Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Alcatraz

It's the same idea as Little Italy or Chinatown, only with Alcatraz.  And Little Alcatraz isn't a neighborhood, it's your house.  So, there would be lots of Little Alcatrazes.  On a side note, why is not called Little China, or conversely, Italytown?  Anyway, we'll worry about that another time.

The Reader's Digest version of "What is Alcatraz?" is that it's the prison where there worst of the worst were sent.  That is to say, if you were sent to prison for a serious crime and were unable to not be obnoxious or a nuisance and were an all around a**hole, they then sent you to Alcatraz.  You can look up more details about the prison on your own (or better yet, go visit) but I wanted to at least share with you the brilliant way they ran the place.  Whistle-focused people management.  The guards on the floor had only a whistle to maintain order as it was too risky to let weapons be anywhere near these inmates.

Whistle-controlled Little
Alcatraz doesn't seem so
harsh now,  does it?
"That's kind of like my house," I thought to myself.  That's when the Little Alcatraz idea started to percolate.  On top of being directed via the whistle, the inmates had a set of rules that had to be followed.  We learned some of them on the tour, and then I bought a deck of cards with all the rules printed on them.  Eureka!!!  New child-management system.  Alcatraz's rules are perfect for keeping criminals, as well as kids, in line.

I have selected the 10 rules to share with you that I found the most important/useful.  The only thing about these rules that need to be altered is that "cell" should be "room" and "cellhouse" should just be "house."  Oh yeah, and I guess you should call your kids "kids" not "inmates."  But, that's your choice.  Also, after I am done writing this post, I will give my kids the playing cards to use so that they can easily acclimate themselves to the rules in a fun and pleasant manner.

Top 10 Rules to be Adopted for Little Alcatraz
1.     Keep your cell neat clean and free from contraband.
2.     You earn your privileges by conducting yourself properly.
3.     You are not permitted to wear your hair in a unusual manner or have any special haircut except as authorized by the Associate Warden.
4.     You are expected to bathe in a reasonable length of time.
5.     If you become ill at any time, notify an Officer and you will receive medical attention.  Do not make unnecessary disturbances.
6.     Do not jostle or indulge in horseplay with others.
7.     At the wake-up bell in the morning you must get out of bed and put on your clothes.
8.     At 9:30 p.m. lights out, retire promptly.  All conversation and other noises must cease immediately.
9.     You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention.  Anything else you get is a privilege.
10. At no time will you play any wind instrument in the cellhouse.

Totally perfect, right!?!?  I can't help but think though that if the Alcatraz inmates had been able to follow rules like these early on, they might not have been in Alcatraz in the first place.  But, by starting early with our own inmates children, we are helping to lessen the future prison population, no?  I can already see Little Alcatrazes popping up all over the place.

Besides this awesome new child-management plan, I had a few other thoughts on our trip to San Francisco.  I will start by getting back to the weather.  Besides the whole "microclimate" thing, I don't understand why it seemed like the few people who did seem to actually be from San Francisco didn't know how to deal with the weather.  

Winter parka in July equals
Glamour Fashion Don't
I understand that we all think July is supposed to be warm, but all the natives seem to know it's not; that temperatures can be in the 60s during the day.  Okay, yes, that's a little chilly.  It is, however, NOT ski jacket or wool coat weather.  And let me tell you, it wasn't just one or two people I saw like this.  Wool scarves and ski hats people?  Really?  Are you all elderly people from Florida who are used to 95 degree weather with humidity and this is a big shock to your systems?

Putting aside the fact that it's really just not that cold and you are being dramatic, you aren't dressing properly for cold weather in summer.  Summer is the key word here.  We do not wear parkas in summer.  Or wool coats.  If it's cold we wear assorted cotton-type layers.  A sweatshirt perhaps.  If you are really shivering, long sleeve and short sleeve shirt then the sweatshirt.  A nice cotton cardigan is always nice.  Try a denim jacket with a fun cotton scarf.

Here in the east, when we get a warm day in February, we roll our eyes at the people who think 55-60 degree weather warrants shorts and tank tops.  You know why?  Because those are not winter items.  Just like no white after Labor Day; no winter coats after March and no shorts after October.  Appropriate seasonal layers people.  Layers.

Another thing, San Francisco is not Seattle, so what's with the Starbucks on every corner?  And sometimes then in the middle of the same street.  No lie, they are everywhere!  The Party and I considered making seeing a Starbucks a drinking game, but it didn't seem like a good idea to be drinking that much on the street.

Speaking of drinking, you are apparently allowed to do it on the train.  The only rule seems to be that it can't be after 9pm.  The Party and I went to a Giants game in SF.  We took the CalTrain (not cow train, which is totally what I thought the hotel guy was telling us and I couldn't imagine why they would possibly call it the cow train).  It is a double decker train, which seemed cool, until you try to go up to the upper level.  Teeny tiny spiral staircase up to a single line of chairs.  Someone can't get down if someone else is trying to get up (design flaw that no one checked with me about before building).

Anyhoo, while we are waiting for the train, there are signs up and down the track announcing an assortment of things, including that there will be no open alcohol containers allowed on the train after 9pm.  Long story short (I know, too late) you can tailgate on the train on your way to the ballpark.  Why?  Why would anyone encourage this?  People packed in like sardines on a train who are getting drunk and loud - where is the up side?  Also, let's not forget that we have drinkers on level 2 of the train who can lean over with their drinks.  That just spells fist fight and/or spinal cord injury.  Safety first people.  Safety first!

THESE are fries worth
waiting in line for!
Something else you should keep in mind if you visit SF and go see a Giants game; they have pretty lame concession stands.  People were lined up, lined up, for garlic fries.  Uh, hello, garlic fries?  They are good enough, but they are not wait-in-line good.  They are just regular fries with some minced garlic dumped on top.  No mixing in.  No cheese sauce.  In Philadelphia, you can get Crab Fries.  Deliciously seasoned with bay seasoning and you get a side of a creamy cheese sauce.  Yum.  

The only thing left to tell you about San Francisco is that you needn't bother to comb your hair.  It's a waste of time.  It's constantly windy.  Oh yeah, and don't walk in front of any cable cars, especially on hills.  I am almost certain that there is only 50-50 chance each time the guy tries to stop the car that it's going to work.  The cable car is stopped by someone in the back pulling with all his might on a big lever.  I can't see how this is possibly safe.

The End.

Monday, July 23, 2012

They have Microclimates, So Wear Layers

This is a representation
of how Party and I traveled
around on vacation.
Okay, not really.
The Party and I just got back from our first "real" vacation since having kids.  That is to say that we went away for an entire week without our kids, so it was an actual vacation.  As you all know, when you go on "vacation" with your kids it's not a vacation at all.  It's merely a different location, the work's the same.

This was actually relaxing.  We were away in celebration of our 20th anniversary and we mostly got along the whole time.  No really, that is actually a big deal.  How often are you with your husband 24/7 for an entire week?  With no one getting injured or threatened?  I thought this was a good sign that when the children leave we will be able to live harmoniously and not try to kill each other.  So overall, I would say the first 20 years of marriage has been a success and our trip confirmed that staying married still sounds like an excellent plan.  Don't get me wrong, The Party's main hobby is still aggravating me for sport, but he's a keeper.

Okay, so you are probably wondering where we went (just play along).  Because we are such good friends, I am not only going to tell you where we went, but tell you some fun things to do and what to avoid.  This will save you time and money in regard to researching your own trip.  We went to San Francisco and to Napa Valley.

First San Francisco.  Here are the two main things you should know.  One, no one lives there.  Well, hardly anyone. There are tourists and there are people who work in the stores and restaurants.  I saw maybe 5 people who appeared to actually be residents and/or be going to work.  Also, none of the tourists seem to be American.  That is neither good nor bad; I just noticed that every family we saw/ heard was not speaking English.  Further, I didn't recognize a lot of the languages I heard.  Many of these people were Nordic looking, so maybe they were speaking Swedish or Norwegian.  I don't know.  I will say, everyone was way more mellow and non-shovey than they are in New York or D.C.

Second main thing - there are "microclimates."  I put that in quotes because I am extremely skeptical that being surrounded by water and hills and winds, which makes for changeable weather, should really be called microclimates.  My friend Glen (please refer to old friend from last paragraph of Don't Judge A Book By Her (Leathered) Cover) lives in SF and as part of his very helpful "what to see/do" information he repeatedly mentioned the microclimates and that we should be sure to dress in layers.  He insisted temperatures could vary by 10 degrees from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Golden Gate Bridge
There, you've seen it and they
even Photoshopped
the fog out for you.
Glen said that you can spot all the tourists because they are cold and unhappy.  I don't like being cold and/or unhappy, so we did dress in layers and mocked the tourists who had to purchase ugly pastel-colored "San Francisco" fleeces.  While I appreciated the weather heads-up, I still don't think there are microclimates. Apparently, this makes me hard-headed because why won't I accept there are microclimates when someone tells me there are and then sends me articles and maps of said phenomenon?  There was some suggestion that this was due to my being a Jewish woman from Philly.  Really?!?!  Whistle.  And smack.  Oh - and it's my new whistle I got at Alcatraz.  (Wait until you hear about their brilliant whistle-focused people management system!)

You should definitely go to Alcatraz and Sausalito.  You can get to both via a very pleasant ferry ride.  You can see the whole bay area.  Do you want to know a good way not to see the bay area?  Try to see it from the Golden Gate Bridge.  You can walk, drive or bike over the bridge.  This might sound like fun, but you are going to be disappointed.  Close your eyes.  That's the same thing you can see from the bridge if there is fog, which there usually is.  Also, when you're done looking and going over the bridge to the other side, you know what you have to do?  That's right, turn around and come back.  Snore.

Sausalito was a very cute little town on the water.  Lots of shops and restaurants.  We got to play our own form of Jeopardy while we were there.  "Is there actually a Fort at Fort Baker?"  "What is a question that should be asked before you walk 3.4 miles uphill."  We got a visitors map when we got off the ferry and The Party saw there was a Fort Baker.  He said he wanted to go and I said okay.  I had kind of assumed he knew what it was before he saw the map.  Not so much.  He likes forts, the map said "fort" and off we went.  Because I am always sunshiney, I was not mad or annoyed.  It was a nice walk and we laughed about it.  I just want to point out though that if *I* had been the one to have us walk to nothing Party would have never let it go.  Yes, Party, you know I am totally telling the truth.

Moving on to Napa.  Much warmer there.  You don't need layers because although those people like to talk about how it gets hotter as you move north up the Napa Valley, it's summer everywhere you go (at least in July).  They don't use the word microclimates, they like to say appellations.  This is just a fancy way for the wine people to talk about growing different grapes in different parts of the region due to the different temperatures.  If you go there and already know that word, you'll look smart.

Hey!  No one told us that the
wine was "bottled poetry."
Isn't it a bad sign when you
think your wine is talking to you?
Napa was very cute and we had a good time.  We went on a wine tour, which was very interesting and fun.  We used Platypus Wine Tours, which I highly recommend.  Our tour guide (Shawnda from Texas) was just too cute and looked like a pretty Chelsea Clinton.  She was a great guide and took us to four smaller vineyards/wineries.  You will also look smart if you know there is a difference between a winery and vineyard (I did not).  Grapes are grown in a vineyard; wine is made in a winery.  Some places do both, some only do one.

Besides learning a lot about wine, the most important thing that happened on the tour was that during our lunch break (the tour provided a lovely picnic lunch) Shawnda set up bocci ball.  This is important because neither The Party nor I had ever played and, long story short, I kicked his ass 9-2.  He will try to tell you how I had no strategy or skill and was just winging the ball at full speed, blah, blah, blah.  I won, he lost. I am an undefeated bocci ball queen.  Wine and giving out ass-kickings, what could be better?

In my next post I think I will give you a general list of things you should know/ and observations about San Francisco and tell you why Alcatraz should be used as a parenting model.

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