dual personalities

Rockin’ the boat

AP photo

AP photo

I am having a hard time keeping positive since my flyover hometown has been the focus of the national news for the past ten days. Someone stopped by my office at work yesterday and said when he was in Helsinki last week, he was watching a Russian news station and heard all about our troubles there.

Well, it is all very sad and frustrating. There are way too many people–most who have never been and never will step foot in Ferguson (which is not a small town in Missouri, but a lower middle class, racially-mixed suburb)–weighing in and commenting on what is happening. The OM’s grandparents lived there for years. I’m sure the people who live in the 63135 just want to get back to work and their children just want to start school. Can we please just let them.

Our hometown friend Nelly went to Ferguson and tried to help.

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“We’ve got to understand that we have options and stop choosing the reaction option cause at the end of the day we gonna pay – our brothers are gonna be the ones in jail,” he said. But he got nowhere.

Well, it is hard to keep our chin up with all this going on.

The highlight of my day yesterday was a visit from WWII Guy who was visiting from Hot-lanta. We’re going to have lunch next week, but first he has to fly a B-25 Mitchell (which belongs to the. Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force) up to Duluth.

1507905_710634228970365_1375255387_nYes, there are a few cool guys left in the world.

So I’ll hang in there if you do.

 

“In Naomi’s Eyes we were about as Jewish as Episcopalians.”*

"Barrow Farm" by William Stott of Oldham (1857--1900)

“Barrow Farm” by William Stott of Oldham (1857–1900)

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumour of sadness and change.”

–E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

As I have mentioned before, summer in our flyover state is hot and muggy and generally pretty terrible. But this summer has been just lovely and I am loathe to see it end. Sigh.

End it shall…but not yet.

This weekend, which followed a long, stressful, sad week, I decided to throw in the towel and leave the rest of my bathroom to the professional who is coming to paint this week. If there’s one thing I know, it’s my limits. I cleaned up the mess I made.

I watched Out of Africa (1985) which is a pretty wonderful movie and one of the few which deserved its Best Picture Oscar.

Out_of_africa_poster

I hadn’t seen it for many years and I think it has certainly held up. Although some may think it over-rated and slow, I think its pace is perfect. It has a smart script and it is beautifully directed and the cinematography is sublime. Good grief, Meryl Streep is perfect. It is very romantic. And who doesn’t love Isak Dinesen? Granted there are no car chases or explosions, but there is a great sequence in a bi-plane.

I re-read The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank, which is the follow-up to her best-selling The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Bank’s writing, you recall, was one of the first to be labeled “Chick Lit”–so unfortunate. When the Girl’s Guide was published to such acclaim in 1999, I spurned it because it sounded stupid and it was so popular–it couldn’t be good, right?  Then ten years later when I was having a very bad week, I saw it at a rummage sale and thought, “What the heck? I’ll give it a whirl.” (This was one of those shoulder taps from my guardian angel that I have learned to listen to.) When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It was so good–genuinely funny without being vulgar, heart-felt and remarkably kind.

The Wonder Spot was not the giant best-seller of its predecessor, but I like it, and I enjoyed re-reading it. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions. It is both funny and sad–a combination of which I approve.

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“The women are young, young, young, liquidy and sweet-looking; they are batter, and I am the sponge cake they don’t know they’ll become. I stand here, a lone loaf, stuck to the pan. ” (“The Wonder Spot”)

Have a good week!

* “2oth Century Typing”, Melissa Bank

 

“I do the rolling, you do the detail”*

Yes, we’ve been painting. But inn our case, we do it the other way around — I do the detail  and he paints.  While the DH was away in London Tim and I painted the living room, a fairly monumental task, if I do say so. We did one half at a time. Here’s the first stage of the first half — I’ve taped the edges and we’re ready to go.

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I found the physical labor curiously satisfying: on the knees; up and down the step-ladder; stretching, concentrating, and hearing new music on Spotify… and, yes, I was very tired at the end of the day. Here’s what it looked like

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halfway through.

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The wall color is a putty/light gray-green (‘misty rain’) and the woodwork is some shade of off-white that I can’t recall. The light makes it hard to capture correctly, but I think it turned out really well.

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I threw my drapes away and ordered more, but they were the wrong color so I am drape-less and sun-drenched until I can find the right thing.

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In a weird way, 10 days of painting, moving furniture, reading, and eating junk food (the dining room being out of commission) was as refreshing as a vacation. And at the end of it, I felt as if I had really accomplished something. My dual personality taught me that there’s nothing like a household project to lift the spirits. She’s right. So go on, pick up your paint brush or go through that closet that’s full of stuff you don’t need. You’ll feel great!

*The Tragically Hip

“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”*

"The Shootist" (1976)

Bacall and the Duke in “The Shootist” (1976)

Well, now Lauren Bacall has died. She was 89 and lived in the Dakota on Central Park West. She liked Bissinger’s chocolate from St. Louis, speaking her mind and being Mrs. Humphrey Bogart. She made some good movies with him, notably To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946) and Key Largo (1948).

She also made two good movies with John Wayne: Blood Alley (1955) and The Shootist (1976). She liked the Duke–they had good chemistry together she said.

I’m going to watch The Shootist tonight, because I’m in the mood for a sad western with music by Elmer Bernstein, but any of the aforementioned films would be appropriate.

Rest in peace, Betty Bacall. Into paradise may the angels lead thee; and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.
–BCP, Burial of the Dead, Rite I

*Eddie (and Slim) in To Have and Have Not

Vain expectations

"Bowl of Goldfish" by Childe Hassam

“Bowl of Goldfish” by Childe Hassam

‘One has to spend so many years in learning how to be happy. I am just beginning to make some progress in the science, and I hope to disprove Young’s theory that “as soon as we have found the key of life it opens the gates of death.” Every year strips us of at least one vain expectation, and teaches us to reckon some solid good in its stead. I never will believe that our youngest days are our happiest. What a miserable augury for the progress of the race and the destination of the individual if the more matured and enlightened state is the less happy one!’

– George Eliot

“Fame you’ll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV, Except when they don’t because sometimes they won’t…”*

Read the newspaper. What does it say? All bad. It’s all bad. People have forgotten what life is all about. They’ve forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded of what they have and what they can lose. What I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life!

Leonard Lowe, Awakenings (1990)

Well, I am very sad about the suicide of Robin Williams earlier in the week. He seems to have succumbed to despair.

Robin and I go a long way back–all the way to “Mork and Mindy” which I watched when I was a graduate student in 1979. I thought he was hilarious.

I have written before about the kinship I always felt with him, of how he was my brother’s doppelganger, born weeks apart in 1951. Years would go by when I wouldn’t see my own brother, but I would see Robin. And then he played “Mrs. Doubtfire” and reminded me of my mother! It was that inner Scotsman, I guess, full of melancholy and sweetness. Indeed, he was like kin and so his death seems not so much like the death of a movie star, but like a brother. Perhaps you think that is silly, but it is how I feel. It is possible to feel very close to writers, poets, and yes, even movie stars.

I watched Awakenings last night–this movie is pure gold–and it is all about appreciating Life and reminding oneself often of the great gift that it is. So it is doubly heart-breaking to know that Robin Williams had lost sight of this.

 

“Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”

–May Sarton, Journal of Solitude

May Sarton is right. Hang in there.

*Dr. Seuss

“We bring you…a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills”*

Today is the birthday of Cecil B. DeMille (August 12, 1881 – January 21, 1959)–American film director and film producer in both silent and sound movies, Academy Award winner and Episcopalian.

demille

Only a fourth of his movies were talkies, but they include some mighty good ones.

I recently watched The Plainsman (1936) with Gary Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok and Jean Arthur as Calamity Jane. (I blogged about Calamity Jane back on May 1 and it took three months to get the DVD from Netflix–harumph.)

It is a very enjoyable movie, mostly because of its two stars. However, James Ellison, who plays the important role of Buffalo Bill, is kind of weak–good looking but no spark.

01b_1936 Plainsman, The (Ellison)

Gary Cooper, Helen Burgess and James Ellison

The difference between him and Gary Cooper is an object lesson in why some people become movie stars and others don’t.

DeMille doesn’t fool around with political correctness in this film: the Indians are the bad guys and they are scary. There is a lot of tension in the fast-paced, but historically incorrect plot. And the cinema technology is impressive. Although mostly shot on a sound stage, the impression of depth and three-dimensional action is suggested by the use of a screen, where previously filmed activity is projected, behind the primary shot. It is very clever and effective. Indeed, I was impressed by this 1936 film–so much more engaging than our computer-generated “action” pictures of today.

Anyway…join me, won’t you, in toasting old Cecil B. tonight! And if you can get your hands on a copy of The Plainsman, take a look.

I’ll also lift a glass to Robin Williams who died on Monday. I’ll blog about him later. Rest in peace.

Into paradise may the angels lead thee; and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.
–BCP, Burial of the Dead, Rite I

*The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moonbeams home in a jar…

MCC girl scout campI worked hard this weekend around the house and on my bathroom project, so I regret that I did not have the strength of mind or body to write a lengthy blog post.

Instead, here is a summery picture of our dear mother (third from the left, middle row) when she was a camp counselor at the Newburgh, NY Girl Scout camp, Palisades Interstate Park, New York circa 1943. (She wrote all that information on the back of the picture,  but did not include a date!)

Our mother loved the Girl Scouts and she loved summer camp. I’m sure she was disappointed that my dual personality and I attended a school that did not have a GS troop. She would have loved being an adult scouter. Although on second thought, times had changed by then, and I think she would have hated all that cookie-selling business. It was really camp that she loved.

Oh well, c’est la vie.

“Come Down to Kew in Lilac Time”

It’s not lilac time, but Kew is still beautiful. My DH just returned from a research trip to the National Archives at Kew in London and while he was there, he had the chance to go through the beautiful gardens where he took many a photo. His trip there put me in mind of our mother, who had an abiding (alas, unfulfilled) desire to go to Kew Gardens, inspired by a poem, which I believe was Alfred Noyes’s “The Barrel Organ.” The poem is long, so I will not include the whole thing, but here’s part of it punctuated with pictures of Kew (some taken by my DH).

There’s a barrel-organ carolling across a golden street
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
And the music’s not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
    And fulfilled it with the sunset glow;
And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
    That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light;
And they’ve given it a glory and a part to play again
    In the Symphony that rules the day and night.
And the music’s not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
    And fulfilled it with the sunset glow;
And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
    That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light;
And they’ve given it a glory and a part to play again
    In the Symphony that rules the day and night.2014-07-28 10.47.31
The cherry-trees are seas of bloom and soft perfume and sweet perfume,
    The cherry-trees are seas of bloom (and oh, so near to London!)
And there they say, when dawn is high and all the world’s a blaze of sky
    The cuckoo, though he’s very shy, will sing a song for London.
Kew
Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
   Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer’s wonderland;
   Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)
The Dorian nightingale is rare and yet they say you’ll hear him there
    At Kew, at Kew in lilac-time (and oh, so near to London!)
The linnet and the throstle, too, and after dark the long halloo
    And golden-eyed tu-whit, tu-whoo, of owls that ogle London.
Kew-Gardens
There’s a barrel-organ carolling across a golden street
    In the City as the sun sinks glittering and slow;
And the music’s not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
And enriched it with the harmonies that make a song complete
In the deeper heavens of music where the night and morning meet,
    As it dies into the sunset-glow;
And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
    That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light,
And they’ve given it a glory and a part to play again
    In the Symphony that rules the day and night.
2014-07-28 12.38.31
            And there, as the music changes,
                  The song runs round again.
             Once more it turns and ranges
                  Through all its joy and pain,
             Dissects the common carnival
                  Of passions and regrets;
             And the wheeling world remembers all
                  The wheeling song forgets.
             Once more La Traviata sighs
                  Another sadder song:
             Once more II Trovatore cries
                  A tale of deeper wrong;
             Once more the knights to battle go
                  With sword and shield and lance
             Till once, once more, the shattered foe
                  Has whirled into—a dance!
Come down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac time;
    Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)
And you shall wander hand and hand with love in summer’s wonderland;
    Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!

Mother never got to Kew (and for that matter, neither have I), but I know she would have loved it. She did love a garden! Take some time this busy weekend to enjoy your garden or take a walk somewhere beautiful, and, if you are so inclined, read the whole poem,  “The Barrel Organ”.

Have a great weekend! [Sorry about the horrible tiny font on the poem. Try as I might (and I did to the point of wanting to smash my computer), I could not get this to work]

Happy birthday, Dustin Hoffman, or “Mrs. Krabappel, are you trying to seduce me?”

simpsons-07-dustin-hoffman

Happy birthday to Dustin Hoffman, born August 8, 1937, who has had a long and illustrious career in film, stage and television. Known for his versatile portrayals of “antiheroes and vulnerable characters”, he has been nominated seven times and won two Oscars–for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Rain Man (1988).

My favorite Hoffman role is Mr. Bergstrom in The Simpsons (Season 2, episode 19). It’s the one where Lisa has a crush on her substitute teacher (Hoffman), who seemingly represents everything that Homer is not. Meanwhile, Bart decides to run for class president, and becomes the overwhelming favorite. Mr. Bergstrom teaches Lisa that LIFE is indeed worth living and that “for the record, there were a few Jewish cowboys. Big guys, who were great shots, and spent money freely.” Anyway, Mr. Bergstrom is a wonderful character and it is a great episode–one that nearly brought me to tears the first time I saw it. It is definitely one of my all-time favorite top 5 episodes. (Yes, I have a top 5.) Maybe even top two.

Here’s a clip with all Dustin’s parts in the episode:

http://www.simplydustinhoffman.com/apps/videos/videos/show/15221415

Yes, you can see that Mr. Bergstrom holds a special place in my heart:

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Obviously my movie pick for this Friday is any one of Dustin Hoffman’s movies. Since Tootsie is the only one we own (The OM is a big fan of Toot-see), I will probably be watching it. (I may have Papillon–since it co-stars Steve McQueen–but I’ll have to check.)

You were waiting for this, I know...

You were waiting for this, I know…

Have a great weekend!

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