Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another "Living in L.A." Update

First of all, I should clarify: I don't live in L.A. Not even in L.A. county. I live in Thousand Oaks, which is about 45 minutes north of L.A., in Ventura County. The only reason I use “L.A.” when describing where I've moved is that usually I'm talking to someone from the Bay Area, and most of them have no idea where Thousand Oaks is, but can roughly approximate the location of Los Angeles.

I think I've been fair in my descriptions of my new habitat so far. Critical of its insanely fast drivers and its relentless promotion of 80s music, but appreciative of its superior customer service and fashion sense.

Today I add two items to the “Living in L.A.” plus column: Low prices and large parking spaces.

Oh, sure you know about the low real estate prices (at least compared to SF), but did you know that pretty much any service you can think of is cheaper here? Example: My gym membership in the Bay Area (YMCA) ran $70/month. Here my gym membership costs $33/month. I didn't join the Y, but if I had (we've got one right up the street), it still would only have been $42. And it's just as nice as the one I belonged to up north. Same thing for highlights. Partial highlight + tip at Aveda salon in Mountain View: $150. Here (also at Aveda salon): $75. Bay Area pedicure: $20. Here: $12. And on it goes. It's like living in a half-price sale, and it rocks.

As for the parking spaces...

I alluded to this in an earlier post, but never said it outright, so let's call out the elephant in the room: people in southern California love their SUVs. In Thousand Oaks in particular, the giant black Escalade seems to rule the road. Most of our neighbors have at least one, and some have two. Oh they're not all Escalades, but a lot are, and those that aren't are at least close cousins from the GMC family: Tahoes, Yukons, Suburbans, you name it. If it's giant and black and you can put 22-inch chrome wheels on it, someone in our neighborhood is driving it.

The happy side effect of all this large vehicle driving (for those of us driving smaller vehicles anyway) is that the parking spaces at the malls and supermarkets around here are enormous. Not only can I sling my Prius into any space I want as carelessly as I please, I can open the doors all the way without the slightest fear that I will ding the car next to me. I can push my shopping cart right up next to my passenger door and put my groceries in there instead of in the trunk. I can even let Zeke open his own door, which he was never ever allowed to do in the Bay Area. I know that giant parking spaces are a poor use of open space and another step on the path to us paving over the entire world, and I do feel guilty about that, but right now I have to admit that I am enjoying them immensely.

P.S. Shanti and I were thinking maybe the City of Thousand Oaks should consider replacing the oak tree on the city seal (because really, how many of those are left?), with a big ol' shiny Escalade; replacing the silhouette of Ventura county with the VanHalen logo; and replacing the bear (how totally non-creative were the people that cooked this seal up? “I know—we're in California—let's use the bear. You know, because it's on the state flag. No one else will think of that!”) with an elephant—because although I haven't touched on this yet in this blog, the place is loaded to the gills with conservatives. We'll talk about that another day (or not...if I know what's good for me).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Touch a Truck Day!

OK, the Conejo Recreation and Parks District is turning out to be one of the best things about living in Thousand Oaks. Not only are they the ones behind the swim program Zeke's involved with, they're also responsible for "Touch a Truck Day," which just went down today and apparently happens every Father's Day weekend like clockwork. 

The name pretty much says it all. They fill a park up with fire trucks, dump trucks, tow trucks, ambulances, tractors, a limo (which I thought was weird, but whatever), and even a helicopter, then let the kids touch all the vehicles, sit in the respective driver's seats, and even work the controls. As you can see, one of the firemen very generously allowed Zeke to help him with the firehose. As far as I can tell, when you're a three-year-old boy, that's pretty much touching the hand of God. The other picture is of him in the helicopter. Photo credits and outstanding activity planning kudos to Mom--she's the one who took him. Smart grandma. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tiny Tot Seal

Oh, that's not what I call Zeke. I would never call him a "tiny" anything, lest I offend the big boy of the house and subject myself to a lengthy and repetitive lecture about just how big and grownup he is. No, "Tiny Tot Seal" is actually what the Conejo Rec and Parks district calls him. He's taking swim lessons from them right now, and they categorize the kids based on their ages and abilities. So, as a 3-year-old with no water fears at all, but zero actual swimming skills, he's a Tiny Tot Seal. If he completes this class satisfactorily he'll be promoted to Polliwog, then full-fledged Seal, Dolphin, Barracuda, and so on until he becomes a Shark. So far, so good. We're three days into a two-week eight-session course, and he loves it. He's learned to kick on a kickboard and put his head all the way under water and hold his breath (a huge improvement over his previous technique, which was to open his mouth and gulp all the water he could), and he's doing it all without Shanti or I in the pool--just him, his instructor, and his two cute little classmates. This picture is of him at the pool in his rashguard and shorts, waiting for his lesson to begin. A big thank you to Grandma and Grandpa for taking him to their pool so often and getting him comfortable in the water.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One Month To Go!

My mom and I flew up to the Bay Area last weekend for my sister-in-law Carolyn's baby shower. Just a one-day trip. Up at 5 a.m., drive to airport, fly to Bay Area, drive to shower, eat way more than my share of the salami and cheese that was put out as an appetizer (there was a lot of other food--lovely food--but the salami and cheese was just outstanding, so I chose to focus my attention on that end of the table), catch up with long-lost friends, drink mimosas, watch pregnant lady open a zillion gifts, drive to airport, hop on plane, drive home. Whew. It was an exhausting day, but totally worth it. Thanks for having us Carolyn!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Dream Lives On

Not the anteater dream. The bowl cut dream. I'm back to that now that it looks like an exotic pet is off the table for me.

Look how long Zeke's hair is getting! His bangs are almost touching his eyebrows already. Maybe he has a short forehead, or maybe his hair is growing faster than the one half inch per month that is allegedly the norm. He's definitely going through some kind of growth spurt right now. Every time we feed him lately he finishes the meal by saying "But I'm still huuuungry." So we give him more food. The he tells us he's hungry again. So we make him wait, and give him more food an hour or so later, but by then he's ravenous, so even though he has in fact received additional food, he continues to ask for more. We don't want to over-feed him, but it feels wrong to withhold food from a hungry kid. I honestly can't imagine how people with teenage boys put aside enough money to pay the mortgage. Right now I feel like we are shoveling food at Zeke and it's just never enough. Amazing.

Anyway, the upside to this whole thing is that I think the extra protein (and everything else) he's getting is resulting in more hair. Which means that with any luck, he'll have enough for a fancy and fabulous bowl cut by the end of August.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meditation on the Logistics of Anteater Acquisition

I know you didn't think I was serious about the anteater thing, but I was.

I did a little research last week, and here's what I discovered: Anteaters come in three sizes: Small, medium, and large (or “pygmy,” “tamandua,” and “giant” if you want to pass yourself off as an anteater pro when cruising the online anteater discussion boards). I also discovered that some people (probably people who are into giant anteaters) call the medium anteaters “lesser anteaters” and that the lovers of medium anteaters are a little touchy about that. They prefer the “tamandua” label.

Speaking of those who love and hang out with anteaters, it turns out you can actually have a pet anteater in some states, but California is not one of them. If you want to own one here you have to apply for a special permit and build a giant cage in your yard and sign a contract promising that your anteater won't actually be a pet, but an educational/therapy animal. And then you have to take your anteater around to schools and old folks homes and let people pet it. That part actually makes me want one more, because I think that anyone packin' an anteater is going to be the rock star of the therapy-pet circuit. Right? I mean, how many drooly, stinky Beagles and retrievers have those poor kids and old people been subjected to? I think they'd flip out if you brought 'em an anteater. But the other stuff (cage building, permits, contracts) does not make me want one. I didn't envision a cage when I conceived of this whole scheme. I thought the anteater would just come and live with us and eat ants and pop in and out of the dog door at will. I was hoping he or she would make friends with Zadie and that they might even snuggle up together in the same dog nest (which it turns out was not entirely off the mark--the anteater people say they're actually very affectionate animals, bordering on needy, and get along quite well with cats and dogs).

Alas, it is not to be. Not only are the California anteater regulations something of a deal breaker, the cost and the inherent difficulty of caring for one pretty much preclude any anteater relationships that may have been in my future. It turns out that they cost anywhere from $1500 to $4000, and they are high-maintenance companions (physically—not personality-wise). The online community claims that most households do not have enough ants to sustain even one anteater. So you have to supplement their diets with a soup that has fruit and spinach and ants and cheese. Apparently they enjoy avocados as well, but those aren't part of the soup. And if you don't get the nutrition thing perfect they get sick. And wind up costing you thousands more at the vet. The websites couldn't emphasize the fragility of the anteater strongly enough. Oh, and they're cold all the time, so you need to dress them in sweaters (unless you live in a tropical climate).

So there you have it. Ready to pick one up? Yeah, me either. But I really was excited about it for a couple days...