Archive for November, 2001

Nov 28 2001

Anniversary

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Today is my sister Beth & her husband Harry’s 20th anniversary! They are spending it in Italy (they live in England, so getting there takes them about the same amount of time as it takes me to get to LA), and I hope they’re having a happy, romantic time. Like you can have a bad time in Italy.

Harry said he would get the train tickets to London, where their flight left from, but he didn’t. Instead, he booked a limo with champagne, chocolate, flowers, the works! Any trip that starts out that way has to be good.

I’m really glad for them. They got married when they had both been 20 for a month, Beth was already expecting Catherine (born the following July) and they were both still in college. They’ve been through a lot, but have two wonderful kids and a happy life together. Quite an achievement!

Oddly, both of my sisters got married when they were just 20. It was the furthest thing from my mind when I was 20. I was still shopping. And the thought of being legally bound to any decision I made when I was 20 years old, let alone one as important as that, just fills me with horror. So my sisters must be much more mature than I am, because they are both still happily married. 20 years for Beth & Harry today, 10 years for Megan & Rob this past July, and 11 years for me and Rufus next month. So far, so good. And I can personally tell you: romance and passion get stronger with the years.

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Nov 27 2001

Keeping time

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I finally picked up my adorable watch, now repaired October 23 entry). It took a million years for it to be fixed, because the guy who usually does it is on a trip to China and hasn’t come back (hmmm). So a replacement guy was doing it, and he was very, very slow.

Since it took so long, I bought a replacement watch while I was waiting. By the time my original watch was repaired, I had gotten quite fond of the Other Watch. But when I picked up the Original Watch, not only fixed but with all its diamonds cleaned, I immediately remembered why I loved it so much. This must be an emotion experienced by many cheating spouses. Like them, I think I’ll keep the Other One around, just in case. And in the meantime, I can enjoy being all sparkly again.

I have to start working on my willpower, though. Currently, I don’t have any (or patience, either), and while picking up my watch I was unable to resist buying a pair of earrings. They are little studs set in matte silver, small, and set with raw unpolished opals. I’m wearing them right now. I think it’s going to take me some time to get used to this nouveau pauvre thing. In the meantime, I will try to stay away from jewelry stores, no matter how much I need retail therapy.

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Nov 23 2001

Post Holiday

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Well, things went pretty well yesterday. Number one, the rain that had been forecast with consistent gloom to be here from Wednesday through Sunday has yet to appear. In fact, the sun even peeped out coyly from time to time. Our stove seems to have recovered from its temporary fit of diva-ness, and roasted the turkey to perfection and turned out several batches of Suzy’s famous cheese biscuits (which, if I could figure out a way to market them, is definitely my million dollar idea).

Dinner was fun and stress-free, and no-one cried. I had my brother, sister and brother-in-law here, as well as my brother’s wonder dog Jed and his friend Carrie, who is expecting her first baby on Christmas Eve. I hadn’t met her before, but I really liked her, and it was a happy and relaxed evening.

Of our four cats, only Hannah was brave enough to approach Jed and smell her curiously. Jack, who thinks she’s so tough, barely looked at Jed for a split second before vanishing for the rest of the evening (later, we found her wedged under the couch). However upsetting this may have been to Jack, it did mean that for the first time since Jack entered our lives, we were able to eat a meal in peace, without her whining and demanding food, or possibly even jumping onto the table, which would have been really embarrassing in front of someone I had just met. So that was good, too.

We left the house at about 12:30 this afternoon with the intention of seeing “Harry Potter”, along with most of the city’s population. Insane traffic snarls, parking problems, crowded theater lobbies, and sold out show after show later, we finally bought tickets for the 4:00 p.m. show at 2:00 p.m., went and had a weirdly late lunch (hey, everyone’s eating habits are all screwed up now anyway) and finally got into the movie. By the way, all the shows up to 11:00 p.m. were sold out when we got back to the theater for the 4:00 p.m. show.

I liked the movie, but they fucked with some plot points for no reason (i.e. Norbert the dragon), and I didn’t like Hermione, but other than that, the casting was great. But Harry’s scar was lame (as my sister said, it looks like someone put it on with eyeliner) and I don’t understand why they didn’t give him green contact lenses when the books make such a big deal about his green eyes and this kid has the standard-issue English blue ones. But, having nit-picked and griped (and you just knew I would), it looked absolutely spectacular and the actors were wonderful. I guess with any beloved book, it’s very difficult to translate it to the screen and win everyone’s approval for how you did it. Definitely worth seeing, and worth seeing in the theater.

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Nov 21 2001

Thanksgiving Eve

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I wonder why we don’t have Thanksgiving Eve in the same way we have Christmas Eve. Both of these holidays are preceded by a whirlwind of activity and preparation for just one day, and then it’s over. Maybe we don’t have Thanksgiving Eve because everyone’s on the road or in a plane. After all, it’s the biggest travel day of the year.

This has been the worst year of my life, even worse than the twelve month period when I lost all of my grandparents. Even if I won the lottery tonight, it would still be the worst year of my life. My 69 year old mother, a breast cancer survivor and in poor health, was left completely penniless by her heartless second husband. My beloved father and friend passed away suddenly, a loss I will never really recover from, and less than a week after I returned home from his funeral, the September 11 tragedy occurred, forever removing the remaining vestiges of innocence from our existence. This week, Thanksgiving week, Rufus was laid off from his job, after working there almost a decade.

But despite all this, I feel that I have a great deal to be thankful for. During this terrible year, I have become closer to my mother and my older sister. I have had an outpouring of love, support, and encouragement from family and friends all over the world. I had a remarkable friendship and deep bond with my father, and that will always be with me, even if he is not. I have the most wonderful husband, who makes me laugh no matter how bad things get, and who is the foundation of my life. I will be together with my family and surrounded by love at Thanksgiving. For all this, I am truly thankful. And I am looking to the future with hope.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

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Nov 20 2001

Books

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It’s such a luxurious feeling, having a pile of books and magazines waiting by my bed. I have the latest The Sun, Real Simple, and The New Yorker. Also: How to Travel Incognito, by Ludwig Bemelmans (best known for the classic children’s series, “Madeline”); Ascending Peculiarity (a collection of interviews with the inimitable Edward Gorey); A Coffin for King Charles (an account of the trial and execution of Charles I in the winter of 1648-49, which, oddly, I started reading on Charles’ birthday, November 19); and Peter Mayle’s charming romp Hotel Pastis (this is a re-read — it never fails to divert me, no matter how bad things are in real life). Now if only I had time to read them all!

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Nov 18 2001

Seashells

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Rufus’ nephew Will, who lives in land-locked Calgary, Alberta, and has never seen the ocean, saw a TV show last week about San Francisco. He was just amazed that not only did his uncle and aunt live there, but that we could go and pick up shells on the beach whenever we wanted to. The fact is, we never do this (although I do pick up shells when visiting my brother & sister in Mendocino, or when I’m in Maine), but thought we’d go to the beach this weekend and see what we could find for Will.

Fortunately, it was sunny, so we walked down to Aquatic Park and looked on the beach. If Will wanted to start a collection of pieces of styrofoam or cigarette butts, this would be the place to start. Although I do go there fairly often to sit and watch the waves, I hadn’t really examined exactly what was on the beach, and I am amazed that parents let their kids run around on it barefoot. Ick. Also am even more amazed by the intrepid members of the Polar Bear Club, who not only brave the temperature of the chilly Bay year round, but also whatever happens to be floating in it.

We did find a couple of shells, but we ended up cheating by buying a couple more (authentically chipped) at one of the stores in the nearby Cannery (former fish cannery now a shopping mall). It’s kind of fun to play tourist in your own town. I don’t think we’ll tell Will we cheated, though — he’s too young to have his illusions shattered just yet.

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Nov 17 2001

House Call

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Our beautiful old Wedgewood stove was the only thing in our kitchen that wasn’t hideous when we first bought this place. In the intervening years, we remodelled the kitchen, but the stove has remained the focal point, a rare and delightful combination of both form and function. It is also Jack’s favorite lounging place, as you can see from the picture. Jack may be many things, but she’s not stupid — the pilot lights under the chrome top of the stove keep it pretty toasty.

But this past week, our stove has been behaving very temperamentally. The pilot light in the oven would go out, and we’d re-light it. Sometimes it would stay lit, and sometimes it wouldn’t. By the end of the week, the stove had taken on diva-like qualities that we had hitherto never suspected, and began turning itself off in the middle of cooking dinner, mostly when we weren’t looking. So we decided we’d better get a stove doctor to make a house call. After all, Thanksgiving is taking place here this year, and I don’t think I could make the ritual feast without the help of La Wedgewood, preferably operating at top form.

We scheduled the house call for Friday at 3:00. As Rufus was hanging up after making the appointment, the phone doctor’s receptionist said, “Between 3 and 5, OK?” and hung up herself.

So it ended up being a lot like going to the doctor ourselves, where we’d wait in the waiting room for seemingly ages, and then actually spend about 15 minutes with the doctor before being told there was nothing wrong, paying the co-payment, and being hustled out the door to make way for the next victim. At least we were able to wait clothed in the comfort of our own home instead of shivering in those dignity-destroying gowns which are not only apparently made for midgets, but designed to give the maximum exposure to one’s derri?re.

The stove doctor didn’t arrive until after 6:30, but he was so funny and charming that we couldn’t stay mad at him. He also fixed the stove in a few minutes, and so far, so good. Hopefully the stove is back to its reliable old self again.

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Nov 15 2001

Beaujolais Nouveau

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It’s the third Thursday in November, and you know what that means! It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day! You can’t buy it before this day each year, so it’s a special occasion. Since it’s also close to Thanksgiving, it has become a family tradition to serve Beaujolais Nouveau with our Thanksgiving feast. This seems appropriate, since Dad’s family originally came from France (maybe I can blame my rabid francophilia on that long-ago connection) and my mother is American, and what can be more American than Thanksgiving?

So after work, I ran a few pleasant errands, which included the French bakery, where I learned that they were out of ficelle, so I settled for a baguette instead. And I had to indulge my obsession with their incredible canel&eacutes de Bordeaux. As I crossed the street to go to the wine shop, I saw John’s barber strolling along the street, smoking a cigarette. He gave me the raised eyebrows, which is his way of waving or saying hi. It seemed odd to see him there, although the barber shop he works in is only about 5 blocks away. Such is the way of neighborhoods.

I also passed a guy who was arguing passionately with his wife or girlfriend on his cell phone. I think he was losing the argument, because what he mostly said was “Cindy! Cindy!” like he was trying to interrupt Cindy’s tirade. When he was finally able to get a word in, he said, “Can’t you believe me? It was just a coincidence.” I didn’t believe him, and I’m not even Cindy.

In the wine shop, everything was festive for Beaujolais Nouveau Day. They were playing Edith Piaf and sat at the tasting bar with me and chatted as I sampled three different kinds of Beaujolais Nouveau. It was really fun to discuss the three different kinds with them, also French wine in general and Beaujolais in particular. I hardly ever get to use the phrase “appelation contr?ll?” in everyday conversation.

In the end, I rejected the Georges Duboeuf in favor of Domaine Dupeuble (and not just because it had one of my favorite Jefferson quotes on the back label: “Good wine is a necessity of life to me”) and Domaine Piron. I think they’ll do quite well for the big feast. And I’ll be thankful that my father taught me to love and know good wine, among so many other things.

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Nov 12 2001

In Memoriam

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Well, it took me long enough, but I have finally completed a section of my site dedicated to my father. You can find it here:

In Memoriam

Comments and suggestions are welcome!

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Nov 12 2001

Serendipity

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We went to see Serendipity this weekend. I like romantic comedies (especially ones set at Christmas time, like “While You Were Sleeping” and “You’ve Got Mail”), the trailer looked great, and all the critics love it, but after seeing it, I don’t know why. There was no spark between John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, as far as I could see. When did he start looking so damn haggard? He looks like he has a week long hangover or just flew in from Australia and hasn’t slept in days. Also, was he always so furry? Those forearms! Gaaah! Maybe the Kate Beckinsale character feared that this hirsuteness would be extended to his back, and that’s the real reason she didn’t give him her phone number.

Even stranger than the complete lack of chemistry between Cusack and Beckinsale is the lack of connection between Cusack and Jeremy Piven, life-long friends who are playing…life-long friends. Surely we should get some feeling of that off-screen friendship on-screen, but their scenes together are as sterile as those betwen Cusack and Beckinsale.

The only comedy in this flat little endeavor was provided by Eugene Levy as a neurotic Bloomingdale’s employee. This was unexpected and delightful, and a much-needed relief. It was neither romantic nor comedic as I understand the definition of those words. And by the way…San Francisco isn’t full of nothing but stupid New Agey types. Trust me.

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Nov 10 2001

An evening with Brian

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We had a fantastic time with Candi’s adorable fianc? Brian last night. He had a few hours to kill before his flight back home, which left SFO at 12:15 am. Yes, am. Poor guy — the whole time we were sleeping last night, he was either flying or waiting to fly. And which is worse? Especially when your layover is exactly as long as the flight you’re waiting for.

Travel vicissitudes notwithstanding, we had a wonderful time. The three or so hours we had together just flew by. We chatted at our place for a while, and although Brian’s allergic to cats, ours didn’t set them off. They all inspected him and sniffed him carefully, though, suspicious of the Cheeto bouquet, no doubt.

Then we went to our favorite cozy little Italian restaurant for a great dinner. We talked about everything under the sun, and before we knew it, it was time for him to go. But he’ll be back next month! Now, if only Candi could come with him — but what would she do in Sacramento for three days? One of these days, they’ll both have to come out here and visit for a few days.

By the way…I had promised Candi that I wouldn’t let Brian touch our computer. I figured it was probably like being a doctor and having people at parties try to get free diagnoses along with their martinis, but he couldn’t resist checking it out (I swear! It was his idea!) and in about 60 seconds, made it better. We thought we’d have to buy a hub so we could have the printer, scanner and DSL all hooked up, but no. It only needed a minute of Brian. The man is a genius. And a really great guy.

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Nov 09 2001

News from England

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I got a fax today from my stepmother in London, England. She’s 74 and living alone since my father’s death in August. Someone has a pretty warped sense of humor over there; it’s not just here. Here’s her fax to me:

“Yesterday, I got a brown envelope with a second class stamp on it. I opened it and inside was a folded white sheet of paper, edges turned down all round. I opened that and found clumpy white powder and the message, “B-o-o-o-o-o you have been anthraxed.” I thought it was a hoax, so I put it back in its envelope. A couple of hours later, I thought perhaps I should tell the police. Phoned police and they said someone would be round. Couple of hours later a big police van arrives and 2 guys in fairly posh sort of uniforms arrive — no white suits or plastic gloves. So I give them the envelope and they look inside and pour the powder into a large plastic bag and say that’s the third they’ve got that day. They are one of 8 units in the capital [London], had come out from the centre to me [in Wimbledon], and most of the units had had 3 or 4 by yesterday afternoon. The powder was “Bold” detergent but he said some people had been very frightened. I said I took it as a joke, but a very stupid one. What a waste of police time. They are all absolutely identical except for the number of o’s — think he was getting tired by the time he got to me! I think they will get him and he will go to prison (under new legislation) for a stupid prank. But people do have to be protected.”

I love it that she’s too smart and strong to be scared by this idiot, even though she is elderly and alone. But she built up her real estate empire completely on her own, and learned to drive and bought a car without telling her first husband. She just drove it on home one day. You can’t keep a woman like that down for long. But I bet many others in the same situation would have been really scared, and you can’t blame them, either. I guess no matter how bad a situation is, there will always be someone mean and/or stupid enough to take advantage of it, whether as what passes for a joke or for their own advantage.

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Nov 09 2001

Retail therapy

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I love this expression from my gorgeous niece, Cat: “retail therapy”. Retail therapy is when you go shopping to make yourself feel better when you’re riding a bummer. And unlike conventional therapy, you always get results — and instantly! — with retail therapy. So the next time things look bad, don’t get sad. Go shopping! You read it here first.

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Nov 09 2001

Silver Screen

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How did the great actresses of the silver screen learn how to cry so beautifully? Personally, I end up with a red face, stuffy nose, red eyes, and sans make-up — distinctly un-lovely, un-photogenic, un-Hollywood. But beauties of the past, such as Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, and Vivien Leigh, managed to cry beautifully, with jewel-like tears rolling dramatically down their lovely faces, which remained uncontorted, and without destroying their make-up, which remained flawless. They could do this, apparently effortlessly, both in ethereal black and white and in glorious Technicolor. I wonder if this is something they learned in acting school, or from Max Factor. Of course, it might be one of those girl lessons I missed, like how to keep your bra straps up.

Another girl lesson I seem to have missed is how to apply make-up in a moving vehicle. I am somewhat proud of the fact that I can do the whole thing, including contact lenses, in about 15 minutes, but if I tried to put on make-up in a bus or car, I’d end up with lipstick all over and/or minus an eye. This morning, Rufus and I took the bus in to work (the 41 Union, which is populated entirely by market people, wearing clacky shoes, blabbing loudly on cell phones to impress fellow riders with their importance, and reading either the sports section or the business section of the paper, both sections which get recycled instantly and unread chez nous), and there was a girl actuallly applying eyeliner and blush as the bus moved jerkily up the steep hill on its trolley cables. Far more impressive than blabbing on a cell phone, because not only was she undamaged, but her make-up came out pretty good. Now, there’s a girl who can probably cry like Garbo.

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Nov 07 2001

French castle vs. city apartment

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You can buy a whole castle in France for just about half of what our new neighbors across the hall paid for their 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with no parking and apartments above and below them. Actually, two castles. What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe we should sell our apartment and move to France. I could definitely find somewhere to park on 5 acres of land, and they drive on the correct side of the road in France, with no speed limits on the autoroutes.

Au revoir, y’all!

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Nov 07 2001

Timeless

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You’d think that the time change would make it easier for me to get up in the mornings, but as usual, I am perverse and am having a bad time getting up. Technically, I’m getting an extra hour of sleep, but it doesn’t seem to help. My whole body feels like lead in the morning and the last thing I want to do is drag my leaden self out of my featherbed to face yet another day of mathy work. Especially when I’m having a fun dream like I was right before the alarm went off this morning: shopping for dresses with Marilyn Monroe. Real life is never that fun.

No-one knows why we go through this twice-yearly nonsense of setting the clocks forward or back. When you ask people why we do it, they mostly say either “for the farmers” or “because of the war” (meaning WWII). Even someone with my poor math skills knows that the war ended nearly 60 years ago, so how relevant can it possibly be? And it’s always dark when I get up and go to work, all year, so I bet you it’s the same for the farmers who are theoretical supporters of daylight savings time. Has anyone even asked these farmers what they think of it? Or any of us, for that matter? I think abolishing the entire stupid business should appear on the next national election ballot, and we can all join those states who are already wise enough not to bother with it.

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Nov 05 2001

Candy corn

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Teehee, the saga of Becky’s concierge freaking out over a package of candy corn, suspecting it was anthrax, made my day. Also, the concierge must be an idiot, since anthrax is usually in powder form instead of lumpy, candy corn shaped form. I think M. Le Concierge was more nosy than worried.

I can just imagine the snotty French cop, too. Once Rufus and I lost each other in a crowd in Paris, and he went to the cops to ask for help. The cops basically told him that I had obviously dumped him for some [far more attractive] French guy, and go away. It was really hard for Rufus to resist punching the guy, but he did. And eventually he remembered the name of the hotel, got some help in working the pay phone, and called me, to my utter relief. I have to say, though, French cops have always been nice to me.

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Nov 05 2001

Cold or allergies?

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I spent the entire weekend hating my nose more than Jennifer Grey does/did. I probably sneezed violently fifteen times a day and used up half a box of Kleenex, with the result that said nose and its immediate surroundings are red and flaky, an undelightful combination and pretty hard to hide under make-up. I feel like Marcia Brady in the episode where she gets hit in the face with a football right before her Big Date and they keep replaying her crying out mournfully, “Oh, my nose!” I don’t know if it’s a cold, or if I suddenly and inexplicably have allergies. Apparently, you can just develop allergies out of nowhere, and it would be just my luck to be allergic to cats and/or dust, since we have 4 cats and live in a 75 year old building.

I’m kind of hoping it’s a cold, since that should have a limited lifespan, but other than being nasally challenged, I have no other symptoms. If it’s allergies, that means endless annoyoing doctor’s appointments, first to the doctor to get referred to the allergist (where they will weigh me and measure me and tell me I’m 4 feet tall and 200 pounds), then the allergist, then the testing…and I have managed to avoid going to the doctor for about 3 years now. If I were really paranoid and/or believed in higher powers who were actually interested in the miniutiae of my life, I’d suspect the onslaught of allergies was sent just to make me get a damn check-up.

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Nov 04 2001

It’s back!

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Finally found where the little dandelion painting had gotten to. It was placed sideways on top of the shelves which hold our [frighteningly huge collection of] videos & DVD’s, beside my maternal grandparents’ wedding picture. Shows how often I really look at my surroundings. Just have to find a nail and put the painting back up where it belongs!

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Nov 04 2001

Friday night

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The movie was great. Really stylish and surprisingly low on gore, but then one’s imagination is almost always better/worse than having it spelled out for you on film (this applies to sex scenes, too). Johnny Depp looks so great in period costume (as he did in the equally stylish, though far more gory Sleepy Hollow) that I wonder if he’ll ever get another role in modern clothes. His lower-class London accent was so impeccable that the movie was halfway over before it occurred to me that he was doing a flawless accent. While it did mess with history in a few places, and none of the Ripper’s real-life victims were remotely as attractive as those in the film, it was still a blast. I don’t have a problem with artistic license or suspending disbelief when I’m at the movies. It’s supposed to be entertaining, and that’s what it was. Reality is overrated anyway.

After the movie (which zipped by in spite of being over two hours long), we walked over to our favorite little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant, Victor’s, home of the best pizza in the city, and also one of its best-kept secrets. It’s cozy and welcoming, with its booths, battered linoleum floor, and hanging grape shaped lights. The staff has been the same for the decade we have been going there: Voice Guy, who answers the phone; the delivery guy who fell in love with our Jo when she was a kitten, asking if there were any more like her (never has been, never will be) and who is now a waiter; and our usual waiter. Our waiter has always seen the movie we have just seen, so we had an animated discussion about “From Hell” before ordering our excEt and cheap dinner. Hey Brian: guess where you’re going for dinner next Friday?!

On our way home, we passed by the new French lingerie shop that just opened. I have to go and check it out while the 10% off opening sale is still on. The husband of the lingerie shop owner had just pulled up to pick her up after work. He was accompanied by his two little girls, whom he was admonishing to put on their coats in French. One was blonde and the other a redhead, both looking like angels with clouds of curls. I’m telling you, they’re going to break a bunch of hearts in the future. They have probably already cut a swathe through their first or second grade classes. That guy better buy a gun.

And finally: it was an amazing blue moon. It looked exactly like the painting in that link. It was gorgeous.

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