I'm very very sorry. I blame a recent viewing of Murder By Death. But that's no excuse.
February 2004 Archives
Okay, reeling the topic back in now. The whole "Grease" thing started because I suddenly got "Who put the bomp" etc. in my head at lunchtime, so we got the movie at the library. Watched it after supper and I made popcorn for the first time in years. By "made" popcorn, I mean heated up oil in a pan and popped it. I never do this because it makes the whole house stink of burning vegetable oil, but last night I got it just right (and opened all the windows first) and it came out okay. And I was such an accommodating dad that when Bekah said, "There's not much butter" and I said that was because there wasn't any at all, and she just said, "Oh," I got up and melted butter for it. Know what? Much better with the melted butter. Duh. So, they trundled off to bed with surprising efficiency, I watched some aimless TV while reading "Low Life," and when I got restless did a little mayhem with Grand Theft Auto 3. I always want, when I'm on my own, to be able to put on the headphones and crank the stereo, but I'm too nervous that one of them will need me and I won't be able to hear them, so that never happens.
Today we're on our own most of the day. Promised Hannah we'd watch Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing," because she has decided she is going to read Shakespeare, and I thought it would go a little easier if she had some frame of reference for what is going on in the story while she struggles with the words. Besides, it was my introduction to Shakespeare and has ever since been my favorite of his plays (9th grade, "Lulubelle" Dunsworth. We got out of doing "Romeo and Juliet" because we had seen the Zeffirelli movie the year before -- it was quite a scandal, since there was an 8th of a second flash of breast as Juliet jumped out of bed. We were 13, and that 8th of a second went a long way.) Also today, I need to set up the grill. Got Lee the cutest gas grill for Valentine's Day, perfect size for our desires which, like the popcorn, involve being able to cook pork and chicken without stinking up the house for days.
But first, I've gotta find the coffee pot in that kitchen . . . .
I have been pulling out of the doom/dread cycle that had started a few weeks back and intensified as I contemplated the extremely temporary nature of absolutely everything, as outlined in Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything," but I was kinda pulling out of that and am generally feeling less panic-stricken about the general prospect of mortality. But it's not just a book that puts me in these frames of mind, and the set of circumstances hasn't really changed. In a very short time a number of people I know were afflicted with cancer. Two are, I have to believe, going to be just fine. Another will be memorialized tomorrow, after a very brief and devastating illness. This was someone from work, and the mood there today was just dreadful quiet.
To try to make up for that, I'm reading a somewhat more gleeful recounting of life and death in the seamy underbelly of old New York, a book by Luc Sante called "Low Life." Very entertaining, but really hard to imagine how unspeakably awful the city was in the days of horses, epidemics, and trash piled up on the streets. A fun little wallow.
Movie of the week? Well, we didn't quite finish it (out of sheer exhaustion), but "M. Hulot's Holiday," a Jacques Tati film (he who inspired what I can only imagine is the unbelievable "Triplets of Belleville," which I haven't gotten to see yet) was a gentle, sweet, very funny little comedy. Virtually no dialogue, just pantomime and slapstick. Big brownie points to the public library for having it!
Last night, Hannah was describing something her grandfather had said "the night he babysat me" a few nights ago. But I misheard her and thought she had said, "The Nike babysat me," which set me to wondering how the Winged Victory of Samothrace had gotten through the back door. Then I thought, there have been worse sitcoms. "An ancient statue comes to life -- but she can only find work as a nanny for three precocious youngsters! Next on 'The Nike Babysat Me!'" Then I realized it's good that I've sworn to use my powers only for good, or I'd be phoning my agent and taking meetings right now.
It's President's Day, which means that we could sit around and contemplate Washington (who's been all but forgotten in this) and Lincoln (who still somehow has his birthday as a separate semi-holiday in New York, but instead we honor them with cartoon caricatures hawking used automobiles, cheap mattresses and furniture sales. If the founding fathers had foreseen this, copyright would last forever. (Plus, they would have made a fortune on the stock market, throwing money into the carriage companies that would eventually crank out automobiles.) And on any normal day, the last place on earth I want to be is a furniture store. I have a very narrow range of taste when it comes to furniture, and I usually can't find it. It's pretty much Mission, Shaker, and very simple. And on a big sale weekend, the very last place I would want to be is The Big Store, as it is advertised locally, a massive furniture store that could sleep thousands comfortably in the event of an emergency (a light bulb just went off in my head -- make a note for the next big disaster). But my girls have a very generous grandmother, who decided they needed bedroom sets. So we went, along with pretty much everyone else for 20 miles, wandering around aimlessly, looking at ugly furniture. And as we walked down an aisle, a book laid on a table for decorate effect caught my eye -- it was a hardcover edition of Muriel Spark's "The Only Problem," my favorite Muriel Spark book ever. I couldn't believe it was lying there in a furniture store, providing atmosphere. It was in great condition, too. After my mother had plunked down several million dollars for these bedroom sets (which will be lovely, I should add), she asked if we could take the book, too, but incredibly the salesman had to decline. Apparently sometimes the salespeople bring these things in themselves, and take them back later, and it could have belonged to someone else. Who knew?
Saw fragments of the terribly named "Ballistics: Ecks vs. Sever" the other night, and got what I expected -- an action movie that makes blowing things up dull. Hell, it made Lucy Liu dull. Then last night we watched Robert Rodriguez's "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," an insanely over the top shoot-'em-up which gets every single detail exactly right, and which first thought of the idea of combining a bandolero of knives with Salma Hayek's right thigh, which to my mind is a brilliant idea.
Also good? "Freaky Friday." The new one. I laughed insanely. I really didn't expect to. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's Jamie Lee. The girl playing her daughter is Lindsay Lohan, whom I was unaware is also a singer. Hannah knew one of her songs from Radio Disney, a perfectly pleasant little piece of pop. But Hannah also made the connection between it being a Disney movie and the song getting played on Radio Disney. I said something about being glad she was aware her tastes were manipulated by corporate giants, and then said something about them not being giant enough to not be a takeover target, and Hannah said, "Yeah, by Comcast," a piece of information I really didn't expect her to have. Then she explained when she had heard it -- she was watching the news on TV with her grandfather, "the nike babysat me."
Of all the great children's literature that is available to my children and wasn't available to me, I most wish I'd had the Lemony Snicket "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Dark, extremely witty, extremely engrossing, and terrifically well-written. I'm going through Book 10, The Slippery Slope, right now, though I confess I haven't read all of them. (That'll have to wait until I get a Veritably Free Day.) This one is fantastic, but my favorite so far was actually "Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography," which is stunning.
My eldest starts middle school next year. Lee got to attend the information session on it the other night, which turned out to be more of a question and answer session; the informational session will follow. That makes sense, right? (Government by amateurs . . . don't get me started.) I know that middle school is when you start to pick up an "identity" so you can fit in with a particular crowd -- jock, goth, prep, etc. I'm encouraging Hannah to start her own: Visigoth. You have to run from the Huns (I don't think we have too many of those left), but you get to overrun the Balkans.
"Achey Feverish Flu" was going to be the big comeback duet for Johnny Rivers and Billy Ray Cyrus, but it never took off.
I'm very sorry for that last one. Blame the fever.
On a lighter note, let me re-state my First Law of Home Repair: "The job expands to accommodate the number of tools at your disposal." A simple task of setting up the baseboards for Bek's room (couldn't bear to try to recondition the old ones, in the end) and sanding a chamfer off the upper edge required me to drag the table saw up from the basement and into the garage (more room to maneuver 12 foot planks), and then I dug out: the board roller, the folding sawhorse, two quick clamps, wrenches for the table saw, the new belt sander, and the router. This is a job that, I assure you, could have been done handily with a sanding block had it been necessary. And I had tried it with the belt sander, but didn't like the results. So: out comes the router! All part of my evil plan . . . .
We had been just about to discuss the Carlie Brucia murder with them, because that one was really upsetting. My older daughter is about to turn 11, and we do want to start to give her some more freedom, ability to go places on her own, etc., but things like this shift us back into protective mode. This one was particularly upsetting to me because the authorities did everything right, moved so quickly, and had much to go on right from the start, and it ended up not making any difference (except that he's not free to do it again). That was unsettling.
- Bridges freeze first. You'd be amazed how many people who have lived in the Northeast for their entire lives treat this as if it were a new fact during each and every snowstorm, or don't treat it as a fact at all and go careering off guardrails and into the inky drink below. (Many road signs say something like "Bridge may be icy" or "Surface may be icy," which is a ridiculous thing to say anytime 3 months wide of Bastille Day -- "Bridge freezes first" is always true.)
- Anti-lock brakes are worth whatever you have to do to get them, and I was surprised during my last car-buying round to find that they weren't standard equipment, since I've had them on every vehicle I've bought since my '89 Ranger. The Mazda salesman we bought from last tried to pooh-pooh the entire idea of anti-lock brakes, which I found bizarre, and could only have been because the models he wanted to unload on us didn't have them. And, as it turned out, the Protege 5 only offered ABS if you got the moonroof package. I've used ABS at night, so I know it's not solar-powered; any other reason why it would be tied to the moonroof is still a mystery to me.
- People without four-wheel drive are always explaining to me why four-wheel drive vehicles are a menace to everyone around them, and while I agree that you will often see SUVs bombing at a higher-than-safe speed, I get passed by a lot of other idiots with two-wheel drive, too. I usually end up passing them after they've slid into the ditch. 4WD doesn't mean you can go faster, and it's only a slight advantage in tight corners and ice, but for everything else it's a huge advantage, and without it there would be nights when I couldn't get up the hill to my house, so you will pry 4WD from my cold dead fingers, thank you very much. (I also used to get people incredulous that I had 4WD when most of my driving was in the city. Have you ever seen Albany's snow removal? Do you understand that you essentially park on tundra for three months of the year? Have you ever tried to dig yourself into and out of a parking spot? Years of battling the tundra in Syracuse, plus years of battling it in Albany, and I learned that I would never have to get stuck again if I just had 4WD.)
- Sure, I may be in control, but don't count on that other guy.
- Sliding uphill is generally better than sliding downhill. As long as you can get all the way up the hill.
- What would I turn up if I were to Google the phrase "Bacharach paperweight"? Not much, but this site is No. 3! (After much thought, I think the searcher was perhaps looking for Baccarat paperweights. The very word "baccarat" sends me riffing on the Evelyn Tremble method, and it will all go downhill from there, so let's let it go now....)
- Was it live, or was it Mammorex? I don't know anything about football, I don't know anything about Justin Timberlake, and I haven't paid any attention to Janet Jackson since she did "Diamonds" with Herb Alpert back in '87, kicking off the short-lived but much-needed Return of Herb Alpert. But I know a contrived moment of attention-getting when I see it replayed in super slo-mo on CNN's website, and this is one of them. I will confess to being oblivious to the whole nipple shield enterprise, but it seems to me that that's something you might wear when you expect your breast to suddenly join the party.
- How was the skiing yesterday? Well, the snow wasn't stunning, but the day was, and despite a huge crowd at Gore, we had as wonderful a day as you can have. Plus, lunch on the deck -- even though it was only in the 20s, the sun was strong, baby.
- How's the whole "doom and gloom we're only an insignificant blip in time and everything we have done will someday be lost and forgotten" mood going? Continuing to read Bryson's "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" is not helping. I go through these periods when I'm intensely aware of the very passing nature of my life, life in general, the world as we know it, and even the universe. This was not a book to read during one of those periods.
- Going to do the Tour de Cure again this year? You know it. Those American Diabetes Association people really know how to pamper their fundraisers, so I will definitely be back. The real question is, will I be able to do a century, or am I just going to laze my way through another 50-miler? Like any good messed-up middle-age pseudo-athlete, I yearn to ski all summer, then yearn to ride my bike all winter. And I make up excuses for not running all year round.
- Making any progress in Simpson's Hit and Run? Some. Not enough. Perhaps I should focus on that right now . . .