Chinese New Year Celebration, Atlanta History Center
Atlanta History Center, Chinese New Year Celebration, with my niece (on the right).
She had a great time with my camera, for which reason I took very few pictures.

Chinese New Year Celebration, Atlanta History Center
Atlanta History Center, Chinese New Year Celebration. H.o.p. gathers pine cones with his cousin.

The Chinese New Year is February 7th, but the Atlanta History Center held a celebration Sunday.

Knowing that people wear red for the Chinese New Year, it was H.o.p.’s idea to wear a red dragon shirt he’d picked up in New York’s China Town.

Continue reading REASON TO CELEBRATE

12,000 square feet (more or less) of darkness filled with monolithic shadows deflating…

Party at Monkey Joe's
Party at Monkey Joe’s, 2007
Light box enlargement

Party at Monkey Joe's #2
Party at Monkey Joe’s, 2007

We figured it would be nice to have a birthday party for H.o.p. at one of those play places that have all the inflatables. Marty had suggested Bouncing Bob’s but it was rather expensive. So, though I thought it would be cool to do the inflatable place where kids of all ages could have bouncy fun, I’d begun to arrange a bowling party, but that fell through as there were tournaments. A sister had heard about another inflatable play place called Monkey Joe’s and I discovered the one in Norcross was having a special for weekday parties and I checked with everyone and they could handle a weekday so I went for that. 3:30 on Thursday.

H.o.p. had over a week to spend putting together the goody bags, hoping to make sure people get things they might like in them. He even suggested we get a rattle for his infant cousin who wouldn’t appreciate Hot Wheels or Chinese finger puzzles but we somehow never got around to it.

On Thursday, we pulled up in the parking lot of Monkey Joe’s at about 3:10 after getting lost because their sign is diminutive. Big place. Something like 12,000 square feet, I think. Small sign. Little bit bigger than the proverbial bread box. Normally, I’m a fan of small signs that don’t foul the scenery but as we drove up and down and around the office park I wished for casino neon.

“Oh, no,” I worried, “don’t tell me I went all out dyslexic and reversed the address in Mapquest and sent the wrong directions to everyone and here I am without my cell phone because I forgot to pocket it and have no one’s numbers!”

I didn’t tell Marty my worries. That’s not the kind of a prospect you want to bring up until it’s no longer a prospect but a confirmed, inescapable fact. Instead, irritably, I’d said, “Well, don’t just drive around. Stop and we’ll ask if anyone know where it is.”

“Stop where?” he replied, irritably.

I looked at all the office park doors. I found it weird that we were surrounded by so many office park doors and none looked promising. But none did. “Gas station,” I said, increasingly irritated. And secretly near panic now that I HAD PROBABLY GONE COMPLETELY DYSLEXIC ON EVERYONE and sent them all off looking for an address that if found would turn out to be the business office for a small electronics firm. The type with cardboard boxes for file cabinets and shredded document confetti all over the floor.

We turned around and as per my suggestion were returning to a gas station we’d earlier passed to ask if they knew where this 12,000 square feet of inflatable fun was when I spotted the sign.

It was beside the gas station.

“Sign!” I reveled. The world was a little brighter. I hadn’t gone all dyslexic and reversed a number and given around the wrong directions. And I had succeeded in finding the sign! Good job.

Still, I was in a lousy temper as I got out of the car. Hadn’t been a very good morning. Plus, one of my sisters had to cancel and I was still feeling sad too that she and her kids couldn’t be there. Staging parties is just also not my thing and I was worried that because I had pulled it together the party would end up being a dud DESPITE 12,000 feet of inflatable fun and the fact I’m not such a bad sort as all that.

“Cheer up,” said Marty, as H.o.p. skipped up to the door of Monkey Joe’s. But he sounded irritable and not so cheery.

“Well, if you hadn’t (blah blah),” I grumbled.

And he retorted, “Well, if that’s how you want to play it, if you hadn’t (blah blah)!”

And I said whatever and stomped up (kind of) to the threshold of Monkey Joe’s, but my irritability was already mellowing a bit (kind of, a lot) because I was thinking I should be able to find a good come back line, and because we were now both of us right, and wrong, and because I had no reason to be irritable with the folks at Monkey Joe’s as I crossed their threshold I went from stomp to saunter (kind of).

And I saw the huge room and the inflatables and I thought, “Wonderful!!! The kids will all love this! If they find their way here!”

I signed in. There are no windows in Monkey Joe’s but the world was suddenly as sunny as their bright yellow walls. They were nice people and didn’t look at me like I have three eyes. They told me I couldn’t bring in my Caribou coffee (I’d known we couldn’t bring in any outside food or drinks for the kids except cake, but the idea that coffee was considered a “drink” hadn’t registered) and STILL the world was sunny and they were nice and the place was great and this party would probably be great if everyone found their way. I got our party room and laid out plates and cutlery and goody bags etc. The table looked really promising, especially with the dozen helium balloons I ordered cheerily rising above it.

The table all set and looking so promising and ready for the pizza and ice cream and drinks that I’d ordered through Monkey Joe’s catering service, I set up the cake. Instead of 10 candles we had two, a 1 and 0. I put them on the cake and went briefly outside the party room to take some pics of the giant play area (starting to have fun and relax, I like taking photos) and came back to find the candles reversed. Huh? So I put them aright and went back out and took some more photos and came back in and there the candles were reversed again. Why did the Marty or pesky gremlins keep doing that? So I blithely put them back in order and went out to take some more pics and came back in…

This time Marty came up next to me as I resituated the candles FOR A THIRD TIME and he pointed out that I was in dyslexic mode and that I was, for a third time, placing the candles as a mirror image of 10.

Oh. Duh.

Once Marty pointed out to me that I was reversing the numbers (that he had kept righting), I was able to reorient myself. I stared at the 10 for a couple seconds. The number clicked. It fell into place. H.o.p. was 10, not 01.

Now I began to worry again that others might miss the sign as well (they did) but having accidentally left my cell phone at home and thus everyone’s numbers, I began to make my way to the parking lot where I could, you know, cast the equivalent of some psychic bat signal in the sky (“We’re here! We’re here!)

Yes, just at the stroke of 3:30, just as the party was supposed to begin and Marty stepped over the threshold of the party room to show H.o.p. the plaque that said he had THE BLUE ROOM (his favorite color being blue, this was wonderful, too) and as I was stepping up to the threshold to go out to the parking lot to send up my bat signal for all lost souls…

WHAM! Monkey Joe’s went black.

We stood looking on 12,000 square feet of darkness filled with monolithic shadows deflating.

The air hissed and wheezed.

Marty stepped out from behind the door. Light switches are usually to the side of doors. “I’m sorry,” he joked. “I didn’t mean to.”

The employees came into the play area and, for safety reasons, immediately cleared out the kids who had been playing. They were as surprised as we. Probably more so. Well, I know more so. And more concerned. Because, what was my first thought? “WOW!!!! I’m going to have to use this as a metaphor for something! How wild and wonderful!!! Except, y’know, for the person who probably hit the power pole. Hope they’re all right.”

I stood and marveled a moment at the awesome scene, not very worried about H.o.p. as he was just as in awe, then went out to the parking lot as the others in our party began pulling up.

The entire complex was out of power so we imagined someone had probably had an accident and brought down some power lines (later proved to be the case).

The Monkey Joe’s manager said that just a couple weeks before she’d been conducting a training session telling everyone what to do if there was a power outage, and had been thinking, right, when will this ever happen?

For us! It happened for us!

She said we could wait a little while to see if power resumed, and if it didn’t we could reschedule…or… Duluth! Light bulb clicking in her head (still dark over), there’s a Monkey Joe’s in Duluth, she said, not too far away. “Great!” I said. Though it was no fault of their own, she apologized profusely, getting us set up in Duluth. “It’s an adventure!” I said, and meant it. She threw in an extra pizza. So in just a matter of a few minutes we were all driving to Duluth where we also got an extra dozen helium balloons.

They were great with us in Norcross and were great with us in Duluth. Again, we got the blue party room. The only other glitch was the chocolate cake Marty had ordered from Publix. When we cut into it, it turned out to be white cake, and H.o.p. doesn’t like white cake. But he didn’t care.

It couldn’t have been an easier party to throw.

The kids had a blast.

Rain Broke the Drought for an Evening

Rain Broke the Drought for an Evening
Rain Broke the Drought for an Evening

It’s harsh to admit it, but beauty seems sometimes in short supply on the corner of our block. We had rain yesterday, a brief break from a long drought, and today this purple flower had sprouted up in one of our pots in the back. We brought along with us three large red Japanese maples when we moved here, which are also out back, which have suffered from the lack of sun out there. Hoping larger pots might help, we recently transplanted them. I believed last summer they were possibly lost, but some leaves appeared this year on branches I’d believed were dead.