Monday, August 30, 2010

August 2010 was simply faboo

When you're staying home all summer, taking care of a recuperating kid, at some point there is light at the end of the tunnel. For us that was in August. It's almost over and August, we will miss you.

This was the month that Jackson really started bouncing around again. Literally, because I took him to his first bouncy house in four months and he went crazy in there. The lady running it let all the kids stay in for an hour even though they had only paid for 15 minutes. "Eh, the event's almost over anyway," she explained. I love volunteers at kid festivals. This was a super deluxe bouncy house with obstacles, a slide and a basketball hoop in the bouncy part. It doesn't get much better than that.

But yes it does because we had lots of other fun-filled outings all in the latter part of August. And even around the house, he's jumping on the couch and smooshing into me and knocking me over with aplomb. He also admits that he's ready for school to start because it was getting a bit boring around here. Sorry. I guess he's not as into Spirograph as I am.

Nothing states, "I am feeling better now" than cruising around in an inflatable alligator vehicle. After a few false starts, this was one smooth ride.
This is a room full of balloons with a wind element to keep them aloft. Simple yet effective entertainment (until the volunteers yell for the kids to get out). The teenagers who manned this attraction had to blow up balloons all day to cover for poppage. They are the unsung heroes of Family Fest.

One day last week Jackson dragged me (kicking, screaming) to his new favorite hang-out, Paddock Bowl in Pacheco. Where? Just head past the mall into the land that bowling-time forgot.
I mean, look at this place (*salivate*). It's 1981 all over again with several 70s (and 60s!) elements rolled into one 20-lane adventure.
Jackson says Paddock Bowl is great because it's like "stepping back in time." He's eight.
He also got hang out with his cousin, who flew in from Houston all by herself just to see him. We traveled to the wilds of Mt. Diablo and Tilden Park, Berkeley, to perch in wind caves and in steam trains respectively. We visited the Exploratorium with my friend May and her son. Only the very healthy and energetic should brave the Exploratorium on its annual free-admission day. There was some kind of kid fest in nearby Crissie Field that day too. We were surrounded by festivals throughout the month, without even trying.

And we even got to pet these bunnies! Jealous?
In your face. With bunnies!

For the last day of summer vacation, we headed to Aquatic Park during a fluky heat wave. A true Mediterranean weather-system summer's day.

Here's to September.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Technical Difficulties - Please Stand By (this hamster playing with marbles)

I almost forgot I had a blog last week. Could'ja tell? While we got Jackson all situated back at school, my Internet life was put on hold--probably a good thing once in a while. Meanwhile, enjoy this hamster playing with marbles. And if she's a little blurry, well, that's how hamsters roll.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Master Links Miniature Golf - Concord, California

We miss mini-golf around here. There was a spectacular course on Clayton Road when I was growing up called Master Links. But we all just called it miniature golf; as in, "Let's go miniature golfing." It was run by one old guy and every few years he'd repaint everything in wild, crazy colors. There were blue-tinted fountains and copious landscaping throughout. This was the creme de la creme of miniature golf courses.

There were two courses initially, the Castle Course and the Volcano Course, and yes, each contained respectably, a pink castle on a hill, and a volcano topped with lit plasticine flames. But that was the extent of the theme concepts. The rest of the holes were a hodgepodge of off-kilter houses seemingly built for a Buster Keaton gag, a pastel spaceship, the ubiquitous molehills, ramps and water traps, and apropos of nothing, a life-sized polar bear. At some point during my childhood, a third course was added, the difficult Dragon Course. This is what made Master Links so great--it was a random mix of insanity and golf. The owners were good about upgrading the putting "greens" (and reds, blues and oranges) too, so we looked forward to lush, spongy and colorful adventures every time we played.

We didn't know it at the time, but we were also partaking in what's now known as vintage pinball in the pointy-roofed arcade. The bing-bonging of the ball hitting the bumpers is such a nostalgic sound to me now. We took this whole place for granted. It was already there when we arrived in town in 1969 and it stuck around well after I left for college.

I even went back after I graduated and shot a Barbara Manning music video there (and watched in amazement as a busload of elders showed up on shooting day, completely dressed in white, playing really good golf like putt-putt aliens looking for their pastel spaceship). One day, poof, it was gone. The owner retired, sold the kit and caboodle and it's now the site of a retirement home. How appropriate. A salute to Master Links--the Bay Area is less without your presence.

Look at this attention to detail. Once in a while the plaster would crumble off the chicken wire and you could see the frame-work underneath--like our own Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco. It would be quickly repaired and repainted pink. No matter what changes were made at the course, this castle was always pink.




The roof of the arcade where many an ice cream sandwich was bought. You could also buy these business cards from vending machines that said "Where did you learn to park, asshole?" You were supposed to leave them on car windshields of bad drivers. A very useful service.



Folks who grew up in the area fondly remember Master Links and log in their comments on Claycord.com. Eye-opening, behind-the-scenes information, people. Like so many entrepeneurs in 70s-era Contra Costa County, the owner, Cal, had his dark secrets when it came to employing teen help; adds a touch of mystique to miniature golf. Thanks to "The Mayor" for publishing the photos on his site.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Playland Not-At-The-Beach is Heaven on Earth

My friend Todd just had the most epic 50th birthday party at Playland Not-At-The-Beach in El Cerrito, CA. Where? Here's the link. Just go there. You pay one price at the door and all 30 pinball machines inside are free. FREE! I was so busy playing pinball, I didn't take any photos except for this one.

Playland was an amusement park at the beach in San Francisco that closed in the early 70s. My parents took me there a few times but I was too little to remember it. Everyone in the Western Hemisphere is sad that it closed though. Even people who never went there and even people who did and admit it got pretty "seedy" near the end. My much-missed Grandma Tocha loved it and she also loved roller derby and televised bowling events so that proves how awesome it must have been.

El Cerrito Playland is 9000 square feet of hallways and rooms, full of vintage arcade games, new and old pinball machines (free!), dioramas of circus life, a haunted house, and special screenings and lectures on magic shows, animated films, the history of Playland, and other such wonderful stuff. The stuff that dreams are... Just go, GO to Playland Not-At-The-Beach.

Happy birthday, Todd. You barely look 40, if that.

- The wacky fun-filled calendar of events.
- The impressive and entertaining slide-show of attractions.
- Oh, and Frank Biafore, one of the founders, is the President of the Eartha Kitt Fan Club. Just go.

Some free pinball at you-know-where.


Original Playland, 1960.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Songs stuck in my head

What songs are stuck in your head? Here's a sampling of what was stuck in mine for the past week. Some of these were going in loops in my mind for days. Others, just hours. Why? Oh mercy, I don't know. If you stop the song stuck in your head and go over the lyrics, it often tells you exactly what's going on with you. But these were kind of a mystery, as if I was strictly thinking in music and not words at all. The many moods of ear-worms...

Just the guitar solo from "Iron Man" (at 5:29! Black Sabbath was so arty, really).


Look, I'm really sorry about this one. Just the chorus was running through my head, for DAYS. I didn't even know what he was saying, I swear. When I read the lyrics, I realized it's even lamer than I thought. Then I found out that someone I'm working with is about to tour with these guys for a journalistic profile. MIND MELD.


Musical pleasure! Musical treasure!


Wii Sports Resort 100-pin Bowling Theme--this actually isn't stuck in my head--it's just on continual play around here for real. What's the difference?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Artwork-a-day - Marbelized Shaving Cream Prints

My artwork-a-day project got slightly delayed. I'm afraid on some days this month, there was no art. But there were always artful thoughts and I counted cooking because taste is essential. Now that berries are in season, my freshly made fruit juices are truly works of art, in my opinion. Be that as it may...

Jackson has suffered a couple of migraines in the past two weeks. And when I say migraine, I mean, MIGRAINE. The poor kid--Jesus. His dad used to get the same symptoms which I won't go into here. Anyway, Jesus. So we've been taking it easy just gaining a foothold on health once more and it's going well. Today was a sit-under-the-patio-umbrella day (finally it got hot outside--there was even a blimp over our house--I don't know why), so we made some messy art, which was actually fairly clean because it's shaving cream art, people. That's right: scented, soapy spray foam. That's what I'm talking about.

I learned how to do this on the Artful Parent blog. That name is a little bit pretentious but it's a cool blog with good ideas. I will now walk you through the steps and lest you think I'm being a too domestic (and artful), I will admit that shaving cream art conjures up images of youthful vandalism that I won't divulge here, save to say, I can't remember which eats auto paint more, shaving cream or whipped cream. So I just won't use those things on autos anymore, even in fun.

Get some cheap shaving cream at the dollar store or at Big Lots! like I did. Then squirt it in a tray for a while. This part was fun so we did two trays.
We had some liquid watercolors in droppers so we used those. You can also use food coloring or acrylic paints. Jackson chose to use all the colors, of course. Swirl them around with your hands (goopy) or a stick.
We both agreed, this part looked very cool. Jackson just wanted to keep this as the art.
But process beckoned. Press your paper gently on the shaving cream.
Peel it back. Eww, kind of colorfully barfy, but nicely scented.
Let it sit for a few minutes (I went longer because my landlord showed up to fix some plumbing--you know how THAT goes). Then wipe off with something. I used a micro-fleece towel which actually worked well. The actual instructions recommend a ruler or cardboard scraper. That would have been more fun in a squeegee sort of way.
Wah la! We tried shiny paper and regular. I used the regular for wrapping paper for my niece's birthday presents. The shiny paper will probably be cut up for cards. Barbisol-scented stationery--that's the power of art.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Time Out for a Broccoli-eating Hamster

Taking a little time-out this week from blogging while we figure out medical situations around here. Please enjoy this photo-documentary of a broccoli-eating hamster in the mean time. And remember: never eat greens on a hot date. This second photo illustrates why.


Dana Carvey's classic, "Choppin' Broccoli." I sing this to our hamster all the time.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Arcade Fire - live on YouTube tonight as directed by Terry Gilliam

Yes, this is an ad of sorts for Arcade Fire. Yes, I'm giving out the free publicity to Arcade Fire and Terry Gilliam. No, they don't need my help in that department at all. No, I don't even listen to Arcade Fire all that much--I'm not that big of a hipster. I'm more of a nerd with punk tendancies. But hell, it's live from Madison Square Garden. It's tonight. And it's directed by Terry Gilliam. That's kind of interesting and fun, in theory anyway. Perhaps this YouTube thing might take off. You never know.

It's here at 10 p.m. Eastern time. I'm assuming that means 7 p.m. Pacific Coast time.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Happy Psychedelic Duck Day

We met my friend Joseph in Golden Gate Park for a paddle-boat ride on Stowe Lake this weekend. Just a normal, friendly, family outing, right? WRONG. Because before we could even load up the boat with overly salted popcorn and moldy-smelling life-jackets, Joseph spotted this duck, doing some paddling of his own among the regular duck folk. Leaving me to ponder, was this duck tripping? Or were the other ducks tripping when they gazed upon it? Were we ALL tripping? Are we tripping RIGHT NOW?


Some official-looking volunteers walked by us on the path, carrying rakes and garbage bags. We asked about this duck. They said they'd never seen it before. They had no idea what this duck stood for, or if it was just a duck for duck's sake. I always think people walking through parks, carrying large garden tools, know everything about the park, but Stowe Lake proved to be too mysterious for them and for us. It's not the first time either...