Monthly Archives: October 2008

Trip to Petaluma

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Vivian and I just returned from a weekend trip to Vivian’s hometown of Petaluma, California. We headed back to attend her ten-year high school reunion, but while we were in northern California, we got to visit some of her family and old friends she had while growing up.

The weather was gorgeous when we arrived, going from cold and cloudy forty degrees in Nebraska to 80 degrees and sunny in San Francisco. It was lovely weather for a bus trip up across the golden gate bridge. When we arrived in Petaluma, Vivian took me around town to see her old house, her old school, and her old church. Casa Grande High School is an “outdoor school,” which turns out not to be quite as silly as I first imagined.

IMG_8080We did a lot of eating over the weekend, helped in part by the fact that everyone seems to have fruit trees in their backyard. We also got to go out for some genuine California pizza with Vivian’s “granny.” (Her mother’s teenage friend and maid of honor who helped keep tabs on Vivian and her brother Oliver when her parents weren’t around.) This included such ingredients as Italian Dry Salami, Linguisa sausage, and artichoke hearts.

We got to spend the weekend with some of Vivian’s close friends from Bible study, Meg and Bob, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of them except when turning in for the night and after we woke up in the morning. Meg was one of Vivian’s “second moms” from her old church, and Bob is her husband, who specializes in making stained glass Star Wars characters. He gave us a couple amazing R2D2s that I’m going to have to hang someplace special.

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On Saturday, we met up with some more of Vivian’s bible study friends for lunch at her favorite old Mexican restaurant, La Azteca. That afternoon, we visited a few more bible study friends at their house and had a jam session. It was fun seeing Vivian getting guitar lessons from her old praise team leader, and her son played drums for them both as they jammed together.

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The reunion itself was strangely uneventful. They had a wide selection of distinctly Californian foods: more Italian dry salami, artichoke hearts, and sourdough bread. I also got to try “polenta,” which is some kind of cornmeal cake. Vivian got to catch up with a number of her old friends, but there didn’t seem to be much going on with the hundred-or-so graduates who showed up other than seeing how many of them could squeeze into the bar next door and drink. As such, Vivian and I left early and went to have some pizza at Round Table, the Californian pizza joint that Vivian seems to like best.

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On Sunday, we went to church with a bunch of Vivian’s old friends at New Life, a ten-year-old plant of PCC that started right about the same time Vivian left. After that, we headed up north to Rohnert Park to spend the afternoon with some of Vivian’s family: her Uncle Lewie, Aunt Sandra, and a couple cousins who happened to be in town. We had some lunch together, stuffing ourselves with Greek salad and roast chicken. We played some Balderdash after that and got to stuff ourselves further with some of granny’s apple cake and a lovely “wedding” cheesecake. Uncle Lewie got for us.

On the way back to Petaluma, we had to stop by G&G to do a little grocery shopping. I love food, and it’s amazing to see how different the selection is out in California. They had all sorts of fresh seafood at prices you’d never see in Nebraska and avocados for 59 cents each. Every store also seemed to have multiple aisles devoted entirely to wine, which only makes sense when you consider how many vineyards there are right around the corner. We also stopped by Pinky’s Pizza to get a small pizza to freeze for Vivian’s dad. That was his favorite pizza place.

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Vivian and I spent our last day exploring the town, checking out the picturesque storefronts downtown that served as the movie backdrop for such films as Mumford and American Graffiti. They also filmed parts of Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders in Petaluma, a film known mostly for being lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I think I found the street where the shop was located, but can’t be sure until I watch the movie again.

We headed back into San Francisco via bus, seeing such sights as the exit to Skywalker Ranch. It’s apparently well-guarded, which would make it difficult to stop by and ask George Lucas what he was smoking when he made the Star Wars prequels. All things considered, it was a wonderful trip, and I’m glad that we got to miss out on the foggy, cold winter California weather Vivian kept warning me about. I only wish we’d had a little more time to spend exploring San Francisco. Maybe next year.

Watch the video from our trip to Petaluma!

A Night at the Opera

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Last Friday, Vivian and I had a night at the opera and got to see The Pirates of Penzance at the Omaha Orpheum theater. I’d never seen an opera before, much less a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and we really enjoyed the show. The terrible seats in the upper balcony, however, were another story. I had to sit sideways during the production because there was so little legroom, putting my feet up on the seat in front of me when the ushers weren’t looking. I swear people must have been two feet shorter when the theater was built.

On Saturday night, Jenny celebrated her birthday with another costume party. I’m always impressed with how our friends seem to go all out on Halloween. Vivian and I just came as ourselves (well, our real selves!)

Hayracks and Pumpkins

IMG_7721It’s been another weekend of Fall Fun and Games. The leaves are changing color, the weather is getting cooler, and it seems like everywhere we go we get to mooch of everyone else’s food. Our fellow Jitterbug friends Merinda and Becky Ives had birthdays over the weekend. That naturally meant dancing down at JNO on Friday night, and then heading over to Dave and Buster’s on Saturday night for just a little bit of mayhem.

IMG_7731Vivian and I stayed only for the food, ordering an appetizer and a coupler drinks, and then stuffing ourselves with the leftover food nobody else wanted. We weren’t the only ones joining in the spoils of someone else’s dinner. Mark got to have nearly an entire meal gathered up from extra plates, and there were plenty of tempting desserts floating across the table.

After dinner, Vivian and I drove up to Blair for the annual Great Adventures Hayrack Ride That Sticks Gets Inside Every Crevice event. I went on this last year and was picking stray pieces of straw out of my clothes for weeks afterwards, so this time Vivian and I decided to go on the hayrack that didn’t require signing some kind of legal waiver. It was still just as nice and romatic, and much easier to get out of my hair afterwards.

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Continuing in the spirit of fall fun, Vivian and I headed with our mutual friends to Vala’s Pumpkin patch to enjoy what turned out not to be a day full of thunderstorms (as had been forecast). It rained all day last year when we went to Vala’s, so this time around we got to enjoy such things as the pedal carts and the balloon jump, which was great fun and a terrific workout. It left me sweatier than I usually get while dancing. They also had a tremendous corn maze. I ventured into the tall stalks with Hugh, who for some reason insisted on holding the map the entire time while constantly forgetting where we were in the maze. We didn’t seem to get as lost as our friends, however, who wandered into the maze without a map and seemed amazed that Hugh and I found our way out after only half an hour.

It was another fun weekend, with more on the way. This week had been a bit of a bummer, however, since my dear Ford Taurus decided to leak all its transmission fluid onto the HyVee parking lot, rendering it undrivable. Say a prayer for the Beige Bomber and hope he’s fixable once again.

Movie Weekend and Sarah Palin

It was a fairly quiet weekend for Vivian and me. It seems of late that we’ve been spending so much time with friends on the weekend that we neglect such mundane things as staying home to do laundry, tidy up the place, and actually relax a bit when we get the chance. We still went out a couple times, but we made an effort to take this weekend off as much as possible. As such, I wasn’t snapping pictures and video everywhere we went.

On Friday night, we had an impromptu double-date with another couple from GAMe and watched Fireproof. It’s an independent Christian movie I heard about on Focus on the Family, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually a great romantic comedy. It was very well written, fun to watch, and included a Christian message in a meaningful without beating it over your head. The movie holds its own against any romantic comedy I’ve seen from Hollywood, and for an indie film made by volunteers on a nearly nonexistent budget, that’s saying something.

In contrast, we saw An American Carol with some of our GAMe friends on Saturday. It was a spoof of Michael Moore done by David Zucker of the famous Airplane and Naked Gun Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio. I laughed a couple times during the movie, but the movie was so over-the-top with its liberal bashing (literally) that I found myself involuntarily cringing. I’m afraid it’s one I won’t be getting on DVD, which is a shame.

Sarah Palin and Dave HeinemanOn Sunday night, Vivian and I dropped by the Omaha Civic Auditorium to see Sarah Palin. A crowd of thousands packed its way into the place, and Vivian and I were forced to stand out in the overflow room. I was afraid we’d only get to see the Governor of Alaska on the big projected screen in the center of the room, but she managed to stop by for a brief speech to those of us who didn’t get inside the main auditorium. It’s rare Nebraska gets to see such a high-profile candidate, and it was definitely worth the brief trip downtown to stand around an hour or two.