Monday, December 24, 2007

Fifty-one: Al-fa-la-la-la-lah!

JSG, EG and KV have all hit the ground running on this bad boy, so I will jump into the fray with my own alphabet soup.
A is for airports, airlines and airplanes. See letter H.

B is for blogging. What a surprise to enjoy this process.

C is for Chi Running. Let's see if it will make a runner out of me.

D is for Deal or No Deal. Those broads make Vanna White look like a nuclear physicist.

E is for Easter Bunny Super Hero. The short film that won the city competition, you can see the fruits of my labor as assistant Art Director (schlepper for my pal Vera) on You Tube I believe.

F is for fiber. Middle agers need lots of it for our Holy Grail of body functions, the smooth and all consuming poop.

G is for gratitude. Everyday is a gift and being grateful balances me and reminds me of what is essential.

H is for hell. All the architects of this war are going there and will have a Michael Bolton soundtrack for eternity.

I is for iPhone. Such a gadget. Now I know how a Serengeti crocodile feels when he spies a stray gazelle.

J is for Joy. Cal, my family(yeah, even them), my friends, breathing, moving, laughing. It's great when it's all good, and even when it's bad, it's all good.

K is for kudos to us all for writing, writing and writing during our real and complicated lives. It's been extraordinary to share a bit of you through your posts.

L is for listening. Trying to get better at it is time well spent for me.

M is for marriage. After 21 years, all I know is that it's all about the little things---tone of voice, common courtesies, lots of laughing, simple rituals, holding hands.

N is for nonsense: Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, tax laws (ha!) for the wealthy, presidential debates, intelligent design, reality shows.

O is for Olmos as in Edward James. From Blade Runner to Battlestar Galactica, he is one of the most remarkable actors drawing breath on this planet.

P is for The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. My favorite read of 2007, it's charming and sweet without being overly sentimental.

Q is for quality of hire. If education recruited and hired like Fortune 500 companies, schools would be cathedrals of learning instead of discount houses.

R is for real. What is real? Philosophers have asked that for centuries. The Washowski brothers lit up several fat ones, wrote and directed The Matrix for their answer.

S is for Shuhz, nothing but shuhz.

T is for tres leches cake. The Burke version this holiday will soak the cake in dark run and caramel before the sweetened milk bath.

U is for unclog. See F.

V is for Viggo as in Mortensen. Naked fight in a steam room in Eastern Promises. They had me at naked.

W is for writers' strike. Give them whatever they want. The new reality shows have sunk to depths only sonar can reach.

X is for X chromosome. Nancy Drew, Wonder Woman, Sarah Conner, Buffy Summers, Ellen Ripley, Lara Croft, Starbuck, Laura Roslin, our mothers, Judy, Morgan, Karen.

Y is for Yo-Yo Ma. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (flying people, hidden wires) is one of my favorite soundtracks. The cello as breaking heart.

Z is for Zowie as uttered by Joe E. Brown upon seeing Jack Lemmon in drag in Some Like It Hot. Thank Allah for classic comedies!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fifty: Chopping Season

This gift giving season netted me some marvelous knives today, compliments of the generous nature of JSG and EG. Those bad boys hummed a sharp tune today as we went to town on the makings of a hearty bahgobble veggie soup (lamb and turkey). I always start with onions, giving them a brisk chop. Ah, the knives, they were like buttah! In the pot went the onions for a nice shvitzing, then after they've worked up a sweat, mushrooms join them. I rummaged in the vegetable bin and found some green beans, carrots, brocolli and its rabe, lots of garlic in whole cloves, and then topped it all off with some chicken stock. I mocked it outright so it simmered a while, then when it was ready to tell me off, I threw in the turkey and lamb, all leftovers from previous evenings. After about an hour of moderate heat, I added some rinsed Navy beans and let it simmer just a while longer until I found a kind of crusty bread to go along for the ride. A crusty baguette is a always good choice, but we had a multi-grain sunflower loaf that is all kinds of wonderful with soup or with air for that matter. Lordy, is there anything better than really great bread? Soup and bread for dinner makes for a world of comfort as the air becomes chilly and your energy makes a stop for the night. A fresh pear was sacrificed for dessert, although, what I really wanted was some creme brulee placed in my mind by the wisp of a waitress at the Chew this afternoon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Forty-nine: The Truth is Out There

I get a lot of abuse for my love of all things sci-fi, which is not true. Not the abuse part, that is true. I don't love all things sci-fi, just the things that are well written and original. In the 90's I was an X-Files fan, huge because of all the things they managed to do with that premise of an FBI agent who believed in little green men. I love the forum of a blog because it allows me to share parts of shows or films I love with the loyal few who visit these blue walls.
I have all 9 seasons of X-Files on DVD, a birthday gift from Cal a few ago, one of my all time favorites. I have some favorite episodes for different reasons, but all have one common thread, memorable writing.
In season 5 Scully, the female partner of Mulder the all believing FBI agent, begins to succumb to the cancerous tumor in her head lodged behind her sinus cavity, a place that is inopperable. The episode opens with her voice over as she writes in her journal, a letter to Mulder:

I feel these words as if their meaning were weight being lifted from me. Knowing that you will read them, and share my burden as I have come to trust no other, that you should know my heart, look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you, is a comfort to me now, as I feel the tethers loose, and the prospects darken for the continuance of a journey that began not so long ago, and that began again with a faith shaken and strengthened by your beliefs. If not for which I might never have been so strong now, as I cross to face you, and look at you in complete, hoping that you will forgive me for not making the rest of the journey with you.

That's just a bit of it, written by X-Files creator, Chris Carter. My favorite episode of all time is a very unusual one, written and directed by David Duchovny who played Mulder. It's called The Unnatural and it's told in glorious flashback. Searching through an FBI reference book, Mulder finds a photograph of Arthur Dales with a baseball team and the alien bounty hunter. Mulder goes to Arthur Dales'(an ex FBI agent), house to ask him about the photograph. There he finds Arthur Dales' brother, also named Arthur. Mr. Dales proceeds to tell Mulder a story of a 1940's Negro baseball player in Roswell named Josh Exley who was closing in on breaking some professional baseball records. Mr. Dales tells how he was assigned to protect this player from the KKK and that Exley was actually an alien.
It's a great premise and an original and well told story. The casting was spot on, especially the baseball playing alien as played by Jesse L. Martin of Rent and Law and Order fame.
Here are some bits of dialogue I know you'll enjoy. This is after Exley is discovered by Dales for what he truly is.
Officer Dales: "So why did you, uh, leave your family in, uh... in Georgia?"
Josh Exley: "My people guard their privacy zealously."
Officer Dales: "I can understand that."
Josh Exley: "They don't like for us to intermingle with your people. Their philosophy is we stick to ourselves; you stick to yourselves — everybody's happy."
Officer Dales: "So what happened?"
Josh Exley: "Well, you know what happened."
Officer Dales: "You fell in love with an earth woman."
Josh Exley: "No. I saw a baseball game."
Officer Dales: "Oh."
Josh Exley: "See, there's something you got to understand about my race. We don't have a word for laughter. We don't laugh. I don't know if you noticed in between all that fainting you was doing, but we have very tiny mouths, so no smiling even."
Officer Dales: "Wow."
Josh Exley: "But I tell you, when I saw that baseball game being played this laughter just... it just rose up out of me. You know, the sound the ball makes when it hits the bat?"
Officer Dales: "Yeah."
Josh Exley: "It was like music to me. You know, the smell of the grass, 11 men — first unnecessary thing I ever done in my life and I fell in love. I didn't know the unnecessary could feel so good. You know, the game was meaningless but it seemed to mean everything to me. It was... useless, but perfect."
Officer Dales: "Yeah, like, uh... like a rose."
Josh Exley: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, like a rose. Yeah, see., you get it, Arthur. You're a fan."
Officer Dales: "Uh-huh."
Josh Exley: "Tell you, from that moment on I just couldn't fix myself to go home."

That's such a great exchange between those two characters. If you've ever loved baseball before all it's steroid posing, this will bring it back, just for a moment.

Of course, Dales is telling this tale 50 years later. He is older, cynical and isn't taking any crap and could care less if Mulder believes him or not.
Mulder: "Let me get this straight; a free-spirited alien fell in love with baseball and ran away from the other non-fun-having aliens and made himself black, because that would prevent him from getting to the majors where his unspeakable secret might be discovered by an intrusive press and public and you're also implying that..."
Arthur Dales: "You certainly have a knack for turning chicken salad into chicken spit."
Mulder: "You're also implying that this baseball-playing alien has something to do with the famous Roswell UFO crash of July 47, aren't you?"
Arthur Dales: "You're just dying to connect the dots aren't you, son? Look, I give you some wood and I ask you for a cabinet. You build me a cathedral. I don't want a cathedral. I like where I live. I just want a place to put my TV. Understand my drift?"
Mulder: "Drift it is, sir."
Arthur Dales: "Trust the tale, Agent MacGyver, not the teller. That which fascinates us is, by definition, true. Speaking metaphorically, of course."
Mulder: "Okay, so was Ex a man who was metaphorically an alien or an alien who was metaphorically a man or a something in between that was literally an alien-human hybrid? It's official. I am a horse's ass."
Arthur Dales: "What is it to be a human, Fox? Is it to have the chemistry of a man? In the universal scheme of things a dog's chemistry is nearly identical to that of a man. But is a dog like a man?"
Mulder: "Well, I have noticed over the course of time, a man and his dog will often start to look like one another."
Arthur Dales: "To be a man is to have the heart of a man. Integrity, decency, sympathy; these are the things that make a man a man and Ex had them all, had them all, more than you or I."

Everything I read or watch becomes part of me in some way. This story, written in 1999, has stayed with me a long time because of it was about love's transforming power. In the end, Exley is killed by an alien bounty hunter and instead of bleeding the noxious green blood of his people, he bleeds human blood. Baseball made him human, the love of baseball changed him. It's a romantic notion in the most unromantic setting, about how love can change us in the most alien ways.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Forty-eight: Say Anything

Today the Lord of the Rings trilogy was on TNT for most of the day. All three movies are a modern classic, all masterpieces in their own right. I've seen them all many times and I am always, and I mean every single time, overwhelmed by the depth of the performances and the commitment to the original story. Peter Jackson and company are frackin' geniuses.
I am in awe of those who write exceptional dialogue for movies and television, although I believe it's harder for the medium of film, maybe because of the impact of being on the big screen. Somehow the words have to matter more.
When done correctly, words that are chosen carefully for the story and character stay with me a long time. When done incorrectly or without the proper respect for craft, the words vanish from my mind, shaken clean like an Etch a Sketch. Think about it. How many lines can you quote from The Wizard of Oz? How many can you quote from Showgirls? See?
There are movie quotes I recall for my own amusement and there are those that have helped me navigate and negotiate the quicksanded, landmined terrain of this life.
Among my favorites:
From Magnolia:
The book says we might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.
If you can understand that, you might save yourself thousands of dollars in therapy.

From The American President:
You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.
This is one of my favorite movie quotes because it explain the complexity of democracy.
How can anyone think that democracy is a just add freedom and stir ideal?

From Michael:
You gotta learn to laugh, it's the way to true love.
Nothing in this life is more true.

From The Princess Bride:
Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
I love this quote because it's the one that's going on in my head whenever I'm in a heated arguement at school with various disagreeable types.

From The Shawshank Redemption:
Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.
I've lost some dear friends over the years, and remembering this helps.

From Star Trek: Generations
Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived.
JSG touched on this not too long ago and she and Picard are correct.

From The Return of the King:

This exchange between Pippin and Gandalf made me cry a little the first time I saw it. It's elegantly written and tender at the same time.

PIPPIN: I didn't think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
PIPPIN: Well, that isn't so bad.
GANDALF: No. No, it isn't.

That's the best thing about words, isn't it? The ability to take you outside of yourself within the reach of your own heart.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Forty-seven: Cold Mountain

Cal's a bit under the weather so I am in full folk medicine force to help him combat this nasty cold. Let me preface this by stating that I am all in favor of using the traditional over-the-counter products to help you get through the working day. Vick's DayQuil is a miracle of modern pharmaceutical wizardry. It can suppress a cold's worst symptoms and creates the impression that you're a functioning person without the never ending mucus trail and the hacking lung cancer cough. It fools you into believing you're a better, stronger and more polished individual a lot like its recreational cousin, tequila.
But there also lies within me a little old Appalachian woman named Erline dressed in brown and blue callico, a frayed cotton apron and worn leather workboots who believes garlic in all its forms can heal all things. I made some chicken soup tonight. The tenderloins were cut in smaller than bite sized pieces because when you have a cold, even chewing can leave you weary. I threw in some rappini for extra immune building head-butting strength, carrots because orange food is always so cheerful when you're sick, green beans to keep the carrots company and mushrooms to give the soup an earthy feel. A whole head of garlic went in that soup too. Erline insisted. She damn near threw the butter churn at me.
Erline will also, if a sore throat appears, mix a concoction of honey, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. This syrup never fails to soothe a ravaged throat and has been credited for stopping the rosary praying coughing fit of 1991 where after a solid 42 minutes of coughing, I truly believed death would soon be slapping me on the back and saying, "Next!"
Erline also swears by a fresh grated ginger infused tea with lemon and honey as the cold and flu cocktail of choice, every 2 hours for the first 36 hours of a cold. Close proximity to a bathroom is a must. Besides a warm mustard poultice and the waving of chicken bones over Cal's forehead, there are other items of comfort to aid and assist a germy and viral assault. We all have our favorites. Cal will often re-read The Wind and the Willows when he's sick and if his head doesn't hurt too much. For me it's saltine crackers, ginger ale and any screen version of a Jane Austen book.
So let's hear it, Eastside Scribes, spill your best cold and flu remedies and/or your favorite cold comforts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Forty-six: Cruising Attitude

Flight magazines come pretty standard with each wearisome airline experience. A plethora of articles about exotic locations, popular destinations, trendy hotspots. Some have advice for the business traveler. The Southwest mag, Spirit, had an advice feature page which offered tidbits like "travel with a power strip," actually a good one because there are few hotels with suitable pluggage (that's for you MJ). An article about a new board games intrigued me. Snipe-It is a game that comes with a random timer. Questions are asked and the point goes to the last person who answers, not the first. It has the potential for inciting a little bloodshed. I'm going to order it when I get home. A recipe for Hoppin' John followed by an article about the best birding sites in the US, followed by another recipe about the perfect eggnog. Apparently, using granulated sugar makes the ultimate difference as it mellows out the balance between the seven egg yolks, the heavy cream and the whole milk. The recipe comes from City Tavern of Philadelphia home of that other cardiac arrest delight, the Philly Cheesesteak. The variety of articles fascinated me. I sat there, glum and sullen from a ninety minute delay in boarding, and grew even more grumpy upon discovering that someone completed the easy crossword puzzled and left me with the challenging one. I began to distract myself by designing my own in-flight magazine articles like "Great Heckling One-Liners During the Safety Information Demo," or "Stretching That Bag of Peanuts For Your Three Hour Flight (one peanut every 11 minutes!)"
Then the puzzles. I'd like to see a visual discrimination puzzle like the ones in Highlights Magazine: Can You Find Your Luggage in the Picture? (There it is, under the homeless man to the left of the construction site!) Also I'd include an art page (Meet Your Flight Attendants), where you design garments and facial features for the illustrations of a male and female flight attendant. If I had a Sharpie on that page, everyone would get a unibrow, an extra nipple and everyone, without exception, would lose a limb and gets their mouth sewn up because after endless delays, uncomfortable seating and a customer service mantra that supports a fusion of condescension and indifference, the last thing I want to hear as I leave is that blantantly insincere "Buh-bye, thank you!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Forty-five: On the Road Haiku

Goodbye hotel room
Talk, talk, talk, drive and unpack
Hello hotel room.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Forty-four: Goodnight Bunny

Besides my usual equipment and clothes and such, I brought some extra things on this trip. Trail mix in my bag helped with the lack of food on the plane. Full of protein and natural sugars, I felt I could snicker at the flight attendants who offered me that postage stamp sized bag of pretzels. I brought an Entertainment Weekly, thin enough publication not enough to weigh my purse down yet diverting enough to get me through the first 17 minutes of the flight, the time that vexes me the most. Of course some Irish Breakfast Tea bags made it into my carryon because there's no way on God's earth that I'll find it here. I threw in a small knitting project in my checked bag just in case the circular lime green aluminum needles fast tracked me into the land of profiling. I always bring my XL X-Files T shirt I bought in '94 to sleep in because it's comfortable and I need all the help I can get on the road to sleep a full night.
The one thing I didn't bring but stumbled onto while channel surfing was an HBO special, Dave Attell: Captain Miserable. Can't quote any of it because it was so perverted and so twisted that my belly laughs drowned out and derailed my short term memory neurons that would have been instrumental in quoting him. I love Attell because nothing is off limits to him. It was just what I needed to help me feel less disconnected. Right about this time most every night, Cal and I are having ourselves some kind of silly chortle to end the night and it's our own giggling we hear before we fall asleep.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Forty-three: The Truth Is Out There

When I came home today, giddy and euphoric, I noticed that Cal had a science program on TV, something from the Science Channel hosted by Sam Neill talking about SETI. Lots of talk about the endless space that is the universe. At one point Sam (damn that Speilberg, I can't see that guy without thinking a dinosaur is right on his ass, but wait, I'm going somewhere else) scoops up a handful of sand and says something like "For every grain of sand on the Earth, there are a billion stars in the universe, so many find it statistically unlikely that we are the only intelligent life in the universe."
Coming home to that after a long day of school freaked me the hell out. I've never really thought of the universe being that vast, but holy guacamole, it was quite the moment. I've never thought that we are the only intelligent beings in the universe because frankly, I have higher expectations of intelligence than to assign it to our pitiful species. One of my favorite comics, Kathleen Madigan says that we are the Alabama of the universe and I tend to agree. I think intelligent life knows we're out here but take the galactic by-pass to avoid all our atmosphere poisoning, war-mongering, Third World oppressing, rainforest slashing crap.
Thinking about how small we are in the larger scheme of things tends to reallign my view and leaves me a bit awestruck, but it reminds me that it's possible to live a big passionate life in a tiny edge of the universe. Today, I kind of needed that.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Forty-two: You Took My Answer

I got all pissy today watching Nancy Giles on Sunday Morning. She complained about the epidemic of texting and mourned the lost art of letter writing. I stood there in front of the TV and wailed, "Oh no you don't! That is my life's bemoaned lament! How dare you complain about the lack of letter writing when I've been saying it for the last decade! Did you just get the memo?"
I should have been happy she was putting it out there to gently jolt people out of their e-mail trance. I wasn't. I was furious she had the chance to say it on TV to millions of people whereas I can only say it to my students and assorted friends who I know want to sink my face into a cream pie whenever I speak about the intimate beauty of the personal letter. Of course, I envisioned this increase in letter writing from this segment. The jump in stamp revenues revitalizes the postal service so much that the surplus money is given to the department of defense where that money is used to design a machine that ultimately ends the war and brings about lasting peace in the Middle East. Nancy Giles is given her own stamp, a yearly invite to Oprah's Favorite Things Show, an insane discount on all Apple products and a Prada purse designed to her specifications. This is why watching TV is bad.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Forty-one: That's Hedley

I'm taking a short break from watching Blazing Saddles on AMC to post. It doesn't matter that I've seen it about 500 times and that I am able to do nearly all the dialogue, if it's on TV, I'm going to stop everything and watch it. The writing was light years ahead of its time and now 34 years later, it still slaps us around for our racism by mocking our habits that we choose time and time again. It has great performances by Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn who is especially brilliant in her send-up of Dietrich singing the best song of coital exhaustion, "I'm Tired." I never grown tired of seeing her do that bit.
I like to watch favorite movies again and again. Some people don't get that and I understand it doesn't make sense but I love a good story and I don't mind seeing a good one again and again. It's terribly secure, you always know what's going to happen. When you have a frightfully unyielding day at work, there's comfort in a movie that makes you laugh so hard you forget the unreasonable demands that leave you feeling unappreciated and inadequate. It's the same reason I've watched Aliens about 1000 times. My ability to substitute my own work monsters for the aliens as they are getting blown up, shot up, driven over and sucked into space from a cargo hold proves to be damn good therapy, cheap too. And now, if I only had a flame thrower.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Forty: Rock Steady

Earlier in the day, I ran errands with my brother who is staying overnight with his boyfriend and three dogs. The dogs are a treat. They like to hang out and snooze a great deal. When they are up they enjoy putting their chins on your lap and produce the large dog sigh, a sign of contentment or quite possibly boredom. The thing with dogs is that you can't tell and they are too patient to complain. It reminded me that I miss having a dog.
John and I went to Cobalt Moon, a center for all things yoga, meditation, tai-chi and incense tinged. They have a gift shop and since this is an area that my brother and I share, we went in to browse. We both bought small bottles of crystals but we made sure they were crystals that applied to our life forces. We both knew we didn't need Chyrsoprase to allign chakras and ethereal planes. Also good for a broken heart. Nope, our hearts are solid. Amethyst was a common purchase because it balances physical-emotional bodies and promotes stability and peace. I decided to order a metric ton of it and have it delivered to school on Monday, along with garnet which removes chakra negative energy. If the crystals don't work, plan B of that pesky exorcism will have to be tapped as go. I went on to buy the Peridot, a lovely green sparkly crystal that stimulates the heart and navel chakras, that I nabbed just because it reminded me of Matthew McConnaghey's eyes. We walked out to the car while he shared with me the history of Shiva from the pendant he bought and for a split second I felt myself back in the South Bronx where most of our childhood lay in ruins. I remembered walking home with him by my side, talking always talking to me. The three tiny bottles of crystals sit on my desk emanating a healing aura to my chakra....okay, I can't even get that out without laughing a little. Pretty, shiny little crystals that remind me of an agreeable afternoon long overdue with my brother.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thirty-nine: A Girly Whirl

I'm still on the quest for a purse. Dillard's at St. John's Mall offered an arsenal of leather satchelled goods for the average price of a car payment. I know I'm a bargain shopper, but am I out of line feeling that $400 is too much for a bag? I remain on the hunt.
As I walked through the department store, I saw the make-up chicks hard at work with the side make-overs. I always notice the expressions of the women in those chairs experiencing just a dollop of pampering and attention, a bit like giving a drop of water to a parched zinnia. Their entire energy field changes. It's not just the make-up although just last week while I was getting some refills on my Bare Minerals, the make-up gal who looked like a refugee from one of the High School Musicals, gave me a bit of this and that, made my eyes look fabulous with eye liner in just the right shade, a metallic brown that I would have never ever tried which I eventually bought. I left feeling great because I looked better, really and while I have always adhered to the philosophy of Billy Crystal's Fernando: "Dahlings, it is better to look good than to feeeel good," I do know it's not just the make-up. I think it has to do with the time you spend or someone else spends paying attention to you, which is a simple thing but often overlooked. I think it's what we all want, someone to listen to us, hand us the right shade of lipgloss and tell us that we look mahvelous.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thirty-eight: Desperation Haiku

No ideas, no words,
The semantic abyss yields
syllables' soft sneeze.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Thirty-seven: Dear God, It's Me Mary

Dear God,
  I promise to help crack babies learn to read,
and I promise to stop using plastic bags in the grocery stores,
and get a hybrid car and walk to school instead of drive.
I promise never to pass judgement on strangers or even 
people I know if they confuse effect with affect and 
declare that Bridges of Madison County was the finest
book they ever read while I quietly  choke back on my 
own vomit not allowing it to trickle out of the corners
of my mouth.  I make a vow to stop myself from damning
people to the eternal fires of hell whenever I see the "I Voted for
Bush--2004" bumper sticker on their cars.  I will stop laughing 
at women wearing gauchos and skorts.  I take the blood oath here
and now to drink 8 full glasses of water, stretch appropriately before
running, and oh, that's right start running for my health.
I promise to always rinse out the cans for recycling, and
smile at the woman who lives across the street despite the 
fact that she would never smile at us not even if threatened 
with a Middle Eastern decapitation ritual. I will be more patient 
with my family, more giving to strangers in need and more 
thoughtful with my friends.  I will clean behind my refrigerator.
I promise I will do all of these things if I can, in my next life, come
back as Beyonce.
Really, this time I mean it,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thirty-six: A Haiku of sorts

Time is most fleeting
When the server has been down
All frackin' night long.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


On the trek to Waycross to see my Mom and my brother, I did what I always do, what I've done since I was 10 for a long (or short) car trip. I brought a book. Sometimes I bring knitting, but always, I bring a book. I'm among the fortunate that can read in a car without hurling like a sorority girl at the end of a Greek Week mixer. At the beginning of the school year, I picked up a title from the kidlit section at Borders, an unfamiliar book with a big gold sticker that said National Book Award. It had an old-fashioned cover design to go along with an old fashioned title: The Penderwicks. I slipped it in my work bag and haven't had the time to look at it since August until today.
Kids' lit has gone through quite an evolution in the last 40 or 50 years. In contemporary fiction, the themes have become more realistic, more like children's lives and that's a good thing because kids need to recognize their world in the stories they choose to read. Modern kids' lit can be very dark, but it's also filled with fluffy family stories like the Judy Moody series or the Abby Hayes series. Average writing. They are filled with cheeky dialogue of the modern age, "Whatever!" and "I'm like never speaking to you!." It sounds like kids today.
The Penderwicks is a genuine treat. It's a modern family story with an old-fashioned charm. For fans of the late great Madeline L'Engle, you will feel the resemblance in tone and character but it stands as original work, through and through. I'm also a fan of Little Women so I love a story about sisters, and this is about four of them spending the summer in the Berkshires with their father. I loved that major tragedy stays away from the girls, I loved that they were smart and that their botonist father often spouted Latin to them (they often rolled their eyes but never directly at him), I loved that they weren't perfect and they fought like sisters do and I loved that the writing doesn't assume for a minute that children do not enjoy an elegantly written sentence.
What I loved the most was that I was able to live right there with the Penderwicks for the entire length of that trip and they didn't mind at all. A bit of bliss on state road 23.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Ah, the children. There are so many things out there for the children. St Jude's Children's Hospital. Free care for the critically ill children. Jerry's kids during the Labor Day Telethon. Where else can you see a near embalmed Wayne Newton, a dusted off Tony Orlando and Dawn and the ever shrinking Ed McMahon in a Fellini-like variety venue? It's for the kids. No Child Left Behind---that's for the kids too. The Ronald McDonald House, yep, you guessed it, for the children. So many things for the children. And now something new, for the children.
A Chilean prostitute has auctioned 27 hours of sex to raise money for the country's largest charity during an annual fund raising campaign. It's a two day telethon put on by the Chile's most noted celebrities who raise money for poor disabled children. Already Maria Carolina's contribution has net $4000 from a regular client who was quoted as wanting to do something right "for the children." Prostitution in Chile is legal and so I must wonder, where are all the other women of working persuasion doing for their country's poor disabled children? Is Maria Carolina the only hooker with a heart of gold? Or did the others contribute but were not as photogenic (Maria takes a nice picture) for the newsbyte? Hard to say.
I wonder if this is going to set off a trend in adult entertainment markets. Next Labor Day, will we see porn stars doing the phones on the Vegas set of Jerry Lewis Telethon? Perhaps a series of Lapdances and Leather Balls for Leukemia? Children of poverty in this country are the most powerless and neglected of all demographics and have one of the highest mortality rates in the world. The government has done more to make their lives worse than better, so I say it's not a bad idea at all to tap that market so our needy children have an opportunity to live through their childhoods. In fact, you might call that, a pretty exotic idea.

Friday, November 30, 2007


It's Friday night and this is the most activity I will attempt tonight. It's tragic. Most Friday nights I'm too exhausted to get any take-out, it's either Chinese delivery or lots of microwave popcorn for dinner followed by spoons of peanut butter. There was a time back in the swinging 70's that I wouldn't even leave the house until this time, but that sounds so pathetic and needy to harken back to my twenties to assure you that I wasn't always this resoundingly sad and tired. But in my defense, I know those younger than me that are this haggard on a Friday night. Most are teachers, so there's that.
I think this points to a need, a need for traveling entertainment. Yes, I know there are movies galore at the touch of a button, but real live entertainment is another matter. I love the theater and concerts, the the trouble is that I have to get out of my jammies, holster up the girls and put on some shoes, not to mention deal with the hair and some make-up administered to appear less pod-like. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a small troup of singers or dancers, jugglers or actors to arrive at your home, do a little something for you, you pay them and maybe give them something to eat and send them on their way. It would have made my night to have a group of actors do a little something from Vagina Monologues or Twelth Night. Maybe a few tunes, a little Cole Porter medley, maybe something from Elvis Costello with a little Luther Vandross thrown in towards the end.
Okay Eastside Scribes, what kind of show would you like to see performed in your very own living room?

Thursday, November 29, 2007


It's late so this is going to be short. I had a late night doing a couple of family blogging sessions for PTA this evening. Trying to get families hip to the blognation. I had a little down time between sessions so I checked my school e-mail. Barnes and Noble is promoting an educator's special Saturday this weekend. For the lucky first 15 teachers that come in, those fortunate frisky lot will receive (drum roll please) a free tote bag! Yes, goodness gracious, let me just take my sleeping bag and some low glycemic snacks and camp out so I can be the first in line for my very own free tote bag. Would I enjoy a 25% discount or a free tote bag? Tote bag me up, baby! I just don't have enough tote bags with an giant red apple in the middle and the alphabet in blocks drawn to the side. Don't have enough of those. And while you're add it, Barnes and Noble, would you pretty please give me a free denim jumper, something that makes me look as frumpy and Jaba the Hut-like as possible but before you hand it to me, could you please embroider it with a short school bus with multi-cultural faces sticking out of each window all saying hello (Bonjour! Hola! Bite me!) in their native language. Throw in some earrings that look like little tiny pencils and a necklace with tiny erasers, and kickballs, and that crystal apple the size of a honeydew melon because that's always useful in case I have to overpower a 98 pound crack addict breaking into my house. Yeah, put it all in that canvas tote bag and I will be in frackin' teacher heaven.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Coming home from Wal-Mart tonight (it was an emergency, I had to get new printer cartridges), I noticed the first wave of holiday lights. Let me say this, Christmas is not my favorite holiday. It's rather like a night out at a Chippendale's bar. It's a lot of prep and planning, you get there and it's loud, really expensive and over with quickly. Afterwards, you wonder why you even bothered. If you're a parent with little kids, I've heard it's different because you relive the holiday through the wonder and joy of your child's eyes. Yeah, whatever.
Here's what I enjoy about the season: time off from work which I shouldn't have to explain because I work for the public schools. Also because lots of my friends are teachers, I get to see them a little more and that's never a bad thing because they are a witty and urbane lot and many times they bring me wine. Most of the time, it's cooler and I have an opportunity to wear socks and sweaters. People wear pants more, something I'm grateful for because let's face it, not everyone looks good in shorts, no matter how warm it is.
So it's the lights that delight me and the neighborhood light tours we take all during December are one of the few traditions of the season. Already off Penman Ave, there's a house in full Mother Ship light allure. I'm certain this house can be seen from the Hubble Telescope. Now, some would offer the words gaudy, overdone or tasteless for this kind of lighting design and that is a matter of opinion. I find those inflatable things you see on lawns to be pretty tasteless. I find them to be creepy which may go back to multiple viewings of that old Twilight Zone episode where the people were in that glass bubble city. My neurosis, but I stand by it.
What I admire about the Mother Ship house is their focus and their work ethic. It took a village to erect that kind of startling illumination and a vision to see it through. Sure, it may take your breath away and perhaps cause permanent damage to your retinas, but commitment like that is rare and refreshing especially during the holidays.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This past summer when we got back from Ireland, we brought with us a newly acquired taste for Irish Breakfast Tea. Rich, robust with a malt dreaminess, it is deliciously dark and soothing. We had it at least twice a day for two weeks while we were away. Caffeine of the gods, it became our new addiction. Upon our first few days home, it became painfully obvious that Lipton, my former light-hearted pal couldn't compete with our darker, edgier import. So we found Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea in Publix (oh relief! ecstacy!), ordered Lyons (the tea of Ireland) by the box over the internet and invested in a sturdy tea strainer from Williams Sonoma and made tea time (not high tea because lordy, my butt is still recovering from all the potatoes of that trip) a regular feature in the afternoon. It's a bit of trouble, but once you lay everything out, let the tea steep in the teapot, give it good sniff before you pour, and sip ever so slowly, it becomes something you count on to help you sort the day out and relax. Yes, there's a cookie involved.
Here's what I didn't count on after 30 days of blogging: that I would love it. I'm a decent writer but I lack a work ethic when it comes to writing because it's hard. Being a lazyass, I tend to shy away from things that are a challenge. But this is what has come of it. It's easier. Who knew that what I'd been preaching to my students year after year about writing, that the more you write, the easier it gets would actually be true? I thought that was a teacher urban legend like the importance of your permanent record and making a difference with your students.
I never thought I would actually do it for 30 days and if I did, I thought I would come to the last day the way you feel after doing 10 sets of lunges: thank God that's over!
So I feel changed in a way that I can't describe so maybe 30 or 300 more days won't hurt me. I can tell you this, that I couldn't have arrived at this new addiction without MJ and JSG pulling me into the technological freezone, and then encouraging me without the guilt to post. And as I've said in that pre-blogvow post, Pinky Swear, it was the lack of nagging, so sublimely and effectively subtle and their own regular blogging that inspired me. Then LJ, my brother from a different mother, he came along to keep me honest and true to my word. God love him and JSG because their blogs were my compass. EG joined us as did KV and now we have something unique, something I cannot do without and not just writing mine but also peering into everyone else's head. It's become something that connects us in a way I couldn't have predicted. I feel a little like Susan Lucci when she finally won that Daytime Emmy after 23 consecutive noms. Like I want to thank everyone because you've given me such a gift: you've read what I had to say and you were kind and gracious. You honored me with your time and your voice. Talk about a sweet cookie.

Monday, November 26, 2007


High school football season is over and I'm always a little sad about that. It's not that I'm a fan of young men knocking each other down on a lush green field while others around them cheer. Nor am I nostalgic for my own high school days when the young men of my day would knock each other down in a brownish green field because after all it was a Catholic school and they couldn't afford lush for the field. Too busy filling the coffers for future litagation I suppose. But I digress. The reason for my mournful state is that after football season, I can no longer hear the band. The local high school sits a mere quarter mile from my house and starting in the mid summer and all through the fall, it's all tubas in the moonlight and big drum solos. Sometimes they go all 70's and they do the theme from Hawaii Five-O which brings a tear to my eye because of the memory of the cheesy coiffed area code that was Jack Lord's hair.
It's funny what seals the deal when you buy your house. For me, way back in 1988, it was being able to hear the high school band practice. Over the years, I'm sure some bands have been better than others but I really wouldn't know the difference. I do know that those days in the fall when I'm returning the trashcans from the curb, or taking a walk around the block or just standing in my yard wishing for fireflies, I hear them in all their teenage angst, marching and keeping a rhythm while they are all worried about their Algebra test,or their facebook profile or their best friend, still playing, not knowing they are serenading me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I just finished watching Battlestar Galactica Razor and besides being overwhelmed by the quality of the writing and the performances, once again this show leaves me considering the nature of honor, bravery and survival. Which pisses me off. Not anything the show did, but the thing that infuriates me is how much sci-fi is either ignored or maligned when it comes to being recognized for classic storytelling. (Jump back, filmfans, I know The Return of the King pulled down the Best Picture Oscar for 2004, but I consider that fantasy not so much sci-fi)They are always overlooked during awards time, not that awards are everything, they aren't, but attention should be paid. The Emmy people are the worst---only a few ever get nominated or ever win. The mini-series Taken a few years back is a great exception. We've got it on DVD if anyone wants to borrow it. One of my favorites, Blade Runner, turns 25 this year. In 1982, it turned a few heads, was critically acclaimed in the sci-fi circles. The Academy only nominated it for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction, it lost to E.T. which was nominated for fracking everything. Yes, I know E.T. is a sci-fi movie, so that makes 2 in Oscarland that year, but honestly, you can't compare them when it comes to the weight of the writing and the themes explored. It's like comparing Benji with The Unforgiven.
In one at the end, you've got everyone crying saying goodbye to E.T. and he says, "I'll be right here," and points to Elliot's chest and off he goes. In Blade Runner, the pivotal scene between Harrison Ford's Decker and the android Roy Batty (the mesmerizing Rutger Hauer) culminates in these last words of Batty's as he realizes his inner workings are failing. He sits in the rain and speaks of his love of life, even as short as it was: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.Time to die."
Blade Runner made me think about what it is to be alive and how we negotiate those experiences into our humanity. Good science fiction has the ability to do that because it can play with how we see our future selves, what will be lost and what will remain.
And I didn't mean to go on about Blade Runner because I really wanted to go on about the role of strong women in great science fiction, but I guess that will be for another time.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


My hall of fame gal pal, KV, has joined the Blognation thanks to my noodge (I learned all my blog noodges from MJ) and I encourage one and all to check out her blog:  and comment because without comments all of this is just lonely semantic self-pleasuring, sure nice for a time, but after a while you just want someone there either giving you a hand or cheering you on.  As metaphors go, not one of my best, my apologies.
I've known KV since 9th grade and so we have logged a lot of miles in the teenage angst department, in the clueless twenties, threadbare thirties, flailing forties and now in our fabulous fifties, we are making good on the promise we made when we were 18 to write to each other regularly.  She is the coolest of the cool, smart and funny, still slim too which I try not to hate her too much for.  She is a gardening savant. Those with that passion are in for a treat because she will likely share a great deal of her knowledge of how things grow. Giant beanstalk?  Yeah, she could do it.  Her husband MD is the kindest and calmest man I've ever met. He is also freakishly unwrinkled for a middle aged man.  I fear he has made a deal with Satan or with a representative of Clinique.  I'm sure you'll get to know more about her as you read her posts and welcome another smart voice into our blogtown.
My internet woes are still in repair but Cal just nabbed himself a tasty morsel from the folks from Apple.  Yeah, I'm sitting here with the Shaft of all desktops, the iMac.  Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby, saaa-moooooooooooooth.  Really.  Very few electronic devices give me this kind of satisfying shudder (ahhh, college days, alone with Dark Side of the Moon, extra D batteries...and I'm back) but this thing is so fine.  Very sleek, user friendly and without lots of baggage.  The processor is in the monitor, so it came with just the keyboard, mouse and monitor. That's it.  Wouldn't it be lovely if everything we bought came with such ease?

Friday, November 23, 2007


I've been in a panic for most of the evening because we've been having Internet router type snafus and there was uncertainty about being able to post tonight. You would think that knowing that I would try to post early because it would be the sensible thing to do, but no. The 30 day blogvow is now a big deal and not just because of the vow in front of small yet devoted readership of four. It's a big deal because now it's a habit, a strange habit that allows me a feeling of expression, accomplishment and closure all in one nifty act of writing. My devoted gang of four read and comment, and that is a gift, one of the best, the gift of listening. I'm glad it all worked out this evening, although we're not out of the woods yet and so maybe an early posting might be wise. Nah, that would make too much sense.

We've been watching Elf tonight, one of the holiday movies I will agree to sit through. Will Ferrell is a genius as Buddy and the whole story is silly and sweet, but in the right proportions. My favorite thing about Elf is the soundtrack, one of the great film soundtracks. My favorite track is not even a Christmas tune, it's Louie Prima's, Pennies From Heaven, the best version of that song ever recorded, no lie. The Christmas movies are out in full force and I can only watch a few, along with Elf, I do adore A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, also mostly for the music, a little known Bogart film called We're No Angels which we also used to watch with Cal's Mom, Nancy and Aunt Myrtice, Scrooged, and what I hope becomes a modern holiday classic, Bad Santa. I've left out the usual suspects: It's a Wonderful Life which is so depressing you end up grabbing a handful of Darvocet before the five minute lift at the very end. Sorry, Frank Capra, for a lot of us, it was too little too late. I know I'm leaving out many and so, you know it was coming the minute I mentioned movies, but I got to ask: what are your favorites and which ones do you loathe?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Today is my 21st anniversary and Thanksgiving, two occasions that intersect gratitude, love and family but in ways not seen in a made for television Hallmark special feature. I am grateful to the reality that my mother doesn't live farther than a two hour drive to Georgia. That's a lot of time and gas to get that much crazy for a traditional holiday. I'm also grateful that Cal sees the whole picture and never runs screaming from the room no matter how Pedro Almodovar surreal it gets whether we're talking about the impossibility of Castro's eventual demise or my horrendous error in forgetting the banana leaves for the tamales. That is a kind of love no one sings about and I'm one lucky broad to have it for so long.
My family is a lot like the trees lining US 23 going up to Waycross. Always the same green, green, green. A peripheral landscape that is relentless in its sameness. You know what to expect on the ride. But then there is this unexpected stream of trees and you would swear you've been instantly transported to North Carolina, because you see a burst of yellow, and some crimson, some burnt orange. It happens every 30 or 40 miles or so, all that green then about 10 trees that go all Wizard of Oz on you. My family is like that relentless green, they worry or obsess for eternal distances not yet measured, but then sometimes they crack every so often and have genuine faith that my plane will not crash, or the doctor's prognosis will not be fatal, a chunk of satellite won't fall on my house, a parent will not come and shoot me or the sushi we might be eating will not give us food poisoning. These are small, unexpected treasures on the side of the road but because it's family I marvel that they were able to take root after so many miles.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Today was a weather day, better than a holiday, like a get out of jail free card and a day playing hookey all rolled into one. I had a few highlights. Sleeping late was the first and upon waking, staying in my jammies instead of racing into the shower and then going through my closet trying to remember what I've already worn to work.
Another highpoint was lunch at an authentic Cuban restaurant. The worse the English spoken by the staff, the better the food is always a good rule of thumb for any ethnic eatery. This did not disappoint. The Medianoche (Cuban sandwich on egg bread) and tostones were stellar and it was topped off by a flawless cafe con leche. Plus, someone else paid. As lunches go, it was pretty perfect.
Today I also got to call someone out. A friend of a friend (someone I just met) during lunch was going on and on about the frickin' Cubans in Miami, truly not a flattering picture of a people known for their cigars and their ability to flatten a sandwich. Upon taking a breath, he turned to me and asked, "You aren't Cuban, are you?" I answered, "No, but my mother is, asshole."
I got to put a leetle somsing somsing on the delivery of "asshole" which was most satisfying. The fact that I didn't care about being diplomatic in the least was even more gratifying. Like the cafe con leche, pretty sweet.
The rest of my day was a series of errands and phone calls to my family. Then there was this moment after I was home. Nestled on the couch with a book in my lap, my reading glasses on my nose, I found myself in comfort and peace digging into a new tale. Not a bad day at all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Oprah's Favorite Things Show was on today. She surprised the town of Macon, GA in their municipal auditorium with that announcement. They all thought the theme of that taping was going to be something else. You should have seen the reaction. Men were weeping, women were fainting, collectively everyone went out of their minds. It was fabulous to watch because La Oprah always gives away some fierce stuff and this year was no exception. I especially loved that after she gave everyone a $3000 refrigerator with the built in LCD screen TV that the crowd went even nuttier when they found out they were each getting a $250 gift card from Target. Folks were praising Jesus for the Target gift card more than they were praising our Lord and savior for the Terminator-like fridge. Writers' strike or no writers' strike, now that's good television.
It was a lot of fun watching so many people in full on jubilation. Getting presents, and really great presents, well, hell, there's no downside except during tax time. Feh, what the heck, it's good to just enjoy it. And the best thing was to watch all the faces--astonishment, excitement, awe, and happy intoxication of the room's energy, it was all there. It was a fine change of pace.
In the big picture, there really hasn't been anything to be that joyful about: Iraq is still a mess, gas prices are going up and a recession is looming. And, yes, Buddhist monks everywhere, I know there are plenty of gifts that don't cost anything--the gift of my health which I never take for granted, the gift of friends who come with you to the strangest places, the gift of a happy marriage and well adjusted and talented children. Those everyday gifts should never be overlooked, ignored or taken for granted. But there is something about a material thing, a gift not just during the excess of the winter holiday, but any occasion where you see something that connects and know it's going to put this goofy grin on a loved one's face if they had it. It's not about the money or the occasion, but all about what you know and the miles you had within someone's life to know it. It's like knowing a secret about the perfect gift and then pouncing on it when we finally see it. My favorite gifts have run the gamut from a Wonder Woman Pez Dispenser to earrings with my birthstone in it, not because of their cost but because of the knowledge that both were a perfect fit.
So you know I've got to ask: what were some perfect gifts in your life?

Monday, November 19, 2007


I have never been one of those people who feel compelled to shop that day after Thanksgiving. People fresh from venomous family confrontations nursing formidable hangovers placed in overcrowded settings motivated to overspend on useless items for those in their lives that warrant disdainful obligation. Yeah, baby, there's a Hallmark card for that. But this caught my attention today: on Friday at 4am, yes that's AM, Kohl's department store is opening its doors to begin the shopping melee. How do you dress for that kind of pre-dawn excursion? Captain America tee shirt, periwinkle yoga pants and night vision goggles? Do you stretch? Carb load? Or is the strategy to be as offensive as possible hygenically speaking, hoarding some flatulent simmerings for a trump card to give the wide berth advantage?
I admit it though, I feel drawn to such an event. I can't explain it rationally, only to say that at 4am there must be treasures beyond imagination at unbeatable prices especially at the onset of the coming recession. What's worth going to Kohl's at that hour? Cashmere socks? Maybe. My feet form the foundation of my comfort zone. If my feet are content, then all is right with the rest of me. Perhaps the illusive perfect purse? (I looked last week, it's not there) Jeans that take off six inches from my waist. Hell yeah. I would shop in the middle of the night for that the Grand Puhba of indigo perfection. So, in truth, it would come down to anything that would make my ass look smaller and more petite, my motivation for being a shopping lemming on the most psychotic consumer circus of the year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


I am very particular about my purses. Usually, I like the long shoulder strap and a big bag. I am not a small purse gal. I need my stuff , all kinds of it, because I never know when I'm going to be in emergency situation that requires me to build a combustion engine with nothing more than a scrunchie, lip gloss, airline headphones, a NY Metro pass and a tampon. The problem is that the accessory trend in purses right now is a large bag and a shorter strap. Even if I slung any of these bags over my shoulder, the bag would rest somewhere under my arm pit, which is uncomfortable. Also the bag of my dreams needs to be stylish, a rich brown yet affordable leather (sorry Elsies) or something in croc, hopefully an old croc who had a long and fulfilling life thrashing poachers and died of natural causes because I have nothing in crocodile. It also needs compartments. At least two inside with zippers, three is preferable, with smaller pockets for phone, glasses, pens, wallet, keys, glasses, notebook and camera. That way, everything has their particular place and in case of alien invasion and subsequent blackout, I could find what I needed to build the laser cannon without a sliver of light.
The search today for such a purse was met with utter failure. Granted I confined my search to the beach, so I still have malls to plunder. I remain optimistic. I did give the local venues a thorough perusal and at the third store found myself quite annoyed. According to my calendar, it's not Thanksgiving yet, so what is the deal with the Christmas carols being piped in to the department stores? I know Thanksgiving is four days away, I know. I know holiday crap has been going up since before Halloween. But the songs, the songs should be forbidden until Black Friday, that should be law or Constitutional amendment or something binding like a pinky swear. It's not that I don't like holiday tunes, I happen to enjoy most of them. But from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, that's a lot of Yuletide melody overload and I don't need an extra four days of it. Sure, I'm singing along to Johnny Mathis's, "Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas" now with a smile on my face, but on December 27th, after having heard it 3,452 times, it will have the same effect as anything Mariah Carey sings: dry heaving and a need for a Silkwood shower.
My holiday music, like the things in my purse, needs a specific space and time and the retail industry disappoints on both fronts.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


My mother called me today. It always starts this way: (Note to readers, my mother's part should be read with a Spanish accent but with heavy guilt on the side, like if you crossed Charo's delivery with Rhoda Morgenstern's mother's disappointment.)
And then she speaks. Today it was to fill me in on the details of my brother's move back to Florida, and to tell me what to bring to her house for Thanksgiving.
"Remember that time we ate at that place and we had that good cornbread? Bring that."
"Which restaurant?"
"I don't know, you took me there."
"I don't know, but the cornbread there was very good. You bring that on Thursday."
Now, in my younger days I would have pressed my mother for more information, which would end up in pissing her off and frustrating myself to the point where a big vein in my temple would pop out and slap me in the face. In the end, I still wouldn't have the name of the restaurant and I would have to ice down a facial tic from the whole episode.
I am older, and neurologically, not as sturdy therefore, I am forced to be wiser. So, of course I said, "No problem, I'll bring it."
It's cornbread right? What's the big deal? I'll buy the mix and there we have it, done and done. But then one of my more fastidious personalities chatted me up: A mix? Really? Why not cornbread from scratch? It'll be more homey and way tastier and afterall, it's for your family, why not spend the extra time? It's Thanksgiving.
I am the official bad daughter and that kind of reign has taken its toll on my sense of guilt, so I've spent the last hour looking at cornbread recipes on the internet. I did not know there were two kinds of cornbread, sweet or savory. That's a decision. Then, there's cornbread you have to make in a cast iron skillet. I'd have to buy one for that or just avoid those recipes. Then the decision whether to put fresh corn, canned corn or creamed corn in the recipe. Plus there's other stuff that can go in like onion, squash, bacon, jalapeno peppers, sour cream, buttermilk, lard. I did find a recipe that had raisins and nuts in the cornbread, interesting choice, but yugh. I think I'm on cornbread overload, a vertible corn maze (ohhh, couldn't resist!!) and that's when I told Consuela, the Senora Cleaver of my psyche, to shut up and replay an episode of Dos Mujeres Un Camino in my subconscious because the mix was back on the table.
So one of the many things I am thankful for this year, especially as I make the big trek to Waycross on Thursday is Martha White's Cotton Pickin' Cornbread Mix (just add water).

Friday, November 16, 2007


What is it about the cooler weather that makes you want to stay in and eat? Stay in and eat under a flannel blanket watching something useless on TV like Green Acres. I remember when I used to watch it growing up, I could never understand why Ava didn't leave Eddie Albert's ass on the farm and go back to New York City. I would have definitely stayed on Park Avenue in that penthouse. Watching Green Acres just confused me about marriage and relationships so I suppose I didn't get the surrealistic themes and the threads of rural magical realism that ran through many of the episodes. Growing up, I just thought those people were on drugs.
But I digress. I've been trying to think about the best thing to have on a chilly day without having to fuss too much because then that defeats the purpose of staying in under a blanket if you are cranking up your Julia Child vibe and deboning pheasants for stock. In the category of simple yet satisfying, I think the time honored favorite grilled cheese and tomato soup ranks right up there for easy fixing and never disappointing. And somehow, it's not as tasty during the summer, really, when it's warm, not so much. During the winter, oh man, it's gold foil star good and it has many great variations. Sure American cheese slices, they're the go-to guy when no cheese is available. I know it seems a little unpatriotic to say, but American cheese always weirds me out a little because of its ability to melt and react like a petroleum product. This is not Greenland or some region around Russia that causes a pile up of consonants up around the roof of my mouth as I try to pronounce it where there is only one cheese from a feral alley cat with one eye. Cheese abounds here and my favorites for grilled cheese is Brie, no, Havarti, make that an arterial clogging combination of both. On a multi-grain baguette because I am not a young woman. The soup is a different matter. I suppose homemade tomato soup from tomatoes grown and harvested in a garden from natural spring waters with piped in Sarah MacLaughlin ballads would be a suitable substitute. But I have to go old school on this one for personal preference, it's got to be Campbell's.
So let's hear from the gallery. What chases away the cold for you?

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Whenever I dye my hair, the color usually holds fast for about 6-7 weeks until this patch of gray towards the front of my hairline comes peeking out, boasting its natural superiority to Preferance of L'Oreal's Dark Brown concoction. The men I know always, and I mean always, compliment me on the patch, and it's sincere too. I always smile, and say something meaningful and eloquent like, "Bite me." I am a tad cranky concerning my gray because of several irrefutable truths. The first one is that I am vain, yes indeedy and getting vainer by the minute on account of my body embarking on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of aging. Things are moving south faster than horny Jersey frat boys barreling towards Ft. Lauderdale spring break. I have spoken of the Ninja joint ailments and then there's the Raiders of the Lost Ark-like discovery of hair in the most unlikely places and gray hair in places that will make you weep soundly in a fetal position under your bed. My hair is the only thing I can control and will control because let's face it, gray on a woman ages her profoundly. I don't care what the magazines say, it does and that's that. So this peak of gray, this patch of rebel follicles, mocking the measures that I take to keep it in line, well, that was the reason for my trip to Target this afternoon. I picked up the Clairol Root Touch Up, the best thing created since fudge covered Oreos.
As I am making my way to the cashier, I noticed lots of moms pushing shopping carts with kids inside. I'm not talking toddlers. I'm talking 4, 5 and 6 year olds. Getting wheeled around like they were Hef giving a tour of the Playboy Mansion. I nearly lost my mind, I did, because I've had a couple of weeks of dealing with really lazy kids at school. It's bad enough that most people are too stupid to live but now they are raising their children to be so lazy they can't even bear to walk around a discount store. And so I hit a new level of crankiness. As I passed these witless mothers, I muttered an audible, "Stupid" as I strolled by them. I'm probably out of line here, but honestly I feel exactly like the way LJ feels about little kids with Crocs on. How hard is their life that they can't possibly have on sneakers? Is the tying of the shoes a little too rigorous? It's the pervasive laziness that rattles me. And so I fear for the hair coloring industry of the future because with a demographic this lazy, who is going to go to the trouble of lifting their arms to color their hair?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I am a big ole book slut. My idea of a big night is to have dinner at home and then go out to a bookstore and spend the money we would have dropped on dinner on shiny new books. I am lucky enough to be married to someone who understands this addiction. Many times I have been known to lure Cal to the dark consumerist side of mass book buying, but he does have a semblance of control. I would rather spend 10 hours in a book store than 30 minutes in a bar, any bar and that includes vintage Trader Vick's in the former Plaza Hotel in New York City. So the invention of Amazon books has tested my financial and emotional self-restraint. I mean, come on, is there anything as satisfying than that final "click" to complete your on-line order?(Insert Homer Simpson drooling sound effect here) At least twice a week, I browse the Amazon site. I don't always buy and the only reason for that is because I'm an immediate gratification gal but too cheap for overnight shipping. I am also too lazy to put on my bra under my black tee shirt, take off my new fuzzy slippers, comb my hair so I don't scare the children and get in my car to go to the bookstore. In a way, I am the Sybil of book buying. Where and when I buy depends on the personality that is bubbling to the surface.
Tonight the girls are loose, the slippers are on and I feel way too fat to go out in public. Amazon, here I come. Of course, Oprah's new pick, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett has rocketed to the top of the list, lucky bastard. But I noticed this other title on the best seller list, something I hadn't heard of: Soul Communication--Opening your Spiritual Channels for Success and Fulfillment. Only $14.97. Damn, that's cheap for success and fulfillment. In the blurb it says the book strives to show the reader how to allow the inner essence of our souls to express itself through our bodies, our voices and in our communication with others. And for an added bonus, it reveals ancient secrets for accessing that power all in a conversational language.
Well sha-zam and yippee kie yae, let's get to it. That book had 23 reader reviews and all of them gave the book 5 stars. Either the author has a large family or a large therapy group, sometimes they are one in the same. Still, I'm a bit curious. My spiritual path needs some weeding and tending. It often gets overlooked in favor of napping or reading a trashy novel.
Does my soul have the communication skills of Marcel Marceau? Could than ancient secret told to me in a conversational style lead me to more success and deeper fulfillment? I need to watch my tone because this is the kind of thing that comes back to bite me in the ass. This is the kind of thing the universe uses to teach me a lesson, having a book I mock become the foundation of my spiritual enlightenment.
Well, it's going to have to wait until I holster up the girls and put on my shoes and it's not going to be tonight, that's for sure.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. The 30 day blogfest vow has to be one of the more moronic things I've ever tried to do, but then again, it's been illuminating. I should make up my frackin' mind, shouldn't I? Part of it is the process. My mind is a blank slate when I come to my laptop. Most of the time, I've got nothing and most of the time, when I finish posting, I still got nothing, but occasionally, something unexpected happens in the writing. A great phrase or a finely tuned sentence, something E.B. White wouldn't puke on if he read it. It's been good discipline especially in an area where I am the queen of sloth. It's true, I'm one lazy writer.
Yesterday we were watching the History Channel and they had a program on called Band of Bloggers. It was a documentary on all the blogging that has been going on during the Iraq War. It was fascinating how the soldiers were blogging to show the reality of their days. The internet hook up was installed to keep the soldiers connected to their families and friends at home. But after a while, it became something else. It became a way to tell the truth about their experiences in a way that wasn't being covered by journalists. These soldiers weren't writers at the start of their tours and most of them started their blogs out of sheer boredom. But many of them said that the writing became addictive. You'd think all the blogs would be the same, but they weren't. Some were optimistic and downright triumphant, speaking of the victories in battle and rebuilding that was going on for the Iraqi people. Others were bitter, declaring disaster and hopelessness on a daily basis. Who is right? Who is telling the truth? It's the holy grail of writing isn't it? Who speaks the truth without prejudice? I know I don't have the answer to any of it, but I know that is why we write. We write to make sense of whatever is happening to us, to share it with others so we don't feel so alone. We write to surprise others and if we're lucky, to surprise ourselves. We write to stay connected even when we agree to do moronic things like blog for 30 straight days.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Somehow, without doing a thing to strain or wrench it, I have managed to pull my left shoulder. One moment it was fine and the next thing you know, bam, it hurts to rotate it or to do a motion that resembles a reverse arm curl. I know I mention the middle age issues quite a bit, but it's a perplexing time. My body is changing and yes, I am all confused about it. I have even become emotional about it even though these changes are natural and all about becoming a woman, only older. What I loathe is that these odd assortment of ailments have a kind of Ninja quality to them. You can't see or hear them coming, but all of a sudden, OW! What tha $#@%!! I can't move my frackin' shoulder.
Which led me to reorganizing the clothes in my closet. That's always my natural reaction to the reality that I am not in control of one damn thing. Going through my clothes, categorizing them, colorizing their order from earthtones to neutrals, and then sequencing them according to use during a work week, well, it was darned exhilarating. It gave me security that my wardrobe has meaning because now it has order and it also gave me the illusion that there are some things that are still in my control. You know, like voting.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


On the way home, traveling on I-4, making our way past the Orlando exits, there was a curious one marked Holy Land Experience this exit. Holy Land Experience? My knowledge of the Holy Land is through the Bible and my knowledge of the Bible is sketchy at best, but I do believe the highlights were tales of clan infighting, government corruption, environmental disasters and religious conflict. I do believe there is already a Holy Land Experience. It's called the Middle East. Honestly, who thinks of these things?
It makes me think that maybe I should create my own Orlando attraction like the Middle Age Experience where you gain weight rapidly despite regular exercise, have fits of forgetfulness, become invisible to those younger than yourself, pull muscles while sleeping and find gray hairs in places that will make you cry. I could also design the Public School Teacher Experience where you go to college for 4 sometimes 5 years to earn a degree, then make a starting salary that falls just below the poverty line, work 7-10 hours a day at a job where you are held responsible for those areas completely out of your control and are blamed repeatedly for society's ills.
Okay, my peeps, what Orlando attraction would you design?

Saturday, November 10, 2007


There's something to be said about getting away. Even though the rhythm of our day hasn't been dramatically different than being at home, there's a decadent quality about being in plush surroundings that gives you license to slow down everything. Being at home is always about looking at a never ending list of things that have to get done and even when I completely ignore that list, there's still a domestic agenda vibe, this relentless humming I can't quite escape which might be the guilt of ignoring that to-do list.
So today we took a long walk around the town, great walking trails around some ponds (big honkin' alligator alert), got my hair trimmed, had a Japenese lunch, another walk, stopped for a proper pot of tea and a raspberry creme brulee cheesecake (OMG!!), napped, checked out the tasting festival in the town square and had dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Around 9pm while we were finishing dinner, the fireworks started. We were done with dinner about ten minutes later and told the host we would be back. We were going to watch the show.
The sad thing is, we were the only ones who left the dining room. There were two other tables, both parties of four, at the end of their meals, and they didn't leave. How can you get to a point in your life where you can miss a fireworks display? A Disney sponsored one at that. Cal and stood outside, arm in arm, looking up at the sky. I have to say now that I have nothing, absolutely nothing in my descriptive toolbag to offer when talking about fireworks. I suppose it's what happens when laughter and pyrotechnics converge. But what I love the most is that everyone always has the same expression, a mixture of awe and envy because we're all thinking, "Man, I wish I had that job!"

Friday, November 9, 2007


Right smack in the greedy excess that is (Wh)Orlando is a Disney designed town off 192 called Celebration. You'd swear you were a million miles away. It reminds me of the homebase of SDE in Peterborough, NH. Small town USA yet fairly diverse as I noticed the international workforce and not just grunt workers, but owners of businesses. Yes, I walked around and I chatted with folks. There is a pleasant array of merchants, restaurants, a theater, a bookstore, with a lake smack in the middle to stroll around with the kiddies. It's clean, fairly quiet and feels a bit like Pleasantville, which if you haven't seen it, then I don't even want to know you. Cal and I are spending two nights in the Celebration Hotel for a romantic anniversary weekend, trying to re-enact The Irish Nookie Tour of Summer '07 (see my surgical team for details).
The room is comfortable, great linens on the bed, a working television and free wi-fi. A view of the lake. So right now Cal is in the hotel named bathrobe (cue Barry White), comfy in bed watching the Wizard of Oz. And as soon as I finish these last sentences, I'll join him because there isn't anything more romantic than watching the Wizard of Oz with the man I love in a room warm as the arms that surround me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


There's something about working in the schools today that makes you lunge towards the things that are comforting when you get home. I find that to be true, some days more than others. I do have a daily comfort ritual: Irish breakfast tea and cookie. Yes, that's singular. One Walker's shortbread cookie, the best tea cookie ever. It's butter dusted with flour and sugar that's perfect for dunking in hot tea. It comes to your mouth all warm and soft, and then the combination of the butter and the sugar takes hold right at the middle of your palate and all is right with the world. The shortbread cookie could bring peace to the Middle East, I'm certain of it but I think that about porn and barbecue too, so the whole stabilization of that area is something I am giving lots of thought to.
Most of my comfort rituals have to do with food. I'm not sure if that's a growing up in poverty thing or just the fact that food is genuinely comforting and I shouldn't over analyze it. My too much tequila comfort ritual is getting a sack full of Krystal cheeseburgers, fries and real Coke. My friend Vera believes that is the best pre-hangover meal because the extra fat and salt in that tasty repast has the ability to replace the lost electrolytes from tequila madness. It's an explanation Bill Nye the Science Guy would be proud of.
My other favorite comfort food is a breakfast or brunch selection, something from Doc Silver's old breakfast menu called the Pat Special. Going to Doc Silver's on a Saturday morning was the best place to see who was having that awkward "I-can't-believe-I-slept-with-you" consolation breakfast. The place had great charm and served breakfast all through the day. In my single days, this was my favorite Saturday morning choice especially if I was constipated. I'll explain. The Pat Special was country fried potatoes, topped with 2 pieces of American cheese and two eggs, usually fried over medium. Served with coffee. Notice there were no low fat substitutions on this. Eggs were not poached. No fat free cheese. Nope, everything was full force including that coffee which had the suction force of a Boeing Jetliner. The Pat Special followed by 2 cups of coffee was a poor man's high colonic and yet, darned tasty. Occasionally I make the Pat Special here at home, alas with not as many potatoes and with fat free cheese and, sigh, with poached eggs. Ironically, it is not followed by running man coffee even though this is the time in my life when I need that the most. But it does remain a comfort food staple, equal parts delicious and nostalgic.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


It's a bit chilly so I'm sitting here typing with a afghan-throw-shawl thing over my shoulders to keep me warm and toasty. Made last year with three different colors of chenile yarn, a nice burnt orange, a burgundy and a chocolate brown, I didn't really plan on those colors. They were the only chenile yarn skeins I had and so in they went. I learned to knit, thanks to the never ending patience of my retired pal, Norma, so I could have a bit of active comfort. A way to de-stress after a long day with unreasonable parents and petulant children and the ever present landmines of high stakes testing. It is comforting. The rhythm of the needles, the soft feel of the yarn, the occasional gently worded stream of cursing when I drop a stitch. The click of the needles and the pulling of the yarn, over and over, repetitive and swift. It's a bit hypnotic and meditative at the same time.
Frankly, I think this is the kind of thing Enya does right before she records. She cranks out a nice pullover in a periwinkle cashmere and then in the studio she goes to lay down those first tracks. Sips some camomile tea and reads a little Beatrix Potter. Of course the twisted and perverse side of me would like it better if I knew that Enya comes in to the studio reeking of Stoli, fresh from a threesome involving Ross Perrot and someone from the Facts of Life wearing a Juicy Couture halter, Daisy Duke cut-offs and thigh high black patent leather stripper boots. I wouldn't mind knowing that any part of that was true.
That would be comforting, I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Oprah had the guys who invented You Tube on her show today. They have recently sold it for $1.6 billion. I don't think these guys are even 30 yet, I'm not sure and I don't want to think about it for fear of sobbing without end. She had the most popular YouTubers on: the skateboarding bulldog, the English ex-cellphone salesman now turned opera singer, and the English couple who did the Dirty Dancing number for their wedding were among my favorites. The English couple performed the dance for the audience and halfway through Patrick Swayze came out to surprise them, which was fun and for some reason brought tears to my eyes and not just because I saw the amount of plastic surgery Swayze had done. The couple was genuinely surprised. Later listening to the opera singer, again some tears came, something about the music and his voice was just too emotional. I suppose that's why opera is hardly ever done with the banjo.
I'm not overly emotional, and I don't think I cry at the drop of a hat, but certain things can wring out a few tears in me. I'm not talking about things like losing loved ones, getting good or bad news at the doctor's, you know, life. I'm talking books or movies or television or plays. Art (yes, sometimes television is art; you just have to know where to look). What is it about art or entertainment that brings us to tears? Why do we cry? Is it just emotional flotsam and jetsam or is it an embedded image in our past that's tripped by a line of dialogue or a camera angle?
I don't know, but I do know what makes me cry genuinely, supremely and most profoundly at the movies even at repeated viewings.
Here's the list:
1. Glory-This Civil War feature starring Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington holds the record for a personal crying jag. I do believe it's the last 15 minutes of the film. I've only seen it once.
2. The Color Purple- I've seen this thing about a thousand times. I cry all through the film and it's a fabulous cleansing weeping. Good for cold and flu season.
3. E.T.--Yeah, I know, everyone always cries at the end. I don't. But I always, and I do mean always cry the very first time Eliot and E.T. take flight on that bike. To this day, I have no idea why.
4. Defending Your Life--Love this movie about the afterlife, love it and the end is so tender and so lovely that it does make me weep with a little joy.
5. The Shawshank Redemption- the end, what a great ending, again it's a happy cry.
Some new entries:
Dreamgirls--when Effie sings THAT song. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I cried for every man that ever treated me like crap even though that was over 21 years ago and counting. That song and the way she sang it broke my heart.
Million Dollar Baby--Holy crap. That last scene. Just Clint and Hillary Swank. Lordy, lordy, lordy. I could not catch my breath. The scene doesn't last long, but it was like a granade to the heart. Ohh.
And for LJ, especially, I have only one more feature to add, even though it was a made for TV movie. The original Brian's Song.
So to my peeps, and I'm not talking the little yellow and sometimes pink or blue marshmallow chicks, what are the movies that make you cry like a little girl?

Monday, November 5, 2007


Today was a perfect weather day. I realize it's Florida and we get our fair share of great weather, but today was perfect. Just a hint of breeze. Not a cloud in a cornflower blue sky. Just the right amount of sun. Enough to be comforting, but not enough to make you break a sweat. Even the air had a tinge of fall, which feels a lot like spring because it is Florida and we don't get normal autumn, but we get perfect days like this which is a pleasant enough trade off.
I managed to have a brisk power walk after work, not on the beach as I would have liked because it was high tide, but along First Street. But afterwards, we strolled out just to watch the water. Living close to the ocean for this long, I admit it, it makes you take the view for granted. I don't always come down here, a mere 11 minute walk from my house across the death trap that is now Third Street so it has becomes a kind of local Fear Factor mini-event. Still, I don't make the trip often during the summer. Part of it is because I hate people. Not everyone, mind you, just people in crowds that come to the beach with every thing they own and park by the water's edge and carry on their dysfunctional family spewage in a natural setting. It's upsetting to me to see the beauty of the beach smeared by such Judge Judy /Jerry Springer energy. So I tend to avoid the beach like the plague during the summer.
In the late fall and winter, though, it's a different story. Like today. The water was a steel gray and blue with the sunshine laced between layers of waves. On the sand were piles of seaweed in brown sienna, perfect for a clambake. Where's friggin' Frankie Avalon when you need him? That guy could always put together a clambake in a New York second and the band would appear out of nowhere. There were a few surfers in the water, a couple of guys on shore with their rods and reels trying to outwit the fish. I sat there and took it all in. Looked at the expanse of ocean which is a miracle in itself how it hangs with this planet. I breathed in the air, with just the right amount of salt, and each image lingered even when I shut my eyes. No revelation emerged, only a little peace and beauty on a Monday.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Oh my. How lame can I be? I thought it would be at least a double digit day that I would come to the table with nothing, absolutely nothing, but here I am at day 7 and I have zip. Nada. Nothing. The big goose egg. Crap. I did try stream of consciousness typing but it all turned out to be a giant rant about work and I can't have work frustration mucking up the blog. It serves no real purpose because nothing changes. Then I decided to make a list: 10 things I would make into law if I were queen of the universe. As I started to make the list, it seemed like most of the items had to do with electrically shocking certain segments of the population into modifying their behavior. Republicans, teenagers that roll their eyes, parents who are habitually late picking their kids up from school, any female who wears low cut tight jeans so that stray flesh oozes out in unflattering ways, Kenny G. Up the voltage on that. That list, very one dimensional. Perhaps recording the day---lovely stroll through the UNF nature trails that was only interrupted once by a three year old bossing his parents around (another one to add to the high voltage list). The sunlight was making the all those fantail scrub palms look absolutely exotic. Although the trail right by the lake made me nervous because it's just like me not to enjoy such a scenic little vista. No, I was scanning the water closest to us, trying to plan for the swiftest escape if one, most likely a mutant sized alligator with a four foot vertical leap should choose that moment to make an abrupt appearance. Our ride home from our daylong self exile was uneventful. No one flying a little American flag was camped on our front yard as I had feared. There were some late afternoon flyovers by the Blue Angels and I could have sworn I saw one of those guys giving me the finger as the windows in the living room rattled. There was nothing to do except put the kettle on for tea, wait for the whistling, pour and steep and eat with a cookie. Truth be told, the tea and cookie time at home soothes all ills, calms the any fear and leaves me with a good taste in my mouth. And for today, that was enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


We bugged out of the beach today and booked a hotel room in town. Airshow nonsense had all roads around us clogged and sluggish and I was no mood to negotiate the streets because the military thinks it's a good idea to use my tax dollars on this collective penis waving venture than to buy the decent body armor to keep one more soldier from getting his or her arm or leg blown off in Iraq. This crap pisses me off on a deeper level than just being inconvenienced about excessive noise and traffic jams. We have limited tax dollars----this is the most productive way of spending it? Step off.
The hotel is having an anime convention, something I did not know when we booksed the room. This is God's way of giving me a cosmic wedgie. It's a lot of teenagers, early twenty-somethings and round girthed men in their late 30's still trying to coax in facial hair all in very strange costumes, some that defy description. As Cal and I were walking to our room, we saw a tall Black guy in a diaper with a painted Snidely Whiplash mustache wearing pink boxing gloves strolling past us. I'm not imaginative enough to make that up. Lots of diminutive Asian teens with magenta hair with outfits held together with a series of two inch safety pins. Studded dog collars. Plaid Catholic school skirts. Leather halters. That's just one kind of outfit. I wanted to take pictures but I feel it would be rude, like a parent taking photos of kids playing spin the bottle. I'm not sure of the whole point of anime, it's cartoons basically and people are fans of certains ones and they get dressed up as homage and a way of escape which I understand. Escape is healthy as long as it's temporary, as long as you come as a tourist. I gotta say, some of those outfits looked as if they had been on certain folks a very long time, some of the guys in their 30's for instance. Ah, unfortunate. But everyone here seems to be connected, lots of hugging and laughing at familiar referenced codes. It's quite strange but sweet, despite the bizarre wardrobe choices.
There's no way I could ever cast a judgment here having gone to my share to Trek conventions, although never ever in costume even though I have a perfectly good Uhura outfit hanging in my closet, unworn and mocking my lack of conviction. Everyone needs to feel like they belong, like people around them understand their passions, relate to their frustrations and laugh at their jokes. It's human need and it is unbending in this regard. We go where we are wanted, where ,when we arrive in a diaper and pink boxing gloves, we are greeted with open arms.

Friday, November 2, 2007


The Blue Angels have been practicing in our airspace here at the beach. They represent the military well for they are gratuitously noisy, as in sonic boom noisy, not a pleasant sensation for the last two days. They are flashy and not in the manner in which I would prefer my tax dollars to be flashy. The government building flying cars, now that's flash and I would gleefully hand over and bendover my hard earned dollars to the IRS for. But guys trying to break the sound barrier just to put on a show on my dime, well, hell, why don't you crank up the banjos, lube up your step-sister and have another tall boy Bud because that's how useful it rates with me. I also have no faith in their talents. Any moment as they zoom overhead I expect one of those badboys to careen into a neighborhood and level someone's house into flame and ash. And I'm just fatalistic enough to think it will be mine.
People flock to the airshow. Flock. I don't understand why but I also don't understand the mystery and allure of NASCAR racing and watching the America's Cup. I suppose folks who are fans of those things would not comprehend the things I find fascinating to watch.
My top five things to watch: (in no particular order and just for today; tomorrow's list would probably be different)
1. Tommy Emmanuel play guitar. Honestly, this guy is not of this earth. When he plays you would swear there are at least 5 other guys playing with him, and yet it's just him and his guitar and hands that blur across the strings.
2. My friend Norma knit socks. Okay, jump back and don't judge because the minute you read knit you thought, "Can peeking in on paint drying be far behind?" I love knitting because you're taking one long piece of yarn and turning it into something useful. Socks are intricate and have angles and Norma can knit a pair in about an hour. It's awesome to watch.
3. First grader B. P. at my school cracking the code of reading after weeks and weeks of struggle. Now he runs to me with a book and he can't wait to read. That's wicked cool to watch.
4. Siguorney Weaver in Aliens.
5. Bad cats being bad. That's for you, Hansel.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


My new antidote for an unsatisfying day at work is to read through my Useless Information book. I'm not sure why it soothes me so, it just does in the way that popping bubble wrap satisfies. There are a lot of things in there that make me giggle, some just stop me in my tracks in wonder like this: A third of Tawainese funeral processions include a stripper. Melting pot that we are, how come we haven't absorbed this particular custom into our collective culture? A stripper. Excellent. Of course, the minute I read it I was lining up a bevy of celebrity strippers for my funeral procession: (in no particular order) Viggo Mortensen, Matthew McConnaghey, Taye Diggs (that shower scene in How Stella Got Her Groove remains lodged in my long term memory), and Antonio Banderas but only if I kick in the next 5 years because if I live to my 90's as I am genetically predisposed to on the Cuban side of the family, those guys as strippers will be a moot point. But if I go in the next 5, if someone could get a hold of their agents, I would appreciate it. It would be nice to have my passing be eternally linked with A-list manflesh bumping and grinding to a little Earth Wind and Fire and the best of Tom Jones.
I do wonder if those funeral processions have a particular type of stripper---are there funeral strippers as a category? Do they resemble Demi Moore in Striptease? I'm not sure any stripper looks like Demi----no stripper can afford that much plastic surgery even back then when she made that movie. And while her muscle tone was commendable, it just wasn't sexy. Athletic, yes, watching her shames you into running back to the gym and staying there until nothing jiggles anywhere on your body. But talk about sexy and you are talking about Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. You can't teach what she does on screen and in the dresses they have her in, honestly, I have no idea how this movie got past the censors in the 50's. She looks absolutely naked in the one dress where she is singing, "I Want To Be Loved By You." I'm swearing to you that dress was nothing but a reflection of the light. But even past Marilyn's charms and sex appeal, the movie holds up as a classic comedy even 50 years later. Jack Lemmon is a revelation in heels and is the funniest man in drag, sorry Dustin Hoffman, it's true. Come to think of it, cancel those celebrity strippers for my funeral, and just show Some Like It Hot. Shed one or two tears and then break out the tequila, and make sure it's the good stuff.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


There was a time, starting back in '88 when we bought this house, that we would buy candy for trick or treaters that would stumble their way into our neighborhood. During the first five years, no one, not one kid in a highly combustible Batman costume, would get within missile range of us. So we stopped buying candy for Halloween and of course, somehow they knew, they sensed our lack of all things high fructose corn syrupy and they came in droves. We sent them away empty handed except for those odd children who would accept the handfuls of Fiber One in their buckets. Then we came up with the idea of bugging out for the evening. Dinner and a movie or whatever. That's the way it's been for quite some time although with the sorry state of cinema these days, it's not so much a movie evening.
Tonight it was Indian food, chicken tikka masala with some garlic nan and Cal nabbing the lamb vindaloo. Then to a bookstore, lots of browsing, lots of coveting tons of books I can't possible find room for except for one, The Book of Useless Information. Right up my alley. Having useless information is great entertainment, not for others, just for me actually and mostly, that's all I care about. The trick to using useless information is finding just the right opportunity to slip it in and making it look like it belongs when it really doesn't. A lot like the thinking that went behind casting Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing.
For example, if you're talking about bestsellers in general, you could slip in the useless tidbit that Herman Melville's Moby Dick only sold 50 copies, which would make me want to beat my 11th grade English teacher if she wasn't already dead. They still assign that book in English classes everywhere and I ask why? Fifty freaking copies.
There's a bunch of nuggets like that in this book. Here's another one: People in Iceland read more books per capita than any other people in the world. Well duh. They live in Iceland. It's either that or club Greenpeace volunteers.
For my Disneylovin' pals:
Donald Duck's middle name is Fauntleroy.
Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians are the only two classic Disney features in which both parents are present and don't die throughout the movie.
Donald Duck comics were banned in Finland because he doesn't wear pants.
So what, you may ask are the top five reasons for revelling in this useless knowledge?
5. It's crap like this that could have kicked Ken Jenkins's ass during his Jeopardy reign.
4. Entertain those around you on a trans-Atlantic flight.
3. Become king or queen of small talk at any gathering including memorials, brisses and First Holy Communions.
2. Establish an eccentric icebreaking vibe at your next parent teacher conference.
and the best reason to know all that useless information:
1. Create the illusion of real writing in a blog.

One more for my Star Trek bro, LJ: The mask used by Michael Myers in the original Halloween movie was actually a Captain Kirk mask painted white.
That's what I'm talkin' about.