Benvenuti a Lucca!

Okay the picture says Florence, nevermind. Benvenuti all the same! We are on our amazing long trip to Lucca, Italy! We arrived yesterday after long travels, discovering, (so far, knock wood) that Harper is a great little traveler. So pleased about that.

(As ever, you can click on the pictures for bigger images.)

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Distractions during flight.



Got our rental car - Harper named it "Dynamo" - though it's not as speedy as all that...


First Gelato! I think I'll start a new blog called "Sempre Gelato" (Gelato, always).


Harper took our picture with her camera: I love it!


Next day we went to the walls!


Found a cool playground (which I suspect we'll visit often):


Also, we rented one of these four-wheeled bike dealies. Mistake...! It looks fun, but it's only really fun for Harper. (Even though she didn't want to smile, so maybe it was not as much fun for her as we thought.)





(They are illegal in the US, fyi.)



Love that smug half smile -- "Anytime I want, people. Any. Time. I. Want."


So much more to come!








The Way Things Connect

As mentioned in my two previous posts, I spent a chunk of time in Mexico City working on a movie. There is a volcano just outside Mexico City called Popocatepetl and we would see and work hard to remember how to pronounce it. When we drove to Puebla, we saw both Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl along the way. Iztaccihuatl always makes me giggle because Paddy and I referred to it as "It's a sea wattle" so that we would remember how to say it close to correctly.

PopocatepetlThe wacky connection is that in Harper's preschool they learn about other countries and a recent one was Mexico. The craft for one of those lessons was to build a volcano and what a lovely surprise that she built Popocatepetl!

It made me happy.



Ten Years, Man! Ten YEARS! (Part 2 of 2)

IMG_1495The first half of 2006 had been a fun year, jetting to Paris and up and down North America. And by the way, if you ever get the chance to hang in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal, take it! We got to relax in the business class lounges for all of our travels because in 2005 I was supposed to have worked on a long term project in Virginia. I would have been flying twice a month from LA to Richmond for about eight months so my work partner and I decided to spend the money on a United Red Carpet club membership. Then that job got cancelled but I still had the membership. Silver lining? I suppose. I would have liked to have worked on that job.

So July. The job in Mexico had gotten into a smooth rhythm. We had some adventures on our weekends. Then I got a call that my dad had taken a serious downturn and would probably die in the next 48 hours. And he did. My dad had been in a nursing home facility for years as he had alzheimer's. He also had heart issues and was 83 when he died, so it wasn't entirely unexpected, though a death is always a shock, even when you know it's coming.

100_1265The team in Mexico was supportive and helpful, of course. At the end of July, I flew back to LA for a night, then Kurt and I flew to the Big Island for a week, helping with the funeral plans and reminiscing. We stayed at the hotel at Anaeho'omalu Beach, which was perfect. It is the beach I know so well on the Big Island, have known it since I was so little, where we used to go before there was a hotel. Also, let's be honest, so happy to be in air conditioning. Waikoloa is H O T in August.

It was a fascinating time, learning more about my dad, hearing others talk about him, people who knew him in a totally different way than I did. We all told stories and looked through old pictures all while playing the Keola and Kapono records, shouting out the words to Mr. Sun Cho Lee. (He got plenty lychee!) 100_1288

It was also surreal to be with my sisters and stepmom and nieces and nephew in dad's house, all there without dad. All the emotions were heightened, of course, the grief hitting us all in different ways. There were tears and laughter and plenty of shouting and hurt feelings, all the usual family stuff. At one point Dor turned to me and said, "How can you be so calm?" I just shrugged and said, "That's what I do. That's what I've always done." Then added, "Hand me another beer..."

There's my dad. The Don Draper of Honolulu. (Who later moved to the Big Island.)

The day after the funeral, we scattered his ashes from canoes at Anaeho'omalu Bay. The water was calm and the experience quite new for me on a variety of levels.

Then a big aloha to Hawai'i and back to Mexico for me. I was really glad to have two overnights in LA on each side of that trip. Nice to sleep in my own bed and pet the cats.

There were three more weeks of the shoot in Mexico and I enjoyed the hell out of them. We went to Puebla for a few days as well as Cuernavaca. We had various locations that were a refreshing break from the sets at the abandoned quarry/mall. A friend from LA came down to hang out for a long weekend and we timed it for the two day weekend that had been scheduled (we were working half days on Saturdays). It was so nice to be a tourist with a good friend.

100_1460A giddiness started creeping into the crew as we got near the end. We were all still working hard, but laughing more and taking more pictures of each other. The crew went out one night for drinks and music and that was our non official wrap party and it was a blast. Then the real wrap party came and it was nice, but not as much fun. On the last day of shooting, when the first AD called "That's a wrap!" I, of course, burst into tears. What a long crazy summer it had been.

Adiós Mexico! Adiós Diana, my favorite statue in Mexico City. Hello LA...

Home. But not for long. At the end of September I'd be off to London to work with the VFX team for a few weeks, handing over the information from the shoot to the new producer. But before that, we were invited to a friend's beach house in Santa Barbara for Labor Day weekend. A wonderful few days of good friends and sitting on the beach and looking at the ocean. Soothing.

London. I got good at figuring out the bus schedule (cheaper/easier than the tube) and my little neighborhood in Clerkenwell where I stayed in the Zetter Hotel. Quite hipster cool at the time and so expensive that when my work was done and Kurt and I were staying a few days more, we found a cheap and therefore TINY room elsewhere. We played tourist, my favorite day being the one at Hampton Court Palace. (I love a good audio tour!) 100_2347

Then for fun and also because you can, we took the train to Paris for three days where again, our friends were staying in their apartment and we spent a lot of good time with them.

Paris twice in one year? Man, that is a good year.

Home at the end of October. I was exhausted and charged with emotion and restlessness since I had been moving practically non stop since April.

There was one more trip and that was to Maui in early December with Kurt's family. They had never been so we enjoyed many touristy things, trips to Hana, up to Haleakala, ziplining, snorkeling, big hotel Luau, the whole nine yards.

Then home. HOME. A quiet Christmas on our own here in LA. Just us and the cats.

2006 was a roller coaster and I loved it all. I know that sounds strange since my dad died in the middle of it, but loving it all is just embracing all that life throws at you - the good, the bad, the easy, the tough - everything. I'm proud of that year. I doubt I'll have another quite like it. But I hope I do.

Ten years, Man! Ten years.

Surprise! I Climbed A Mountain

I'm working the Your Turn Challenge and today is Day 6. Here is my post to answer the question: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself. (I have written about this climb previously on this blog.)

I am not and never have been a climber. But I climbed a mountain once. Not just “hey let’s do that three hour hike to the top of this hill” kind of climb. An actual all day, clip into a safety cable, use your hands and feet to climb, scare the crap out of yourself, climb.

It was 1992 in Cortina D’ampezo. I was backpacking around Europe and went to visit work colleagues one weekend who were working on the movie Cliffhanger. The friend I was staying with said, “Hey we are going to climb a mountain tomorrow, you have to come with us.” I knew she and the other friend were not climbers and were not necessarily any more fit than I was. She also said, “It’s a climb for beginners, anyone can do it. I’ll loan you come cold weather clothes.” Since I had come to visit her, I figured okay, we’ll go hiking. The scenery is awesome (in the true sense of the word) so if nothing else, I would enjoy the views.

This is the mountain we climbed: The Col Rosa. (This is a view from the climb - image from the link.)


About three hours in/up of regular hiking through forests, we arrived at the via ferrata - the safety cable that you clip onto to actually climb. About ten minutes into this climbing part, t I was terrified. Terrified for two reasons. 1) it was scary to actually be climbing a high mountain almost straight up! 2) I didn’t think I could do it, I thought it was too hard.

Clipped on and not too far up, I considered backing out and saying, “Hey, I’ll meet you back at the parking lot” and hiking back the way we had come. I think I might have even said out loud that I didn’t think I could do this. My friends told me I could do it and that I couldn’t just quit now. I didn’t take it as a “don’t pussy out” kind of challenge. My personal insecurities ran to the  “don’t be inconvenient, don’t make it harder for them” place. So I stayed and I climbed.

I am so glad I did. I was terrified all the way up that cable (that part took about 2 hours), but one small step, one small handhold at a time, I did it, we did it. We bagged that peak.

When we finally got back to the car, I was exhausted and exhilarated and so glad I didn’t quit. I really surprised myself that day.


And now whenever I think something is too hard or scary because I’ve never done it before, I look at this picture of me that my friend took on our climb. I can see the fear and uncertainty, but I also remember the utter joy of having gotten to the top.

Can't Wait For The Tour De France!

Someday we will spend July in France, following Le Tour! Harper and I practiced waving at cyclists yesterday when we took a short walk along Ballona Creek on the bike path in Culver City. She got good at the waving and the cyclists were so nice, all of them waved back and smiled big! Who could resist this face?


Afterward we went to the park and she played, then we sat down for a snack. She really enjoyed the pick nick time. This skill will also come in handy for the Tour!




20 Year Old Souvenir

I've been listening to the stories about the 20th anniversary of the LA Riots as an outsider because I wasn't here. I was on my second backpacking trip to Europe. But here's the odd/awkward thing: I sort of wish I had been here. Not that I wanted it to happen, but it's weird when everyone you know experiences something together on a massive scale and you didn't. (I got my chance to be part of the larger group in the 1994 earthquake...)

Instead, this was me in spring of 1992 (in Kilkenny, one of my favorite towns in Ireland):


I had been fortunate enough to backpack through Europe three years earlier after graduating from LMU. I went with Kelly, Katie, John, Dave and Vince. Kelly and Dave went on their own after we started in London. Vince, John, Katie and I had a great time. We got along so well for two months with only one tense time (in Tours, I believe). Couldn't have asked for a better traveling group. I liked it so much I wanted to go again, and this time went on my own. I saved up a bunch of money working on Alien 3 at Boss Film Studios, got my student ID card and Eurail pass and I was off. (Oh and the ubiquitous "Let's Go!" 1992 edition.)

When you travel alone you meet a lot of people, occasionally joining them on their next travel leg. I bounced around, making Paris my home base, taking trains here and there, visiting my pen pals in Germany, seeing the World Expo in Seville and meeting up with the Boss Film crew who was working in Cortina, Italy, on Cliffhanger. I spent the weekend there, climbed a mountain (as you do) and then met up with them again in Rome.

I really fell in love with Rome on this trip and it is still my favorite city to this day. I could go there any time, in a heartbeat. And it was in Rome that I found my best souvenir, one I still carry. My wallet. Just off the Trevi fountain is a leather store (I could take you there today if you like) and I found just the wallet I was looking for. Most waiters at cafes carry a money pouch that opens like an accordion and I wanted to find something similar and there it was:



It looked a bit spiffier 20 years ago, but it's aged so beautifully and I couldn't imagine using anything else even though the lining is giving way.

I went back to the same store when Kurt and I were on our honeymoon, but they didn't have anything like it to tempt me. (I went back to my favorite paper store and bought a bunch of stuff there's just past the Pantheon on the right side, I can take you there too!)

When she's old enough, I can't wait for us to take Harper to Rome and all the wonderful places we love in Europe. And when she goes traveling on her own, I wonder what will excite her and what souvenir she'll find that might last 20+ years.

So exciting to think about it!


A Far Away Loss

Back in the olden days, before the Series of Tubes, before the Internet, before the Information Superhighway and the World Wide Web, there were newspapers. And you could learn all kinds of things and even connect to people through the paper. When I was in 8th grade (13 or so) I wrote to other kids my age and got pen-pals. Somehow they were mostly in Germany (West Germany at the time) and we wrote tons of letters to each other. At one point I had about 18 pen pals! Stopping at the Post Office in Paia to check Box F was very exciting every day.

By the time I went off to college, the number had whittled down to four. They are my friends Antonia (Toni), Elfriede (Evi), Andrea and Ute. I have visited them all twice in Germany. First in 1989 and then in 1992. I got to meet all their mom's except for Andrea's and they all were so kind and took great care of me. Toni's mom washed clothes for me and I swear my clothes had never been that clean in my life! There was much drinking of coffee and eating of cake every afternoon and I felt loved and cared for, even though I was this odd backpacking creature from California.

After a few years the letters wore down to christmas cards and I have not heard from Toni in about ten or so years. I would really like to find her again as we had such good letters and we spent time riding horses in the black forest in a driving rainstorm. That was exciting! Ute and I found each other recently on Facebook and have been more in touch. 

So it was awful and sad yesterday when Ute wrote to tell me her mother had died quite unexpectedly yesterday of a heart attack at age 86. Luckily all her kids were nearby and they were at the hospital before she died. But still. Heartbreaking and devastating. Ute said her mom died in her arms. (And that just makes me sob to type it.) UteManuMama

(In the photo: Ute on the left, sister Manu in the middle and Mutter. Look at that face!)

In her message Ute said: "I´m sure you haven´t forgotten her when you were here for the first time. She never forgot you." How could I forget her? Both times I went to visit she was so kind and sweet. Here is what I wrote about her:

August 21, 1989
I left Ute and her family this morning. Her mom drove me to the station. She of course speaks no english so it was a quiet drive. I of course couldn't speak because I was all choked up. I don't know why I get like that. I guess because it's been a long time (2 months) since I've had some real family type love. Big hug from Ute's mom here. She was so cute - little and feisty spunky. I wish I spoke german.
Then in 1992 I wrote:
June 5, 1992
We went to visit Ute's mom and sister Manu. Her mom had ovarian cancer a few years ago and had major surgery. Now she goes back to the doctor's a lot for check ups. She's the sweetest, most wonderful character. Wonderful face and old scratchy voice. She's 67. She seems more like a grandmother. But she's so sweet! She came in and gave me BIG hugs and was so happy to have me. I had tears in my eyes that I tried to hide. She could die soon and she's so wonderful that it would make me very sad.

And I am very sad. (Though I'm glad it was almost 20 years later that she died.) That little woman in the photo had such a big heart and opened her arms wide with big warm hugs for this perfect stranger that she only knew through letters from far away. What a wonderful person to know and emulate. I don't even know her first name, I just knew her as Frau Schafar. 

I'll have to go and pay my respects in person one of these days soon. 

Mein tiefstes Beileid.