I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Friday, December 25, 2009


It's Christmas Day! I wake up late to the sounds of someone arriving at the front door. It sounds like a lot of people. Turns out it's some surprise visitors for Bob and Ada... her niece and husband and their 4 year old daughter. Unexpected. They are planning on spending the night and Ada shows them into the second spare bedroom beside mine.

We are supposed to be at Ron's by 11 for brunch so I hop in the shower and get about getting ready to go. I drive myself over to Ron's and the rest follow shortly after.

Nelson is making mimosa's and there is a plate full of scones freshly baked by Eric. I help myself to a scone with butter and jam. There's a bowl of what looks like whipped cream cheese as well so I pass that over. I find out later it was a bowl of clotted cream, my absolute favourite thing to eat with scones and I missed it! Oh well. The scones melt in the mouth and didn't need the cream anyway. Well done Eric!

Ron has free long distance to all of North America from his house phone and he tells me to call my kids to wish them Merry Christmas. I call Shonah and rib her for not texting me last night to say she arrived safely in Vancouver after flying down from Kelowna, as I had asked her to do and she had promised me she would. She's having such a good time, she totally forgot. She didn't want to spend Christmas eve and morning with her dad and his wife and her kids so she is with my good friend Fran who's daughter has been friends with Shonah since kindergarten. She was there over night and is having a fabulous time, as I knew she would. I try calling Christopher but he's not answering. I get Ashleigh and Rob as they are driving to the grandparents for the day. We have a lovely chat and she tells me to call her later when Christopher will be there so that I can talk to him. I tell her I will try.

We are waiting for Ron's sister and husband to arrive but after a couple of hours they still haven't arrived so we decide to get on with it. Everyone moves outside to the patio and Ron plays Santa, handing out the gifts. It's great fun to see what each one gets and it's a really great window into what their likes are. For instance, Matt gets a lot of vintage things including a floppy vinyl record from the 50's from Geb, and two fabulous vases from the 40's from Ron; Michael gets books and a pair of silver cuff links; Ged gets a lot of vintage items; when Scott and Jane finally arrive, he gets drinking glasses wrapped in tooled leather - very western looking - from Ron, and a Brooks Brother's jacket from Michael, who is determined to de-cowboy Scott and turn him into a class act. Nelson gets silver cuff links in the shape of transformer heads and he is beyond excited with them. He also gets a lovely cashmere sweater. Bob gets a vintage book about something historical that has him reading for the next half hour. He later comments on how much he loves it. I get a CD of Vera Lynn - I loved a song that was on the radio in Ron's car a couple of days ago and when I said as much when it was over, he told me that it was Vera Lynn. The gift card says it's from Crawford, Ron's dog. I am so touched. Ron is such a thoughtful guy and this gift shows just how much so. Michael and Brian give me a gorgeously scented gardenia candle in a glass jar with a sliver lid. My big gifts from Ron was the car rental and the money he gave me; far far more than I should have gotten, that is for sure. Geb gives me a mug that is painted black and comes with chalk so that you can write whatever you want on it. Ada gives me a towel set. Matt gives me a string of lights in the shape of crucifixes and a key chain with a picture of Jesus encased in amber. Nelson gives me tabs to mark the books of the Bible to make it easy to find them. It makes me laugh that, because I am a Christian and they know it, I get religious themed gifts. Matt tells me that he loves the lights and wishes he had a set but they were the last ones in the store. I can't exactly give them back to him but I'd like to as I find the lights a bit sacrilegious and won't be putting them up anywhere so he may as well have them.

Ron gets the flamingo tie he passed up at Brooks Brothers from Nelson. He gets a set of wooden hangers engraved with his initials from Michael. He loves the martini shaker from me. And his favourite gift is a leopard print bicycle seat from Eric. It matches his leopard print lined basket attached to the handle bars that Crawford travels in.

The sun is actually hot and there isn't a cloud in the sky. I am loving this so much. I thought I would really miss my kids today but I don't. I know they are having a good time with their grandparents, their Dad, and the rest of the family. And I feel very much at home here, strangely enough. I mean, most of these people I had never met before a few days ago yet I just love them. There is such a generous spirit among all of them and they are a lot of fun. I have been welcomed with open arms and the men have been absolute gentlemen and have treated me extremely well. I feel doted on at times, and that is something I am not used to but sure could get used to it in a hurry. It's going to be very hard leaving here. But I try not to think about that and concentrate on living in the moment and enjoying every bit of this.


I ask Nelson if he has ever been up the tram and he says he hasn't. I would really like to go and I am thinking that, if it's open today, it won't be very busy probably - it being Christmas Day. I ask him if he wants to go and he says he would love to.

Things are winding down here. The gifts are all opened, the wrapping paper and boxes are piled together, and Ron wants us all to clear out so he can get ready for the caterers. The plan is to go home, rest up a bit, and then get dressed up for the party tonight. Cocktails at seven, dinner at eight. We have about three hours so it's a perfect time to go up the mountain.

We stop off at my place so I can change into more appropriate clothing - it's cold up on that mountain, there's even snow. That done, I drive us up the long and winding road that quickly gains a thousand feet in altitude every few miles. It's a seven mile drive from the visitors center at the bottom, where I got the map yesterday, to the base station for the tram. We start to see parking lots on the way up, each have a name of an animal. We park in Grey Squirrel, the second to last one that we find - so pretty close to the base, and catch the open-air bus that travels between them up to the base. I am sitting on the end of a bench so the wind coming in from the window once we get underway is an arctic blast and I am freezing. None too soon we pile out and walk into the building. It's packed. There must be two hundred people in line waiting for the next tram. And twilight is descending. I ask the ticket agent if we will make it into a tram before dark and she says we won't. I look at Nelson. "I want to see the view, I don't want to go up in the dark." I say. Nelson agrees. So we leave and decide to come back tomorrow. Then on the drive down, as I think about it, I tell him "I am not fussed about coming back. I hate crowds and the thoughts of being in one of those trams with 79 other people isn't very tempting." He says he feels the same way so that's that then. I will leave Palm Springs without going up the mountain, a major tourist attraction (reminds me of leaving Paris without going up the Eiffel Tower - four hour line-up). But I really hate crowds.

I drop Nelson off at Ron's just as the caterers are arriving. Ron is moving his car out of the driveway so that they can park there and he gets out once it's parked at the curb and motions me to park in tight behind him. I roll down my window and tell him I am not staying, just dropping off Nelson and going home. "Fine, fine. See you at seven for cocktails then." he says and I drive off.

When I get to Bob and Ada's, more guests have arrived. Another couple with their daughter who is about 21. This is another of Ada's nieces and the mother is Ada's sister. When I catch Ada alone I ask her if they are staying the night and she confirms that they are. I ask where they will sleep? She says she will put them on the couches. I feel bad because I know they were waiting to hear if they'd have company before they said yes to me staying with them. They weren't supposed to be getting any, but now here everyone is. I tell her I am sorry and ask if she would like me to take a couch so that the couple can have my bed but she won't hear of it.

I read in my room for a bit and then get ready for the party. I brought a lovely black dress that has a plunging neckline and shows quite a bit of cleavage. I can't decide if I should wear it with a camisole or not. When I was in the BVI I wore the dress to the party I had for Ashleigh and Rob the night before the wedding and wore the camisole. A few nights later, we went out to go dancing and I didn't wear it. My kids never complained that mom was being rude, so I decide that it's not too showy and I will go sans camisole. I spend a fair bit of time getting ready, doing my hair and makeup, as this is going to be an up-scale crowd and I want to look my best.

Even taking extra time to get ready, I am ready an hour early. I don't want to sit in my room for an hour. I don't really want to intrude on the family time going on in the living area. So I decide to leave for Ron's early and visit with Michael and Nelson or whoever is there and ready for the party.

When I knock on the door, Ron answers and he is in shorts and a tee-shirt. Oh-oh. "I know I am early and I don't care." I blurt out before he can say anything. "Oh my god!!" he exclaims. "What part of 'cocktails at seven' don't you people understand?" and opens the door to reveal another guest who arrived 10 minutes before me. I walk in and am introduced to Miguel, who is at the bar pouring himself a glass of scotch. I help myself to a Malibu and Coke, and we sit on the couch and get to know one another as the caterers buzz about the kitchen and the men of the house are nowhere to be seen, getting dressed I assume. Miguel is a really sweet guy, gay of course, and I learn that he is from a city deep in Mexico, that most of his family still lives there, that he goes back to visit every couple of years, and that he owns a vintage furniture shop here in town. As we get acquainted, slowly the men start to appear. First Nelson, then Michael, then Eric, Brian and finally Ron. Soon other guests start to appear and the party is in full swing.

The guys have done an amazing job of the back yard. It's all lit with strings of lights and spot lights. The outside bar has candles lit, as does each table. It's gorgeous. There are two large patio heaters keeping it nice and toasty out there and the guests spill out onto the chairs grouped around the pool. Soon the caterers are ready, and so Ron and Eric get behind the bar and Ron makes his annual Christmas speech. He keeps it short with a welcome to everyone here, and tells us how - because this past year has been so abysmal for all of us in film - this party almost never happened. But then, at the eleventh hour, he got his first movie - his only movie - of 2009 from Disney and that enabled him to keep things as they should be at Eight-Oh-One. He raises a glass to us all and to a better year to come, and then declares that 'dinner is served'.

It's a buffet-style meal so we get in line and help ourselves to a marvelous turkey and ham dinner. I keep to turkey as that means Christmas to me. It's a delicious meal and as I sit at the bar to eat it, Paul sits with me. Paul is someone I have only known from Ron's FaceBook page. He was in training as a butler last year and now he is with a wealthy family in Ontario. I have a wonderful time getting to know him, and I just love him. He has a great sense of humour and has a way about him that is very endearing. Why is it that all the most charming, funny and sweet men have to be gay? It's such a waste of a good man. I could get very discouraged by it if I wasn't having such a great time.

There's an actor at the party that I haven't seen for a year since I worked with him on one of Ron's movies. I also worked with him at the very beginning of my career as a script supervisor. I am delighted that he's there and give him a huge hug when I see him. He tells me that I look stunning and that he sees that 'I brought the girls along' as he nods to my chest. For a second I am mortified and then I brush it off and laugh and say 'they always come along, they just always don't get to come out.' and he laughs. It's the only reference anyone makes to my daring choice, although I do get told a few times by both women and men that I look stunning or gorgeous. It does wonders for my self confidence even though I don't believe I look that good. I am still packing way too many excess pounds for that.

Ron's sister has a reputation at these parties for getting a little too tipsy and breaking glass. Apparently a couple of years ago she broke, not one but two Tiffany wine glasses. Since then, they don't come out of the cupboard when Jane is around. Because it never fails that she breaks glasses, she is under orders to use only plastic cups. She is sitting near me, holding her drink high in an orange plastic mug, and talking with a friend sitting beside her. I look over at her just in time to see the mug slip through her fingers and land squarely on top of a glass her friend just placed on the floor. It shatters loudly and everyone within earshot looks over. "Ooops." Jane sheepishly says. Ron comes over to investigate and stops in exasperation. "Oh my god!!" he exclaims, "A plastic cup and you still managed to break a glass." He goes for the brush and dustpan and cleans up the glass as Jane totters off to find another drink. Not ten minutes later Matt notices that she is drinking from a glass. "Isn't Jane banned from using glass?" he asks his friend... and as they watch the glass slips from her fingers and shatters on the floor. "Yep," his friend replies, "and that is why."

At about nine thirty over half the guests have left. What?! This is a Hollywood crowd. I thought these people partied until the wee hours of the morning? By ten, everyone is gone except for me and those staying at Ron's. "Where did everyone go?" I ask, "I thought this party would go to at least one." Michael pats the spot beside him on the couch. "Come sit by me, Sandypants." he says. He has taken to calling me that and I think it's sweet. I go sit by him and he puts his arm around me and pulls me close. "We are all getting old and this is the result." he says. "Well I am the oldest person here," I say, "and I sure am not ready for the party to be over." We sit like that for a while and talk a bit about the day and how wonderful it was as Nelson cleans up the bar and Ron putters about the kitchen. Eric has passed out in the bedroom from exhaustion and Crawford the dog is curled up beside him. Brian sits in the chair by the fire. I think perhaps Brian is older than I am. Michael says he believes it's the best Christmas he's had in Palm Springs thus far and he is so happy I am here. He tells me I have to make it an annual event and, although I have kids and can't imagine not spending Christmas with them year after year, I think he might be right. I might have to make this trip my new Christmas tradition.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.

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