Breaking News

My fabulous niece Cat is now a college (or university, depending on where you live) graduate! You rock, girl! Sending you hugs and kisses, and more importantly, a graduation gift. I am beaming with auntly pride.


Things are looking up at work. It looks like I will be making more money, possibly actual money. Too early for details, but stay tuned and wish me luck!


The usual retro weekend fare of long-ago travels and long-ago movies is cancelled for this weekend. Instead, I’m going to the International Jazz Festival in Montreal. Music instead of movies, French instead of English, wine on the terrasse instead of cocktails at home…I’m hoping to have so much fun that I won’t have time to report until I’m back to reality.

Have a great weekend!

(I’d wish you a great weekend in French, but weekend is weekend in both languages. Bon weekend, peut-etre? And does anyone know how to put French accents in Movable Type?)

Home Improvement

The Trust Fundies upstairs are moving out, to my relief. They are, as Gil from Gilmore Girls would say, “way deep in my bogus bag, and it’s Ziplocked shut.” Their dog attacked Rita the Wonder Dog twice, leaving her traumatized to the point that she flees from any dog that looks anything like the Attack Dog. Also, she barks at them whenever they walk through the courtyard, even when they are dog-less.

So I’m not sorry to see them go, those twenty-something rich kids with their air of entitlement and $100,000 car which they parked illegally in front of my door with impunity whenever they damn well felt like it. Not to mention the endless parties, catered and otherwise, that had the neighbors calling the cops. I heard one cop who responded to a complaint tell one of the neighbors that the guy upstairs was one of the most belligerent people he had ever met. And just imagine the number of angry/over-served/high people he’s had to deal with in the course of his duties.

Another improvement is the removal of the dead pigeons trapped in the chicken (pigeon?) wire covering the ceiling of the faintly creepy passageway which leads to the courtyard. Not only were the bodies removed, all the pigeon detritus was power-washed away, and the whole thing properly pigeon-proofed (theoretically). So hopefully, there won’t be piles of pigeon leavings in the passageway, and/or the possibility of a direct hit while walking through it. It’s still faintly creepy, with its bricked up vaulted windows and long-disused, rusty cranes and pulleys, but at least it’s pigeon-free. For now.



This week’s B Movie B Girl feature was Tormented! (1960).

A week before his wedding to Dull But Wealthy Meg, played by Lugene “They Don’t Name ‘Em Like That Outside of Oklahoma” Sanders (her claim to later fame was being the replacement Dull Good Daughter on TV’s Life of Riley), alleged jazz pianist Tom, played by Richard Carlson (also star of the B movie classic Creature from the Black Lagoon*), thinks it’s a good time to break up with his Other Woman, the Va-Va-Voom Vi, Juli Reding, she of the outstanding measurements of 40-23-35 at the time of filming. Leaving aside his motivation for dumping the temptress for the boring girl, he really needs to learn that casting the luscious lovely aside mere days before his wearisome wedding just isn’t a good idea. Maybe Emily Post could tell us the appropriate time that should elapse between ditching and wedding, but certainly a few days isn’t at all gentlemanly.

Vi will take a lot of things lying down, but being dumped ain’t one of them. She informs her former love that if he goes through with the wedding, her gift to the bride will be none other than a steamy packet of love letters Jazz Boy wrote her when their affair was hot’n’heavy. Unfortunately for Vi, Jazz Boy chose a lonely lighthouse as the breakup location, and in his typically gallant manner, also chooses not to save her when she falls off it into the cold, unforgiving sea. And hell hath no fury like a mistress scorned. Even if she doesn’t live, she can still tell the tale (or is tail?).

Vi proceeds to haunt the prospective bridegroom in memorable ways, such as her head appearing on a shelf and indulging in some post-mortem nagging. Guys, isn’t that one of your biggest fears?

What else but a seabreeze to go with a film where the Vixen falls to her doom off a lighthouse? Vodka, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, with just a little bit of lime to hint at the bitterness of the jilted Vixen.

*I’m always reminded of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, when she goes to see that movie and muses, in her sweet little-girl voice, “But I just felt so sorry for the creature at the end. He was kinda scary-looking, but he wasn’t really all bad. I think he just craved a little affection – you know, a sense of being loved and needed and wanted.” So did she.

Having a Ball

On the way to the park today:

A limo pulled into the parking lot of the slaughterhouse. I figure the driver must have made a mistake, but apparently not, since it was still there when Rita & I came back from the park. Why? Or more importantly, why?

Two cops were discussing the “bottoming out” party at the construction site across the street. They?ve had a long day, standing in the sun and directing traffic as trucks go in and out. One says to the other, “That beer sure looked good. Should?ve had us some.” The other replies, shaking his head, “Too many eyes, my friend. Too many eyes.”

A paintbrush was lying on the steps of the (closed) custom paint store.

A car was driving the wrong way down my one-way street. In an effort to avoid oncoming traffic, swerves onto sidewalk and knocks over construction-site related traffic cones. No injuries, but lots of in-car yelling and hand gestures.

At the park:

Rita finds a neon pink tennis ball and grabs it. An irate sweaty guy comes running out of the tennis court, yelling, “That’s my ball!” Rita, thinking he was playing, or just feelin’ mischievous, runs to the other end of the park, with Sweaty Guy in hot pursuit. I yell at her to let go of it, but she won’t. I think she’s laughing at the stupid, powerless humans. Sweaty Guy finally gets his ball, and stalks angrily and sweatily past my apologies. Rita and I slink away, both thinking, “Why didn’t he just get another ball out of the can?” and snickering.

Travels without Dad: Amsterdam, Part II

March 24, 1991

Finally managed to make it to the Van Gogh Museum, which was wonderful, despite the long line to get in. It was strange to see paintings by others hung together with the Van Goghs. The Van Goghs were stunning – I was so glad I went.

I was quite proud that I managed to find my way back to A’s house by myself, and without looking at the map even once!

At about 6:30, A suggested we check the arrivals and departures at the airport to see if my flight was on time. It was; I wasn’t. I was convinced for some reason that my flight was at 8:45, but it was at 7:45. Panic!

We went to Central Station and caught the 6:55 train for Schiphol. [The airport is actually below sea level, and A told me that the name comes from the fact that the airport is located approximately where a ship’s hold – Schiphol – would have been.] Thank God for Dutch efficiency – imagine being in that situation in Italy!

I did make my plane. I went through the Nothing to Declare at Gatwick and was stopped. This guy looked through everything. He looked inside each bloom of my plastic light-up tulips, shredded a tampon, peered inside my box of face powder, noticed that my coat lining had been opened and re-sewn (by Margaret, mending a tear before I left), asked where I stayed, how I met A, and examined my ticket.

It was a really embarrassing experience. I actually felt guilty. Dad & Margaret think it was because I was coming alone from the drug capital of Europe after just a weekend with only one bag, but I began to take it personally. The guy was so rude! At the end, he didn’t even apologize -just walked off and left me to put the mess back in my bag.

The Doom Is Come Upon Me

Said the Lady of Suzy*.

It’s a beautiful summer morning. Sunny, breezy, perfect. Rita and I are walking to the park, when, WHAM! It’s her Actual Owner. He says he wants to take her back. I am horrified and too surprised to be polite. To the point where he says he’ll call me later.

He does, and my lack of enthusiasm for giving him back his dog is obvious, even over the phone. He finally admits that he has not yet discussed adding Rita to the menage of two small children with his fiancee, whose children they are. I suggest, as nicely as I can, that he damn well does before wrenching Rita away from me. Many mothers would not care to expose their babies to a German Shepherd who has not been around kids much and who is used to being the center of attention. Not to mention her lack of enthusiasm for relinquishing the ball. The potential for problems seems pretty big.

Really, his fear of confrontation is world-class. Can’t talk to his woman, can’t talk to his unpaid dog caretaker. Just lacking in girl skills? I’m thinking yes, since Rita was the only one in his life for 10 years. Excusable? No. If he’s going to be a husband and father, he needs to get over himself. Soon.

Fortunately, the lapse between the park encounter and the phone call was long enough for me to stop weeping at the prospect of a Rita-less life, get mad, and start doing some research to back up my belief that Rita and I are meant for each other and that we are both too old for toddlers on a daily basis. Visitors are welcome (especially Mike & Jennifer’s). I’m determined to fight for her.

Who knew the fun part of the day would be mailing in a request for a certified copy of my marriage license, so I can get the divorce going? That seems to be a sad comment on the state of my existence.

*With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson. And for those of you about to point this out, I know I’m no lady.

Shrink Wrap

Faithful readers (or unfaithful ones with good memories and/or a tendency to the obsessive-compulsive) may remember that my luck with therapists has been universally bad. I actually did see another one after the last fiasco – long after! – but that was a fiasco of a different order.

This time, it turned out that the hospital was a teaching hospital, and the lesson of the day was Me. It’s nice getting attention, but not from six earnest therapists in training who all want to play “How Crazy Are You Anyway?” It was like a job interview, only more embarrassing, as I related the florid details of my melodramatic life to date. Afterwards, the therapist and I repaired to his office. I assume the students all had the same kind of conversation that party hosts have after guests leave (“Can you believe what Mary was wearing?” “If Rick throws up on the carpet one more time, I’m never inviting him back”, etc.), merrily discussing my lack of mental health and possibly what I was wearing. At least I didn’t throw up on the carpet.

So Shrink 3 told me I should come and see him again. I requested a private audience, and he agreed. We set a date and time. Unfortunately, my mother took a turn for the worse a few days before the appointment, with the usual diagnosis of her imminent demise (which in the end was as inaccurate as usual). I called Shrink 3 and left a message explaining that Mom was very ill and I had to stay with her, but would call him when I was back in town. He left me a message telling me that he “didn’t have time to see me” and suggested that my doctor refer me to someone else. This was a lot like those guys in high school who immediately start saying how ugly you are the minute you won’t go out with them, even though you were presumably pretty enough when they asked you out five minutes earler. Also, I would have thought “dying mother” pretty well topped the charts in the excuse book, and should trump any petty peeves about being stood up by a patient.

Three strikes and you’re out was pretty much my attitude at this point. However, my doctor convinced me to go and see yet another shrink last week. She won her point by saying that I could just discuss the evil Effexor with him and whether I could stop taking it. I asked her if she told him that I was a crazy bananahead, and she assured me that the term “bananahead” was not used in her phone call to him or the formal letter.

So off I went to see Shrink 4, who is from some vowel-challenged country, so his name consists mostly of S’s, C’s, and Z’s. It turns out that he is also head of psychiatry at the hospital. He and my doctor are neighbors and friends, which is how I got to see the big guy. I gave him a quick rundown on my recent history, and unlike the others, he didn’t probe for prurient details or look shocked at any point in the proceedings. He said that I have been on the medication long enough, and that I can start weaning myself off it slowly. I should be completely off it by the end of the summer, and hopefully I won’t be completely off my head, too. If so, he said to call him and he’d put me on something else, with fewer side effects. I practically floated out of his office, I was so happy.

And the term “bananahead” was never mentioned.

Corman & Cocktails


This weekend’s feature presentation was none other than Swamp Women (1955), which marks Roger Corman’s directorial debut. All the signature Corman features were there: the liberal use of stock footage (a dismal Mardi Gras parade, very low on drunkenness and nakidity) and alligators (eek!) and rattlesnakes (ditto!); continuity errors ignored; and lots of leg and heaving bosoms.

The plot-let is that a policewoman goes undercover as a prisoner in an attempt to find some stolen diamonds which were hidden in a nearby swamp (the film boasts that it was filmed entirely on location in an actual Louisiana swamp, stock footage notwithstanding). Policewoman pals up with the diamond-hidin’ chicks in prison. They take to her so immediately that they break out of the big house on what appears to be the very same night. Good thing that the felonious femmes had already cut through the bars on the window, but hadn’t yet escaped.

The rest of the movie is the search for the diamonds in a tiny boat which never runs out of gas, kidnapping an oil baron and his oil-digging wannabe girlfriend, how to make your own very short shorts, lots of gunfire, and fighting over diamonds and the oil baron before justice prevails.

The cast includes Marie Windsor, former Miss Utah and model for Alberto Vargas of pin-up fame, and another former beauty queen, Carole Mathews (Miss Chicago 1938) and dancer in Earl Carroll’s Vanities, a predecessor to the famous Ziegfeld Follies. Carroll was the first to present full nudity on the Broadway stage, though I don’t know if Carol was one of Carroll’s nudistes.

Mike Connors of Mannix fame played the oil baron, billed as “Touch” Connors. Like John “Cougar” Mellencamp, Connors soon ditched the silly nickname. Unlike Mellencamp, Connors had the excuse that a lot of actors were using that kind of name at the time (Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, etc.).

Accompanying cocktail was, appropriately enough, the Ruby Rita (tequila, pink grapefruit juice, Cointreau – woo!), from the Pink Cocktail book my fabulous niece gave her aged auntie for her birthday. Since aged auntie has probably been an Awful Warning all of niece’s life, I’m sure she wasn’t surprised that it was three weeks before she got a thank-you email, when it was about three hours before the gift was put to good use. Sorry, petal!

*A friend of mine has a former beauty queen in her family. She was Miss Small Town several years ago, but she still wears her tiara to family gatherings like Thanksgiving.

Travels without Dad: Amsterdam

A close friend from high school days had moved to Amsterdam a couple of years before. This was the first time I visited her there.

March 22, 1991

It was worthwhile getting a window seat, because I got to see a lot of England – an impossible green divided by roads, hedges, rivers – the Channel, some of the Dutch coast, and Holland. Met by A., and we were both so happy to see each other that we held hands all the way to the train station.

Her house is close to the Central Station, and also in the heart of the red light district. It’s set on a dead-end side street, and once you are inside, all you can hear are students practicing at the music academy next door. The house dates from the 18th century, though the foundations are much older. Because of the height of Dutch houses and the narrowness of their staircases, each house has a tall, wide window in front with a hook for a pulley – to lift furniture into the house!

Amsterdam is like a toy town – narrow streets, sidewalks that are mere suggestions, tall, narrow building sleaning at odd angles, canals everywhere, charming (and shocking shops). Some of the famous ladies in the windows knit while awaiting clients – that Dutch thriftiness. No time to be wasted. And for an inveterate snoop like me, it’s great that folks leave their drapes open during the day, so I could see the inside of houses. They were all incredibly neat. A. says the idea is to show that the inhabitants have nothing to hide (though they do close the curtains at night).

We bought tulips, of course, at the famous floating flower market: 40 for about $8. We bought dinner ingredients and for the first time in our long friendship, made dinner together. After dinner, we drank and walked our way around the neighborhood – a real walk on the wild side!

Truth and Consequences

I wish clothes did lie sometimes. In fact, I find the concept of complete honesty completely overrated. Imagine how great it would be if, while trying to stuff your ten pounds of glamour into the five pound bag of your formerly favorite jeans, they said, “You must have lost some weight overnight, you gorgeous girl, because I feel so baggy around your curvaceous butt and positively skinny little thighs!” Instead, they are like power-mad bouncers at an exclusive night club and refuse to let you in, all while insulting your entire lower body. But(t), a girl can dream, can?t she?

In the Doghouse

Note to Self:

Do not, under any circumstances, leave bags of groceries on the kitchen floor and then go out again. You will regret it.

I abandoned my freshly-purchased foodstuffs on the kitchen floor in order to amble another errand. Imagine my surprise when I came home to discover that Rita had taken advantage of my absence and ignorance of dogs’ devious ways to eat:

– An entire bunch of asparagus; and

– An entire lemon tartlet.

She certainly has interesting (and luxurious) taste in food. Makes a change from the same ol’ kibble, I guess, but dang. I have a feeling that I will be seeing the tart and aspagus again within the next 24 hours.

On the bright side:

Rita’s alleged owner Phil called last night to see how she was (after 6 weeks). No mention was made of his taking her back, so maybe she’s all mine! Grocery-stealing and all!

God Fearing

There was a knock at the door this morning. Rita started barking, like the good watch dog she is, explaining to the visitor that any evil deeds toward her girl would be rewarded with teeth and claws. Rita got to the door before I did, my heart pounding with fear in case it was Phil repoing Rita. Could Fate be that cruel?

Fate wasn’t. Imagine my relief when I found out that it was only a Jehovah’s Witness/Witless. Rita and I both told him how very uninterested we were, and shut the door. I bet it’s one of the few times someone was actually relieved to see one of those itinerant religion-pushers.

They can certainly be persistent. One actually found his way to my brother’s house a few years ago. Bear in mind that my brother lives at the end of a long dirt road in the depths of the country. I don’t know why the guy thought there were any souls to be saved there, but he didn’t get the chance, since my brother greeted him with his barking dog and a shotgun (unloaded), saying, “We don’t need no God ’round here.” The missionary departed hastily, mission unaccomplished.

Travels With Dad: London, March 1991 (Part III)

March 19, 1991

Dropped Aunt Jeanne at the bus station. We went by Tube almost all the way to the Royal Academy [of Art] – when we reached the platform at Victoria Station, it was so crowded that we decided to take the 38 bus instead (60 pence each).

At the Royal Academy, we saw the incredible Buhrle Collection. It was glossed over that Buhrle sold arms to the Nazis, among others. Still, the paintings were wonderful: a Corot portrait of a young girl, Canalettos, Monet’s field of poppies and portrait of his wife & child in their garden, and some stunning Van Goghs.

[When Dad later described one of the Van Goghs to his dear friend Peter Witt, Peter held up his hand to stop Dad’s description of the painting, saying, “I sold that painting to Buhrle.” Peter fled his native Austria after the Nazi invasion and lived in the U.S. for the rest of his life – with the rest of his painting collection.]

Seeing these paintings was like a long drink of water after crossing the desert.

There was also an exhibit of the making of St. Paul’s Cathedral by Christopher Wren – the highlight of which was the great model made at the time in case St. Paul’s again became the victim of fire. You could look inside and see the painting and carving.

Had lunch at the George, and then went to St. Paul’s, inspired by the exhibit we had just seen. I was distressed by the new office buildings, one of which juts out to partly obscure the front view of the cathedral. We visited the crypt which holds Lord Nelson’s elegant black marble tomb & Wellington’s, two of England’s greatest heroes. Landseer’s tomb was surmounted by a marble palette & brushes and included a statue of his dog. Christopher Wren, who died at the very old age of 91, had the most touching memorial: “Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice” (“Reader, if you seek a memorial, look around you”).

The Garden Philosopher

On my way home from the evening dog walk, I stop to chat with my neighbor, Patricia. She?s working on her garden, which is in full, early-summer bloom. Roses, poppies, and peonies are luxuriating in the last rays of the sun. Patricia?s dog is in the garden, too, and although he and Lovely Rita share a long-standing and mutual dislike for each other, they are peacefully co-existing. They seem to have a common interest, which turns out to be a very dead rat. As I react in horror, Patricia says she?ll bury it.”Every living thing deserves a consecration,” she says.


Last year, someone secretly planted flowers in my window boxes. I still don?t know if it was an overachieving gardener, someone who couldn?t stand the sight of the pathetic emptiness, or someone making a fairly grand poetic or romantic gesture, but I loved both the secret and the blooms. My lack of gardening ability and native slothfulness, combined with changing seasons, proved fatal to the floral gifts. It was time for Spring cleaning and replanting. As I approached the remains of the garden, a bird swooped in and pulled off some twigs. My garden was being reborn as a nest.

The Rita Report


I hope possession really is 9/10 of the law, because I still have Rita, and after a month of her undivided adorableness, I really don’t want to return her to her lawful owner. I haven’t heard a peep from him lately, so I’m hoping he feels too guilty to take her away, and/or realizes that she’s perfectly happy with me and my toddler-free zone.

After looking at her picture, can you blame me?

And it’s not just Self who finds her irresistible. Far from it. One day in the park, all the dogs were cavorting around her. And yesterday, a big French poodle seemed to fall head over paws for her at first sight. He followed her around in the manner of Pepe Le Pew, and like the cats who so attracted Monsieur Le Pew, Rita was uninterested and unimpressed. This progressed to irritation when her admirer wouldn’t stop sniffing her butt. She had things to do. She looked at me pleadingly, and I managed to distract Monsieur Poodle long enough for her to get things done. I thought he was going to follow us home. Ah, those amorous Frenchmen!

On to the dog supply store, where dog treats are displayed on shelves at dog level on the outside part of the counter where the cash register is. I know that this is the usual method of selling impulse purchases, but it seems to me that the dogs are more likely to simply grab a treat and not pay for it. Possibly dogs are more polite and self-controlled than I give them credit for, but I still think it’s weird.

Time to wander home. Fortunately, Rita and I are tolerant of each other’s window shopping, hers for news of neighborhood dogs, and mine for shoes and handbags. We’re meant for each other.

The Birthday Report

I’m pleased to announce that my birthday went according to plan. I’d give it an A. Its improvement since last year is truly remarkable. Birthday, you get an A for effort, too!

There were cards & presents & emails & phone calls & Eggs Florentine & champagne. Also a chocolate cupcake (with candle) and a lemon tart (Mike: does that count as two cupcakes?), served with a chorus of the traditional “Happy birthday” song (this time with feeling)!

Among the most delightful and most useful of the gifts (how often do you get both at once?) was a charming little book called “Pink Drinks” from my fabulous niece, which arrived with one of the coolest birthday cards ever. Now I won’t run out of inspiration for cocktails to go with the Bad Girl Bad Movie shows, and what could be better than pink cocktails?

As for the BGBM, “She Shoulda Said No” (1949), it was hysterical. Chorus girl, played by Lila Leeds (seen here not holding a joint), gets addicted to marijuana after just one puff. You know how that happens all the time, and how you have all those hallucinations, too, here portrayed by weird, out of focus cinematography. Suffice it to say that the evil weed ruins our heroine’s life, as she resorts to selling it to fund her habit. Prison, suicide, and other mayhem follow.

If you think this sounds like a public service announcement, you’re right. Lila Leeds was busted with Robert Mitchum (seen here looking slightly stoned) for possession of the wild weed, and making this movie was part of her community service. Robert Mitchum emerged from jail with his career unscathed, but Lila’s career wasn’t so lucky. She shoulda said no, indeed!

Birthday Plans

Given the spate of bad birthdays lately, I decided it’s time to stem that tide. No Birthday Week – just a Birthday Weekend. Baby steps, my friends. Here’s the plan:


Sleep in.

Walk Rita.

Check mail for cards’n’presents.

Mani-pedi. Possible nail art, but I’m leaning toward French toes & fingers.

Walk Rita again to show off Rita and nails.

Bad Girl Bad Movie Fest: She Shoulda Said No (1949): “How Bad Can a Good Girl Get…Without Losing Her Virtue and Self-Respect?”

Accompanied by champagne. As classy as it gets ’round here.


Sleep In.

Walk Rita.

Brunch with friends and admirers, including mimosas, and I’m almost certain, Eggs Florentine.

Possibly more cards’n’presents.

Leisurely shopping for fun things. Probably window shopping, but still.

Birthday dinner: at fancy-pants restaurant, or Do It Myself lobster fest with all the fixin’s. More champagne. Maybe a cupcake.

Not feeling a day older than 18. Yes, yes.

Travels With Dad: London, March 1991 (Part II)

March 17, 1991
Dad’s 60th Birthday!

We picked up Aunt Jeanne [Dad’s sister and only sibling] at 12:15 pm and came back [to Wimbledon] for lunch. We went to Richmond Park in the afternoon and saw some of the Queen’s deer. We had tea in a Georgian house in the Park. There were daffodils, hyacinths, pansies and camellias blooming. Jeanne and I talked a great deal about Grammie and Grandpa. She is remarkably perceptive in many ways and I am saddened to think how her life could have been.

[Note: Jeanne was mentally handicapped and lived at home until the deaths of her parents, after which she moved into a home. She died a year before my father.]

We had salmon poached in white wine, butter & fresh herbs, with new potatoes and peas for Dad’s birthday dinner. We had Louis Roederer champagne with dinner, a first for me, and sauternes with the birthday cake. The cake was fruitcake with white icing, reading “Happy Birthday David” in blue icing, with 6 blue candles, white doves, and blue chiffon butterflies with rhinestone wings. Margaret gave Dad a slate blue cashmere pullover [which he wore for the rest of his life] and excellent walking shoes [ditto]. They both looked so lovely that I had to take a picture of them.

I spoke to Bob Scott [an old friend who had moved to London with his wife] and he mentioned how young Dad looked. He may be 60 today, but he looks 10 years younger. As Bob put it, “Sometimes you just have to save your life,” and I think Dad did. Finally, his life is his own. I wish him many, many happy returns from the bottom of my heart.