Archive for February, 2009

Feb 28 2009

Neo-Noir

Published by under Uncategorized

What with life exploding earlier this month, I managed to miss the whole Film Noir Festival. Yet another reason, as if we needed one, to hate 2009. So I decided to have a mini festival of my own. While my living room is considerably less lovely than the Castro Theater, and is entirely deficient in live organ music*, the parking is easier. And since it’s been raining steadily for several days (we’re finally at 90% of “normal” rainfall! Yay!), the atmosphere was just right.

First up was The Woman in the Window, starring Edward G. Robinson and the lovely Joan Bennett, who played a femme fatale in real life** as well as on screen, and directed by the fabulous Fritz Lang.

Edward G. plays a psychology professor instead of a heavy, for a fun change of pace. His wife and children leave him unattended in the city for the summer, allowing a mysterious beauty to mess up his previously placid existence, much like Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch, though with less comic results. He sees a portrait of a beautiful woman in a shop window one evening, and is amazed to see the painting’s smiling subject reflected in the glass. He turns around, and there she is. He decides to break out of his middle-aged routine and take the model out for a drink. Or two. And rather than inviting her back to his place to see his etchings, she invites him back to hers to see sketches of her.

Once ensconced in her elegant apartment, the evening’s entertainment is rudely interrupted by the model’s friendly neighborhood blackmailer, who makes the mistake of attacking her in the professor’s presence. Robinson may not be playing a heavy in this movie, but he still has skills, and as he puts it, “There are only three ways to deal with a blackmailer. You can pay him and pay him and pay him until you’re penniless. Or you can call the police yourself and let your secret be known to the world. Or you can kill him.”

The suspense builds until the surprise ending. An enjoyable little gem, and I can see why Lang re-teamed them in Scarlet Street, one of his noir best, which would be the ideal double bill with The Woman in the Window.

Next: why hitch-hiking is very bad for you.

*If I ran the hockey world, there would only be cheesy organ music at games, instead of bits of TV theme songs. The score would always be on your TV screen, even during replays. Also, no ads on the boards or ice, better outfits for the players, no more hideous art all over goalies’ helmets, and every team would have cute Ice Girls like the Islanders do. Oh, and no Corporate Name Arenas.

**A few years after this movie was made, Joan Bennett’s husband shot and wounded her agent, mistakenly believing they were having an affair. The scandal essentially destroyed Joan’s career, though, oddly, not her marriage, which survived another 15 years after the shooting.

2 responses so far

Feb 24 2009

Dreaming Up Mischief

Published by under Uncategorized

Honestly, when the kittens are asleep, it’s hard to believe they are as naughty as they are when they’re awake. When I see them all cuddled up together like this, I feel all warm and mushy inside.

Apparently the cats don’t feel the same way about me.

Last night, I woke up around 3. I knew I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I turned on the light and read until sometime after 6. I decided to try and get a little sleep, so I turned the light off and burrowed into my feather pillows, hoping for the best.

But, as usual, the best failed to materialize. The kitties were up, and clearly thought I should be*, too. They walked on me, with special emphasis on the soft and painful spots. Audrey chewed my hair and licked** my forehead with her sandpaper tongue, while June pursued her eating disorder of chewing on the power bar the lamps are plugged into (fortunately switched off in my Scrooge-like cheapness) and the metal doorstop. A pen hit the floor and was enthusiastically batted around in the hard, clacky wood. The metal blinds on the windows behind the bed clanged as the girls played a rousing game of tetherball with them.

I’ll delete the expletives I invoked as I stumbled out of bed toward the beacon of hope that is the coffeemaker.

I know you’re thinking that I should simply shut the bedroom door. But the bedroom door is not one of the two doors (front and back) that actually close in this house. Even the cupboards in the kitchen don’t close properly. According to my brother-in-law, the former carpenter, it’s because their current hinges are the wrong size.

At least I can close and lock the front and back doors. Even if I can’t sleep. Or make the kitties behave.

Update: I wish June would explain the physics of the litter box to her little sister. Although June has a dashing litter box style, spraying litter with drama all over the laundry room, Audrey apparently thinks that clawing the washer will be effective, all evidence to the contrary. So I get the full effect of the poo, as well as the delightful sound of claws on metal. Isn’t this supposed to be instinctive?

*When my brother was very young, he used to get up by 6 am every morning and call out merrily at the top of his voice “Is anybody up?!” They were then. He still gets up early, but now he keeps that news to himself. Mostly.

**Audrey is always licking me, and I kind of hate it, to tell you the truth. While I find it charming when they bathe each other, I find it charm-free when applied to Self. I should have named her Licorice.

6 responses so far

Feb 22 2009

Saturday in the Park

Published by under Uncategorized

My lovely friend L came to visit, all the way from chilly Toronto. She was accompanied by (or accompanied, depending on how you look at it) her beau P, who was on a business trip. He’s one of those esoteric software guys who do things that are far beyond my limited intellect. We met up at the new and allegedly improved Academy of Sciences on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

As I waited for L & P to arrive, I gazed at the new and allegedly improved De Young Museum*, which is right across the way. It is, to my mind, quite hideous, and I miss the old, neo-classical building. P observed that it looks like a high security prison, complete with guard tower and no windows.

The Academy, on the other hand, is full of windows and light. It also, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, is full of screaming children and their keepers. We peered into the madhouse that was the café, and turned to each other with a single thought: No. P asked the hostess of the Moss Room restaurant if they were still serving. She said no, but he begged her to call the kitchen and see if they’d make an exception. He was so charming that she couldn’t say no, and neither could the kitchen, if we agreed to eat at the bar.

We made our way down the stairs, past the moss wall and into the serenity of the restaurant. We perched on stools and ordered delightful delicacies, such as Dungeness crab salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette, and sipped organic wine. Everything on the menu is organic, sustainably farmed, and/or biodynamic. What’s not to love about guilt-free chocolate mousse?

Body and spirit rejuvenated, we headed back upstairs. The lines for the rain forest were as daunting as the Powell Street cable car lines at the height of summer, and when you finally get in there, it’s so crowded you can hardly admire anything. We were also disappointed to learn that the albino alligator was on the DL, so the swamp consisted of nothing but two immobile turtles and a dry ice effect à la any metal band you care to name.

I figured the penguins would make up for the missing alligator, and they were delightful, with their funny, rolling walk and ungainly manner of flopping into the water. But the rest of the room they inhabit has the old African dioramas I remember from the former building, and it’s jarring and depressing to go from the penguins’ antics to the dead, stuffed zebras. Sigh. Outside the morgue was a stream with bridges, from which we could admire the graceful rays as they flew elegantly through the water.

We checked out the much-touted living roof,which P pointed out was much like that on his condo in Mississauga, and the aquaria, including the tide pool where we could and did touch the sea urchins and sea stars, which is just as fun as it was when I was a kid.

To be fair, we didn’t see everything, but on the whole, I have to say it doesn’t seem to be worth nearly 10 years and $500 million. But it was great to see L again and meet P – they are a beautiful and charming couple. They gave me a ride to BART in their rented red Mustang convertible, and I was sad to see them drive off into the sunset, but happy to have spent time with them. They love it here, and I suspect they’ll be back.

*There are two exhibits I want to see there, no matter what it looks like: Warhol Live, and a retrospective of Yves St-Laurent’s work. At the still-beautiful Legion of Honor, I’d like to see the Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique exhibit. So much beauty, so little time!

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Feb 20 2009

Friday Fun

Published by under Uncategorized

I hardly ever have to brave rush hour. There have to be some compensations for being lightly compensated. Today, however, was an exception, and I got up in the dark and headed to the bus stop as dawn broke over the freeway.

I was teased by two out of service buses as I read the Ian McEwan article in the latest “New Yorker” and considered the sense of humor of public transit companies. When I arrived at the BART Station of Death (when will I stop thinking of Oscar Grant when I’m there?), it was flooded with my fellow commuters, among them no fewer than four cyclists. Although they take up a lot of room on the crowded train, the bikes’ owners all seem to have the same defiant air of self-righteousness, since they are demonstrably greener than thou.

Squashed in the train as people stepped on my toes, wedged their briefcases in my butt, and screamed cellphone inanities in my ear, I was thankful that this was not my daily lot. I also noticed that the announcer only tells passengers to make sure they have all their personal belongings when they exit the train at the Embarcadero Station, which is the first one on the right side of the Bay, but not at any other station. Wonder why?

After being swept out of the station on a tidal wave of humanity, I restored my spirits by buying the new Vogue with the fabulously glamorous (or glamorously fabulous) Mrs. O on the cover before heading into the office, where I triumphantly not only had my ID card, but my office keys.

Way to end the week!

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Feb 19 2009

Sunstorm

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My plum tree is beginning to blossom! Also, I have to confess that I liberated a couple of Meyer lemons from a tree on my way home from the market today (asparagus is back in season! Yay!). In my defense, there were dozens of lemons that had fallen to the ground and were squashed and sad, so maybe I saved them from a worse fate.

We’re having a break from the latest winter storm, though the rain is supposed to make a return this weekend by popular demand. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the sunshine.

3 responses so far

Feb 15 2009

The Creeping Menace

Published by under Henry,Life in Oaktown

My father, who loved birds and kept a list* of every single one he had seen since the age of five, used to joke that the birds who frequented his garden must tell all their friends about the excellent cuisine to be found there, since it was a feathery Grand Central Station. Sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs, cake, peanuts, suet, birdseed – even the pickiest avian could find something to delight his or her jaded palate. When I visited, we always ate breakfast overlooking the garden, watching the birds at work and play. Once, we were lucky enough to see some nestlings take their first flight from the nest – we were mesmerized for over an hour.

I’m beginning to wonder if the word is out among the stray cats in the neighborhood that Henry has it pretty darn good. Food every day! Fresh water! They whisper among themselves. “I heard he has a cushy couch all to himself,” gossips one. “Well, I heard he has a blanket and hasn’t felt a drop of rain in months,” huffs another. I guess it’s not surprising that they wanted to see for themselves.

Recently, two new cats have been invading the back yard. I knew I shouldn’t have mown the lawn** and made it slightly more alluring to visitors. One is a bouncer-sized tabby and white number, and the other a more modestly scaled black and white. Tabby is more persistent than Blackie, who tends to lurk around the yellow rose bush and runs away if he sees me. Tabby, on the other hand, has the nerve to actually come up on Henry’s porch. I’ve caught him there and on the steps. Despite constant shooing, he keeps coming back like a marauding boomerang.

Oddly, Henry just sits calmly on the couch and lets me defend his food and water, if not his honor. I wonder if all my coddling has eroded his street skills. His rakishly torn ear and scarred nose tell me that he’s an experienced fighter. Maybe he’s older and wiser enough to let someone else fight the battles now.

*After he died, we found his incomplete bird sighting list of the week on his desk, under his reading glasses.

**It’s not just my inherent idleness that keeps me from mowing the lawn. It looks equally terrible mown or unmown, winter or summer, being rough, clumpy, and with huge brown patches whether it’s been raining or not. It really needs to start over or go to rehab.

5 responses so far

Feb 11 2009

Training

Published by under Uncategorized

I seem to have finally shaken off the cold from hell. Maybe I left it in the historic city of Sacramento, where I attended a conference earlier this week. Just another problem for the Governator to deal with. Mutant Cold Invades California’s Capital! Run for your life!

The conference was much better than these things usually are, being focused on women in the financial world (of which I am one). The keynote speaker was Madeleine Albright, and she was incredibly impressive, which I expected, and funny and charming, which I didn’t.

I took the train there, and was struck by how civilized it is compared to the horrors and indignities of air travel. I got to keep my clothes and shoes* on, for one thing. No-one groped me or peered into my fabulous mod luggage (I was unable to resist carrying a train case on the train) or repossessed my toothpaste or questioned who I was or why I was going to Sacramento. True, I or any of the other passengers could have had a bag full of bombs, but no-one did.

On board, it wasn’t quite as delightful as the trains in “Leave Her To Heaven” or “Strangers on a Train”, but look how those stories turned out. Mine was uneventful and comfortable. I spent the two hours working, reading the New Yorker, and admiring the sunlit scenery. Much of the trip was spent passing the deltas, and it was slightly surreal to see huge container ships seeming to float on fields whose grasses hid the water behind them. Ducks and swans floated serenely on marshes beside the railroad tracks, presumably unaware of the nearby gun club.

Sacramento was the end of the line, and as I walked toward the grand old station, I heard the conductor announcing “This train is going nowhere.”

*Isn’t it amazing that just one guy had a hare-brained scheme that didn’t even work, and now it’s affecting all of us for the rest of our travelling lives?

2 responses so far

Feb 08 2009

Sicko

Published by under TV

Today I followed the advice of a wise friend and took it easy. I stayed in my PJs all day and other than necessities, like feeding indoor and outdoor cats, mostly watched TV, which is one of the only good things about being sick. After the Red Wings game this morning (3-0 Detroit!), it was a Veronica Mars binge, whose sweetness was tempered by the bitterness of knowing that it, like almost every other TV show that gains my love, has been cancelled.

In one episode, Veronica summed things up perfectly for me: “I’m so sick of not having money! I’d be the best rich person. Seriously. I’d be the perfect combination of frivolous and sensible. Money is so wasted on the wealthy.”

Really, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Since I am, sadly, not wealthy (or at least not yet), I have to work, which involves going to Sacramento for a conference tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll feel better by then. Remind me to tell you about my foray to Golden Gate Park yesterday, and about the creeping menace, ‘K?

3 responses so far

Feb 06 2009

Coming Out of the Fog

Published by under Uncategorized

I’m slowly coming out of the haze of the past week. Sister and BIL are home and doing fine – she’s going on Family Leave to take care of him, so he couldn’t be in better hands.

I still have the Cold from Hell and my mind is a pink fog, which is considerably less fun than it sounds. Sister hooked me up with the good cold meds, but the Cold from Hell merely laughed at them and hung on harder.

Little did I know that getting Sudafed and Afrin was so challenging. Sister and I went into a giant Walgreens on Market Street, which was overwhelming in my weakened condition. She made a beeline for the pharmacist’s counter while I gazed confused at all the weird Asian snacks and swirling hordes of people. When I joined her at the counter, she was showing the pharmacist her ID and signing something. Apparently, Sudafed is one of the main ingredients in meth making, so you have to show ID and sign something to buy it, which explains why I never thought of buying it.

Sister observed to pharmacist that it may, in fact, be easier to buy meth than Sudafed, and the pharmacist burst out laughing. After that, all we had to do was get the case with the Afrin in it unlocked.

Who knew?

I hope the hard-won cold remedies start actually remedying soon, because my lovely friend L is visiting from Toronto and we’re going to explore the brand-new Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park tomorrow. Stay tuned!

3 responses so far

Feb 04 2009

Home Again

Published by under Uncategorized

It really seems there’s no tiredness like hospital tiredness. I haven’t felt this tired since the long vigil at my mother’s bedside. Having an increasingly bad cold didn’t help, and I felt like Typhoid Mary in there, furtively blowing my nose and expecting to be booted out by an irate nursing staff at any minute.

Actually, it was Brother In Law who made the nursing staff irate, by sneaking onto an elevator and going downstairs to smoke. But then, he is a professional smoker.

How’s this for weird? You can smoke on a sort of balcony on the second floor of the hospital, but not on the sidewalk in front of it. My sister had a much-needed smoke on the sidewalk and got shooed away by an irate and officious valet parker. Yes, the hospital had valet parking!

They also had a visit from an SPCA therapy dog, which was the high point of BIL’s stay there. He and my sister missed their canine princess terribly, and petting the temp dog was just the thing to soothe BIL’s ruffled spirits. The therapy dog was an adorable white Skye terrier named Angus, who gave as good as he got when it came to attention and affection.

BIL’s release was almost as fast as his admittance. He called to say he got his walking papers, so we rushed out to get him some button-up shirts, t-shirts being temporarily out of the question, and to the hospital, with a quick stop at Trader Joe’s so neither of us would have to make dinner that night.

When we arrived, BIL was sitting up in a chair with his huge foam collar on, ready and eager to go. We carefully stowed our precious cargo in the passenger seat and after hugs and kisses, I saw them off in our time-honored family way, watching until the car is out of sight, accompanies by blown kisses and waves.

They got home safe and sound despite the treacherous curvy roads and hills, and he’s on the long road to recovery. Happily, the only pain he has now is from the actual surgery, so that’s a good sign.

Thanks again to everyone for all your concern and caring. It means so much!

3 responses so far

Feb 01 2009

Update

Published by under Uncategorized

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts and emails and everything. I give you credit for Brother-In-Law doing so well – that, and his iron constitution and refusal to feel sorry for himself, even when he should.

My sister and I got up in the dark, pre-dawn hours when everything seems at its most hopeless, especially after a sleepless night. Driving into the city, the sky was a perfect parfait of lavender, violet, pale gold, and ethereal blue. The Bay Bridge at 6:30 on Sunday morning has no traffic. It’s slightly unsettling.

At the hospital, it was even more unsettling that it was locked and we couldn’t get in. A guy walking his dog told us to go to Emergency and we could get in there, which we did. We raced up to BIL’s room and to our relief, found him still there. Time ticked by for an hour and half, during which we all pondered the fact that we could have slept later, and tried to keep the patient’s spirits up.

I don’t know what was harder: seeing his slight frame moved onto a gurney, or the look on my sister’s face, watching her husband of 18 years wheeled away to meet his fate. At times like this, the amount she knows about what can happen is a definite liability.

We went and had breakfast, since we knew we had at least two hours ahead of us. As we emerged from Peet’s with a triumphant mocha, we ran into my friend R from high school days, who gave us both hugs and encouragement.

As we arrived at the hospital, the surgeon unexpectedly came out of the front doors and told us BIL was OK, though he warned that there are more problems with his back and he may well face more surgery. He can certainly never be a carpenter again. My sister asked the surgeon if her husband could move his arms and legs, and he could.

We rushed to his bedside, to find him remarkably responsive. After he recovered enough, he went back to his room, and when the physical therapist came to visit, was able to sit up and walk with a walker!! Just hours after having his spine operated on and bone taken from his hip to reinforce it. He is so strong and so courageous. And I believe, all the love around him has made him stronger.

Thanks again for all your thoughts and caring, and if you haven’t already, hug the people you love and make sure they know you love them. It can make all the difference in the world.

7 responses so far