Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Gaga Las Vegas

I first saw Lady Gaga (with Sarah) back in January of 2013 when she was touring the Born This Way Ball to support the album of the same name. But soon after her stop in the PNW, she cancelled the remainder of her tour because of an injury that required surgery. Even then, when I assume she was in great pain due to her-not-yet-announced fibromyalgia diagnosis and experiencing extreme angst about her condition, yet she delivered a high-energy, athletic show.

Flash forward six years. In February, I'd heard that Lady Gaga was going to add more 2019 shows to her Las Vegas Residency later in the year. I hadn't been to Vegas since well before my babies were born--over 10 years. So I thought, why not? Ken said he was up for it and we kept it easy. I think he especially enjoyed the low 70's highs.

Views that will do

Why we're here

Lavender chandeliers

But soon after we landed I realized things had changed. The difference between doing Vegas at 45 now is that I personally wear way too much clothing to fit in and the contact high from all the legal cannabis enjoyed by fellow revelers makes drinking almost unnecessary. A perfect Vegas vacation now includes taking a long hot bath alone in a jetted tub while also being able to watch cable television uninterrupted. So that's something. We also ate fancy food that the kids would hate and took Lyfts everywhere. One driver even smashed my fingers as he closed the window without realizing I was holding on to the door frame. Luckily Ken had a cup of ice water that I commandeered. No tip for that driver.

Lobby of the Aria Hotel where we stayed

Downtown (Old Town) Las Vegas does not disappoint!
Come for the $5 craps tables, stay for the street chaos and 
nearly-naked goatman. #vivalasvegas

Nearly-naked Goat Man

Saturday morning we ventured out to the Neon Museum where signs from bygone Las Vegas continue to live in infamy. Currently they are featuring art installations, "Lost Vegas" by 
Tim Burton, interspersed among the permanent collection also. 
(We're told it's amazing at night!) 

Finally, drinks, bites and silly photos at the 
Waldorf Astoria SkyBar before the show.

The Main Event: ENIGMA by Lady Gaga

While she might not be everyone's taste, LG is incredibly talented and driven. She performed with a sinus infection and fever, she later informed us, and yet you could not tell. Her shows are high-energy and the singing is very muscular so she has to give 100% to pull it all off and she did. But I hope she got to go home and drink tea and rest. I love that she played some of my favorite dance songs from her early work and some less popular tracks like 'Aura' and 'Government Hooker'. She also presents interesting staging like being suspended from the rafters on wires high above the audience while descending down to the stage playing a keyboard guitar for 'Let's Dance.' It's all a spectacle to behold and she promotes self-love & acceptance above all. 
Let that freak flag fly!

Here's a snip from her encore of "Shallow"

But alas after losing net $60 at the craps tables and continually drifting through cigarette smoke-smelling casinos and restaurants, with no amount of lotion or water to make you feel properly moisturized, it was time to go home. Thanks Gaga & Vegas--see you in another 10 years.

A gorgeous view on our flight home: dormant & formerly active volcanos, just waiting for their moment

Mt. St. Helens & Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier

Many thanks to Dad and Ann for watching the kids for the weekend and keeping them so busy! 💗

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Mueller Report and the Crisis of Fairness

Is the Mueller report 'TL;DR' for you (too long; didn't read)? 

Are you wondering what's really in it without any bias/spin? Check out this 6 minute summary from the neutral and authoritative PBS Newshour folks. They did a week-long series of explainers but this is the last day sum up.

Why is this important? When you think about what 'group' you belong to from a neighborhood/school community to a citizen of a country, how much do you care about the integrity and the rules of that group? Does it matter that some people can sidestep rules and still win while others toil and sacrifice yet still lose? Fairness is a fundamental concept that even my kids understand and fight about if there are perceived imbalances. So as Americans, is accountability and integrity still important to us? This report exposes actions that directly challenge our laws (rules) and concept of fairness. It is daring us to do something about it. So the question is: is fairness important to you? And if it is, what are you going to do about it?

Again, at least inform yourself and know what's in the report.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Remembering Uncle Ernie

Sadly, another memorial post...

With a heavy heart, I am writing in remembrance of our dear Uncle Ernie Spadafore who left this realm yesterday, May 1st at the age of 92. 

Ernie & his late wife June
Uncle Ernie with my mom on her 3rd or 4th birthday

He was a great-granduncle to our kids and one of the namesakes for Calvin's middle name (the other being Ken's late father). Having no children or grandchildren of his own, we were tickled that we could honor him when we named our boy, Calvin Ernest. It meant a lot to me too that Cal has his own memories of one of the wonderful men he is (middle) named for.

Calvin's 1st Birthday, 2013
Photo by Grandma Cindy

Ernie was a younger brother of my Italian grandmother, Irene, and he was a dependable companion/caregiver to many people throughout his life, especially to his mother, Agnes; his wife, June (who suffered an
aneurysm and convalesced in a facility until her death decades later) and to other friends who needed help in their elder years.

Ernie with members of our family. Sitting next to his sister, my great aunt Rose.
Top row: my mom, and great aunts from the other side of the family, Bev & Mary. Date: Early 2000's

Celebrating his 89th birthday at Mom & Cindy's place with the Italian side of the family, 2016

He was a World War II veteran, decorated with the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during fighting at the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. He was an accountant by profession but loved to play poker & black jack down in Reno and Vegas--he also seemed to do well at it. 

In fact, he loved going to the casino so much, that less than a week ago, the hospice team made special arrangements to get him to the Ilani Casino in Ridgefield. They had to sort out oxygen tanks, drip morphine and transport him via Uber but he got to enjoy his favorite activity one last time. 

It was easy to see he adored the children and loved their energy because he lit up around them--you can see it in all the photos. 

Christmas Eve 2017

Elmer's Breakfast with Cousin Marge & Uncle Ernie,
November 2018

Sidney, Annabelle & Calvin with Uncle at Thanksgiving, 2018

The kids even got to see him recently a few weeks ago when they were staying down in Portland with my Mom & Cindy. I am so glad for that!

Last visit with Uncle, April 2019

We will miss him and his sweet smile. With a calm presence, he was a quiet, dependable fixture at family gatherings. I am grateful that he and Ken shared a connection too. I remember often finding the two of them huddled after holiday dinners, heads bent together, thoroughly engrossed in war stories or life adventures that we never even knew he'd had. May we all have so many stories to tell.
Our love is with you always. RIP. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Remembering Mary

A week ago today, the world lost a very special lady: Ken's aunt, Mary Turner. She was 93 and a spark of inspiration and light.

All of our annual pilgrimages to the East Coast have routed through DC or Baltimore so that we'd be able to visit 'Aunt' Mary who lived in the SE sector of Washington DC near the RFK Stadium. She was an incredible woman who was born in the segregated South (Georgia) and whose bi-racial parentage didn't allow for her white father to live with her black mother and mixed race siblings. She moved to DC and worked in a supporting role in the government, raised a family of 5 children and lived in the same walkup on 14th Ave for decades. It wasn't until late last year that she was forced to sell her home due to ailing health and move into an assisted living facility.

Over the 15 years I've known her, I would speak frankly to her like how I would to one of my fellow mom friends. Despite our almost 50 year age difference, she loved talking about everything from the kids' milestones to world events. We exchanged similar opinions and thoughts on politics which, like me, she closely followed. But she loved MSNBC's Ari Melber, even saying to me once, "Did you see my boyfriend on TV last night?" in a slight Southern accent. It made me giggle and when I would offer up some other interesting tidbit of news, she'd say with a lilt in her voice, "For real?"

She loved Pacific Northwest Smoked Salmon so I would send her a box every few months. I also began to include Fran's Chocolates and photos of the children. She really loved seeing the kids and when Sidney was a baby she insisted on buying her an outfit for a wedding we'd be attending later in our visit down the Shore. She was always so generous and thoughtful, often baking her infamous and delicious pound cake for us to take.

In the last few years, her eyesight deteriorated to the point that her home was outfitted with supports for a person who is blind. At that point, I would try to find things to send that would delight her other senses: lavender hand lotion, a fuzzy lap blanket, spiced tea. But she would also request the Italian Pizzelle cookies that we make around Christmastime. She told me how she'd put the tin away when there were guests, as to savor them because they were her favorite.

Our last visit with her was in June of 2018 where we walked slowly down to the park to watch the children play and burn off some energy before we made the usual three hour drive down the Eastern Shore to Ken's folks' house. Her steps were slower and she used a walker but she was still out there with us and enjoying the city that she spent so much of her life in.

The last time I spoke to her this past March as she was settling into another assisted care facility and we spoke of an upcoming visit in July that we planned to make to the East Coast that would naturally include visiting with her too. She was excited to see us again. But after a serious fall later in the month, she just couldn't recover. Her daughters have been kind enough to keep us informed and updated on her situation and status.

She was very dear to us and a unique, loving soul in the world that we are ever so grateful to have known. RIP Mary.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Emerald City Comic Con 2019 #ECCC: Friday, and only Friday

Things I learned at the Con:

1. For the first time in my life, I realized Tauntauns have two sets of nostrils!?!?!

2. I don't dress up for Cons because that's not why I go and with my precious 6 hours, I need to move through the show quickly--in comfort. BUT I can't deny, I love to SEE the cosplay. And this year, as Cardi B would say, it was poppin'. People brought their A-game and I noticed a surge of confidence and creativity. I didn't have the opportunity to really capture the MANY, MANY incredible costumes, but here are two that uh, caught my attention...

Some nightmare called Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill video game. Yikes.

Mojo Jojo

3. Panels are the best for...


➨resting one's aching feet
➨scarfing down one's lunch [ALWAYS BRING YOUR OWN SACK LUNCH & WATER TO THE CON] 
➨learning something from professionals who know stuff

I listened to panels on 'Tropes in Writing,' 'Women making Comics' and 'Skybound Comics Illustrators/Authors.' All instructive, inspiring and illuminating. However I couldn't get into the Main Stage Conversation with George "Mr. Sulu" Takei this afternoon (who may or may not have a passing resemblance to my father.) Just too many people in Seattle wanted to see him. Nevertheless, I'm eager to read his upcoming graphic novel memoir about his childhood during World War II and his experiences in Japanese-American Internment Camps--something my family had experience with too.

4. I always prioritize a lot of time to say hello to friends and meet comic creator heroes. This is what makes a Con unique and worth it for me from year to year. Since I read more and different comics as the years go by, my list changes.
This is Artist Rich Werner who brought us the original 'Plants vs. Zombies' game/franchise. (He also did an inspired commission for me years ago called the Shark Dentist that was a gift for my dad.) But that painting behind him is a 6-year masterpiece that is so gorgeous in real life AND is available in print form at the Con and on his website (www.richwerner.com). His wife, Halle, a fellow Coug & former RealNet coworker of mine, won't let him part with the original--AND I DON'T BLAME HER. 

Rich Werner

Also, imagine my shock when upon entering the Artist Alley section with comic authors & illustrators, that my former WSU Cable 8 Grad Student Advisor, Mitch Cook, had a booth and has been WRITING COMICS for awhile now. Wow! 👀
I was also thrilled to meet for the first time: Emi Lenox of Plutona, Sana Takeda of Monstress, Agnes Garbowska of DC Super Hero Girls.

5. Star Wars--especially the 'Ultimate Experience' walk-through display by the 501st Legion, Garrison Titan--totally delivers as the premier fandom. (Yes, I see you Trekkers. It's not that I don't like you but I don't "like like" you.) Straight donations and raffle proceeds go to Seattle Children's Hospital and last year their debut year for the Star Wars Experience, they raised over $25,000 at Emerald City ComicCon. 

I love this photo op so much. How ingenious.

Porg Moms and human moms have the same reaction to kids complaining about dinner.

My favorite find of the day. I will be getting this framed to hang in the house.