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April 2007

My Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour (Part 2)

After the sod house tour, I arrived at Walnut Grove. I went first to the Ingalls Dugout Site. It was, of course, On the Banks of Plum Creek. I was very happy to be there all by myself as this was my first actual Little House site. I was nervous and excited.

This sign greets you:

(I borowed this from the Walnut Grove site linked above.)

There is a small hollow where the "house" was in the creek bank. I can't imagine living in a tiny little hand-made cave.

I climbed up past the sign and was standing in a wheat field.

This is the first time I had ever seen a wheat field in person, in real life. I was surprised that is is not tall. I thought it was like corn and grew over your head. Nope! Don't know why I thought that, maybe because sugar cane is also very very tall? (See what happens when you grow up on an island? Then again many tourists think pineapples grow on trees...so there you go.) The wheat was beautiful. Driving through the plains in July really made the words "amber waves of grain" come to life.

I spent a while quietly walking around the dugout site and creek, just soaking it up. Then I returned to the car and went back to town where I walked through the Wilder Museum where they have historical objects from the 1800s and also a quilt that Laura made with her daughter Rose. It's a small town with not a whole lot to see in a day. As I mentioned, I met up with the family from Maryland and we sat togehter on a picnic table and chatted.

Then I moved on to Tracy. I had booked a room in a B&B there for the night. Laura wrote about her very first train ride in By the Shores of Silver Lake. She (and Ma and Mary and Carrie and Grace) went from Walnut Grove to Tracy. She said it took an hour (it was a fictional account.) It took me about 15 minutes--it's 8 miles.

The night at the Valentine B&B was very exciting. I was the only guest in this HUGE old Victorian house that the owners were in the process of fixing up (the inside was done and lovely, the outside was still being worked on.) Their link is not working, otherwise I would have linked immediately...oh well. It was an exciting evening because a storm blew in and I had my very first tornado warning. The owners knocked on my door about an hour after I went to sleep and we sat in the kitchen listening to the radio, ready to run down into the basement at a moment's notice. The wind was whipping and the thunder and lightening were fabulous. We talked about tornadoes vs. earthquakes and we all agreed that it's nice to have some warning. The storm soon passed and we got an all clear and I went to bed.

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast, I was saying goodbye to the woman there (I have to dig out my journals to get some names.) and she mentioned that as I was driving, if I saw a tornado, I should drive to the closest farm and knock on the door, find shelter. (Highway 14 is a two lane road.) And of course she was dead serious. Freaky for a Hawaii/California girl! Luckily, I didn't have to do that and it seemed that once I crossed into South Dakota, there were mostly beautiful blue skies all the way. It looked like this most of the time:

(This is on the way to Mount Rushmore, further east--I mean WEST!!-- in S. Dakota.) (Another symptom of growing up on an island--not know east/west/north/south.)

I was very excited to get into South Dakota because soon I would be in DeSmet. Goose bumps.

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My Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour (Part 1)

Recently my friend Paddy mentioned that he had read "The Long Winter". He has three kids so I thought perhaps they might have something to do with it. Not at all. In fact, he found the book in the coolest way: He was reading the book "Fifty Degrees Below" by Kim Stanley Robinson and one of the main characters refers to The Long Winter as they are stuck in some serious winter. So Paddy picked up TLW book and enjoyed it. (Which in turn makes me want to buy 50 Degrees Below book and read it. Books are cool.)

I mentioned to Paddy that I am a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books and that I had even gone on a road trip through Minnesota and South Dakota in 1998 along Highway 14:

(You know I love a good road trip and have been DWP for a many years.)

I threatened him with a blog post about it and so here we are.

We interrupt this blog for a very important announcement.

Let's get one thing clear before I begin this post (or series of posts).

You know how there are "Trekkies" and "Trekkers"? Maybe that's a bad example. Okay, with Laura Ingalls Wilder, there is her series of books based on her life and then there is the tv show. One has almost nothing to do with the other. You might already know that I'm a stickler for the difference and that when I talk about "Little House" I am NEVER talking about the tv show.
(I know--so cranky!)

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I started just south of Minneapolis, visiting a friend in Northfield. I took the I-35 south to Highway 14 and headed west. I drove through Mankato, stopping for breakfast, and then Sleepy Eye, stopping for a diet coke. Between Sleepy Eye and Walnut Grove there was a farm advertising their homestead and sod house re-creations and restored acre of prairie with native prairie grasses. (True prairies are a rare thing these days.) I stopped in and am so glad I did.

The people on the farm had built three buildings representing houses built on the prairies in the latter half of the 1800s. One was a traditional sod house seen here:

The great plains and prairies were grasslands -- no trees. There was very little wood to build with and you had to be rich to buy and haul boards to build a house. So sod it was. And sod was not bad as it kept you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. But a sod house also means a sod floor (click to make bigger):

And have I mentioned yet how small this house is? It's about the size of a bedroom in your house. And generally sheltered large families.

The other houses on the site were a much larger sod house (about 2 times the size as this one) with a wood roof and glass windows -- a very rich person's house. And a tiny shanty. TINY. Like the size of your bathroom.

While there I met a family from Maryland, mom and dad and two girls. Mom was a teacher and they took pictures of me for me at the sod houses. We chatted a little bit then ended up sitting and talking together more at Walnut Grove an hour or so later. My historicial geek factor shines at times like these since I was a woman traveling alone to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder historical sites. "Do you have kids? Are you a teacher?" Ah, no. Just love this stuff.

To be continued...

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Don Ho

My mom sent me this email late last night:

Don Ho died. I think Carlos and I went to see him 100 times. They were good friends. I'm sure it will be in your newspaper tomorrow. (Carlos was my dad.)
Read the full stories in the The Honolulu Advertiser. Here's a classic image:

My dad was a local celebrtiy in Honolulu first for his radio announcing and baseball game recreations way back when, and later for his work in advertising and on political campaigns.

Here is a vintage Honolulu photo:

Duke Kahanamoku and Don Ho in 1967.

I don't have any pictures of my dad and Don Ho. But you've seen the one of dad and Duke.

News of Don Ho's death make me feel a little old again.

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Los Angeles "Weather"

Super high winds in LA today and yes, they did cause some serious damage and car accidents (1 fatality) and a fire that torched 3 houses. Sympathy all around.

That being said, seriously, how embarrassing is the TV news in Los Angeles? ("Rain Victims" anyone? Sarah? When it does actually get around to raining here, the news becomes highly entertaining.) But today's high wind reporting takes the cake. I was watching ABC (channel 7) and a guy was reporting from Lancaster. He was in a supermarket parking lot and started his story off pointing out the SHOPPING CARTS THAT HAD BEEN BLOWN OVER BY THE WIND!!!!

OH THE HUMANITY!


Ahem.


Really though, there are so many funny things to say about "weather" reporting in LA, it is hard to know where to start....okay, the ABC 7 weather guy's name? Dallas Raines. I sh** you not. ABC 7's special weather machine? "LIVE MEGA DOPPLER 7000 HD". (No, Paddy, I'm not kidding!)

I do love it. LA. I do.

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Deepest Pool

A while back I found this site and image on Boing Boing (I'm 90% sure it was Boing Boing...). This is the world's deepest pool located in Brussels. There is something so haunting to me about the image I first saw: Something about the water being so clear and the vast space all around the diver, the depth of the water. It's almost like a scary wonderful dream. And I am a total water baby*.

On the practical side of things, the pool just sounds amazing:
Drinkable, heated, chlorine free spring water heated to 33°C (91.4 F)
Visibility superior to 33m (over 100feet, which, if you've ever been diving or even just snorkeling, you know how spectacular that kind of visibility is.)

I want to go there and swim and swim and swim.

Click into their site for even more amazing photos.

*

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Walk through Venice

Yesterday (Easter Sunday) we met up with friends who live in Venice and walked down to the beach and back. I know so little about Venice, all the pockets of BEAUTIFUL craftsman houses and walk streets east of Abbot Kinney. And I'm madly in love with it all.

It started with duckies:

(My own Cute Overload.)

Then there was the street we clearly should be living on:

Saw these guys just chillin. I was focused on the dogs and didn't notice the graphic on the box until today. (click for bigger)

This wrapped up the walk. (Also click for bigness.)

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Signs of Summer

A few weeks back I wrote about the Signs of Spring (and impending summer) where I grew up and how that connected to Los Angeles via the jacaranda trees. Yesterday, while driving on Santa Monica Blvd, I was reminded about the other Signs of Summer that pop up in LA to remind us that warm weather (really warm weather) is just around the corner.

First was this one (click to make bigger, but it doesn't get too much bigger):

Then a block or so later, this one (also click to make bigger--again, not much):

(Apologies for the super lo-res quality -- I only had my camera phone on me. The marine layer wasn't helping. And I was DWP (thank you Sarah): Driving While Photographing.)

To me, these signs are just as exciting as the Jacarandas, though in a different way. I love movies. No, you don't understand: I LOVE MOVIES. I grew up on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and we had two movie theaters, each with one screen of course, and we had to wait what seemed like FOREVER for movies to come. Then they stayed for weeks. In high school, instead of just following the crowds every weekend to the party in the pineapple fields, I would sometimes just go to the movies by myself. I loved going by myself, no one to bother you with chatting, you sit where you want, eat the greasy popcorn just the way you liked. Before I got married, my favorite weekend thing to do was to Worship at the Church of Cinema -- go to the 11:00 am Sunday movie, by myself.

When I moved to LA to go to film school -- oh, do I need to share my "what am I going to study in school/epiphany!" moment? Okay, Okay, I'll share. It was the summer of 1984 (in between my junior and senior years of high school) and my college counselor said -- think about what you want to study in college. I had no idea. I loved history and I loved the spanish language, but what do I do with that? Oh well, summer's here, I'll worry about it later. Well, I worried about it a lot (I was so excited about going to college.) I got to spend about six weeks in Los Angeles in the summer of 1984, visiting friends and family. It was a BIG DEAL to go on a trip like that. And I got to go to the movies. In Los Angeles. Where they make movies!

Think back to the summer of 1984 -- it was a big movie summer: Ghostbusters, Splash, Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins, Purple Rain, Romancing the Stone, Footloose. But most exciting of all, I mean, ZOMG!!!1111!!!!!ONE11!! was: INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM!!! The sequel was finally here. Oh man, I was so excited about it, beyond excited. I mean I bought clothes at Banana Republic, back when it was safari clothes (Remember? Yes you do.) I had a gun belt and a fedora. Yes I did. My friends called me "Diana Jones." I'm not ashamed.

So there I was, in a real movie theater, a movie palace, with a huge screen and a big audience, seeing a first run movie within a week of its release. My heart was racing. Then the movie started and--let's be honest--it was not the best of the series, but who cared at the time? Anyway, there was I was, enthralled and in the middle of the mine shaft chase sequence it happened: I had a life changing epiphany. I COULD GO TO FILM SCHOOL! I COULD WORK IN THE MOVIES!

So I did and I do.

And I love it. And even after all the years in the biz, am I jaded? Hell no. To this day or at least to the most recent day I sat in movie theater (about 10 days ago, "Shooter") When the lights go down and the trailers start, I get goosebumps and my heart races with the excitement of being in a theater, watching a movie. It is making me smile as I write this.

And while my epiphany happened during a sequel that wasn't as good as the original, I made up for it by going to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on opening day at the Mann National in Westwood, at 11:00am. It was May 24, 1989 and I was just about to graduate from film school. It was heaven to be in that theater, the anticipation of seeing the movie, the anticipation of being launched into the big wide world of movies and making movies. The anticipation of my life getting started and it all being up to me. My heart was racing. Fade in.

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