Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unintended Consequences


I have been wondering,this Easter season, who had the idea to create these cheesy, grotesque giant rabbit costumes, presumably to delight the tots. The only decent giant rabbit, Harvey, was invisible, and only seen by Elwood P. Dowd, and was reportedly a charming companion. These behemoth bunnies with loopy eyes and maniacal grins loom over tiny people like an incipient avalanche of white fake fur.
Bunnies are small, soft, benign little creatures, nothing like these hideous monsters.
Who possibly could have thought that a two year  old would welcome such an ogreish apparition on a spring holiday? I've never been close enough to one to hear  what must be a muffled voice dispensing cheery words to a terrified toddler, but it can't be pleasant.
No doubt the inspiration came from those Disney park characters, those giant-headed cartoon reps which hug excited Midwestern kiddos as they arrive at the Mecca of All-You-Can-Eat entertainment centers. The Disney characters are well known, of course, and not too grotesque, or connected with dyed or plastic eggs, so perhaps they are less frightening.
I also have a problem with parents who drag infants to Easter egg hunts and Hallowe'en Beggars' Nights,and I don't think the little ones should have to suffer for their parents' utter cluelessness, especially when it involves a creepy glandular bunny with the face of a serial killer.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sorry, the Cat Is On My Lap


Sixto is a total lap cat. Dupree was not until he got old, but this one is the kind of cat that old ladies like me really dote on. He has a system, suddenly appearing from out of thin air. He jumps onto my thighs and starts kneading his pointy paws into my flesh. This does not feel good. Then, suddenly he flops down along the length of them, rolls over on his back and peers through his front paws at me, knowing that I shall tell him how adorable he looks. Than he turns onto his side and purrs himself soundly to sleep.
I am now a prisoner of this cat on my lap. If anyone else is around, I can avoid any task that requires locomotion on my part.
"The cat is in my lap. Could you turn off the kettle and fix my tea?"
"The cat is on my lap. Could you turn the radio down?"
"The cat is in my lap. Could you answer the door?"
"The cat is on my lap. I was planning to get dinner started about now but, well...."
"The cat is on my lap. Could you see why the smoke alarm is screeching?"
"The cat is on my lap. Could you find out why there's a police car in front of our house ? "
'"The cat is on my lap. Could you see if that noise in the basement  is the escaped serial killer I heard about on the news?"
When the cat is on one's lap, life must go on any way it can without unsettling the sleeping feline or the lap he's on. It works for me.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

Another Icon Gone


One of my friends when I was in college was a faculty wife not much older than I. She was from France. Her English was excellent, especially the swear words she'd picked up from American soldiers. She was a convent school alum, the niece of the mother superior, and rebellious. She was very plain spoken in English, and had the usual French disdain for American culture. One day she was heard to say, "Kent is such a dull town. You dun't even 'ave an 'onchback." Now Francine was not from the Paris environs of Notre Dame, but from Menton in the South of France, so one could assume that this sort of individual was a normal part of the community landscape.
That was over 60 years ago, but since I've lived here, we have had our share of town characters, people who provide the color in this small university town. Last year we lost F.U. Bob, the cursing artist, about whom I wrote. Once he stopped cursing, he pretty much joined the mainstream, although he had his quirks. He became Robert without the F. U. prefix. He was extremely intelligent, with an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary classical music. His death was mourned by the entire community.
There was Radio Bob, who carried a transistor radio up to his ear. If you made eye contact, he would respond with a loud, maniacal laugh, rather off- putting on a quiet street. I believe he was eventually hit by a car and the laughter disappeared.
This past week, we lost George, a native son, the Man in  the Wheelchair. He was an amazing person. He looked as if he had spina bifida, with small, undeveloped legs, but the story is that he had cerebral palsy.  Whatever the disability, he worked constantly, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, delivering newspapers and working in bars for drinks and change, and around town gathering debris from the doorways of businesses, all in his wheelchair. A friend of mine told me that you knew when you'd had enough to drink when you'd see George fall out of his chair and scrabble around on the floor cleaning up rubbish.
His speech was not clear, but he was always involved with others, had a good sense of humor and was cared about by the entire community. He would always say "hi" whether he knew you or not. He could be seen careening about in his chair, which needed replacing occasionally, hit by cars once in a while, but always on the go.
He was from a large family without much money,but with much love for him.
There's no replacing people like George, and the town is poorer for his loss.


Monday, March 31, 2014

A Tale of Two Stars



I recently watched two documentaries about two very different very talented women in the arts. Both documentaries involved their careers and sadness over the endings of those careers.
The first one was about Elaine Stritch, the critics' favorite,  a Broadway actress/singer/ performer who retired at  age 87. She  is a brassy, funny woman without much of a voice, but who could put across songs in a way that didn't matter about vocal quality. She did a very funny turn on "30 Rock" as Alec Baldwin's mother. In her younger days, Noel Coward wrote a musical ("Sail Away")  for  her, which was quite a coup for someone just starting out.  She's known for her big song in "Company"- "The Ladies Who Lunch,"  which very succeeding actress in the role has imitated, nuance for nuance. It's a pretty vicious, angry number.
The  documentary follows her last two  years performing in New York, watching her starting to fail, forgetting lyrics, dealing with some scary incidents because of diabetes. It 's sad, but she doesn't seem depressed about it, but,  rather, just pissed off. She has incredible energy, more than people half her age, but knows it's time to go. At the end of the film, she's off to Detroit, back home, after over 65 years in the center of things in New  York and London. It would be interesting to see another documentary of her life in Detroit.
The second film, "Afternoon of a Faun," is about Taniquil LeClerq, a ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre. She was also married to George Balanchine, one of his many wives. (It occurred to me that I had seen there of them in live performances over the years: Alexandra Danilova, Maria Tallchief and Suzanne Farrell.) LeClerq was extraordinarily beautiful, tall and slender, and moved like a nymph. The film shows some rather fuzzy TV tapes, but you can see her grace and beauty clearly. There are interviews with fellow dancers who adored her.
However, her career ended when she was barely thirty. She was on tour in Russia, one of those cultural exchange things we did during the Cold War, hoping that our mutual love of the arts would avoid the Bomb....and it did, apparently. But LeClerq was stricken with polio, which ended her career as a dancer,and eventually her marriage. It was just heartbreaking for everyone. She did become a choreography for the Harlem Ballet Company, and lived into her 70s. She never had a choice about the end of her dancing career.The Salk vaccine had recently come out, but she had decided to wait until the Russian tour was over.
The contrast between the Broadway broad and the ethereal dancer was stark, but both films were poignant, each in its own way.
( I wanted to see the Stritch film because my lovely sister -in-law, the late Eileen Stritch Harper was her first cousin, and they shared an apartment in New York, two girls from the Midwest, like "My Sister Eileen." There is some  resemblance between the two, but Eileen was prettier, gentler and smarter than he cousin.)
 

Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm Cute


There is a tendency of the not old to think that old  people doing things they've done all their lives are hilarious or "cute." I recently saw on Facebook a video of an old woman dancing to a contemporary rock and role tune. I don't know how old she was, but rock's been around for about 60 years and is probably the music the woman enjoys the most now as she loved it when she was in her teens. She was a good dancer, moving well and enjoying the rhythm.I This video was classified as "hilarious." Imagine that, an old lady dancing to "our" music! Shouldn't she be doing a minuet or a waltz?

Another comment that people not yet on Social Security or a pension make about an old person is that the geezer is somehow doing something "cute." This can be something that would not be considered cute if the old one was a young one. I was considered very cute last fall when I was in the hospital off and on, dealing with problems connected with my pancreatic cysts. To keep from going nuts, I had my IPad in use a lot. This was considered very cute by nurses. And when I started watching "Breaking Bad"  on my IPad, my cuteness increased tremendously. When a new nurse came on, she was told about the old lady who knew how to turn on her IPad. Amazing! Unbelievable! Cure!
 I inadvertently left my charger when I left the hospital and when I went back to pick it up, the nurse at the desk exclaimed, "We knew this was yours! " as she handed it over to me with a condescending smile. "You're just amazing."
"Well, " I said, "usually if you have a brain when you're young, you still have a brain when you're old and can figure things out." (I didn't want to suggest that she didn't currently have a brain herself. )

I have many friends who are old, who are hip, who enjoy contemporary music, films, computers, fast cars, sex, and rock'n'roll and are not at all "cute." One of these days one of us is going to deck the next person who thinks we're cute or  or somehow hilarious if we can walk across a room without falling down.
 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Modern Language



Every December I go into movie overload. Distributors seem to hold off the good ones until the end of the year, counting on the amnesia that seems to affect those who choose the best picture nominations. For months there are hardly any movies that I want to see. Theaters are full of exploding buildings, half- wit comedies for 13 year old boys and sci-fi teen flicks. A few ones escape but are soon forgotten.
This year's crop of potential winners, all of which have come out since Thanksgiving, showed up in northeast Ohio one after another in a few weeks. A couple came out here in late December and early January. Sometimes I was seeing two movies a week. I must say that I have enjoyed every one, in spite of the fact that most of them featured protagonists who were mostly despicable characters, unsavory types, people I wouldn't want to know or even sit next to on a park bench. (I have to wonder if the popularity of the ultimate anti-hero, Walter White of "Breaking Bad" might have influenced producers to flood the movies this year with scumbags.) But the acting was so good, the stories interesting, the soundtracks fun, and in some cases, great cinematography that I  accepted the sleazy actions of the protagonists.
What was unique, however, was the unremitting presence of the F word. Good grief! The "Wall Street Wolf" flick contained something like 506 F- words, according to some Aspergerish critic, who must have had one of those clicker counters to accomplish that feat. Even Meryl Streep-Meryl Streep!!!- barked out an uncounted, but persistent expressions of F**ks, along with many other bad words not usually heard from women. "The Dallas Buyers Club" seemed to have equalled "Wall Street,"but I didn't have a clicker with me. "American Hustle" had a large contingent of potty mouth characters whose very other word was, of course, the curse word du jour. "Her," probably the best of the lot, probably had a few, but I was so blown away by Joacquin Phoenix and the cinematography that I  didn't?t notice.
People keep telling me that this is the way people talk these days. What people? Who?
Well, I know that if you walk past a group of high school or college students you'll hear it a lot, in the way the movies use it, every other word, every part of speech, until very few words in the sentence are NOT f** k. I do know people who use it when under duress, mainly having to do with computer malfunctions, or when confronted with terminal stupidity by politicians of the Tea Party persuasion, or when  a labor intensive recipe goes wrong, or when the cat grabs a tuna fish sandwich off a plate, you know. I mean even a person of lady like demeanor may, on occasion, need the stress reducing epithet.
It is the constant unrelenting repetition that is, somehow, cheapening the word, robbing it of its special power to underline one's complete dismay, distress, or anger at situations or people. It just becomes like "a" or "the." It becomes boring. One of my favorite stories, a true one, about power of the word came from a friend of Polly's. His parents were out of town, and his Nana was in charge of him and his younger brothers. One night at dinner, he became annoyed about something and exploded with the F word.
Nana threw up.
The word meant something in those days.
And I'm in the mood for a f**king Jane Austen movie.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ancient History


As Lillian Carter said, "Old age is not for sissies."  Amen to that. Your body betrays you at very turn. You're lucky if your mind does not. I remember my father saying, "If I'd have known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself." I think Groucho said it first, but it's how one feels upon reaching beyond three score and ten.
My sister claims that 85 is when you actually realize that, "Good God, I'm OLD!" She's right. That's when things start to fall apart, when things you could do without even thinking about no longer work quite so well. Before, you could run up and down stairs without thinking of holding on to a rail; when you could hop in and out of  the car; when you could rise from a chair without using the arms to hoist your self upright; when you could carry two full grocery bags or more into the house without losing your breath; when you could read the whole newspaper and finish the NYTimes Saturday crossword puzzle in less than an an hour; when you could walk through ice and snow without fear of falling, because if you did fall, you could get up unaided without having injured anything.  The list goes on.
Sometimes it's just hard to do things, like opening plastic lids on yogurt, pull tabs on cans, turning door knobs even. These problems seem to sneak up on you suddenly.
Then there's your appearance. I used to have small ears, but now the've grown longer. I look as if I'm wearing a wrinkled body suit all over, the result of age and also of heedless sun bathing  and smoking. Once in a while a clear crystalline drip appears on the end of my nose. I shuffle. ( My friend Mixie said that she misses the way she used to just glide along instead of hobbling.) Flatulence occasionally and involuntarily  occurs, fortunately not publicly. Yet. If I have to answer the phone early in the day, my froggy voice makes me sound like a crone living in a cave. I have whiskers on my chin, like that cave crone.
All these things are just a part of living long. It could be worse. I'm not complaining, just describing. In my head I'm about 35 or so, and it just surprises me when reality hits as I'm trying to get up out of a chair in one smooth movement.