Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

SEE PHOTOS OF THE TRIP ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=32564&id=1675915483

Is it a book tour when the author is going to be in an area anyway and arranges some readings and signings herself? And combines the “tour” with a vacation? And does it matter? (Besides, of course, to the IRS, but I’ll leave it to our accountant to figure it out.)

On July 13, I presented a program on Talk Dirty Yiddish at the annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in LA; the next day, I repeated the program at the Orange County JCC in Irvine, and appeared at the Mystery Ink Bookstore in Huntington Beach for a signing of Chanukah Guilt. I sold books throughout the conference (and at the JCC and the bookstore). And I reread what I had already completed of Unleavened Dead and rewrote entire sections. But here’s the context of the “tour”:

When Gary and I were both asked to present programs at the IAJGS, we decided to take advantage of our temporary empty nest and go a week early so we could have a vacation. A real vacation, no agenda, no plans, no chores, no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry (that awaited our return home), no kids. It was the longest we’d gone away together, minus kids, in, oh, about 22 ½ years. (Natan is 22. Do the math. We did.)

We were in full tourist mode, sightseeing and eating our way through LA and environs. We took a “hop-on, hop-off” bus tour (no celeb houses, though – we figured we’d only see gates and lawns – but lots of tourists looking for celebs), went to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and LaBrea Tar Pits and Santa Monica Pier (2 birds I’d never seen before , aka “lifers”: Heermann’s Gull and Western Gull) and the Grammy Museum and the Paley Center for Media and “South Pacific” (where we bought Ari a t-shirt, since he was in the play at camp) and Olvera Street . . . and ate . . . and ate . . . and ate. We even experienced an earthquake. (Epicenter 150 miles away, but the hotel swayed. Fun only because there were no injuries, no damage, and it lasted only a few seconds. Felt longer.)

The highlight of our eating adventures was the Mexican ice cream festival at a restaurant next to the hotel. Even without the kids to witness our transgression, we felt guilty eating dessert for dinner, so we had a guacamole appetizer first. Then the ice cream. Mexican chocolate (cinnamon made it different) and blueberry and Mexican cookie (cinnamon again) dough and sweet cream and, my favorite, the most intensely flavored mint I’d ever tasted, laced with ribbons of Mexican chocolate and topped with pomegranate sauce. I’d better move on to another topic before I short out my laptop from the drool.

After the conference began, Gary was busy attending sessions. So, the ever devoted spouse, I rented a car and took off on my own. I went up to Griffith Park, home not only of the iconic Griffith Observatory, film location of the observatory scenes in “Rebel without a Cause;” not only of a bird sanctuary, where I saw a lifer black Phoebe; but of the newly (to me anyway) iconic Greek Theatre. I had no idea the pseudonymous site of “Get Him to the Greek” was an actual place. It was, unfortunately, closed, so I had to look elsewhere for an Infant Sorrow t-shirt for Natan.

I continued down the hill (mountain? Earthquake-created mound?), around the corner, and up the hill to the LA Zoo. (Another lifer in the rushing water feature at the entrance: American Dipper. Don’t ask why I didn’t take a picture. Truth: I didn’t think of it.)

Then it was off to Franklin Canyon, where I discovered the joys of driving a car on 1 ½ lane switchbacks with cars coming in both directions. It’s also where I discovered that a GPS with spoken directions is much safer than trying to look at a printout from Google Maps (often inaccurate) while driving on said switchbacks. For once in my life, I drove with both hands on the wheel, my foot hovering over the brake, and my eyes firmly on the road. Fortunately, I made it; unfortunately, the nature center (but not the grounds) had closed 10 minutes earlier and the ranger wouldn’t unlock it for me. But I did get another lifer: an Anna’s hummingbird. Two, in fact, flittering around a tree. Not even at a feeder.

I ended the day at the Milky Way, a Kosher dairy restaurant owned by Lea Spielberg. Yes, the mother of that Spielberg. She greeted me at the door, showed me to my table, was very gracious, asked me about myself and then told the other patrons (no celebs, alas; at least none I recognized) that I was a rabbi from New Jersey. She was particularly tickled when I told her I lived near Haddonfield, where the family lived when Steven (may I call him “Steven”?) was growing up. I gave her one of my cards with info. about my books and fantasized for about 2 minutes about getting an email from her son. I told her how much Ari likes Schindler’s List, which he saw as part of his class on literature of the Holocaust, and she told me proudly how Steven had taken her with him to Poland. She said she every now and then looks in the mirror and thinks, “I’m WHOSE mother?”

Oh, did I mention that we ate a lot of great food?

On the way back east, we took the redeye to Minneapolis, a puddle jumper to Rhinelander, WI, rented a car, drove to the middle of nowhere, turned left and kept going until we reached Camp Ramah in the North Woods (aka Conover), WI. We had missed visiting day because of our LA trip and came for Shabbat instead.
It was a wonderful experience, unhurried, uncrowded, peaceful.

But hot. It’s supposed to be cold, or at least chilly, up there. It wasn’t. So we didn’t need all the sweaters and long pants we’d brought (bringing our individual bags to just under the 50 lb. limit for each). We did, however, need insect repellant. Ten days later, and I’m still scratching.

Best of all, of course, was seeing Ari and witnessing for ourselves what a terrific and successful summer he’s having.

Worst of all was getting home again. The trip was fine. And Natan picked us up at the Philadelphia airport. It was great to see Natan, who had not only kept the plants on the back deck alive but had planted new ones on the front porch. We could tell he hadn’t taken advantage of our absence (not that we expected him to) and had a wild party, because the house was as messy as we had left it. (If he’d had a party, he would have had to straighten up first and his friends would have left the place in better condition than we had.) It was the transition back to “real life” that was tough. I may have been away from work for 2 weeks, but it then took another week to get caught up.

Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted. But Unleavened Dead won’t write itself.

PS
Did I mention we ate our way through LA?

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