Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Stink

So, after many, many, many, MANY tours of all the shopping malls in America (seriously, MANY) I have come to the conclusion that I can't stand Abercrombie and Fitch. A few years ago, I stopped shopping there. It's not my style anymore. And you know the old saying, "If it's too loud, your too old"? Well it was too loud in there.

In the following years a strange thing has happened, they started reaching out to lure customers in. It started with half nude models at the front door and now includes a scent sprayer just (barely) inside their doors. From 6 to 10 stores away, whether indoors or outdoors, you can smell that store before you can see it.

It fills my head. It closes off my breathing. My brain shuts down and the headache begins.

I'm not alone. 30% of Americans have some form of asthma, allergy, scent sensitivity or breathing issue. ONE THIRD of America is being poisoned by one store.

I already know all the arguments that are about to come up. If you don't like it, don't go there. Other stores have perfume spritzers too. Get over yourself. (I know those are the arguments because I was looking into this topic and read all the 14 year old comments to all the crabby grandpas online.)

So news flash, I DON'T GO THERE. And yes, other stores have perfumes and perfume spraying salespeople, but none of them have a perfume misting machine written into their lease agreement to be used at their front door. And as for getting over myself, I did that years ago.

So now in addition to not going into the physical store, I am avoiding wings of malls. This week, I have decided to give up an entire mall because there is just no escape. And since I am now a crabby old grandpa, I no longer just walk away. I believe retailers have the right to know why they lost my business and what they can do to get it back.

So I wrote the following letter to my local mall:
Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2011 10:38 AM
Subject: Air quality concerns

I recently came to the Grove to shop the Men’s Half Yearly sale at Nordstrom. I parked my car at the East Valet and as I entered the open air courtyard I was surprised at how much of the “open air” was filled with Abercrombie perfume.

I am a member of the Grove Loyalty Rewards program. I live within walking distance of the Grove. I am unable to enjoy any part of the Grove that is to the East of the fountains. I can not access any of the stores that surround the fountain area.

Abercrombie is using scent spraying machines inside their stores. They are filling the public air space with toxic chemicals. 30% of Americans have allergies, asthma or other breathing issues. By not stopping Abercrombie from filling the public space you are telling 30% of your customers.

Abercrombie is free to do what it likes with the air inside its store. But when that scent enters the public air space as such a level that it chokes your customers then the landlord is responsible. I am sorry, but until the matter is resolved, I will be forced to shop other locations. I will be letting Nordstrom, the Gap, Crate & Barrel and the restaurants at the Grove know why I am unable to enter their establishments as well.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.
And that is when I discovered that Abercrombie has it IN THEIR LEASE that they are allowed to poison the shopping experience for 30% of America:
Dear Jim,

I am very sorry to hear that the cologne at Abercrombie is of an annoyance to you. It is by no means an intention of our Center to deter any of our guests from having the best experience possible while on property. We always appreciate any feedback given to us here at The Grove as it only assists us in creating the most well tuned instrument possible for our visitors.

In regards to the scent machines at Abercrombie: In their leasing agreements the Abercrombie store is permitted to use their cologne machine inside their store. This agreement is the same for every mall and location an Abercrombie is located at. If you are looking at other Centers, you might want to check if there are any Abercrombie stores or any of their affiliated stores on those grounds as well, because they will all contain scent machines. As a result of them having open doors during business hours some of the smell is lifted by the wind, but I assure you there is no scent machine located on the outer parts of Abercrombie or any in use by The Grove itself.

Furthermore, they are regulated at what levels they are allowed to use their scent machines. At the Grove, in compliance with their leasing agreement, they have to have their machine set at the lowest possible setting. It is consistently monitored by both the Managers of Abercrombie and The Grove Management makes sure this is done.
Again, we at The Grove are deeply saddened that you are disappointed with that area of the property. We hope you are able to have the best experiences possible when visiting The Grove and as always we appreciate your patronage. I truly hope you have a better experience going forward. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future with any other future inquiries or feedback you may have.

Best of the best,
Drew M.

I'm no expert, but isn't this all the grounds for some sort of class action lawsuit? American with Disabilities Act? Isn't having Asthma bad enough, but to be shut out of the unique American experience of shopping in a public space... that's just downright cruel.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer in Palm Springs

Had a lively weekend with my cousin Julie in Palm Springs last weekend. The first pic is her drawing of what we'd look like, tan and "less tan". The second pic is that drawing realized. Thanks Julie!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Date with Deb & Fam at Disneyland

Two weeks ago, in between Kylie concerts, I met my sister and her family at Disneyland for the day. I only get up to Washington State a couple of times a year, so if they are coming close to me, I make the effort to meet them where they are. I am an expert guide at all things Disneyland.

We started our day at Disney's California Adventure.
Rob & Sam went on Grizzly Falls, Deb & I did not.

Please note my sister's fingers giving me the "bunny ears". This seems to run in my family.

Rob & I really wanted to go on the Roller Coaster "California Screamin'." My sister was very certain she was not going. My nephew Sam was in the middle. It's big. It's fast. It goes upside down.
In the end, the eternal power of peer pressure and the phrase, "Don't be a wuss" won out and we were off!

We wandered all over Disney's California Adventure. We had a "fast pass" to go on Soarin' Over California for later in the day and we wanted to stay in the same park until we accomplished that.

"It's Tough To Be A Bug" is a good show inside a cool theater, where you get to sit down.
How'd those bunny ears get in there?

And then it was time. Time for our "flight" on Soarin' Over California. We lined up and we were very excited. And by "we" I mean Sam and I. The family had already gone on the ride in the morning. I hadn't gone yet today. Sam thought it was totally cool but instead of riding on the bottom row of seats, this time he wanted to ride on the top. I told him how the last time I went on this ride with his grandfather, he wouldn't let me go on the top row of seats. We looked at his mom and said, "Please!?!" and she said, "(sigh) Okay."

There are three rows of seats. The front row goes to the top. At each of the three entrances, we said, "We want to be on the top row. Each time they sent us to the next door so we could do that. We waited our turn, went inside, we got on and we buckled up.
Each ride vehicle within consists of three rows of seats under a wing-like canopy. After guests have been safely restrained in the vehicle using standard lap belts, the canopy descends slightly and a cantilever system lifts the chairs forward and into the air with the guests' feet dangling freely. The vehicle is lifted forward so that guests look into a large, concave movie screen onto which aerial views of California are projected. The scenes were shot with an IMAX HD frame rate - 48 frames per second, twice the conventional output for regular films. Since the vehicle is moved forward toward the center of the dome, guests can only see the images projected on the screen and experience the sensation of flight. The ride structure contains about one million pounds of steel, and 37 tons are lifted during each ride cycle.

And here is a video of what the ride is like:

Now imagine as the lights go dark, the ride swiftly ascends and the music swells... that you feel a bump. A bump followed by the music being cut, and you can sense a rush of wind as the set of seats next to you return to the ground, but your seat, in the top row, does a slight "bounce" and stops.

"Please remain seated while we contact the control tower." and then the lights came on.

We were the only section stuck, and we were in the top row.

"Nobody move." said my sister.
"I'm gonna get my camera out!" said me.
"Don't. MOVE." said me sister with a forced calm.
and that's when I realized she was freaking out.

As only a mother can, she remained in a controlled calm so as to not freak her son out. Everyone else was talking and most everyone had their cell phones or cameras out. My brother-in-law began to play "Angry Birds".
I did take my camera out and discovered that my sister was keeping her eyes tightly shut.
I think this is probably how she looks when she is at the dentist.

Being the youngest and used to tormenting her, I asked her if she wanted me to tell her what was going on.
"NO." she told me tightly.
So, you don't want me to tell you how high up we are?
You know it's an IMAX theater, right?
Oh look, there's a man under the screen. Look!
You want me to sing?
You wanna play a video game?

Finally the engineering department fixed the rise and we were let down. My sister's greatest fear was that they would announce the ride was ready and force us to go right back up. But they didn't. She then wondered if the paramedic was there was for her because she thought maybe they knew she wanted to pass out.

When we left, the staff gave each group a "fast pass" good for ANY RIDE in the either theme park that was good for your entire party. We left California Adventure, and per Sam's request, we used our group fast pass for "Thunder Mountain Railroad" (without his mom).

Disneyland has re-tooled "Star Tours" and was having a sneak peek that weekend. You know, it's better than the old one, but I kinda still missed the old one anyway.

About this point, my sister says, "Can we talk about that other ride? The one we got stuck on?"
"How long were we up there? Half an hour?"
Uh, 5 minutes?
"No way. It was forever. At least 20."
No, 10 minutes tops. More like 7.
"Uh-uh. They had to call all those people in and they had to arrive. 15."
They have plans for stuff like that. And they have back entrances to be quick. Let's compromise and say 12.
"Okay, I'm telling everyone were stuck. In the sky. For TWELVE MINUTES."

Towards the end of the evening, we started to get tired, and tired of lines, and tired of people, but you know, you pay a billion dollars to get in, you can't just leave when you want. You have to stay all night!
So we went on the Matterhorn.
My sister: "I don't mean to belabor the point, but can we talk about that ride again?"
Me: Ok.
"So what would they have done if they ride hadn't come down? Get a ladder?"
Do you have any idea how high up we were?
"That's what I was most worried about. How would I get on the ladder."
Fist off, there isn't a ladder that tall. They would have had to use a scissor lift.
"Do they go tall enough?"
Yes, but we were over the curved screen. there was no solid floor under us.
"I'm so glad I kept my eyes closed."

As we left the Matterhorn, we were trying to decide on the "last ride" of the night.

What you need to know now, is a family legend.

Mr. Toad's wild ride consists of Mr Toad driving all over town and crashing into people and things, then being sent to court and then sentenced to jail. As he leaves for jail he winds up on the train tracks the train comes and kills him and then he goes to burn in hell. You know, standard Disney Kid stuff.

When we my sister was about 10, we went to Disneyland. We went on Mr Toad's Wild Ride. And when the "train" (which is a bight light suspended above) came at her and my dad's car, my sister screamed and hit the floor of the car, certain she was about to be killed.

We have tortured her about this ever since. Her son knows this legend as well. And so I say, What do you want to go on for the last ride of the night? And he says, "MISTER TOAD! MISTER TOAD! MISTER TOAD!"

My sister says, "Okay, have fun. I'll wait outside." And Sam says, "C'mon mom, don't be such a wuss!" Kids learn so quickly.



Someone seems frightened...

Watch for the train at about 1:20:


As we are finally leaving the theme park, Sam says he really wants something sweet. Oddly, my sister says ok, and he purchases the world's largest sucker. I think we all know how this is going to end up...
Sugar high, sugar low.

The family went off to their hotel and I drove home. The next day I drove to Las Vegas to see Kylie Minogue in concert. As I walked away from the family, I could hear my sister say, "Okay, about that ride earlier..."

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

For my cousin Julie

Julie and I both love shoes.

Julie and I both love Kylie.

Julie and I both love Kylie's shoes.

Of course my favorite pair of shoes was too hard to catch on stage as Kylie was dancing around way to fast for me to take a good photo. Hopefully this video gives you a good idea.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Kylie Minogue, not once, but twice in the same weekend!

First, at the Hollywood Bowl
With my friend Ellys.

Second at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas
With friends Zoel and Glen.

For blog purposes, I just took photos from both and mixed them together.

It was called the Aphrodite Tour and Kylie emerged as a Greek Goddess. with a Goddess theme flowing throughout the show.

Cupid Boy was a yummy number to watch. I wonder why?...

She had a great set with fantastic video dropped into the screen between the columns.

The finale was done to an Esther Williams water theme. In Europe (where she plays to much larger crowds) she had fountains and a pool as part of her stage set. Not in North America.

Monday, June 06, 2011

So busy!

I have been so busy, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

In the last two weeks I have loaded up my plate and eaten every life experience I could find.

I saw Kylie in Concert twice. Once at the Hollywood Bowl and two days later at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. In between I met my sister and her family at Disneyland for a day. I managed to fit in a haircut, lunch with friends, dinner with friends, and then we had out of town guests arrive.

We all made our way out to Palm Springs for the long Memorial Day weekend and when we came back, additional guests arrived from out of town. Bidding farewell to the first group, I made my way back out to Palm Springs with friends from Chicago, Houston and more locals from the LA area.

While I was out of town, my phone crashed and I spent a weekend without Facebook, Twitter, email or photos. So strange to be focused on things actually happening in the present.

We had a great time together and it all concluded on Sunday, which lands me here at my computer with no voice. Zero. So clearly a great time was had.

I've got some Kylie photos just itching to be shown, stayed tuned...