Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Music Of My Heart

I've always been a pretty musical person. Music was always been instrumental in my life. In fact, if someone told me today that I either had to live the rest of my life completely deaf or completely blind, I would choose blindness because I couldn't bear to be without music. I would miss seeing things, but not being able to hear the sounds of so many different kinds of music, the melodies, the harmonies, etc. is something I would miss far more.

I love analyzing music and asking why a composer chose that particular melodic phrase or that particular harmony or that particular accompaniment. I love the beauty dissonant harmonies can create. I love analyzing the poetry of different lyrics. I love the different ways in which music can move me. I like a good catchy tune, but I also like listening to very intricate and hard-to-predict melodies as well.

I don't have perfect pitch, but I do have relative pitch. That is to say, if I hear a tone in relation to another tone or hear the starting pitch of a song, for example, eventually I can find it on my own without having to hear it. If I sing a song several times, for example, then my body how the notes feel to me, and I am able to find them without help. I also can recognize if a song is in a different key than the one I learned it in. Or if I have songs on a CD in a particular order, when one song ends, I know what note the next song will start on. But I can't just hear a specific note and tell you what it is (I have friends that can do that). I'm also good at immediately recognizing if somebody is flat or sharp and am also good at not going flat or sharp myself. I'm pretty good at sight reading vocal parts and once I've memorized a part, I can sing it well. This is especially useful when singing tight or dissonant harmonies (meaning I am good at staying on my part even if someone is singing something that clashes with my part. This has come in handy in shows like Forever Plaid, Sweeney Todd, and White Christmas, for example.

I used to compose music a lot. I'm primarily a singer, but I can play the piano a bit. I can sight read, but my finger placement on the piano is not very good, so my hands can't keep up with my eyes. I can play a bit by ear, too. I can hear a melody on the piano and pick it out easily. In fact, it took me some time that not everyone had this skill. I'm also pretty good at hearing harmonies or accompaniments and picking them out. Other friends are much better at it than I am, but I'm fairly good.

Sometimes I will hear a tune in my head and hear harmonies and play around until I can play what I'm hearing in my head. Occasionally I'll accidentally play a harmony I like better and substitute it. I especially like dissonant or unusual harmonies.

I took music theory and know some stuff, but I would like to take it again and refresh my memory and hone my talents a little better. I think I could compose and fake my way through songs better if I did.

When I was in high school and my undergrad, I composed a lot of songs. I wrote scores for musicals I dreamed of one day writing and often used music as a way to work out feelings I was having about various things in my life. I still have all the songs I ever completed. Some I only have on tape; others I wrote out. I also have some unfinished pieces. Some still hold up well, in my opinion. Others aren't that good. And I admit, my piano skills are not sharp enough to play some of the more complex things I wish I could play. The accompaniments for most of my songs are pretty easy to play, I would imagine. I've always wanted to get a really good music writing software program and a keyboard, but my expenses never seem to allow it, and because composing is more of a hobby, I've never actually done it.

Well I especially fall short in my earlier compositions are the lyrics. There are some good ideas, but some of the rhymes seem forced or syllables are put on the wrong stress or I try to force too many lyrics into a particular melodic phrase. Some are just plain bad, period. As I've gotten older, I've gotten better, but I would still say that I am a better composer than lyric-writer. I still have some songs I'm especially proud of. Others I've considered tweaking or reworking now that my skills are better.

And, of course, I do have a certain style, so many of my songs sound the same. I try to avoid it, and sometimes I succeed, but many of them do have a similar feel.

I don't really know why I stopped writing. I used to do it so often when I was younger. In fact, it was a nice way to work through feelings and it was something I really enjoyed doing. I think I just got lazy or wondered what the point really was.

The last major song I wrote was in 1999, I think. I diddled around a bit, but I think that was the last really complete song I wrote (and actually, it's one I still like very much). Then I just sort of stopped. It wasn't conscious; it just happened. Life just got busy. Plus I didn't always have access to a piano, so I just sort of stopped composing. I played the piano often (still do), but it was always other people's work or, occasionally, I'd pull out an old song of mine and play through it to see if I still liked it. I don't know why I never wrote anything new.

Occasionally, a melody would pop into my head, but instead of playing with it, I just let it go, forever lost to the ages. About two weeks ago, a melody popped into my head as well as an idea of what I wanted the song to be about. I really liked the melody, so I started playing around with it on the piano, and I'm pleased with what I came up with (although I do wish my piano skills were more proficient, so I could create a really interesting accompaniment. I still feel my lyrics are my weak spot. I like a lot of what I've come up with as far as ideas, but I'm not sure the execution works well with the melody.

In any case, it's kind of fun to be composing again after such a long hiatus. It makes me remember how much I enjoyed doing it in the first place. I still would like a software program, so I don't have to write this all out in long hand. I'm done with the melody, harmonies, and accompaniment, for the most part, but I'm still working on some lyrics. In any case, it's close to being done. I'm glad I took the time to do it (it helps that I''m currently unemployed (although not for long).

I'm not even sure why I posted this. It was just on my mind. It's just fun to have another creative outlet back in my life after being on the back burner for so long.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Scavenger Hunt: My "Guilty Pleasure" Movie

Many people have a movie they love to watch, but which they also know isn't that great of a film. For me, that movie is the 1979 bomb Scavenger Hunt:

Of this movie calls it "[a]n all-star, all-stupid comedy attempt that proves, once again, no actor can triumph over bad material." and further laments, "[h]ow all of these funny actors could have been seduced into working on such a waste of time, money, and effort is a mystery."

The New York Times said "[t]he cast of 'Scavenger Hunt' spends a lot of time searching for good gags, in vain." and speculates that, "When a movie's jokes are so noticeably without punch lines, only a mood of uproarious confusion can save the day. [Director Michael] Schultz takes an orderly approach that only makes the movie more of a mess.", which gives a nice synopsis of the plot and contains one of my favorite reviews, says "This utterly wretched comedy succeeds in at least one respect: it captures the most hideous overtones (aesthetic and otherwise) of the late 1970s. Moreover, the film so wallows in desperation that it first becomes exhausting, and then, eventually, suicidally depressing." It further states that "nothing - not a single godforsaken miserable moment of this movie - elicits so much as one laugh," and wonders "[h]ow in the world Michael Schultz...managed to come up with such a dog, when they had such vast talent at their disposal, is completely baffling."

While I have been unable to locate actual quotes from such critics as Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel,and Leonard Maltin, I know they all had unfavorable reviews of this film.

I'll be the first to admit it: Scavenger Hunt is not a great movie. It is not particularly well-made, a lot of its humor is politically incorrect, it's kind of dumb, its gags are very broad, its characters are one-dimensional, and some of the film's situations over-stretch the limits of believability quite a bit. An award-winning masterpiece it isn't.

Its never even been released on DVD. You can only view it on VHS (or if you're really desperate to watch it, you can catch it in ten-minute segments on YouTube).

But I will also freely admit that I have easily seen this movie 300+ times, can quote the dialogue verbatim, have never tired of it, and still laugh every time I watch it. It's hard for me to admit this because I can be a movie snob at times. But it's 100% true. I love Scavenger Hunt!

This movie is a very, very poor man's version of the much wittier, much better made classic, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which I also love). It stars a virtual cornucopia of famous faces from the late 1970s including Cloris Leachman (of Young Frankenstein and "Mary Tyler Moore" fame),

James Coco (Murder By Death (also a favorite of mine),

Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, The Poseidon Adventure, and several Disney movies including Bedknobs and Broomsticks, That Darn Cat, and The Cat from Outer Space),

Scatman Crothers (The Shining),

Richard Benjamin (The Sunshine Boys, Love at First Bite),

Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles),

Richard Mulligan ("Soap" (also another favorite), "Empty Nest"),

Tony Randall ("The Odd Couple", Pillow Talk, "Love, Sydney"),

Dirk Benedict ("Battlestar Galactica", "The A-Team"),

and the feature film debut of Willie Aames ("Eight is Enough", "Charles in Charge").

Like It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Scavenger Hunt also contains some surprise cameo appearances by such people as Meat Loaf (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Ruth Gordon (Harold and Maude, My Bodyguard),

Vincent Price (who doesn't have a single on-camera spoken line (although he does have an off-camera monologue)), Liz Torres, Carol Wayne, Pat McCormick, Avery Schreiber,

and Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes, that Arnold Schwarzenegger!).

The general premise of the movie is that Milton Parker, the wealthy president of a game and toy company (played by Vincent Price) dies

and makes the heirs of his estate play a game: "a scavenger hunt, to be exact" to win his estate. Essentially, there are five teams competing for the estate:

1.Parker's widowed sister Mildred Carruthers (Cloris Leachman), her lawyer, Stuart Selsome (Richard Benjamin), and bratty adult son, Georgie (Richard Masur).
2.Parker's son-in-law Henry Motley (Tony Randall) and his four kids.
3.Parker's nephews Jeff and Kenny Stevens (Dirk Benedict and Willie Aames) (who also end up having Mildred's stepdaughter Lisa (Maureen Teefy) on their team).
4. Parker's servants; chauffeur Jackson (Cleavon Little), French chef Henri (James Coco), French maid Babbette (Stephanie Faracy)and butler Jenkins (Roddy McDowall)
5.Taxi driver Marvin Dummitz (Richard Mulligan) (why, you ask? Watch the movie, and you'll find out).

Of course, it becomes a crazy free-for-all as everyone fights to obtain the items needed to win, and even crazier when the villains of the piece, Carruthers, Selsome, and Georgie, cheat in order to win.

I first saw this movie in the theater with my family in 1979. Being 8 years old at the time, the humor was totally up my alley. It was basically family-friendly fare, and many of the jokes are, admittedly, on a level that an eight-year old would appreciate. And although I may have seen him in other films prior to this, Roddy McDowall made a very distinct impression on me when I first saw this film and is also why he's on this list.

I also distinctly remember seeing a rerelease of the film (sometime in the early 80s, although I'm not sure why a movie that did so poorly at the box office would have been rereleased, but I know I saw it with my cousin and his friends) and being excited to see it again and loving it just as much as I did the first time I saw it.

When I had the chance to record the show off of television with my brother's very top-of-the-line VCR (which would seem extremely antiquated by today's standards - its remote was connected to the VCR by a cord, for goodness sake), I was filled with glee. Now, I had my own copy of the movie (albeit edited-for-television), and I watched it nearly every day after school for months and months (no joke), and the poor quality of the recording, the edits, and places where the tracking on the tape would jump or cause screen static is still ingrained in my mind.

Eventually, my tape was worn from being played so much, and so I did something illegal: I rented a VHS copy of the tape from a video store and used my video camera (also antiquated by today's standards) to pirate a copy of my beloved movie. I still have that copy and still pull it out when I want to watch it (which is still fairly often), but I do admit that the there are scenes in the full version that I don't know the dialogue as well because I watched the edited version so many times). It is, however, nice to have the entire movie complete with scenes I did miss when watching the edited version.

The team I love the most is the servants, and I root for them no matter how many times I see the movie and regardless of whether they do or not (you'll have to watch the movie if you care to find out). Stephanie Faracy (a relative newcomer at the time)

always cracks me up as the ditsy Babbette and her interplay with the exasperated Henri (James Coco) always amuses me. Roddy McDowall is so classy, and I love how put-together he remains when many of the other characters are a shambles by the movie's end. Cleavon Little is funny, too.

I adore Cloris Leachman, and even though she, Richard Benjamin, and Richard Masur are painted with a very one-dimensional brush as the villains, I enjoy their chemistry. Richard Masur, who may very well be embarrassed by his role in this movie, is terrific (and stereotypical) as an obnoxious, bratty man child and the comedic tension between him and Richard Benjamin's Stuart Selsome makes me laugh.

Tony Randall is underused, I admit, and his over-eager father doesn't have much to do, but I enjoy his scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Richard Mulligan, who I thought was brilliant in the TV show "Soap", is funny as Marvin Dummitz. Yeah, he's another stereotype as a very dimwitted cab driver, but he'a great actor, and I admit I find his antics amusing, and I enjoy his scenes with the delightful Scatman Crothers.

Dirk Benedict (who I also had a crush on as a child) and Willie Aames are fun in their roles, especially when they latch on to two separate characters played by Stuart Pankin and Marji Martin (who I love as Kay; also her film debut).

Why do I enjoy this movie? Well, for one thing, it has a talented cast. While it is true the material is sub-par, most of the actors and actresses who perform it are very funny people and I feel they elevate it somewhat.

I love the music. The composition that plays over the opening credits is my favorite song. It starts with a kind of serious-sounding harpsichord solo, and while the song itself has a somewhat serious, classical sound, the scattered letters that make up the title and the animated ostrich head that pops up and down lets you know the movie isn't going to take itself seriously.

There is some fun scoring in the soundtrack, but one of my favorite moments is the use of Peter Tchaikovsky's Russian Dance from The Nutcracker (which morphs into a cheesy late 70s-style pop song called "Play to Win") as the backdrop for a car chase. (Other compositions from The Nutcracker are used in funny robbery scene involving the servants (in which James Coco makes me giggle with his "I can't see! I have no holes! I can't see! in his French accent (watch the movie)))

I also enjoy the little ditty Scatman Crothers sings over the closing credits called "There's Enough For Everyone".

There are several scenes, in particular, that always make me laugh including one where the servants are trapped in a high school science laboratory (again, James Coco with his "a killer soufflé!" line; one with Richard Mulligan dressed as a mummy in a museum; a series of scenes where Richard Benjamin, Cloris Leachman, and Richard Masur are trying to get a safe downstairs; one where the servants are trying to remove a toilet from a fancy hotel bathroom; Richard Benjamin's awkward face-off with Meat Loaf; and any of the scenes with Avery Schreiber as a lisping, ostrich-like zookeeper trying to protect his flock from the scavengers ("Three! Three!") - Watch the movie.

I love the climactic car chase and the exciting aftermath as the eventual winner of the contest finally claims their victory in a surprising and nail-biting way (okay, I'm exaggerating just a bit, but still, it still feels pretty exciting, even knowing full well how the movie will end).

I love that the movie starts out as a movie about greed and "every man for himself" and and eventually becomes a movie about teamwork and helping one another.

I love Robert Morley's turn as the very staunch, proper, straight man attorney whose job it is to preside over this madness, and you wonder what an actor of his distinction is even doing in this picture

(and one wonders the same thing about Vincent Price, who probably earned a very easy paycheck for his role).

Hal Landon Jr. in his third film role (and who much later played Ted's father in the Bill and Ted pictures)

has a funny turn as Morley's assistant.

Stephen Furst (of Animal House and The Dream Team) also has a small, but joyous, bit part as Merle, which I enjoy.

I love the locale where it was shot, San Diego.

Yeah, the movie has some problems. Much of it seems dated. It isn't particularly PC as far as Japanese, Native Americans, or fat people go (although I will say that all three have victories by movies end). As I've stated, the characters are one-dimensional and often stereotypical beyond belief. It seems impossible , for example, that Richard Masur, while amusing, could be the obnoxious and bratty 9 year-old in a man's body that he is. The villains are clear cut villains from the get-go. You don't really believe Richard Mulligan's Dummitz could be as dumb as he is (although he, too, gets a victory in the end (though that doesn't mean he is the winner)).

Some situations are absolutely beyond the realm of credibility. Marvin Dummitz and Stuart Selsome both have encounters with cars and motorcycles, respectively, that would do far more damage to them in real life than they end up doing in the movie. There is also an incident involving a safe and a car that would make a real-life car undriveable. There is a fall Tony Randall takes that would injure a real man far more than it injures him. There is a ostrich-theft incident that just seems impossible (actually they all do, as does the fact that any of these people can actually transport a live ostrich is any of their vehicles).

Some of the names are cliché: Dummitz for the dumb guy? Milton Parker for the game magnate? Selsome for the shady wheeling-dealing lawyer? Jenkins, Jackson, Babbette, and Henri for the servants? Arvilla Droll for the odd, whimsical character she plays?

Look, the movie is silly, stupid, and witless. I know it. But it makes me laugh. If I'm having a down day, I know I can put it in the VCR (or in one desperate moment when my video was 400 miles away from me, watch it in chopped up segments on YouTube (which completely broke the flow of the movie for me, by the way, but still made me laugh)).

It's not art. It's not great. The reason it's probably never been released on DVD is because it wouldn't be financially lucrative (although if it ever is, I'll be snatching up a copy right away).

But I love it, I watch it, and it is my favorite "guilty pleasure" movie. Please don't think less of me if you hate it (and I will understand if you do), but I hope you grow to love it as much as I do (which is probably impossible).

If you ever have a chance to see it, give it a looksie.

Scavenger Hunt: awesomely bad and awesomely fun!

You know you want to watch it now.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I forgot to mention in this post that on the way to Cedar City, I was listening to NPR and their was a program on that featured The Moth , an organization that invites people from all across the nation to tell stories from their lives. It's just storytelling, and there were three stories featured on the program I was listening to, and I just found it so fascinating to hear these stories and hear where they were going and to just listen to the life experiences of different people. I found all three stories quite compelling, but this one was my favorite:

Give it a listen.

Anyway, I'm starting to listen to other stories, and I've subscribed to The Moth Podcast on iTunes. I'm really finding it very interesting. I'm glad I stumbled across the program.

Cody and Jonah's Disneyland Adventure

Jonah and I recently returned from a really nice vacation in Anaheim. It’s been a while since either of us has had a real vacation, so it was really nice to get away. A few months ago an old college friend of mine invited us to attend Gay Days at Disneyland with him and and another college friend. I didn’t know if I would be able to go because I sometimes can’t plan that far in advance because I never know for sure when or where I will be working. I had auditioned for a show in Salt Lake City, and if I had been cast I wouldn’t have been able to go to Disneyland. While I could have used the job, I was actually quite thankful not to get cast. Jonah and I had already been apart since April, and we needed this time together (plus the thought of reconnecting with my two college friends at a really fun amusement park sounded like a blast).

As it stood, once my summer gig ended, I stayed in town another week to audition for another show (which I was cast in, by the way, and then came home to Jonah, which has been really nice.

I also qualified for unemployment and am actually making more not working than I did when I was working at my last job. Go figure!

Jonah and I left Thursday, Sept. 29. Jonah had been really sick at the beginning of the week due to a urinary tract infection, and we worried that it might prevent us from taking the trip after all. In fact, he took the whole week off of work, which he never does.

My college friend had offered to let us stay in his room for free, which I would have been more than happy to do. Jonah has a hard time sleeping anyway, and besides, he thought it would be nice to have some privacy in case we should want to “get busy.” The motel was quite inexpensive – only 50 bucks a night. Evidently, my friend stays at this motel every time he comes to Disneyland (which is as often as he can – this is a guy who chose his graduate school based on its vicinity to Disneyland - no joke), but Jonah had doubts about it and suggested we stay somewhere a bit more expensive. Being the cheapskate that I am and because I felt we should stay in the same hotel as the person who invited us, I said we ought to stay at my friend's motel.

It turns out Jonah was right. Now when it comes to motels, I am not at all fussy. For me a hotel or motel is just a place I sleep when I come back from doing other things, and I don’t need a lot of frills. However, this motel was even beneath my low standards.

If you’re looking for a cheap, bare-bones, no-frills place to stay while going to Disneyland, the Alamo Inn in Anaheim might be the place for you.

However, unless you'd like the following "amenities", I’d look elsewhere:

- a dirty plastic spoon on the edge of your bed when you arrive. (Jonah asked if it was mine. I said it wasn’t. Ick!)

- beds that don't have fitted sheets; just two sets of non-fitted sheets that slide down when you're on the bed

- sheets with stains

- maids who, when they "clean" your room simply remake the bed with the stained sheets until you insist they be replaced. (Double ick!)

- no orientation guide to tell you where the ice machine or pool is or what number to dial to reach the front desk (which you will need to do often) or what restaurants are nearby or where Disneyland is in relation to the motel (although you may already know where it is because you have already stayed at the nicer Stovall Inn two doors down)

- no shampoo (at least on our first night). (Neither of us had brought shampoo because we assumed the motel would have some, so we had lovely hair (NOT) on our first day in the park.

- soap that does not lather up and is like washing yourself with a piece of candle wax

- no iron (Jonah likes irons)

- a cheap hair dryer that has fallen from its mount on the wall

- towels that are cheaper than your average motel towels; the kind that are like drying yourself off with sandpaper (which is especially uncomfortable when one is trying to dry their genital region)

- electrical outlets where nothing will stay plugged in. (It was like the outlet openings were too big for a regular-sized plug. This was very frustrating, but was probably designed to keep guests from using this cheap motel's precious electricity. Because of this, the lamp next to my bed would not turn on, and when I tried to plug my laptop in, I had to keep jiggling it until I found the “sweet spot” where it would remain powered. Careful! Don't even look at the cord or it will fall out of the outlet.)

- complimentary wireless service, which has a bit of a catch. (We discovered that the wireless signal did not extend to any of the actual rooms and that if you wanted to use it, the only place that seemed to have a signal was the front office. This normally would not have been a big deal, but Jonah has been selling some artwork on Ebay and needed to check what was selling so he could ship it in time, so that was inconvenient as well.)

- toilet rolls so tight that you’ll break off each individual piece when trying to unroll it (again, probably to prevent you from using their precious toilet paper at all)

- a bathroom door that won't completely close

- a rubber bathtub mat that has been torn off so that only half of it is remaining

- only one hanger in the room. (Good thing we brought some of our own)

- not enough parking for the number of guests at the motel. (Thus, we did not take the car out at night for fear that we wouldn’t have a place to park when we returned.

- an outdoor hot tub whose jets don't work

- an uncomfortable bed

- room keys that consistently don't work and take several tries before you can actually open the door to your room. (Good thing we're not being chased by a serial killer.)

- a smell of burning in your room (couldn't be the faulty electrical outlets, could it? Hmmmm.)

Any positives? Yes, actually. The staff was friendly (not overwhelmingly so, but they were pleasant). Wireless in the office worked well, and there were places to sit and use one’s computer. We were able to buy a two-day park hopper pass for Disneyland and California Adventure directly at the hotel (cash only, though) for slightly less than the park itself, and this enabled us to forego lines to buy tickets at the park, thus allowing us to enter Disneyland more quickly. Although the hot tub jets did not work, the hot tub itself was a great temperature and the pool was nice, too. Since I seemed to be the only one using either, they were nice and private, which I liked. Our room itself was very conveniently located near the office, ice machine, and our car. The air conditioning worked well. There was a variety of channels to watch on the television. The room had a small fridge and microwave (neither plugged in when we entered), so that was nice. The shower was hot and didn’t take long to warm up at all. The motel was close to several restaurants, shopping areas, and Disneyland (within walking distance).

If you’re on a very tight budget and don’t mind staying in a cheap, cheap motel where going above and beyond the call of duty doesn’t exist, I could probably recommend the Alamo Inn. If you want somewhere nice where customer service and comfort is of the highest priority, look elsewhere.

So why did we stay here? Well, we had already paid through Expedia, and we were on a budget. Once again, Jonah was right, and I even suggested we change motels, but we decided to tough it out. And it was fine, but we will never stay there again.
One thing I did like about it was that it made for some great stories to tell the kids we will never have. Sometimes the dumpiest places are the ones you remember most. We jokingly referred to the office as the “Internet Café.” At least we had a good sense of humor about it, and really, we weren’t actually in the motel that often.

Originally, Jonah's friend from work was supposed to hook us up with his friend, a Disney employee who could have gotten us in for free. But we also know that Jonah's friend is a flake and highly unreliable, so we were prepared to pay, which we did because, as expected, the friend did not come through for us (big surprise!).

The drive to Anaheim was great; hardly any traffic at all. Jonah makes me laugh. I try to pack everything I need the night before and then I’m ready to go. Jonah packs the day of and then brings everything but the kitchen sink…and yet still manages to misplace such things as his phone charger or forget his sunglasses and bag.

We got into the motel and checked in. We then went out to eat and then went to Target to get sunglasses, hats, sun block, and a bag for Jonah and some money from the bank so we could buy our park-hopper passes. Jonah misplaced his debit card, so we had to go back to the motel to get it. We bought our park-hopper passes and then called my friend to find out when we should meet the next day.

We got into the park quite quickly on Friday morning and met up with my friend. It was really great to see him. The park wasn’t very crowded because it was closing early because of a Halloween party, but that actually worked to our advantage.
While my friend got coffee, Jonah and I rode my favorite ride, Space Mountain, and we got on really quickly. Then we met up with my friend and rode Star Tours, which has been revamped and was absolutely cool. There are a myriad of combinations and so the ride is never exactly the same each time you ride it. It was so fun.

We then rode Buzz Lightyears’s Blasters, which was fun, and the revamped Submarine Ride, which is now Finding Nemo. I hadn’t been on the Submarines since I was a kid. It brought back good memories of my first time riding it, and it was fun, but nothing to write home about. I remember it being so much more impressive as a kid. We got on Indiana Jones, the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and the Matterhorn with almost no waiting. It’s the fastest I’ve gotten on the rides at Disneyland ever. It was fabulous! A nice man also gave his fast passes for Space Mountain, so we were able to get on fast and ride it again when the lines got longer.

We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Frontier Land. The cool thing was that neither my friend nor Jonah and I had any agenda nor were we in any hurry to get on anything. We were just enjoying one another’s company. Jonah and my friend had met previously, but this was the first time they had spent an extended amount of time with one another, and of course, you always wonder if your good friend and your husband will get along, but they seemed to hit it off well.

We rode Space Mountain and Star Tours again and checked out Toon Town (no Roger Rabbit, though (it was experiencing technical difficulties)). We went over to California Adventure and rode the Grizzly River Run (my friend got soaked, which was immeasurably entertaining to Jonah and me), Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (dumb, but entertaining to watch my friend), The Bug’s Life attraction, Muppets 3-D, Soarin’ Over California (so fun!!), The Little Mermaid ride (for kids, but still fun), Toy Story Mania (also intended more for kids, but surprisingly fun), the Monsters Inc. Ride, and the Tower of Terror (which Jonah rode for the first time (I was very proud of him; he’s afraid of falling from heights)).

Later we went back over to Disneyland before it closed. We managed to worm our way through the crowds that were watching the parade and rode Space Mountain and Star Tours once again. By that time, it was time for the Halloween party at Disneyland to start and so we headed back to California Adventure and had a bite to eat while we waited for Disney’s World of Color to start. We had fast passes for that event, too, and so we ended up with a really great place to stand on a bridge overlooking the lake where World of Color takes place.

World of Color is kind of like the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, but better (and I say that as a big fan of the Fountains of Bellagio). It’s a water show with images from Disney animated features projected on the water and which uses colored lights set to music. It was pretty awesome and, if I may be a bit cliché, pretty magical.

Jonah and I are not as young as we once were and were pretty achy from walking around the parks, so it was nice to head back to our motel. We walked with my friend our luxurious abode and agreed to meet again (this time with another friend, but not the one who was originally supposed to come (she had a family emergency)the next morning.

Jonah and I ate at Coco’s, which was pretty good. I got a tuna salad, some butter nut squash soup, and a croissant for a pretty reasonable price. We also had some dessert and then went back to the motel to sleep, which was great because I was worn out and my feet hurt.

Jonah thought he forgot his phone charger (which I later found), so we agreed that at some time the next day we would need to go to Target and buy him another one.

The next day we went to Disneyland. We were a little later than we had been the previous day. The park was also busier, and there were now many gay people (including us) wearing red shirts, which was kind of neat to see (and nobody seemed to care except one man who kept staring at us when we rode Alice in Wonderland later in the day). I noticed a lot of the gay people I saw throughout the day were middle-aged or older, like us. Actually, some of my own stereotypes of what constitutes a gay person were challenged, and I saw so many different kinds of gay individuals, many of whom would never have caused my “gaydar” to go off. I thought that was an interesting and useful discovery.

Jonah and I spent a bit of time together before joining my friends. We again went on Space Mountain and Star Tours and then did Tarzan’s Treehouse and the Haunted Mansion. Then we joined my friends and went on Space Mountain yet again (can you tell I’m a fan?). Then we went on Buzz Lightyear and did a little shopping.

Then Jonah and I left the park and went to Target to get him a phone charger, and we had lunch at Red Robin and went back to the hotel to drop off some souvenirs we had bought. I have a great “Muppets as Star Wars characters” set and Donald Duck as Han Solo in carbonite and Bad Pete as a very fat Boba Fett. They’re cool additions to my already sizable Star Wars collection.

When we returned to the parks, Jonah and I went over to California Adventure again while my friends stayed in Disneyland. Jonah and I rode the Tower of Terror and Soarin’ Over California again and then returned to Disneyland again in time to watch a parade with my friends. I don’t remember what rides we rode after that except Alice in Wonderland, which I had not been on since I was a child, but which my second friend wanted to ride.

My college friend, Jonah, and I took it kind of easy while my other friend wandered around. We ate at the Plaza Inn eatery in Disneyland, and Jonah and I got some ice cream on Main Street. The other friend, apparently, was on mushrooms and was high for some of the time. I don’t get why you need drugs to have a good time, especially at Disneyland, but whatever.

We did a bit of shopping and then went over to New Orleans Square to wait for the first Fantasmic show to end so we could move in for really good seats for the second. We found a nice quiet table to sit at while we waited, and my college friend acted out the whole Fantasmic show for us while it was going on. I also bought Jonah a Nightmare Before Christmas gift (he loves that show).

Jonah and I watched the fireworks show from further away, which was good, but not as impressive as it is when you’re up close. We snatched up great seats for Fantasmic, though. It was terrific and, again, very magical! Disneyland is great at marketing and making one’s experience feel very personal and magical. They excel at it.

Jonah and I said goodbye to my friends. They would be going to the park the next day, but we had only bought a two-day hopper. My college friend was teary-eyed because we’d had such a wonderful time, and it really was great to connect with him again. He was my best friend in college, although we drifted apart after my mission. But it was like picking up right where we left off, and I know he felt the same. Jonah and I said we’d still be around another day and agreed to get dinner together the following night. Jonah and I went to eat dinner and then headed to bed.

The next day Jonah and I drove to LA to meet a friend I did a show with in 2004 (the same show where Jonah and I met) for breakfast. We drove to her house and then followed her over to IHOP. It was busy, but we had a great time chatting and catching up. Jonah gave her a pumpkin lantern he made, and she loved it. She also gave him some small figurines, which he really liked. I took a photo of her Emmys and Golden Globe (yes, my friend is a Golden Globe and two-time Emmy winner) while I was there and she and Jonah were upstairs. It seems childish, but to know somebody who has those awards is kind of cool, and I just wanted a photo of a real Emmy.

I love the way my friend has her house decorated, and one room, in particular, I really enjoyed. It was wallpapered in vintage-looking black wallpaper with green vines on it. I thought it looked really cool.

She also had this really cool art piece called “The Secret,” which was made of paper, but looked like a portrait.

I took some photos of us, and then she had to get to rehearsal. It was really great seeing her.

Jonah and I drove down Sunset Boulevard and then went over to Hollywood Boulevard and went to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and looked at the foot and hand prints of stars past and present. I’d been there before, but always find it cool to walk where some very famous people once walked. We also went down the Hollywod Walk of Fame and went to a local farmers’ market in the area.

I took a photo of the Hollywood sign and we got some shakes at a local yogurt place. I was very touristy. When we got back to Anaheim we went to the Cheesecake Factory (a favorite restaurant of ours and the very first restaurant at which we ever ate together) for our last hurrah.

Then we went back to the motel and slept, slept, slept until it was time to meet my friends at the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney. We had a nice dinner, strolled through Downtown Disney and then parted ways. It was really great to hang out with my friends, especially the one from college.

Jonah and I did some last minute shopping and then went back to our motel.

The next day we decided to take it easy and not rush heading home. We went to some antique shops in Fullerton (something Jonah really enjoys doing) and then headed out before traffic got too heavy. By accident, we actually found a faster route home than the one we normally take (at least it seemed faster). We also stopped in Calico Ghost Town on the way home, and I got to ride the train this time. Not impressive, but still worth it. We didn’t spend much time there as the town was to close in about an hour and a half from when we got there, but it was nice to show it to Jonah.

It was such a fun, fun trip and very needed. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to do it.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Vibrant Aunt And An Uplifting Meeting

Yesterday was my great aunt's 90th birthday. She looks and acts great. If I didn’t know how old she was, I’d put her 20 years younger. If I ever live that long, I hope I’m as sharp and fit as she is. My cousin hosted it at their very nice house in Salt Lake, and my other cousin made the cake, which was, of course, awesome (she also made Jonah's and my wedding cake). It was fun to chat with relatives and celebrate my aunt's birthday. Some of her golfing buddies were there. I asked when the last time she had gone golfing was. She said about three weeks ago. Amazing and terrific!

When we got home, I took a nap and then my mom and I played Scrabble. I also used our elliptical machine, which I have missed and greatly needed after gaining all this vacation weight (I promise I'll post about my trip soon).

I watched SNL (last night's with Ben Stiller) and watched the Hulu one from last week (with Melissa McCarthy (who was hilarious)) during the commercials. The latter one was tons better.

Today was church, and I didn’t feel too tired when I woke up. A neighbor taught the lesson (about Ezra Taft Benson’s talk on pride), and I really enjoyed it. It was a nice discussion.

Testimony meeting was good. A lot of people spoke that didn’t normally speak, and that was refreshing. A kid who was visiting gave an amazing testimony and didn’t once say “I know the Church is true.” I don’t remember exactly what he said in its place, but how I felt when he said it impacted me strongly. It was something along the lines of "living the gospel bringing us closer to Heavenly Father." I thought that was a better way of putting it. What does "I know the Church is true" even really mean? It's kind of an abstract statement.

A kid I really admire also gave a nice testimony about seminary and the impact the young men leaders have had on him. I really felt his love for the gospel. Another woman gave a talk about how one can never truly retire from the church and that we are always needed no matter where we are in life. There were some kids who gave testimonies, and that’s fun. One kid talked about how we are never alone even when we think we are. There are people on the other side helping us, including our Father and Elder Brother. Our bishop gave a testimony about how he was at a conference for bishops and stake presidents and how people had received answers to questions that weren’t even openly discussed because the Spirit was present so strongly. One lady talked about how she was used to singles’ wards and was still getting used to the sounds of kids in our ward, but that she admired how the parents were dealing with sometimes rambunctious children in a Christ-like way. Another friend also talked about how much she had enjoyed the youth of the ward, who I must admit are pretty outstanding. There were other testimonies, but those were the ones I remember the most. It was quite a spiritually uplifting meeting.

When my mom and I returned home, I packed my things in preparation to head back home to Jonah. Mom is with me and will spend a week and two days with Jonah and me. I thought it might be nice for her to get away, and I thought it might also be nice to give my newly wed niece and nephew-in-law a bit more time alone as a newly married couple.

My mom and I have stopped in Cedar City for the night. I have an audition with the Utah Shakespeare Festival tomorrow. I really hope I do well. Even more, I hope this will finally be the year I am cast. I would like to spend next summer closer to my home, and I also would like to perform in something different than what I usually do for the summer (although I'm very blessed to have that job). I’ve always wanted to work for the Utah Shakes, and the contract and pay are good. I’m hoping that the new artistic directors will take to me more than the previous casting director did. I guess we’ll see what happens. All I can do is my best. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Fun And Interesting Wedding Day

Well, my niece and her new husband were married today. It was quite a lovely day. My only regret is that Jonah wasn’t here to share it with me.

I woke up at 7 am so we could get to the Salt Lake Temple by 8:30. Even though I couldn’t attend the ceremony itself, it was my job to make sure my mom got there okay. She needed someone to drive her and make sure she found where she was supposed to go. Mom, who has dementia, must have looked at her watch 10 times (no exaggeration) on the way (and we were right on schedule and even got there early).

I found a very close parking space and walked Mom to the temple entrance just as our neighbors from across the street showed up. We went in together. They actually have a nice waiting room where people who aren’t attending the ceremony can hang out. I don’t remember it being there when my brother and his wife got married many years ago, but I was glad it was there today because it was cold.

It was kind of weird being at the temple and not being able to go in. Not bad, just different. I was surprised at how noisy it was allowed to get in the waiting room. In fact, the man at the recommend desk suggested that those in the wedding party wait in this waiting room rather than the one inside the temple as that would enable us to talk as loudly and freely as we wished. I guess what made it feel weird was to be surrounded by temple workers and have the same solemn organ music one hears in the temple waiting room piped into this one and not have one person shush you or remind you to be reverent and keep it down.

I met my sister-in-law's brother-in-law, of whom I’ve heard nothing but negative things such as that he’s a chauvinist, lazy, a complainer, a pessimist, selfish, self-centered, and kind of a jerk, among other things. I’d never actually met him before, but after three minutes with him I do not doubt that anything I’ve heard about him is completely accurate. What a “Debbie Downer”! “Killjoy, Party of one!” All he could do was complain, and it was clear he didn’t even want to be here. My sister-in-law's sister was just humoring him, but you could tell she was annoyed by his behavior. Frankly, I don’t understand how she’s stayed married to him all these years (or what she even saw in him at all in the first place), but based on stories my sister-in-law has told me about him, and, more importantly, based on my own, admittedly short, interaction with him I wouldn't tolerate or put up with his crap or attitude. (I notice, too, he didn't attend any of the days' remaining festivities.)

When the wedding party left to attend the ceremony, my neighbor's granddaughter was in the waiting room, too. Her mom had asked me to keep an eye on her and my neighbor told her what a great guy I was. There is a kids’ room in the waiting area where they can watch videos about The Book of Mormon and such, and she was originally sent there, but came out a minute later and said, “That video is boring,” and proceeded to chat me up for the next half hour. I had actually brought Sudoko puzzles and Entertainment Weeklys to read, but Little Miss Chatterbox made that completely unnecessary and, frankly, made the time pass by quite quickly. I found her incredibly adorable and charming, and she looks just like her mother did at the same age.

She told me all about the Percy Jackson book series, and we compared them to Harry Potter. Her take: Percy Jackson is the superior series (we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one). She told me all about Greek and Roman gods and their various names: i.e. Jupiter/Zeus, Neptune/Poseidon, Mars/Aries, etc. and neither of us could remember Hades’ Roman equivalent (I later remembered it is Pluto). She told me about the times she hurt her leg and broke her elbow. She told me all of her cousins’ names and that her uncle and aunt were getting a divorce (a surprise to me). She told me about the time her mom had broken her foot and played kick ball with her cast. I told her about when I had dislocated my ankle and broke my foot on my mission. She sang me a modern version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which included iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones, and when I told her we had none of those things when I was her age, she very seriously looked at me and earnestly said, “I don’t think I could live without my iPod!” I also told her we had only three channels on TV when I was a kid, and she stated that she didn't think she could survive if she didn't have TV. She showed me photos she had recently taken with her new digital camera, and I showed her photos I had taken on my recent trip to Disneyland, and then she talked about her favorite rides at Disneyland and her aspirations to visit Hawaii, Rome, and Greece, and I told her I’d been to Rome, but shared her desire to go to Greece and Hawaii. She relayed the whole plot of some book called The Red Pyramid. It was a very entertaining conversation.

Soon enough, the wedding party came out and we waited for the bride and groom to change so we could take photos. My mom seemed a little restless, so we went outside.
Soon the bride and groom came out. They looked great, he in his tux and she in a simple, but elegant, dress; and both wearing sneakers, which I just thought was awesome! My nephew had shown up in the Victorian tuxedo and cape that Jonah had put together for him, which I thought was double-awesome!

I guess the groom had been taken to the wrong area prior to the ceremony and when a temple worker went looking for him, she told the bride of another “groom” that was in the waiting area wearing a cape. My niece said, “That’s my brother. He probably should stay out there. That would be awkward.”

My brother-in-law took the wedding photos, and the first one was a joke one where my caped nephew stood in front of the groom and “upstaged” him. My brother-in-law also had us in a group photo where he had everyone kiss their significant others on the steps of the temple. I said to my sister-in-law, “I wish Jonah was here.” She laughed. What a great photo that would have been: us kissing on the steps of the Salt Lake Temple!

I took my mom and sister back to my mom's house. Later, when my brother's family dropped by, they told us that my brother-in-law (the wedding photographer) had left his bag unattended while he was taking photos of my niece and her husband, and three agents from Church security were surrounding it, and a team was almost called in to blow it up in case it was a bomb.

At 1:00 pm we went to a very casual luncheon at my brother's stake center. My niece and her husband had wanted a forest theme with blue and white as their colors. The decorator did a nice job, although I feel Jonah could have done a better one. But everyone was pleased, and that’s really all that counts. There were Christmas trees used as the “forest” and white and blue material strewn across the hall and on the tables. There was a gazebo and an archway covered in branches and such, and a lot of twinkle lights. It was nice.

There was also a Mitt Romney cut-out with my nephew's face pasted on it, so that he could “attend” the reception (when, in actuality, he is serving a mission in Canada). My nephew is a pretty tall guy, and, evidentally, Mitt Romney was the closet match. Pretty funny!

Before the luncheon started, my neighbor and I talked in the foyer. She told me she had defended me to someone in the wedding party. Whoever it was (I have my suspicions) basically said it was “too bad about [Cody],” referring to my coming out and excommunication, fully expecting my neighbor to agree with him. Instead, she defended me and observed how happy I am and said there was no reason to feel bad about me. The other person said, “But God is not happy with his choices,” and my neighbor said, “How do you know? Do you speak for God? It isn’t for you and I to judge how God feels about [Cody's] situation. That’s between him and the Lord.” I guess that shut the other person up, but I appreciated her saying that. Frankly, I feel God is happy that I am happy.

The luncheon was nice. Very casual. We wore jeans and casual shirts. It was a potluck, and there were some really good salads and casseroles.

I drove my mom back home and we both took a nap and then headed to the church again at 5:30 PM for the formal reception and to have more pictures taken.

It was nice. The bride and groom looked very happy. They had wanted ice cream sundaes for the reception, and my nephew and his friends were all decked out in florescent green ties and aprons to scoop the ice cream. I thought it was fun and informal (even though it was still formal), and that personifies who my niece and her husband are. The sundaes were good, too.

I was able to visit with some relatives and friends. My neighbor's son and I also had a nice talk. I guess the rumor is true that he and and his wife are divorcing (at his request). She doesn’t want to, not necessarily because she wants to stay with him, but because of how it will look (at least that’s the impression I got). I asked him what had prompted this. He feels his wife has mental health issues she’s not willing to acknowledge or seek help for and that her moods can change on a dime; that one moment she’s nice and sweet and the next she’s mean and hurtful, and that after years of dealing with it, he’s at his wit’s end and feels that unless she’s willing to seek medical help (which she isn't), he can no longer stay with her for his own emotional well-being and sanity.

He says the situation has been especially stressful because, as is often the case in Mormon culture, unfortunately, he’s finding that many people are seeing him as the bad guy in the scenario, and while he doesn’t feel the failure of the marriage is any one person’s fault, he has been surprised by how the taboo aspect of divorce and the “blame game” has caused people he’s associated with in Mormonism to shun him in a way.

Of course, this is all from my neighbor's son's perspective. I’d be interested in hearing the wife's side of things. But while I am surprised that this couple who has been together nearly as long as my brother and his wife have are divorcing, I am not too surprised at the reactions of some of their fellow Mormons nor am I surprised by the possibility that the wife might still be trying to keep up a façade that seems to be crumbling. Even when I talked to her at the reception, she seemed to be trying to put on a brave face, pretending that things were better than they seem to be. Or perhaps that was just my interpretation.

My neighbor's son and I talked about the parallels in our situations. Of course, they are very different, but in same ways he now feels like an outsider, and I can certainly relate to that as well as to the need to do something "taboo" for your emotional well-being. He asked my advice. I said he needs to focus on and remember the kindnesses he is shown and the people who do not judge him or treat him differently because of this situation. I said that ultimately the only two people who really know what has gone on in their marriage are him and his wife and that what other people think, regardless of how much it might hurt or offend, shouldn’t play into that. Of course, that is often easier said than done, but that was my advice.

We also talked about how a seemingly bad thing or a difficult and painful situation can often lead someone on a road to enlightenment and perhaps help them find happiness they didn’t know they could find. I don’t know if that will be his case, but that’s what I felt I was supposed to tell him. And I reminded him that if he ever needed to talk, I would listen. He said he appreciated that and said that sometimes just having someone to listen has been very helpful while he deals with this. He also said he really hopes to meet Jonah the next time he is in town.

The wedding cake was cheesecake, and we watched my niece and her husband cut it. It was actually some of the most delicious cheesecake I have ever had. I think it came from Costco, but it was really great.

Soon, the party dissipated. I had my sister and her husband drive my mom home. My niece's parents looked so tired, and I wanted to help them clean up so they could get out faster. We took the Christmas trees down and boxed them up to return to the neighbors and friends they had been borrowed from. I also cleared the tables. Fortunately, we didn’t have to take down the tables and chairs as there would be a high priests’ function the next night. And the party planner would be taking down her decorations. So really, there wasn’t a lot to do, so I was glad my brother and his wife could get out of there fast.

After my sister-in-law thanked me for helping out, I drove my other niece and her friend back to my brother's house and then drove in the rain to my mom's house, where a bunch of people were dropping off the wedding gifts to the bride and groom's room here at my mom's house. I said goodnight to my mom and then Jonah called, and I told him of my day’s adventures and told him how much I had missed him and wished he were here with me.

Dealing with my mom's dementia again reminded me how much more relaxed I have felt these past few weeks home with Jonah. I hope that doesn’t sound terrible. I love my mom so much and am very devoted to her well-being, but it can get stressful at times dealing with her memory loss and disorientation and lack of awareness, and it has, admittedly, been nice to have a break, although she will be going back to Vegas with me for a week. I figure that gives her a mini-vacation and also gives the newlyweds a bit of time to adjust to their new home. I hope this situation will be good for both them and my mom.

Tomorrow is my great aunt's 90th birthday party. I’m glad I can be here for it. I love her. She is one of my very favorite relatives, and she sure doesn’t look or act 90.

It’s been a great day. I’m tired. I’m happy for my niece and nephew-in-law, who will be heading to Cedar City tomorrow for their honeymoon. Good night.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Little Girl No More

I plan on writing a post about my recent vacation to Disneyland with Jonah and also one about one of my favorite "guilty-pleasure" movies, but today I'd like to take a moment to talk about a wedding I'm in town for.

I have a cherished photo of me holding my brand newly born niece. I am wearing a Phantom of the Opera t-shirt that I got on a trip to New York a year or so before (which I still own, by the way). I have a big smile on my face and I'm looking into the camera. In my arms is my tiny niece. The quality of the actual photo is not that great. It's slightly blurry and the flash washes us out. Yet it is one of my very favorite pictures. There is such joy and excitement on my face, and I'm holding this tiny little person, the first child one of my siblings had; the first grandchild for my mom and dad.

I remember having that photo taken. We were at the University of Utah Medical Center, and my brother and sister-in-law, especially, looked exhausted. I had gone with my mom and dad, I believe, and possibly my other sister to visit them and see my newborn niece for the first time. I'm pretty sure my mom took the actual photo. I look so young in the photo because, well, I am. My niece is just a tiny baby.

Tomorrow morning that same niece will be getting married in the Salt Lake Temple to the love of her life and moving into my mom's house into my old bedroom. It's hard to believe so much time has passed.

I do not truly understand what it is to be a parent and I will probably not get that opportunity in this life, but when I look at this photo and see where my niece is now, I feel the aches and joys I imagine a parent must feel when they see their baby growing up becoming an adult with adult responsibilities. I feel so happy for my niece, who has turned out to be a wonderful person, and I am grateful she has found an equally wonderful guy to share her life with, but my, kids do grow up so fast, and a very, very small part of me mourns the fact that she is not a child anymore; that those years are forever gone, never to come back.

When I think of the time I miss with Jonah due to my career, I realize I will never get that time back, and it makes me want to work harder to find a way to be with him more often. These past few weeks I have been with him have been so great. He drives me crazy, and I'm sure I drive him crazy, but I love him so incredibly much and am so grateful for what he brings to my life. I hope my niece will be as happy with her new husband as I am with mine.

Obviously, I will not be able to attend the actual ceremony. I'm okay with it. I actually find most temple weddings to be somewhat impersonal anyway. I wasn't able to attend my own brother's (the bride's father's) wedding, either (because I was not yet endowed), so those are the breaks, I suppose.

My niece invited Jonah and me to be in the wedding photos after the ceremony. I so wish Jonah could have come, but he's already taken off too much work. I will miss having him here with me.

Well, the wedding is in just 9 1/2 hours. I'd better get some sleep.