Season's Greetings

Homeowners and Other Synonyms for the Damned
(aka BLISS no. 1)

Welcome to the special HOLIDAY issue of "The life and times of two of the most interesting people we know." As you may have noticed, each of the previous form letters centers around a special, morally significant theme. Like, for instance, last issue, which concentrated on one of the most familiar and timely questions of society today, "What have Katie and Dave been up to?" The theme for this issue is a little more subtle than those of previous form letters, so pay careful attention for any small hints hidden THE DAVE AND KATIE SHOW in the stories to follow.

First order of business is to say Merry Non-denominational Holiday and Happy New Year!

Second order of business is the continuation of the saga. The last episode ended with our engagement. The morning after, there was a little impromptu party at the house, with Jeff Stern, Alison, Jeff Goldsmith, Terry Lyzen, and the two of us. An opportunity to spend a few quite moments with friends, to share a little of the happiness we felt, to drink heavily before ten o'clock in the morning.

It was also a time for making decisions. The drinking helped. Should we move in together? Buy a house? Start looking for outfits that didn't clash? And there were higher level issues as well. Can you mix yellow and magenta? Is it poor taste to wear a belt and shoes with different colors? Could we dig up $1,675,434 down payment and move into Hearst Castle? These questions and others continued to haunt us for the duration of the decay of a excited Cesium atom, that it to say about 3 nanoseconds.

Yes, we wanted to move in together. Yes, we wanted to buy a house. Yes, it is in poor taste to have a belt and shoes that don't match.

Armed with these assurances, I approached Jeff Goldsmith. It was time to find out if buying a house with a friend had been a wise move three and a half years before. "Jeff," I started, "You know your belt and shoes don't match, don't you?" A short while later, we had hammered out a proposed cost for the house; $375,000 dollars and 31 cents. This was only about $75,000 more than I thought the place was worth, so I checked my pockets for change. There wasn't enough. It was outside Jeffs financial reach as well, and we decided to put the place on the market. With the horror stories about the LA housing market cooling off like a corpse, we felt certain that it would take a while to sell the place. We began working with our old real estate agent, Ernie Boehr, who helped us hire a lawn and gardening group to assist with getting the place in shape for the sale. After pouring several thousand dollars worth of materials and labor over a ten day period, giving us at least a chance of attracting a buyer, we would start having buyer "caravans" come through.

Eight days later, two days before the caravans started, we sold the place for $340,000 to a group of real estate renovators.

We had to scramble as a result, but we found a house that looked like a good deal after a week. It was reasonably large, had a wine cellar, and a nice yard. It had also been lived in by heavy smokers (average smoking rate was calculated in ppms, packs per minute) for thirteen years. It reeked of stale cigarettes. The dim, yellowish sunlight filtering through the stained, grease filmed windows lit the inside of the house with a wan light that left an impression similar to the "bat cave" in a recent major motion picture. But it had potential.

Potential, for those of you not in the know, means that if you dump in enough money to build a nuclear aircraft carrier, and enough manpower to operate it for a year, the place would be what real estate agents like to refer to as "charming," in roughly the same tone of voice foreign visitors use when they encounter the New York Subway for the first time.
None the less, we felt we could make it work. We would spend a month in her apartment, and, during that time, have the inside painted, the outside painted, remodel the kitchen, remodel the den, add a new bathroom and add a second story to the house. We could start on the landscaping after we moved in.

This, of course, necessitated putting together a schedule and budget, which we arrived at by making a few simple assumptions:

  1. A professional painter was, on the average, a college graduate with a work ethic that
    would have impressed Joan of Arc
  2. The Government would subsidize 90% of the the costs
  3. Reagan really didn't know anything about Iran-Contra.
This would all occur after escrow closed on all the various real estate purchases (including Jeff Goldsmith, who ended up purchasing a Town House) in about 45 days. We felt confident enough to spend the time going to plays, windsurfing, and a variety of other fun filled activities.

Our windsurfing experiences added another page in the "beginners follies" book. Anne, Katie's sister, and her boyfriend, Tom, invited us to join them on Castaic lake for a day of sun and water sports. Tom had a pair of windsurfers, and we rented a third. It was significantly more windy than G. Bonnelli park, our standard windsurfing beach, and Katie and I bellowed happily as we leaned into the wind and ripped across the lake at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. Well, fast at least.

Anne had a slightly different experience, however. She was new to the sport, but fortunately Katie and I had learned from our novice days a few of the basics on helping beginners. You tether them to the shore to start with, with a rope long enough to let them move around a bit, but short enough to haul in if they have problems. After they master the basics, a more experienced windsurfer accompanies them as the tether is released from the shore. If they get in trouble, the experienced windsurfer can use the tether to "tow" them back to the beach. Our knowledge of these few, simple rules that makes things inestimably easier for the new windsurfer really let us enjoy watching Anne slip out into the maelstrom unescorted. After all, the school of hard knocks really is the best teacher.

In actuality, Anne did very well, with the exception of her inability to go in any direction besides downwind. Hee hee hee.

We also began lessons on formal ballroom dancing. Or, more appropriately labeled, we began an opportunity to prove that I have two left feet. Facing backwards. And not connected to my central nervous system. It was disconcerting to be counting along with the instructor as we performed the simplest dance steps, muttering a quiet "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four... and watch my feet go "one, three, six, twenty two and a half, hut, hut, hike!" normally followed by a squeal of indignation by Katie as I stamped on her toes. Then we jumped into "West Coast Swing," where the concept included multiple body parts moving in concert to music! And another person! It turns out that this is indeed possible, as demonstrated by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in a movie that I'm convinced was all done with computer animation and special effects. My experience was more like "it is possible to fling your partner into another group of dancers, trip over a chair, and plow face first into a wall." In the long run, however, determination, optimism, and enthusiasm won out over common sense as we decided to take the next series of lessons. In casts.

On the 22nd of July, we had the opportunity to join Lisa, Katie's step sister, and Danny, her fiancée, for their wedding. They were a handsome couple, with Danny in his leather pants, white ruffled shirt and bolo tie and Lisa in her flowered dress with the front hiked up to her knees. The wedding was a last minute flurry of hastily made decisions, followed by a short but touching ceremony where Danny and Lisa both got a little weepy. Then they were off in a black limo. We rejoined them at the reception, which was held in a sound stage at one of the studios Danny had done some work for. Lisa had changed into a black suede and leather dress. It was kind of free format; everyone grabbed drinks from the bar while Danny and Lisa traded shots of vodka from a bottle sitting on their table. Then the dancing started. When we left at 11:00 or so, things were still going strong, if not actually winding up. Many of Danny and Lisa's friends seemed to be night owls. All in all, it was an unusual, but very nice, wedding.

On the 11th of August, we headed for a four day trip down to La Jolla, a small seaside resort area just north of San Diego. Our reservations were at the Summer House Inn, a hotel described in the brochure as "relaxing, cozy accommodations looking out over the warm, blue Pacific, within easy walking distance of the beach." We arrived to find a ten story concrete building about a mile in from the shore. "Your brochure appears to be a little inaccurate in its description of the facilities" I said to the desk manager between gritted teeth, pointing at the particular passage. "Ah, but sir, this is correct. Your beds have the latest "Swedish massager" (coin operated, of course) installed; what could be more relaxing than that? And the room is certainly cozy - how could it be otherwise with 400 square feet of space? You do look out over the Pacific across the rooftops of the town from your eighth story balcony, and current medical studies indicate that even seventy year old people can easily walk a mile." It actually worked out well in the end, though; our room had a pair of twin beds instead of the queen sized specified by our reservations, and the only alternate room they had available was a "presidential suite." It included several regular rooms linked together, with a little kitchen, two full baths, and an indoor Jacuzzi, which we spent the next four days in.

No, only kidding. We only spent about a day and a half in it. We visited Old Town, an area that attempts to preserve the historical knowledge of our forefathers, namely that California was a really, really miserable place to live back then. We hit the beach, did a lot of shopping, visited the San Diego Zoo (featuring "horny," the white owl), and drank wine while watching the sunset from our balcony. We practiced our artistic capabilities by attempting to draw the sunset with oil pastels. This turned out to be more fun later on, when we passed the two around and asked people to guess which of us had drawn each of the two pictures. After going through a dozen people, all of whom guessed correctly, I was willing to admit that there was something that marked the drawings plainly enough for anyone with the observational capabilities of a brick to figure it out. So it was kind of fun when Bill, Katie's step dad, managed to guess incorrectly.

On the 27th, it was off to another wedding. Jim Hlavity finally decided to tie the knot with Grisel. It was a little in contrast to Danny and Lisa's, however, since Jim is in the Air Force and decided on a military wedding. Having a military wedding, as it turns out, is an excellent way to spice things up a bit. For one thing, it turns it into one of those audience participation things. Between the six bridesmaids, the six groomsmen, the honor guard, the sword bearers, the brides father, and the flower girl and ring bearer, about sixty percent of the audience was in the wedding party in one capacity or another. A military wedding also provides a little suspense to the affair. At most weddings, everyone concentrates on those magic moments that make a wedding one of the most memorable events in one's life. The moment when the bride and groom are the center of attention, truly "in the spotlight," perhaps for the first time in their life. We are speaking, of course, of the moment when the groom or bride make a really stupid mistake while hundreds of people, including their parents, are staring at them. At a military wedding, you not only have this opportunity, but an equally fascinating chance to watch a military honor guard swing swords around in a wild enough fashion that decapitation of someone seems almost guaranteed. We quietly made bets while the ceremony progressed.

The wedding went off with only one minor hitch. The flower girl was about two years old. The ring bearer must have been somewhat impatient with the entire proceedings, since when the flower girl, stumbling along as fast as her little legs would carry her, went face first into the dirt, the ring bearer decided the "smooth" thing to do would be to drag her along for a few feet. She was rumpled, but unharmed, and the wedding continued. The reception was held at a very nice restaurant and bar on the waterfront. It was a nice opportunity for dancing, drinking, and getting reacquainted with a few of Jim's friends that I had banzi-skied with in the past. The finishing touch on the entire event was the video crew that Jim had hired to tape the event; they wandered by to interview the guests for a few moments. Jeff Stern and I took the opportunity to spend fifteen minutes dwelling on the some of the more colorful adventures we had with Jim in the past. But I did warn him not to show the video tape to Grisel until after the honeymoon, so I'm sure that went well anyway.

This was about the time that the various escrows finally closed and we took possession of the new house. Armed with the advice of a number of people who had bought places Like ours and fixed them up ("don't do it," "you'll work harder than you ever have in your life," "it's a big mistake," "you are insane for even thinking about it"), we set our plan into motion. I moved into Katie's apartment while we started a painting team on the house. A typical day during this period ran something like this:

5:30 Alarm goes off

5:31 Snuggle up to Katie and put pillow over head

6:57 Suddenly realize that I have 2-1/2 minutes left to take a shower

7:05 Suddenly realize that I should have been in the shower five minutes ago - jump out of bed

7:26 Run out of house. Realize I have no socks or shoes.

7:31 Run out of house. Race off in car to pick up migrant Honduran painting team of Luis, Pablo, and Rodrigo

7:38 Arrive at new house. Unlock doors. Start going over house with Luis, the senior painter, who replies "yes, yes" to everything I say.

7:49 Finish going over the days work with Luis. Ask him if he has any problems or comments. Luisreplies "yes, yes."

8:21 Finish pointing at things while making brushing motions and comical swishing noises in my throat. Luis replies "yes, yes."

8:28 Arrive at work half an hour late unprepared for the big 8:45 meeting. Time to go get a cup of coffee.

8:45 Have a meeting.

9:30 Meeting ends

9:35 Get a note from the secretary - "Someone called and said 'Senor, the machine, it burn up, but we putout drapes quick"

9:40 Finish talking with Luis on the phone. Have another meeting

11:30  Meeting ends

11:35  Pick up lunch for the migrant painter team

11:50  Arrive at house with lunch. Luis and painting team are very busy polishing brass work.

12:05  Finish pointing at things while making brushing motions and comical swishing noises in my throat.

Luis replies "yes, yes."

12:10  Luis makes it clear that he needs some kind of painting equipment. Also, brain surgery.

12:40  Return from getting painting equipment. Luis looks at it and starts shaking his head. Says "no, no."

1:05    Return from getting different painting equipment.

1:12     Back at work. Dig in to get serious work done. After getting coffee, that is.

1:15     Go to a meeting

4:15    Go to an emergency, unscheduled meeting

5:00    Realize that it is five o'clock, and I am late picking up the migrant painting team.

5:05    Realize that I'm REALLY late picking up the migrant painting team.

5:12    Arrive at the house. Migrant painting team is very busy polishing brass.

5:30    Dropoff painting team. Go home and change.

5:50    Arrive back at new house. Begin watering lawn & flowers

7:00    Finish watering everything. Head home

7:30    Dinnertime

8:30    Wash dishes

9:00    Start working on bills

9:20    Finish working on bills. Think about doing JPL type work.

9:21    Read a few chapters out of "The best of Dave Barry", particularly the chapters on owning a home

10:00 Go to bed

The 2nd of September was a black day for Katie. She became a year older. I took her out to dinner the night before at the Raymond Restaurant, our favorite spot for intimate dining. The 2nd was a Saturday, and Katie's parents had set up a little impromptu picnic / birthday party / play at Occidental College. We arrived at the picnic spot a shade before six, the agreed apon time for all of us to meet. We spread out a picnic blanket, opened a bottle of wine and a round of cheese and settled back to one of the few constants in our lives; the perpetual inability for anyone else in Katie's family to arrive someplace on time. About six thirty, Janet, Bill, Tom, and Anne joined us. It was an outstanding time. The musical did not disappoint either; it was Ruddigore. a Gilbert and Sulivan musical, excellently done.

On the 16th of September, we participated in one of those barbaric rituals that can make the most hardy of individuals quake in fright. Even Katie and I, who had braved the ice cliffs of Scottie's run, the wrath of the Battle Command Training Program, and the horror of being called "incredibly cute" together, were overcome with fainting spells and sudden periods of dizziness. It was A Nightmare On Elm Street part VI - meeting the relatives.

We flew to the east coast for a week. Both of our families were concentrated in the Northeast originally, and most of our Aunts and Uncles still live in Connecticut. It was a whirlwind tour on the "family a day" plan. It actually turned out rather nicely, though. It was odd for us to have "free time," when nothing is scheduled on the calender. Heck, it was odd for us to have any time where we didn't have plans to do three things simultaneously. And we mutually agreed that all our relatives were basically great people, who well deserved to have us as part of the family.

It also gave us and opportunity to visit my brother Bill (who we like to call "Schnozacooley Jr." because he inherited the famed Rubega honker from my mothers family) and his very pregnant wife Sang Ok. The doctor had originally predicted twins based on the size of Sang Ok's tummy. The sonogram demonstrated that the doctor was close to correct; it was a baby and a nose.

On the 21st of October, we headed down for a week long and much needed vacation on the warm sandy beaches of the Mexican Caribbean.

The Yucatan peninsula. Covering almost eight hundred thousand square miles, with a total area almost as large as California and a large greyhound bus combined, it is a land of worm infested liquor and cash that is worthless unless it contains at least a half dozen zeros. A land steeped in the mysterious history of the Mayan Empire, which, at its peak, was almost as large as the White House janitorial staff. Their ruins, scattered through the area, lend the eerie atmosphere of an extinct empire to contrast the vibrant jungle growth that dominates the local vegetation. It is a land where man's footstep has tread lightly, leaving the untouched, wild, erotic beauty of the natural landscape for all to enjoy. Even the modern villages have the same characteristic elements that makes the area so unique woven into the fabric of their everyday life. Whatever your interests, the Yucatan has to be one of the most interesting places in the world to visit.

It was almost enough to make Katie and I stop snoozing on the beach of Club Med and go see some of it.

We know what you're thinking. "Is this true?" The answer is ... no. Using a philosophy expounded upon by issue after issue of the premier thinking man's bible, Calvin and Hobbes, we made up the part about eight hundred thousand square miles. Although we will admit that we are within three orders of magnitude of the correct answer. We think.
Anyway, the real question foremost in everyone's mind is "Does Gorbachev really get his incredible energy from eating Wheaties?" Enquiring minds want to know! This, however, is related to our story only in that we thought it would confuse everyone. So, to get back to the original point, which was snoozing ... uhhh, that is, Cancun...

We flew down in a chartered Continental airplane especially designed to make your stay at Club Med much more enjoyable by giving one that wonderful, euphoric feeling provided by escaping from a prison. The Cancun airport was the standard slash of tarmac in the middle of a jungle, and a short distance from the Island of Cancun. We were at the club with a half hour of landing.

The first, and most impressive, aspect of Cancun was the water. Imagine a blue so intense, so vivid, so brilliant that it literally melted your eyeballs in their sockets. Well, that isn't anything like the color of the Cancun water, which is good because we kind of like our eyeballs in their current condition. But if you want to talk about a beautiful, gem like turquois, shading slowly into a sparkling aquamarine, tinged with deeper blue sapphire at the far edge, then you want to talk about the waters off Cancun. And warm; we spent hours snorkeling inside the reef without the hint of a chill. And full of flashing, dazzling fish in all colors of the rainbow. Bright yellows, oranges, greens, iridescent blues, they darted in from all directions as we entered the water. And ... well, perhaps it is best to leave it at "it was pretty nice."

The club was huge. They actually had little electric carts to run you from your room to the various sporting areas. We never used them; the entire area was gorgeous and the walk was wonderful. But the concept of needing them was odd since the concept is to "escape from civilization." Available sports included snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, tennis, aerobics, and a variety of less formal sports like pool basketball and tug of war. We stuck with the water sports.

Windsurfing was intense. October is at the very end of the hurricane season in the Caribbean, and storms are common. The area was actually overcast the first couple of days we were there as a result. But what stayed with us long after the clouds had gone was strong winds. The windsurfing area was in a little cove somewhat protected from the winds. Even so, it was stronger than we would have liked if we were beginners. 100 feet out, you passed the invisible boundary of protection provided by the point jutting out into the water. Most people just let the sail go immediately and attempted to paddle their way back to sanity. Katie and I were made out of different stuff, however. With the few microseconds of warning the wind provided as it shifted from a stiff breeze to a gale force wind, we tried leaning into with everything we had. This had the expected effect, i.e. a few seconds of glory before getting slammed into the water.

After a day, we had enough practice to make it past the point, and windsurfing became a seriously high speed sport. There was only one problem. Leaning into the wind with most of your weight supported by hanging onto the beam was exhausting. Even fifteen minutes was enough to make your arm muscles ache with the effort. After a half hour, it was impossible to hang on at all. It was time to get introduced to the harness.

The harness is a contraption that wraps around you like a pair of oversized diapers, with a large blunt hook sticking out in the front. The windsurfer is rigged for the harness by attaching a loose cable along the length of the beam. As you get the windsurfer underway, the concept is to "hook" into the cable, and hang your weight from the harness rather than your arms. You still use your arms to steer the thing, but the effort is about the same as it would be for a light wind. The theory was simple. In practice, it worked out a little differently. I would take off, the wind screaming into the sail like a living thing ... pull the weight of my body up enough to hook into the cable, twisting the sail slightly to let out some of the wind so the center of balance between myself and the sail stayed over the board... hook in, drop back, feel the harness cut into my back with comforting solidity, twist the sail back to catch the wind, and POOF!, it was instant catapult time. The wind would smash into the sail like a giant fist, slamming the sail flat into the water, and the cable / hook combination would jerk you off your feet and fling you about a mile into the air. Occasionally, you would do a graceful little pirouette before smacking into the water. All very amusing for the observers on the beach, but kind of hard on the tossee. I did finally figure it out, after a body battering day of trying, and it was worth it in the long run. With the speed and ease you could achieve with the harness, it was easy to take the windsurfer out to the point where it was only a tiny speck from the shore, into the deep water where the sharks and giant squids lay ... but that's another story.

Water skiing met the criteria for "intense" as well. The water-skiing area was in an area that looked like a jungle river; huge trees, vines, and dense underbrush were the only visible shore. Exotic looking white heron stood among the reeds and roots along the banks. But the water was salt water, and the passage in was via a small motor boat from the sea. The water-skiing platform was sitting in the middle of a large slash in the jungle growth, the slash a teardrop shape with a wide expanse in the center but narrowing down to points at the ends. Katie took to water-skiing like a pro, although it had been ten years since she had last tried it. She started on one ski. Remembering my prior experiences, I decided to start on two before "graduating" to the single ski scene. Katie went first, getting up on her first try and cutting a clean line through the water as she pulled away from the dock. I also made it on my first try, with two skis, and enjoyed the exhilaration as the speedboat tore down the slash toward the narrow, pointed end at high speed, the sight of the rapidly approaching wall of jungle growth warning me that a turn was imminent... really imminent... any time now ... TURN AROUND YOU IDIOT!!!! I gracefully dropped the tow line and flipped into the water as I came within about two feet of impaling myself on the tough jungle vegetation. The speedboat sputtered back. "You stiffened your legs! Don't do that or you'll go flying into the trees!" the driver shouted. "Don't drive me into the trees and I won't stiffen my legs" I screamed back.

Later on, I did try to make it on one ski since Katie made it look so effortless. I was very successful in that I did travel far enough for my body to flip up out of the water, over the ski, and back into the water, performing what the instructors called "a classic face plow."

We did actually do a little touring of the area. We took one Club Med shopping excursion, and one tour excursion. The shopping excursion was really quite interesting. We stopped at three places; two with fixed prices and one shopping bazaar. The bazaar was what one expected in Mexican shopping; thousands of goods jammed into tiny little acloves in a giant maze that seemed to be half building, half tent. Hawkers screamed and pleaded, waving fine jewelry or woven goods under your nose to entice you into their shop. We wandered around, avoiding buying things, absorbing the atmosphere. After picking the spots that looked like they had things that might interest us, we went into action with a carefully planned pitch. We would walk in, looking around in as uninterested a fashion as possible, but picking out the items we were interested in. The shopkeeper would hover over our shoulder, murmuring encouragement. "Pretty, senor, yes, yes." Finally, after we had decided what we would buy, I would ask how much. The shopkeeper would quote some price, usually fairly reasonable by LA standards. I would immediately shake my head. "No, no, much too high, I'll give you one third of that" I would say. The shopkeeper would shake his/her head sorrowfully. "I cannot, I would lose money" they would say, and then offer, since we were "nice gringos," to take 10% off. Katie would immediately look at me fiercely and say in a loud voice "He doesn't want to deal... lets get out of here" and walk out of the store while I turned to the shopkeeper. "Sorry," I would say, "not interested," backing out slowly. The shopkeeper couldn't harass us both at once; invariable he would choose me rather than run after Katie. "No, senor, I will give you good price" he would cry. "Sorry, my fiancee is leaving..." I would answer, shrugging my shoulders and still stepping backwards. The shopkeeper would frantically try to baiter, but Katie's growing distance put too much pressure on the poor sap; as I started to turn and walk away he would shout "OK, senor, OK" in a defeated tone of voice. There were a few items we couldn't get at more than half off, but by far the majority of our purchases were in the 33-40% range.

The tour was a half day trip that hit two spots; Tulum, some of the oldest known Mayan ruins in existence, and Xel-ha, billed as "a natural aquarium." Tulum was wild. Built on the seashore, in one of the most beautiful spots we've ever seen, it was an ancient place of worship for the Mayans. Our tour guide took us around the area and pointed out many interesting things; the hall of the gods, the all seeing eye, the temple of the virgin, the grocery market, the wash 'n dry, the Mayan disco. We are not making up the Mayan disco, by the way! Apparently, the Mayans would pick the "queen for a year" by having a dance contest on a broad, flat stone dance floor. The Mayan tradition of picking a queen purely on the basis of how shapely her legs were, as opposed to making the girl mouth silly platitudes about dressing in a skimpy outfit for the good of mankind, as we do in Miss Universe contests, merely pointed out just how advanced the Mayan culture was. Someday, perhaps, we will approach such perfection, (sounds of Katie smacking Dave).

Xel-ha, pronounced "Xel-ha," was a lagoon that was half fresh water and half salt water. They were split into two layers, the fresh water on top and the salt water about four feet down. Snorkeling in it was fun but weird; the fresh water on top was freezing cold, while the salt water was bathtub hot. We spent a lot of time swimming underwater as a result. The fish were wild as well. The lagoon is netted off from predators, and the remaining fish were very large and fat as a result. As we thrust ourselves along, Katie let out a loud squeal of delight and pointed out two four foot long iridescent blue and green fish - parrot fish, I think. We swam after them, trying to get a better look, as they leisurely finned themselves along in front of us. After a while, Katie grew tired, but I decided to give one last push to try to get really close. I took a deep breath, dived down a few feet, and started pumping my legs like mad. I gained on the two rapidly, getting closer ... closer... almost close enough to touch one... suddenly, the rearmost fish let out a noxious looking cloud of yellowish stuff from it's backside. ALL ENGINES IN REVERSE!!! By frantically back-peddling with my arms and shooting for the surface, I managed to avoid the fish's rather effective countermeasures against nosy snorkelers. We spent the rest of the time giving the fish a little more personal room.

We made a few friends during our stay. We nicknamed Doug and Gary, a couple of guys vacationing from Toronto, the "Mackenzie Brothers" after the "second city TV" personalities.
They were great, with the normal, reserved, kind of understated manner so typical of Canadians. "She her... that one over there" Doug would cry. "Yeah", we would reply, looking over to see a fairly attractive blond walking by. "Stupidest woman in the world" he confided in a low voice. "Low IQ?" Katie laughed back. "LOW?" he cried, "No, not low, nonexistent. She's too dumb to have an IQ."

One evening, we were sitting with Gary when Doug joined us from making a phone call. "Oh, bad news, bad news" he said, looking a Gary. "What is it?" asked Gary, puzzled. "The Vancouver exchange crashed again" Doug replied, "Al Cranston, the stock broker, is selling his house." "Oh. That's bad." Katie and I looked at one, then the other. "How bad?" I asked. "Well, lets see, it's not that the stock price crashing is such a problem, it's all that stock we bought on margin on Cranston's advice" said Gary. "We're poor" said Doug, kind of forlornly. "That's right," piped in Gary, "we're poor." "Well, I know what we can do" said Doug, a little enthusiasm returning to his voice. "What's that?" asked Katie. "GET A BEER" they cried in unison. "And then go skiing when we get back" added Gary. "Toronto this time of year is the best skiing in the world" joined in Doug. And off to the bar they went.

We also had an opportunity to meet David and Cherie, a couple from the San Luis Obispo area. After meeting them a few times at the windsurfing beach, we decided to get reservations for four at one of the small annex restaurants. There were two at Club Med Cancun; El Rancho and La Palapa, a steak place and a seafood place. The annexes were a bit nicer than the main dining room; smaller, more intimate, and the food was served to you rather than provided "buffet style." David and Cherie brought a bottle of Champagne, a welcome change from the cheap wine provided by Club Med, and it turned into a really nice evening.

Well, we could go on about Cancun. And on, and on, and on. And on. But in an attempt to prevent this from becoming the great American novel, we will leave the other details for whomever is interested enough to ask about them.

Since this is the holiday version of the form letter, celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of the next, it seemed like the appropriate way to end it would be to list the things that really made an impression on us in the last year, or, in other words,

The Best & the Worst of 1989

The Best:

The Raymond Restaurant in South Pasadena.  We had dinner here the night we were engaged. Their food is simply the best that we have ever experienced in a restaurant and the atmosphere is even better.

Skiing in Park City, Utah. Powder, powder, powder, and more powder.

California Stag's Leap 1987 Vintage Chardonnay.  It speaks for itself.

Calvin & Hobbs.  A good cartoon for gaining the proper perspective on life. Definitely recommended as part of your morning ritual.

Snorkeling in Cancun, Mexico.  We did this nearly everyday we were in Cancun. The fish are literally all around you from the moment you step into the water at the snorkeling beach.

Nana's 85th Birthday Party.  All we can say is Katie's grandmother knows how to throw a party.

The Jeffrey Ballet.  The best ballet company that tours the southland. Definitely worth seeing one of their shows if you have the opportunity.

The Phantom of the Opera.  One of the best musicals we've ever seen.

Jim and Grisel's Wedding.  During their wedding, Grisel was given an official "welcome" to the US AF, her husband's employer. This occurred when Jim and Grisel were walking beneath the raised swords of the US AF Honor Guard; the last sword bearer in the guard whacked Grisel on the derriere with his sword and said "Welcome to the United States Air Force." We suppose this was and indication of things to come. Good Luck Grisel.

Dave's (now Dave's & Katie's) Form Letters.  No one can dispute the quality of the work of the author. And of course, the work of his assistant isn't to bad either. Gingered Scallops in

Puff Pastry.  Katie's parents gave her a book of "best" restaurant recipes for her birthday. Gingered Scallops in Puff Pastry by Wolfgang Puck, owner of Spago's, was the cover recipe. It takes about an hour to prepare and 10 seconds to inhale.

Alex's Face Plant.  This had to be the most hilarious moment in 1989. You should have been there.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This has to be the best beer on draft. If you live in Pasadena, go to the Crown City Brewery (Del Mar and Raymond) and give it a try.

The Worst:

Moving.  An activity that ranks right up there with licking rusty razor blades in our book. Highly recommended for those seeking suicidal depression.

Continental Airlines.  When flying into Mexico, they spray insecticide on the passengers before they can depart the plane. Additionally, they serve lousy food.

Killeen, Texas.  A city that Katie has visited more times that she cares to remember. Their interpretation of gourmet food is Whataburger™.

Jeff Stern's Car.  It is of continuous amazement that this beast continues to transport Jeff and Alison around Los Angeles. The front end is held together with doodle wire and his seats provide a new definition for budget upholstery.

Thursday Night Basketball.  Aka, the World's Most Dangerous Sport. The "boys" got together every Thursday night for a friendly night of basketball. It turns out that basketball is a contact sport.

The Debate over the Price of Hay.  Jeff "Mr. Congeniality" Goldsmith impresses his blind date, a fanatical horse lover, by arguing with her for more than a half hour about the price of hay. Oh well, it takes all kinds.

Alison's Haircut.  The most major faux pas of the season. Alison, while complaining about the hair stylist butchering her hair, fails to notice that it was the exact same style as Katie's haircut. We hate to say this Alison, but it was the best haircut you've had all year!

The Jacuzzi at the Powderwood Resort in Park City, Utah.  The first time we tried it, it was covered with floating green slime. The second time we tried it, there were 3 feet of frozen soaps suds floating on top (the soap was put in to cover the green slime). The third time we went to try it, the gate was locked and covered with a skull and cross bones sign. We don't recommend it.