dual personalities

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Here’s hoping we maintain this momentum…

Turning a corner into the final days of work and the third trimester has really lifted my spirits. Even though Friday turned into a totally nutty day at work, complete with hours on the phone and URGENT!!! budget crises, I persevered and made it to the weekend. From there, I managed to enjoy myself, perhaps because of

IMG_6500Drive-thru McFlurries,

IMG_6509Faux palomas sipped from festive glassware,

IMG_6519And a clean apartment. As you can see, we have no foyer or entryway to speak of, so the space in front of the bookshelves becomes a dumping ground for shoes and packages. Well, we finally won the war against cardboard, and have found a home for all of our incoming baby gear. (For better or worse, we are definitely contributing to Jeff Bezos’s ascent to trillionaire-status.)

I also got about halfway through the large project of reorganizing my clothes and transitioning to a summer wardrobe, though it’s an odd task when you aren’t sure for what you’ll be dressing. I don’t exactly need my party dresses or pencil skirts for the workplace. But it still feels nice to clear out the closets!

DN outdid me on the project front, though. While I napped on Sunday, he scrubbed the bathtub, the bathroom floor, and the kitchen floor. It is amazing what his elbow grease can accomplish compared to mine. Then, he hung a curtain rod in our bedroom. (All of our windows have blinds installed, which are very functional but obviously not the most inspiring.)

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Things were touch and go for a minute…

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but ultimately he powered through, and the curtains look fantastic. (Once again I ask that you trust me — my iPhone pictures always make things look so dingy!)

Last but not least, I also cut my own hair this weekend. I watched this video, which sounds like it was recorded by a robot, and just went for it. Makes me wonder why I was paying $80 for a haircut pre-quarantine… Will we all be totally self-sufficient by the time this is all over?

“One wasn’t sure what came next. So, don’t trust the telephone. Or the newspapers. Or the radio. Or tomorrow”*

This week was a real thrill (sarcastic face): I graded my final papers and then prepped for a routine medical procedure. What used to be merely unpleasant has turned into something positively theatrical. It was all so clandestine. I had to drive to an empty parking lot, make a phone call, and wait in the car until someone in disguise — so shrouded in protective garb as to be unrecognizable as human — came to administer the Covid test (maybe we should call that the Covert test).

Drones and helicopters hovered around — not really, but they wouldn’t have been out of place. On the days following the test, I received multiple phone calls changing the time of the procedure and the instructions about where to go and what to do. Was I in a Mission Impossible movie?

I don’t mean to mock. The health care system up here is doing a tremendous job adapting to endless, draconian directives from the Governor, who apparently thinks everyone lives in New York City.** Despite the B-movie vibe, everything went off without a hitch and I was home sleeping off the anesthesia by lunchtime. To top it all off, I got a phone call early this morning informing me that I had tested negative for Covid-19. Better late than never, I guess. As I said, they are doing their best under pressure, and, hey, I got a nice hospital face mask out of it, so it wasn’t all bad.

All of this has put me in the mood for some spy movies. I could go for The Spy who Came in from the Cold (1965). They knew how to adapt novels to screen in those days and this movie has a great script:

If that seems too dark, try The Man from U.N.C.L.E with Armie Hammer, Alicia Vykander and Henry Cavill. It’s very stylish and quite funny.

Yes, I know my DP has mentioned this movie recently, but being unoriginal, I will mention it again.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Have a grand weekend navigating our Brave New World!

*Alan Furst, Spies of the Balkans.

**Permit me to explain. I live in the middle of nowhere, in the largest, emptiest county in NY. We’ve never had more than 9 people hospitalized simultaneously and they weren’t in the same hospital, but nevertheless the Governor required every hospital in the state to follow the same Covid operational rules. Given how small our rural hospitals are, he effectively shut them down, thereby driving them to the brink of bankruptcy and causing untold suffering among non-Covid patients awaiting treatment.

Sad ogres

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A cute picture of the wee laddie with little or no significance other than being cute.

I do not have much to report/write about. The days drift by, don’t they? I work (remotely) in my office and some days I take a walk depending on the weather. One night last week I watched The Full Monty (1997) which I had not seen since it came out back in the day. It is the British movie about the bloke, who, seeing the long line of women clamoring to get in to a touring Chippendales-style dance troupe, thinks he can solve his financial and custody problems by forming his own male exotic dance troupe with some of his fellow un- or underemployed ex-mill workers. Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy and Tom Wilkinson star and some low-key hilarity ensues.

Considering the plot, there is very little vulgarity. I recommend it if you are looking for low-key hilarity. And who is not?

Other than that, I am still listening to Jorge Luis Borges lecture about metaphor while needlepointing. Again, he is so great, but hard to follow sometimes–for instance, when he quotes Shakespeare, “Beware the green-eyed monster which doth mock…” he says, “The sad ogres who mock…” He is translating Shakespeare back into English from the Spanish translation I guess. Translations of translations…

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Delightful, but sometimes it takes me a day to catch up.

I am also re-reading Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, having finished Frenchman’s Creek last week, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Daphne at the top of her game is hard to beat.

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Yesterday was my friend Carla’s birthday so Becky and I dropped by in the afternoon and chatted on her front porch (observing social distancing protocol) and toasted her with a plastic cup of Proscecco. It was very pleasant sitting on the breezy porch surrounded by peonies. A deer ran by.

Sigh. I want to see normal on the horizon and I don’t.

But chin up, it is the bell and it tolleth for thee. And it is Friday. I do not have to Zoom anything for a couple of days.

This and that, positive vibes edition

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, my mood has finally improved. In large part, this is because I took Tuesday afternoon off from work and have started refusing to put Zoom meetings on the calendar.

IMG_6482With my time off, I made a strawberry rhubarb pie that was totally delicious. I love strawberry rhubarb pie, certainly for the flavor but also because it feels so purely end-of-Spring, beginning-of-summer. Like peony season. I make my own pie crust and it doesn’t always look perfect, but for some reason, this just totally hit the spot. (And then hit the spot again for breakfast.)


I also spent some time re-watching John Mulaney stand-up this week. This joke, about stopping at a McDonald’s on a road trip, had me laughing out loud. I’ve actually pulled this move as a babysitter!

I did find out through my clip-fest that late night television seems to be suffering from the Zoom setting. Not that I ever consumed these shows when they were produced on set, but I found John Mulaney’s interviews with Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers borderline boring! How is it possible.

I did appreciate this bit (watch 9:25-11:00). The line “I can have hair on my face” is highly relevant to my feelings about DN’s quarantine beard growth. (As I’ve written before, loving John Mulaney perhaps exposes my “type.”) Also, I myself also desperately need a quarantine haircut. I’m trying to convince DN that he should give it a go. My mother cut my hair until I was at least 14; I think he could handle it.

Whether or not you choose Mulaney, watching some stand-up comedy — even specials you’ve seen before — lifts the spirits! I mean, duh.

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DN takes great selfie candids, eh?

Last but not least on the positive vibes front: I’m sticking to my daily walk routine! The sun really is the best medicine, isn’t it?

The cares you keep/the thoughts you think/it’s not all wasted time.

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This is pretty much my reaction to every interaction I have with my co-workers via phone. Except instead of going to my room, I remain in my apartment and vow not to reply to their dumb suggestions going forward.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday again and this time I’m not in a terrible mood. I also did not go to the grocery store today. I’m sure there is a correlation.

In other news, it is really amazing what you can accomplish when you aren’t allowed to go anywhere. I’ve got a ways to go (two more boats and a big whale plus the border) and while the end is not in sight, it is definitely reachable.

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It isn’t perfect–and I’ve had to do some ripping out and restitching it–but I am quite proud of my progress. I think the sea monster is my favorite element.

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I am also excited because I finally got a fiddle leaf fig plant for my apartment. They are very trendy and I’ve wanted one for some time. While my mother and I were at a nursery looking for plants for her as a Mother’s Day gift, I, of course, found something for myself! Anyway, I’m excited to see if I can keep it alive.

I should add that it’s not all sunshine and roses here in flyover country, though:

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As my mother mentioned, we listened to quite a bit of angsty music that was trendy 15 years ago this weekend. And it really struck me how much that kind of “I’m privileged but unhappy” attitude that one mistakes for being “deep” as a college student is just not remotely entertaining to me anymore. I enjoy Patrick Park and “Something Pretty” is a fun throwback–but one can OD on angst.

Loneliness, she greets me every morning may be cooler, but I’ll take joy still comes in the morning.

“You’ll do.”*

Well, since we’ve been in quarantine, Monday nights are John Wayne movie nights. Last night we watched The Cowboys (1972)–the one about the cattle drive led by the Duke and a bunch of kids recruited to replace the cowboys who have gone off to search for gold.

Screen Shot 2020-05-11 at 8.50.15 PM.pngIt was real good and I recommend it, along with John Wayne Monday nights. Mondays are hard, what with Zoom meetings and starting back to the work week.

I had a super fun weekend. Daughter #1 came home and we saw the wee babes twice. Both times they were in fine fettle and glad to be frolicking outside and playing with their old toys inside.

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Lottie with “her people”

We also drove to a county park we had never been to–Bee Tree Park which overlooks the Mississippi River–and explored it. We discovered it while perusing one of our books on St. Louis. South County is terra incognita, but we’re not scared.

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Screen Shot 2020-05-11 at 9.10.09 PMWe also listened to a lot of old CD mixes from 15 years ago. Very angsty. Remember this one?

Admit it, you were singing along.

We ordered take out brunch for Mother’s Day and take out margaritas for Saturday night. We are adapting to the quarantine as best we can.

*Will Andersen in “The Cowboys”

At least we have cell phones

Did you have a nice Mother’s Day? I wish I had a good literary quote (like the DP’s on Saturday) to celebrate wonderful mothers, but I’m a bit at a loss — my favorite Elizabeth Stuart Phelps quote has been blogged before, and the book I’m trying to finish (The Scarlet Letter) certainly features motherhood, but not in a totally uplifting way!

I missed my mom a lot this weekend. Unfortunately my “new normal” seems to include a terrible Saturday dip — a busy week’s worth of anxiety finally has a chance to descend, and I have nothing to do but wallow! It appears that my hormones have inserted themselves into this mix, so it was a real doozy of feelings this weekend. Well, like I say, at least we have cell phones — I am able to check in with my mom (and siblings), connect on Instagram and have nice long conversations as needed. I am very grateful for that.

IMG_6463We did make a socially-distant visit to the suburbs to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday with DN’s parents. I made lemon-ricotta cookies and boxed them up nicely, which gave me a (tasty!) sense of purpose. (Plus, we have leftovers.) It was nice to be outside on a spacious patio and catch up. Of course, we also got to see the dog:

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It was warm enough to take my sweater off, so there was no hiding the 9-month bump…

Now, time for another week — only 2 full weeks of work left for me, so I will do my best to hang in there!

The little feet along the floor*

Another week has flown by and we all feel as beleaguered as the poor daffodils and just-sprouting peonies in this photo:

Snow in May isn’t that unusual, but given our current circumstances, it feels a little punitive. Governor Cuomo’s lock-down continues…

Since tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about how many women experience the day as mothers and daughters simultaneously. Tomorrow, I will talk to my wonderful sons and reminisce about their childhoods, but I will also remember my own mother, as indeed I do every day.

As I prepared to write this post and looked for an appropriate photo of our mother, I realized that I do not have many. Back in ‘our day’, photos belonged to special occasions; we could not record every moment of our daily lives, and the fact that our mother usually acted as photographer reduced her appearance in photos even more. She did not like to have her picture taken. Here’s a cropped photo from a Christmas in the early 1960s.

You see my DP’s leg in the bottom right among the wrapping paper. That was the year my parents gave our brother a toy bazooka that shot large, blue plastic missiles. I don’t suppose they anticipated that he’d use his sisters as targets. Those bazooka shells hurt! In the photo, taken before a weapon has been fired, our Mother looks happy and relaxed. All hell will break loose once she heads to the kitchen to make Christmas dinner. Despite the brotherly rambunctiousness and sisterly tears, it was a nearly perfect Christmas.

Recently, I came across John Steinbeck’s description of Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath and I remembered that my DP had quoted it previously  as another Mother’s Day approached. I think it’s worth including again:

“Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work… She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.”

We all depended on Mother — maybe a little too much — and we miss her daily. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, whether you are celebrating your mother, busy being one, or about to become one!

*Robert Louis Stevenson, “To My Mother”:

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.

“Way down in Missouri where I learned this lullaby”*

Today is Truman Day, a holiday in our state and for some people a day off from work.

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Harry in WWI. Are his pants inflated?

I do not have the day off, but I will raise a toast to Harry nonetheless at the appropriate hour. A Missouri Mule, which was created by bartender Joe Gilmore especially for President Truman, would be nice. I thought a Missouri Mule was bourbon, lime  and ginger ale, but when I looked it up, the ingredients are:

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•2 parts Bourbon
•2 parts Applejack
•2 parts Lemon juice
•1 part Campari
•1 part Cointreau

Well, you learn something new every day, right?

Mother’s Day is on Sunday and I am hoping the wee babes will drop by for awhile to frolic in our yard. They came over on Wednesday and frolicked in the yard and we practiced social distancing while they picked flowers and threw rocks. It was a nice diversion.

IMG_0152.jpegIMG_0187.jpegIMG_0156.jpegAfter reading daughter #2’s blogpost yesterday about some “mildly captivating” recent films, I got thinking, of course, about classic films. I had just watched Juarez (1939) and really marveled at how good it is.

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The film focuses on the conflict between Maximilian I, an Austrian archduke who was installed as the puppet ruler of Mexico in 1863 by Napoleon III, and Benito Juarez, the country’s president. It is not a story that particularly interests me, but as presented by Warner Brothers with all their bells and whistles, it was riveting.

Maximilian is the Hapsburg dupe who is used by Napoleon III to expand the French empire in Mexico.  Jaurez, who idolizes Abraham Lincoln so we know he is a good guy, is the hero of the piece, but as played by Paul Muni, he isn’t half as interesting as Brian Aherne as the emperor and Bette Davis as his crazy wife, Carlota.

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Donald Crisp, Brian Aherne, Bette Davis, and be-still-my-heart Gilbert Roland

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The real Emperor with the unfortunate Hapsburg mouth

The screenplay by John Huston and Aeneas MacKenzie is, as you would expect, excellent and the Warner Brothers cast is terrific. How can you go wrong with John Garfield, Gilbert Roland, Claude Rains, Donald Crisp, Gale Sondergaard, Henry Davenport, etc. in supporting parts? You can’t. Handsome Brian Aherne is actually very sympathetic and believable as the overly trusting archduke and Bette Davis is thankfully limited to a couple of Big Scenes, so she doesn’t manage to take over and ruin the film. Paul Muni is stalwart as the Zapotec Man of the People. Sure the plot probably doesn’t have much resemblance to reality, but we don’t care. It is a good story.

They knew how to tell good stories and, indeed, make a movie in 1939. And they don’t seem to anymore. Is that because screenwriters and directors nowadays are too focused on their own genius to actually make anything worth watching, much less art?

I suppose I am a broken record, but with all this time on your hands and nowhere to go, you are much better served to find and watch some movies from the classic era of Hollywood. For instance, I also watched The Scarlet Empress (1934)–a movie which is nearly ninety years old!–starring Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great and it was really something–beautifully staged and photographed. The art direction was A++.

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Marlene and the remarkably sexy John Lodge (of the Boston Lodges) who went on to be a congressman and governor of Massachusetts after he’d had enough of the movie biz.

And there is no one to compare with Marlene Dietrich these days. Seriously. Who can you think of?

Well, once again, I sound like an old lady.

 

But at least I’m consistent.

If you are looking for something a little more highbrow than old movies, I have something wonderful for you. I have been listening to the Norton Lectures given by Jorge Luis Borges at Harvard in 1967-68. I listen to each lecture (about 45 minutes) while needlepointing. It is very restful and I hope I am learning something from this brilliant man.

He was almost blind by the time he gave these lectures and so he used no notes. Can you imagine! He is just the best.

But what ho, it is the weekend. Have a good one!

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The super moon was awesome!

*The Missouri Waltz (state song)

“I remember when you walked out of Garden State, / ‘Cause you had taste, you had taste, / You had no time to waste.”*

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the experience of watching The Thomas Crown Affair, a movie that was so purely of its time (the sixties) that it actually managed to take me out of the current moment. Well, I continue to think there’s something to that. The other night, some odd flare of nostalgia inspired me to select Garden State for our night’s movie viewing.

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Is there a movie more 2000s than Garden State? It showcases the manic-pixie-dream-girl love interest, an indie soundtrack, and a painfully-earnest script ready to be excerpted in quotation compilations published to Thought Catalog.

So it didn’t change our lives — it’s really pretty bad — but it was mildly captivating for a Sunday evening in quarantine. (“Mildly captivating” is my new bar for entertainment.)

Watching Garden State reminded me of another angsty early-aughts indie film, Donnie Darko, which I similarly remember primarily for its soundtrack. I might have to watch it next.


My apologies if I’ve forced you to you listen to this song and now you feel like this:

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“Mad world,” indeed. Any other ideas for comfortingly era-specific films to add to our list?

*”Outlier” by Spoon