Sunday, February 25, 2007

Santa Barbara

I'm in Santa Barbara and this is the second time I've been here. I'm not sure how it happened but I actually forgot how incredibly beautiful this place is. The last time I was here (about two years ago, I think), we stayed at San Ysidro Ranch and this time we're staying at the Four Seasons Biltmore. (One of the very few perks of my job is getting to go to these "off site" meetings at super nice resorts.)

The Four Seasons is a beautiful place and, for some unknown but very welcome reason, my room got upgraded to a suite. I have two rooms, a king size bed, two flat screen TVs, a balcony that looks out over the ocean (but first it looks out over the entrance to the hotel but who's complaining) AND the bathroom has a steam shower and a warmed tile floor. The only thing that could make this better is having my husband here with me. Oh, and not having to spend most of my time in a conference room.

One thing I haven't been impressed with here is the food. At dinner last night I had a $40 piece of salmon that I couldn't eat. It was supposed to be "lightly smoked and slow-cooked" which really meant heavily smoked and dry as a bone. And the garnish was awful - too salty eggplant slivers, weird tasting black potatoes and some other unidentifiable vegetables. I also had mushroom soup which was okay but the mushroom soup in our office cafeteria is equally as good (seriously) and a heck of a lot cheaper. Plus, one of the waiters spilled a carafe of hot soup on one of the other diners in our group. Right down the guy's back! And they originally gave us the wrong menus. I think it's reasonable expect better from a place where the bill was over $500 for six people. But the wine was good. We got a bottle of Pinot Noir from Hitching Post Winery which is the place from the movie Sideways. So, that was cool but not cool enough to make up for the bad food and the equally bad service.

This afternoon I had time to take a walk. I actually brought my iPod with me but when I thought about it, I realized that it's one thing to drown out the nerve wrangling sounds of the city with my own personal soundtrack but it's just ludicrous to drown out the calming sound of the ocean. So I walked and actually listened to the sound of the ocean and the sea birds and the screaming of kids running away from the waves on the beach. And the sound of my own thoughts (which is something I do way too little of). Actually, I spent most of the walk composing this blog post and I'm not sure what that says about me.

I ended up walking into town, or what seemed like "town" because there was a boulevard, with parking and lots of little shops. It reminded me a little bit of Port Clinton Square, a sort of in-town walking mall-type area in Highland Park, IL where I grew up. Except this is prettier, smells nicer (because of the gardenias) and has lots more high end real estate agencies. And as it turns out I had walked into Montecito which is really a suburb of Santa Barbara. I ended up walking farther than I planned so I had to stop for refreshment on my way back. I stopped at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for the best Chai Latte I've had (yes, even better than Starbucks). It kept me warm for the rest of the walk back. (I know, I have no right to complain about it being cold here when it's a heck of a lot better than the weather my family is suffering through in Chicago.)

For dinner, a few of us went to Downey's which is apparently one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. It certainly lived up to its reputation. For an appetizer, I had crab toast with curried fruit. Sounds weird but tasted awesome. Then I had a salad with garlic and Stilton cheese dressing followed by a lamb loin with green beans and mushrooms. But the kicker was the dessert - I had their version of Mille-feuille (I totally had to look that up). Freshly made pastry filled with creamy white chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries. Yummy. Oh, yeah and we had some terrific Santa Barbara wine. But not too much.

The only bummer of the night was that I missed the entire Oscar telecast. It's one of my favorite TV shows of the year so that sucked. As we finished dinner and headed back to the hotel in a cab, the CEO of my company used his Blackberry to look up the winners. Thank goodness for technology.

So now I need to get some sleep. Did I mention that I have a king size bed? Nighty night!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Too little time

Work is (again) kicking my ass. I'm getting ready for a Board meeting that starts on Sunday. Yes, Sunday. The good part is that the meetings are in Santa Barbara and L.A. And I'll be staying at really, really nice hotels. The bad part is - well, there are several bad parts. I won't be with my family. I'll be sitting in conference rooms most of the time and won't get to enjoy the California sunshine. Also, there's a reason they call them "board" meetings. (ha, ha - I totally crack myself up). Did I mention that I won't be with my family?

My little family is the only thing that keeps me going some days. I hate like heck being so far away from them.

So now I better get back to work so I can go home at a reasonable hour. To watch American Idol. I hate to admit it but I love that show. Watching it is one of my guilty pleasures.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Car trouble - Blogging for Books

Here's my entry in the February Blogging for Books contest. Jay says we have to write something about a dream we had - either waking or sleeping.

As a kid, I was a sleep walker. I also talked in my sleep. A lot. According to my parents and my bunk mates from summer camp, I was capable of having whole conversations, although none of them made much sense. I never remembered any of it when I woke up which, I guess, is par for the course.

I don’t do much sleep walking anymore but there are times when I wake up standing next to my bed wondering what exactly I’m doing standing next to my bed. Sometimes I wake up thinking I need a glass of orange juice even though I rarely drink the stuff (and we don’t even have any in the house). More often I have dreams that a spider is swinging down towards me from the ceiling above my bed and I wake up swatting at it. That used to freak me out but now I’m able talk myself out of an imaginary spider-induced panic. Most of the time.

As annoying as they are, these night wakings don’t usually hurt anyone. But a few years ago I had a dream that there was a shelf above our bed. On that shelf was a toy car – a big one that a child can ride in. Suddenly the shelf tilted and the car started sliding down and was going to land on my husband. Being the good wife that I am, I tried to protect him. I’m sure he would have appreciated my heroics if he hadn’t been sound asleep and if I hadn’t punched him in the nuts in the process. Lucky for me, he’s still willing to sleep in the same bed.

Friday, February 02, 2007

More from the stage mother

I've written a lot about my stage mother tendencies. I think I'll always struggle with that aspect of my personality. I'm so damn proud of A Girl - not because she's a good actress (and I mean that in the most non-stage mothery way) but because she's a good person. She's focused and hard working but she's also a really nice kid. She has fun with what she's doing even though her schedule would challenge the most driven Type A personality you know.

Despite her success and the fact that people often say super nice things to her, she's still down to earth. This is due primarily to my husband's influence. As I've said before, he has always maintained that acting is merely an extra-curricular activity for her. He's tried to help her see herself not as an actress but as a kid who likes to act. He doesn't want it to define her because if it does, she's more likely to be crushed when (if?) the work dries up or if she doesn't get a role she wants.

I whole-heartedly agree with his approach but I struggle to keep myself from being too invested in her success. Part of it stems from my own childhood desire to be an actress. Part of it stems from plain old mother pride.

She's currently in a show at a theater near our apartment (very convenient). They've been in rehearsals since the day after Christmas and they open on Saturday. The rehearsals in the three or so weeks prior to the open are called tech rehearsals - that's when they rehearse on stage and work out all the technical aspects of the show - lights, sound, costumes, stage set. During the last two weeks of tech rehearsal, they have shows that are called previews. These shows are basically dress rehearsals that people pay a discounted price to see. At this point, they don't have all the kinks worked out so previews can often be a bit rough around the edges.

Last week I went to pick A Girl up after one of the first preview shows. As I was walking into the theater, the last of the patrons were walking out. As I walked past one couple, the woman said "Well, they do one bad show a year and this one is it." I felt like someone kicked me in the gut.

Rationally, I know it's not a big deal. There is no reason for me to take that personally but I did. I know and respect all the actors, the director, the crew. I know how hard they've worked. I like the script (but I haven't seen the show all the way through) - it's a funny and heartwarming story. My husband and I have talked about how we would handle it if A Girl got a bad review. He's always given her great advice about this - "Don't believe all the good things people say about you because then you'll have to believe the bad things, too." We're prepared for that if it happens. It just never occurred to me, until that moment on the theater stairs, that anyone would dislike the show as a whole. I wasn't prepared for that.

The show she did this fall was controversial to begin with. When the show was performed in New York, there were people who left at intermission. The same thing happened in Chicago. And although it was a critical success there were lots of people that didn't like it. But because I was prepared for that it didn't bother me. But A Girl didn't have a large role in that show but in this one she plays a lead. It just feels more important.

I still feel a twinge when I think about it but I've pointed out to myself that there are plenty of shows - at this theater and others - that I haven't liked. This was during previews so her dislike of the show might have been due to the roughness of the production. In the end, it is what it is - one person's opinion. Even if the show's a flop and even if A Girl never works again, it's not the end of the world. I truly believe that this work shouldn't define her. Not just because she's too young for that. Being successful in show business depends so much on external factors - how other people view you, whether you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time - it's not healthy to invest your self esteem in that.

That's all easy to say and easy to believe. It's just hard in practice for me to separate myself emotionally. Thankfully, A Girl seems perfectly able to maintain that healthy separation so far. I just worry that my stage mother tendencies will somehow make her think that I'll only be happy as long as she's successful in "show business." And nothing could be farther from the truth.