Zev News – April 2007


On Sunday, April 1, we all went to the Geffen, one of three venues that make up MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art (http://www.moca.org/museum/visit_home.php.)  Benjamin had gone to the Geffen (http://www.moca.org/museum/moca_geffen.php) on a field trip with his class to see the Andrea Zittel exhibit (http://www.moca.org/museum/exhibitiondetail.php?id=374) and had not been able to see the whole thing, so he wanted to go back.  We deliberately went on the first Sunday of the month, because they have special activities for families on the first of the month.  I can’t find any reference to them on the website anymore, so maybe they have discontinued them.  But this particular Sunday the special family activity was customizing clothing.  We brought shirts and they provide supplies to add pockets, zippers, Velcro, buttons, whatever you want.  Benjamin added long sleeves that were removable (like the long pants that you can convert into shorts.)  Jonathan wanted to add a pocket with a zipper, but they needed needles for their sewing machine, so he didn’t.  The special family activity (which was free) included free admission to the museum and a private tour of the Zittel exhibit.  We found her stuff to be (as most of the art at this museum is) a little strange.  We thought about looking at some of the other exhibits, but most were marked with signs saying “Caution: not all material is appropriate for all ages” and when Jackie went to check out the art, she agreed.  So we didn’t.  The Japanese American National Museum is right next to the Geffen, so Jackie suggested that we visit it too, but the boys weren’t interested.  Since Jackie was still feeling ragged from giving blood the Thursday before, she didn’t insist. 


Spring vacation for the boys started the next day.  Jonathan mostly spent the week reading and playing computer games, but Benjamin went to EATM’s Junior Safari spring camp.  EATM is the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College http://www.moorparkcollege.edu/~eatm/ - see last month’s newsletter for more details.  This was a big hassle for Marc, since Moorpark is a 30 minute drive from the house, and he had to do it twice a day.  But Benjamin loved it, and to Marc’s chagrin, wants to go back this summer.  On the last day of camp, Benjamin’s group did a show for the parents.  Not only did Marc and Jackie attend, but Blanche came, as did cousin Susanne, who happened to be visiting from New York.  There were only 5 kids in the session, 2 first graders, a second grader, a third grader, and a fourth grader (Benjamin.)  Benjamin MC’d the show, during which EATM students brought out various animals and the campers talked about each animal.  The one animal that was actually brought out by a camper was held by Benjamin, who came out with two Madagascar hissing cockroaches (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madagascar_hissing_cockroach for a picture), one on each hand.  They’re about 3 inches long and most of the parents were pretty impressed that he was willing to hold them.  After the show, he took us on a tour of the zoo.  We were expecting the tour to be pretty boring, as we had just been there the weekend before for the Spring Spectacular (see last month’s newsletter,)  but we got two surprises that made it very worthwhile.  The first happened when we were near the Binturong’s cage (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binturong for a picture.)  Benjamin was explaining that Binturongs are nocturnal, so we would get to see it, when a EATM student passed us and said she would be feeding it in a few minutes and if we waited, we could watch.  So we did.  She brought food and treats and walked the Binturong through a number of behaviors for the treats, including “up” (put your paws high on the mesh of the cage,) “circle” (turn a tight circle,) “touch” put a paw on the cage mesh and touch the student’s knuckle,) and “lap” (walk around the edge of the cage and come back to the starting place.)  When she had given the Binturong all the vegetables except the broccoli, she put the rest of his food in his food dish, saying that he won’t do tricks for broccoli.  We wandered around some more and then Benjamin wanted to see Happy, the American Alligator.  It took us a while to find him, and shortly after we did, a pair of students walked up and said they were going to feed him and we could watch if we wanted.  They also used the food to reinforce behaviors – well behavior, singular.  The alligator’s behavior was that they took a fat pole, about the length of a walking stick, used it to stamp the ground, said “touch” and the alligator touched his nose to the stick.  They fed the alligator using another pole with a wire poker on the end.  They put a ball of meat on the poker and used that to stay well away from the alligator.  They gave us lots of information about the alligator, about how he’s some what stunted in growth from being fed incorrectly by his previous owned and kept in a cage that was too small, and about how they are trying to figure out a way to use him in their shows.  We were very glad we hadn’t skipped the tour.


Wednesdays, Jackie attends a group she calls her “quilting” group, although sometimes nobody is quilting.  Lately, Jackie’s been putting pictures into albums.  Anyway, this week, Jackie was telling Carol about going to the Geffen (and not going to the Japanese American National Museum) and Carol said that it was too bad that we hadn’t gone to the Japanese American National Museum because there was a fascinating exhibit there of the art of Ruth Asawa (http://www.ruthasawa.com/)  Ruth makes what can be inadequately described as “crocheted wire sculptures”  After seeing a website of her work, Jackie knew she had to go see it.  So on Saturday, she dragged the family back downtown, without telling them anything more than that they were going to the Japanese American National Museum.  Before the museum, we went to get lunch in Little Tokyo, despite some concerns because Jonathan is not a big fan of Japanese food.  But it turned out not to be a problem.  The restaurant we went to had fresh water eel (Jackie’s favorite,) teriyaki chicken, bento boxes and –um- hot dogs.  All were happy.  Then on to the Japanese American National Museum.  If anything, Ruth’s work exceeded the expectations Jackie had after seeing the website.  Marc and the boys were enthralled too.  We highly recommend seeing it before it closes on May 27.


On Sunday, we had the “Geocache from hell.”  Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for gps users.  People hide “caches” small waterproof containers containing a log book (and, well, junk,) determine the coordinates of the cache using their GPS, and then publish those coordinates on the web at http://www.geocaching.com/.  You can go to this website, find the coordinates of a cache, and then use your GPS to find the cache.  The rules of the game are 1) take something from the cache, 2) leave something in the cache, 3) Write something in the logbook.  Simple, right?  Yeah, right.  We’ve done this many times in the past, but never had the kind of experience we had on Sunday!


On Sunday’s trip, Benjamin had invited a friend to join us.  We planned to geocache from 1 to 4 and then go to Jackie’s mom’s for dinner.  We picked up Brett, and it turns out his family has a gps, although they’ve never used it to geocache.  So he brought it.  Jackie had printed out 5 geocaches in the Chatsworth, (not that she thought we would have time for all of them, but just in case) and had already entered all the coordinates into our GPS.  We headed to the first one, which was actually located on the grounds of a cemetery.  However, when we got there, we found a big sign that said, “No dogs – even on a leash.”  Since we had brought Pippen, this presented somewhat of a problem, so we decided just to skip that one and go on to the next.  There were two in Chatsworth park, so we headed over there. 


Upon entering the park we discovered that our choice was somewhat problematic.  This happened to be Easter Sunday, and all of Chatsworth appeared to be at the park.  The parking lot was completely full.  In fact it took us twenty minutes just to enter the parking lot, figure out that it was full, turn around and leave.  In this process, Jackie got a *bright* idea.  We had 2 GPS units and 2 cell phones.  Marc could take the three kids, the dog, one of the GPS units and a cell phone and start, and Jackie could park the car and use the other unit and the cell phone to meet up with them.  Simple, right?  Yeah, right.


Jackie “got lucky” and actually found a parking space inside the park, on the road that leads to the exit.  But, as she was leaving the car, she discovered that Marc had dropped his cell phone in the car, and so she had two, and he had none.  But she wasn’t worried.  She had her GPS with the coordinates programmed in, so she would just go to the cache.  She took both phones and set off.  Now she wasn’t positive on which of the two caches in Chatsworth park the boys had headed out for, but she thought it was the one called “Fast Cache” so she headed there first.  Some time after she had left the park proper (the grassy area, with all the people) and turned into the brushy area with the trails, she turned on her cell phone just in case Marc borrowed a cell and called her.  It didn’t occur to her until much later that Marc doesn’t know her cell number – he has it programmed into his phone, but without his phone, he can’t call her. 


When Jackie arrived at the geocache site, she recognized it and realized that it was one they had done in the past.  So she knew she was at the right place.  However, the boys were nowhere to be seen.  Or heard, either.  So Jackie figured that either they had gone on to the second one, or that she was wrong about which one they had chosen.  In either case, they would be at the other one. So she headed off to the second cache.  When she passed people, she would ask if they had seen a man with three boys and a dog.  She got to within 60 feet of the second cache (it seemed to be up a small mound) and the boys weren’t there, either.  She started back to the main park, and met someone who said he had seen them “on the stagecoach trail” which was in the direction she was going.  So she continued on.  Soon, with all this hiking, she felt warm enough to take off her sweatshirt.  Before doing this, she emptied her sweatshirt pockets and found that Marc’s cell phone was missing.  She had had it when she turned hers on, so it must have been lost on one of the trails.  So she decided not to continue, but to retrace her steps and try to find the phone.  She retraced her steps back to the first cache – no boys, no phone.  She retraced her steps back to the park – no boys, no phone.  On the way, she tried calling the phone a couple of times – no luck. 


Jackie was stressing pretty badly about the lack of boys and the lack of phone.  When the boys did not appear to be in the park proper, she decided to go back to each of the caches.  She did this, and did not find either the boys or the phone.  At the second cache, she decided to climb the small mound and see if she could see anyone from up there.  But after 10 feet, she heard the warning sound of a rattlesnake, and quickly abandoned that plan. 


By this time it was a little after 3 and we had said we would get Brett back around 4.  Jackie was pretty confident that as it got close to time to go, Marc would try to find the car, and knowing that it would be easy to find, Jackie decided to go back to the car.  So she retraced her steps yet again (finding neither the phone nor the boys yet again) and headed back to the car.  As she approached the area where she had left the car, she was puzzled, because it looked like there was a space where the car had been.  But then she looked to the grassy area on the other side of the road, and saw Jonathan there, reading a book.  Thank goodness!  As she came up to him, he said, “I can’t believe it!  Daddy *just* left!”  Sure, enough, Jackie had predicted it perfectly.  Marc was concerned about getting Brett back at 4, and had looked for the car, finding it without any trouble at all.  Too bad Jackie parked so close!  Jonathan said they had been at “the geocache” the whole time, but they had never found the cache.  He said that the GPS indicated it was down a small ravine, and Marc and Jonathan had waited on the top while Brett and Benjamin searched below.  Jackie figured that Marc had entered the coordinates incorrectly and so they had been looking in the wrong place.  Jonathan also said that Marc was going to take the dog home first, and pick up Jonathan’s cell phone, and then drop Brett off, and then come back to the park and pick up Jonathan and Jackie.  So Jackie called home and left a message on the answering machine that she had lost his phone, and not to try calling it, because she wouldn’t pick up.


When Marc arrived home (the dog is prone to carsickness, so he went home first) not only did he get the message from Jackie, but there was also a message from someone who had found the cell phone.  He said he left the phone, “on a low wall at the entrance to Santa Susanna park.”  Marc tried to drop Brett off, but when he got to Brett’s house his parents weren’t there.  So he came back to the park to get Jackie and Jonathan.  They had moved to the entrance to the park, because parking was still highly impacted and just going into the park and turning around could take a long time.  However, since someone had left the cell phone “on a low wall” he wanted to go into the park and find it.  However, we could not figure out what the guy was talking about.  There were a couple of things that one could call “a low wall at the entrance” but none of them sported cell phones.  Not to mention that we were at Chatsworth park, not Santa Susanna park.  Jackie spotted a police officer and asked where Santa Susanna park was.  He directed us up Topanga Blvd.  We left Chatsworth park, and went up Topanga Blvd, but the only park up there was the north entrance to Chatsworth Park.  We couldn’t find a low wall there either.  Finally, we gave up and took Brett home.  On the way, I checked the coordinates that Marc had entered into Brett’s GPS.  They were correct.  Then I checked what it was saying was the current location.  Brett’s GPS gave very different coordinates from what our GPS gave.  Both the north-south and the east-west coordinates were off by hundreds of yards.  This was why we never found one another. 


So if we hadn’t had the dog with us we would have done the first cache (at the cemetery) and figured out that Brett’s GPS was mis-calibrated.  Or if it hadn’t been Easter, we would have found parking and all been together.  Or if Brett hadn’t had a GPS, we would have never separated.  Or if Marc hadn’t left his cell phone, we would have easily been able to connect up (and I wouldn’t have lost it!)  Or if Brett’s GPS hadn’t been mis-calibrated we would have met at the first cache.  The day’s events really were the “perfect storm” of geocaching!


The story does have a happy ending.  After dropping Brett off (and telling his mom not to use the GPS without getting it calibrated!) we went directly to Jackie’s parents’ house for dinner.  But, when we finally arrived home that night, there was another message on our answering machine from a woman who said that her 6 year old grandson had found this cell phone “on a low wall near the entrance to the park”(!)  We don’t know if there is yet another entrance to the park with a low wall, or whether the cell phone had just been picked up by the 6 year old by the time we got back to the park.  But in contrast to the first guy, she had kept the phone and even delivered it to our house the next day.  Hurray!  What a nice woman.


The following weekend was the Aleph retreat.  Every year between 4th grade and 7th grade, the religious school kids go on a weekend retreat.  This was Benjamin’s first time.  He appeared to have a good time, despite his laconic description of the weekend.