*sigh of relief* Well finally got my mom and my niece back on their way after a whirlwind tour of the Bay Area, San Francisco on Friday, Monterey and Santa Cruz on Saturday, and San Jose on Sunday. Just put them on the bus for Las Vegas, their next stop this morning and I'm glad to be back at work. But a couple of things were notable: The Winchester house has a "Behind the Scenes" tour. They take you to places not on the regular tour, the aviary and a second unfinished ballroom as well as the... BASEMENT. Now being a haunted house nut, this was just the coolest thing in the world for me. It's creepy, dark, and musty. Basically: Sid heaven. Well worth the $18 per person IMHO. The mansion coupon sucked as it was applied rather badly, it saved us a whole $8 on the combined tour price instead of the $21 it would have saved on the ?Mansion Only? tour, but that's the way it goes I guess. And we are considering donating an old steamer trunk we?ve been using for ten years as a costume trunk. It might just end up becoming a "permanent addition to this archaeological find". More on that later. The second thing: I collect (among other things) interesting Star Wars T-Shirts, particularly the ones with stunning colorful artwork, many with tie-dyed backgrounds, and wear these most frequently on the weekend. When in Monterey Saturday our merry band of tourists were using the elevator in the parking structure, and four people walked in with us, three young but mature women of Indian or Middle Eastern descent, dressed in hooded silk dresses or the like, and a handsome swarthy man with a short well trimmed black beard and dressed in a long embroidered and pleated cream colored silk robe. He had the look of a man of wealth and confidence, likely someone very well to do where he was from. Not only was I somewhat surprised to find they all spoke perfect English, but he grinned and pointed at the Star Wars shirt that I had picked up at CIII and exclaimed, "I love your shirt!" One of the women who looked over and said, "Ooooh, Darth Vader?" to which the man rolled his eyes and said, "No, no, that's Darth Maul and that's Darth Sidious!" The women oooh'd and aaah'd, and he grinned broadly and said that he loved Star Wars. Now we were in a bit of a rush to get along, so I didn't have a chance to chat, and we all went our own ways. I don't know for sure what country they were from, although I'd suspect it was India, maybe Pakistan. Where ever they were from it gave me a grin the rest of the day thinking about how he was such a fan boy pointing out the characters with such enthusiasm to his "harem", and how such a thing as a movie could cross international boundries and put us all on a common ground. Pretty amazing.