Friday, July 27, 2007

Literary Leos

I'm getting ready to leave town for a brief foray into the Mississippi Delta with The Loved One. He will be playing golf. I will be doing girly things like swimming and maybe getting my nails done. I would like to do something really girly such as try skeet shooting, but I'm being discouraged. Perhaps rather than ask, I'll just tell him about it later.

I would be wrong to neglect mentioning the birthdays (today and tomorrow) of Hilaire Belloc and Beatrix Potter, he in 1870 and she in 1866.

I don't often wish to change my place in life with anyone, but I think that if I could be anyone who ever lived, Beatrix Potter would most likely top my list. Besides being a brilliantly-creative woman, she was forward-thinking, independent, imaginative, forthright and stubborn--all qualities I prize highly. Too often dismissed as "merely" the author and illustrator of timeless books for children, she was also an ardent champion for the preservation of farm communities in England's Lake District, and spent much of her life, earnings and inheritance in the pursuit. Her love affair and brief engagement with Norman Warne is the stuff of true romance...real love against all odds. Had he lived, who knows how her life might have ended up differently, but I suspect he might have seconded her just as stoutly in the causes she chose to support.

The Loved One gave Dear Daughter a copy of The Beatrix Potter Journal for Christmas last year. This is a lovely book, containing extracts from her journals from childhood to adulthood. One can trace the evolution of her art and writing page by delightful page. As Dear Daughter teeters on the edge of teenagerism, it makes my heart so glad to see her pulling out this book from time to time and curling up in her mushroom chair to read again the tale of a Most Remarkable Woman Who Loved Rabbits.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Long Black Veil

I'm too tired to blog. I still have lots to say--just no energy to say it right now.

In a nutshell-- the Loved One is home, Dear Daughter is getting contact lenses, I made a seriously good batch of eggplant parmigiana for dinner, and I'm still in deepest mourning for certain characters of the Harry Potter series. I understand why these things happened in Deathly Hallows, I just still can't believe it.

I know. I need to get a life. Or a nap. In one order or another.


I did it again. I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. reading the newest Harry Potter novel. My eyes look like Platform 9 3/4s this morning.

I'm not going to reveal any secrets about the book, but will merely comment that two girls I know are going to be quite saddened by some of the events.

But it's all over now.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sucked into the Swirling Vortex...

I have so much to blog about--the trip to New Orleans was, as always, interesting. Dear Daughter completed some amazing projects while at art camp. I STILL have more photos from Hawaii to post and discuss, and who would have thought to observe such artistry in a Waffle House in Ponchatoula, LA? Oh, and best of all, the Loved One is already in Fairbanks, waiting to board a plane that will take him first to Anchorage, then to Minneapolis, and finally home!!!

However, I'm suffering a huge setback in that a good friend bestowed upon us today his already-read copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He cleverly ducked into a Kroger at 12:10 a.m. Saturday morning and nabbed a copy from a stack beside the frozen foods. While most of the die-hard fans were stuck in the cashier line at Border's Books waiting to be rung up, he was at home on chapter five already. So now, we have the book, and all of my momentum and plans for everything else have fallen by the wayside. Together, Dear Daughter and I have read three chapters. By myself, I've snuck-read up to about chapter nine. I can't stop now! It's only 10:30 p.m.!

I can't believe the Potter saga is coming to an end...

More when I resurface, I promise.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Crescent City, Here I Come

I'm leaving in a few hours to drive to New Orleans to fetch Dear Daughter home. She's been in the Crescent City for the past two weeks, visiting my sister, bonding with my dog-niece and dog-nephew (Zadie and Eli) and Siwon the Giant Orange Cat, going to art camp at New Orleans GlassWorks Studio, and basically perfecting the art of cool, as practiced by a 'tweenager. We've had some interesting phone calls, at all times of day, and some text and photo messages of NOLA-area restaurant menus. The latter were to tauntingly remind me that she was down there eating her fill of seafood and local favorites such as Crabby Jack's po-boys, while I was stuck here binge-eating chocolate-covered pecans and instant Thai peanut noodles.

We discovered art camp for DD last summer, in the wake of my dad's death. The entire year of his illness and on-and-off hospitalization, followed by his sudden-but-not-unexpected collapse and death had left us all rattled, but especially made a profound mark on her. She needed to get out of town and stay busy, and New Orleans was the perfect destination. My sister has lived there since 1978, so we've visited a lot, both pre- and post-Katrina. It's almost like a second home.

I had read the brochure on GlassWorks when I signed her up, but I really wasn't prepared for the depth and extent of what she would be doing. I read "building a kaleidoscope from a pre-fab kit and then making a metal stand" to be something like "gluing some pieces together." I was totally unprepared for Lena the Warrior Bunny (photo to come).

When I picked her up, my anxious and grieving girl had been transformed into a confident, paint-spattered and solder-scorched artist, who immediately begged for a welding machine to be installed in our garage.

Just having a baby should prepare you for the miraculous, but even 11 years later, Dear Daughter never ceases to amaze me. Often it seems like she will never cease to drive me up the wall, but that's to be expected when you have two redheads living in close proximity.

This is the longest time we've ever been separated in her life. We've both done pretty well, but I have to admit, I'm at my best when we're under the same roof. She brings out good things in me, and makes me want to be a better person, even in those moments when I'm failing most miserably at that goal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Film Noir

Oh man, this movie is so good. I mean, good like Prizzi's Honor good. The writing, the direction, the casting, the costuming, the locations... You Kill Me is the total package.

Okay, it's about a man who kills people for a living. And he's a drunk. So bad a drunk even his Polish mob friends wanna see him in rehab, because, as he puts it, his drinking is "starting to interfere with the work." There's some language. There's some violence--both real and implied. There are also redemptive moments, both spoken and gestured. Sir Ben Kingsley is a giant. Tea Leoni is luminous and darkly comic. Dennis Farina still makes the best celluloid gangster of our time. See if you can spot Steve Buscemi in his brief, non-speaking role.

I am so happy I went out of the house to see this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Notes on Bird-Watching

On a day so hot
the crows were walking
open-mouthed beneath the pear trees --
skipping, hopping, plotting
who-knows-what destructive mayhem--
the mockingbirds were having
none of that
and harried them in noisome, angry pairs.

Astonished at the hubris,
the giant crows gaped in wonder,
cawing aloud to one another
"Come and see! come and see!"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just in Case You Were Wondering...

If you played "Quizzed" on a triple word score on a Scrabble board, plus one letter was on a double letter score, you would score a minimum of 128 points.
Q = 10
U = 1
I = 1
Z = 10
Z = (blank/0)
E = 1 (+1 for being on a double letter score)
D = 2

all of that multiplied by three...

plus, 50 points bonus for playing all seven letters.

All right, all of you Scrabble players out there, come up with your best-case scenario. Highest possible score wins....ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Bunny Game

oh, oh, oh...just try to resist this!

A Walk Through Fields of Gold

The Italian word for "sunflower" is "girasole." Say it with me -- \jir-e-sol\ (sorry, I can't do all of the necessary diacritical marks that would indicate the "schwa" sound and the long o). Don't you love how that slips delicately off of the tongue? And to me, anyway, it's onamatopoeic...the very word sounds like a tall green shoot stretching elegantly toward the sun.

On my commute to and from work, I pass three fields of small sunflowers. They're currently in glorious bloom. It's all I can do to drive by without flinging myself into their rich colors and happy multitude. Yesterday afternoon, I succumbed to the temptation and tiptoed through the mud into the first couple of rows to take some photos.

It was bright and hot--about 92 degrees. Grasshoppers danced around me and a couple of bees lit on my arm to see if I had anything that could compare with the nectar of the sunflowers. Finding me lacking in sweetness, they buzzed away and rededicated their attention to the lovely blooms.

Today in 1817, the town of Dannybrook, County Cork, Ireland, hosted the first recorded flower show. I can't imagine they had anything that could possibly compare with this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

La vie en Rose

I've been looking for an excuse to post this link ever since it was sent to me back in April. This interactive site will tour you through one of the world's must famous and infamous cemeteries -- Pere LaChaise, located in Paris. Use the alpha-search tool to locate the final resting places of Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, past marechals of France, and more.

Edith Piaf is also buried in Pere LaChaise. In her short life, the chanteuse lived and sang with equal parts passion and intensity. I saw the biopic "La vie en Rose" last night with Sally. It was beautiful, sad and at times, very difficult to watch. There were moments when every character tilted and swirled in a miasma of pain, suffering, dysfunction, violence and alcohol.

But it was good. Quite good.

Allez-vous en, monsieur

I just love Cole Porter, don't you? He wrote beautiful songs, full of double entendres, lilting imagery and luxurious emotions. Somehow, popular music just doesn't measure up today.

It's still raining here, which means I still feel like thirty miles of bad road. I'm tired of hurting. Tired of not being able to do anything concrete or lasting about it. Tired of having to explain why I'm hurting and what's wrong with me and why it's wrong with me all of the time. Tired of whining. Whine, whine, whine.

Sorry for that much-needed moment of self-indulgence. Now, back to your regularly-scheduled blog.

After work yesterday, I headed for the small-town YMCA (not to be confused with the just-around-the-corner-from-the-house YMCA) to swim. The pool here is indoors, and there are other amenities, such as a steam room, sauna and hot tub. I'm thinking on the 13th consecutive rainy day, this is just what I need.

I changed into my nifty swimsuit and headed for the hot tub. Thankfully, it was completely unoccupied. I turned it on and climbed in, savoring the soothing water. After hobbling around for most of the afternoon, it was real bliss. Alas, it was not to last. I looked across the deck as the door to the steam room opened. Out walked a middle-aged man who, let's say, had kind of started to let himself go. He was sweaty and tattooed. And naturally, he headed straight for the tub.

Ugh. It would have been rude to climb out the moment he got in, but as I sat there, all kinds of involuntary thoughts came into my mind, most of them running along the lines of "boiled sweaty tattooed man soup." I tried not to freak out completely, but it was a tough stall. Fortunately, the timer shut the tub off just as I reached the point where I couldn't take any more. I scampered out of the tub and grabbed my towel, turned the timer back and headed for the sauna and hopefully, a little super-heated solitude.

Rats. I flung open the door and was cheerily greeted by a lone man with a couple of gold chains, a Maori fishhook necklace and at least as many tattoos as Sweaty-Soup Man had. Darn my southern upbringing! I couldn't turn tail and run--that would be rude. I sat down, praying he wouldn't attempt conversation. Of all the prayers in my life that have been answered, this would be the one that came back stamped with a flaming red "REJECTED."

I tried to keep my answers to his mostly harmless questions monosyllabic, but he kept talking. Oh man, he just kept talking. Fortunately, fair-skinned redheaded people have a short time-limit for saunas, so in less than 10 minutes, I was completely done. I scooted out and dove into the deep end and began swimming laps, to ensure NO ONE ELSE would try and talk. It worked, and I swam for a pleasant, uninterrupted half hour.

Heavy sigh. I don't dispute the right of Sweaty-Soup Man and Gold Chain Guy to use the tub and sauna, but I am just not comfortable using them at the same time. I consider those locations to be pretty private, and look at them as a respite from having to make conversation with strangers. I just can't understand the impetus to speak to people I don't know while sitting in a pool of foamy water wearing only a swimsuit.

I'd Run Away from Home, but I'm Wearing the Wrong Shoes

More on exactly why I need to run away from home later, but I had to write this clever line down before I forgot it. One of my co-workers asked where I was headed with a laptop computer suitcase and I said I was running away from home. Another friend pointed out that I wouldn't get far in my cute, but totally-ineffective-as-walking-footwear Target espadrilles. Perhaps the Manolo could direct me towards something more practical for abandoning ship. I'm sure he'd come up with something super-fantastic!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Today is the birthday in 1879 of Ottorino Respighi, whose composition "The Birds," makes my heart and feet feel like dancing in a meadow. Though a citizen of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he wrote like a Baroque composer, and his work compares successfully with that of Vivaldi and Scarlatti.

Ah, the Italians... I wish I had a bottle of Sangiovese, a CD player, and perhaps some nice cheese and bread. And of course, a geologist.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Small Town Third of July

As you probably guessed from my post on the actual Fourth of July, I consider myself a patriot. I do very much love this country and wake up happy every day to be a part of this nation. Not that I don't frequently roll my eyes in exasperation at things our people say and do, both publicly and privately, but overall, I feel pretty much like I won the lottery being born here instead of, say, here.

In my capacity as Senior Anonymous Paper Shuffler for a cog in the Great Military-Industrial Complex, I work at the largest inland naval installation in the country. We could never figure it out either, and it certainly baffled the Cubans in 1962, who thought submarines were being built there and floated down the Mississippi River.

Of course, that wasn't the case--actually it was a training base for both sailors and Marines in various avionics and aviation fields. At the height of the Cold War, there were more than 8,000 students at the base training for careers as pilots, technicians, air traffic controllers, and other specialities.

With the post-Cold War base realignment, the mission is much different now, and the base is smaller --both in size and personnel. It's situated in a small town about 20 miles north of the urban jungle I call home, and I drive past fields of cotton, feeder corn and soybeans to get to work and back home each day.

Nobody celebrates Independence Day like a small town, and when you couple it with a resident branch of the armed voices, you have a mix of the very best in Americana. The small town is home to the training grounds for the United States Olympic baseball team, and hosts collegiate and service academy tournaments every year. A NASCAR speedway appeared about a decade ago on the edge of a beanfield next door to a tiny fixed-wing airport. There's a restaurant in town that serves cheap and delicious crispy-fried catfish, with sliced onions and homemade fried-green tomatoes. It's like time stopped, and in a rather nice place.

The town and the base collaborated to celebrate Independence Day, albeit on the third of July, on the shores of Navy Lake. Now, Navy Lake hold a special nostalgia for me, as one of my sisters and a few of my friends used to go up there on weekends (we still had to get a pass to get on base--more on this another time) and hang out with friends we'd met while out dancing or listening to bands, drink a beer or two, or rent a canoe and paddle around. These days, the lake looks a lot smaller than I remember and there are signs posted everywhere telling us to beware of snakes.

I took Dear Daughter, Best Friend of DD, and their Best Friend-Boy up to the celebration on the evening of the third. We staked out a blanket and a couple of lawn chairs in front of the bandstand, and, being teens-and-'tweens, the three kids promptly abandoned me. I settled down in a chair to watch the Navy swing band play some World War II-era favorites in the late afternoon sun. A while later, the Navy rock band, appropriately named "Freedom" came on. While it is arguably difficult to be hip and funky in summer whites, these guys definitely gave it a shot. I would suggest perhaps they devote some manpower to recruiting a songwriter or two, but the energy level was high, the musicianship was excellent and the crowd loved it. People walked by drinking lemonade or the occasional beer, families on blankets surrounded us. A call went out asking us to sign a banner being sent to troops serving overseas. Kids played catch. Balloons drifted away. I could smell corn dogs and cotton candy. I was in heaven.

As dusk fell, the kids came back (DD had distinguished herself by throwing up her dinner on the merry-go-round as it was frantically spun by an adult, but she seemed no worse for the wear) and sprawled on the blanket drinking sodas. The band changed to the Navy brass marching band and the musical menu switched to service anthems and a steady diet of John Philip Sousa.

We lay back to watch as the fireworks suddenly began over the lake. As the mortars flashed and boomed, I was reminded of John Adams' words in a letter to his wife Abigail after leaving the debate in the Continental Congress, where the decision was made to declare the fledgling nation's independence from the tyranny of England:

The second day (sic) of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

Sitting there with these three lovely children admiring the shows and illuminations celebrating the courage of Mr. Adams and his peers, I breathed a sincere prayer of gratitude that I am who I am, when I am and where I am. I was born in the U.S.A. And that is certainly something to celebrate.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ev'ry Heart Beats True for the Red, White and Blue

Today is Independence Day, the day on which a group of brave patriots banded together to put an end to the madness of King George. Here is an excerpt from today's Writer's Almanac, describing Thomas Jefferson's intent behind one of the world's most famous essays: He described the task in a letter to a friend, saying, "The object of the Declaration [is] not to find out new principles, or new arguments... but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.... [It is] intended to be an expression of the American mind."

It was no small feat in 1776 to rise up against the established government and say "enough," and it's still difficult today. However, "when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another," push does, eventually come to shove.

Elections will be coming up soon where I am, and probably wherever you are as well. Please register to vote, and urge your friends, relations and co-workers to do so also. Become politically involved. Most importantly, vote. If you won't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

Take a few moments today and read this, preferably aloud, and preferably to someone who hasn't heard it yet. It's important every now and then to refresh our memory and bring close again the reasons and principles the founders of this country had in mind when they first conspired to foment rebellion. This document is guaranteed to rile, and should still inspire the same fiery emotions in 2007 that it did in 1776.

Have a great day--it's Independence Day.

It's also my brother Doug's birthday! A big shout-out to him...perhaps there'll be fireworks in your honor?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My New Favorite Blog

Check this out. Food porn at it's most unabashed glory. Vietnamese coffee ice cream? Break out the freezer!!! Tartelette posts simple yet interesting recipes, coupled with gorgeous photos of her work.

Mm-mm good!

And for those who think I can't walk the walk, I have in my life, made scratch ravioli on several occasions (never thinking to put Nutella in them!) and have also made bagels AND English muffins from scratch.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Goodbye, Bubbles

One of my favorite redheads died today. One of the events of her life not noted in this story was that in 1979, while touring the south with the Metropolitan Opera, she was gracious enough to linger backstage after a performance to meet with two shy ninth-graders, one packing a few white roses from her mother's garden. To my embarrassment, I don't remember what she sang that night, but I do remember that she was genuinely kind and enthusiastic on meeting us.

Twenty-something odd years later, I understand what it must have been to have been like to be called away from backstage friends and patrons by the stage manager to meet two kids, who weren't even opera students, but merely volunteer ushers in the hall, and especially after the grueling demands of an operatic performance.

Beverly Sills was everything ever written about her, and probably much, much more. On top of that, she was kind to gawking adolescents. They just don't make 'em like her anymore.

Pickpockets of the World...

kindly eat dirt and die! Specifically, will the scum-sucking pigdogs who lifted my mother's wallet in her neighborhood grocery store today just go straight to jail, do not pass go, and definitely do not profit from the two 30" plasma-screen television sets you bought with her credit and debit cards? And will you please take the clerk who allowed you to make the purchase without showing ID to match the cards (can you spell "accomplice?") with you?

I've been doing damage-control this afternoon on this theft, and I'm really mad. Fortunately, my mother was not hurt and the financial losses have been eradicated, since she immediately filed a police report. We're in the process of replacing things like her Medicare card and checking account and filing a fraud alert on her credit report. She won't be out any money from your crime because she reacted quickly. These are the easy things to do when someone has ripped you off and stolen your valuables.

The hard things to do are less tangible. Let's start with the wallet. My dad wasn't exactly a paragon of generosity and tenderness. Simply put, he never did much gift-shopping for anyone. One of the few things he had actually bought was my mother's wallet. This was several years back, so the wallet itself was not in very good shape--stretched out, the leather scratched and worn, but once upon a time, it was supple and new, and in a box, and smelled rich and extravagant. And he gave it to her.

Dad's gone now, and so is her wallet. That's worth way more to me than any number of 30" plasma-screen television sets. I can go buy her a new wallet tomorrow, but I can never replace the gift Dad gave her, and what you worthless pieces of trash took from her today.

And it gets worse. Right now, my mom is sleeping on my couch. She has a perfectly good house, in a nice enough neighborhood, but because you stole her driver's license, which happens to have her address on it, tonight she's too scared to stay there. I don't mind at all having her here and am relieved she decided to finally come, but you stole her peace of mind, and her right to a good night's sleep in her own bed. And for that alone, you deserve whatever punishment comes your way.

Sleep well. *$#@*&^$%!

I'm Not Worthy

Check out this blogger. I broke out in hives in 1989 just being in the same zip code (read the second-to-last row of the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis) as him. If I ever turn up missing, check his house first.

Too bad he doesn't have comments or links enabled. :P

Sunday, July 1, 2007

All Over But the Dancing

The wedding reception was held at the Plantation Club, on the grounds of the Kapalua Plantation Course, home to the annual Mercedes-Benz Golf Championship. The huge silver cup, engraved with the names of past winners, is housed on the premises of the club. It's a large chunk of metal, and would make quite an imposing flower vase.

The club was laid out nicely for the reception, with tables upstairs for dining and a dance floor and deejay below for entertainment. The four-course dinner was quite delicious and featured island-themed seafood and accompaniments.

Clarisa and Tim cut the beautiful three-tiered cake and shared a quiet dance. Clarisa danced with her father. We in attendance watched and ate. The toasts made to the bride and groom included many sentimental remembrances, and a special nod to Tim's services in the United States Marine Corp Reserve. This last remark earned a standing ovation from all.

When the time came for the bride to toss her bouquet to the assembled young ladies below, it was with great astonishment and amusement that we watched as her bunch of orchids flew straight into the outstretched hands of Dear Daughter. I think she was as stunned as anyone to have caught the flowers. Clarisa was a dear and had DD come upstairs for a photo of the two of them together. One of the supermodels asked Dear Daughter when she was getting married. Her clever reply was "after grad school!!" (Good answer!)

Grandbaby Riley was passed around and admired, and we all talked and visited. The Loved One and I enjoyed a starlit stroll on the eighteenth hole. At length, the night came to an end and we all returned home, tired, but happy at the close of this first day of Tim and Clarisa's most excellent new adventure.