Pokemon, where have you gone to? – Part 2

If you find yourself at a dead stop behind a non-moving vehicle in the middle of parking lot, there’s a good chance the operator of the vehicle is playing Pokemon Go. This happened to me and my son the other day. The woman was staring down into her lap, obviously trying to hide something, her eyes bugging out of her head with enough concentration to burst a dam. Could it be? Of course! she’s playing Pokemon Go!

This determination is common and even more severe than anyone could have imagined. The headlines are rife with tragedies and mishaps. Players falling off cliffs, crashing into cop cars, and getting stabbed. On the lighter side, I read a hopeful story about the rescue of a stray kitten, later named Mewtwo (yes, from the game). Poor, little Mewtwo was stuck in a tree with injuries and couldn’t get down. I’m betting it was Pokemon Go players who drove the poor cat up the tree in the first place, arriving in hoards, stepping on her tail or something much worse.

And did you hear the news? (Although it’s hard to top Mewtwo.) Nick Johnson, a New Yorker, has caught all the Pokemon! Yes, really. He did it in two weeks with a little help from Uber. No crashing into cop cars here. He caught them in two weeks with little or no sleep. It kind of feels like he got the Golden Ticket. He still needs to catch the rare creatures who only exist in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. And what luck! Marriott Rewards is going to partner with him to help him locate the last remaining Pokemon.

My son shouts, “Mom! We should have done this!” For free trips to all these places, I totally would have done this. Just picture the headline:

Mother and Son TEAM catch all the Pokemon

I mean, doesn’t that have a better ring to it?

So far, my progress is dismal. I’m at Level 6. And my son? He’s watched some YouTube video that’s shown him how to hack into the game and play Pokemon Go from a horizontal, resting position on the couch (i.e., he doesn’t have to GO anywhere!). He tells me this game is for people who need to get out and he already gets out enough.

So, he’s playing the game as if he’s walking around San Francisco and he’s catching a lot of fish. As you might imagine, this has put a damper on our Pokemon bonding experience. But he’s busy because you need to capture 132 fish to evolve one of your fishes. You need to capture like a whole school. And what will he tell his cousin, whom we’re meeting in San Francisco when he’s already caught all the Pokemon there? His secret will be out!

Meanwhile, back at that ranch, I got a new line on an old phone given to me by mother-in-law so my younger son has a Pokemon device. Sprint requires not only your account information but also your first-born and a DNA sample…and still, they won’t unlock the phone! It turns out they won’t unlock iPhones. What a bust.

My family and I have been in San Jose over the past few days for the Junior Olympics Water Polo tournament and, in between games, the hotel was a flurry of Pokemon Go activity.

Our hotel, in fact, had a PokeStop. It was this Oasis:

HotelOasis
Calm and peaceful. A perfect place for a PokeStop.

This made me wonder if the game makers sought permission for naming their PokeSpots. While the hotel might appreciate the free advertising, it may be a tad disturbing to their paying guests to have all these extra “guests” while ensconced poolside at their hotel. My son assured me that no one has given any permission for any PokeStop and that that trespassing is rampant. In fact, people are walking into the backyards of people’s houses looking for PokeStops. What could be a PokeStop in someone’s backyard, I wonder.

Perhaps it’s a fountain like the one we saw at the De Anza College campus in Cupertino, California:

This gets PokeStop status.

Or a sculpture:

OmubakaSculpture
Here we have the Omubaka Ambassador Sculpture and, apparently, an Ambassador to the PokeStop.

I vote for this turtle, who wasn’t a PokeStop:

Turtle_DeAnza
What gives?

Sometimes, a PokeStop truly is deserving, like this plaque celebrating an English professor. My son remarked that the quote was nice. Indeed:

plaque2

plaque
It reads: In the shooting lights of thy wild eyes…from a verse from William Wordsworth.

My son used my phone to play and we let the game track our every move, which doesn’t seem to bother anyone anymore. Not in the case of Pokemon Go. Me, I’m betting there’s some other game probably already in the works. You know, like something darker out of a dystopian novel, like play or be eaten. Although what could be darker than enslaving Pokemon to fight until they fade and pass out while fighting in that innocent, healthy arena called a “Gym.”

My son ran around with his buddies later in the week. Without their devices. They were playing a game you may have heard of. Hide-and-Go-Seek.

Yeah, they did. It’s a classic.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio

This week’s photo challenge is Trio. We all know three is the magic number.

Things are simply more magical in threes.

A Trio of Cats

SleepingTrio

A Trio of Mushrooms

MushroomTrio

A Trio of Trees

Autumn Trees

And now we are complete. Now we are three.

For more Trios, please visit the Weekly Challenge Photo site.

In Search of Masterpieces (part 2)

If you’d like to read the previous part of this scene, you can find it here. Thanks for reading.

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Two more steps and my body would have been a heap on the concrete floor.

I inched across the platform, releasing the door from my sweaty fingers, and it slammed shut behind me. When I tried to open it this time, it was locked.

I stepped into the hallway, but instead of a long corridor before me, I gazed at a shortened version, faced with yet another greyish-blue door directly across from me, just like the one I passed through moments before. Had my eyes played tricks on me or had it been there all along?

I had no choice but to but to exit one door and enter the next. The knob turned easily, and as if to say I’d chosen wrongly before, and the door opened to an elegant stairway, the walls and steps a pristine, white marble, with candlesticks mounted on the walls, lighting a path, that wound itself around and around endlessly. I hadn’t been aware that the museum had more than three stories, and in fact, knew I had climbed up just one flight to see the exhibit, remembering it now with the pain in my big toe throbbing the whole way; yet, here there must be at least three, maybe five floors of stairway. 

I gained momentum with each step, winding down and around, not even knowing if I was still in the same building. I recalled a mental picture of the outside of the museum, trying to remember if there was an attachment of some kind and could remember none.

“Is anyone here? Anyone? Hello?” My voice echoed.

As I walked the spiral, I felt like I was drifting, almost carried, and moving faster than I wanted to, and faster than my aching foot would allow me. Don’t give into it, hold it together. Almost there, almost there. Almost where? I found I couldn’t even so much as pause, and gusts of warmth inflated my body like I had been caught in an air pocket, taking one step and falling the next two. Cascading downward, the staircase narrowed, and I needed more air.

Faster, less air, warmth, then heat, spinning around the railing, I felt like I might lose my step and fall, so I grabbed the thick, marble railing and held it as it slid underneath my fingers, friction burning my flesh. The spiral didn’t stop for any floor, and I lost track of how many I’d passed, my disorientation emerging as the ground slipped from beneath me. I reached the bottom with a crash, landing on my side; my cheek hit the cool, smooth wood of the floor.

Faint classical music played in the background. It was a piano, something I’d heard many times. Even if I ended up in the wrong place, I wasn’t alone. A murmuring of voices flowed from a room nearby and the floors creaked with footsteps. I rose, drifting towards their voices and then I saw them all; people milled about, laughing, enjoying themselves, viewing grand art on the walls, and sipping from champagne flutes. A jolt hit me in a deep pocket of my stomach because it was all too familiar. This was the exhibition, the same exact one.

I spun around in every direction, gauging the parameters of the room. Patrons bounced in and out of my path as I searched for the exit.

“Looking for something?” A security guard towered above me.

I said nothing and walked in the opposite direction, and who did I see but Jake, standing by himself. He stared at a painting, smothered in an expression of dumb calm, the way he looked when I ceremonially removed my shirt or my bra for his viewing pleasure.

“There you are,” I said, trying to appear as equally calm. He wasn’t flustered in the slightest. He was lost in this painting. The recessed light cast a glow around him, holding him captive; a smile crept across his face as if he could barely contain himself. He stood motionless, unable to turn his head to look at me.

“Isn’t she incredible?” he exclaimed, fixated on a portrait of a woman, dressed in a white, flowing gown. An iridescence emanated from the painting, casting a glow around her husband.

“I looked everywhere for you,” I said. My absence hadn’t occurred to him.

His eyes were wild pinpoints, and I felt he was almost incapable of moving. I waved my hand in front of his face.

“Hey,” I yelled at him, loud enough for the next room to hear me.

“Hmm?” he finally turned to look at me directly in the face and shrugged.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Right here. I’ve been here the whole time,” he said. “Marveling at this painting. Claudia, it’s called. Claudia,” he whispered the last to himself. “Isn’t she a masterpiece?”

I blinked my eyes several times.  “A masterpiece? No, I don’t think so,” I said, but he didn’t hear me.

The lights flickered on and off signaling the museum’s closing. The security guard, the same one who crossed my path, poked his head in.

“We will be closing in ten minutes,” he said, nodding his head at Jake. The evening had slipped away.

Jake glanced once at the lady in white and then grabbed my hand. Looking back over my shoulder, I swear she blinked her eyes. I knew she could see me. She stole my evening.

photo credit: The Tulip Staircase, Queen’s House via photopin (license)

Mihran Kalaydjian And His Element Band My Childhood Remembered

Enjoy some beautiful music from the talented pianist, Mihran Kalaydjian, and his Element band.

Mihran Kalaydjian's Official Blog

Mihran Kalaydjian And His Element Band My Childhood Remembered

Mihran Kalaydjian And His Element Band My Childhood Remembered

Honor Guest: Violinist: Charlie Bisharat

Mino Element Band Members

Aram Kasabian – Lead Guitar
Sevan Manoukian – Drummer
Hratch Panossian – Bass
Samer Khoury – Violin
Tony Amer – Saxophone
Haim Cohen – KeyBoard
Albert Panikian – Trumpet
Nicole Del Sol – Percussion
Dana Debos – Trombone

Lyrics:

Childlike Faith In Childhood’s End
Existence is a stage on which we pass, a
sleep-walk trick for mind and heart:
it’s hopeless, I know,
but onward I must go
and try to make a start
at seeing something more than day-to-day
survival chased by final death.

If I believed this the sum
of the life to which we’ve come
I wouldn’t waste my breath.
Somehow, there must be more.
There was a time when more was felt than
known, but now, entrenched inside…

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Dancing with my Hair Down

When I was small, I danced for hours in the foyer of my house. Most of the house was carpeted, including the kitchen and two bathrooms, but not in this white square speckled with black dots. It was years before tile would replace some of that carpet. In the meantime, that 12 x 12 square feet of space was all I ever needed.

I danced for hours in solitude in this square, and into the space extending into the living room, twirling, composing, tapping, pretending, the music my guide. The music was enchanting. I don’t know where it came it from, what it was called or where it went. It seemed to disappear from my life. I never bothered to know what that music was; I never needed to know. I’ve never heard it since, but I would know if I were ever to hear it again. Still, the memory of it is faint in my head.

I can hear the piano, but it wasn’t necessarily classical. It was scratchy, schmultzy, waltzy, melodic and ethereal. If I had to place it, I’d say it’s the kind of music you might hear in a Parisian cafe with a river running through it. Although that doesn’t describe it at all. The music breathed steps to me and I listened. I danced like no one was watching, because no one was.

My parents had thrown big pool parties back then with lots of activity and drunkenness. They were great fun. After dinner, my mother might lightly encourage me to perform a dance. I was painfully shy, but I was taking lessons, so sometimes I gave it a go.

I might perform for a few moments, looking down at the floor, horrified with all the smiling, googly-eyes on me and the expectation to entertain my drunken audience. I knew my mother would be happy with anything I did. Still, so serious, I would make a feeble attempt and run away. The girl who had once danced with not a care in the world was nowhere.

My childhood dream to dance the Arabian role in The Nutcracker became a reality, marked by tears; I cried before and after the performance because my shoes were too tight and I was too young to know better. My poor prince. He didn’t know what to make of it all.

Arabian
A moment of calm. Oh, how I loved this costume.

In college, I danced and I wrote. I was an English major, taking all the technique classes for dance majors. I had the load of a double major, easily. In one modern dance class, we were graced with the presence of a teacher who had been a former dancer with the renowned José Limón Dance Company. We all wanted to impress her. One day, she stopped the pianist and told all the dancers in the room to take their hair down. Astonished, we complied willingly; taking out our ponies, our pins, and our bobbies.

“Try it again,” she said, motioning us to dance the combination across the floor.

You might think it was a moment of bliss, a group of serious dancers in a very serious class asked to dance with their hair down. Not so. Perhaps because I felt it should be this magical moment that I should let loose and dance like the wind, I felt caught instead: first, by my hair in my face and my worry that I might run into a fellow, untamed dancer; second, that I should feel so moved by the permission to be free that my steps would now be executed to my teacher’s satisfaction.

After going across the floor again and again, the energy in the room changed. Sure, we still tried to dance the steps, but a strange thing happened.

Letting our hair down wasn’t an invitation to wildness as it turned out. I found myself turning inward, and I felt all the energy in the room becoming more internalized. We weren’t dancing for her anymore; we were dancing for ourselves. We were still dancing her steps. The difference was exploring what those steps meant.

I asked myself what did I have to say with those steps and why should anyone care? How could I make those steps translate what I felt, because if they didn’t mean anything to me, they sure as hell wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.

I needed to find the little girl underneath, tapping to her heart’s delight in the foyer to that enchanted music not heard since. Where is she? How can I find her? She was buried deep under layers of indecision, doubt, bad decisions, insecurity, and criticism.

FullSizeRender (6)
I felt her presence when I danced as the “Wind” in  Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Dancing with friends is a gift.

Dancers’ steps are more than a strand of movements committed to muscle memory. Their bodies respond to music. Steps flow through them so that they don’t look like steps anymore, and they’re not. Their movement comes from a deeper place, from a reservoir of time and patience, of knowing their limits and how far they can fly; it’s a combination of concentration and abandon, of technical finesse blended with emotional physicality. It’s what I strove for, but was lucky to feel at all.

Watching an accomplished dancer is a glorious thing. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it. It is artistic expression beyond oneself; it touches an audience’s sensibilities and resides in their minds to be recalled long after the experience is over.

Streetdance
My sons joining me in a slow-motion street performance. Everything has been worth it for this moment alone. A treasure.

Answers you seek, the purpose for your steps, they must come from within. Living with myself all these years has taught me to accept my shortcomings, and I’ve learned I have something to give. That inner child once buried deep is not so deep anymore. She sits beside me now and reminds me she’s still here. The invitation to dance is always open.

Juxtapose Your Day

This post makes me want to see art! Should I then be so lucky to go for a walk in snowy Central Park. Go read this and then FOLLOW him. Mark’s posts are always a treat – authentic and insightful!

Exile on Pain Street

Juxtaposition is when two contrasting items are placed in close proximity to one another for heightened effect. In concert, a band will play a raucous song followed by a quiet one. Springsteen does it a lot. It’s Beethoven’s favorite device. His music is ether bombastic or delicate. Movies, literature, art—it’s everywhere. Juxtaposition is used to tweak your perceptions.


After the humiliation of watching a derelict violently berate two young girls and not lifting a finger to help them, the rest of my day unfolded in a narcotic euphoria. It was like watching a sped-up film of a flower opening.

I unpacked the guilt I was carrying for calling in sick (when I wasn’t), and the guilt for not helping those girls and left it on the marble staircase of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Forgiveness is a snap under the right conditions. I came out of the subway at 86th Street and…

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Pass the Gravy…Please

 

Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks and, let’s face it, a time to stuff our faces. The Thanksgiving meal is one you can screw up. It’s no accident that there are a dozen side dishes that accompany the turkey. We can’t just have turkey, mashed potatoes, and some green beans. No!

We must have sweet potatoes, too, with gooey marshmallow sweetness. The green beans must be lathered in a funky mushroom sauce with fried onions. It’s the only time this dish appears on any menu. I wouldn’t touch that dish when I was a kid. There’s stuffing prepared in all manner of ways, with fruits and nuts and sausages, which don’t belong by the way, especially with raisins. This is truly unthinkable. The cranberry sauce, of course, gets pecked at. A few people bother with it. Hot rolls, salad, another salad, veggies, olives, bread pudding, corn, cornbread, a mystery casserole. Just make sure there’s not one free space on the table and you’ve succeeded.

In fact, it’s this time of year that you’ll use that second oven you have. Yes, you need a second oven on Thanksgiving. Not that I’ve ever had one. Everything revolving around the grand turkey. Everything must be timed just right and be presented on the table, piping hot, ready to be devoured. Sometimes, in all this lengthy preparation, the turkey is neglected or its cooking time miscalculated and the near disaster of your meal has happened and there’s no possibility of undoing it. Your turkey is dry and tastes like pasty cardboard. All that hard work and thoughtful planning, a wasted effort.

There’s only one thing, and one thing only that can salvage this meal: The Gravy! Delicious gravy with perfect smoothness and consistency can transform a Thanksgiving meal from ordinary to extraordinary. Whether your turkey is dry or cooked to perfection, your side dishes cold or rewarding, the gravy will bring a mix of elation and pause to your family and guests.

The gravy comes together in the final hour; in my mother’s kitchen, a time of great mystery and tension. How would it turn out this year? Would it be as good as last year? Would it be a disaster? With lots of stirring, salt, pepper, water, flour, milk, and last but not least, a little magic and artistry, gravy is served.

After much rustling and passing, sometimes around two tables, a kids’ table when younger, my family and friends get situated, all the waiting for the meal has taken its toll, and finally, a full plate of food. The final touch is the gravy, of course, generous ladles of gravy.

A hush envelopes the room, conversation slows. Then you’ll hear, “Mom, this is good gravy. Reeaaallly good.” Everyone agrees and everyone wants more. The gravy is passed around until, “Is this the last of the gravy?” If you’re lucky, there’s more on the stove. Otherwise, well…Thanksgiving might as well be over. I decide I don’t really want that third helping of mashed potatoes after all. Better save room for pie.

I never learned how to properly make gravy. In the times that I’ve made the complete Thanksgiving dinner, the gravy has been hit or miss, and never as good as my mother’s. Oh, I should have paid more attention. Gravy, I took you for granted. My mother does not cook the Thanksgiving meal anymore, and she shouldn’t. I have a feeling from here on out, my sisters and I will be comparing notes in our mission to make gravy like we remember.

Photo credit: theguardian.com