Archive for July, 2011

Wake Up and Smell the Fuel, Corn Dogs and Kettle Korn at Infineon

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

If you want to make some real money for your nonprofit, skip selling gift wrap, cookie dough and See’s candy and instead go straight for gambling and booze.

But not at the same time because that would be running a casino. Hmm, now there’s an idea. Get enough motivated moms and dads together and the Petaluma High School Trojan Track Casino operated by the Federated Parents of the West Side could become a reality.

Ok, maybe not. But in the meantime, there are still plenty of opportunities for us to work bingo nights which benefit the Petaluma High band and pour drinks on race days at Infineon to raise money for the cheer team.

Although I really enjoy getting to know the parents of my daughter’s friends by participating in these fundraising activities, I have struggled a bit with the moral implications.

Is it wrong for me to be pouring a shot of Crown Royal Black on Sunday morning at 10 am when I otherwise would be sitting in the sixth pew on the right hand side of the Baptist church where we are members?

I’ve decided to forgo making any judgments. I’m not doing anything illegal and as long as I check IDs, I’m not encouraging anyone I serve to do anything illegal. So just because playing bingo and buying drinks isn’t how I typically choose to spend my free time, I think the best I can do is treat the customers with respect and a smile.

Today, Steve and I manned one of the five booths that were run by Petaluma High Cheer parents at NHRA at Infineon. We feel like we moved up in the world because unlike NASCAR where we just sold beer in bottles, we ran a booth that served margaritas (lime and strawberry), Weed (ice tea flavored vodka) and lemonade, and Crown Royal cocktails.

These drinks were stirred”¦and sometimes shaken”¦because when one of the hot rods goes from zero to over 300 mph in less than four seconds, the sound is so loud that the vibration starts in your chest and ends up at your fingertips.

One thing I like about working at these fundraisers is that it is a great opportunity to appreciate people who have an entirely different set of interests than I do; including tattoos. Today, I especially liked a really nice mother and daughter duo who both sported extensive tatts. It’s not often that you see a tramp stamp on someone who’s probably old enough to be on Medicare.

However, the best part about working NHRA today was that it was an opportunity for Steve and me to spend time together in an environment that was totally distracting from the computer and the concerns that sometimes overwhelm my thoughts. Fears such as whether our recent-college graduate son will land full-time job, will our house sell and is that new wrinkle on my left cheek permanent, seemed very far away. Serving those 16 ounce margaritas — would you like lime juice and salt with that? — for five hours was more refreshing to me than it was to our customers.

Back from Zion

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I wasn’t able to post a blog last week because I made a weekend pilgrimage to the Land of Zion for my nephew’s wedding. You went to Israel in a weekend? Nope, I’m talking about the sacred city in Utah that is Salt Lake.

I was raised a Mormon in Salt Lake City, went to college at the University of Utah (or U2 as Steve teasingly refers to it) and lived there until I escaped to San Francisco one night when no one was looking.

It’s only fitting that I write about Salt Lake today because in Utah, the “24th of July” is a holiday more celebrated than the Fourth of July. Bunting was already hanging on front porches last weekend. The holiday commemorates the date in 1847 that Brigham Young looked into the valley and declared “This is The Place.” He was right, it really is a place like no where else.

I was reminded that Salt Lake is a world unto itself even before I got on the plane. While I was waiting in the airport, I started to hear words pop out of conversations that would not make any sense unless you were familiar with the culture of Salt Lake.

For instance, you don’t talk about if someone is “Mormon,” instead it’s “LDS” which is an acronym for Latter Day Saint. And then there are “wards” as in “I’ll bet I can borrow a stroller from someone in our ward when we get there.” A ward is a congregation within a certain geographic area. I also overheard someone say that the meeting would be at the stake house. They weren’t talking about Cattleman’s but the ward house that oversees several wards.

It’s all rather complicated and could require a “Mormon Culture for Dummies” book for anyone new to the area.

I hadn’t been to Salt Lake in 11 years, so what struck me about the city?

First, it still is a beautiful setting. The valley is surrounded by hills that due to a late spring, were green and still had snow on them. Skiers in Salt Lake are totally spoiled because the resorts are so close to the city. You can leave your job and be on the mountain with your skis on within an hour.

But there is a lot that has changed. Whereas the approval process for developments and shopping centers in Sonoma County is like moving through quicksand, the arms of the Salt Lake City Planning Commission members must get tired from stamping “Approved” on everything. There are shopping centers galore and more mixed use developments being built. It’s a pretty safe guess that the Mormon Church is behind most of all of the building. I think the Angel Maroni is immune to the recession.

It’s a small but significant change since I last spent any time in Utah that you can now buy an alcoholic drink in a restaurant without becoming a “member.” Growing up in Salt Lake, I remember debates about whether “Liquor-by-the-drink” laws should be approved. I guess the argument was that one 3.2% beer was a gateway drink to the really hard stuff like a triple espresso.

Every time Steve called me he asked if I was sober. Yes, even though it was easy to buy drinks now in Salt Lake, four days there was plenty. Then is lapsed latter day saint was ready to return to Sonoma County.

Thank You Volunteers!

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Since the beginning of the year, I have been working with the Petaluma Visitors Program and because that program is under the umbrella of the Petaluma Downtown Association, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the events produced by the PDA.

Working behind the scenes at the Butter & Egg Days parade, Sunday’s Art & Garden Festival, and the rather spur-of-the-moment Royal Tea at the Museum has give me a huge appreciation for the volunteers who show up year-after-year, ready to do whatever is asked, and work tirelessly to make an event a success.

Of course, there’s a tremendous amount of planning and organization by the paid staff for months before an event. But to borrow a phrase from the labor movement, a great event is carried (often literally given the amount of schlepping that is done) on the backs of the volunteers.

And some of the volunteers who are the most amazing are seniors and retired folks who show up at the crack of dawn and stay until the last chair is folded and loaded onto the truck. These are men and women well into their 70s who thrive on hard work and a “let’s get it done” kind of attitude. They are a great role model for me.

There is also the group of volunteers who don’t have a day to commit to an event but they show up at their scheduled time, jump into the task at hand and give it their all. Thank goodness for them too.

So the next time you go to a fair, festival, or parade and you see someone unloading ice, selling tickets, directing traffic, or pouring beer, take a moment and thank them for their hard work. They make it possible for the rest of us to enjoy a day of fun and distraction from work.

A Day Off from Keeping Up Appearances

Monday, July 4th, 2011

I always look forward to the Fourth of July. It’s the day of the year that I throw caution to the wind”¦fat content be damned”¦and have a hot dog. And this year’s totally lived up to expectations. Processed meat-like products cooked outside on a grill. What makes them so good?

But beyond my annual indulgence in nitrates, there was another reason I was looking forward to the holiday. I was quite sure that the Fourth was one of the few days of the year, along with Thanksgiving and Christmas, that real estate agents and prospective buyers won’t be touring properties. And that meant that we could have a day in the house without being on alert that we might need to stash all evidence of our existence in a moment’s notice.

Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the calls for appointments to show the house. In the current abysmal housing market with headlines predicting a recovery sometime in the next millennium, having a steady stream of appointments gives me hope that there is someone out there who is willing to overlook the 17-year-old carpet and see the best features of the house: location, location, location.

However, for the day of the Fourth, it felt really good to live like a slob again. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. The truth is that in the two months that our house has been on the market, I have retrained myself to put away the blow dryer, flat iron and all brushes, clips, wrinkle creams and volumizing hair products so the bathroom counter is completely cleaned off before leaving for work.

So I didn’t totally regress for the day but it was a holiday from scooping the cat poop, making sure every dish was in the dishwasher, wiping the flossing spots off of the mirrors, burying the dirty underwear in the laundry basket, and refolding all the bath towels into perfect thirds.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to trying to keep the lived-in look of our house to a minimum but for today, we’re on vacation.