Cheeks ‘n’ Chodes

sax with bunz

After rafting the gridlocked Truckee River and battling the masses for shady piece of real estate at Angora Lake on a recent trip to Tahoe, the Ratty Pack was craving some solitude. I had read about Secret Cove Beach located a few miles up Highway 28 from Sand Harbor not far from Incline Village. You have to park along the highway and hike down a 1/4-mile trail. When we arrived at 11 a.m., there were only a dozen or so cars which was a good sign. Halfway down the path, pine needles crunching under our feet, we caught a glimpse of gorgeous aquamarine water. Another good sign!

view from trail

The closer we got to the beautiful beach, the more excited I became.
The closer we got to the beautiful beach, the more excited I became.

At the end of the trail, we rounded a corner and easily found a spot on the beach. The good news was the crescent of white sand fringed by water in all hues of peacock feather blue! Dotting the beach were only 40 people or so. The bad news? 36 of those beach goers were naked. Yes, we had stumbled upon a clothing optional beach.

Let’s be honest, the RP aren’t exactly the most modest peeps. I got voted “Most Local” in high school (code for “Chick Most Likely to Cut Class & Sunbathe Topless at Cowells). And, one would be hard pressed to find a photo on Facebook of Jimmy actually wearing a shirt.

But we are parents of two teenagers now. We have standards to uphold. Oh, who am I kidding? I would’ve sold my soul for a dip in that pristine aqua water.

No sooner had we unfurled our towels than Tanner whipped out his phone and updated his Facebook status. “The moment when you think you’re headed to a chill beach, and it turns out to be a nudist beach with no inhabitants under the age of 60. Scarred for life.”

He wasn’t the only one who was scarred. We saw a guy floating spread eagled on a raft, baking his buns of cottage cheese to golden perfection. And a pot bellied octogenarian with Brillo pad pubes cruising the beach for geriatric talent.

And a woman with a droopy rack who was a dead ringer for Magda…

You remember her, don't you? The leathery old lady from "There's Something About Mary."
You remember her, don’t you? The leathery old lady from “There’s Something About Mary.”

Let’s just say no one looked like Channing Tatum

…or Kate Upton.

kate-upton-sports-illustrated-cover-2012

It was a peaceful scene though as people waded through the cove’s clear aqua water and sunned themselves on big boulders, and truthfully, as more people came, the crowd was half clothed, half not.

The boys pissed and moaned for a while—”Ah, gross,” said Sax. “It’s a parade of cheeks and chodes.” But after a while they chilled out and stopped complaining. Tanner memorized his lines for the Los Gatos Youth Theatre’s summer musical, 13, which—gratuitous plug!—everyone should come see!

The nude dude in the background has no idea Tanner is going to be famous someday.
The nude dude in the background has no idea Tanner is going to be famous someday.

Sax, Jimmy and I hiked around the corner to a deserted spot where giant grey boulders rose from the lake like sleeping elephants. We leapt off the rocks and luxuriated in that clear aqua water. It was heaven.

After we swam back in, we discovered that we had a new nudie neighbor to our left. His privates were mercifully hidden by a granite rock, although we did catch occasional glimpses of his tatted up tush. “If you want to use the floaty, it’s for everybody,” he graciously offered, pointing to a plastic raft tucked into a granite niche. I smiled and politely thanked him. “Boys, any takers?” I said.

“No thanks, we’ll Pasadena on the communal air mattress,” they said.

After an hour or so, we packed up. We had a good giggle on the hike back to the car, but all agreed we would take the serenity of Secret Cove over kooked-out Lake Angora any day. And as a parent, I was proud of my boys for being fairly tolerant. Why is our society so freaked out by nudity? As long as people aren’t lurkers (and I didn’t get a creepy vibe from anyone at Secret Cove whatsoever), Jimmy and I wanted our boys to know it’s cool by us. Live and let live.

Even if I wished it had been Channing Tatum down there sunning his buns.

Shopping Under the Influence

Proof that you should not go birthday shopping w/ your 14-year-old in downtown Santa Cruz after consuming two mai tais at Hula’s:

Not only will he will walk away with $50 donut print Sanuk bedroom slippers

I swear I didn't know they were called "Glazed and Confused."
I swear I didn’t know they were called “Glazed and Confused.”

…but he will also score a pair of WEED kneesocks.

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“Was that a good choice?” tsked Jimmy when we met up at the car.

“No,” I replied sheepishly. What could I say other than the Appletons Gold Rum impaired my parental judgement?

Could have been worse. I’m pretty sure if I’d pounded two Scorpion Bowls, Saxon might have hoodwinked me into buying these…

titskneesocks_324_general

When did kneesocks become fashionable again anyway?

The Curse of the Cussing Skier

Every New Year Jimmy resolves to stop swearing. Alas after 21 years of marriage I’ve come to the conclusion that my husband is powerless to profanity.

Ski trips are an especially ugly trigger.

Over break we headed to Lake Tahoe for a few days. There we were changing in the frigid Sugar Bowl parking lot, only to discover that Sax was busting out of his old snow pants. They were two sizes too small, total floods. He couldn’t even zip them.

Already exhausted from packing, driving and unpacking our equipment, that snafu set off Jimmy’s cussfest. “Dammit Kim! I told you to have Saxon try on his pants before we left!”

Oops.

“Come on, dude!” he yelled, shoehorning the kid into his puffy polyester Daisy Dukes. “BUTTON that F***ER!”

“I can’t!” Saxon whined.

“Um, dad, where’s my ski jacket?” Tanner asked sheepishly from the back seat.

“What do you mean, where’s your ski jacket?” erupted Jimmy. “You F*CKIN’ forgot it? You’re 16! What the F**K, man?”

In calmer moments, Jimmy has admitted the reason behind his pyscho-ness. He says it’s because our teenagers have a case of pussitis. He has a point, I thought, as I watched Tanner wrestle his foot into his new-used ski boot along with two pairs of socks and the bottom six inches of his sweatpants. “Dad!!! This boot is too small! If I shove it in, my ankle’s literally gonna break.”

“Well, why are you wearing two pairs of effing socks?” Jimmy yelled, violently ripping a pair off Tanner’s feet, “and get those sweats the hell out of there!”

By now people in the parking lot were staring. I was mortified. When we finally got up the mountain, the weather was windy and freezing, but we toughed it out until the last lift closed. Then per tradition, we warmed up in our toasty car with apres ski brie and brews, sparkling Clementine Izzes for the dudes. “Ahh,” sighed Jimmy. “Maybe skiing is worth all the hassle.”

After crashing at our pricey one-star hotel, we got a late start the following morning, and SKI NAZI was raging. “This trip is costing me BANK! Why can’t you guys get your A$$ES out of bed earlier?”

I felt bad that we slept in, but I was wiped from the holidays. Plus I was dreading the single digit temps. Thankfully it turned out to be an epic day at Squaw Valley, sunny and gorgeous and…

…Uh-oh. There was Jimbo, lumbering across the frozen tundra like a rabid polar bear. “Guess how much 2-day passes for a family of four cost?” he bellowed. “Seven hundred and forty-eight F*CKING bucks!”

Oh shoot. It was 11 a.m. and we were just now hitting the slopes. Plus the mountain was packed. It was practically costing us $10 a run. Jimmy and Saxon left Tanner & me in the dust. Just as well.  I needed a reprieve from the cuss-a-thon.

That night we met friends for dinner at Village Pizzeria. We had a great time, that is after Jimmy made it back from Sports Exchange in downtown Truckee to buy some used ski poles for Saxon. Unfortunately, we neglected to take into account that when your kid sprouts five inches in one year, he’s probably going to need taller poles. Saxon’s were so short, they looked like he stole them off Verne Troyer.

jack-jill-la-premiere-2011-verne-troyer-64874

I googled the store’s address and offered to Map it on his iPhone, but Mario Andretti  peeled out of the parking lot before I had a chance. I shrugged and went in and added our name to the 45-minute wait list. Five minutes later, my phone rang. “WHERE is this place?” Jimmy screamed. “What’s the EFFIN’ address?”

The next morning we rallied and hit the slopes by 9:30 a.m. SKI NAZI actually sweetened up: he tightened our boots, reminded us (nicely) to bend our knees and treated us to warm chocolate cookies from Wildflower Bakery. The four of us skied together and had a blast.

At 4:30 p.m., we trekked to the car, pounded a post-sesh Modelo, packed up, and headed home. Or at least we tried to. It took 35 minutes just to inch out of the parking lot.

“This traffic is SUCH a Cluster F**K!” yelled Jimmy. “The equipment, schlepping, packing, whining, crowds, everything!!! I F*cking HATE skiing!!!”

Look on the bright side, Jimmy, all those coins in your New Year’s swear jar will buy us another trip to Squaw Valley.

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"Seriously, Granite Chief Ski Shop, two hundred bucks for these Electric Blue Boogaloo powder pants? That's an EFF you to me!"
“Seriously, Granite Chief Ski Shop, two hundred bucks for these Electric Blue Boogaloo powder pants? That’s an EFF you to me!”

Dia De Los Muertos–The Blind Side feat. Diego

Guest blogger: Tanner Ratcliff, 16.  

I received an extra credit assignment in my Spanish 3 class to do something along the lines of being involved in the Spanish speaking community. I chose to attend a Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos event.  Day of the Dead is a holiday for the hispanic culture where people honor their friends and family who have passed away. The celebration was hosted at the Oak Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park in San Jose. First, my mom and I listened to a mass that was completely in Spanish. I tried to decipher what they were saying, but every 5 to 10 seconds my mom would ask, “Tanner, what is he saying?” It was incredibly annoying, but finally we left the mass and she stopped.

Next we passed a pastry counter and grabbed some Pan Dulce or Mexican Sweet Bread for Saxon (we all know he LOVES treats!) 

Next, we continued to a sugar skull decorating station. Calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls) are used to adorn altars and can be eaten.

They are often quite elaborate. The table spilled over with icing and sequins, gems and rhinestones, glitter and colored foil. My mom bought me a skull for $3 dollars.

A kid named Diego approached the seller. Diego was a young hispanic child that was on the chubbier side, and was interested in painting a sugar skull. Once he found out about the cost, he trudged away. If you do not know my mom, she tends to be very creepy to random little children we don’t know, such as Diego. Being the Blind Side wannabe that she is, my mom bought poor Diego a sugar skull.

She then proceeded to ask, “Can my son, Tanner, help you decorate your skull?” He replied “No.” Rejection at its finest. Later we walked around. Families had set up tents, umbrellas, chairs. They were grilling on hibachis, and playing boom boxes. Altars dotted graves across the cemetery lawn. At each grave my mom asked the people if she could take pictures, and was constantly pointing at things and people, which was incredibly rude. It is not only rude in general, but also particularly offensive in the hispanic culture, especially during a day where the dead are being remembered.

Editors note: Thank you, Tanner,  for letting me experience Dia De Los Muertos with you. The festive atmosphere, complete with mariachis, was joyful.

Each altar was garnished with a blend of colors and frequently decked out with vibrant images or photos. One even contained In-n-Out bags because the deceased individual loved the restaurant. My favorite was created by two sisters in honor of their mother, and included some of her favorite items: a juicy, red pomegranate. A can of Coca Cola. Brilliant orange marigolds. Tiny boxes of raisins and fun size M’nM’s. A plate of delicious homemade enchiladas ringed by burgundy flowers.

It got me thinking, What would I want on my altar? Fresh tuberose, Salty Dog cupcakes from Icing on the Cake, an icy cold martini, and of course, “The Blind Side” DVD.

 

Tale of the Tainted Twinkie

Sometimes, when our teenagers are really bad, beating grounding them just won’t do.  We parents must get creative. During a recent visit with friends in San Diego, all I wanted was for my college bestie, Dasha, to think I was a semi-decent mom. With her husband, Dean, Dasha is raising two of the sweetest, refreshingly attitude-free girls on the planet. Since the bar was high, I gave Saxon a pep talk beforehand. It went something like this: Begoodbegoodbegoodpleasebegood. Unfortunately, he has a 13-year-old mind of his own. Here are but a few of the ways in which Saxon veered from the path of righteousness during our three-day stay:

1. Flipped off the camera whenever I tried to document our fun family adventure.

2. Authored the following Mad Lib: Hiking is a really shitty thing to do. But, hiking is nothing like going for a walk in the poop or pee around the house. The serious hiker needs lots of dumbass equipment.You must have very comfortable thongs. You will need a 69-foot rope.

3. Answered our gracious hosts, the Hervey family, with monosyllabic grunts.

Sample convo:

Dasha: “So Saxon, how do you like being at the top of the food chain in 8th grade?”

Saxon: “Good.”

Dean: “How ’bout them Giants, Sax?”

Saxon: “Good.”

Makena: “How did getting baptized at Hume Lake Christian Camp this summer change your life?”

Saxon: “Good.”

But these transgressions paled in comparison to his biggest sin, gluttony. Saxon chowed eight Twinkies in a 24-hour period.

I knew this because I bought him a box on our first day thinking he could stretch them out over the long weekend, or for that matter 20 years if he wanted—everyone knows preservative-laden Twinkies never ever go rancid.

But the next morning, Dasha’s daughter, Makena, alerted us that Sax was down to his last two Twinkies.

This called for serious consequences. There was only one thing to do: Punk the little bird flipping, Bad-Libbing Augustus Gloop!

Thankfully my partners-in-crime were up for the challenge.

Clockwise from right: Dasha, hostess with the mostess; Lauren, cutie with a bum thumb; and Makena, cool Indie music chick.
Ingredients at the ready…

Here’s what we did. With precision, Dasha extracted the creamy filling from the Twinkie…

I swear Dasha missed her calling as a neurosurgeon.

…then re-injected the moist, golden sponge cake with with creamy Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.

Lastly we carefully glued the plastic wrap back together, returned the bogus bakery product to its box and waited.

“Gimme a Twinkie!’

At 8:00 a.m. Saxon sauntered downstairs and beelined for the Twinkie box. As he ripped open the bag, we held our breath.  Uh-oh. He quickly noticed something was remiss. “Huh? Is this bag open? Oh well,” he shrugged, then shoved the tainted Twinkie into his piehole.

“What the ???”

Look on the bright side, Saxon. Not only are you cured of your addiction, but you have a new noun for your next Bad Lib: “Ranch- flavored Twinkie!”

Thanks for putting up with the Ratty Pack, Dash. You will always be my favorite mischief making, blonde hair tossing, partner-in-crime.

Kim & Dash, circa ’85.

Bare Naked Ladies

I’ve always dreamed of an outdoor shower. Our friend, Rich, has one and it’s the bomb~a Hawaiian fortress surrounded by black lava and wild tropical plants. Whenever we visit, I go all Howard Hughes, showering 10 times a day. I just can’t get enough. In the morning, I gaze up at palm trees rustling in the trade winds. In the afternoon, I love coming  straight from the sea, washing off the salt water, an icy Corona at the ready on the lava rock shampoo ledge. And at night, a million stars twinkle in the velvety black sky.

Rich’s shower is not quite this tricked out but pretty close.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have an outdoor shower, I asked Jimmy? We’d feel as if we were on vacation every day.

Finally this summer, we decided to go for it. Just a simple, no-frills bamboo shower a la Gilligan’s Island. How difficult could it be, we wondered? How expensive? Very and very, it turns out. But let me start at the beginning.

First we decided on the location: a dirt and sand-filled space off the back side of our house, choked with weeds and a heap of old shit we didn’t want but were too lazy to deal with. I am kicking myself for not snapping a “before” pic. Trust me when I say our teens’ favorite word, ghetto, describes the spot perfectly. However, the close proximity to the hot water heater was a deal sealer.

The proposed site was a good twenty feet from our neighbors’ single story home but I figured it would be well, neighborly to give them a head’s up.

A late 60’s couple with no children, the Jensons* are the nicest people ever. They are as close to Amish as you can get on the grid. For the 11 years we’ve lived here they’ve watered their lawn every morning with a hose, and on top of their roof sits a ginormous, prehistoric silver antenna that powers up either their vintage black and white television console or a ham radio. Not sure which—I’ve never asked.

(*name changed to protect the almost Amish)

Before we broke ground, I paid them a visit. “We’ll mostly just be rinsing off after swimming or surfing,” I explained. “I hope we won’t disturb you.”

They exchanged a worrisome glance. Joseph gulped. “We won’t be able to see you naked, will we?” asked tiny, birdlike Mae in her heavy Japanese accent.

“Oh no, ” I laughed, explaining that, should they ever scale the 6-foot fence separating our properties, Desmond, our contractor friend, planned to incorporate an ultra-private bamboo corridor making it impossible to see us shower from their vantage point.

“Oh, okay,” they said,” they said, still sounding uneasy.

All summer Desmond, Jimmy and I worked on the shower house. Okay, mostly Des did. But I did go to the rockery to help choose the flagstone and Jimmy did slather grout.

Although the posts have been inserted, this is the closest to a “before” shot I have.
Configuring the Arizona flagstone pieces into a puzzle = good.

 There were a couple of snafus like when I asked Des to dig a French drain even though— duh!—the sewer line runs directly by the shower. And oh yeah, Jimmy may have over indulged in Dos Equis the night he grouted the flagstone because he didn’t scrape off the excess before it dried…

No mas cerevezas para usted, Jaime!

…making my fantasy project look like Fred Flintstone’s Stone Age shower. Poor Des had to power wash it off with some gnarly toxic chemicals during a heatwave while I plied him with Otter Pops and prayed he didn’t pass out.

Finally the outdoor shower was done!

Tanman takes it for a spin!

Since we the first day we christened her, both bars of Dove soap in our indoor bathrooms showers have endured minimal shrinkage. Why bathe inside when you can add a pop of alfresco fun to the daily grind?

Rexie gives our new shower two soapy thumbs up!

Even though the view doesn’t exactly look like Hawaii—instead of swaying palms and stars, I gaze up at that massive Ham radio antenna on my neighbor’s roof—the shower is my own little piece of paradise.

Dearest Desmond even gave me a flagstone ledge for my bottle of icy Corona.

Kimmy tries not to flash the neighborhood.