Sunday, June 27, 2010

The things I do for the readership

I am hardly the George Plimpton of

For that, you might flip over to SFA’s Dirty 30 Project , where she took actual requests from the reading audience.  Don’t get any big ideas; I know the kinds of things you’d ask.

But I do try to keep it fresh.  I haven’t been as prolific as I have sometimes been – for a lot of reasons, but  one might be that this blog just passed 4 and a half years, and frankly 4 years is about as long as I hang onto anything.



Speaking of hanging on…

That’s not me.  That’s from the brochure.  On something of a whim today I decided to check out the Tree Canopy Trail at Worcester’s Ecotarium – a rescued wildlife habitat and mini natural history/science museum that has an off-again/on-again neat-o factor, depending on the available tax and donor dollars.  Need I remind you of the recent headlines in that regard?

Plus, as we have covered in this space, before, Worcester lost a lot of its trees.  So I was not sure what to expect.  But for YOU, Gentle Reader, and an ongoing attempt to try teaching this old dog a few new tricks, I made the plunge.  poor choice of words.

In my circle of friends, it is generally known that I do not participate in activities that require signing a waiver, though exceptions had been made over the years.  There was the horseback riding in Lake Placid.  And the caving in Knoxville did not require paperwork because it was completely unauthorized.  My prayer that morning was that if we did die in the attempt to please not my companions eat me to survive.

You laugh… but it’s happened.

But I signed the waiver, which just said my estate was not authorized to sue anyone if I fell to my death from the 50 ft height.

It was a much shorter trail than I expected, and at first I was a little bent out of shape.  There are 2 bridge spans and 2 platforms, and one zip chair to the ground.  But there is a lot to learn about your carabineers, and a lot to tolerate from the teenaged boy who adjusts your harness.  The platforms can only hold a few people at a time, so it is good to have some filler.

I think I wanted it to be more like Swiss Family Robinson, or like a proper rain forest canopy walk.   I forgot for a second this is a zoo made up of one-winged predatory birds and a polar bear that was born in Massachusetts.

To paint a schene:

The  4some of teenaged parents with a stroller were genuinely OMG-impressed by the pond of fish, which swim up to the dock expecting a handout, which they gave them, between bursts of “Omigodyouguys, what the f*** are those?”  One of the guys hawked a loogy into the pond and they all squealed with delight when the fish ate it.  His partner said, “Are you sure they are not piranhas?”  On the upside, though, they did bring their kid to the zoo.

My also favorite overheard moment was the family of 3 kids who argued over who got to turn into Lost and Found the glitter deely-boppers they found at the snack bar.  Said the wise 8 year-old eldest sister, “Don’t put them on.  The girl could have had lice.”

aaaah… Worcester.  You….Dinwiddie of the n0rth…

But I don’t diss the charming young people who staff the Tree Canopy.  Ecotarium’s trees were not lost to the beetles, who do not like Oak, as it turns out, but who could chomp through Vermont like Sherman through Atlanta, so our reward for making the first crossing was a lecture about beetle spotting and a plea to not take any wood from home if we go camping.

On the long ferry to Nantucket, you will also be treated to a How-To on checking for deer ticks, just so you don’t get too comfortable.

Platform number two allows you to do some bird-watching, though the whole thing shakes like El Cambalache (must upload those pictures sometime).  On this crossing, I realized I couldn’t have handled a true Peruvian canopy walk.  Though I think a few loose monkeys running about might add to the experience.  There really wasn’t so much to look at, and the view from above was not so different from the one below.  I think I would enjoy more sitting up there and reading a magazine.  As a dad next to me on Shaky #2 said, “it really is serene.”

But his daughter wanted to zip, so they moved on.

It’s not bungie jumping.  It’s not rappelling.  It’s not even really zip lining, but it is plunging from 60 to 0 in a few short seconds, so as convalescent home-zoo thrills go, I got my $10 worth.

Perhaps this summer has room for the Corn Maze, if I can convince the Tarletons.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where the money goes

I took 6 months to open the American Express end of year summary, because I knew the minute I did I would be sucked into the graphs and the pivots, and there goes an entire Sunday.  Today, to be precise.

And the summary is so….summery.

summary graph

The first surprise was that I spent less than it felt like, and the numbers are a little skewed because I put the deposit for the new car on Amex (chu-CHING, rewards points) then paid it from the Ameriprise money market.


So factor that in.  but the rest of it is typical, and fairly interesting.

(to me.  anyway.  what are Yoooo lookin at?)

“Communications” reflects my prior relationship with the Burner, that is (for the white suburbanites) my pre-pay cell phone, which was meant to be disposable, but hung on for 6 years.  And I only replaced it to stop dialing you from my pocket. It worked just fine.

You can drill into this pie by constantly clicking to understand Amex’s taxonomy of your frittered away life.  It thinks the voice coaching session I bought was an “internet service,” and that my purchase at Austin’s famous BookPeople was “art/jewelry.” 

Groceries - $732.32.  is that a lot?  I don’t know.  I eat out a lot, and restaurants are filed separately.  Over $500 there, and most of it in the quarter I was unemployed.  But remember I went on vacation then.

Anyway, groceries.  interesting.  5% of total credit spending – 25% of “merch.”    Amex had a triple points special last year, so I took full advantage.

If you want to see your life reduced to a single bar graph, there are a few snapshots I recommend:

- your internet viewing history, subcategory

- YouTube viewing history

- Your Year in Facebook Status

- Your GPS log

- This:


Take out the outliers (Chevy on the left and the “all others” purple bar at the right, and here is the summary of my life.

  • Southwest Air
  • Telecharge ( I am known in some circles as Ticket Mistress)
  •  Broadway Across America (misspelled even)
  • USAir
  • Gulf (it says Gulf Oil Building.  If I helped buy a building I want a dividend)
  • Netflix (oh…sweeet Netflix…)
  • Willows Motel (this does not look good.  I feel I must explain that the Willows is my go-to establishment when staying in Williamstown for theatre, which will appear later in the chart.
  • United Airlines (I fly too much)
  • Lord & Taylor (people say to me, You shop at Lord & Taylor?? well, not exclusively, but yes.  If Frugal Fannie were still open, I would still go there.  But it isn’t)
  • Target – Amex itemizes my Targets.  I don’t know why, but I am glad to know they get equal time
  • Star Market – well, there are the groceries.  More food than summer stock, but not more than Netflix.  really?
  • Williamstown Theatre Festival

By the way, this exercise started because I was cleaning out my mailbox.  The year-end summary was the 2rd one in.  I am in real trouble today.

I gave you a bunch of links because I really don’t know when I can get back to this page.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hop on…


Boston-Celtics-Green-Adidas-1 …is the appropriate jeer to someone like me, who tunes in to the NBA championship after not following the season -- or really, the game. But who doesn’t love a Game Seven? And how can you not love Celtics/Lakers?

I figure I’ll show up, and find out what television advertising is up to these days. I am already blown away by the local news’ extraordinary promise of eleven minutes of news every night at 11. Every. Night.

keanu_reeves_neo_matrix_movie  whoa.




And I need the blog topics. So here we are. Poor World Cup networks.

I have written before of my baseball love. Many times. Less often about how basketball gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’m a person who will pretend to look for her keys just to avoid walking through a door at the same time as someone else. This game already looks like hockey in the first 5 minutes. Quit --- touching – me! (I’m not guarding yoooo… I’m not guarding yoooooo). No wonder everyone goes for the 3.

I do enjoy professional sports played well. But I think we all admit I have no skin in this game. I just need to be able to get through the workday tomorrow. This is the only reason I watched Bionic Woman in 6th grade too, by the way.

I could never run enough to play basketball, and I am pretty sure we only played half-court. Girls rules, you know. Early Title 9.  gym%20suitOne school generation out of the jump suit. I always managed to be on the misfit team when numbers were called in PE. The short, fat, near-sighted girls. I was a 3-fer. And I stunk at any game that involved running and hitting a target. You can fake involvement a lot more easily in softball.

So here’s what I know about this game: Big Men, Little Ball. You can punch people, and make that noise with your sneakers your mother never stood for in the mall. What if basketball sneakers came as wheelies? Is there even a Lake in LA?

1st Q – 9:32

The other day a Stan Rogers song came up on my iPod -- one of those American sea shanties he growls out. This one about a merchant marine dropping by for his quarterly landfall on his lady -- a sort of a response to “Brandy” called “Your Laker’s Back in Town.” In the time it would take me to make a mini-movie of it with slides of Kobe Bryant, the joke, and this season, would be over. So just trust me. It’s funny.

I told you earlier I’ve been watching The White Shadow. Paul Pierce reminds me of Thorpe. You remember, Kevin Hooks? whiteshadow2

I’ll you what about that show: there is some real basketball being filmed. You should check it out if you enjoy this game. It’s 70s style ball, too, pre-Jordan, pre-3 pointer. Shorty-shorts and slow passing. Davis is Coolidge, I guess, and Perk might be Haywood. But he’s not playing just now, and it is quite possible I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been wanting to spend some time praising what’s great about that series. It will have to wait for another time, I am afraid. Score is tied just now.

Garnett bowling over Jack Nicholson may be the best assault on an old man in pro sports since Pedro threw Don Zimmer aside.


2nd Q 10:10. Make a wish. 40-34 Boston.

Are there still Laker Girls? T-shirt guns? Man, I got to catch up.

There’s a weird thing going on with my TV where only the sound effects in the ads are playing. Is this also a new trend? I might be on Mono or something. But it is an interesting phenomenon to watch people mouthing their silly copy and then a bunch of boing-yoing-oing and slide whistles. Oh, wait, that’s the halftime commentary now. I’m flipping around.

Over on Fox, Boston News staple Jack Levin is giving halftime chat to the killing of an entire family in Winchester. Switching back. Magic reminds us why he should not have been a talk show host.

Then I flipped channels long enough to find a story about Mannyon ESPN and forgot what I was doing for a while.white_shadow_gomez

I like that Rondo . He might be Gomez. No storyline until the later seasons.

If you flip too long during a basketball game, you could miss a whole turnover. In baseball, you can flip to an entire episode of Law and Order and barely miss a pitching change. I guess I won’t go for ice cream now – though in this commercial break I can sell you some Ben and Jerry’s Milk & Cookies. A cookies n cream that understands it wasn’t Oreos we needed, it was good old chocolate chip. Cooked. And it’s just sitting up there in the freezer while I tell you about it. That’s how you keep ice cream in my house.

Shouldn’t it be Ben’s and Jerry’s?

I was going to count the number of uses of “downtown” but I forgot. I am imagining a cross-section of the court where Midtown and The Heights are also labeled . The wrong side of the tracks, and the suburban sprawl. The Docks! I’d like to hear a shot made “from the Waterfront.”OnTheWaterfront1


Q3 11:00pm. Nail Biter. I am supposed to be in Bed. But you know if this were Oscar Night, we would still be in the production awards or an Irving Thalberg honoree. I got this. With ice cream. Watching 300 lb men run for 2 hours inspires me to think it is perfectly FINE if I eat a bowl of ice cream at 11pm. Sleep better, right?

I actually watched that last quarter, which occurred in near real-time. I think the Celtics were rope-a-doped. I don’t know how you tell what a foul is anymore, but it’s crazy to think that games can be won on them. I am trying to design a free throw equivalent for baseball. What would that be? A free steal? In the school yard, we called that “One Base on an Over-Throw.”

Remember when game scores were in the 100s? What happened to that?  Same thing that happened to the underhand free throw.

I blame myself. I’m the one who sent a text to the Essex girls, now in Hollywood, when we were up by 10. My bad.

This essay does not contain the word “vuvuzela.” Oh, crap. Now it does.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Royal Appearance: a locked door mystery

I have been telling you for years that I am the kind of friend you can ask on errands.  That I will sit in the bleachers with you.  Up until they stopped allowing it, (and I moved out of town) I was know to meet you at Logan and entertain you through your layover.
So what a delight to have The Baroness take a page from the book of Caroline, and arrange her flight home from Buffalo through Boston, so we could have an old-fashioned all-nighter.  Cue the Dreamgirls:  one night only../one night only….

There is always a lot going on in this great city of ours, esp in the summer when it is basketball playoffs, inter-league baseball, USA/England in the World Cup, and Boston Pride Weekend all on millargrabassthe same day.  The last one is sort of a sport.

At the Westin Waterfront, though, we were far from most of the action, and there is something to be said for being a gigantic fancy-pants hotel without traffic, sirens, and panhandlers.  I hung out in the lobby, wrote a few letters, and watched some soccer, like I know what that is.

And, oh did the plans go agley.

Flights delayed, for no reason that made sense to the pilot, so when he finally got clearance (Clarence) he made the jump from Buffalo in under 30 minutes.  That takes a Bostonian.  I had moved to the bar, where I was chatting up the bartender about the Philadelphians who had moved in, including one family with a golden retriever, because this is a pet-friendly hotel.  Does the dog have a massage scheduled for the morning?
When Baroness finally arrived, she had the look of a Preferred Customer who needed to be upgraded to a suite, and so we were, then headed straight to City Bar for a rather late night dinner.

You know what’s funny about the second Manhattan?  ev-ry-thing.


I took the living room side of the suite, with the convertible sofa that was not made up, so we called for Robert from housekeeping  to come and put our drunk asses to bed.  Baroness took the bedroom side and shut the door between us.  Her side had a knob.  mine… did not.  


Habit and a hangover conspired to wake me at 6am.  I drank water, watched infommercials and dozed until about 9, when I considered coffee, which was on my side of the room, but they had neglected to stock the cream and sugar.

At 10, Baroness knocks on her side of the door, and comes in to find me fully dressed and reading in a chair.  She said, “I couldn’t tell if you were awake.”  “I don’t have a doorknob,” I said, as the door slipped out of her hands and clicked shut with her on my side of it.

Room key?  yes.
Safety latch on other door?  also yes.

No one handles the staff like Her Grace.  From her I have learned in life that everything is someone’s area of expertise, and that if it happens to you, the law of large numbers assures that it happens all the time.  And that people love to help.  Hotel Security wants you to think that safety latch is impenetrable but of course there is a tool that solves problems like these.  Still, we played along while Security called Maintenance and distracted us from watching how it is done.  It’s not a great story; I’m just telling you about the weekend.  What are you doing?

From there to Henrietta’s Table.  No celebs, but one heck of a skillet brekkie.  It began to rain with purpose while we were there, so we waited it out, then spent the afternoon in Harvard Sq shopping for my wine tasting party later that day where I needed to beat a $20 budget on a bottle of Spanish and an app.  We came in at $21, but only because of the tax.   A tempranillo and a manchego that I am now hooked on, plus 2 ciabatta rolls I could slide and make go farther.  Plus, they were passing truffles around in Cardullo’s like it was a cocktail party.  And it was still raining, so why not stay where it smells like almonds and chocolate, and where the deli man was willing to estimate a quarter-pound of cheese before lopping it off? 

  We watched some buskers, we flirted with the guy selling Spare Change, we cruised through The Coop for Harvard souvenirs… I giddily ducked into Harvard  Books and bought $50 worth of I don’t know what.  I’m not sure which of us was the out-of-towner.  

Times like this will really confuse your memory about living in the city.    I think I do know though that it’s a nicer place to visit when you don’t have to live there.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just 25 minutes on James Mason

My time is so tightly scheduled, I only have 25 minutes left in the day to tackle the big questions in life that threaten to keep me awake.  Like what the heck is James Mason's accent?

How sweet it would be to write this entire post as a James Mason (Mmmaaaysssson) impression.  My favorite James Mason impression is Eddie Izzard's, who often attributes Mason's voice to God, as he impatiently explains his mystical decision making to us earthly morons. I went looking for a clip, and lost some of my precious minutes falling back in love with Eddie Izzard.  Izzard as James Mason is one of the most dangerous bad boy wife-dominating tranvestites you'll ever fantasize making bad choices about.

I found this instead.  Mason rocking the 'stache and selling you T-Bird.  Well that's mmmaaaarvalousss.

15 minutes left

Your James Mason film festival, brought to you by the DrawingIn Room:

A Star is Born -  Mason out-Judies Judy, who does not, in fact, forget her troubles or get happy.
Lolita - That face he makes at Lolita while her mother is prattling on about "her cherry pie."  I need some water.
Bigger Than Life - wouldn't you have called it "Larger Than Life"?  Mason's character is caught in an ethical dilemma when the only drugs available that can save his life also make him psychotic. Watch the doctors' careful pronunciation of their new miracle drug cor-ti-zone.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Nemo by way of Ahab.  And one smokin' turtleneck.
Sesame Street Visits the Met? haven't seen it.  Desparately need to now.

If you don't have time for a film festival, start your You Tube evening here, and wander through a few choice episodes of What's My Line Mystery Guestspots.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I wanna live forever

like you might need an essay to explain the magic that is Fame.

I wanna live forever

If you follow this site with any regularity (or at least more than I give you a reason to), you recall that I have turned over my TV watching to a re-view of the touchstones of my early years, just to see what “if I knew then what I know now” feels like.

Yes, I know they (they) remade Fame and I am  not hostile to that, I just don’t need it.  I know that Glee is a national phenomenon, and I do intend to give it a try – in arrears.  This is what we meant by living forever.

Sadly, Gene Anthony Ray (demonstrating above what we tuned in for) did not live forever.  I imagine he would today be a judge on SYTYCD, a frequent contributor to Oscar ceremonies with his mentor Ms Allen, and signing a deal for the cover of AARP, June Pride edition.


  The biggest rivalry in my freshman dorm occurred every Thursday night at 8 when the Fame vs Magnum squatters’ rights to the social room TV got underway (suck it, Joanie and Chachi).  We were usually out numbered, but we persevered.  We learned how to fly (high!).

At the time, what I liked about it was first the dancing, 2nd the bad-boy-with-heart-of-gold Leroy’s effect on put-upon spinster Elizabeth Sherwood, and indulging the fantasy that my transition from child novelist to Voice of a Generation was teed up to take place at the finest writing school of the South.


The dance does indeed hold up, especially in the early episodes, where a 5-7 minute number is shot full-body, Fred Astair style, showing off Allen’s athletic choreography on some very athletic bodies. (in sweat!)

What they should not have done was encourage those charming young people to sing.  Or some of them to act.

Over-directed?  Oh… yes.  Teenage whisper-shouts, excessive use of each other’s names, aging slang (not  “jive-turkey” aging, but certainly “chump” aging), and corny dialogue was par for the course in 1982.  Still, Fame was considered urban and gritty enough to lead-in for Cheers, Taxi, and Hill Street Blues.  Middle America was for ABC, thank you very much.  Even then, Must-See Thursday belonged to NBC.

Watch the adult actors on this show bring their Broadway chops to too small a screen, and often look a little silly doing it, but hats off for sincerity points.  Albert Hague was such a keeper he made the crossover from the movie itself.  Every time he waves his pencil and thrusts those Germanic diphthongs at you, you hope someday he’ll shrug and say (as he often does to Martelli) “not bad.”  Debbie Allen – well forget it, she’s Tony material, and the girl who dared shoot-up during Prime time.  debbie

(what, you don’t remember she was JJ’s junkie fiancee?  dy-no-mite indeed)

I find Carol Mayo Jenkins fascinating as Sherwood, and so much more sympathetic than Anne Meara was in the film version (though admittedly the film is FIRMLY 70s bleak while the TV show takes that 80s step forward into the light).   Anyway, where I was going before the parenthetical was to Miss Sherwood of the furrowed brow, the Elizabeth Montgomery coiff, the serious teacher clothes.  Count on her in every episode to cock her head and skeptically repeat what you just said, to enforce the byzantine rules of the NYC public school system, and to declare her love for “these kids.”

I channeled her for a few years during my own Fame experience.  Without benefit of Shorofsky.

I dragged Season 1 out for most of this past year, but I have finally watched them all and queued up Season 2.  It will have to wait a bit, though, I’m onto White Shadow right now.

carver team

in case you forgot why we watched that.