Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Bold

Is it just me or is America getting its ass kicked at the Olympics?  Didn’t it used to be a tight competition between the Russians, the Americans, the East Germans and the Rumanians?  Some African nations always outran us, outtracked and outfielded us, but we could be assured we would take a lot of Olympic Gold in other areas.  Today things are different.  As of this writing, China has 13 gold medals and we have 9.

Do the Olympics reflect real life?  Are they a litmus test of world politics?  Do they have any social or political relevance?  Are they something just old people watch?  I haven’t asked my sons, but I bet they’re not watching the Olympics. 

As a kid, I enjoyed the Winter Olympics.  Odd-- I had the notion I would one day grow up to be a world champion ski jumper.  It was only logical, since I was growing up in the shadow of the Southwest Museum in sunny Southern California.  

I had seen snow a few times in Big Bear and I could point to Norway on a map.   I reckoned that qualified me.  There was something about the downhill speed, the great soaring freedom in the air, high above the pines, and the eventual landing on bended knee on packed powder that had me in its thrall.  

In adulthood, I made it to Oslo and saw Holmenkollen ski jump up close and personal.  Scary.  The top of it stretched into the sky at a perverse angle. The sailing-off place was many stories above the ground.  It might work for Rocky the Flying Squirrel, but not for me.  What the hell had I been thinking, safe in my living room, in front of the TV in my flannel p.j.’s with my cat cradled in my arms?

So far, the best part of these Olympics has been the opening ceremonies.  Didn’t director Danny Boyle do a fine job, exploiting the multi-century star quality of England, both in the arts and popular culture, and turning it into a big-screen, cinematic culturefest that translated quite well onto the small screen?  

The English are peculiar yet lovable.  They can come off as haughty and full of themselves.  They live on a tiny island and consider the rest of the world “foreigners”.  I doubt they are the toffee-nosing, politically correct mealy mouths we have become.  It’s most likely still a British-centric universe to them.  

These are the people who brought us spotted dick, dowager hump and the card game, bridge.  They also brought us the Beatles, Monty Python, New Wave music and James Bond.  I love their quirky originality. Maybe it comes of geographic isolation.  Maybe it comes from the opposite-- the fresh  blood delivered by the many colonials who have returned to Mother Britain.  It looks like England is the new Great Melting Pot.  We’re already cooked.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Open Wide

I am dispirited and deeply saddened by the senseless carnage in Aurora, Colorado. Irrationally, I am irked that the shooter grew up in San Diego. How many times in my travels around the USA have I heard, "California-- the land of fruits and nuts."  I think of Al Qaida and how they can point to an incident like this and say we are a demonic society. They don't need to send us their terrorists. We home grow our own.

Add to that the relatively minor annoyance of a verbally aggressive woman who punched me with her big mouth, saying I backed into her parked vehicle while I parallel parked. I quietly disputed her claim, and she became more agitated and bullying.  I kept telling her we have insurance agents to handle situations like these.  She wasn't buying.  She lives on the corner of my mom's street.  I don't need an enemy in the old hood.

Between her and "Return to Columbine", I retreated into my little shell the balance of Friday, most of Saturday and some of Sunday.  Sure, I ran some errands and fulfilled obligations, but with a certain mélancolie de vivre.  Inadvertently, I missed a literary event in West Covina on Saturday.  I was still licking the world's and my wounds under my porch.
Thank you to fellow author, Carole Avila (www.caroleavila.com).  I groused to her about feeling bruised and cowed.  She sent me these two great ideas:
1.)  Say in your mind to that screaming woman in a strong and confident voice, “I will not allow you to send me back to childhood patterns. I am a grown, adult woman and I choose to stand in my power!” Say it a few times throughout the day.

2.)  Send out only what will not hurt you when it comes back.  Imagine pink and blue cotton puffs, the size and weight of baseballs. Pink is love and blue is clear communication. Throw the baseballs at her, knowing that you’re only sending out love and clear communication. They can’t hurt her no matter how hard you throw them. You can also choose to figuratively shove them down her throat. 
[Wow!  How's that for a mixed message-- "Here you go, lady-- choke on these-- love and communication.  Is that clear enough for you?"]
It's Wednesday.  I've been out and amongst 'em since Monday.   Today, I am grateful to live in this beautiful land of fruits and nuts, even if one of them lives on the corner of my mom's street in a great, big gorgeous craftsman she clearly does not deserve.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adventures of the new New York

I've got a belly full of blog-- other people's blog-- after having just returned from The Big Apple, where I helped my son, his wife and their friends celebrate his birthday.

There were the musings by Martin Lastrapes on his various successful publications and credits, travel tidbits by Lord John F. Buckley on Facebook, and the new blog by John Brantingham, which included a Youtube elegy on the loss of Pluto as a planet and a shot of his dog, Archie, swinging his cojones.  There were the postings of Andrew Turner, who is learning to claim and hold his energy, and the food blog by Christie Bishop, in which she gives  blend by blend instructions in the creation of beautiful flag-waving sheet cakes.

But I digress.  I wanted to write about New York.

Remember the New York of pushy people, Brooklynese accents, honking horns, cabbies with air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirrors and last names spelled with the symbols for boron?  Remember the New York where the Jews, the Italians and the Irish fought for domination, the Poles/Germans and Puerto Ricans/Dominicans were at war, the Chinese ruled Chinatown, and just about everyone, in good nature, hated each other?

Gone.  All gone.

It's a new New York now and the denizens seem content to slog their way through the sweltering subway platforms to air conditioned trains without hurling endearing insults or big-mouthed jibes.  The once cutting edge shop windows of 5th Avenue now feature the same fashions I saw in shop windows in Chino Hills the night before I left for the east coast.  The Big Apple has become PC and a corporate homogeny.

*Every second block has its own branch of Chase, the people who ate up over 7 billion dollars of our good-faith deposits.

*Most city blocks house either a Subway Sandwich Shop,

 a Dunkin' Donuts, a Baskin-Robbins, a Starbucks or all four.

Where are the delis?  Where is the cheesecake?  I found Eli's coffee cake at the 42nd Street Market, but no cheesecake.  Who does a girl have to ____ in Manhattan to get a piece of authentic New York style cheesecake?

Most people look haunted, scared, stressed, even panicked.  They are hot, they are tired, there are too many languages spoken to argue with each other.  I barely heard a lick of English.  And no, don't tell me it's because New Yorkers leave New York in the summer.  I'm talking about the shopkeepers, the sellers of Sabretts, the push cart men, the cops, the agents in the subway stations, the doormen and the dog walkers.

Oh woe is me when the cadence and the kvetching lilt of the language that I could count on as a little girl, either walking the streets of New York or browsing the stalls in Farmer's Market on Fairfax and Third, are GONE.  I tried to explain it to my son.  Ever the diplomat, he smiled in empathic accord, but his eyes registered incomprehension.  Perhaps one day his ears will miss the hum of the multinational, world cacophony that is now New York.

The old New York is dead.  Long live the new New York.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Slow Jitney with Unforgivable Sasquatch, Paul Williams

It's been a heady week of entertainment.  Last Sunday, there was the matinée of the documentary, "Paul Williams Still Alive", followed by schnitzel salad at the Back Abbey.   Most of Paul's hits are songs about co-dependency, but what is falling in love anyway? The only job more codependent than lover is mother.  

I liked this doc and I like Paul Williams.  I just wish filmmaker and writer, Stephen Kessler, would have shut up so Paul could have told more stories about his nomadic childhood and his larger-than-life, alcoholic father.

Friday, there was the stage play, "Jitney," at the Pasadena Playhouse.  This is the eighth in August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle of plays.  It was OK, but I had a beef-- eight men in the cast and only one woman.  Jitney was, however, more enjoyable than Wilson's somewhat repetitious plays, like "Gem of the Ocean."  There aren't enough playwrights in America today-- let's all write some plays.

The next morning, it was a French-Italian film, "Unforgiveable".  The latest flock of Euro films misses the mark by a meter or two.  This one was right down there with "The Intouchables." The most interesting aspect of the movie was that Judith, the female lead, wore the same dress on four different days.  That would never happen in an American flick, but what a boon for the wardrobe mistress.  Fewer costume changes, less clothing to clean and press.  Easy to keep catalogued and ready for scenes.

Last night, the gay (and I mean gay in the sense of happy), mad whirl culminated with the star-studded entertainmentpalooza launch of Jeremy Radin's new book, Slow Dance with Sasquatch.
I am a fan of Jeremy's poetry since hearing him breathe fire into a poem about bears on Lummis Day at El Alisal. Who but Jeremy would have thought to turn his launch into a cabaret by including live music from The Flash Cards, poetry by Derrick Brown, Brendan Constantine (a frenetic favorite), Amber Tamblyn and literary sword-swallower, Brett Loudermilk?

The evening in the Skylit Theatre on Vermont was sparkling, funny, majestic, wistful, moving, human and authentic.  What a privilege to be among the 100+ to hear this courageous poet speak his truth. And I mean courageous in the sense that his Dad, grandparents and sister were in the audience.  As his friends keep remarking on his FB page:  he da man.