Friday, June 26, 2009

Auntie Em! Uncle Henry! Allie Mac Kay!

(First, let me preface this posting by stating the obvious: I have been a really bad blogger of late. I’ve been meaning to write more. Honestly. But life has a funny way of getting the best of my free time. So if there are any of you out there waiting to see what happened next in the Stud Saga, just consider my ploy to be a really protracted cliff-hanger…)

I continued to berate myself over the missed opportunity with Bonnie Hunt. I replayed the episode in my head over and over, re-writing what I should have said, what I should have done until the final version had me just dazzling her with my wit and charm, and Bonnie booking us for the next day’s show. Oh, if real life could be revised so easily. I can’t tell you how many scenes from my past would have a very different ending. There was this one time at a high school dance…but I digress.

Then one day, the most amazing chance for redemption flung itself at me. I had just returned from dropping my son at school after his EARLY orthodontist appointment (who sees patients at 7:35 AM?!) and was grabbing some breakfast. I turned on the KTLA Morning News out of Los Angeles to get caught up on the day’s happenings. Not listening too intently, I grabbed a banana, but then stopped mid-peel when I heard a female’s voice say, “I’m here in Rancho Cucamonga…” This was my home town. This was a town you don’t hear on the news too often. I dropped the banana and ran to the TV, grabbing it on either side as if to make sure it didn’t suddenly fall off the counter or spin wildly out of control. Yes, I am the epitome of rationality.

On the screen was Allie Mac Kay, the pretty and funny field reporter for the Morning News. I had often seen her on the news and I would wish, hope, pray that maybe she could one day do a story about us. Her personality and spirit of fun would be a perfect fit. And now, she was telling me (and yes, I believe she was talking directly to me) that she was less than 10 minutes away at the Bass Pro Shop at Victoria Gardens, and that she was doing one more segment from the store in one hour.

My mind raced. I HAD to get over there and meet her. She HAD to see the book. And, oh, she HAD to have a sample of the muffins to taste. The plan was instantaneously set in motion.

What ensued could have been a scene from one of those screwball comedies of the 20’s. I literally ran to my oven to preheat, and then leapt to the pantry where I began grabbing ingredients for the Wake Me Up muffins. Containers of flour, sugar, coffee, chocolate, sugar, and baking soda were precariously piled upon themselves as I silently prayed that I didn’t drop them before I reached the counter. (Have you ever dropped a five-pound bag of sugar? I have, and it took HOURS to clean up. I think sugar crystals have the equivalent scientific formula of super balls. They were everywhere.) Measuring cups flew, spoons spun, and flour poofed as I watched the clock tick down. My heart was racing so fast you’d think I was trying to concoct the antidote for the poison derived by an evil mastermind bent on destroying the world.

Within six minutes I had a batch of muffins baking in the oven. Then I had to get myself to look presentable. Granted, I had already been out in public that day, so I was out of my PJs, but truth be told, I don’t get too fixed up for the orthodontist. So I cranked up the curling iron, ripped one of my (three) nicer outfits from the closet, and put on some makeup. Luckily, because of the speed of my endeavors, I could forego the blush. My face was already beet red from the exertion.

I heard the timer go off and I ran back downstairs. I had less than a half an hour to get to the Bass Pro Shop and create my own destiny. I held my breath as I opened the oven door. There had only been a few baking catastrophes throughout this whole book experience, and I just hoped this wasn’t going to be one of those times. If the muffins had failed, my quest would have ended, then and there. However, the baking gods were on my side that day, as the muffins were absolutely beautiful. I disregarded the cooling instruction from the recipe and the risk of first-degree burns as I removed the muffins from the tin and placed them on a pretty platter. My confidence was building with each second. This just might happen.

I stilled my shaking hand enough to write a personal inscription to Allie in one of the books, grabbed the still-warm platter of muffins and my keys, and ran to the garage. Fifteen minutes left. Then, I did something that I should know by now will jinx me every time: I got smug. “Hah!” I said to myself. “I’m going to pull this off!” With a triumphant flourish, I pushed the garage door opener and waited as the door lifted slowly, like the curtain on my personal Broadway performance. “Allie Mac Kay, here I come!” It was at that precise moment that the Santa Ana winds picked up and struck with such force that I nearly lost my muffins.

If you don’t live in Southern California, let me try to describe a Santa Ana wind. Every year, from about Halloween to Valentine’s Day, we experience a frequent weather condition where masses of hot air over the desert meet up with masses of cold air. Somewhere, in that mix-up, the wind direction quickly changes from a gentle west-to-east ocean breeze to an east-to-west torrent of relentless hell that can last for days. Wind speeds can reach 70 mph or more. Trees rip from the ground. Big rig trucks topple on the freeway. We once found an above-ground swimming pool in our backyard, but no nearby neighbor had one missing. Another time, our trashcan traveled the length of our block and was only stopped when it was severely wedged between two parked cars. There is no hairspray known to man that can maintain a do. Lip gloss is a serious error in judgment, as flying dirt and debris become stuck to your face, like flypaper gone wrong. Cats need Velcro on their feet to stay earthbound.

So I battled to get into the van like Dorothy trying to get into her farmhouse before the twister hit. I finally got all my parts and pieces inside and pulled the door closed. With trepidation, I pulled down my visor where there’s a little mirror. To no surprise, my hair was now sticking straight up. But I didn’t take the time to fix it, because I realized it would be wasted energy. I still had to get out of the van again.

Possibly speeding a bit, I got to the Bass Pro Shop in less than seven minutes. I figured I had a ten-minute window, at best, to talk to Allie. I took a deep breath, put on my smile, pulled on the van door handle, and pushed.

It didn’t budge.

The wind had now picked up so much speed that I couldn’t force the door open. Noooo! It couldn’t end trapped in a wind-buffeted van! I had come so far!

I tried again, but it was a futile effort. I quickly started the van and re-parked it, facing the opposite direction so that the wind was pummeling the other side. Hah! My jinx might have thought it won, but I outsmarted it! My confidence was back up.

Knowing what was waiting for me outside of the van, I death-gripped my muffins and book, opened the door, and braced myself for the onslaught of air. Just as I expected, the wind hit with such impact that it knocked me back a step or two, but I was now on a quest. I bore down and struggled through the parking lot, looking very reminiscent of those climbers who trudged through blizzard conditions to get to the top of the mountain. If they could get to the top of Everest, I was going to get to the front door of the Bass Pro Shop.

After what seemed hours, I manage to reach the door and fight it open. I stepped inside to find the store greeter; an older woman with a kind smile. “Welcome to Bass Pro Shop,” she said sweetly.

“Where’s Allie Mac Kay?” I blurted out, as I scanned the massive store for a pretty blonde and a camera crew. The greeter looked at me like I was a crazed woman who had escaped the sanitarium with men in white coats with nets in close pursuit, and I don’t blame her. With my wild hair and wild eyes, I believe I fit the bill at that moment.

I kept looking around, but I didn’t see any sign of a newscast going on. “Allie Mac Kay!” I nearly shouted. “The KTLA Morning News! They’re still here, right? Tell me they’re still here!”

“Oh, I don’t know-“, she began, but I didn’t give her a chance to finish her sentence. I took off on a mad dash, veering to the left.

I had never been in this store before, as I’m not quite the sporting type. But it turns out that a lot of people must be because the store is HUGE. So as I frantically ran down aisles of five hundred different types of fishing lures, I began to panic. Allie was nowhere in sight. I asked every salesperson I encountered, but unbelievably, they had no idea what I was talking about. I started to question myself. Did I just imagine I saw her on the news? Was it a show taped earlier? Did I miss her? Had I finally lost my marbles? And if so, did they carry them in this store?

I noticed an elevator and staircase in the center of the store. No time to wait for the elevator, I ascended the stairs at a pace that could trigger heart failure. Again, no Allie and again, no one knew what I was talking about. I’m really surprised they didn’t call security for me, as I was now sweaty, hyperventilating, and I still hadn’t fixed my hair.

I descended the stairs, almost ready to admit defeat, when I realized I hadn’t looked to the far right of the store. I ran in that direction, and lo and behold, there she was, tucked back into one of the corners. She was packing up her stuff and saying goodbye. If I had been a minute later, she would have been gone. But luck/fate/destiny took pity on me that day.

I finally took a half-second to fix my hair, and then I rushed up to her. In retrospect, I probably rushed a bit too quickly, because the look in Allie’s eyes when she saw me coming was a cross between fear and a mental inventory as to where her mace was at that moment. Somehow, I was able to quickly introduce myself, show her the book, and offer the platter of muffins.

Then (insert angels singing here) a miracle happened: She smiled. She giggled. She said, “Could you do a baking demo on the show next week?”

We exchanged contact information and scheduled a date for our appearance. I thanked her endlessly in a very short span of time, and then she was gone. I was left standing there in that giant store, next to the 27 different kinds of mosquito repellent for probably ten minutes, just smiling. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I didn’t have to rewrite any part of it. It played out as perfectly as I could have ever imagined. We were going to be on TV, and I made it happen.

I finally left the store with the huge smile still plastered on my face. As I made my way to the van that day I didn’t even notice the twister-like winds attacking me. In my mind, I was already in the Wonderful Land of Oz.


Sarah Beth Durst said...

What a great story, Judi!!

Judi Guizado said...

Thanks, Sarah! Can't wait to read your next story!!

Duane Lighthall said...

Now that's what I call assertive! Very impressive.

Judi Guizado said...

Thanks, Duane. I guess old dogs can learn new tricks!