I got my Green Card! Or at least, I have a piece of paper that says I have been granted my request for change in Permanent Resident Status, and that I should receive my card in the next couple of weeks.
Cassie and I went to the USCIS building on Washington and Sansome, where we met my attorney (actually a local attorney recommended by my actual attorney in New York). I’d gathered together the considerable amount of paperwork required, including photos of Cassie and I with each others families, shared bills, the wedding certificate, joint bank statements, tax returns and so on. After a short time in the waiting room trying to figure out what all the posters in Spanish said, we were called in to an officer’s room. He sat behind his desk and started to gather a load of forms together. As he went through my forms, he asked me to confirm various bits of information – my date of birth, Cassie’s date of birth, membership of the various groups (including the Carlton Dramatic Society – I was pretty thorough). He asked Cassie to tell the story of how we met, and how we got together, all the while making notes on our forms and stamping things. Finally he told us that I had been approved! We were in there for about twenty minutes, and it seemed pretty easy, all told.
One little problem raised its head. Once you start the Green Card process, you can’t leave the US and come back in until you receive your Employment Authorization and Travel Authority (or “parole”) card. So when I received it, we immediately booked a trip to London and Berlin (details later). At the interview, the officer took my Emplyment Authorization and Travel Authority card away, because the Green Card will replace it. My attorney told him about our travel plans, and he said I could come in and get a stamp in my passport which did the same thing as the card. I had to make an appointment for that, and by the time I did that, the earliest available appointment was on the morning that we fly to London! Close shave.
The Green Card I’m getting is actually only a temporary one, because Cassie and I have been married less than a year. After two years I have to apply for the full Green Card, but that is a matter of just submitting a form. Oh, and staying married. We’ll see how that goes…
We registered for and received this Garlic Press/Slicer from Bed Bath & Beyond, and I would like to say that it is a colossal pain in my arse. Cassie does the cooking generally, and I do the cleaning. The thing is terrible to clean, and I from what I’ve seen it doesn’t do a very good job anyway.
Firstly, you can supposedly put an unpeeled clove of garlic in the press, and it will squeeze out minced garlic, leaving the skin behind. What actually happens is that half a clove of minced garlic comes out, leaving the other half trapped in the skin, which then has to be prized out. You can also put a peeled clove in the special slicing compartment, and it should dispense even slices. In fact it leaves bits between the blades, and you have to peel the garlic anyway.
As if to highlight the awkward design, it comes with a little plastic gizmo attached to the handle to help you clean out the holes and blades. This kind of works, but you still need to use another implement (such as a knife) to poke the rest of the bits out.
It’s apparently dishwasher safe. We don’t have a dishwasher, but I seriously doubt this thing would come out clean anyway – too many nooks and crannies. Plus everything else in the dishwasher would smell of hot garlic and soap as well. You could clean out the press first, before putting it in the expensive power- and water-hungry machine you bought specifically to clean things for you, but that would be insane. “You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself” as a friend’s Mum used to say.
Once you’ve cleaned out all the bits, washed the press and dried it, you can put it away. But be sure to reattach the cleaning gadget to the handle or you’ll lose it. And be sure that the moving pressers are correctly aligned with their holes, or the thing won’t fold up. As well as the press, you will have to clean the implement you peeled the cloves with, and the knife you poked the extra bits out of.
Side Note. I see that this particular garlic press is sold under the Jamie Oliver brand in the UK. I thought the idea was that Jamie was trying to get people into cooking and healthy eating. This item doesn’t encourage learning the basic skills of cooking, and could actually put people off. It’s almost as if he just wanted to sell branded items and make money, rather than save the health of the world.
It’s been a while since I’ve been back to LA. Cassie went down more recently to sort stuff out for our wedding, but this time we were guests at someone else’s – our dear friends Alex and Jason.
It was on a Friday, so I took the day off, and we made the well-worn trip from Oakland to Burbank on glittering Southwest Airlines (a trip soon to be made more relaxing and comfortable by the California High-Speed Rail system). SW are celebrating 40 years of being cheap’n’cheerful, so the in-flight magazine was full of pictures of stewardesses in orange hotpants. There was also the boilerplate American maverick success story, which is so common and predictable it makes you root for GE & Westinghouse.
Once we had wheels down and , we picked up our rental – a white Corolla, if you can believe it – and headed to Pasadena so Cassie could get her hair done. I wandered around the shops a bit, noting once more that J Crew have their muzak mix tuned perfectly to their demographic (Watching the Detectives was playing this time), before joining her at the salon while Carlos worked his magic. They recommended I check out the shop next door, and they were right to do so – Rocket Fizz is a chain of soda stores that also do all kinds of candy and foreign stuff, including UK sweets. I picked up a cream soda and a Double Decker, which I still have in my drawer.
Once she was done being primped, we headed downtown to the hotel – the glorious Los Angeles Athletic Club. The LAAC has a long history (well, since 1880, which is long for California) and they are rightly proud of it, with photos of men in leotards and trophies everywhere. The building is mainly taken up with sporting and socializing facilities, but the top three floors have some very nice rooms and suites. Our room was sumptuous and inviting, while also having all the functionality* that I crave so much.
* Re: Functionality. I can’t stand it when stuff is fancy and opulent, but doesn’t work. The Hotel Vertigo on Sutter is my go-to example. Trendy boutique hotel, fancy furniture, but no AC, no surfaces in the bathroom to put your stuff (it had to go on the floor) and no wifi or cellphone reception, so pretty useless for our purpose at the time – finding an apartment. Give me function over aesthetics – both if possible.
We got spruced up and headed across the road to the venue of the wedding – the Oviatt Penthouse. I haven’t linked to it because it’s a shitty Flash blob that hijacks your browser, but the place itself is amazing – Lalique akimbo, such as frosted glass sculptures on the elevator doors.
The wedding itself (actually a civil partnership ceremony, because A & J are saving the real thing for when gay marriage is legal – a noble thought) was held on the roof, under the gaze of the banking towers. It was a short and very sweet ceremony, with the bride and groom exchanging simple heartfelt vows. Handkerchiefs changed hands.
Then it was cocktails, champagne, and a great selection of good beers – these guys are connoisseurs of all of these. Alex helped me find the cocktail that was right for me a few years ago, and I always try and have a couple of good six-packs in the fridge when they visit. We danced, talked, drank and danced some more, and finally left the venue to go back to the hotel for a nightcap on the roof. It was a bit breezy up there, but once we found where to plug the fairy lights in and hunkered down in the wicker chairs, it was cozy. After a final glass of fizz, I was falling asleep, so I left Cassie talking to the happy couple under the LA skyline…
Brunch was held in the Game Room, with the high-backed canopy chairs to prevent people seeing your hand, or how much bacon you took. I love the US tradition of the morning-after-the-wedding-breakfast/brunch – it makes sense when everyone is in the hotel. You get more of a chance to talk to people, swap stories, explain dance moves you demonstrated the night before, and get introduced to those you’d missed the night before.
Brunchtime drifted into lunchtime, and Cassie had arranged to meet up with a friend around the corner, so I took advantage of the fancy gym facilities and went for a swim. Lovely pool, with people jogging around a mezzanine balcony, and an underwater window that I couldn’t see out of, but which I could look in afterwards when found it.
Friend Jason was hanging around being all academic, so I joined him for a stroll to Cole’s, a nice old bar which does a pretty amazing Bloody Mary, complete with house-made celery salt and a heady kick. It made the stroll in the sun back to the hotel rather light-headed, while Jason told me about the fall and rise of Downtown LA. I hadn’t really been around that area before, as Cassie was based in Silverlake, which might as well be in a different city.
I needed a rest and a snack after swimming, boozing and strolling, so I ate the complimentary cheese and crackers while being disappointed by Red Dawn, which I’d not seen before. Weak ending.
Later in the afternoon we visited our friends Andrea and Igor and the adorable Isadora, who gets cuter every day. They served us sangria and a delicious spread of tapas, and we enthused about their daughter and caught up. Then back to hotel for another late drinks sesh with A&J in their fancy suite and on the roof.
After another splendid LAAC breakfast, and goodbyes to the wedding party, followed by a sneaky tour of the wood-paneled other floors, we took the Corolla for a run back to Burbank and Bob Hope Airport. The flight was the same as before, only north. It was then a case of retrieving the car, visiting the most desolate and hellish Safeway on the face of the earth, collecting our super-excited dog from his temporary home, and then Cassie driving home while Gordon curled up in my lap.
“I got married last year. Apart from my family and friends, no-one else gave a tuppenny shit. I felt this was perfectly reasonable.”I did not feel the need to label them ‘refuseniks’ or write lengthy newspaper articles asking why they don’t have souls.”
It’s a little annoying that the wedding of Prince Charles’ only son and Weighty Katy (or whatever her nickname is, she looks within the normal BMI range to me) takes place so soon after my own wedding.
Cassie’s Dad has joked that if the two events had coincided, he may not have been able to make it to his daughter’s wedding, because it was likely he would be on the royal guest list.
It would be worse if I still lived in the UK, I guess. At least here when people ask about what I think of it, I get to explain that I am a Republican. This is usually greeted (at least in my peer group) by looks ranging from shock to bemusement, until I point out that I’m only a Republican in the UK sense, as opposed to a Monarchist. That is to say, I believe that the UK should be a complete democracy, with no hereditary head of state or sovereign.
There are lots of arguments for and against a UK monarchy, but my feeling that it comes down to a simple question of fairness. Should one family be allowed to run things (directly or indirectly) just through accident of birth? I know they have little power, but the structures set up around them ensure true democracy is impossible.
Not everyone responds to being told a Brit is a Republican the same way. At birthday drinks for toy collector and noted Anglophile Friend Brian last weekend at the Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood, I got talking to a couple who seemed nice until I told them I worked on the California HSR project – at which point they switched into TDE-believing “I run a business so deserve preferential treatment” libertarian “bike lanes get in the way of my car” mode, railing against the railway, and stating they were fiscal conservatives (meaning “tax breaks and spending cuts”) like that was supposed to impress me, to which I shrugged and moved away, wanting to enjoy the evening. Also in attendence was the Director of Cassie’s alma mater, the London Film School. Cassie tells me that he fell into debate with them, and really got heavily into the Marx with them. At one point he told them, “Of course, I’m a Republican”. One of them stood up and raised her hand for a high-five. He pointed out the differences between UK and US Republicanism, and I wish I’d been there at that moment to shake his hand. As it was I was enjoying a Boddingtons on West Sunset Boulevard.
Anyway. My wedding is first, and it’s the most important thing on my mind. After that, the most important thing will be my marriage.
Friday evening our officiant Taylor came over to discuss the plans for the wedding – still some key stuff to figure out, but all going well. This week must see some milestones though. In the end we didn’t get much actual planning done, but it was good to talk things through and brainstorm a bit. We have a few nice surprises for our guests…
We had a pretty quiet weekend, although we managed to squeeze in a nice trip to the Chabot Space & Science Center on Saturday. We’ve been taking each of Cassie’s nephews out for a day trip. We took Bennett (Nephew #2) to the zoo a while back, and now it was Theo’s (Nephew #3) turn. The others will come later.
I’ll be honest, I really wanted to go here, because I’m fascinated with space and science and all that. I used to love the Science Museum in London, sometimes taking an afternoon off work to have a wander around. It was pretty good – although it would be even better to go in the evening, when the telescopes are open and you can take a look at some amazing stuff.
Theo enjoyed it, which is the main thing. There was also a big wraparound-screen movie show about Paleontology and Dinosaurs, narrated by Michael Douglas – some irony there? It was pretty impressive, although the CGI didn’t hold up too well compared to modern blockbuster standards. I guess academia and museums just don’t have the money. It was good to see dinosaurs represented with feathers, as is now the theory, and also to have the difference between dinosaurs and the ancestors of crocodiles explained (although the scene with a huge prehistoric crocodile eating a small dinosaur confused Theo, because “dinosaurs are bigger than crocodiles”). By 4.30 we were all knackered, so we headed back down the twisty hill road and back to Orinda, before sliding back over the Bay Bridge and home. I will admit I dozed off in the car (I wasn’t driving, obviously).
In the evening we debated going out, while lounging around on the sofa, before realizing the sofa was too comfortable to leave, so we ordered food in and watched Night Catches Us, an excellent film set in the 1970’s about a young man returning to the neighborhood where he had been involved in the Black Panther movement. Cassie wanted to watch it because a friend of a friend wrote and directed it, and it was well worth it.
Sunday was a mellow domestic day. I’ve been fighting off a mild cold for a week, so I stayed home while Cassie went out with her pal Chandra (aka the burlesque performer Ruby White) for brunch. There was the usual chores to do, laundry, dishes etc, mixed in with some episodes of House, and of course walking Gordon in the rain.
Handy Tip! If your vacuum cleaner makes the air smell stale, take a small piece of tissue, add a couple of drops of scented oil (Cassie is fond of lavender), and then vacuum it up. The scent will fill the room while you vacuum – very nice!
I’m getting more nervous about the wedding – more about how much we have to do (all completely voluntarily of course) than the prospect of actually being married. It’ll be fine though, with friends and family to help out. It’s Cassie’s bridal shower this weekend, at some country club in LA, hosted by some family friends. Very nice, and I’ll be down there too, having lunch with the male members of the clan. Integration proceeding.
As for being married, I guess we’ll deal with that later. First things first.