Sunday, June 24, 2012

Collinwood Cliffhanger

My name is Victoria Winters . . . [cue music] Oooo-ooo-OOOO-oo-oo-oooo-ooo-oooo. [Cue waves crashing on rocks]

Last month, I spent a couple of weeks with the fine denizens of Collinwood in Collinsport, Maine. It had been a long, long time since I'd whiled away the afternoons with my Dark Shadows buddies Elizabeth and Roger, Carolyn, Maggie, and Victoria, Barnabas, Julia, and David. But there they were, in glowing black and white, which added to the creep-value, I can testify. I wanted to watch the series in preparation for seeing the Tim Burton movie, just to refresh my memory about who's who and what's what.

I found I'm still jealous of Carolyn Stoddard's perfect flip (that's a hairstyle, young'uns) and the super-cute wardrobes of Carolyn, Maggie, and Victoria. Classic. However, there's still some really iffy acting, especially from the film pros like Joan Bennett, and it's easy to tell they're reading from the prompters. Boom microphones and cameras are often seen in the shots, or at least their shadows, so much so that the show was often referred to as "Mic Shadows."

But you know what? The show still managed to scare me. Maybe it was the music, or the weird camera angles (with or without boom shadows), or that everything seemed to happen at night. Anyway. The storyline is still FABulous. Seances, ghosts, steep drops down to the waves crashing on the rocks, mausoleums and cemeteries, the Blue Whale, those damn music boxes. The Old House. The New House. Take the key and lock her up . .  {shiver}

Alas, I got so hooked on Dark Shadows that I was devastated when the Netflix series came to a screeching halt. Dang. I'll give them one thumbs up (for making part of the series available) and a whole handful of thumbs down for its weird selection of episodes. It starts with Episode 210 (the first time Barnabas appears) and ends with Episode 370 (when Victoria has traveled back in time and just as we're about to find out how Barnabas got to be a vampire). Aaarrgh! So irritating! I want all 1225 episodes, not a measly 160!

I'd love to see the first episodes that provide the background of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, her daughter Carolyn, governess Victoria Winters, and Maggie Evans. And, I would love to see the rest of the series with Quentin and lots more Angelique. Sheesh. I feel so cheated. Much like viewers did when the show was abruptly yanked from the afternoon line-up in 1971.

What would be the fate of Barnabas, Elizabeth, Carolyn, Quentin, Maggie, and poor Willie Loomis? One of the show's writers brought a little closure in a TV Guide article at the end of the series. Not much consolation, granted, but it is a glimpse into what might have been, though my skin kinda crawls knowing that Barnabas and Julia would marry. {another shiver}

So until Netflix pulls everything out of the Dark Shadows vault (get it? vault?), I'll have to find a way to live with my unfulfilled addiction to the good people of Collinsport.

By the way, I never did see the Tim Burton movie version. After watching the original series, I can't imagine anyone topping it, not even Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. And I'm sure no one could out-"do" the original Carolyn Stoddard's hair.

[cue music] Oooo-ooo-OOOO-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooo-oooo.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The BBQ King

I ventured down to the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park this morning to pick up as much good old' southern barbecue as my to-go containers could carry and my wallet afford. It is a swell event.

Award-winning BBQ establishments from around the country set up huge cooking drums, light the fires, throw on the meat, and wait for thousands and thousands of BBQ-starved New Yorkers to pay $8 a plate to indulge their pig-eatin' yen. It's sort of a throw-back to the annual Kiwanis BBQs when I was growing up, where $8 would get you enough BBQ, slaw, corn on the cob, baked beans and loaf bread to feed a family of 12 (OK, it's the South, what can I say?).

It was fitting and proper that I should track down barbecue today of all days because this is my dear daddy's birthday. He would've been 92 today (he died in 1999). As far as I'm concerned, Clayton Frazier was the BBQ King.

Once or maybe twice a year, Daddy would barbecue enough pig-meat to feed a small army. His style was a cross between North Carolina vinegar-based barbecue and his own Tennessee farm boy twist. His was not the kind with thick, sweet sauce smothering the meat. It was thinner, lighter, and with a bit of a hot-sauce kick.

He made too much to be eaten in one or two sittings, so he'd bag it up for you to take it home to throw in the freezer and eat whenever the mood struck. Believe me, that barbecue fed me many a meal during some lean-earning years.

Daddy was so proud of his barbecue. I'm sure he loved the process of tending it for hours on end as much as he loved the tasty results. Let me add, however, that the results were not to some folks' liking, but for Daddy and me - mmmwah! It was delicious.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate the life and barbecue-legacy of my daddy than to chow down on smoked pork smothered in hot sauce. Happy Birthday, BBQ King.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Reading My Way Through Summer

Ugh. Summer. I just do not see the appeal. At least not to those of us for whom the rat-race does not slow down June through August, or who don't have swimming pools right outside our doors or beachfront homes in the Hamptons. So I have to come up with something that makes all the humidity-drenched hair, sticky clothes, and nose-melting street odors bearable until the crisp, fresh winds of October blow all the yuck away.

My plan involves some sort of summer reading program. Through books, I can escape the heat and humidity and take virtual vacations that my pocketbook would not allow me to do otherwise. Plus, it's a throw-back to those lazy-hazy-crazy days of childhood summers, when I worked my way through the public library's summer reading list, ticking off my three biographies, four fictions, four non-fictions, thanks to the trusty bookmobile.

Last summer, I only read New York City-themed books. A couple of years ago, it was books by Southern authors with Southern settings. This year, I'm breaking away from geographically-based program, though it would've been so easy to opt for England in this Jubilee year. No, instead, I've decided to push myself beyond easily-read mysteries and historical novels. I've been a lazy reader of late, and I must move to more substantive material. Yeah, that goes against the summer-ready grain of pot-boilers and bodice-rippers, but my brain will turn to mush otherwise.

Discipline. Reading discipline is this year's summer reading theme. I'm harking back to the old-school summer reading requirements (on my own terms, of course): two biographies, two critically-acclaimed fictions (no airy-fairy stuff), two non-fictions, two books about theology/religion, one self-help. Once I tick those off, I can read any sleazy show-biz biography or free Kindle vanity-press thing I want.

Whether I prop up a real, old-fashioned hardback tome, listen to the book on my iPod, or have it delivered to Kindle, I expect my list to broaden my horizons and keep me cool (figuratively, if not literally) at the same time. And while I've already chosen about half the books that meet my worthy goal, I'm always open to suggestions, so jump in if you have something to recommend.

Now all I need is someone who'll give me a fancy certificate and Baskin-Robbins gift card when I successfully complete my summer reading program. That might make the heat bearable.