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Christmas, Not Yet

Posted by jozielee on November 23, 2013

BreaMallTree

Christmas? I’m not ready at all . . . it isn’t even Thanksgiving.

Personal projects have kept me busy this year. No time to think about cooking a turkey or Christmas shopping.

One day last week, mid-November, we were adrift. Needed to burn a few hours before our next meeting. What better place to lounge than the mall, where there’s food, restrooms, and space to stretch our legs.

We admired Santa Claus’ temporary home. All red and green with a statuesque tree and over-sized sleigh. Festive.

Many of the stores had begun displaying winter wonderland themes.

Urgency definitely filled the air.

We stopped at the bustling food court for a pizza and salad.

At the table next to us coins were dropping out of a woman’s  backpack. She didn’t notice.

I leaned close so she could hear me over the white noise. “You’ve dropped a couple of quarters from your bag.”

Her smile instantly turned to alarm as she heard more coins falling to the floor. Her teenaged sons quickly dashed to collect them before they rolled away.

As the boys scampered, the rest of their party began to leave.

A grandma, who wanted their table, hovered then sat as they picked up their trays. Unfortunately, they left a mass of wet, torn paper towels, which hadn’t been on the table when they origianlly arrived.

The grandma watched expectantly for them to clean the table top. Instead, preoccupied, they walked away without doing so.

She looked at the table before her, then moved to the next chair, as far from the mess, but not far enough to reliquish the table she’d scouted.

Her eyes wandered around, but kept returning to the mess.

There was nowhere to move. If she got up to get paper towels someone would take her table. And, unfortunately, no cleaning person appeared within sight.

What to do.

Time for us to leave so I got up, took one tray and our excess napkins and cleaned her table.

Her look of surprise and gratitude was all the thanks I needed.

We nodded at one another before I walked away.

Christmas is about giving and, in that moment, Christian love in action.

I’m ready for Christmas now. Bring it on . . .

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Baker’s Beauties

Posted by jozielee on October 20, 2013

Bob Baker Marionettes Halloween Hoop-de-do

Bob Baker Marionettes Halloween Hoop-de-do

When was the last time you saw a live puppet show?

The San Diego Zoo hosts a puppet show. Marionettes and hand puppets tell the story of Puff, The Magic Dragon, and his daring adventures.

Life-like animatronics birds at Disneyland’s Tiki Room are legendary.

And, of course, state-of-the-art, stylized Bunraku and shadow puppets tell the “Lion King” story on stage. (Disney’s musical, The Lion King, is currently playing at the Los Angeles Pantages Theater.)

Those venues can be expensive.

What if I told you a small but impressive theater in downtown Los Angeles presents  puppet shows weekly at a nominal price?

Today we saw Bob Baker’s marionettes rendition of “Halloween Hoop-De-Doo.”  The story: A little boy dreams of being visited in the night by Dracula, Vampira, the invisible man, skeletons, furry space creatures, neon painted ghosts and goblins.

Music ranged from the 50′s “Purple People Eater” to a 70′s disco soul.

Parents sat in folding chairs, while their children sat on the carpeted floor surrounding the stage.

One 9-year-old brought family and friends to celebrate his birthday. The puppet master brought him on stage to accept a gift – a personalized puppet from Bob Baker, an adjustable “gold” crown and a Happy Birthday serenade from the audience.

Lights dimmed. The show began.

The subdued lighting helped the kids get used to the unusual looking characters.

Lights dipped lower with each act until the stage was bathed in total darkness. Puppets coated in neon paint adopted an eery glow.

While the puppets were more interesting than frightening . . . ghosts made of ping-pong balls and chiffon . . . the faster they danced and flew overhead children began to  slithered from the floor to their parents laps. Eyes never leaving the stage. Each act ending in thunderous applause to the crescendo of the finale.

The next day our 7-year-old said, “That was scary.” Halloween Hoop-De-Do definitely left an impression.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Ninety-year-old Bob Baker has been a puppeteer since age 8. He and his partner built and ran the now historical landmark theater, which opened in 1953. Baker and his team have been performing to sold out crowds year after year. The company hosts school and community groups, and private parties along with the weekend shows. Check their calendar for show dates and time. Or get on their email list to receive announcements of upcoming shows.

www.bobbakermarionettes.com

A documentary about Bob Baker and the marionette theater is currently under development. Today’s audience, many of whom have been patrons for decades, volunteered their participation.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Tickets were $15 per person. Buy tickets online. The shows often sell out.

Parking was free.

Complementary ice cream treats are served after every performance.

For more information about Bob Baker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Baker_Marionette_Theater

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‘Tis A Season

Posted by jozielee on October 14, 2013

IKEA. Not my favorite store – it’s too big and everything is self-service – but they carry kitchen items at a great price.  I needed a new non-stick fry pan. I knew IKEA would have just what I was looking for.

First stop, the Information booth. The escalator was out-of-order. I had a question so I got in line behind the family being served.

A little girl, about 7-years-old, was standing at the gate with her parents. They were signing her into the play area. She’d play while they shopped. Win/win.

She wore a floral printed t-shirt and peddle pushers with tennis shoes. Her hair was cut into a Dora-the-Explorer bob.

Slowly she turned toward me and started to dance .  .  .  first she swayed side-to-side, then took her Dad’s hand for him to twirl her. When she turned back to me she smiled.

“You must be happy,” I said. “Dancing means you’re happy inside.”

Her smile widened, as she began to sing.

Her dad told me, “She’s normally very shy and never dances in public.”

Again she took his hand to twirl. He in turn attached her name tag “Grace.” A perfect name for one so full of love and gracefulness.

“My grandmother is in Mexico. She left yesterday,” she told me between lyrics of her non-descript song.

“Mexico? Such a beautiful place,” I responded. “She must be having fun.”

“Yes,” her smile widened as she lovingly brushed her mother’s arm. Her mother was holding a newborn. But she responded to her daughter by returning the caress.

“She’s my mother’s mom,” Grace informed me.

“Shhhh,” her mother cautioned. Grace was getting a little too chatty. I imagine Grace isn’t usually so talkative or at least not in the last few weeks when grandma and mom were busy with the new baby. She seemed to finally be having time alone with her parents and her joy couldn’t be contained.

She turned to enter the center.

“Keep dancing, Grace,” I called after her. “Stay happy.”

Grace certainly set the tone for my day. I found what I was looking for and more . . . a smile that stayed with me the rest of the day.

Posted in family dynamics, free, fun, graceful, stretch pants, t-shirt | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beautiful Girls

Posted by jozielee on September 21, 2013

In the 1960′s crooner Johnny Mathis, sang lyrics that came back to me today, “beautiful girl walk a little slower when you walk by me.” The song, “This Is All I Ask,” is from his album LOVE IS EVERYTHING.

I’m sitting in the waiting area of a moderately-priced beauty salon.

On my left two “blue hairs,” as they are affectionately known, because of the bluing rinse used to spike their white strands into brilliance, are having their hair done.

One customer is asleep in the chair. Hair in curlers, she’s waiting for her perm to set.

The other, also seems to be asleep, while her stylist Laura arranges her locks into a soft flip – somewhat like Marlo Thomas’ “That Girl” coif. Tho’ aged the woman is beautiful. Her thin, but cascading hair, softens the planes of wrinkles on her face. Under the artificial light she’s wreath in an angelic glow.

Johnny Mathis’ voice fills my head . . . “learning to enjoy at my leisure, all the simple pleasures” of a freshly washed head and new hairdo.

I wonder about her weekend plans. Is she going to dinner with family and friends, enjoying a game of Friday night bingo with a group of senior buddies or maybe rendezvousing with a new flame.

My stylist collects me. She guides me to her chair just as the tiny angel saunters past. Brisk and focused, she’s headed out of the salon. No wheelchair. No walker. I marvel at her agility.

I ask her stylist Laura, “How old is your client?”

“Ninety-one.”

“What? She’s so agile and independent.”

“Yes, she’s been with me for about 10 years. Only missed one appointment in all those years.”

“Is anyone with her? How’s she getting home?”

“Funny you should ask,” Laura continues. “My lady just lost her driver’s license. About 3 months ago. Eye sight. Couldn’t pass the eye exam. She was upset at first but, she’s such a nice lady, many friends have stepped in to take her around. She’s never at a loss for a ride. In fact, her friend is meeting her downstairs.”

Such independence. What a tribute to her spirit.

The salon walls are awash with mirrors. Now I can see all the salon occupants, all of who appear to be in their 80′s. Is the salon running a special? No, they’re mostly regulars who come every week or two. A couple of women have wheelchairs sitting next to them, one woman is attached by tubes to an oxygen tank.

Closely akin to seeing a woman without makeup, fewer acts are more intimate than seeing a woman having her hair done. I feel a bit voyeuristic but these women fascinate me. One day I’ll be them.

In one mirror a darling senior is having her hair teased, then gently smoothed into an updo. Pins and hairspray everywhere.

Another is silently sipping her tea while her verbose, animated daughter consults with the stylist. Mama’s head droops.  Her face clearly displays annoyance. This should be a time of relaxation, the luxury of being pampered by her attendant. Instead daughter boldly usurps mom’s moment. What a shame.

Across the room the woman attached to the oxygen tank giggles with her stylist. They’re holding a gossip magazine, pouring over pictures, while chomping on a cluster of grapes. So sweet.

Stylist Terry wheels a chair over to the dryers to retrieve her client.  In the stylist chair Terry forms the hair into a modified beehive. Like dipping her fingers into cotton candy, she lifts then forms the locks into curls, teases, then reinforces the do with a massive coat of BigSexyHair spray.

Again, I wonder: what are these lovely ladies plans for the weekend, where are these sprites going . . .

In my head Johnny Mathis answers my silent quiry, “let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing, then I will stay younger than spring.”

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Perseverance

Posted by jozielee on August 28, 2013

Perseverance. That’s my mom’s middle name. It isn’t written on her birth certificate, but it should be.

Over a year ago, Mom received a notice from DMV that she was required to take the written test to renew her driver’s license.

No problem. She hustled herself, me in tow, down to DMV, got in line and pulled a number.

The place was crowded, as usual. We chatted until her number was called. A52. B-I-N-G-O.

The clerk told her, because of her age – over 80 – she was required to take the Written test.

She hadn’t taken the Written test in years. In fact, DMV normally sent her renewal without demure. But in Los Angeles there’d been a lot of accidents by elder drivers, so much so, we heard about them regularly on the nightly news: an old man sped down 2nd Street Promenade while the street was blocked off for the weekly Farmers Market … he said the accelerator was stuck, which was later disproved; a confused woman in Westminster drove through a donut shop window thinking she was backing up, not accelerating; a disoriented man drove onto the freeway going against traffic. Week after week the news was plagued with similar stories. All elderly.

Now in her 80′s Mom fell within that block of drivers.

She passed the Written test. 100%. No errors.

She took the Eye test and for the first time, failed. WHAT?

She knew she had cataracts so she stopped driving at night years ago. Otherwise she saw fine . . . well, except, she had trouble reading street signs. Didn’t matter because she drove only during daylight within a 10 mile radius from her house. She knew where she was going and how to get home from the market, dry cleaners, community center and library.

She let a few weeks pass then returned to DMV to retake the Eye test. Fail.

(For the next year Mom and I would go to DMV every 3 months for a test or to get an extension on her Driver’s License. She refused to give up, no matter what.)

Cataract surgery was her only hope.

She talked with everyone she knew about their experience with cataract surgery. Young, old, indifferent. Everyone raved over the wonders of seeing further, and more clearly. They told her, After the operation you’ll feel like a veil has been lifted from your eyes.

Her general practitioner sent her to an optomologist who immediately scheduled her for surgery. One eye at a time. That way she wouldn’t be dependent on anyone.  (Independence is her other middle name.)

Though she was nervous about subjecting herself to a surgery that would temporarily impair her vision she wanted her driver’s license even more.

Dr. Eyes performed the first operation. Within days she knew the operation was successful.  Dr. Eyes went on a 3-month vacation. Her second operation was scheduled within weeks of his return.

In about nine months both eyes were healed and with glasses her vision was just about 20/20 again.

DMV gave her a form for Dr. Eyes to complete verifying her restored vision.

But when she delivered the form to DMV the clerk gave her an Eye test again. She passed.

Then the clerk told her she had to take the Behind-The-Wheel-Driving test. WHAT?

Annoyed, and a bit confused, she scheduled the Driving test. DMV only tests senior citizens certain days per week. She had to wait some weeks to take the test.

And failed.

Problems: (1) she didn’t look over her shoulder to ensure no cars were in her blind spot, (2) wrong speed limit, (3) didn’t follow instructor’s directions.

Undaunted she scheduled the test again. Failed.

Problem: not looking over her shoulder to ensure no cars were in her blind spot.

The examiner advised her to practice. Don’t rush back to take the third, and final, driving test. Take a class. Read the manual. Have her family test her according to rule of the road. Mom did it all.

She took a refresher course at her community senior center. She devoted one whole Saturday to learn all she could from a certified driving instructor.

And the Automobile Club of Southern California offers a driving course designed for senior citizens. Mom enrolled. An Auditor drove with her for 45 minutes to assess her driving skills. He concluded that she drives fine, but must remember to look over her shoulder for cars in her blind spot. He said, “You’ll never pass unless you look over your shoulder . . . “

She scheduled the final, Behind-The-Wheel-Driving test.

If she passed, she’d have her license for at least 3 more years.

If she failed . . . she’d face that if it happened.

On Test Day she was upbeat and optimistic.

In the car, before the examiner joined her, she recounted: look over the shoulder, watch speed limit, and follow examiner’s instructions.

She PASSED.

Joy, relief, accomplishment radiated from her glowing face.

She’ll never have to drive another day in her life if she doesn’t want to. But she can if she wants ’cause she has a current California driver’s license.

Perseverance.  That’s my mom.

IMG_1184

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Lean On Me

Posted by jozielee on July 12, 2013

People watching fascinates me.

Especially at an outdoor venue.

It’s the beginning of a beautiful summer in Anaheim, California. We spent the day at Disneyland. Middle of the week the park was lightly populated with families, youth groups, and couples meandering from amusement ride to ride.

Most often folks aren’t looking at each other . . .  they’re intent on the task at hand: planning their next move – which ride has the shortest line or the most appeal; stopping for a bite to eat – a hot dog, an ice cream cone, a turkey leg; or making a restroom stop.

The perfect time to observe people being themselves.

I was sitting on a bench waiting for my party. During the lull I  appreciated relaxing outside in a pristine environment. I pulled in a deep cleansing breath.

As I sat there, a dad in his 30s with his 5-year-old daughter came into view. He was loaded down with the day’s paraphenalia, while she walked along beside him hands-free, ponytail swishing side to side, sundress floating round her petite legs. The protector and his princess.

He stopped. Looked down, eyes searching her face. His body language conveyed protection, ready to meet her need. Together they turned toward the Icee cart a few steps away. He purchased a small drink for her. She smiled her thanks and they continued on their journey.

While she busily slurped her drink, I counted the various items hunging from his coatrack of a body: a fully loaded backpack slung over his shoulders, three baseball caps hung from a belt clip, 35mm camera hung from his neck, a pair of sunglasses secured the cap atop his head. In his hands he held three Goofy character stuffed animals.

Obviously, from the gear in dad’s custody they were part of a larger group, but here they were, for a moment in time, their communion lovely and sweet. So striking and poignant. Daddy taking care of his baby girl.

They won’t remember the moment. They’ll never know they were being observed. But I took their picture because I didn’t want to forget them in that place and time . . .

DadAtDisney

DadAtDisney1

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Hunger

Posted by jozielee on April 25, 2013

The thought of a fellow human being going hungry haunts me.

Yesterday we traveled to downtown Los Angeles to meet friends for lunch and a day of exploration. We met at an outdoor fast food joint famous for their fried fish. The food’s amazing and über fresh. We’ve been stopping there for years and it hasn’t changed.

Fellow diners are interesting – cops, medical workers, MTA employees, street cleaners all huddled over their favorite dish of shrimp salad, fried tilapia, grilled halibut or lobster tail. The finest seafood in town for a nominal price.

Close to skid row, the sea of well-heeled diners ebb and flow to and from the restaurant. Their SUVs, Porches, Lexus, BMWs, tricked out Chevys and Hondas a badge of social status.

Just before the lunch crowd besieged the restaurant, a few homeless individuals walked by.

A young man wearing a soiled plaid shirt and cords perused his reflection in a car window. Hand to his brow he smoothed back an invisible stray lock. He sat on a bench to tie his filthy, shredding shoelaces. Security hustled him away.

Another transient approached a teen jabbering on his cellphone in the parking lot. Without missing a syllable the caller returned to the inner sanctum of the restaurant.

A shabbily dressed man bearing a striking resemblance to soul singer Barry White perched on a bench along the periphery of the restaurant just as the lunch crowd started to pick up momentum. Usually security is pretty tight, but they didn’t spot him before he asked a man at the table next to him for a few cents. The man ignored him.

His eyes scanned our table, zeroing in on my adult daughter’s plate and he asked, “Can I help you with that tray?”

“No, thank you,” she responded with a smile. “I’m not finished.” She rejoined our conversation while pulling out a dollar bill she intended to give him.

“Sorry, I saw the napkin over your plate. Thought you were finished.” His eyes feasted on her plate. “I can help you throw it away, if you want.”

“Let’s go,” I said, standing before she could respond. Our party was headed for a bakery we’d heard about located just a few blocks away. Without discussing it we consolidated remnants of our meals – an abundance of left over French fries, bit of salad, an uneatened bowl of clam chowder we’d intended to take home. She passed him the tray, tossing empty cups, used utensils and napkins into the trash receptacles as we left.

The man silently devoured his meal, not like a starving man, but as one experiencing the first meal of the day.

A waiter, who monitors the exterior dining area for clean up, flashed us a disapproving frown. Ousting the transient had fallen on his shoulders. Our move to help the hungry had impacted his to-do list. Suddenly I detected an error in our generosity. If too many transients hang out there the restaurant will be compromised.

What to do . . . throw away food we weren’t going to eat while a man hungry enough to ask for help watched?

Our social worker daughter later told us she often counsels homeless people who, through no fault of their own, because of missteps made in their lives or illness, find themselves homeless and hungry. Hard to believe in our society so abundant with food and empty dwellings that any American should have to starve or live on the streets.

There but for the grace of God . . .

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Step Toward Manhood

Posted by jozielee on April 9, 2013

Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, the “happiest place on earth,” pretty much describes my experience over the years. We live a few miles from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. At 9 p.m., every night, we hear the distant boom of fireworks hearalding the end of the day’s parades.

Family and friends have worked there and, on occasion, signed us in for a free day of rides. Otherwise we ante up the daily entry fee for Southern California residents.

Six years ago our grandson was born and we knew Disneyland would take on a new dimension for us.

We celebrated Jake’s first birthday at Disneyland. He had just started walking. Our major focus was sights and sounds of the Main Street parade with its colorful floats, dancing characters, and trademark upbeat Disney music.  We didn’t care about the rides, long lines for food or the hustle and bustle of navigating the busy streets. We found a relatively quiet corner and let him play.

The scent of popcorn, fried churros and cotton candy filled our nostrils while California’s September sun warmed our bare arms. Sweet memories. But we knew as he grew older there’d be a shift in how he’d enjoy the park.

Jake turned four. During that visit the carousel, Tea Cups and It’s a Small World delighted his eyes and ears. He was walking. We rented a stroller to hold our bags and jackets, and a tired Jake, too heavy to carry.

For the last two years he’s worn his Halloween costume to Disneyland’s Halloween Haunt – one year he was a dragon, the next Stitch from the story LILO AND STITCH.

Now he’s six-years-old. You can’t live in Southern California at that age and not be enculturated into the world of Disney. The movies (Finding Nemo, Cars, Toy Story), the television shows on DISNEY JR (Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sofia the First), the endless array of Disney inspired Leap Frog games, live productions like “Beauty and the Beast.” Children learn so much about life from those stories – friendship, loyalty, team work, bravery.

Every week it seems he’s reading or watching a new Disney story. This week it’s THE ADVENTURES OF BR’ER RABBIT. He knows the “Song of the South” story from which Br’er Rabbit hails, and that there’s a connection to Disney.

Friday he asked if Disneyland has a Br’er Rabbit ride. I Googled. Sure enough in Disneyland’s Critter Country the Splash Mountain ride features characters from that book. He loves the story so much he wanted to ride it. “Can we go on Sunday?” he asked. So we did.

He mentally prepared a list of rides for his trip. He recited them throughout the day leaving off an attraction once he’d completed the ride. We started in California Adventure with the Jellyfish ride, the Raisin Boxes, and King Triton’s carousel. All three rides are designed for preschoolers.

In the Main Park we made our way to Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Tea Cups (his favorite), followed by Casey Jr Storybook train from Dumbo (first time ride), Mickey’s Rocket Ships, with the finale at Splash Mountain. He mentioned Splash Mountain several times during the day. Random reminders that Splash Mountain was an important stop. Although it would be the most mature ride he’d thus far experienced, I also knew he wouldn’t leave without taking it on.

Splash Mountain’s essentially a roller coaster. A hollowed out log takes its occupants down a man-made river into caverns and canyons where animatronics characters tell the story of Br’er Rabbit. Anyone over 40 inches tall is eligible to ride. Jake meets the requirement.

In the afternoon the crowds were overwhelming.

We got in line. Five people from the entrance. The gate was closed. A guard announced, “Technical Difficulty . . . the ride is closed.” I took Jake’s hand to leave.

He said, “Let’s wait until it opens.”

“What if it doesn’t open again today. We can’t wait all night.” Yet a line was forming. “Let’s go, then come back,” I offered.

“No.” He didn’t move. “Let’s wait.” I know his determination. If he was that adamant only a long wait would deter him.

The line continued to get longer.

Jake was a boy on a mission, determination written all over his face.

I took his hand. “Let’s get in line.”

No sooner did we queue up the line started to move forward.

We were being swallowed up by the mountain so quickly we had to run to keep up.

Finally the line slowed, then stopped. I read a warning sign posted on the wall: “If you don’t like fumes, sudden stops, steep dives get out of line now.” He can read but wasn’t looking at the sign. There was no turning back.

The line started to move again. Running we plunged deeper and deeper into the cave.

“Will I be scared, Yanni?” Jake asked.

“No. You won’t be scared.” And prayed it would be true.

We could see sunlight, then a glimpse of the logs. We were close.

Within seconds a guide assigned our seat. I prayed we’d sit in the back of the six passenger log. Bingo! The last two seats.

Our turn. Jake hopped in. I slid in behind him, leaned forward and hugged him from behind.

His pulse was racing, his heart thumping faster and harder than ever.

Our log started inching forward. Water splashed on our faces. Jake laughed.

“Will I be scared,” he repeated.

“No, just hold on to me.”

Our log bumped, thumped, teetered  and tottered forward, inching its way to the first steep embankment. The log fell down a few feet then plateaued. No big deal. Jake laughed.

Water splattered us again. Sadly, the girl who sat in front of Jake couldn’t block the spurting cold water that landed on his forehead. He gasped.

Outside the mountain sunlight shown for a few seconds then back into the cave of total darkness. Grinding gears. Rattling chains. Gleeful characters singing. Jake’s heart beat riotously against my arm. No words escaped his lips.

“We’re going to take another dive. Get ready,” I warned into his ear and felt his body tense.

Sure enough, boom . . . the doors flew open and we dropped down the steepest decline, followed by another plateau.

“That’s it,” I told him. The sweet sound of laughter escaped his lips again.

Our log slowed, til it eventually stopped as we bumped the log in front. The log behind bumped us. The ride was essentially over as we queued to disembark.

We slowed to a stop and jumped out as fast as possible so the next group could take our seats.

He turned toward me waiting for me to join him on the platform.

A glow of pure joy mixed with relief mixed with accomplishment mixed with awe animated his happy face.

I expected him to say “Let’s go again.” And I was ready to get back in line, no matter how long it took, to re-traverse the den.

Instead he said, “I don’t want to do that again today or the next time we come to Disneyland.”

But I knew that was the little boy he’d been before the ride speaking. He’d think about this journey inside Splash Mountain and he’d never be able to return to preschooler rides again.

His footsteps seemed different. A new self-confidence laced his stride.

He looked up at me and said, “Splash Mountain is just like It’s a Small World.”

We smiled at each other confirming the truth of his realization.

No further words were needed. He equated Splash Mountain to a ride that was tame, comfortable, familiar.  Next time he’d approach Splash Mountain with excited anticipation, but he’d never be afraid again.

As we made our way out of the park we passed the Jungle Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean. I knew he’d turned a page. These are the types of rides he’ll choose next time. He’d taken a step toward manhood by facing his fears of the dark and speed. The Disney parks had opened up a whole new world of experiences for him.

I see his face again as I write these words and glory in having shared such a monumental moment in his life. As the years pass I’ll see that face again and again as he braves new challenges in different arenas. I’m excited about what the future will bring and I hope I’ll be along to witness many more of Jake’s magic moments.

Photos (1) Jake holding SkippyJonJones, (2) Splash Mountain at Disneyland, (3) Random riders descend the final plunge down Splash Mountain

Jake

Splash Mountain 2013

Riders descending Splash Mountain

Posted in California Adventure, Disneyland, happiest place on earth, Magic Kingdom | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Going Home in 3D

Posted by jozielee on April 4, 2013

Who hasn’t seen the 1939 film, THE WIZARD OF OZ? The classic tale of ruby slippered Dorothy and her dog, Toto, who get caught up in a tornado that carries them to the mythical land of OZ. Her sole quest: to get home. As a kid I was blown away by Dorothy’s journey, even though for years I only saw it on black and white TV set.

Like all good American kids I’ve watched THE WIZARD OF OZ  year after year, never tiring of the story and its life’s lessons: Believe in yourself and your dreams and life will turn out pretty ok. Great truth in those lessons. Generations of “lovers and dreams”(1), have thrived on those ideals.

As novelist Thomas Wolfe once said in his book, THE OCTOBER FAIR, “You can’t go home again.” But everytime we revisit Dorothy, she does make it home.

Can lightning strike again? Some 70 years later, did script writers, filmmakers re-imagine OZ and create a movie to rival THE WIZARD OF OZ? Can we return to OZ of our childhood? Through the medium of 3D, can we go home again?

As an animation student interested in digital animation and compositing, I eagerly anticipated Sam Raimi’s prequel, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL for the 3D effects.

I’d enjoyed the 2010 Disney movie, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, starring Johnny Depp, with its gorgeous colors and stunning 3D visuals. The closing credits, when flowers and vines seem to grow outside the screen, ah, breathtaking. Definitely worth the extra cost of the ticket for 3D. Sadly the story lacked interest. I found myself not caring about Alice’s journey,  marveling instread at Johnny Depp’s and Helen Bonham-Carter’s costumes and makeup.

Ang Lee’s 2012 LIFE OF PI combined compelling story with CGI and gorgeous 3D effects: the opening scenes of strolling through a picturesque zoo; fish flying into the audience; the main character Pi fighting with his sole traveling companion, an adult Bengal tiger. WOW! If you haven’t seen this movie in 3D, you’re missing out on a treat.

Could the 3D effects for OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL be fresh and new?

I’d answer yes.

Notable 3D effects: splintered planks of wood that piece the balloon’s basket almost skewering Oscar; the water fairies, his first encounter with inhabitants of OZ; bug-eyed water lilies that attack; and the battle scenes kept the action moving along. If there can be any criticism I’d say the redundant electrical currents and fireballs.

Did director Sam Raimi tell as interesting story about a philandering con-artist turned reluctant wizard? What lessons can we derive from Oscar’s journey?

The Oscar learned the importance of team work and friendship, and never underestimating the inate talent you have within.

While OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL hasn’t done well among movie goers, in time, it will cultivate a following of 3D lovers like me. I went to see OZ Wednesday, the middle of Easter break for the schools in this area. My party, fellow animation students, had the theater to ourselves for the daytime 3D showing. Admittedly $12.50 is a hefty ticket price but I expected to find a few more interested parties. For us, the movie met our entertainment expectations. We loved it.

As 3D capable television sets become the norm in more households, I believe movies like OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL will enjoy a younger and larger audience. In the current story Oscar has found a home in OZ, where he’ll live until Dorothy arrives several years hence. They’ll join forces . . . just as the movies WIZARD and OZ become a set piece . . . and  go home together.

NOTES:  1. Kermit the frog, “Rainbow Connection,” THE MUPPET MOVIE.

Posted in 3D animation, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Animation, CGI, family dynamics, LIFE OF PI, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, THE MUPPET MOVIE, THE WIZARD OF OZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Easter Morning … He is risen, indeed

Posted by jozielee on March 31, 2013

Before dawn on this beautiful Easter morning we traveled a few miles to the Crystal Cathedral to attend the church’s final Easter Sunrise Service at the Garden Grove location (6am). What a blessing.

As you can probably imagine there wasn’t a huge crowd. Maybe 100+ attendees. Full orchestra whose members arrived at 4:30am for rehearsals. Twenty or so populated the choir. A 15-yr-old pianist played a solo. And a high school aged soprano sang along with the orchestra. Both musicians are students at the Crystal Cathedral Academy school. Little different from the big named singers the church formerly hosted on special occasions – Roger Williams, David Foster, Josh Groban, Amy Grant, YoYo Ma. Regardless, the music was top notch.

Pastor Bobby Schuller’s message was timely, and pointed “How Does Easter Save Us Today” or what is the true meaning of Jesus’s death on the cross for His believers. Answers: (1) We should align our lives to experience heaven here on earth, (2) When He rose from the dead, He kept His promise “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

Over the last few years, the world-renown Crystal Cathedral has weathered an onslaught of  political and financial blows culminating in the sale of the church and its surrounding buildings. The Catholic Church will take over later this year. They’ve already started decomposing a few of the buildings, moved a few trees and statues.

In years past, under the leadership of its founder, the Reverend Robert H. Schuller, record crowds filled the large glass encased auditorium (ground floor plus three balconies) for two morning services, and one evening service. During the week, day and night, the campus was alive with church related and school activities. The Crystal Cathedral Academy school shares the grounds. And during holidays special programs like The Glory of Easter and The Glory of Christmas brought in swarms of regular attendees and visitors.

This morning one large cross covered with Easter lilies hung suspended over the orchestra where normally hundreds of potted lilies would adorn the entire pulpit, orchestra, and line the center aisle’s water feature.

When Dr. Schuller’s son Robert Anthony Schuller took over the pulpit attendance started to slip. A few years later the older daughter Sheila Schuller, took over  and numbers dipped even lower. Today, grandson Bobby Schuller mans the pulpit and within a few years I’m sure the numbers will rise again. Like his grandfather, he’s a gifted speaker with an interesting message.

Sadly, Bobby took over too late to save the current location, but given time I’m sure he’ll build a formidable church of his own.

The leadership is currently petitioning its members for a new name. I’m not a member. If I was I’d opt to keep the same name. Regardless, he will build it and they (former attendees and visitors) will come back. He’s got a gift.

Posted in Easter Service | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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