Category Archives: California

The meaning of Mass

There are some words in the English language which have so many meanings that they are impossible to accurately interpret without context. “Mass” is one of those words.

I suppose my first definition of mass would have been religiously based, mass as a noun, as a destination on Sunday mornings and holidays like Christmas Eve. It is a place of peace where rituals provide comfort to the faithful. As someone who doesn’t even practice a formal religion, I find mass to be a safe location for spiritual exploration and community. Mass is good.

When I was a student, I struggled with understanding the word mass when it was used scientifically. Mass and weight confuse me the same way medians and averages do, I don’t really get it without making an effort. Mass can be difficult to comprehend.

Often mass is used as an adjective. I’m certain you’ve heard the phrase “mass hysteria” or “mass appeal.” Mass can convey a state of contagious or collective behavior, a condition that typically defies logic or explanation. Mass, when used as a describing word, can suggest downright madness.

Today, I sought the definition of yet another use of the word “mass,” as in “mass shooting.” I was curious to know what that term meant; especially after hearing our country had hosted 355 of these in calendar year 2015 alone. Yes, 355, more than one a day, every single day. How could that be possible?

Well, it seems that there are different definitions of what constitutes a mass shooting. Is it an occurrence in which a minimum of 3 or 4 people have been killed or injured in acts of gun violence? Do we include cases of domestic abuse? How about gang violence? Should we only count the indiscriminate acts, like the ones we witnessed in Sandy Hook or Colorado or do we merely focus our attention on the ones which are perpetrated by shooters who don’t resemble “us” in color or creed?

I don’t have any answers only a wish that mass could once again be a word that describes a place of refuge and sanctity rather than a situation which is impossible to understand and wrought with insanity.

 

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Filed under California, musings, News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

Ghosts of Christmases Past

150601_10151375565712889_1640025131_nChristmas always makes me feel melancholy.  I don’t think it is a lack of presents or cookies or family or traditions – I have as much of those things as I desire. Each year when this emotional deflation occurs, it surprises me.  The unanticipated sobering, despite festive bubbles imbibed, seems to sneak up on me when I finally have met, to the best of my abilities, my holiday obligations.  The shopping, cleaning, prepping, wrapping, cooking flurry has come to an end and what’s left?  A sense of … not quite disappointment or dissatisfaction, just a slightly disconcerting hollowness.  There’s something missing.

In years gone by, I’ve been able to look to physical and mental tiredness as likely culprits for my reflective mood.  Lack of sleep and overindulgence certainly could be held responsible for my feelings.  For many years, we hosted a decadent dinner party on Christmas Eve, which, naturally, was followed by a too brief night’s sleep and a midmorning drive east to join family.  That’s not the case, though, now.   My house is quiet and a nap beckons.  The boys are gone – they even took the dog.  They’ll continue to make the drive East for the foreseeable future, a realization that makes me smile.

Last year, I flew to the desert on Christmas Day.  I spent 5 days running and doing yoga and absorbing sunshine and love from a dear friend.  It may have been my favorite Christmas ever.  Self-indulgent without being an orgy of commercialism or consumption, it was stimulating and relaxing in equal measure.  I came back to New York renewed and satiated.

Thinking about that trip makes me feel happy.  So, today, I’ll snuggle back into my flannels, close my eyes and hopefully dream about the magical desert mountains where the sand flies when my sneakered feet pass through.  When I wake up, I’ll pull on my running clothes and make the dusting of snow outside do something similar.  As I count off the miles, I will remember Christmases gone by and imagine Christmases future, but mostly I will try my best to enjoy the present of today.  Merry Christmas.

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Filed under California, Christmas, holidays, musings, running, winter

Hot Yoga

post-Bikram
Seems like everyone knows about my passion for running, but did you know I have another activity that challenges and strengthens me?  Yep, it even provides balance for the physical demands of pounding the pavement as well as an opportunity to tune in mentally to my body in a manner that running, due to the necessity of remaining aware of what is going on in my surroundings,  does not offer.  May I present one of my favorite four-letter words – yoga!

I first experienced yoga as a sixth grader.  There was an after school program at my elementary building and I enjoyed it as much as a self conscious prepubescent girl could.  I was a very active kid and remarkably flexible, so it appealed to me immediately.  I think that 12 was a little young for me to grasp the mental component, though.  Actually, that probably remains my biggest challenge.

Over the years I’ve practiced yoga with varying degrees of commitment. When my older boys were young, I took a class at the JCC in Albany taught by Cameron Thomas. (Ironically enough, she mediated my divorce last year – small world, huh?) Cameron was the perfect yogi – she was meticulous about form and taught me a lot about the poses and breathing.

I’ve told you before how much I enjoy the Sunday morning class at the Yoga Loft, but I’ve been expanding my horizons, particularly while on vacation.  For the third summer, I’ve taken yoga classes taught by Patty Renaud in Wellfleet. The classes aren’t incredibly physically challenging, but they do provide an excellent opportunity for me to mentally release.  I’ve been really close to dozing at the end of class – a true vacation.

Last winter when I was in Palm Springs (yeah, I like saying that) I found a studio that offered a variety of classes.  I managed to squeeze 4 classes in during my 5 days, two of which were modified Bikram classes.  I don’t know much about Bikram, or “hot” yoga, other than it is an ass-kicking workout, even when it is abbreviated to 70 minutes and 102 degrees.

Last week on Martha’s Vineyard I took two legit Bikram classes – 90 minutes, 104 degrees in the studio.  I wisely paid for two classes ($16 plus $2 to rent a mat) guaranteeing that I would return a second time.  Seeing as how during the initial class I was afraid that I was either going to die, pass out or puke, it was a good move.
If you are interested in a workout that stretches your muscles and relaxes your brain, I heartily recommend finding a Bikram studio.  I’ve heard good things about this place, but haven’t yet made it there myself.  This type of yoga is not for the faint of heart – bring plenty of water and move into the poses with caution if you’re inexperienced with practicing.  And be prepared to literally drip sweat from virtually every pore.  And speaking of that – apologies to those unfortunate enough to have set their mats up next to mine on Friday.  Hope I didn’t sweat any of Thursday night’s tequila on you.  I was on vacation, after all.

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Filed under Albany, California, Cape Cod, Exercise, favorites, ideas, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, running, travel

A Tale of Two Pinots

A Tale of Two Pinots

A cool follow-up to this post – I responded to a Tweet from Empire Wines inquiring about what their followers were drinking on a Wednesday. I mentioned the Talbott Logan – I was at work, sometimes I have to have a glass of wine when I’m working. Empire must have retweeted me because I got a tweet from Talbott thanking me for enjoying their wine. I responded to them and asked if the Logan Pinot was restaurant only because Empire didn’t have it available. They responded saying “no,” and offered to discount my s&h if I would like to purchase some directly from them.

And that, my friends, is Marketing 101 using social media.

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Filed under California, Recommendations, Wine

Unbroken

image from nytimesbestseller.net
I just finished an amazing book about a remarkable man. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand relates the absolutely inspiring life story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, a soldier in the Pacific during World War II and, ultimately, a man who did not allow the extreme challenges in his life to permanently break him. Or, perhaps Louie’s story isn’t so much about how to deny life the opportunity to break oneself, but is instead a story that proves that it is the way we put the pieces back together, after being broken, that truly define us.

This excerpt, from when Louie began to run seriously, moved me.  Perhaps it was my own physical proximity to where he had been decades earlier, but I felt as if I knew exactly what he had experienced.

“…he went to stay at a cabin on the Cahuilla Indian reservation, in southern California’s high desert…He ran up and down hills, over the desert, through gullies…He didn’t run from something or to something, not for anyone or in spite of anyone; he ran because it was what his body wished to do.”
I imagine it looked like this…
Get this book for athletes, veterans, WW II history buffs, and anyone struggling with personal challenges. It is unforgettable.

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Filed under Books, California, Recommendations

Blessed

image from wikipedia
I’m calling this in. From paradise aka Palm Springs, CA. There may be more typos than usual. I may be almost sipping my second margarita. I am, without a doubt,

Blessed…

1. To be alive, the ultimate blessing, but so infrequently  appreciated in a conscious fashion. Sometimes the lack of appropriate acknowledgment of what a gift life is comes from a place of ignorance, kitten eyes not yet opened. Other times it is a more conscious decision. Looking too closely can be traumatic for all involved. But, when you see that place inside of you come alive again after the drought that had been your daily life, you understand. 

2. Love. Giving it, receiving it, feeling it, seeing it, tasting it. Yep, love

3. Strength – being able to propel one’s way through life is a gift. Period.

4. The opportunity to travel and visit places both new and familiar.

5. An appreciation of beauty. In so many ways.

6. Optimism. I really do believe it is all going to be all right.  And if it isn’t, I’ve always got my strength.

7. Discipline. Not in a dominatrix  sort of way. Sorry, fellas! I just know and accept that some things have to happen. Responsibilities and commitments have to be respected. Always. 

8. Creativity. I can look into a refrigerator with 6 eggs, a hunk of cheese and some leftover ham and give you 3 courses. Easy. I can figure stuff out. I sometimes make attractive things – beyond those boys. 

9. The knowledge that happiness is good.  And possible.

10. The ability to hope. Imagine being hopeless?  That is a sad state of being.

11.  Friends who love me long and hard. No, really. In the purest of senses. Their position as last in my list is a testament to their position as a part of me. 

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Filed under California, drinking, musings, travel

Food Porn – California style

Traveling with an almost-twelve-year-old has many advantages when it comes to dining, or should I say, eating.  For instance, breakfast is really easy – bagels for him and yogurt, fruit and granola for me.  Simple, easy to find and substantial enough to hold us over until later in the day.  Another great thing about traveling with a kid is that they’re more than happy to substitute ice cream for either lunch or dinner, something we did perhaps three of our vacation days.  And, with pride, I have to acknowledge that my pre-teen is really starting to branch out in what he orders when we’re at a restaurant.  Gone forever are the days of chicken fingers and meat products always sold as “bacon” in an attempt to entice him to eat.  There’s still some work to be done, believe me, like why ordering a NY Strip Steak at TGIFs at the Atlanta airport is not a good idea, but he is coming along.  Here’s a sampling of a few of our favorite things…
Griffin’s new favorite – fried ice cream



Roberta’s matzoh ball soup



Amazing ceviche – Mariscos Chente, L.A.

Fish tacos – Mariscos Chente



Peking duck – Ocean Seafood, Chinatown, L.A.

Chinese feast – duck and Chinese broccoli
The BEST cinnamon roll – Rick’s, Palm Springs

Breakfast

My first In-n-Out Burger

Potent margarita

Roll with softshell crab, crabmeat and tuna from Fugu’s – La Jolla

Mole and fish tacos Alfonso’s of La Jolla


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Filed under California, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food., Recommendations, vacation