Anyway, I picked them up around three o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday. It's a 100 mile drive, one way. The longest drives, perceptually though, are the ones where I am driving to pick them up, and the ones where I am driving back home, by myself after taking them back to their mother's apartment. Naturally, the second is the worst of these, because then I don't have the anticipation of their company to entertain me. For awhile, I was worried that Jackie did not want to go with me. Ow! I was really looking forward to going to the movies with both them to see the latest installment in the Harry Potter series and I was feeling really bad about her wanting to bail on me. At first, she didn't want to go, but I talked her into it. I must admit that her reluctance stung me really hard. I hadn't seen her or her sister in a month. She talked about being bored at my house, and getting into squabbles with her sister, and having other plans. I have other fears on this issue too, though. I wonder if she has the suspicion that she is being treated like some kind of pawn in the dispute between her mother and I. This damned bullshit is poisoning everything. Of my two daughters, she has always been the more cynical, and she is an adolescent now. Her insecurities bite her hard sometimes and it is difficult to watch. It is painful enough to see good people suffer with insecurities and over-estimated limitations, it is harder still when that person is your daughter. I have different insights than her mother on the issues going on in her life and it ties my guts in knots that I am so seldom around to be able to offer them to her on occasions when she may need or want to hear them. If you do it right, parenthood is something into which you invest your life. Sometimes, I feel so robbed I could puke. Divorce sucks. I don't care what wonderful feel-good bullshit you may have heard about second chances and new lives. Balderdash. Such thinking is nothing but the muzzy-headed cheap rationalizations of people who have no idea what commitment means. Okay, to exercise a talent which I heartily admire in one or two of my LJ friends, I'm cutting the whining off right here.
Things got a lot better after I picked them up. The long drive is certainly nothing if you have good company to distract you. We got engrossed in conversations of all sorts, what's been going on in our respective lives, songs on the radio, just all kinds of junk. I got so engrossed, I forgot where I was going and forgot to catch highway five south and ended up on ninety-nine, which is the route I would have taken going back to Lodi. I didn't even realize I had done this until we started discussing where to stop for lunch. I was contemplating the options available at Flag City, a small outpost of hotels, gas stations, and restaurants at the intersection of highways five and twelve, when I realized we were on ninety-nine and very much east of Lodi! Oops. Well, at that point, all of the restaurants in Lodi were pretty much an option, because we were going to have to go through town anyway to get back on highway five again, but we decided to stop at Wendy's. Gah. It's been so long since I had fast-junk-food! This is the first ketchup I've had in months! Yum! I got a frosty too. I've got to watch that. Since the ex left, I've lost about twenty-one pounds (down from 260 to 239) and it's still dropping, but not if I keep up the Frosty habit. Heh heh.
When we got back to Livermore, we decided to catch the 7:30 showing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" at the Regal 20 over in Pleasanton. About half the theaters there are showing it, so we didn't think that they'd be sold out. The movie had already been out for a couple of days now, too, so that allayed our fears of not being able to acquire tickets. Of course, we got there early, anyway. We arrived at around 6:50 and found out that our assumption was wrong! The 7:30 was sold out. We did manage to get tickets for the very next showing, at 8:20. I told the salesperson that I wanted two adult and one children's ticket, because Jackie is thirteen, but he sold me an adult and two children's tickets because he apparently wasn't paying a lot of attention to what I said. I decided to take the windfall and not argue about it. As big as Jackie is getting (she's taller than Crystal's 5'3" now) there's not too much longer that she will be able to get away with that, anyway. Naturally, this left us with time to kill until the time they started admitting people to be seated, so we decided to wander around the mall there. We stopped in at Barnes and Noble but fortunately none of us encountered a book which we absolutely, positively, had to have, because I was already deeply into denial and spending money I didn't have for the weekend. After that, we checked out a video game store and both girls were telling me how very much an XBOX game system would be appreciated. Hmm. I'll have to keep it in mind, if I ever get on top of my budget again. Their birthdays are coming up later this summer. After the video game store, I was dragged into Coldstone's Ice-cream shop. Uh oh.
We each got the medium serving of ice-cream in the waffle-cone-bowl. Shannon got French Vanilla mixed with Oreos. Jackie had some sort of weird combination which she concocted for herself, and I had the "Cheesecake Fantasy." Oh, this stuff is the absolute crack of the ice-cream world. Cheesecake fantasy is cheesecake ice-cream with a mixture of blueberry and strawberry toppings swirled into it. Woof! I am so hooked. I'd never eaten in Coldstone's before. If I am not careful, I suspect that I will regret the fact that the one in Pleasanton is not the closest one. There's one in Livermore also, which is going to be a temptation every damned time I go to Wal-Mart, I fear. Yack! It was just that damned good!
After the ice-cream, we went into the theater to get our seats. It turns out that they were not letting anyone in yet. We were about forty minutes away from show-time. They were making people line up to get their seat. The line was enormously long. It snaked down the hall, out the door and into the parking lot! Yow. We stood in line for about twenty minutes. Shannon doodled with the pen and tablet I had given her before we left, and Jackie played her Gameboy. She's rediscovered Pokemon, after growing tired of it months ago, and having briefly considered selling her Gameboy. I settled for conversation whenever I could snag the attention of at least one ear and one eye of the same child. There had been people sitting outside the auditorium entrances waiting to get a good spot in front of every theater showing the Harry Potter movie. Some of these people looked as if they had been sitting there a long time.
Fortunately, the movie was reasonably up to the standards set by the previous installments, despite the change in directors, from Chris Columbus to Alfonso Cuarón and change in the actor playing Albus Dumbledore, to Michael Gambon due to the death of Richard Harris. As I had been hoping, the special effects people did do a better job with the dementors than I had feared from seeing what they looked like in the preview I saw when the preview trailer first came out. Nevertheless, they still could have done a better job than they did. Also, I thought the acting was a tad "flat" in this installment of the series, but then some of that could be attributed to the way the story is being told, in a break-neck pace to cram in as much as possible of the story as told in the books. Emma Watson, the girl playing Hermione in the series seemed particularly uninspired in a couple of places during this movie, although the boy playing Ron seems to have improved since the previous movies were shot. It is definitely the adults who carried the acting in this one though.
I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but I think the stories are getting harder to tell on film as the books progress. Rowling has created a very detail-rich world and her plot incorporated a great deal of complex story-telling. There are sub-plots and lots of parallel character development going on which are hard to capture in a movie. I believe that the stories themselves are getting harder and harder to tell in a two and a half hour format. Also most of the story telling is not carried in the visual element. Granted, there are quite a few areas in the plot that are well suited to a screen implementation, but the story itself, in its entirety, is very literary in its construction. The pacing of the story also presents challenges to a screenplay writer. With each subsequent movie, the impression gets more and more like the story is being "rushed" to get in the whole tale in two and a half hours, as if the movie were a visual Cliff's Notes version of the book. On the whole, I think that, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a great deal is lost in the translation to film. It is possible to get maximum enjoyment value out of the movies only if you have read the books; they are merely enjoyable as light escapism otherwise.
Sunday we stayed home. I spent some of the morning helping Shannon with schoolwork. She and I worked in the yard in the afternoon. She trimmed the hedge in the front yard and I mowed the lawn and moved some of the dirt that had been piled up on the walk in back. Little by little the place is improving. The yard is still chock-full of weeds though. Jackie spent a good deal of the afternoon on the computer chatting with friends and playing The Sims.
|This is Shannon. She's doodling. I caught her unprepared in mid-smirk.|
|No, Miss Shannon, I don't think that my camera phone has the resolution to pick up any of that drawing.|
|This is Jackie. She's had previously been grounded from the computer for the past couple of weeks and so she is desperately playing catch-up with her online life. She has a billion friends, and she has to talk to all of them -- today.|
|Surprise, Jackie, ambush from real life.|
In the evening, after Shannon and I got cleaned up from working in the yard, we went to Mountain Mikes Pizza. The pizzas there are really good. Now I have two favorite places in town to get pizza, so far. There was a TV in Mountain Mikes which was playing a basketball game. I kept looking over at it every once in awhile. I haven't watched anything other than DVD's on my TV since September. The darned thing just seems like such a waste of time now, frequently interrupted by insipid commercials. I noticed that the LA Lakers were getting "Pistoned," 79 - 70. Hmmm, perhaps their Muse has deserted them. Heh heh, maybe they'll play better if ingenuemuse embraces their kneecaps to her bosom again. California is really big on basketball. I never noticed basketball when I was in Ohio. In the Midwest, I think football (the American version, thank you) was the bigger sport in terms of fan appreciation. Out here, it doesn't seem to be as prevalent as basketball.
I gave Crystal all of the empty moving boxes which I had stacked up in my living room. There's another area where I am making progress. The place looks a lot neater and less cluttered without the empty boxes stacked up in there. We really had to pack them in. They all wouldn't fit into the trunk so we squeezed some of them into the back seat with Shannon. On the way back to Crystal's we stopped to let Jackie do some clothes shopping. She said that she needed a new skirt or pair of shorts, so we took care of that. By the time I got them back to Sacramento it was ten. By the time I got back home it was around midnight. I ended up doing the laundry before going to bed at 2:30AM.