Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Donald O'Connor could do it all

Look at him go! He boozes it up, explains the situation in sing-song tradition, destroys a glockenspiel, and tap-pops the life out of a plethora of balloons. Donald O'Connor could do it all. Truly a charming fellow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Songs of Disappointment and Misgiving

Disappointment and misgiving are the universal consequences of living your life. Soften the blows with song.

Gene Pitney - Town Without Pity. Don't judge Gene for his slightly creeper demeanor here. The town did this to him. The town without pity. Some of you will understand and I hope you got out of there, man.

Skeeter Davis - The End of the World. The ultimate anthem of the deeply depressed. The studio recording is haunting and will somehow make you feel better, bubby.

Dolly Parton - Jolene. It's a foregone conclusion that Jolene will be taking Dolly's man. But what a lovely plea. He wasn't worth it.

Peggy Lee - Black Coffee. The guy didn't call. You know the type. Is that all there is?

Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang. No, Nancy--don't get involved with that gun nut! Too late. Damn.


The Temptations - Papa was a Rolling Stone. Disappointment in a parent--does it ever entirely go away? I need to start a blog completely dedicated to The Temptations. What a run they had.

Amy Winehouse - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? If you have to ask... *sigh*

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Movies You May Have Missed - Submarine (2010)

Submarine is one of those films I meant to see when it came out, but I have a hard time getting to the movie theater. Hopefully I'll be more big-screen inclined for 2012, but in the meantime, here's a coming-of-age flick available on DVD that works out fine on the home viewing system.

Shot in watery Wales by director Richard Ayoade (actor/writer known for his TV comedy, "The IT Crowd" in England) and based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine is a nicely balanced combination of visual storytelling and deadpan teen angst that arty weirdos and their sympathetic counterparts will find worthwhile. At least, that's my best guess. If you see it and feel I've steered you wrong, you'll still be filmically enriched--I guarantee it.

Oliver, attempting to decipher the mysteries of human behavior
Oliver Tate (played by Craig Roberts, with the pie-eyed yet weaselly sincerity of an actual teenager) is at the age when hyper-driven hormones and social idiocy lead to emotional desperation—and comedy! He's a dreamy loner bookworm type with fantasies of importance way out of proportion to his humble social-standing at his school. The era is implied, somewhere in the late 80s/early 90s when hands-off parenting and high-divorce-rate fallout left a kind of Lord of the Flies aftertaste in the memory banks of that generation. Ayoade is careful not to be too specific with the date, which is kind of an annoying indie-film staple. Just pick a date and go with it, directors—it will be OK. You don't have to feature ridiculous clothes and hairstyles if you don't want to. We'll get it.

Oliver is fixated on his classmate Jordanna Bevan (Yasmin Paige), she of the dark pageboy hair framing naughty brown eyes. Wearing a brilliant red overcoat and lighting matches in the woods, one by one, who wouldn't find her enchanting? Unfortunately, she's a bit of a bully, which leads to their early meet-cute, involving a victim, a large mud puddle, and photographic sexual revenge. It's a heady romance in the making.

Oliver's parents, Lloyd and Jill, are played by the subtly charismatic Noah Taylor (who has a solid background in teen drama) and an unrecognizable Sally Hawkins, who was so bubbly and alive in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky. Here, she's one drab beige-clad mushroom-haired mom, simmering with domestic dissatisfaction. Lloyd, a hirsute marine biologist, prone to fits of melancholia after getting canned from his educational-film gig, has not been successful in the marital bed for seven months. Oliver knows this because the dimmer light-switch in his parents' bedroom has not been adjusted in all that time. It's these kinds of details that keep the film from flying off into too-airy territory (see Wes Anderson). A snooping only-child like Oliver would make note of such a thing.

Ayoade's camera work is ace throughout. Oliver and Jordanna's romantic starting point is shot on the fly, hand-held with existing light, racing about abandoned amusement parks and train yards, signifying youthful excitement but also emotional detachment. Jordanna's penciled directive, outlining their relationship, is sent floating down a rushing gray river, noting that "emotions" are not allowed, since that would be "too gay." Her pyromania and smirking charms are cinematic but also lead you to believe there is trouble brewing beneath her outwardly sophisticated pose. This all contrasts excruciatingly with the static wide-shots of Oliver's would-be seduction scene in his hilltop house while his parents are on their weekly night out. He's worked hard to provide the adequate amount of candle light and rose petals on the bed—it's pretty gnarly.

On the parallel adult-drama plane, Oliver's parents are caught in a triangle of grotesque proportions when Jill's ex-boyfriend and new-age aura-reader, Graham (Paddy Considine), moves in next door. Graham's rainbow-shellacked, shag-carpeted van says so much about his character. But Considine doesn't rest on that alone, giving Graham layers of icky hair-gelled, faux-karate-kicking, leather-pantsed anti-charm for Jill to fixate on. Lloyd sits by, sipping lemon water and staring balefully, beautifully, into the middle distance, as only Noah Taylor can so successfully do. How Oliver deals with this marital discord while trying to become "the world's best boyfriend" (a noble but near-impossible task for a 15-year-old) is the crux of it all.

This is a good one, so give it a go.

Who would like this film: 
-Film geeks trying to avoid slow-paced, dialogue-heavy films about human emotions that actually avoid delving too deeply into human emotions.
-Self-proclaimed weirdos and misfits and the people who love them.
-Camera people.
-Proponents of intelligence and subtle comedy.
-Noah Taylor fans. Sally Hawkins fans as well.
-Sensitive teens and their adult counterparts.
-Harold and Maude people.

Who wouldn't like this film:
-Probably my brother, although sometimes he surprises me.
-That guy from high school who thought he was so great but who was in reality, a dipshit.
-Members of the American Tea Party.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Squirrel Appreciation Day - how did you celebrate?

Konrad Gesner made this woodcut of a squirrel in the mid-sixteenth century.
Squirrels were much more fierce back then.
Feel free to share your feelings about Squirrel Appreciation Day. I know the parades, parties and festivals kept everyone feeling lively and nimble. Take a moment of quiet reflection and feel free to leave your comments. Peace out, squirrel appreciators.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Celebrity Wife Swap poetry recap - Niecy Nash/Tina Yothers

Celebrity Wife Swap episodes are coming fast and furious from ABC, and I've made an insane and inexplicable commitment to recap them in poetry form. But this week's episode, featuring comedian Niecy Nash and former child star Tina Yothers, just didn't inspire me to great poetic heights.

I'm not blaming Niecy or Tina. Niecy's work on Reno 911 puts her in the pantheon of TV satirists I'll always love and respect. And Tina Yothers was great as the deadpan smart-ass little sister on Family Ties, until she hit her awkward years and quit television to sing in a band with her brother.

(Note: this is not Tina's band, Jaded, but a precursor as featured on Family Ties.)

(Niecy shows up about a minute in. Reno 911 is NSFW, just so you know.)

Their families are great, living on polar opposite planes. Niecy's glamorous city life with teenagers and workaholic (and hot) dad contrasts with Tina's country ways with chickens and camping trips with her electrical contractor husband. Everyone learns Valuable Lessons and everyone is very sweet-natured in this episode, with the exception of four-year-old Yothers-spawn, Bobby, who reacts to his substitute mom with supreme brattiness. But do I want to write poetry about a willful toddler from Ontario, California?

Let's go with Haikus.

Tina, Niecy, swap
Child threatens/rooster attacks
ABC reaches

Niecy goes camping
bitching vociferously
Why sleep on the ground
when you don't have to?

Tina watches Gram
doing all the housekeeping
ignored by family

Bobby, a challenge.
Pushing Niecy in the fire
will not endear her

Teen-agers are tough
barely talking to Tina
or one another

Tina hosts dinner
around a table. How quaint.
Gram likes this Tina

Niecy adds glamour
Mani-pedis and tough love
red carpet weirdness

Tina tries horses
Teen-agers overcome their fears
but still miss the mall

Valuable Lessons
We're all learning them, aren't we?
on Celebrity Wife Swap

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cedric Martinez SOPA Protest Moment

Wikipedia has shut down for 24 hours to protest the SOPA copyright legislation that could possibly have dire effects on free-speech aspects of the Internet. Nobody can look up anything on Wikipedia today--yo! In defiance of SOPA, I'm staging a different kind of protest: posting this photo of Cedric, former personal trainer and now arch-nemesis of the Vanderpump family.

I don't know where I got this photo. I just found it in a folder marked "misc." Cedric is mysterious that way. Claiming he was a child of a Parisian street-whore on last season's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Cedric was dramatically ousted from the Vanderpump household where he had been living, rent free, for an undisclosed amount of time. Turns out his "abandonment issues" might have been a bit exaggerated in order to take advantage of the Lisa Vanderpump's ongoing hospitality.

When he threatened to blackmail Ken Vanderpump, it was all over for Cedric, on the show and in the exclusive Vanderpump ciricle of friends. But not on the Internet! I continue to get lots of traffic on my site from people looking for an image of the irrepressible lad. And he just showed up again on the last episode of season two, which I missed, because Real Housewives shows tend to give me mental illness.

But I want to take a stand. So here's a photo of Cedric. Have at it, Google searchers. I don't know who took this photo. It appears to be a screen capture, which could make it doubly copyright troublesome. Will my site be shut down due to Cedric-search fever? I guess we'll test the waters and see what happens. STAY TUNED, here on the currently free-form Internet.

Cedric Martinez - successful fame-whore

Beauty is Embarassing trailer

A new documentary about artist, puppeteer and set designer, Wayne White. This looks bitchin'!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Celebrity Wife Swap poetry recap - Flavor Flav/Dee Snider

What could be more apropos than a poetry recap of this 80s-centric episode of Celebrity Wife Swap, featuring the Flavor Flav and Dee Snider households? What could be more inspirational than the sweet retro sounds of Twisted Sister and Public Enemy? I'm going to attempt my first heavy-metal rap lyrics for the recap here. I've got my rhyming dictionary in hand and I'm feeling it. Are you feeling it? Yeah, we're feeling it.

Dee Snider is best known as the lead singer/hair and Lycra-spandex man in Twisted Sister. He met his future wife, Suzette when she was 15 years old. Eww. But they've been together for 35 years, so yay! They have four kids, teen-ager age to late 20s. Suzette runs the Snider household with an iron but loving hand, fixing up the house, cooking the meals, cutting her kids' and their dogs' hair, being a lover and a wife. Don't mess with her. She can caulk and power-wash a deck in a skin-tight tank top. I really think she should've been fronting a band in the 80s, but that's just my opinion.

Flavor Flav is the self-proclaimed World's Best Hype Man. He loves hanging out with friends all day, greeting fans wherever he goes, continuing to wear large clocks around his neck, compulsively talking business on his cell phone, and going bowling. The bowling is pretty endearing. I mean, who among us has such passion for bowling? I do, actually. I think bowling is a fun family activity. The problem is, Flav never takes his family bowling.

In fact, he and his fiancé, Liz, don't do many outings as a family at all. Rather, they're doing their personal activities, individually. Liz's gig is to hand their adorable four-year-old son over to her mom who is also her paid nanny for seven hours a day so she can read self-help books, crochet, or go gambling. Her teenage son is the responsible, handsome and appealing member of the family. Unfortunately, it's not celebrity teen-ager swap.

And now, give it up for Bowling Alone with Flavor Flav

The Sniders are pretty hyper
combo inner-city hipster
and suburban hesher.
Trucker hats and mohawks
Suzette's on deck with her caulk
which also needs a power wash.
An adventure of intensity
for this shapely queen bee

The Flavs are kind of hazy
Laid back and lazy
Flav's off with friends, bowling
while Liz just does her own thing
Grandma's watching the baby
Is that the way things should be?
There's no predicting Flavor Flav
who has been known to misbehave.

There's no stopping
two wives from swapping
Celebrity households on TV
For this I got a college degree?

Suzette's being a jerk
Saying Las Vegas is so ugly,
this house could use some work.
But she's having fun with the family
Flavor's involved.
They even trampoline.
How come he's not off bowling?
And could he please stop always phoning?

It's frickin' disrespectful and rude
Like some selfish frat-house dude.
Suzette will have her say
but first she must crochet
and sit around like furniture
while Flav goes about his day
At least there's family bungee jumping
along with annoying public star-humping

The Sniders have tons of energy
as long as Liz is their employee.
She's rubbing gel in one son's hair
while a teenage daughter's music blares
from somewhere down the stairs
and dinner's on for eight
which no one knows how to make
Pizza take-out! Go aheeaaaaad!

Rule-change day!
Liz goes on vacay.
The Snider men are dismayed
they'll be power-washing today.
With a lesson in crochet
in the heavy-metal way.
But it's not so bad, they say,
to be gambling protégés

But Flavor's so uncool,
disappearing like he's prankin',
so Suzette feels like a fool
and says that Flavor needs a spankin'.
Rule one is more family time
Sky-diving's on the schedule
We pause this poem briefly
for a word from Scrubbing Bubbles.

We're back and Suzette's pissed
She feels like she's been 'dissed.
She wants Flav off his cell phone
and to act like he is full-grown.
But Flav's a cheery narcissist.
I fear these two can't coexist
I am running out of gas
as Suzette shouts, "kiss my little white ass!"

Go aheeeeaaaad!

The Sniders are a love-fest.
They've passed this reality-TV test.
The deck looks great, there's hugs and kisses
They all can't wait
with crocheting inner bliss
to see if Suzette and Flavor
were a hit or miss.
I think we all can guess.

Flavor doesn't want to bowl alone.
"Then go with us!" Suzette moans.
Then cries with deep despair
as Flav adjusts his cap and stares.
He played her like a piano
and it seems he does not care.
Be sure to check with Geico
for your insurance, and compare!

Suzette leaves for a hotel
Flavor Flav's put her through hell.
Talking on the cell phone
like a rude dumbbell.
And sending the baby away
on Suzette's big family day.
This whole deal's tankin'.
But still there is no spankin'.

Reunited and Suzette screams.
Every ABC producer's dream.
While Liz is talking, Flav's cell-phone rings
There's commotion and general squawking.
Dee sees his wife lit up and it's strange
I hope Flavor Flav can change
It's doubtful, hey, but wait.
He will not accommodate fans while with his family.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Journey to the center of my desk

We just got a digital microscope. I mean, it's for my kid, of course, but because it can take photos, it's now for me too. Let's pretend you're the size of a flea, hopping about my desk, looking for fresh blood. What might you find before I spray you with insecticide, shortening your lifespan considerably?

Can you figure out what you're looking at here? (Answers below.) My kid is also receiving his first subscription to "Children's Highlights" magazine so you can kind of see where my head's at lately.

1.) It's a crotch-shot, but of whom?

2.) What in the world could this be?

3.) This is intriguing. But what is it?

4.) How perplexing!

5.) Does this look familiar?

Answer key:

1.) It's the crotch of one hundreds of anonymous extras from the spectacular By a Waterfall scene in "Footlight Parade." Choreographed by the indomitable Busby Berkeley in 1933. From The Busby Berkeley Book.

2.) Why, it's a whoopee cushion, of course! Hours of prankster fun!

3.) It's a close-up of the eye of Tor Johnson, as illustrated by Drew Friedman in his exquisitely demented dot-dot-dot drawing style. From "Tor Johnson in New York" in the collection Warts & All by Drew and Josh Alan Friedman.

4.) It's an unfortunate child model in an ad for yarn, from the 1959-60 edition of McCall's Needlework & Crafts magazine. I hope the other children didn't taunt him too much after this came out!

5.) If you guessed a road map of Bridgeport, Connecticut--you're right! I was just there (passing through) last week. Looks better here than in person, but that's Bridgeport for ya.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Celebrity Wife Swap Poetry Recap - Gary Busey/Ted Haggard

It's time for another poetry recap of Celebrity Wife Swap! Wait--don't click over to your porn bookmarks yet! Poetry is on the wane and I'm just trying to shore up an ancient art form with this week's celebrity muses, Gary Busey and Ted Haggard.

I only know Ted Haggard from his 2006 scandal. As evangelical pastor of the New Life Church (10,000 congregants strong), Ted was caught having relations with a former male prostitute. Crystal meth was involved. As scandals go, it was a big one. He was ousted by the church and even told to pack up his family and move from Colorado, his home base. But Ted and his family are back and have started a new church in a barn on their property. You might think: Hypocrite! Blasphemy! Or all number of things when the name Ted Haggard is mentioned, but he's more than meets the eye.

Mainly, he's an out bisexual now, who welcomes people of all backgrounds to his new St. James church. His wife Gayle, decided to stay with him and they continue to live together with their five children, some who are at home, some who are in college or doing missionary work. They have made an arrangement that apparently works for them. I assume that years of extreme sexual repression made Ted prone to a spectacular mental blow-out, but he appears to be on the mend. Still, how will his family deal with Steffanie, the Jewish hypnotherapist, past-life-living, self-proclaimed "Busey Whisperer" fiancée of Gary Busey when she comes a'calling?

Gary Busey is one of my favorite character actors. He's now primarily known for acting ca-razy during public events, but the American public forgets that he's not merely a former cocaine addict, he also suffered a skull fracture in a helmet-less motorcycle accident in 1988. This resulted in brain damage that is most likely the cause of his impulsiveness and super-high levels of intensity. Although he's always been intense. That's partially what makes him a great character actor. His other gift comes from a weird charisma that is truly American in scope--unpredictable, mocking, and prone to violence, yet somehow lovable, despite everything. How will Gary and his 14-month-old son, Luke, handle the Christian wife of a once-fallen-but-now-rising evangelical pastor?

Let's explore this episode with a combination of automatic writing (a la Busey, who is more verbally poetic than most), and free-verse, representing the possibilities available to all of us through creative growth, personal spirituality and the forgiveness of nearly...anything.

Note: Busey often exclaims excitedly in a high-pitched baby voice, often proclaiming, "YAY!" or sometimes with nonsense syllabic concepts. While Gayle has an unconscious habit of pursing her lips and saying, "Hmmm," whenever things get a little weird or unfathomable. And as evidenced by the Comedy Central show, "I'm With Busey," that has been known to happen in the Busey household.

Gary Busey Loves a Good Beef Rib

I'm Gary Busey.
Prepare for the best, prepare for the worst
  and expect the unexpected.
I've been dead, surrounded by golden balls. Those were angels.
Strangers assume that I must be crazy.
Thirty-one past lives later, that's just something that's a whim,
  you know?

Gary lives with knowledge.
Finally Understanding Nothing: Fun.

Ted muses, He may be a real celebrity.
We're a mistake celebrity.
 Gayle's manual proclaims
Families are worth fighting for.

But you want to live in harmony,
You want to live in peace, says Steffanie
The Haggard family has
specific energies and feelings
that are almost a little sad.


Gary and Gayle:
I am a church.
Past-life evolution is true.
Spirituality is for people who've already been
  to hell and back.
Huh! Yay! A bah bah bah bah!
  Wah wah wah!

When it comes to gay marriage,
says Steffanie, The public-faced Ted
says what the public wants to hear.
Although gays, bisexuals, drug users, ex-addicts
are all welcome at St. James,
including Ted.

Native-American Bob attempts to address
three centuries of cultural annihilation
by greeting Gayle with the phrase,
So you're the lost soul.

Gary gets his soul cleansed
with a suitcase full of drum
while Gayle sits this one out,
not sure what to make of Indian Bob
who Gary says is
sincerely, spiritually, on the money

Gary eats beef ribs falling off the bone
like Kobi beef from Japan.
Gayle waits to tell her story
But Gary, like most of us,
could honestly care less
And dinner was fantastic

Gayle says, I do really like you
just the way you are.
Gary says, this touches me
very deeply and you come to realize
you really need to hear that.

Ted's daughter wants to spend time
with her dad
and get to know him more.
This simple request
turns into an argument with her brother
who wants to know
why doesn't she just spend more time
with their dad.
This argument, brought to you by
tabloid-fueled scandal fall-out.

The new doors of communication
are opening over coffee
and stroller walks
and simple suppers
and hikes in the hills
where people are told to
listen as well as talk.

Gary quotes Don Henley about
the nature of scandal
It's not the Bible, Gayle,
But it's a start.

The kindness of Gayle
was beautiful today to me.
I learned a lot from it.
It's emotional and it's good,
says Gary.
Gayle has taught him to listen
There's hope for us all yet.

God is not ashamed of me.
I'm his son, says Ted.
Ted, you're great, says Gary.

While selling insurance,
Ted heard the voice of God,
calling him back to Colorado Springs.
Insurance will do that.

Gary speaks of Easter
but questions the bunnies,
the eggs.
This wife swap has been
a miracle and a blessing.

Steffanie astral-projected
to Gary one night.
That was very thoughtful.

Gary tells us
Everything's alive
Everything's beautiful
It's wonderful to look at
No matter where you look

I hope Ted and Gayle make it, those crazy kids. I suggest an ongoing course of dance therapy, particularly the duet from Just Dance 3 for the Wii - "No Limit" by 2 Unlimited. It's strenuous but so is living under the glaring eye of the media, your congregants, and God Himself. Good luck, you two!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Celebrity Wife Swap Poetry Recap - Carnie Wilson/Tracey Gold

I apologize up front for this, but when I read that ABC was going to air Celebrity Wife Swap this television season, I felt in my bones that it must be recapped somehow. You might remember Wife Swap, where two wives switch households for two weeks. The first part of the week, the wives follow the typical household rules. Then the house rules are changed by the new wives and hi-jinks, hostility, and emotionally damaging but enlightening chaos ensues (ABC hopes).

I completely missed the premiere, which I think is an encouraging sign for my mental health. It apparently consisted of a preview with Carnie Wilson and Tracey Gold, before commencing with the main event, starring Gary Busey and Ted Haggard as the celebrity husbands. You KNOW I'll be recapping that in poetry form. For now: here's Carnie and Tracey.
Carnie with Rob

Carnie Wilson, despite her career as a singer in the syrupy group Wilson Phillips (known to anyone who's shopped in Ross Dress for Less), is a very funny, down-to-earth lady, who I wish would sit in a rehearsal with my band. Not just so she could teach us how to properly harmonize, but because I sense we would laugh and laugh together. She's married to Rob Bonfiglio, who's listed as the composer of Colonial Times be Rockin' on Carnie's Christmas album, "I Built a Smokehouse." Both Carnie and Tracey seem like kind, reasonable people, so ABC editors made Rob the villain in this episode. Gotta have a villain, or at least a grumpy-grump.
Tracey with everyone

Tracey Gold is best known for playing put-upon Carol Seaver in the 80s sitcom, "Growing Pains."  She's also an anorexia survivor (pitted against serial weight gainer/loser Wilson--someone in ABC casting must have been hoping for body drama, I guess). But I'll always cherish her in the role of homicidal sociopath Darcy Palmer, in the made-for-TV drama, "Face of Evil." I still can't use an airport restroom without thinking of Gold in that film, disembarking from a plane, visiting the airport restroom (as we all do) and then dragging a young woman under her bathroom stall and brutally murdering her in order to steal her suitcase and entire identity, all within the span of moments. That's talent!

And now, Celebrity Wife Swap - Carnie Wilson Makes Pancakes, in syllabics of seven. Again, I apologize.

Carnie Wilson, a great gal, 
blanches while reading the house
manual of Tracey Gold,
whose organized existence
inspires a tremendous belch.

Tracey eyeballs sausages
left in a pan alongside
apples marked by baby teeth
in a household abandoned
by form, function, or husband.

Carnie greets Tracey's husband
and four boys, that's right, FOUR BOYS,
all who are dressed and driven
and organized by parents
whose motto is: Never Late.

Carnie's husband, Absent Rob,
composer and musician,
will not emerge for dinner.
His daughters miss their daddy,
like Frank Zappa, but unknown.

Carnie does the laundry and
makes the beds and picks out clothes
and cooks pancakes for breakfast
and is very exhausted.
Tracey's husband is nonplussed.

Tracey watches Carnie's aunt
and part-time housekeeper
keep house as she sits and waits
for Absent Rob to notice
he is a husband-father.

But now the rules are altered
Rob will have to be present.
Tracie's house will have no rules.
Both husbands are terrified,
of dinner, of mess, ha ha!

Dinner is a disaster.
Rob's children cry, Who is Rob?
He is a stranger to us!
Rob ducks into his studio,
guitar plucking to no one.

Carnie's anarchy results
in unmade beds, Silly String,
pink hair and no swim lessons.
The boys live in a Thrillsville
Tracey's husband vows to clean.

End of swap, Tracey's boys will
always remember this time.
Carnie's girls may someday meet
their father in passing in
the hallway between bedtimes.

The couples meet and make out. 
Well, one couple does, guess who?
The other, gapes and wonders.
"I want that," whispers Carnie,
tears in her eyes. Oh, Carnie.

She deserves so much better.
"I know you're needy," says Rob.
"Everyone needs affection,"
says Tracey's husband, who can't
believe how lucky he is.

They will carry on, scouring
and raising their four kind sons.
Carnie, thrumming Earth Goddess,
has mislaid her acolyte.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Come Fly With Me!

Hey everybody! Welcome back to the virtual existence. I had a happy holiday and I hope you did too. I actually went away from the house, far away, and came back jet-lagged, yet refreshed. Let's review.

First, there was the tree. If it were up to me, I would completely ignore Christmas as much as humanly possible. In fact, I would convert to Judaism and be done with Christmas once and for all (and also because Judaism makes a lot more sense to me than Christianity, although deep down, Buddhism seems to make the MOST sense to my particular sensibilities--and the conversion process is less lengthy besides). Where was I? Oh yes, the tree. I have a nine-year-old who LOVES Christmas. He loves the lights. He loves Santa Claus (even though he doesn't believe as of this year *sniff*). But he especially loves getting presents, so dang it, there WILL be a tree in our living room, come Christmas time. Otherwise--where would we place the presents?

This year we were leaving on Christmas day to visit family and friends on the East Coast. So the tree had to go up a little earlier. No problem. Our nearby Orchard Supply Hardware had an excellent selection of affordable firs. Here is the first ornament I ever made as an adult living on my own:

Candy was eaten long before box was made into an ornament
This ornament, consisting of an empty box of Atomic Fire Ball candies, hung by a red ribbon, was first hung in San Francisco during my very early 20s. My roommates wouldn't chip in to help buy a tree that year (I was very poor and apparently so were they, having blown their waitressing and au pair profits on cocaine). So I used a wooden ladder that I found alongside our apartment building, and made a bunch of ornaments out of stuff I found around the house. This is the lone surviving ornament from that time.

If you hang some lights and homemade ornaments on an old wooden ladder propped up in your bay window as the fog horns blawmp the night away, it's actually quite festive. Although, truthfully, I set up the Christmas ladder as a sarcastic rejoinder to my chintzy roommates. They got me back though by loving it and telling me what a great idea. I'm always surprised to find this ornament at the bottom of my ornament bin. I guess I have a hard time letting go of the atomic-age past.

Then what happened? Well, I visited an old friend from high school/college who lives nearby but who I hardly ever get to see. I bet you have friends like that too. Before we left on our trip, I vowed to make super-human efforts to see her and I'm so glad I did. Kim and her family have lived a sustainable small-footprint existence for decades, before that was considered fashionable. She has a lovely garden and lovely compost heaps and a house made from straw bales and plaster. Plus an impressive chicken coop that's populated by some awesome chickens. Take a look at this beauty:

Awesome Chicken
I love photos of chickens--don't know why. I just love birds in a framed context in general. Birds are ancient and interesting creatures. All these chickens lay brown eggs and one shy hen (not pictured) had a crest of feathers that looked like an older lady's best church hat. That's awesome.

What a looker! And she knows it
On Xmas day we headed east and made our way to my mother-in-law's in Stonington, Connecticut. Where is that, you ask. It's right up the street from Mystic. I'm sure you've seen Julia Roberts' first feature film, "Mystic Pizza." Everyone on planet Earth has mysteriously seen this movie. Here's what Mystic looks like in the movie:

And here's what the Mystic Seaport looked like, back in the late 50s, when these home movies by the late Robbins Barstow were shot (Mystic starts around 1:30). Sixty years later, the seaport looks basically the same.

Truth be told, much of the area looks similar to when it was first inhabited by ship builders and commercial fishermen, starting in 1649. My in-laws have interesting taste in their geographical headquarters. You can also see other choice areas of New England in this video, including what looks like the beach at Watch Hill, Rhode Island, set to Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers' song, "New England."

Where my mother-in-law lives, tiny beach cottages sit alongside over-sized second homes built by city-folk. Her street consists of mostly modest homes, some original from the 40s; others rebuilt to new hurricane codes. Every once in a while, someone comes along and tries to shove their McMansion development into a small lot, with an ocean view, of course. Sometimes they get their way, unfortunately.

But forget about them. Let's look at a dock with a wind-chill factor of sometimes mega proportions.

This little beach is down the street from my lovely mother-in-law's house and it's perfect for kayaking during the summer. In the winter--it looks pretty, but don't touch--you'll shiver.

There's frickin' big rocks in Stonington. All over New England, there's rocks galore, but Stonington is especially rock-laden. Hopeful and obsessive original settlers built land-ownership fencing made entirely from rocks from their properties and these walls are still standing throughout the area. Weird, because they're perfect fences held together without concrete or supports.

A big fallen tree, washed up on Trestle Beach. This beach is full of seashells (mostly colorless and ugly but there's some nice scallops). It runs alongside the train tracks and if you have any toddlers in your party, they will surely find that thrilling.

Our friend Jen in New Jersey decorated her house festively with olden-days Christmas decor and what's nice about that, besides it being old-timey, sparkly and nostalgic, is that most all of it came from her grandmother's collection. Authentic Christmas memories.

I'm sorry but I have to include this tie I found at the Goodwill near Westerly, Rhode Island. Yes, you are seeing a guy sitting on flying toilets, while plungers and toilet paper sail forth alongside him. Fascinating!

The tie was designed by After Dark--the Macintosh screen-saver people who brought us flying toasters throughout the early 90s. Glad they trademarked the flying toilets--wouldn't want someone stealing this flash of fashion brilliance. I didn't buy this tie. Even I have my kitsch limits.

Who wants an Utz potato-chip treat? Om num num num. (According to someone's Internet list, "yum" is out but "om num num" is in--I'm starting out the new year right on trend.)

By the way, whoopee cushions make fabulous stocking stuffers.