Archive for June, 2010


Buffy and GG’s Excellent Adventure

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in travel

Before I begin to describe my roadtrip with my sister there are a few things you need to know.  We are "Gibson Girls" and share a few traits that made my husband e-mail us that when apprised of our coming, half of Santa Barbara was evacuated:

1.) Due to various causes, both Buffy and I have acute short term memory loss.

2.) We have trouble reading maps or following directions, and my rental car didn’t have enough power to run my GPS.

3.) Any kind of electronic device immediately absorbs the "Gibson Curse" when we try to use it.

4.) We were both very tired.

5.) Whenever we have a problem of any kind, our immediate response is to burst into gales of laughter until tears are running down our cheeks.  (On a prior roadtrip, this phenomenon was illustrated by our behavior following my receipt of a ticket for going 90 in a 70 mph zone.)

So our roadtrip started in Irvine, CA, as we headed for the Getty Villa (museum) in Malibu.  We got there fine.  Our troubles started when we decided to use the IPads they provided for us with a guided tour of the villa and its statues.  We simply could not figure out how to use them.  After several patient guards helped us, we were still in the dark.  The Gibson Gremlin had definitely made an appearance.  We stood in the middle of the villa, choking with laughter as we tried to bring up the sculptures we were looking at.  Finally, I succeeded in bringing up the Roman statue of Hercules.  However, the dialogue was in Spanish!  More laughter!  After a cursory view of the Getty’s Roman treasures, we decided to eat.  I had a plate of cheeses, raisin toast, and nuts and dates.  It was delicious!

Then we were on our way to Santa Barbara via Highway One.  Neither of us had ever made the drive before, and it was absolutely spectacular, reminding me much of the terrain in Greece.  I told my sister that this was her European trip. Highway One is definitely the long route and we arrived in SB at around five o’clock to find that we had no reservations in the hotel I had reserved on Saturday.  The hotel was also a vast disappointment.  Instead of a "mountain retreat with a view of the coastline and city of Santa Barbara", it was in Goleta, hard up against the Highway 101.  Had we had a scenic room, our view would have been of the highway.  There were also ominous sounds from the roof they were repairing.  The desk lady told us in no uncertain terms that we had no confirmed reservations, we realized I had somehow messed up.  Taking Buffy’s laptop, we sat in the lobby and looked up the hotel on Priceline (very good rates, if you ever travel).  Then and there we made a new reservation, and carrying the computer to the desk lady, showed her our confirmation number.  Finally realizing we were sisters and not Lesbians, she became very helpful.  First she upgraded us to a garden deluxe room.  Then, at our request (there was no elevator) she put us in a first floor room.  And she figured out exactly what we had been up to in the lobby (to make sure we got the best rate) and laughed.  We could barely stifle our own laughter at our coup.  The Garden Deluxe Room, turned out to have a short hedge outside our sliding door which almost, but not quite, screened us from the parking lot.  Our patio was four feet square with two plastic chairs.  We dissolved into hysterics.  My sister refused my invitation to sit out there and luxuriate.  "I don’t want to inhale gas fumes".  I spent the next interminable hour confirming our Carmel reservations which I had apparently not done either.

Then, dinner.  The desk recommended Toby’s which turned out to be a sleazy joint across the freeway.  We consulted our map, and noticed a restaurant called "Fresca."  It had a nice ring, so we endeavored to find it using the map.  After dozens of wrong turns, we stumbled on it by accident.  We had turned up trumps.  Outdoor heaters, a guitar-playing minstrel, and wonderful fresh food.  We especially enjoyed our desert which was layers of chocolate mousse in a goblet,interspersed with some kind of Italian sweet cream which we are determined to find the recipe for (we are writing a cookbook).  After this triumph, we slept well.  The next day, we visited the town which has parking places limited to 75 minutes on the street.  We dashed between stores and reparking the car.  That was an adventure, because we kept going the wrong way on one way streets.  Nevertheless we found an Italian shoe store with a half price sale, a Nordstrom’s with a wonderful cafe, and an Italian pottery shop that was uber expensive but had "picnic ware" in melamine which was portable and cheap.  I indulged.  I swear it looks genuine.

By two thirty we were on the road, and on the road, and on the road.  We thought we would never get to Carmel.  We arrived only 10 minutes (at a surprisingly nice hotel/resort, cheaper than the room the night before.  Bless priceline)before the 8:00 massage I had scheduled for both of us in my room.  We barely had time to strip.  But the massage was absolute heaven.  I had arranged for roomservice dinner beforehand, knowing that we would be limp noodles afterwards.  So we ate a steak dinner in bed, and then went to sleep.

The following day was superb.  We ate breakfast at a very small and friendly cafe and Buffy was able to watch the final moments of the US soccer game which the owner had recorded.  Then we strolled and ended up in a linen store (with Italian linens!) where the owner bonded with Buffy because she used to live in SLC (my sister is a graduate of the U).  She told us about a state park, not 10 minutes away.  Mostly to curb my spending in all the wonderful Carmel shops, we decided to give it a try.

It was magnificent.  I swear that Pt. Lobos State Park off Hwy One just outside Carmel is the most beautiful place on earth.  More beautiful than any place I saw in the Greek Isles.  Clear aquamarine water, cliffs covered with wildflowers and Monterrey Pines (you know the ones that grow horizontally), rock formations in the sandstone that looked like whales, sea lions, picturesque fog creeping over the surrounding hillside that was covered with green flora.  We hiked and my hips didn’t even hurt!  It was definitely serendipity–the best part of our trip.

That night we ate in a snazzy restaurant, dressed to the nines, with Buffy’s son, who wears dreadlocks and jeans and lives in a commune in Santa Cruz.  Peter is the most loving and gentle creature alive–just born a generation too late.  His love for his mother was overwhelming, and he was so glad to have a great meal that didn’t come out of his garden.  We told him that if anyone gave him trouble about his hair, we would say he was a rock star.  He said, "And you’re my groupies?"  We were flattered!

Back to our room to pack.  We had to leave at dawn to avoid the LA traffic when we got close to home.  Peter drew directions for the fastest trip on the paper table cloth.  We left at 7:30 AM, and aside from a disastrous trip to Carl’s Jr. where most of my burger ended up on my white shirt, we made the trip smoothly, arriving at 2:30 pm in Irvine.

The Gibson girls obviously have a guardian angel.  We don’t know who it is, as we derive most of our crazy genes from our father, but we suspect a third great grandmother who crossed the plains with nine wagons without her husband.  Thank you, Vira Ann!


Review of Alma the Younger, by H.B. Moore

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Reviews

By GG Vandagriff

I simply cannot praise this book enough. H.B. Moore has done the nearly impossible: she has created a protagonist who is also the antagonist, and made us love and care about him. She has demonstrated with consummate skill how a man, raised in righteousness, can be drawn into wickedness by the belief that he knows a better way of doing things than his leaders. In my mind, this book is what the Victorians called “An Awful Warning” to anyone who thinks they have a better way of doing things than the way that is ordained of God.

Heather shows the “domino effect” of how one seemingly small sin can bring about our ruin. In the scriptures, this method of destruction by Satan is called “the flaxen cord” that becomes the chain that leads us down to hell.

This is the method described by Wormwood in the Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, told with one of the most well-known characters in the Book of Mormon.

I must confess that Alma the Younger has always been my favorite character. I identified with him when reading the Book of Mormon the first time, for I rejoiced that God could take such a sinner and make a mighty prophet of him. When my 60’s lifestyle boyfriend, David Vandagriff was investigating the church, I had him start reading the Book of Mormon with the dramatic appearance of an angel to Alma and the Sons of Mosiah. When another member of our family was casting about in darkness, this scripture passage was recreated in his own life, causing an experience that changed his life.

I expected this book to deal mostly with Alma’s years as a judge and preacher, however it doesn’t. It faces squarely the problem of Alma’s fall from grace. Heather explained to me how fast she was able to write it, and I have a theory that her hero was sitting on her shoulder whispering his story into her ear. It is that good and that believable.

The characters are real and richly developed. I can’t do better than to say this book is an exquisite read.

Alma The Younger

Covenant Communications

ISBN 978 1 60861 020 4


Puccini and Lucca for the Soul

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in travel

Our main reason for returning to Florence was to Cosimo and Elisabetta, who have become dear friends.  However, there was one thing I hadn’t been able to accomplish on my last visit.  I hadn’t been able to attend the Puccini concert in Lucca in the chapel where he was baptized.

Cosimo was dear enough to drive us there (together with his faithful Adriana in his new Fiat!).

He was a dear and handsome as ever and I warned him severely against Hollywood.  The drive through Tuscany was lovely, and when we arrived at Lucca, we had to park outside and take a spooky passage under the city wall.  Cosimo had never been there and was almost freaked out by an entire city with no cars or scooters!  We quickly found the chapel and then had a bite of Pizza.

The Concert was thrilling.  They sing different arias every night, and I wish we could have stayed an entire week to hear all my favorites.  The soprano was superb, and the tenor smooth and obviously talented, but didn’t have the lung capacity to compete with the piano and the soprano!  But it was molto enjoyable.  I was thrilled, and determined right then, that a future trip must include Milan and La Scala and an entire Puccini opera.  He was such a genius.  His music stirs the soul in a way that I can’t describe.  It feels inevitable, as though we knew it well before we entered mortality.  It soothes and then exalts.  And to hear it where he was raised as an infant was a tender experience.

By the time Tuesday 5 am rolled around, we were indeed ready for home.  The flight was difficult, especially the 6 hr. layover in NYC, but I slept from there to SLC, from SLC to Provo (my son informs me that I snored), and once I found my bed I did not wake up until Thursday morning.

My grandchild was born sometime during that time period.  My sister called for a report.  I found I couldn’t remember the baby’s name, I was so deep in sleep.  I said, “It’s something like Milo or Malachi.”  Now, of course, I have memorized it and it takes me only a second to remember that it is uh, um, ah! Micah!!  The pictures Buffy has sent of Jack cuddling with him are making me way too anxious to see him next Saturday!