Broadway, Balthazar and Camel Balls

Guest blogger: Tanner

It all started with my manic mom. She saw Kinky Boots on Broadway in August, and called us hyperventilating after the show.

“OHMIGOD, OHMIGOD, that show was amazing,” she said. “JIMMY! You have to bring Tanner when you come here for your podiatry conference next month. He needs to see there is more to life than MINECRAFT!”

So, that’s how I found myself spending a whirlwind weekend with my dad in NYC.
We arrived at JFK exhausted after catching the red-eye, and my dad promptly forgot his iPhone in the taxi. Luckily, the guy who got into the taxi after us was a bro. He arranged to meet us at Rockefeller Center so he could give Jimmy’s prized iPhone back!

We dropped our bags at The Days Inn on the Upper West Side, and headed for Cafe 82, which my dad called a “glorified Dennys.” Since I have Celiac Disease, my mom researched gluten-free friendly restaurants before we came. We were pleased to discover Cafe 82 even offered a separate GF menu.

After I finished my delicious GF chocolate chip pancakes, we hopped aboard the subway  headed for the NYU campus for our tour. The campus was absolutely beautiful. Unlike most colleges that have a closed off campus, there is no gate at NYU. It was open to the whole city. We got to see the gigantic library that houses over four million books and the living quarters. The student-guides also showed us a sun-filled, modern classroom, which looked so sophisticated equipped with comfy desks and chairs.

After our tour ended, we walked to a completely GF restaurant famed for its delicious breadsticks, Risotteria. The food was tasty and our waiter was a cool dude who was Tahoe bound!

Later we checked in only to discover my mom had booked us a total 1-star ghetto hotel. We had one bed to share between the both of us. Our room smelled like strong, poisonous house cleaner and was probably infested by bedbugs. I shot off a text: Thanks, Mom, for the shit-shack of a room!!

Room with a view...not!
Room with a view…not!

We had maybe an hour to chill before we had to get back on the streets to go see Kinky Boots. My dad was bitter when he discovered there was no wine opener in our room even though he was paying three bills a night to stay. While I checked my Facebook, he went down and gave the front desk a piece of his mind.

No glassware for Jimbo's vino so a Dixie cup had to do.
No glassware for Jimbo’s vino so a Dixie cup had to do.

The show was phenomenal. Stark Sands and Billy Porter both did an amazing job at their parts. After seeing the show, we were pooped and headed back to our room to relax before the next adventure packed day! Saturday I navigated the City alone while my dad dug into some yummy cadaver feet at his lab in the Bronx—who doesn’t love the smell of formaldehyde in the morning? First, I hit up Cafe 82 again. I was becoming a regular. This time I gorged on fluffy, homemade mashed potatoes and GF pasta with marinara.

Afterward it was time for It’Sugar. Even though I’m almost 17, I still love candy. The place was filled with huge-sized Laffy Taffy, SweetTarts, and Nerds. I got myself some treats, and even brought back a box of extra sour bubblegum “Camel Balls” for Saxon.

Nothing like a big bro who buffs you out with camel testies!
Nothing like a big bro who buffs you out with camel testies!

Then it was time to see Book of Mormon. I had to take the red one line to Times Square-42nd Street. I proceeded to walk the seven blocks to 49th and 8th Street where the theater was located. My seat was so swank, about eight or so rows back, but snack-dab in the middle of the row, perfect view of the stage. Couldn’t ask for better (thanks Katie for the tix!) The show was amazing. It was written by the same people who did South Park, so it was hilarious in a crude humor way. The acting was superb as well, consisting of college-aged men belting catchy tunes that I couldn’t stop singing the next day.

After the show, my Dad, our cousin Katie, and myself went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, Balthazar. I gobbled up plenty of their delicious oysters while Jimmy and Katie proceeded to down several bottles of beer and wine (Partiers!!).

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The restaurant’s bathroom even had their own employee that would offer you towels after you had finished washing your hands. They also had a small plate of mints, matches, and other miscellaneous crippity-crap in an attempt to achieve a tip.

I am very big into acting  as I have been performing in musicals since the 5th grade. Seeing these shows on Broadway was eye-opening for me to see what it would be like for me if I continue on with my acting through college. I was so impressed by the skills demonstrated by the actors in the musicals.

On our final day, my Dad and I went on a beautiful walk up on the Highline trail. Although the path was packed with deodorant shunning, slow-walking Euros, I enjoyed the unique perspective of the City. We even were able to watch a guy make us snow-cones by scraping ice off a huge block of ice.

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Overall, this trip was one of the most important experiences I’ll ever have. I am so fortunate I was able to go to NYC and see the fantastic city. I’m happy to claim this experience has opened my eyes to many opportunities that I have access to in my life.

At Eataly's Beer Garden. Later NYC! I'll be back. And hopefully I'll be old enough to try the GF brews.
At Eataly’s Beer Garden. Later NYC! I’ll be back. And hopefully I’ll be old enough to try the GF brews.

Go The F**k to Sleep: The Teenage Years

If you read our Curse of the Cussing Skier post, you know I’m not the potty mouth of the family. But over the summer, Tanner hosted his annual Los Gatos Youth Theatre co-ed slumber party.

Some teenage boys might think doing theatre is uncool, but my guys are no dummies. For every one guy at the soiree, there were five funny, creative, head-on-straight girls. As a mom to dudes, I’m a sucker for having these exotic creatures in our home.

Everyone showed up around 5 p.m. Jimmy & I waited on the kids, offering poolside service on a par with the Four Seasons—young, unlined faces were spritzed with Evian, snacks and soda were delivered to the jacuzzi, and the whole backyard twinkled with colorful lights.

The gang finished swimming well after dark, and crammed into our long, narrow family room (aka “the bowling alley”) where they began perusing movies On Demand. Around 11, Jimmy and I retired to our bedroom. Right before my head hit the pillow, I whispered sweetly, “That wasn’t so bad!”

An hour later I was still wide awake. Our home is small. I could hear everything.  All I could think of was “Go the F**k to Sleep.” If you aren’t familiar, the NY Times best selling bedtime story for parents was written by an exhausted and exasperated dad, Adam Mansbach. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the story captures the frustrations of sealing the bedtime deal with procrastinating kids.

As I lay seething in bed that night too pissed off to count sheep, I wrote my own version of Go the F**k to Sleep…

Mom, can I have my theatre friends over, you begged. I’ll clean the house, even sweep.

We’ll swim, hang out and by a decent hour, fall fast asleep!

Okay, I agreed, but after midnight, I don’t want to hear a peep.

Mama’s almost 50, lookin’ a little haggard. Needs her Botox and f**kin’ beauty sleep.

It’s almost 1 a.m. now and through thin walls laughter continues to seep.

Don’t make me come out there in my mouthguard and lecture you. Please go the f**k to sleep.

All right, I’ll slice up more nectarines from Whole Foods, this organic sh*t ain’t cheap.

If you swear you’ll finish watching “Hairspray,”and get the f**k to sleep!

Hungry again? We just served DiGiorgno and popcorn when the microwave went “beep!”

Your bellies are full, now wrap up the massage train, and get to freakin’ SLEEP!

I get it, girls: “Pitch Perfect” best movie ever. Nick Jonas is hot. Harry Styles, a creep.

See? We’re on the same page? Now get the f**k to sleep.

The LEMON sign has dimmed, the jacuzzi jets silenced, so still is the pool sweep.

Hell no, you can’t go night swimming. You know where you can go? The f**k to sleep!

I come out & see Kevin* face planted on the sofa, probably counting sheep.

Can’t the rest of you follow his lead? Now lie the f**k down,  and sleep!

It’s late now, well past two, my Hushers are crammed so deep.

Stop twerking in my kitchen, and for the love of Miley f**kin’ Cyrus: sleep!

Seriously? Sourpatch popsicles at 3 a.m.? Your blood sugar’s gonna take a soaring leap

Sure, fine, whatever. How about some Red Bull, too. Who the f**k cares? You’re not gonna sleep.

Bleary eyed and dazed, I awaken at 5, the price of being a cool mom is way steep.

What on earth made me ever think you kids would go the f**k to sleep?

It’s morning now, bodies and sleeping bags tangled in a heap, I’ve tiptoed through the house long enough.

It’s 10 a.m., you little sh*ts! Now you’re gonna sleep?

Yogurt and fresh fruit—who told you breakfast came with the deal? A little birdie—”cheep cheep?”

The second your parents pick you up, I’m going the f**k back to sleep!

Around the piano you harmonize to Coldplay, voices so angelic it almost makes me weep.

Come back soon, my darling thespians. Who cares what time you go the f**k to sleep!

Love,

Mrs. Ratcliff

PS: If Samuel L. Jackson is busy, maybe we can get Zac Efron to narrate “GTFTS: The Teenage Years.”

*name changed to protect the sleep deprived.

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Kinky Kimmy & the Kandy Kakes

Thanks to some seriously amazing Hungarian genes, my grandmom Rose Wiggins was about to turn 100, so last Wednesday I bid adieu to the rest of the Rattypack.

 “I’m gonna miss you so much,” I said to the boys before I left for the airport.

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” they replied, barely glancing up from their keyboards.

Five hours later my plane touched down in Philadelphia. I was thrilled when my cousin, Tracy, picked me up at the airport. When we were little, Tracy and I sported matching pixie haircuts, and played school for hours on end in her basement.

That's us circa '68. Tracy's on the right.
Circa ’68. Tracy’s on the right.

We hadn’t seen each other for 15 years, so we had a lot of catching up. Plus I was dying for a cheesesteak. We beelined for Jim’s on South Street.

Tracy warned me that Jim’s counter jockeys were Cheesesteak Nazi’s, like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, so I better get my act together before I reached the head of the queue.  But there were so many add-ons, my head was spinning.

“I’ll take the provolone with sautéed green bell peppers, uh no, never mind,” I stammered when it was my turn. “How about ‘shrooms and onions? Oh shoot, wait a sec.” The guys couldn’t have been nicer. They even agreed to this photo op on the condition I send them In & Out burgers, animal-style, when I got back home.

I'm working on it, guys!
Working on it, guys!
Somehow my cousin Tracy hookwinked me into the Cheez Wiz. Never again! From now on, I'm a provolone purist.
Tracy hookwinked me into the Cheez Wiz. Never again! From now on, I’m a provolone purist.
My other cousin, Kristen, put ketchup on her cheesesteak. What is up with that?
My other cousin, Kristen, doused her cheesesteak with ketchup. What’s up with that?

By the time we finished our meal, the line was wrapped around the block. It was obvious why—the tender, thinly sliced ribeye was heaven in a roll!

Not so heavenly? The smell in my room back at the Holiday Inn. My hair and clothes reeked of grilled meat and onions as though I’d just finished an eight-hour shift at Jim’s, but I didn’t care. I was already fiending for my next carnivorous fix.

I could have devoured one, two, five of those babies for breakfast, but my Uncle Chuck had other ideas. He took us on a tour of the Italian Market. We passed by old school butcher shops filled with all kinds of delicacies…

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One live poultry market was bursting at the seams with furry animals and birds crammed into cages— imagine Death Row for bunnies.

To cleanse our eyeballs from that sad site, we toured historic Society Hill, where I fell in love with the charming 18th- and early 19th-century architecture and brick rowhouses.

Great curbside appeal~American flags, and urns spilling over with flowers.
Great curbside appeal~American flags, and urns spilling over with flowers.

I could have meandered down those cobblestone streets for hours, but it was time to PARTAY! First we had to pick up Grandmom Rosie’s birthday cake from Giants supermarket. Luckily there was a blue light special on TastyKake Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes which I loved as a kid. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups meets moist cakey goodness, these treats are melt-in-your-mouth delish.

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Tastykakes are only sold on the East Coast, so I bought like 50 boxes. Kristen stocked up on butterscotch.
Tastykakes are only sold on the East Coast, so I bought like, 50 boxes of PB. Kristen stocked up on butterscotch.

Soon it was time to blow the roof off the Broomhall Presbyterian Nursing Home! Orange soda was flowing, a hoagie tray was brimming, and Uncle Dave was crankin’ out religious hymns on his keyboard.

Nestled in a crochet blanket, the birthday girl wore a slouchy beanie, and beamed at her many well wishers including my sweet cuz, Matt who flew in from Florida for the day.

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Hey Grandmom. Kayne called. He wants his gold cross pendant back.
Hey Grandmom. Kayne called. He wants his gold cross pendant back.
The gang's all here.
The gang’s all here.
Put the Orange Crush down, Dad! (aka Grandpa XXL Undies) You'll spoil your appetite!
Put the Orange Crush down, Dad! (aka Grandpa XXL Undies) You’ll spoil your appetite!

Grandmom Rosie’s long term memory is great. She regaled us with childhood stories. Apparently her grandmother (who helped raise Rosie) spiked her tea with whiskey every morning before school because the weather was so frigid.

Her short term memory, though, is shot.

“Hi Grandmom,” I chirped when I first approached her. “It’s your granddaughter, Kim, from California! Happy Birthday, you look beautiful! I’m glad I could be here to help you celebrate.”

“Kimmy? Kimmy!” she cooed. “I can’t believe you’re here. Oh Kimmy, I love you so much…”

Ten minutes later, I checked back in. “Grandmom, you enjoying your party?”

“Who is that speaking? I’m sorry I can’t see so well, I have macular degeneration. Who are you?”

“It’s Kim, visiting from California, Grandmom.”

“Kimmy! I can’t believe you’re here. Oh sweetie, Kimmy, I love you so much.” And on our conversation looped for the rest of the sweet celebration.

Grandmom Rosie starred in all of the Hungarian musicals in her hometown of Bethlehem, Pa. When she was about 17 or 18, the young starlet aspired to move to NYC with her best friend, cousin Mary, to give Broadway a shot. Fearful of the wild city life, however, her grandmother thwarted those plans. Hmm…whiskey before grade school, yes. Broadway, no. Not sure about that logic, but regardless Rosie’s love for the dramatic arts—from attending musicals to her beloved Liberace—never waned.  So it was in her honor I hopped a train to NYC the following day and saw Kinky Boots on Broadway.

Winner of the ’13 Tony Award for Best Musical, Kinky Boots is based on a 2005 British film about a British shoe factory on the brink of ruin that reinvents itself as a maker of eight inch stiletto “kinky boots” for drag queen performers. It’s a big ol’ love story about sons, the families we make and red patent leather. (Disclosure: Cribbed that last line from the NY Times.)

Yes, these are all dudes. Except Cindy Lauper.
Yes, these are all dudes. Except Cindy Lauper.

With music and lyrics by Cindi Lauper, Boots was more delicious than cheesesteaks and Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. The male actors who appeared in drag were insanely gorgeous. When I wasn’t contemplating turning to the excessive cougher behind me and shoving a lozenge down his throat, I cheered for 2 hours straight. And wondered how in the heck those dudes tucked everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—out of sight.

After the show, I stood on the sidewalk with strangers, our hearts still pounding, as we raved about the show. I couldn’t help but think Rosie would have adored Kinky Boots. She was there in spirit for sure.

Happy 100th Birthday to the greatest DIVA of all, Grandmom Rose.

Love,

Kimmy from California.

PS: I said, KIMMY FROM CALIFORNIA!

Tony-award winning actor Billy Porter, the second greatest diva of all time!
Tony-award winning actor Billy Porter, the second greatest diva of all time!

San Diego Heaven!

My friend, Dasha & I met during our San Diego college days when we worked as counselors at a YMCA surf camp on Kauai one summer.

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Dash was the super on it, responsible counselor who once plucked a gaggle of Japanese campers from a riptide at Lumahai Beach. I was the derelict counselor who read Jaws to the kids by the campfire and looked away when they bought wine coolers at the ABC market. I don’t know why Dasha wanted to be friends with me, but thankfully she did, and after that summer we were attached at the velcro JimmyZ skirts we rocked back in the ’80s.

Every summer Dash and her family graciously allows the Rattypack to descend upon their Del Mar pad. Last year we punked Saxon royally.  We reinjected his Twinkies with Ranch dressing (see Tale of the Tainted Twinkie). I was really hoping to torture him again this year. And, although we alluded to lacing his Hersey’s Cookies & Cream mini-cereal box with laxitive—”How’s your tummy feeling, Sax?”—we sadly ran out of time.

Ever since our Kauai days, Dash and I have been soul sisters of the sea, so we literally spent every second of our visit in the water. We stand up paddle boarded in La Jolla, as grey bellied seals, leopard sharks and brilliant orange garabaldi flitted through the aqua water beneath us. We boogie boarded mondo  surf in Del Mar, careening down waves at eyeball level in a rush of sound and foam. And then, we pruned ourselves to the max sipping apres beach martinis in her jacuzzi.

But even mermaids need to eat, so we headed to Herringbone in La Jolla. If you visit San Diego, this restaurant is a must! Located in a former warehouse, the decor is fabulous…

olive tree:bar

100-year olive trees grow between the tables.

Loved this wall of dried pufferfish!
Loved this wall of dried pufferfish!

There were fireplaces blazing, an array of coral and barnacles, and inside the belly of an amazing light fixture hanging over the bar, this cool whale skeleton…

whale bones

The food was massively delicious! If you go, be sure to order the whole fish ceviche…

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…the crab pasta in brown tarragon butter, and for desert, the Herringbone Sundae—chocolate ice cream, sea salt blondies, marshmallow cream, caramelized nibs drizzled espresso caramel.

Dasha and I were also busy trying to get our teenagers to interact. As you can see, the kids have hung out since they were little…

so little…but for some reason this trip they acted as if they’d never met. Luckily, Dash and I tapped into our inner camp counselors and made them play a raucous game of TABOO together on the beach. Here’s a snippet of the game:

Dash: Okay!!! This is something that happens on the 4th of July or Christmas WHERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WALK DOWN THE STREET!!!!”

Lauren: Mom! You’re being really loud. Is it fireworks?

Dash: NO!!!! THEY WILL OFTEN WEAR COSTUMES!!!

Makena: Mom, please the whole beach is staring. Will you lower your voice? Is it Halloween?

Dash: NOOOOO, it’s NOT HALLOWEEN!!!! SOMETIMES THERE WILL BE MARCHING BANDS!!!!!

Makena: Shhhhhh!!! Oh I know, it’s a parade!

Kim: GOOD JOB, MAKENA!!!!!

Tanner & Sax: Pipe it, Mom. You’re such a grenade!

Needless to say, the teens FINALLY bonded over their loud, dorky moms.

Glad we could help, kids!
Glad we could help, kids!

Dash and I also love to shop. She was busy preparing for an upcoming camping trip, so  I headed up the PCH to Laguna Beach where I discovered Tuvalu, a darling beach chic home furnishings boutique where I could have done serious damage…

Drooling over this double oyster shell chandelier~only $4,500!
Drooling over this double oyster shell chandelier~only $4,500!

 Oh, and this bottle rack chandelier was killer, too. Price upon request so you know it was BANK!

billion dollar bottle rack chandy

Really loved this aqua anchor tricked out with lights, too.
Really loved this aqua anchor tricked out with lights, too.

bottle with sea glass beads

Lucky for Jimmy, my only purchase was this vintage bottle bedecked with a strands of seaglass. I love the colors. They remind me of the hues of the ocean in beautiful San Diego.

While the sparkly boutique finds were gorgeous, our trip reminded me that long lasting, friendships where you can grab your boogie board and pick up right where you left off, are life’s best treasures.

four of us at Herrybone

Can’t wait to come back & visit next year!010

The Mystery of the Disappearing Silver Bullet

A few weeks ago we headed to Squaw Valley in Tahoe. We were pumped to do our favorite hike to Shirley Lake, so we hopped on the tram, which in eight minutes, whisked us to the top o’ the mountain.

As much as we love Squaw’s snowy peaks during winter, the mountain is gorgeous during summer.

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The chair lifts sit silent and still.

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The ski runs are carpeted in wildflowers.

Double blue squares are silhouetted against a cloudless azure ski.

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Before hiking to Shirley Lake, we decided to climb the steep face of the Emigrant chair lift, which was still covered with patches of not so fluffy, brown snow. Nonetheless at the top, we had a snowball fight and made dirty snow angels~is that not the perfect name for a cocktail? I’m thinking Kahlua over shaved ice garnished with chocolate shavings. YUM!

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Until we trekked down the backside of Emigrant, we had yet to see another soul. Most folks, once they debark from the tram, venture no further than the High Camp swimming pool/restaurant/ice rink.

But at the top of Granite Chief, we ran into some locals on horseback. When we happened upon them, the group had tied up their steed and were chilling on some rocks, enjoying the view.

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One guy, a photographer in his late 20s, was kind enough to snap a few pics for us…

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He also gave us advice on how to connect with the Shirley Lake trail. We thanked him and took off down the mountain.

Saxon ventured away from our group traversing along a treacherous cliff completely covered in icy snow. I wondered how we would get him airlifted out after he plunged over the side.

As we made our way down the dirt path, a voice rang out on the quiet mountain.

“Hey! Any of you see a Coors Light? I buried one in the snow right by where you just walked.” It was our nice photographer calling from above.

Jimmy, Tanner and I looked at each other and shook our heads, “Sorry. We didn’t see it!”

We yelled to Saxon, who was attempting his Into Thin Air expedition 200 yards away. “Did you find a beer?”

“No-ooooooooo,” his voice echoed back.

“Sorry,” we called up the mountain, “No one saw it.”

At the top of Granite Chief the man began kicking furiously through the snow, searching for his brew. “Are you positive?” he called, more agitated.

“Yes, we’re positive!” My dry, parched mouth could feel his pain. Our Sigg water bottle drained, I imagined how refreshing an icy Silver Bullet would have tasted right then. “But thanks for the pictures!”

We soldiered on, down the wider, dirt trail for another thirty minutes until we reached emerald green Shirley Lake. We dipped in her hot and cold pockets, sharing the water with only one other family and their dogs.

We had heard there were amazing waterfalls just twenty minutes from the bottom so we decided to hike the rest of the way down the mountain. “Just follow the blue arrows spray painted on the rocks,” our friends by the lake told us. And so we did.

Of course after 10 minutes, Jimmy (aka Helen Keller) got us lost and the kids started freaking out and begging us to turn around and head for the tram. But we righted ourselves, and before long caught a glimpse of Squaw Village, a tiny toy train town far off in the distance.

By then we’d been hiking four hours. Exhausted, we gingerly side-stepped down the sheer granite cliffs until finally, our ears perked up at the sound of gurgling water. A series of eight-to- ten waterfalls cascaded over rocks and boulders. We stopped at one and jumped into a bubbling pool,  re-energized by the chilly snow melt water…

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As we curved through a dense section of forest toward the bottom, Saxon said, “Hey, guys, I have a confession.”

“What?” we asked.

“You know that guy’s beer? I kicked it off the cliff.”

“What? What were you thinking?” we chided.

“I’m sorry,” Saxon said sheepishly .

“Well, please tell us you drank it first,” Jimmy replied.

“No, I thought it was buried like you do at the beach with an empty can,” Saxon explained.

“Man! That poor guy. He was probably so looking forward to that ice cold beer before his ride back down the mountain,” we chided. “You should have come clean.”

We limped the last mile back to the village, and scored a table at the sushi restaurant where we pounded Arnold Palmers, and frosty Sapporo, and all the water we could drink.

Coors light

Sorry, nice photographer guy. Saxon owes you a 12-pack of Silver Bullets.

Or at least a Dirty Snow Angel.

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.

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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.

Ironman and the Yoga Queen

“Hi,” I said to the ranger inside the booth at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. “We’re doing the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.”

“You know it’s already past 3 p.m.?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes, we know.”

I’d masterminded the ultimate adventure—a “strenuous” hike followed by dinner at Laili, a Mediterranean-Afghan restaurant in Santa Cruz—and no ‘noid ranger was gonna stop me.

Who did this guy think he was dealing with anyway? Jimmy is an Ironman and they don’t call me the chaduranga queen in yoga for nothing.

“We can hike 12 miles in 2 & 1/2 hours easy,” I bragged.

“Thirteen. It’s actually 13 miles,” said Mr. By-the-Book, who insisted we leave a note on our dash for his night relief.

“Dearest Ranger,” I wrote,We pre-parked a car at the finish near Waddell Beach. Please don’t worry if we don’t return for our Prius until after 9 p.m. See you soon!

Then, map in hand, Jimmy and I were off. “What’s his problem?” I scoffed. “There’s plenty of light.”

We trekked through stunning old-growth redwoods and fern-lined canyons, and in no time passed Mile Marker 1. “Only 12 more miles to go!” I exclaimed.

Forty-five minutes later we came upon Berry Creek Falls, the crown jewel of Big Basin. The 60-foot waterfall was so tropical it felt like Hawaii…

Berry Creek Falls

…except darkness was closing in and we still had 10 miles left, so back onto the trail we hustled.

Moments after leaving the Falls the trail suddenly dead ended. Through the dusk, I spied another path — on the opposite side. The only way across was atop a wobbly gutter MacGyvered across the deep, gushing creek.

One slip and down we’d plunge into the icy water.

We crossed unscathed, but a rained out, mucky Slip ‘N’ Slide of a path awaited.

Ironman took the lead, mud skating over the puddles, his neon orange Nikes beacons guiding us through the ever darkening forest.

Thirty minutes later we found ourselves enveloped in blackness.

dark & snowy night

We clicked on our iPhone flashlight apps, a sorry light source for the dark, creepy forest. Just then a mountain biker coming from the Falls zoomed past, his headlight momentarily illuminating the woods.

“Hello!” I cried. “How much longer to Waddell Beach?”

I expected him to say three, maybe four miles MAX.

“About eight miles,” he said.

“Nooooo!” I wailed.

Having depleted our almonds ages ago, all I could think of was the roasted pumpkin borani we planned to devour at Laili later–that was if a hungry mountain lion didn’t devour us first.

“I’m scared, Jimmy. What if we wind up like that couple in the ‘8os who got stranded in a blizzard for five days. They made a TV movie of the week starring Neil Patrick Harris, remember?”

snowbound-the-jim-and-jennifer-stolpa-story-4

“If they make a movie about us who would should play you—Rob Lowe?”

“No way,” sniffed Jimmy. “Rob has man boobs. I need someone like Marky Mark, only more yoked.”

Time passed–An hour? Five hours? Time drags when you’re so cold you’re dreading losing your toes to frostbite.  “How many days do you think Tanner and Saxon will keep playing Minecraft before they notice we’re missing?” I asked Jimmy.

“Dunno. At least a week.”

Just when I could not take one more step there it was: Mile Marker 13!

We hugged, then looked around.

Maybe my fuzzy vision was distorted from staring at the tiny pinhole of light for so long, but our car was nowhere to be found. All we saw was an unlit paved road leading into the dark unknown.

Little did we know the additional three miles out to coast where we’d parked ratcheted our hike to 16 miles.

Shivering, hungry, clutching our phones with swollen sausage fingers we soldiered on, until…

…finally, off in the distance…wait, could it be? Yes, high beams of cars whizzing down Highway 1 beckoned us like a lighthouse.

We dragged ourselves the remainder, then collapsed in the car.

Ironman and the Yoga Queen ate some serious humble pie that day.

Then, after thawing out, we hit Laili and feasted on pumpkin borani.

“We made it!” we said, clinking frosty mugs of Belgium pale ale.

“You didn’t have to amputate our toes in the middle of the forest!” I exclaimed.

“And Rob & his moobies didn’t have to star in my life story!” Jimmy added.

Rob & Jimmy

If you’re craving adventure, this is a great one. Just take our advice~park at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, hike the Berry Creek Falls loop (7 miles roundtrip), then head straight for Laili for roasted pumpkin borani. Cheers!

Oh, and Jennifer? If I don't make it out alive next time, are you available?
Oh, and Jennifer? If I don’t make it out alive next time, are you available?