Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Guest Post - Overheard on the Subway

I can not take any credit for this post. It is exactly as sent to me by the Baronness. Now in the general archive with other great overheard lines in our liturgy, like:

"You've ruined shopping!"

"She never took communion."

"Daaaammnn, Shinelle!"

and "Meet me there and I can show you the Ghandi book."

If you like things overheard, check out http://www.overheardatthebeach.com/.
A great little diversion between whatever work you are supposed to be doing. Adult content warning.

Anyway, here in it's entirety... Overheard on the subway.

2 women with neck tattoos (in their 40s) and very elaborate nail and hair dos.

First one (with little mick-n-moe tattoo) says - "When I took my new apartment I had to go and get rid of a warrant."

Second lady: "Which warrant?"

First: "The one from 21 years ago - my problem with the ice pick." [Pause] Did you know you can't get rid of a warrant for a violent crime? There's no statute of limitations on nailing your man with an ice pick."

Second one: "Didn't he drop the charges?"

First one: "mmm yea - he didn't want me applying it anywhere else, you know."

Second: "Did you get the apartment?"

First: "Yes, yes I did. I told them you know the courts, there's always a screw up somewhere."

Second: "Or a screw loose." {rim shot}

They part around 139th street.
First : "See you later Serena."

Second: "See you later 'Picky'. I almost forgot how you got your name, until today. Meet you tonight.

I only had to go 90 more blocks with Picky, now sitting next to me.

I couldn't decide on which photo should end this post. You "pick."



Sunday, July 15, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Middle-Aged ladies and Their Girdles

As a child, I lived in dread of nearly everything, especially the inevitable, which I believed included red body hair and sanitary belts. In a world before Levi's Bend Over slacks and Underalls, women's undergarments were para-industrial, and required a network of pulleys and levers that seemed unnavigable.

I thought that, like a bra, this restraint device was my inevitable future. I was going to have to learn it. Bra (underwire, natch, with 18 hr control), girdle, garter (even though pantyhose had certainly been invented, mine was a household of stocking), slip. Clothes.
As we used to say at 'GBH, "I can't see a thing through that corset!"

It is really no wonder that I lived in Toughskins until shamed out of them by the 1980s.

Why I bring this up is that today I ordered a foundation garment of such mod'run design and construction, it is apparently sacred.

"We admit we are powerless to our flab..."

Please enjoy the idea of these religious undergarments before I ruin the effect for you. These are not "higher power" panties, as in, "A Power greater than ourselves can restore us to the size 8 we will never be again." But higher "power panties," as in, they fit higher up your gut than the original.

And that is too bad. Because the idea of a 12-step program to stop rolling out of my pantyhose (now understanding the preference for stockings) while sitting down was giving me hope.

I carry you this message all the same. The woman in this photo is much younger than the people who typically purchase from this particular catalog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

His Honor the Mayor

The mayor of Kenmore Square has passed on.
I don't know if your city is the kind that will write an obituary for one of its street people, who died in an accident, but Boston is.

This is Harold Madison Jr, known in my circles as the Mayor of Kenmore Square. When our lives centered around Kenmore, and the 57 Limited was my ride home, he was a landmark. Usually outside the Rathskellar, but even after the Rat and Narcissus and Charlie's Cheeseburger King were things only Emersonians of a certain age could talk about, the Mayor stayed.

He had 2 heralds with him, like Shakespearean clowns, who called themselves the Mixed Nuts. They played imaginary music on cardboard guitars. I don't know if they were really in the Mayor's crew, or if there is a territorial understanding among those who live on the streets.

When I moved to Boston 20 years ago, "the homeless" were the "global warming" of their day. And Boston had some colorful characters. After decades of instutionalizing everyone that didn't fit in, Massachusetts had decriminalized mental illness, and deinstitutionalized those not considered dangerous.

Some side reading on that: State Boys' Rebellion, Gracefully Insane, The Eye of Danvers, Girl, Interrupted.

Kenmore Square was a haunt for the garden variety drunk, addicted, and marginalized. Runaways went to Harvard Square, schizophrenics hovered around the Common, and veterans Downtown Crossing or Berkeley St. An old friend (we'll call her Alex Pfenning for the informed) once said, about a guy who rode a tricycle (full-size) down Mass Ave shouting at the top of his lungs that he probably just had a raging ear infection and a dose of vitamins might clear him right up. She was always the most compassionate person I ever met.

So the Mayor hit a bump on a scooter and didn't survive the fall. Thirty Boston winters, 30 thousand baseball games, the gentrification of the block, and a near knife-fight that I myself was an arm's length from didn't take him down.

So it just goes to show you. I don't know what, exactly, except that you can't tell who'll make the news and who won't.

Thanks to W, the last Bostonian I know, who sent me the story.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hey Kids, here's a game you can play....

....while watching the ABC Afterschool Specials, deliciously packed in DVD by year.

Let me caution you, these are so much worse than you remember, and appear to have been written by the 5th grade class of Our lady of No Life Experience.

And Yet... and yet so much better.

Most of the people I know these days are parents, and eventually we get around to a "but it's different now" kind of conversation. Usually when I am asking why they can't just leave their preteens in a drawer and come out with me.

And perhaps it is, if different means no 10 year old knows how to make a pot roast. Recently I said, to one of those moms, "What I remember is that you threw a baby shower for one of your 8th grade friends, we knew by name everyone who smoked pot, the high school boys had their own 'frat house' in the woods, where we heard all the details of what went on out there, and there were no parents around." (and slurpees were a dime, rantrant)

Take a look at your afterschool specials -- watch them with your shrink -- and play a game I call "Let's Ride Bikes." I call it that because we didn't call it a play date and we organized it ourselves. And if they brought us to an awkward place where we had to say (Nancy McKeon stutter style), "G-g-osh, you guys, I don't feel right about that," we had the AfterSchool Special behind us.

Like a little Lifetime network for your teen.

Be the first to call out......
1 - a shot or a scene that you would never see on a kids' show today or in anything geared toward family viewing. I like this one as an example:

If you are playing Let's Ride Bikes Drunk, drink once for the close-up of the girls lighting these candles, the fact that they are holding a seance, the clear lack of smoke detectors in the house, and this entire conversation, which is about putting a hex on the father's new wife to make her disappear.

2 - the bootstraps/it's tough-out-there moral. Later in this episode, Dana Hill (Fallen Angel!) goes crazy-goth and cute girl above has to friend-divorce her. The outcome of this story is, (honestly) that if your friends are wierd, you should ditch them and they should get counseling. And that is probably better advice than your parents should adopt them (this means you Bradys, Seavers, and Cosbys).

3 - hey, that's ______! This is the best part of watching Afterschool Specials, of course. But it is not fair to spot the leads as future stars (Rob Lowe never prettier), but for the walk-bys: Felicity Huffman, Cynthia Nixon, Lance Kerwin.

4 -the 70s technology - AT&T desk phone, "selectric" typewriter, TV remotes the size of a brick, and kids cooking dinner.

5 - Count the parents. Drink once for every time one puts their work first and twice when a kid explains it to another kid.

6 - Really bad writing. You can make bingo cards for this.

"let me get this straight."

"I already know about you, Carrie Bender. You just moved here from Pasadena, you have a dog named Luttiebell, and your brother died last year of leukemia."

"I know, I know..." "Ok, Ok!" "All right, all right."

"It's not exactly the most _____ in the world."

7 - Even worse acting. To be fair, it is amateurish acting enhanced by bad writing and embarrassed further by bad directing. because our Jodie is still the best thing going on in every stinko thing she's in, Rob Lowe has a complete Method Acting breakdown as a schoolboy father, and Lance Kerwin has clearly been told to play to the balcony. And when is James at 15 going to be on DVD?

That ain't him. we all looked like that.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Another Way of Looking at Hopper

The retrospective of Edward Hopper's work is on display at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts for just a few more weeks. Karen and I attended this past weekend on library passes, which put us on stand-by. But we are know-it-all locals, so we swept right in with the rest of the first tour group.

I am reluctant to tell you our secret parking spots, but let's just say that 2 Simmons girls know their way around the museum properties. So you figure it out. The MFA opens at 10am on a Sunday. If you can beat that timeline you have your pick of free parking.

If you have no chance of getting to Boston before the August 19th closing, the website above will be a very near experience with a few exceptions. I am afraid you will not enjoy the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, the crying babies, and the thrill of security guards taking down photographers.

In the Explore section, you can also hear some of the audio tour thaty accompanied the pictures (the art insiders like to say 'picture,' like songwriters say 'lyric.') and give a background of the scene.

I called this essay "another way of looking at Hopper" because I was frustrated by the one-sided discussion in gallery notes and audio comment that focused on the isolation, solitude, etc that many viewers find distressing and ominous in Hopper paintings. Hopper himself said he just wanted to paint light on the side of a house.

In the commentary on Nighthawks, curators interviewed Wim Wenders, who made the whole scene sound like an inevitable bloodbath was about to occur. "How German are YOU?" I said aloud, headphones on my ears, and moved along.

When I was a child, I learned everything I knew about art from the Masterpiece game. Nighthawks was one of the paintings I loved. I was known to collect modern realist works and some Renaissance, while Dodie was Dutch Masters and the occasional impressionism if it didn't, quote, make her want to smack the artist.

It was years, of course, before I saw Nighthawks any larger than the 3x5 card that came with the game. In the minature, I had found it glamorous. I imagined the woman as beautiful, and the man as her date. I thought she was applying lipstick, which was exotic to me, and now that I have seen it full-sive, I still can't tell you what she is holding. Wim Wenders told me the scene was ominous, the evening dank, the mood forboding. I told Dodie to smack him.

Sister Wendy, who I do not wish to smack, but to remind that she too lives a cloistered life, writes, "When we look at that dark New York street, we would expect the fluorescent-lit cafe to be welcoming, but it is not. There is no way to enter it, no door. The extreme brightness means that the people inside are held, exposed and vulnerable. They hunch their shoulders defensively."
wow. relax.
City dwellers know that cafe counters, bars, and bookshops are the living rooms of the neighborhood. Maybe they come there for companionship, to get the latest news. Bachelors often eat there every night. It's what "regulars" are. They are wearing gray suits and fedoras because it is 1942, not because they are gangsters.

I am aware of the equally critical view that "Cheers," where everybody knew our names, was a depressing band of alcoholic losers without ambitions. That may be true. But we loved that show.

So I offer another way of looking at Hopper, using some of my faves from the exhibit. Let's hope these links work. They will launch with a view-scale bar. I recommend 75-100% for the best perspective.

We learned that Hopper painted this inside his car to capture the true light from all its sources.
The light through the hedge is a gate welcoming the visitor, who is far from home and in need of rest. A piano in the front window suggests a social atmosphere awaits. The light is on for you. Motel 8, 40's style.

The usherette takes a break in her shift for a moment alone to rest her feet. She leans thoughtfully against the wall, perhaps considering what she will do when she gets off of work. A private moment in a loud crowded city.

Much is made of Hotel Room: the woman's posture, her dropped bags, her contemplation of the timetables. She may well be leaving town, as most critics suggest, but she may also be arriving. Why doesn't anyone write that she has moved to New York for a new job, or she is off to her wedding, or she just got out of prison? So she's slumping...you do too when you sit on your bed.

This is one of my favorites, because I am an early riser as well, and a city block on a Sunday morning is one of the most private moments the urbanite ever gets. And this is exactly what it looks and sounds like.

An exhibit full of women sitting alone in front of windows, and houses without residents, and lighthouses over barren bluffs did not make me want to hurl myself out/off of same.
Intellectually, I do believe Hopper just liked slanted light. But even if I went to a sociological lens through which to view Hopper, I'd say the man knew that sometimes a girl just wants 5 minutes alone to think her own thoughts.

How you read Hopper, I think, says more about you than about him.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Frugal Reader

The blog community delivers. The Readership at The Lemonade Stand are recommending FrugalReader.com as another book trading location. Here are the particulars:

Who are they? They are Frugal Concepts, LLC, headed by Gene J. McCabe, a self-confessed book hoarder who didn't have the support of this blog or a very strong local library system. What he did have the support of was a "Dream Team" of entrepreneurs who came up with Frugal Reader over a brainstorming retreat to identify new products and services to "advance people's lives." yadda yadda yadda, Frugal Reader, 2004.

Sounds suspicious. Was one of those brainstormers Meg Whitman or something?
Not quite, but one of them was Joe Marinelli. Maybe this Joe Marinelli, maybe a pal from 10th grade.

So what's the deal? Similarly to other trading posts we have listed here, you list your books by ISBN and use credits to trade, most like BookMooch.com.

What's the catch? Why are you so cynical? The basic membership is free and will get you what you want. Premium fees buy you more control over the credit-cost of your books and create "custom trade groups." I read this to mean porn. But after they find out I have linked to them, and see that I said that, they will correct me.

What's the hot book on their list right now? Hard to tell. I browsed "Literature" and came up with a bunch of glurgy junk like 1003 great Things about Friends. ("No, go ahead and add the other 3. Those are really good.")

Any standouts? Discussion groups, which can be entertaining if you can stand the bulletin board format of discussion groups. I've never been able to. My book trade needs are more utilitarian than community. Like most of my life.

Closing thoughts? Category called "Women's Fiction," which is somehow not Romance, Gay & Lesbian, or Literature. It has the subcategories "Divorce," "Domestic Life," (Erma Bombeck?) "Friendship," (1003 of them), "Mothers & Children," "Single Women," (children not assumed) and "Sisters."

I comfort myself that this is alphabetical order, not priority order. So where is Little Women, you might ask? Perhaps all of them.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bombs Bursting in Air

Or.... Viewing every town's fireworks on a drive Pike-West.

It was a 35 mile drive home from the 4th of July cookout and parade, which was one reason I missed the world-famous (pardon my amero-centric Independence Day glee -- I meant, "nationally renowned") Boston fireworks, though I had an "in" on a rooftop view. There was a workday ahead, and rain already falling, so The Tarletons dropped me off at my car, I missed the turn to the Pike (twice) and headed out of town, catching fireworks along the way.

It was cool in one way -- surprising and beautiful, big green chrysanthemums appearing beyond the sound barriers. At the Newton tolls, the boy handing out tickets gave me a huge smile and pointed them out to my right. "Do you see that?" he said excitedly, "I have the best view!" A suitable reward for working in a tollbooth in the rain on a federal holiday.

Please turn off your wipers, drivers. Just think the thing through, would you? Poor guy.

Then the lighting, the haze, the empty streets, reminded me a little of this

and that thought was in the front seat with me all the way home.

During the parade I attended, after several bagpipe bands and fire engines, was a delegation from Veterans for Peace , who carried their banner and a few homemade signs like "3500 US dead" and "Fund Schools, not Bombs." And spectators applauded, and waved. Some stood from their chairs. But to my right, a man had turned his back on the parade and began to berate the applauding supporters, complete with wagging finger, saying "This is not the time to protest!"

He kept trying to quote John Adams, by starting, "John Adams said... John Adams... John Adam said..." (By the way, 'round here, that's pronounced "Joo-wwaahn" and lasts 2 seconds) but people kept shouting over him and clapping more loudly.

On the way home, we talked about this not ("noo-waaaht") being the time to protest. Commemorating our revolution is no time to be speaking out against your government. Having the entire town gathered in front of their houses is not the occasion to take a poll on funding our winless war of the day. While wrapped in the flag, you should not rub a corner between finger and thumb and wonder aloud, "What's this fabric, anyway?"

I went looking for what in the world John Adams said that may have supported this idea.
I don't think it was

"Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."
"Power always thinks... that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws."
"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war. "

John Adams also said, "I'm obnoxious and disliked."

I can't claim to know enough about John Adams to say he never said anything worth quoting by a "My Country Right or Wrong" Public Scold. I wish he had left his buzz kill at home. If not for him, I might have enjoyed the bright green sky without thinking of night vision goggles and the strafing of Baghdad -- and not even a current strafing, but one from 15 years ago.

But then I wouldn't have come back to Yes. Yes, it is the time to protest. The Declaration is a protest still relevant today, and I wish that more parades and town squares read it at the start of their parade. Our scolding passerby might have interrupted that as well, not knowing he hadn't walked into a condemnation of our current government.

As a society, we like our events bloated and over-produced, corny as all hell, full of every symbol we can respond to without question. As an individual, I like symbols like this:

killed July 4, 2007:

Andrew Engstrom, age 22, of Slaton, TX in Baghdad. Death under investigation.

Scott Oswell, age 33, of Washington in Mosul. Helicopter crash.

Steven Davis, age 23, of Woodbridge, VA in Baghdad. Grenade attack.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tie-dyed bagel

The Boss picked up a half dozen of these on the way in. Mark says he once saw tie-dyed bagels in his dorm room. But they might not have really been there.
Ours were mostly purple.
Turns out these colors do run.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Things I did with my weekend instead of working

The weekend began with a Friday half-day, which I am entitled to every other Friday in the Summer, but which I never take, because... you know....

But the Boss has been on me about it, and she knows that if she somehow makes it sound like an assignment, I'll do it.

So I left early -- meeting minutes undone and unsent, 50 unread messages, and a dust-covered desk -- and headed for Cambridge, where a friend is appearing in a new musical that I would write more about, but it is closed now. I have written about Improv Boston here before, so I will plug it again. An evening in Inman Square will be a change of pace no matter what you do the rest of the time.

I've become such a suburbanite that the city is loud, and frenzied, and a little stressful, though I like that I still know the secret parking places and the cut-throughs. 4 years out of the city does not erase 16 in. I moved to Boston 20 years ago this week. You've heard that story before.

Met up with friends for dinner at the S&S where Karen berated me for having bought orange roughy -- not then, for dinner, but days before at Hannafords. Roughy that was already dead, I might add, which she says does not justify my participation in the exploitation of~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I got distracted by the pinot.

The show was great -- funny, fresh, musically interesting. So glad I came in for it.

Saturday morning I took care of such important business as balancing the checkbook and paying the mortgage. I have a habit of failing to notice paydays and payment days. When they land on the same weekend, I can usually get it together. I wrote to you -- perhaps not you, but many of you, and I was falling behind on that too, what with so many recent birthings and relocations. I finally RSVP'd to W's wedding, after losing the invitation in the house for a few days (Guest room, under the folded towels. well, sonuva...)

Then out-out-OUT of the house for a weekend in New Hamsphire, with a pop-over to S Berwick Maine's annual strawberry festival.

How New England is that? can I get a "oooo....haaaah?" I'm the one on the left. someday.

It was breathtakingly gorgeous tourist guide weather. The kind of weather that makes us forget
times like this. I have been to this festival in the boiling heat, in the frigid rain, but never on a day where you could stand in an artist's booth long enough to want to buy something. [this guy. And I bought a painting of a mill, naturally]

There was near violence when they ran out of food, including the strawberries, and I learned that I will not buy 1 hot dog less simply so more people can get one. We ate, we shopped, we chatted up the neighbors in a town where everyone does in fact know everyone and why they took their house off the market because can you believe what they thought they could get for it? And if you know the right people you can park in their driveway and cut through the back field to the festival.

My 4 year-old hostess was delighted by the set of clown noses I brought as a gift, because wouldn't you have loved to see your dad in a clown nose when you were 4? Though I over-estimated the interest the rest of us would have with them: "now put it on your ear. Put it on your nose. Put it on my nose. Put it on...." Perhaps no one will notice that the velvet bag I brought them in says Blanton's on it, even when my hostess became fond of calling out, "Where is the nose bag?" I said to her mother, "I could have brought a naked Barbie and a drum." This sent my hostess off to her room to prove to me that she had both already.

Great tips on the grill, wine, fresh new corn. A strawberry tiramisu that more than made up for the shortcake the firemen had run out of. We tried to watch a movie, but like any Saturday night parents, we were all exhausted and went to bed instead.

What's with the Wonder Pets? I asked my hostess why all kids' shows had talking animals that wear clothes. And never complete outfits either, just a guinea pig in a hat and a turtle with sneakers on. This is the craziest show I have spent concentrated time with since Charlie Horse Music Pizza. But I now have the ammunition to write satirical Wonder Pets scripts based on the canon of Western Literature: "The governess is in love! She's in love! She's in love with Mr Rochester! We can save her...save her...save her!"
I get a lot of mileage with kids by exposing them to the joys of list making, especially at an age when they are just learning how to categorize, love to give orders, and are fascinated by the magical act grown-ups can peform of writing things down. So we made grocery lists, and named countries, we traded opposites ("I'm tall and you are small.") and a new game I hadn't found before which we can call "Pronoun Trouble." It goes like this: One person says, "What are YOU doing?" the other says, "What is HE doing?" Then the first person says, "What are THEY doing?" and of course this is endlessly fascinating when you are 4, because the subtilties of nominative and subjective case will always trip you up, and make Miss Bender just plain giddy. If you needed more proof I am a spinster school marm, I can do this for hours. Just ask her parents.

Speaking of spinster school marms, I discovered Hamilton House, also of S Berwick, on this trip, another historic preserve founded by a couple of women alone... and a really good architect. Visit it if you can. The grounds are free, and the house tour under $10.

I stopped at Kimball Farms on the way home, for too much ice cream to complete my perfect New England weekend (and slow down my arrival home). Once I did get home I splurged on a nap, Sunday paper and beer on the deck, crossword puzzle, movie, and right now I am just writing until my eyes are too googly to check the email. [such a lie. the email is open in another window] But I am going to bed now. This is not one of those posts that says anything deep, or particularly funny. It is just really what I did, and only 1 hr of it since Friday at 1pm was work-related.

Google made me laugh out loud

I was looking for an image to swipe for a post.

Here is one recommended match.

All I can think is "Quien es mas macho?" [and he was Mr Rourke. Not Mr. O-Rourke. hehheh. You said O]

Maybe Ricardo is just what the overworked businesswoman needs. I went a different way. see above.