that contained the dregs of someone else's good time didn't feel entirely satisfying. Go figure! It just didn't seem right. Plus, by this time, I really needed a drink.

Eventually, we lucked out and spotted a staff member who said they would send someone out to the pool. We soon placed our order and were sipping ice cold beverages, while sitting on a bar stool in the water. Very cool. Jackie ordered "cerveza," Ciara had a fruity drink that looked a lot like the Welcome beverage. And honestly I can't remember my order. Something with rum, I'm thinking.
Mission accomplished!

My 36th New Thing ~ Drinking at a Pool Bar

And all was right with the world.
Well, 'right,' aside from the blatant violation of my own Mission Statement and a pinkie promise not to combine New Things. Even so, CHEERS!

Along with our time at the bar, we also enjoyed the pool in a more traditional and dignified manner.


Remind me to talk to you more about Jackie's Graduation Nails in later post....

Sequoia napped through the entire Pool Bar photo shoot. 



In the shot below, to the right of those palm fronds, you can see the green roof of the pool bar. 

It was a good day.  How often does one get to shout, "I'll buy a round for the pool?" (This was especially easy since we were the only ones there.)

Post Script:
I was just asked if I was sad not having tried surfing in Panama.
Let's consider the choices, shall we?
Face-plant onto a hard board in shark infested waters.....or.....alcoholic beverage sitting in a resort pool. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Back on Track, Baby!

We'll return to our regularly scheduled program (Panama posts) after this message.

I love Autocross! 
Honest to God!! It's crazy scary and crazy fun.
I've missed it and am so happy to be back at the track. I'm still a COMPLETE novice but having the most amazing time, once again.
Fun & Fear! I'd forgotten just how well they play together.

I wait in the grid of cars, lined up and ready. Behind the wheel of my running car, helmet strapped, inching forward as my turn approaches. The car in front of me pulls up to the start and ...... GOES!
My turn. Shit.
"Are you ready?" says Colin or Darren or Chris.
"Yes," I say. Because, well.... what else am I going to say?
In my head, for the next 40-some seconds, my thoughts chant, "Faster, faster, faster! Just go, go, go. get to the finish. FASTER!" Then as I cross the finish line and brake as hard as I can in order to avoid that line of cones fast approaching, I think, "Dang, that was the finish." It's over.
But then I get to drive back around, line up in the grid and go again. To see if I can go even faster next run. Sweet!

The only tiny, little sad thing about track day is that I don't get any pictures of my runs. When you're participating in Autocross, you do not get to take pictures of this cool experience. You're either driving or you're working the course. Either way, you do not get to stop and take pictures of your favorite cars and drivers, the friends you're making. And what's even less likely is that you'll be able to get pictures of your own runs. Sad.

Through a roundabout way, however, I do know there are some pictures of me driving but the photographer and I have yet to connect so I can get his okay to use some. When I get them, I'll post here. Because frankly, I won't be able to help myself.

Photo documentation is historically an important part of my life. But I haven't done much in the way of picture taking for the past year or so. And I can't really explain that.
I mentioned this to another driver, who, like me, is relatively new to the group. I call him Benicio, for obvious reasons. I express my desire for shots of my car running the course. He also has a nice camera and says he completely understands. We are in agreement and make a pact: next time we're at Track Day together, we'll each sit out to photograph the other during their run. Some glossy 8x10s. His sleek, chromed Audi. My Velocity Red Mazda. Our own version of sexy glamour shots!
Zoom, zoom.

Fortunately, I did manage to grab a few shots of the Fun Run at the end of the day. Fun Run, where all runs are for fun and all cones are killed. (No course workers to resurrect them between runs.)

Very quickly, as I have just a brief moment and few pictures. "A word from our sponsors."

Compared to the little zippy cars, the Mustang looks so big. Tank-like. A burly big brother and not nearly as maneuverable as the little guys. But Mike's Mustang (not pictured here) kicked my ass in the first c-box on the course, every single time!

The GT-R and driver received a lot of adulation and attention. I asked George what was special about this car. He mentioned something about it being the Ironman (or some other superhero) of sports cars. 
A $100,000 Nissan. 

Our location.  
Coming from all over Western Washington, some of the participants drive a couple hours to race. 
I'm lucky; it's just a short drive from my house.

In my rookie Autocross opinion (and I do have one), the Minis and the Mazdas (especially little red ones) seem perfectly designed for Autocross.

I climb into the Mini for a ride with Chris. Michelle leans in before we take off. Something about Chris liking it when you giggle. What?
My feet braced hard against the firewall, holding one handle over my head with white knuckles, my other hand gripping the edge of the seat next to my thigh. 
I am completely silent during the entire course, but the instant we cross the finish line, I squeal like a Beatles' fan when the band first landed on American soil. I rave about what a blast it is and pummel Chris with my thanks, explaining that I have to use Lamaze breathing when I'm riding along in the Mini. He thinks I'm kidding him. 
But I'm not. 
Seriously: "Hee, hee, hee. Hoo, hoo, hoo. Hee, hee, hee."

Michelle ends up with the best time of the day! No surprise to anyone.

One of my instructors: George.

George would be the first to tell you, this course didn't favor his sleek, black Volvo. But he was fun to ride with. 

Here's the deal: I know a lot of words, but for the life of me, I can't seem to arrange them in such a way as to accurately articulate how amazing Autocross is. 

Seriously, the most incredible way to spend a weekend! 
To my two instructors last weekend: VW Chris and Volvo George. 
Thanks guys!! Love, ~ 'Autocross Barbie!'