Monday, July 31, 2006
That song that keeps playing in your head
When it popped into my head, I was surprised to find that I remembered all the words. Now, this tune hit #5 on the pop charts and #2 on R&B in 1962. 1962. Yes, I was hardly outta the womb. OK, I was 11 years outta the womb. Still. Great lyrics and a fine, fine melody stick with you.
As Ketty tells it, the song was recorded in a garage studio in Los Angeles, and her vocals were recorded in a bathroom. If this is the sound you get from a garage bathroom, I say ditch those fancy-schmancy studios and head for the, um, head.
Lots of singers have covered "Love Letters," which was nominated for a Best Song Oscar in 1945 for the film (surprise!) Love Letters, but no one - not Elvis, Diana Krall, no one - can hold a candle to Ketty and that wonderful tink-a-tink-tink piano accompaniment.
And don't you love the way she sang: "I mem-o-o-ri-i-ize every line"?
So, off you go now to sort through your 45s and pull out the great Ketty Lester's "Love Letters." Or find a download online. "Love letters straight from your heart . . . " Must've been great to crank that one up on the car radio on date-night in 1962.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Photo Regurgitation: Amherst MA
And if you're ever in Amherst, The Black Walnut Inn is the place to stay. This B&B has wonderful, comfortable rooms (wi-fi, even!) and the breakfasts are out of this world. They bake their own bread, and we had freshly picked blueberries yesterday morning. (And thanks for leaving the apple pie out last evening - yum!).
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Off to the land of Dickinson
(And as usual, when I'm in a hurry, Blogger refuses to cooperate on posting a picture. Sigh. Somebody throttle them while I'm gone, OK?)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Oh, give me a home . . .
Yes, it's that time again. Time for Shorty to try to find a permanent (semi-permanent?), affordable, secure, convenient home in New York City. As you can see from the picture, I've already started my search. (I can't figure out if that is a cat or a very big tenement rat at my feet, but never mind.)
Currently, I'm in a high-priced, cute little studio apartment on the wonderful Upper East Side. It's a sublet (and truth be told, I don't know how up-and-up it is) - the couple I'm renting from own it but live in a larger place a few blocks away. They came to my rescue when I was unable to find something on my apartment-hunting expedition in April (and thanks, craigslist), but now I'm ready to move my stuff up from Atlanta and have a place of my own.
Another impetus (don't you love that word?) for moving now is that I've been presented with enormous utility bills (electricity, telephone, internet, cable TV) - more than twice what I was told they would be - and I just can't afford it. And no, I didn't do anything out of the ordinary electricity-wise to drive up the cost. Don't know if my landlord didn't have a grasp of the utility costs or if he just wanted me to rent so badly that he fudged it. But really - outrageous! Yikes!
So between wanting more space for my own furniture and the high maintenance costs of the studio apartment, I have no choice but to hit the road sooner than I was planning to do. Fortunately, I'm not as squeezed for time as I was in April - I can stay where I am as long as I want, until I find something else. But now I've got the bug and am ready to start searching.
So if you hear of anything near transportation that dumps off into Grand Central Station . . .
Monday, July 24, 2006
Ain't no cure for the Summertime Blogs
Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's the humidity. Maybe those brain flashes are really just mini-strokes. That could explain a lot, since I can't seem to concentrate on anything for more than a minute or two. Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, perhaps?
Started a new book over the weekend, The Time-Traveler's Wife. Big mistake. Good book, but it takes a lot of concentration, since the guy keeps meeting himself (and his future wife/wife) coming and going. Problem is, I insist on trying to sort out the years and the logistics of the thing, and it makes my head hurt a little to figure on it so much. Sigh. Maybe I should just stick with Miss Piggle-Wiggle this summer.
And I'm doing my best to ignore the world. Fingers in ears, la-la-la. Not that I don't care that things seems to be getting out of control; I do care. But, 1) there's nothing I can do about it; 2) nobody would listen to me, even if I had a solution; and 3) there's nothing I can do about it. Talk about loss of political efficacy! Sheesh! (Look it up if you don't know what it means - bet you're suffering from it, too.) So, tra-la-la, walk the dog, go to work, do good stuff, eat comfort food. Call me when it's over, friends.
Enough whining. For now, anyway.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
The play's the thing
My seat, however, is front and center. (No, really. Front row, center.) What the hell, it's Alan Bennett and won all kinds of Tonys, etc., so Griffiths/de la Tour or no, it's probably worth it. Well, yes, it was. Desmond Barrit and Maggie Steed were marvelous in the Griffiths/de la Tour roles.
The big question "What is education?" soaked up every corner of the script. Is it facts and figures? Artistic impression of the facts and figures? A denial of all facts and figures, giving it a personal spin? "Real" life? A combo of all/some of the above? What do you think?
At any rate, the boys were the real stars of this play. Fabulous performances by all. And any play that offers renditions of "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," "Bye Bye Blackbird," and "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye," not to mention excerpts from Brief Encounter and Now, Voyager certainly has my vote.
A lot to think about, but not tedious. I want to get my hands on the play and read it for myself. Then see it again. Point is, in this case, it doesn't really matter who is in the play (as long as they are good) - the play is the thing.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The Friday bell has rung. You may put your books away, grab your lunchbox, and head for home. Or elsewhere.
The only decision left to make: a glass of red, or a g&t?
Cheers, my little martini glasses!
(Look closely at the book cover. Something tells me there was no "www." when Cocktail Time was published. Hmm.)
Blogroll Clean-out Time
So, it's blog clean-out time. I've been busy with the Pledge and feather duster, dumping the things I don't read much anymore or that don't speak to me right now and putting them in the trash.
Problem is, I need ideas for mo' fun blogs to freshen the list.
Referrals, anyone? Give me some new blog-reading material. Please.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Hot time in the old town
But today, after 5 minutes of the alarm and an "ignore, please" announcement, a voice comes back over the intercom with "Leave the building! Leave the building!" OK. Will do. Anything's better than listening to the alarm run amok.
Tar-aroma'd smoke (not much) greeted us in the stairwell as we made our way to the ground floor and out the front door. The fire truck was already out front.
But here's the important news: I'm here to tell you that the reputation of good lookin' FDNY fire-fighters is not just some rumor. I mean, these were the cutest buncha guys I've seen since I hit NYC! Yowser!
They tromped into the building, checked out the situation (torch meets tar on roof, causing smoke, causing fire alarm, etc.), took care of it, and tromped back out.
But they sure were cuties! Just another day in the city.
Does the universe summon up retribution for people so completely brain-dead that they can't figure out the simple physics of getting x-number of people at x-height/weight both leaving the train and entering the train through 3-foot sliding doorways? (Wait! I think I had that exact word problem in 4-grade arithmetic! Never thought it would come in handy, though.) Add to the problem the noodle-brained schmuck body-blocking a foot-and-a-half of that doorway, and well, I think the MTA gods would be completely justified in liquidating said drain sludge.
And if they don't come through, I'm sure my laptop-laden briefcase, strategically located around family-jewels height just might serve as subway karma. Then I just smile sweetly and say, Ooh! Sorry! and give a little helpless shrug as I leave the train. . .
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Three generations of summer fun
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty . . .
Most Southerners eat hominy grits . Hominy grits are made from regular old corn that's been soaked in - get this - lye water, for goodness' sake!, until the kernels swell up to more'n twice their size. These fat, lye-puffed corn kernels are dried and ground up into a sort of coarse meal-like substance that we in the South call - ta-da! - grits. Sure, you can buy organic stone-ground corn grits, but that takes some of the dangerous fun out of it.
Anyway, once you have your ground-up, dried-up, lyed-up corn girts, boil 'em up to whatever consistency you like - thick, runny, or something in between. Add butter, cheese, onion, jalepeno peppers - whatever floats your boat. (Here's a whole list of grits recipes, just in case you're interested.) A nice little cream of wheat-like breakfast dish, only not so wussy.
Grits - like 'em or lump 'em. I agree there's no accounting for taste (good or bad). I do love 'em, medium-runny with butter or with cheese and jalepenos. Yu-um!
Add sausage and you have a completely delicious but please-don't-tell-me-where-it-comes-from breakfast.
Monday, July 17, 2006
We're havin' a heat wave . . .
How are you staying cool? Is it what you put in your body? Or on/off your body? Is it mind over matter?
Here's one thing I do: pretend it's Christmas. That's right. Close the blinds, crank up the air-conditioner, light the cinnamon candles, whip up some cocoa, and shove White Christmas, A Christmas Carol (any iteration - you know me), Rudolph - whatever - into the DVD player. No presents or parties involved - just you and snow and Bing and cinnamon. Brrr!
Now you. Seems it's hot all over, and we need all the suggestions we can get.
Just hear those sleigh bells jing-a-ling . . .
Vengeance, Art, and Being Just Too Darn Young to Comment
Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! (Or in this case, blowing up yourself and your home to spite an ex-spouse.) Last Monday, this doctor blew up his wonderful little building on East 60-something so his ex-wife couldn't get her hands on it. He killed himself in the process, which I'm sure was the plan, though he lingered for almost a week.
What a gift to UES developers! Land cleared - ready for an ugly high-rise of some kind, ex-wife (if she gets a cut of it) ready to sell for the big bucks - 'way bigger than the building's estimated worth pre-blow-up. Kinda have to wonder what the guy was thinking, given the circumstances. If he managed to tie up legal and financial details of insurance, etc., to ensure "no building = no money," then he surely went the extra mile and a half to keep the woman's hands off the dough. If not - and she manages to get a cut of the action - then he could've used a copy of vengeance for Dummies.
Big news - and big anger - here in NY about the Metropolitan Museum of Art increasing its suggested admission fee from $15 to $20 August 1. Is it worth it? Well, certainly the Met holds one of the most (if not the most) extensive collection in the world - a perfect one-stop-shop, if you will, of arts from every period. I'm sure the upkeep, etc., costs are enormous. Every little penny counts. But. I don't think that's the point. The point is that it's too darn expensive for regular Joes and Janes to frequent the place. Goodness, I'd be there every other day if I had the money to get into the place. The increase has caused much outrage, so much so that the term "suggested admission fee" is getting a lot of play. Did you know, ask many, that you don't have to pay $15 or $20 to get into the Met - the fee is "suggested." You can pay $2 or a dime, for that matter. Good to know. But I hear the ticket-takers at the Met are real snotty to anyone who does it. Still, they're required to accept what you offer and give you an admission button. So, I guess the dilemma is: shame vs. financial cost.
VH1 is currently airing "I Love the 70's Part 2," which always makes me wonder who puts these things together. These compilations often miss the real stuff that was going on at the time - or even the cult stuff - and make a big deal over things that, well, just weren't a big deal. I'm guessing 20- or 30-somethings are putting them together, and it shows.
The other thing that gets me is the folks they choose for commentary. While a few were certainly around in the 1970s (the pre-school years for most of 'em), some couldn't have possibly been old enough to remember fads, movies, etc. And yet, they don't say, "Well, my parents told me . . . " or "I saw Super Fly for the first time a year ago . . . " No, they all talk as if they were actually there and enjoying Studio 54 back in the day. It would be like me waxing nostalgic about "C'mon a My House," which came out the year I was born. It's just silly. Then again, I guess they don't want people who were actually there giving commentary, the old fogies. (OK, they do feature huge 1970s stars like Charo and Allison Arngrim . . . )
So, what we've learned here:
- Don't go blowing yourself and your house up just for vengeance when there might be a better way to get back at an ex-whatever.
- You don't have to pay $20 to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art since that's just the suggested price, but you will have to be woman or man enough to take scorn from Met employees.
- If you're going to make a big deal out of Billy Jack, "One Tin Soldier" should be playing in the background, not "Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting."
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Grits and Luzianne
Fried chicken, for example. Real fried chicken. I'm sure it's here somewhere - betcha' there's a good soul food restaurant or two in Harlem - but not in my 'hood. Grits, too. Hard to find (real grits, not the instant kind). And with the onset of heat and humidity, Luzianne tea bags for iced tea. Yeah, I know you can make iced tea with Lipton or whatever, but it's not the same. Real iced tea - real Southern iced tea - means Luzianne. Can't find it here at the local Gristedes or Food Emporium.
Well, I have received a CARE package from one of my best Atlanta buds who's in NY this week for the Theatre and Theology course taught every summer at General Theological Seminary by friends Harry and Jay. Thanks to Ann, I now have a good supply of Luzianne tea bags and real grits that should last me until I can get back to Atlanta over Labor Day. Um-um. (She wasn't able to fill the fried chicken gap, though.)
I love that I have so many pals in town right now. For me, it's been a week of being treated to lovely dinners and catching up on what's happening at home. Last night there was an extra ticket to The Drowsy Chaperone, and it was offered to (and accepted by) little ol' me. What a fun show! Made even more fun by sitting amidst good friends. It's one of those seemingly lighthearted musicals with - of course - deeper undertones. Very 1920s - all original music, but it all seems familiar somehow. And it's a great tribute to the LP - pre-CD, for you whipper-snappers. Ah, vinyl! In short, the story comes alive as this guy's sitting in his dingy apartment listening to the cast album of a 1928 musical.
So, a week of good friends, fine food, terrific theatre, AND I walk away with my Luzianne and grits! The lap o' luxury, I tell ya'! I'm thinking of throwing a Grits and Iced Tea Party on the fire escape this weekend. Come one, come all!
Sorry, no pics. Blogger's not letting me post them. :-(
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Too Darn Hot
One reason is that my own personal body temp is higher than the norm. No 98.6 for me, thank you. I run a steady 99.2. The Red Cross Blood Center in Atlanta has a note of it on my file, since I donate several times a year (just to get the cookies and juice, mind you). So right from the git-go, I'm bakin' a little bit. Shove me out into 80-90-degree weather with 80% humidity and I'm pert-near dead.
Now, in Atlanta, I could go from air-conditioned house to AC car to AC work to AC store, etc. Not that easy here in NYC. The subway cars are nice and cool but the stations aren't. Then there's the hike to and from Grand Central (OK, not long, only a couple of blocks. But in this heat . . . ) that gets me to where I'm going looking just like I stepped out of the shower. Wringing wet. And lots of places here aren't air-conditioned or at least they haven't turned 'em on yet. I feel like a walking sponge inside a plastic bag. My poor 99.2-degree body is cryin' "Uncle!" Nothing I can do about it except wait patiently for autumn.
But I did find an appropriate quote from Henry David Thoreau (not to let Winston get ahead of me on this) regarding heat. And writing. It's more about writing than heat, but I'm making the connection 'tween the two and passin' it on.
So I guess it means that while it's really hot outside and I have the "heat" in me, I should get over my writer's block and start burning a hole in something. Or something like that.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
You could always Depend on June
I actually saw her live and in person once during my Turner days. I was walking through the lobby, and this teeny-tiny woman, who had her back to me, was checking in with the receptionist. I knew who it was the second I heard the voice. And, of course, double-noted the distinctive page-boy hair-do. She was at the studio to be interviewed by Robert Osborne for Turner Classic Movies. Still cute as a button - must've been about 80. But she was so short. Notice that the next time you're watching The Glenn Miller Story or Good News. Or an old commercial for Depend undergarments.
She was no Shelley Winters, but she was June Allyson. Salute - Junie, m'girl!
Hand me a chisel!
Oh, be assured that I am writing; I have to - for work, certainly, and for a freelance project (due last week, by the way). But. I'm just writing crap. Like I forgot to plug in the machine labeled "Creative Good Stuff." Am I missing the plug or the outlet? Or maybe it's an AC/DC thing.
All I'm churning out is a buncha' blah-blah-blah. Lukewarm spew-you-out-of-my-mouth stuff of Biblical proportions. Quick, somebody give me a good whack to the head! Aargh!
Sunday, July 09, 2006
H - less in Manhattan
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Mmmmm, a rooster's hind-feathers
"Let's go for a cocktail" sounds so much more alluring and upscale than "Let's go for a drink," which sounds like you just want to get drunk and throw up on a sawdust floor. A cocktail requires a little black dress and sling-backs. A drink? Running shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt and a mullet.
But where on earth did the term "cocktail" - as a description for a mixed beverage - originate? Everything I've found out so far seems pretty weak and usually ends with "but no one's really sure." Enlighten me, someone. Where do you think the term "cocktail" came from?
And let's go for cocktails later, darling.
Lunchtime in the UN 'hood
Anyway, since it was such a gorgeous day here in New York - sunny, low humidity - I decided to stroll over to the next block to get upclose and personal with the place. (OK, not that upclose - too many guards, doncha' know.) Here are a couple of pics -
Thursday, July 06, 2006
- Having finished The Shadow of the Wind (great book - thanks for the recommendation, Liz!), I'm in a duel-book situation right now, reading both Marley and Me and Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress at break-neck speeds. Somehow I picked up both the other afternoon, just to get a taste, and wham! - got sucked into both. So, it's back and forth for me for a couple of days. Both books will be finished tonight, I suspect. Ever do that? Always do that?
- No Emmy nomination for Hugh Laurie? An outrage! A whack on Emmy's head with Gregory House's cane!
- Since all TV is re-runs right now, except for some incredibly inane reality shows (giving "inane" a bad name, even), I've been indulging in Ovation. I love getting the backstory on masterpieces of art and music, or falling right into a Petula Clark retrospective. (Is "Downtown" still not one of the best songs ever? And didn't PC wear the most fabulous clothes in the 60s and 70s? You go, girl!) Ooh. And also a backstage look at Bryn Terfel, that adorable bear of an opera singer. (I have his CD of songs of Welsh songs - "We'll Keep a Welcome." Aaaaah! A round of Cwm Rhondda for everyone!) Anyway, Ovation is keeping me somewhat sane in the heat and humidity that is New York in the summer.
- I'm still getting used to the fact that when I hear, "The UN Security Council meets again today to discuss North Korea," that said meeting is directly across and one block over from where I work. Maybe I'll stroll by the UN during lunch today, just to see if any sparks are flying. (I'll report back.)
- So 3 folks were arrested for trying to steal Coca-Cola secrets for Pepsi. Notice no one from Coke ever tries to steal Pepsi's formula. I rest my case on why Coke is better than Pepsi.
Whew! Good to get that stuff off my chest. Got any pocket lint you need to clean out today?
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Why the Fat Lady Won't Sing
Here's another one of those studies that somebody probably got all kinds of money to do and traveled to the four corners of the world to research. CNN News Flash: "Fat People Not More Jolly." Wow! Color me surprised. Seems there's a connection between obesity and depression. Why shut my mouth! (No, really, shut my mouth so I won't eat anymore and get depressed.)
I tell ya' friends, doing one of these studies is better than winning the lottery, especially since it seems rich organizations just can't keep from throwing the big bucks at something like this.
Hmm. Three things I'd like to research:
- Are people who frequent 5-star spas less stressed than people who don't?
- Which international city has the best restaurants?
- Does having a massive bank account help you live longer (all health issues being equal)?
But I'm open to other ideas.
I guess tomorrow they'll run the companion piece "Skinny People Not Very Jolly, Either." And the next day: "Jolly: What Nobody is Anymore." Perhaps I could do a study on where all the "jolly" went.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
And from Atlanta . . .
True Blue Movies
Personally (and predictably), I'm a sucker for Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Well, first of all, it's a musical, and you know I love me a good one of those. Secondly, any movie that features a "Mary" song is A-OK with me. And who doesn't love seeing James Cagney prancing all over creation? His springy style of dancing is infectious. The film is full of sing-along songs, and it's a beautifully crafted work, to boot. Cagney was the first actor in a musical role to take home an Oscar. Interestingly enough, Yankee lost out to Mrs. Miniver (high on someone's British patriotic list?) for Best Picture. Well, it was World War II, after all.
My close second would be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Except it makes me wish somebody - anybody - in Congress would grow a spine. Sigh. Maybe I'll just stick to musical patriotism for a while.
What about you? Are you as predictable as I am, or is your choice more off-beat? Have glorious 4th all!
The Reason for the Season
So begins the masterpiece crafted by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams and authored by Thomas Jefferson ('cause he could write so purdy). What a collection of great minds were hashing things out in steamy hot Philadelphia that summer!
If you know your US History - or, shoot, even seen the musical 1776 - you know the Declaration of Independence was a thorny, dangerous document to birth. Face it, everyone who had anything to do with it was guilty of treason to the Crown. They knew it and did it anyway.
The signing of the final version of the Declaration is what we celebrate today ( 'nary a hot dog or firecracker was in sight in 1776). Go read the whole thing for yourself here. It isn't long, and it's beautifully written, thank you very much Mr. Jefferson.
And while you're at it, it wouldn't kill ya' to have a go at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, either. Not as lovely to read as the DoI (Tom was in France at the time, I believe), but even more important. It'll be the most patriotic thing you can do on this 4th of July.
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Happy Independence Day 2006!
Monday, July 03, 2006
During the late 1970s, I spent several Julys with Jean and Aubrey in Walton-on-Thames (about 25 miles southwest of London). One Fourth of July I arrived home in the late afternoon to find: 1) a large Confederate flag towel (bought by Jeannie during a trip to Florida) hanging outside their home, and 2) a slap-up turkey dinner awaiting me.
A teachable moment, see? First, wrong (very wrong) flag. I calmly explained how the fledgling colonies declared independence from Mother England, and as brutally shocking as it was, that's what we celebrate on Independence Day. Mind you, I've always felt the English should celebrate getting rid of us, as well, so I don't know why they don't recognize the holiday. And second, wrong food. While I love a good roast turkey, I just can't get into it much in mid-summer. But throw a hot dog or hamburger on the grill and top off the meal with cold watermelon? I. Am. There. Nevertheless, Jeannie and I still get a good laugh out of the Confederate-flag-turkey-dinner 4th of July. It was the thought that counted, after all.
Yesterday, for instance. The Brennan clan gathered at Aunt Kathy and Uncle Rick's lake home for an all-day pig-out-pre-4th-fest. (OK, the Brennan clan, plus 100 of their closest friends.) Lots of people. Lots of food (see above - and that's just a portion of the "main" course, after two rounds of appetizers and dessert to come!) and beer and wine. Lovely waterfront view of Lake Hopatchong (New Jersey is so misunderstood.) A marvelous time had by all. The only thing that put a damper on the day was the 3-hour drive home (normally 1 hour) as Kerry and I got stuck in George Washington Bridge traffic into the City. Aaargh!
Great family, good friends, fabulous food - a perfect way to kick off the 4th. Something to remember when Thanksgiving rolls around.
Mamma Meh-(insert shoulder shrug here)-a
All I can say about it is a lukewarm "meh." The story line was very thin - but it's an ABBA musical, so I wasn't expecting Sweeney Todd or Caroline, or Change. Most of the songs felt forced into their respective slots and lacked any 70's ABBA spark. The cast didn't seem to be having any fun until the curtain call, when the main characters come out resplendent in true ABBA spandex and sparkles to sing "Waterloo."
Had there been any energy in the thing at all, the audience should have been dancing in the aisles at several points in the show, most especially at curtain call. Nope. Not even much rhythmic clapping. (By contrast, folks are dancing, singing, and going wild during Hairspray's closing number "You Can't Stop the Beat.") I expectd the same kind of energy in Mamma Mia as Hairspray and was disappointed. (Well, and Hairspray has a great plot line, too.)
Knowing me, knowing you - much better to watch Muriel's Wedding to get your ABBA on.