Friday, July 25, 2008

Raves: Oh, I DO so love the Rio Movie Theater!

I've mentioned this before & I'll mention it again. I DO so love the Rio Theater in Monte Rio. My husband, daughter & I saw Wall-E there this evening & had a grand ol' time. The Rfio is located in a quirky quonset hut in the center of town, which is colorfully & vivaciously painted with murals (inside & out) by a former high-school student with local vistas & movie scenes from days gone by.

The owners are friendly & have the best concession stand ever (with some decent food & beverages & real butter on the popcorn, in addition to the usual candy & junk), & you almost always run into people you really like & haven't seen in a long time. It's the sort of multi-generation family-run business which harks to days gone by, with various children, grandchildren & other relatives pitching in to keep the place up & running.

This place definitely has character, with its murals, dusty velvet curtains, & distinctly local feel. Folks who've been jaded by the endless slick advertisements & obnoxiously endless previews & who hence choose to arrive late for movies will need to come reasonably on time here, because the folks at the Rio actually DO show the movie within five minutes or so of the stated time.

I've often even found the preview filler stuff fun, because it often feels like a family slide show & consists of photos from local festivals or someones trip to Europe, interspersed with ads from local businesses providing services that you may actually need. Then there may be a movie preview or two (I've never seen more than two), followed by a short animation piece (if it's a movie by Pixar), & then the movie begins.

I must admit that Wall-E totally lives up to its hype. Somehow, the folks at Pixar have managed to create a couple of robot characters with more charm & a wider range of facial expressions than many humans who happen to be amongst my acquaintances. The movie works well for young children because the characters are cute, nothing overly scary or horrifying happens, there's lots of silly slapstick comedy in which nobody really gets hurt, & most of the plot is conveyed visually (because the robots only have a rudimentary vocabulary).

The kids were laughing heartily throughout the movie, yet the movie is also amusing for grown-ups thanks to the humor, charming animation, & oblique references to culture & various trends.

I do feel obliged to warn that some sensitive young children may freak out about the initial premise -- that Wall-E is left entirely alone on earth to clean up after all the humans have left & has no family or friends in the beginning, save a hardy & indomitable little cockroach. Otherwise, Wall-E is totally a movie that you & your children can enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rants: Bizarre color choices made by our home's previous owners

My husband & I are having a totally thrilling evening. He's typing away on his laptop & I'm doing prep-work so I can start painting over the nasty battle-ship gray trim & doors in our living room. Whatever made the previous owners of our house choose greyish white for the walls & battle-ship gray for the trim & doors?

I shouldn't complain. If the previous owners' sense of color had matched their flair for construction, re-modelling, & craftsmanship (they did a lot of the work themselves, did a good solid job mostly, & even pulled permits for some of the work), I'm convinced that they would have been able to sell their house more quickly for their original asking price, instead of letting it languish on the market & settling for the considerably lower amount they were willing to settle for by the time we stumbled upon this place. Homes were in demand & prices around here were shockingly high back in 2004.

The previous owners put a lot of work & remodeling into our current home & -- for the most part -- did an excellent job. In fact, we wound up buying this particular place three-and-a-half years ago -- despite the difficulties of our vertical lot -- in part because our part of Rio Nido is such a wonderful neighborhood, & primarily because our house is so well-laid out & strongly constructed with good insulation, in sharp contrast with other places we looked at in our price-range, which were total hunks of junk.

Yet ... the colors chosen by the previous owners are totally depressing. The walls are all painted in the sort of dingy, greyish white that interior decorators & color specialists (the folks who make a living designing colors for various products, like paint, tile, linoleum, appliances, etc.) refer to as "dirty" because there's a lot of dingy gray underlying the color mix, & these pigments become increasingly dingy over the years. These dark, gray-ish pigments were highly fashionable back in the eighties when designers were harking back to the art-deco craze of the 1920's & everything was high-tech smooth, sleek & angular with gray, black & chrome accented with heavy doses of burgundy.

What I find even more bizarre than the previous owners' depressing color choices, is the fact that these folks have obviously devoted considerable love & care towards the application of these suicide-inducing hues. Their diabolical craftsmanship is utterly flawless with nary a blobby drip mark or stray bit of paint on the door knobs, hinges, & fixtures to be found. If you look closely, you'll even find that the door & trim paint has been so delicately applied that you can still see the grain of the wood ... um ... if they really ARE made of wood.

I know little about the previous owners of my home, except that they have a daughter who is about my daughter's age (about three years old when they left & probably six years old now); are serious musicians; appear to have grown "California tomatoes"* in the clumsily constructed (yet fully insulated & wired with electricity) "charming, adorable play house" (to quote their astute realtor) to finance their artistic habits; & wound up moving to Petaluma so they could be closer to their music scene.

I imagine them as sleekly-styled, androgynous throw-backs to the 80's with spiky hair, wrap-around or Ray Ban sunglasses, & sporting black, angular blazers with tight, black & white hounds-tooth "cigarrette-leg" jeans & suede, fuschia "elf" boots which rise to just above the ankle, have inch-high heels, pointy toes, & three brass snaps up the sides. Apparently, their interior design sense derives from the art-deco resurgence which was so hip back in the 80's & which was heavily influenced by the late 1920'3/early 30's color palette displayed on the cover of Duran Duran's 1982 chart-busting "Rio" album. I assume that their furnishings were all maroon & gray with chrome trim.

I often wonder what they're doing now. Do they wake up groggy-eyed from last night's gig at some electronica/techno rave in San Francisco at 6:30am (perhaps they argue about whose turn it is to wake up & be functional), make coffee, feed their daughter an easy breakfast of cheerios with strawberries & milk & a sprinkling of white sugar (they're probably not yet hungry enough to feed themselves breakfast), drop her off at school, wearily return home for a couple hours of shut-eye, & then spend a couple of hours practicing & composing on their synthesizer & electronic drum kit in their burgundy-colored studio with gray carpet & chrome accents, pick their daughter up from school, help her pick up tunes on the electronic keyboard, do homework with her, give her dinner & a bath, put her to bed, hire a sitter, & head off to their next gig in San Francisco. And out in back, there's a little shed which would be utterly charming if it weren't painted grey-ish white & battle-ship gray, which their daughter has been been emphatically instructed to NEVER go in there. Either that, or she waters the plants every day.

* California Tomatoes? There's a certain plant/medicinal herb which is federally illegal to grow, sell, or have in one's possession, but which has proven medical benefits, & which many folks grow around here to supplement their sketchy finances & which are perfectly legal to grow & possibly even sell to others in the State of California, as long as you have a prescription for it from a doctor, have registered your prescription with the State of California, & only sell it to others who have prescriptions & are registered with the State of California, or to State-licensed dispensaries.

Because this conversational topic often comes up when my six-year-old daughter is present, & because heirloom tomatoes are a popular & profitable export here in rural Sonoma County, I often refer to this particular plant -- which is also highly popular & profitable -- as "California tomatoes." In many ways, these crops have a similar & highly beneficial effect upon our local economy, except for the fact that nobody ever pays $3000 per pound for heirloom tomatoes. Personally, I believe that "California tomatoes" should be legalized, & a huge part of me would love to get into this racket myself, because heaven knows, my family & I could sure use the cash. Alas, I'm too danged cowardly to even drive over the posted speed limit or tear off the annoying, flapping tags on my mattress & pillows which emphatically state "DO NOT REMOVE), let alone planting myself a nice, lucrative crop of California tomatoes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rants: WHY can't people drive at the speed limit -- no faster, no slower?

I've lived most of my life in cities & hence haven't spent a lot of my time driving, compared to most people. City rents & other expenses were so high that I walked, biked, or took public transit everywhere. Then we had a child who got motion-sickness on buses (NOT pretty) & for various other reasons decided to move out here.

So I finally bought myself an automobile. I quickly grew to love my car, because it's the quickest, most convenient, & safe-est mode of transport that I've ever known. Yet I also find it aggravating, because people are so danged self-centered & downright MEAN when they're driving. If they're in a hurry to go somewhere, they ride on your tailgate, honk, & flash their lights, even though I'm simply going at the posted speed limit ... um, okay, maybe 5-10 miles above the speed limit. I would gladly pull over & let them pass, but need to find a safe place in order to do so.

Meanwhile, other folks drive WAY slower than the speed limit & keep randomly STOPPING. Then they suddenly TURN left or right without flashing a signal. This also totally drives me nuts. Don't they understand that others need to get somewhere? Don't they know that they can turn around later if they miss their turn? Don't they know that someone might rear-end them -- or me -- if they keep driving like clueless slugs?

On the other hand, people drive through my residential neighborhood with narrow roads & no sidewalks, & children present, at high speeds because they think it's fun, & when you holler at them to slow down, they just speed up.

What the hell happens to people when they get behind the wheel of a car? Do they even know that anyone else exists? What drives me nuts is how common courtesy & basic civility seems to be suspended once a person gets behind the wheel.

What evolution of thought makes a person STOP thinking of a car as a three-ton, potentially lethal, & immense convenience & START thinking of a car as some sort of anonymous conveyance for their aggressions & hostilities?

Speed limits & traffic laws have been determined by people with graduate degrees in city planning & traffic studies from elite schools, who have studied reams & reams of data. Why do we consider our impulses & home-spun knowledge to be so infinitely superior that we are willing to risk unnecessary traffic accidents?

Swim Lessons at the Rio Nido Pool

River to Coast Childcare Services has been offering morning swim lessons at the Rio Nido Pool during the month of July, in 30-minute sessions from 9am-11am through a partnership with the YMCA in Santa Rosa.

For $4.00 per lesson for each family, (or $32 for two weeks worth of lessons, Monday-Thursday), the children receive 30 minutes of swim lessons & can then hang out at the pool for the day (without paying the normal $6 per day fee). This program may continue through August if there's enough demand for it.

I initially felt somewhat doubtful about these lessons, even though we have a summer membership for the Rio Nido Pool. My 6-year-old daughter has been highly resistant towards my attempts towards enrolling her in swim lessons in the past -- even though she loves the water -- & had absolutely ZERO desire to participate in this current round of lessons, either. Nonetheless, I told her she MUST try it, because being a non-swimmer in this River Town is NOT an option, so she reluctantly agreed.

My, oh, my ... these instructors are pretty danged good & awfully persuasive ... now my daughter can't WAIT to go to her swim lessons & even feels disappointed that there is no swim lesson tomorrow (because it's Friday). They handle all age groups & personalities remarkably well. Each child receives a good balance of group time, watching time (i.e. seeing other kids swim, including the fabulous exploits of older/more advanced kids), & individual time practicing things with the instructor. They're amazing & REALLY good with the kids, & get them to do all sorts of things that you could only get your kids to do in your dreams ... like, swim underwater without holding their noses, float on their backs, doggy-paddle or swim the crawl all the way across the pool, etc.

For more information or to ask about future swim lessons, please call River to Coast Childcare Services at 707.869.3613. Lessons are only scheduled through July 18th, but I'm sure that they will find a way to extend them if enough of us want them to continue.

It's important for us to have a regular program of swim instruction here on the Russian River. The proximity of the River makes it extremely urgent that our children know how to swim & have a thorough understanding of water safety. I'm grateful to the folks at RCCS & the Santa Rosa YMCA for offering us this program.