Thursday, December 31

Hound

I'm very close to buying my first house. It's equal parts exciting and terrifying. Beyond the home purchase I'm considering getting dog. I will likely wait a bit to get settled into the new homeowner routine but eventually I'd like to get a trusty little buddy by my side to help keep an eye on things. I've long been a fan of corgis but lately I've been thinking about the possibility of getting a bassett hound. They have great temperaments, are loyal and have deep intimidating barks all in a reasonably sized package. Best of all they have amazing howls!

Meet Sadie who howls whenever her BFF leaves the house. Such despair! I love how Sadie stops when she finally realizes she's not alone and in fact has someone to play with. I heart her.

Wednesday, December 23

Time Well Squandered


I've been on vacation this week. All of my Christmas duties are complete. All of my gifts are purchased, wrapped and sitting under the tree. I baked some spectacular Oatmeal Pecan Raisin cookies for my Dad and soon after became obsessed with finding some new quality cooking sites online. I found some great ones to add to my blog's sidebar:

Taste Spotting
Smitten Kitchen
O Pistachio
What We're Eating
Mixing Bowl
Love & Olive Oil
Make Life Delicious
The Bitten Word
Sugar Crafter

But hands down my new favorite has got to be:

Food Porn Daily

Despite all of these great new finds I wandered over to Allcooks and was entirely mislead.

I felt like baking but didn't have the patience for cookies (all those pesky batches!). Instead, I zeroed in on banana bread. Unfortunately, I could only find green bananas (much less over ripe bananas). I switched gears and decided to make a zucchini bread instead. I sadly did not do the wise thing and ask around for a decent recipe. I did the lame thing and logged on to AllCooks, found an ok looking recipe and baked what has to be the worst zucchini bread of all time. I knew 2 shredded zucchinis looked like way too much but I shrugged and baked it anyway. The resulting bread looked perfect but tasted all wrong. It tasted of way too much zucchini and God knows what else. I hated it. My Mom tried a bite and said "Is this supposed to be a healthy recipe?" Yeah, it was that bad. Even my Dad bravely tried a bite and exclaimed "Blechh, that's pretty bad". They were right, it was a damn bad sweet bread.

I redeemed my skills in the kitchen later by making Julia Child's Onion Soup. It was amazingly good despite my one exclusion. Julia says to add some cognac to the soup right before serving. I had already cooked some dry vermouth into it and thought it tasted sublime as it was. I really dislike the taste of alcohol and couldn't imagine cognac helping any. I told my Dad he could add a splash of cognac if he wanted. He didn't. Dad agreed that it tasted great as it was. I toasted up some fresh French bread and melted some good Swiss cheese over the toast. The soup over the toast was fantastic.

Even my soup success didn't make me feel better about the great zucchini bread debacle. I decided to give it to try again but this time with a pro's recipe. I looked for an Ina Garten zucchini bread recipe with no luck. I then visited Martha Stewart's site and found what seemed to be a much more reasonable zucchini bread recipe than this afternoon's. In fact, I baked Martha's Zucchini Spice Bread and it came out amazingly good. It's not very sweet, it's just right. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 19

Drawn


Have you ever been drawn to something yet repelled by it at the same time? I was sampling Christmas music and realized I feel that way about several things. For one, I'm oddly drawn to Jim Brickman then I listen to him a bit and immediately feel over steeped in sap and retreat. Do you know what I mean?

I feel the same way about the Catholic church. I'm bizarrely drawn to the pomp and circumstance of the church (or is it The Church?). I really like Mary and I think confession is a grand idea. Mostly I love the fact that Catholics have a Saint for every occasion. Did you know there's a Saint for cramps? I mean seriously that's a religion for me, right? Then I take one curious step towards Catholicism and immediately run for my life when I learn about the rules and oppression and the assigned roles of women. They like to hold up Mary as their favorite woman but sheesh, she had to give birth to God to impress them. I eventually think of the Inquisition and then I think of Monty Python and then I'm lost. Through it all I remain curious but not enough to actually go to a Catholic church to investigate any of it in person. Did I mention that I was baptized Catholic? I always claim that "it didn't take". I don't mean to offend my Catholic friends and family, let's just say it's just not for me.

I have the same push/pull feelings for New Year's Eve. It always sounds like a fun idea but when it comes down to it, it's just a weak excuse for the immature or troubled to drink too much and cause problems for the rest of us. I typically just pretend it's not happening until New Year's Day when I can watch the Rose Parade on tv. A parade, by the way, that ends about 2 miles from my home.

I love the idea of drinking aged scotch but find the taste revolting. I think it would be so cool to be able to order a scotch on the rocks and love it, but I don't so I can't.

I LOVE to learn about Henry VIII but think he was a despicable freak. This pretty much applies to most history. I'm fascinated with history but I am NOT one of those who feels she was born too late. Traveling back in time is not a fantasy that has ever appealed to me. I occasionally think it might be fun to be some sort of invisible spectator to some past events. Would I want to go back and live there? No thank you. I prefer the idea of past historical figures coming into our times for a ride. Wouldn't you just love to take the some of the Donner for a drive to Donner Pass? I guess that's sort of a mean idea but I couldn't help but think of it when I drove up there a few years ago.

I guess I'll just continue to satisfy my curiosity from the safe confines of my little MacBook and the Internet.

Wednesday, December 16

It's About Tme

Speaking of year end lists, I was thinking about what I've read this year and I'm sad to say it's not much. I don't mean the content was bad, I mean it's a pitifully short list that I'm not proud of. It made me think about the books I've been meaning to read for years. I'd say the book I most hang my head in shame about having never read is Little Women. I know! Someone gave me a copy when I was around 10 years old but I could never get into it. I've decided it's finally time to knock that one off my "To Read" list. My buddy Shandon and I spoke about doing a book-of-shame swap. By this I mean that I agreed to read Little Women and she said she'd give her book of shame a shot. (I'll let her tell you what that book is.)

Here are the books I'd like to finally read in 2010:
Sort of a weird list, huh? I can't help it. These are the books I've always meant to read but never have. Dammit, it's time!

Here are the books I'm thinking about re-reading in 2010:

What books have you always intended to read? Will you finally read one this year?

Monday, December 14

Best of


I love the "Best Of" lists that pile up this time of year. I think they are the very best thing about a year ending. If you feel the same way, here is a great place to get your "Best Of" fix. Click around for NPR's best in all kinds of genres. I know I'll be buzzing around these lists when I have a little more time come vacation. Weeeee!

Oh, and Shandon? Did you know about American Fantastic Tales? Do tell!

Sunday, December 6

Silly Gifts

This is one of the funniest gift ideas I've seen so far this season. If you "get it" then you're a pal o' mine, if not, then you're not.


Here is another one that I love:



Anyone who knows me knows that I really dislike cats. Here's a little something to celebrate that hatred:


Ok, I know tragedy plus time is supposed to equal comedy but I don't think I'm quite ready for this.


These are cool:

So there are a few gift ideas for you during these last days of Christmas shopping. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 29

Quick to judge?

So, I've been ignoring this whole Lady Gaga rise to fame thing. I'm sure I've been exposed to lots of her music but I only recognize that Just Dance song and I don't particularly care for it. Mostly I've been vaguely concerned for this Lady Gaga character. Every time I've seen her in the past year I've wondered why she hates her face so much that she makes such extraordinary efforts to hide it. Is it a crazy sense of showmanship? Is she trying to retain some sort on anonymity or is she simply full of self loathing? Frankly these were such vague thoughts I never looked into trying to get answers to them.

I finally caught an interview/performance with Lady Gaga on The Ellen Degeneres show and I must say I was impressed. She was, not surprisingly, an outcast in high school and claims that her wild wardrobe choices are about making her fans (who are often the outsiders) feel less alone and to illustrate how they should embrace their uniqueness. Of course, that could be a load but I kind of got the feeling she was being sincere. I can't remember the last time I thought a pop star was being sincere.

As for any singing talent, I assumed she had none because her music is synthesizer heavy and that is typically a red flag warning "No Talent Zone". I couldn't have been more mistaken. She's not only got a good voice but one with a pretty cool tone to it. I'm still not sure I'd call myself a fan but I sure liked her performance on the show. She wrote the song for her dad who needed open heart surgery but had sort of thrown in the towel on his illness. Lady Gaga (or whatever her name is) wrote the song on the road as a way to beg him to get the surgery as quickly as possible. He did.

I immediately liked the song. Above all I was stunned to realize that as I watched her performance I felt like I was watching a young, female Elton John. It's not just the piano and the getup either. Seriously, did Elton and Bernie Taupin write this thing? I'm a huge fan of early Elton John so I don't say that lightly. Take a look and let me know what you think.



Saturday, November 28

Score!


Yesterday Mom and I were discussing our growing sense of dread/doom about our Christmas shopping.

My first reaction was to abandon poor Mom to go online and order a few things. Let me tell you, the online stores had some fantastic deals going on yesterday. I even got a few things for myself. Cruising around online is my way of deciding what to get everyone. I don't like to go to a mall or chain store unless I absolutely must and I know exactly what I want to purchase so shopping online first is helpful. The down side is that I really do prefer to see these potential gifts first hand.

After a little research, my second reaction was to ask Mom if she'd like to do some shopping early this morning at... the mall. We agreed to get ourselves to the mall at 9:00 am and follow a vague route depending on how the first two stops went. Well, they went very well. We hit all of our targets by 10:30. We then took a break and had a nice brunch at The Only Place in Town (which now claims to be called Barney's but I know that if I ever called it that nobody would know what I was talking about).

After brunch we were re-energized and decided to calmly drive by the new Best Buy (aka the Lesser Known Best Buy) for something we'd decided to go in on together. I prefer to shop at independent stores, especially around the holidays, but I don't know of any in the electronics game these days so Best Buy it was. WELL! The LKBB was a dream! Plenty of parking was available and I discovered they even reserve the best spots for energy efficient vehicles.. score!!! Mom and I picked up our target gift and, finding no unruly crowd, decided to shop around a bit. We looked at tvs (which we both are in the market for) and cameras and lots of others things. It was amazing. I always find Best Buy has the worst crowds this time of year and it is always the most dreaded store to visit. I was stunned at what a nice experience we had there today. I even picked up a new clock radio for my nightstand with a docking space for my iPod. The face is mirrored, which may prove to be a regretful choice when I see myself tomorrow morning but we'll wait and see.

We then went to downtown Monrovia. I wanted to hit an antique store there. They sometimes have vintage Christmas tree ornaments and my sister-in-law collects them. I wanted to pick up some ornaments for decoration on her gift. Not only did I find the perfect vintage glass ornaments but I also stumbled upon a bookcase full of old books at 75% off. Typically I find a lot of lame Reader's Digest books in antique stores but I can't help but stop and take a look for some treasure. With just a quick sweep of the shelf I found an old edition of The Oxford Anthology of English Literature. My Mom has a well thumbed copy that I liked to pull down and flip through when I was a kid. (Is that weird?) Well, I have my own copy now so I didn't need a new one but I was happy to see it there. It proved to be a good sign. I kept looking and found a copy of the Modern Library's Great Modern Short Stories in excellent condition. It's one of the best collections I've found and apparently out of print. (I've been on a short stories kick for a while now). I then came across the mother load: Maxims and Reflections by Winston Churchill. I've sort of had a crush on old Winston ever since visiting the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum. I know that sounds incredibly strange but I defy you to visit that place and not come out all googly eyed about the man. (Don't even get me started on his relationship with Clementine. Adorable!) Anyway, I flipped the book open to read the chapter headings, some were: On His Likes, On His Dislikes and, best of all, On Foreigners (SOLD!). While driving home Mom read a few gems out loud. So far my favorite Churchillian observation in the book is regarding Lennon. Churchill states "He alone could have found the way back to the causeway. The Russian people were left floundering in the bog. Their worst misfortune was his birth, their next worst - his death." Nice. I got both books for $2.50. Yea!

I now have a good idea of what I'll be getting everyone in my family for Christmas/birthdays and feel much better.

I'm now off to read and await this big rain storm the experts still insist is on the way. It could be a long wait.

Tuesday, November 24


I'll be going to my brother's house for Thanksgiving where I will enjoy his amazing grilled turkey with all the fixins. Before, during and after my visit to his house I will be watching ridiculous amounts of tv via the American holiday tradition of tv marathons. Here are some I'll be checking in on before I'm force fed football:

Band of Brothers - Spike TV
Godfather I, II, & III - AMC
House - USA
Mythbusters - Discovery
Twilight Zone - KTLA (for you LA dwellers)

Of course, lately all I care about is an excessive dose of Law & Order but since every day is a Law & Order marathon I'll have to gorge on it via USA and TNT tomorrow.

If you're interested in a serious tv coma, here is much more extensive marathon list including Black Friday tv to help keep you out of the mall. (You heard me)

God, I love a well spent vacation.

Monday, November 23

Old Fashioned


I've always been fascinated with the role of women in past generations. My mom once bought an old fashioned etiquette booklet for me from the Huntington Library. It had been originally published in the late 1800's and it, in equal parts, cracked me up and mortified me.

Today I received an excellent surprise from my Mom's dear friend Ann from "back home". Ann sent cook books for me, my bro and my mom. It's the 2009 edition of her community's women's club.

The introduction explains that the club originally began in the 1930's. Apparently the women in town met at a local hotel to play bridge every day. Well, the ministers of the community "worried about all the bridge playing" and suggested the women instead get together to better the town. The women formed the club that continues to this day. I, thought it was hilarious that anyone would be concerned with too much bridge playing but the idea to form a club was a good one and the women wound up raising lots of money through the decades for all sorts of charities. Best of all, I got a super cool cookbook from one of the current members. Thanks Ann!!!

I love old cookbooks and recipes because they offer a great glimpse into the lives of women from different eras. This cookbook features recipes from the current members as well as those from the 1959 club.

There is a recipe for Texas Caviar but it sounds much cheesier than than one I tried, and loved, from Larkin's.

There is a "Congealed Salad" from '59. I mean even back in the 50's that had to have sounded unappetizing. Or maybe it's just me.

"Luella's Old Fashioned Salad Dressing" sounds great because anything from a Luella in Texas has got to be good.

"Anna's Broccoli & Cheese Casserole"? Yes, please.

"Baked Sweet Potatoes with Apricots and Bourbon" anyone? That one's from Ann and I think we have to give it a go.

"Anita's Brisket"? Mom used to make this... holy cow. You've gotta give it a try.

"Chicken with Morels & Tarragon Cream Sauce"? Anyone know what a morel is?

There is a recipe for something called "Johnny Knows It". It looks like a home made hamburger helper sort of casserole. I was all in until I read that stuffed olives were used. If this cookbook is any indication, there was an alarming need for stuffed olives in the 50's. Of course I will now be obsessed with searching the grocery store aisles for stuffed olives now.

Ok, what?! Ann, honestly! How could you let something called "Wet Back Supper" into this edition? It's not even a recipe from the 50's! It's a 2009 submission. Please tell Kaythat she should be ashamed of herself! It requires vermicelli so I'm as confused as is Kay.

"Olga's Rolls". Ok, I don't know Olga but she uses sweet milk and sugar in her rolls so I like her.

Uh oh. There is apparently some sort of Chess Pie smack down on page 68. Apparently nobody in the 1959 club wanted to choose between Walter and Edith's recipes. Maybe we should do a taste test and decide for ourselves.

"Lulu Belle's Cheese Cake" again, any recipe from a woman named Lulu Belle has got to be great.

Someone name "Sis" House (quotes from the cookbook not me) submitted an Osgood Pie. That's gotta be good. Of course, "Sis" makes me think of The Rain Maker and that helps.

Uh oh. There is an even bigger smack down on page 86 with three, count 'em, three Pecan Pie recipes from Judy, Hoppie and Maxine. All require Karo so that's comforting.

Oooooooooh, divinity. My mom used to make divinity. Its' di-lightful.

"Vinegar Cookies"? Well, that's intriguing!

"White Fudge Icing" is from Znobia. Cool!

Man, we have such boring names these days. Where did all of the "Sis", Znobia and Hoppie's of the world go?

Here is a fun site to check out if you too like vintage recipes. Oooooh, yeah. Check out this bad boy. JACKPOT!!!

Monday, November 9

The internet keeps getting better

So, just when I thought nothing could top People of Walmart a friend introduces me to the delights of Texts from Last Night. The tag line of the blog is "Remember that text you shouldn't have sent last night? We do." I know!!! They are supposedly real texts that have been submitted to the site from lucky recipients. I don't know how real some of them are but they are so entertaining that I just don't care .

Many of the texts are just plain gross but others are hilarious. Above all it makes me incredibly grateful that texting didn't exist when I was in college. Phones were tragic enough. Texting is officially so much worse.

So far I like these:
I don't know how long I'll find this site amusing but it sure is cracking me up tonight.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4

DLTLMFGYD


I cried at work today. This is the second time I've cried in 8 years at my current place of employment. My boss is currently out on stress leave so I'm doing both of our jobs and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Trouble is I don't want to complain because I don't want to be classified a cry-baby or trouble maker. People are too easily misclassified at work and I just don't want a new label.

Instead I did what any reasonable grown up who needs to cry at work does, I sat in a stall and silently cried for five minutes, dried my tears and went back to work. I was teary for about 30 minutes afterward but my boss' boss saw me with watery eyes and high tailed it out of my cubicle. I think I'll keep some Visine on hand from now on.

I later saw a friend puffy eyed and crying in her office. She had just shut the door after returning from her boss' office. I tapped on the glass wall of her office and sat with her and laughed through tears as I said "What's going on? We don't cry!". I let her vent for a while, then she got mad. My parting words to her were "It's better to be mad than cry around here. Keep it up.". That seemed to help her.

Here are some other quotes that helped me get through this dreadful day:
  • "Dust off your resume."
  • "This is a job NOT a career. I come in, do my job and get the fuck out."
  • "It's not worth it."
  • "Make sure nobody ever has to say 'Get a Life' to you"
  • "DLTLMFGYD" (aka "Don't Let the Little Mother Fuckers Get You Down") - This is what a dear friend's father used to tell us when we were having a hard time in and after college. I thought it was simply DLTFGYD but I spoke with my dear friend who corrected me and said that I had to add the "Little Mother" portion to it. Her Dad used to write the acronym in cards he'd leave for her. He was an awesome man. He died several years ago and I miss him all the time.
But more than anything, what got me through this day was being able to say "Yup", "Yes" and "Uh huh" to the litany of "Did you do..." questions that my boss' boss had for me. When everyone else was pushing work back on us because they were "understaffed and overworked" and "too busy" I just said "Yup".

Monday, November 2

Favorite


Here is what may be my all time favorite blog post ever. It's called "Secret Snack of Shame-a-thon".

I'm very disappointed in myself in that I never thought to make a plate of those delightful looking pretzel/chocolate filling things above. Those are SO being served at my next get together.

Sunday, November 1

Really? It's Halloween?

I love Halloween but it's a particularly busy time at work these days so I didn't dress up or do any planning. However, I work at a place that has a LOT of people who happen to be creative and who love to dress up. So, how did I know it was Halloween? Well, I started finding clues around the office.

For one, this was one of the conference rooms I had a financial meeting in. And this is after it had been cleaned up a bit:

I opened the refrigerator for my lunch and found this:

I walked by our "open area" and saw this lying on a table for no particular reason.

There were also lots of awesome costumes but I was sequestered to my cubicle and missed most of them. I did, however see the electric wheel chair one artist had converted into the snail from the Main Street Electrical Parade complete with soundtrack. That was pretty great to see. Another dressed up as this guy which I thought was genius:

I heard about another company's runway/costume contest who had a Kanye West who kept interrupting everyone as they walked the catwalk.

That may be my favorite.

I promise to take pictures of the cool costumes next year. They are unbelievable!

Wednesday, October 21

The benefits of keeping an open mind


So, the Dodgers are once again breaking my heart. What do I do? I tune into Great Performances because it's featuring an episode on Gustavo Dudamel's debut performance as Music Director of the LA Phil and I can't think of a better way to stop hating LA (dem bums!).

Dudamel opens with a very modern sounding piece called City Noir. Ok, I get it, that's a pretty cool way to kick off a new job in LA, but I'm also thinking that it's sort of annoying 'cause it's a bit too modern for my taste. Keeping an open mind, I read about the commissioning of City Noir and discover the Composer was inspired by a bunch of books by some guy named Kevin Starr. I cruise on over to Amazon to read about this Starr guy. The next thing I know I'm getting totally engrossed in Starr's Dream books on California so I then make it official and add a few of his books to my wish list. Then I do the obvious and Google the guy and what do I learn? Kevin Starr was at Vroman's just last month. DAMMIT!

Oh well, better luck next time, huh?

In the end I wound up sort of liking the weird modern piece of music. I guess it goes to show that keeping an open mind can lead to interesting things.

Monday, October 19

I'm tired


I've got a terrible flu. Swine flu? Who knows. All I know is that it's wearing out it's welcome. I've slept tons, which usually helps, but still this thing hangs on.

Here are a few necessities I've used to get through it so far:
  • Rosebud Salve (for the Rudolph nose. Apply generously every night and your nose won't get so dry and irritated. If you don't have this already, get some. I use this stuff every day for dry lips and cuticles. It's amazing.)
  • Puffs Plus Kleenex
  • Excedrin (For the blazing headache)
  • Tylenol Cold (When the runny nose is out of hand)
  • Robitussin (When the cough and chest congestion sets in)
  • Listerine (To soak my toothbrush in between frequent brushings)
  • Visine (To sooth burning eyes. Come to think of it, maybe I have the plague.)
  • Cold, damp washcloth (for the forehead when the fever was approaching 103)
  • Cranberry juice mixed with 7-Up (Ginger Ale is preferable but apparently the rest of the world got hold of before I could. I've pretty much lived on this concoction for the past 4 days)
  • Coal Miner's Daughter, Smokey & The Bandit and Vampyr (I know It's a strange line up but this is what cable has had to offer during waking hours.)
  • The Hunger Games (I seem to read a book every time I'm really sick. This is what I read this time. I liked it.)
  • The most comfy bed in the world
I hope you don't get this flu but if you do I hope the above helps you through it.

Tuesday, October 13

Listen


Last Sunday I spent the day at home getting organized. Maybe it was one too many episodes of Hoarders but probably not. When my little piles of stuff start to get to me I eventually hit the wall, stop everything and clear it out. Sunday was one of those days and it was great.

This time I tried something a little different. Instead of tuning the tv to some mindless show, as I usually do, I didn't turn the tv on at all. Instead I tuned my MacBook to Pandora and listened to a couple of my stations. (BTW, if you aren't yet aware of Pandora, get to know it... pronto. It's great.) It turned out to be an incredibly tranquil day. I realized that tv adds more stress to my life than I'd known.

I've also come to understand something similar applies to my commute. I usually listen to NPR on my way in to work. It's my primary news source and I like it that way. However, lately I've been plugging in my iPod and listening to podcasts instead. It makes not only for a more peaceful commute but a more thought provoking one as well. I've long been a fan of This American Life but a new show is about to surpass it as my fave. *gasp* I've recently become a convert to The Story. It's a great little show hosted by Dick Gordon that airs around 9:00 pm around these parts. Unfortunately, I only spend a few minutes around a radio at that time of night. I flip on my bathroom radio while I wash my face and brush my teeth but it's not much time. I've therefore heard some good snippets of The Story but never more than a few minutes.

Anyway, I finally got hooked on a show and decided to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes. In a nutshell, Mr. Gordon interviews average people and talks to them about events in their lives. The Story typically has a theme and covers two stories per episode. I highly recommend it. As for where to start, I really liked Unexpected Honeymoon, Romeo and Tuyet and Facebook Friends (and Enemies). I think the website only offers a few shows at a time but you can go back several months through the iTunes podcast. You should give it a try.

I've decided a couple of my friends should write to Mr. Gordon about their experiences and get on the show. Shandon needs to write in about her new sister (a great story with an intriguing beginning) and Heidi needs to write in about the fire and the man on suicide bridge and how they are connected. I love a good story and I'm sure everyone I know has a good story worthy of The Story but those are the two I'd suggest.

Wednesday, October 7

All The Single Ladies


I have accumulated a nice collection of television DVD sets. I tend to collect those that can calm me after a rough day at work or whatever stress I may have in my life. They are part of my "comfort tv" arsenal.

I recently made an interesting discovery about my arsenal. I realized that all of my comfort tv preferences are based on shows about strong, single women.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is probably my all time favorite and Mary certainly falls into the strong, single gal category. I think I like Mary best because, through the years, you get to watch Mary grow and mature and get stronger. I think Mary was a great roll model for me in my formative years. Some people say That Girl was the first big single gal show to make it big and be a good role model but Mary will always reign Queen of the single gal nation in my heart.

As a kid I loved Nanny & The Professor but hated I Dream of Genie because she had to call the Captain "Master". *Shudder* It stills makes my skin crawl. Rhoda rocked my world but once she married Joe I preferred her sister.

After some consideration I realized my beloved Northern Exposure discs also qualifies as a strong woman show and, yes, I own some of those discs too. Through DVD Swap I've received some Gilmore Girls discs and someone at work gave me some Golden Girls sets. All of those ladies are single, independant women who I genuinely enjoy. More recently I discovered The Vicar of Dibley which completely falls into my independent woman theme.

Then, yesterday, yet another DVD set arrived from Amazon. It's probably my ultimate guilty pleasure... I bought the entire series set of Ally McBeal. I know, I know, some people just plain hate Ally McBeal and might think I'm nuts for buying it. I wouldn't even say Ally's a favorite of mine either but I love the quirky cast of characters in the show and I do like the way our crazy little Ally sees the world. Her short skirts are admittedly ridiculous, and don't even get me started on that creepy baby hallucination, but still I manage to love the show.

I think I only watched the first few seasons of Ally then, as usual, I lost interest. I guess I always meant to catch up on Ally in syndication but it never happened. Ally McBeal never seemed to end up on Lifetime or Bravo or anywhere. My cynicism always made me think it was due to lack of necessary music rights/permissions. It turns out I was right. The show was released on DVD ages ago in the UK, but the US has strict music rights laws and most of the shows featured so much music that it was almost cost prohibitive to hammer it all out. I'm not sure how they finally did it but 7 years after the show left the air the complete series has finally been released, with all original music, in the US.

Ally McBeal is probably one of my most most genuine guilty pleasures. I'm not entirely sure why I feel that way but I do. Maybe it's the Ally backlash that hit almost immediately when the show first aired. I think many people have the same feelings for Meredith from Grey's Anatomy. For some reason I have a high tolerance of whiny television characters as long as they are surrounded by a fun and quirky cast. I suppose True Blood's Sookie Stackhouse falls into the same category. Somehow Sookie bugs me way more than Ally but she has hotter men surrounding her and that's a big plus.

I don't know why this strong single gal theme has never occurred to me until now. It doesn't apply to all of my television preferences but it seems to apply to all of the tv discs that I own. Funny huh?

Sunday, October 4

Well that's a first


I wouldn't call myself a hoarder. I do, however, like to be prepared. I really hate running out of something I need and feeling like I have to run to the grocery store or Target on the way home from work. Instead, I almost always have extras of the products I use daily. I have extra bars of soap, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, Q-tips, Kleenex... you know, stuff like that.

I recently heard of a toxic household waste drop-off location and went through all of my expired medications to safely get rid of them. I realized that I was low on Tylenol Daytime Cold medication and made a mental note to pick some up. I'm not sick at the moment so why would I need Tylenol cold pills? As I said, I like to be prepared. On an average day I'm not even a big fan of Tylenol, but when I'm achy and coming down with something, Tylenol is the only stuff that seems to help.

Around this time, every year, I make sure I have a few things in stock: Tylenol Cold medication, Puff Plus Kleenex, Halls cough drops and some Healthy Request Tomato soup. Those are the items I need on hand to get through a flu/cold. As bad as shopping after work is, it's even worse when you're feeling sick and have to stop somewhere and stand in the medication aisle with a other miserable, sniffling saps.

This evening I realized I needed to go to Target and figured I may as well stock up for this inevitable swine flu thing that everyone is so excited about. I threw my usual "cold kit" items in a cart and then something strange happened. While checking out, the checker asked to scan my ID, not my debit card, but my ID. Huh? Turns out there is apparently so much drug abuse going on out there that Target needs to scan my ID in order to complete my Tylenol Daytime Cold purchase. I'm assuming some alarms sound or something if they decide I'm buying too much cold medication. I hope it's ok with Target that I buy Tylenol Cold products every 18-24 months. I recently heard that kids at my cousin's school are no longer allowed to bring hand sanitizer to school because too many kids were drinking it for the buzz. Can you imagine?! Revolting! Apparently being an American is now so intolerable, even for our kids, that we can't be trusted to buy cold medications or Purell. I think it's safe to say we're all in for some serious swine flu. Thanks a lot junkies.(Holy crap! They come with Vicks built in them now?! Cool!)

Friday, October 2

Slamming the door on this week


What a week! I mean it. All I wanted to do this evening was forget all about work. I actually made an effort to distract my mind from wandering back to work.

First, I listened to a fascinating episode of This American Life on the way home. I chose a complex episode that explained (quite concisely) the economic crisis. It was one of those episodes that required a lot of focus and attention to keep it all straight. It was just what I needed. I highly recommend the episode: Return to the Giant Pool of Money. Good Stuff.

While driving home I looked up to see that giant moon hanging up there in the sky. It was huge! Maybe that's why this week has been so crazy? I don't know.

Anyway, the other night Mom watched some show that scared the heck outta her. I, naturally, Tivo'd the next airing of it to see for myself just how scary it was. Let's just say I've discovered a new guilty pleasure: Celebrity Ghost Stories. I know, I know... it's so embarrassing. But let me tell you something, that Ernie Hudson has one scary story. Gina Gershon's was a little freaky too. Belinda Carlisle's was pretty weak and, frankly, she was probably stoned when her "experience" happened. Sammy Hagar had a surprisingly believable story. So yeah laugh if you must, but it was entertaining, scary and helped me completely forget about this awful week.

Wednesday, September 30

Long day


Today I had to go downstairs to the dreaded commissary for a take away lunch to eat at my desk. *sigh*. I hate eating at my desk but I'd missed a lot of action while in an all-morning meeting and had some catching up to do.

After lunch, at around 1:30, my work neighbor turned to me and implored "What is wrong with this day?!" I couldn't put my finger on it but she was right. There was a distinct reek of tension in the air and it was getting to us. A high-ish level person got disgusted and slammed her door, which is unheard of, startling us all. The big boss was shouting out names from across the floor asking people to join him in a meeting. Then, as if all was right with the world, it was time for our September birthday celebration. Once a month we all get together for cupcakes and acknowledge everyone with a recent birthday. Somebody in HR always prints out descriptions of that month's zodiac signs and somebody has to go up in front of everybody to read them aloud. I'm relatively new to this group of people at work but I've already been nailed twice to read it aloud. Today was one of those days.

After cupcakes we all smelled a heavy layer of smoke wafting around. Turns out a fire broke out nearby, just in time for the "Red Flag" alert. The smell was making us sick.

The whole day was filled with a non-stop sense of unease. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can't shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen. I hate this feeling because I'm often right. I hope it's just a response to a hectic day.

Yesterday, on the other hand, had been such a nice quiet day of going to a few meetings then spending the afternoon getting my desk cleaned up for the onslaught of work to come in the next few weeks. I'm glad I had that time to get organized but man... It's gonna be a rough few weeks, I can already fell it. These are the weeks that all I want to do is get home at the end of the day , put on my pjs and go to bed. I'm off to do that right now. Time for Ken Burns' Nation Parks again. That has calmed me these past few nights. I hope it helps tonight.

Sunday, September 27

Why are the sad stories so fascinating?


I read a review of this book in the NY Times today. It is SO on my wish list this year. I had never heard of the Collyer Brothers but I am intrigued.

BTW, if I hoard anything it's the NY Times Book Review section which explains why I only got around to reading the review today.

Saturday, September 26

Shuttered

When I was a child of the seventies, living on a cul-de-sac, playing hide and seek and running around barefoot all summer we had some interesting neighbors. I didn't know this at the time but Mrs. S was a battered woman and not the only one we lived around. Mrs. L was an alcoholic. There were a few normal neighbors. The I's were a lovely family whose daughter babysat for me and my brother. I was very good friend's withe the A's daughter and we had many sleep overs. And then there were the P's. The P's were super-neighbors, at least that's how they seemed if you were a child of the seventies. I don't recall what kind of day job Mr. P had but, in his spare time, he invented things. Not goofy amateurish things but innovative machines that turned into patents that are still being used to this day. The man was a genius. I learned about the FDIC $100k insurance limit because of the P's. One day Mr. P got a check so big, for one of his inventions, that he had to go from bank to bank depositing $100k at a time so his money would be insured. After one deposit he came back into the bank and asked if they would validate his parking. When they said "No" he promptly closed his account and took that $100k to another bank. That Bank Manager was very sad. When Mr. P bought a car he got all the way to the point of signing for it when he stopped and said "Where's my discount?" "What discount" said the salesman. "Well," said Mr. P. "You put your dealership logo on the back of my car without my permission. I figure that kind of advertising must be worth at least $30 a month." The dealership removed the logo from the car.

My favorite memories of the P's have to do with their cool house. They were the only ones on the block with a pool. They had the pool and a pool house built before they moved in. We used to ride our bikes around the giant dirt hole before the pool came in. Mr. P was a Pepsi junkie. I'm not talking about your average soda addiction. I mean Mr. P LIKED Pepsi. A Pepsi truck would actually make a U-turn on our street, park and drop off about 4-6 cases of Pepsi every other week. The P's opened an arcade for a while and when it closed they just brought the pinball air hockey machines home to sit in the garage. I can tell you that was the best summer ever. We would go to the P's to swim, play pinball and drink Pepsi for hours and never need so much as a quarter to do it. We just walked across the street the best house in the world. I mean who could ask for better neighbors?! My parents were good friends with the P's. They used to play bridge late into Saturday nights together. When a new babysitter brought a bunch of friends over and started a party it was Mr. P who came over, told her off and brought us to his house where Mrs. P gave us home made cake and let us watch Love Boat. They were nice people.

We eventually moved away when my Dad got a promotion. Our families exchanged Christmas cards but we eventually lost touch with the P's until about 10 years ago. Mom was reading her morning paper, as she does every morning, and came across an article about a Mr. P who had been convicted of some sort of sex crime and was going to jail. Mom couldn't believe it but the details were awfully close to the Mr. P we used to know. She decided to call Mrs. P to check in and see how they were doing. Mrs. P answered the phone and began crying immediately after recognizing Mom's voice. Poor Mrs. P. It seems Mr. P decided to show his grandsons some x-rated videos and teach them how to masturbate. I know, it's gross and inapproriate and criminal. Let's just say Mr. P sons and the State of California frown upon what he did. It was all true and Mr. P was going to jail for about 10 years. Mom went to lunch with Mrs, P a few times but so much time had passed and they didn't have much in common anymore so they again drifted apart. We would often think of them while driving past the trailer park Mrs. P now lives in since we pass it on the way to my brother's house. We also wonder how Mr. P is doing. He wasn't in the best of health and we wondered if he was even alive or not. We also know that pedophiles don't exactly do well in prison. We hear they are the lowest of the low in there. I'm sure these past years have been very difficult for the P's but what could we do?

Nowadays the most difficult thing Mom and Dad are having to deal with is the hassle of having their house redecorated. (Well, to be fair, Mom had some vision trouble but her health is otherwise very good as is Dad's.) The stucco has been removed from the ceiling, the walls have been painted and carpet and plantation shutters are about to be installed. The hardest thing Mom is going through is the fact that she hates the high gloss white paint the painter's put on her shutters and doors. She was pacing around very upset about what to do about the despised shutters the other night. She didn't sleep much but was getting ready for her day the following morning when the phone rang. It was an automated voice requesting a collect call from a prison somewhere asking if she'd accept from Mr. P. Here it's important to understand my mother. Mom and I tend to like the off beat crazy folks of the world. We don't think those folks should have to hide. Maybe it's a Southern attitude, you know, bring out your crazies and seat them in the parlor with the rest of the family. We also happen to be very curious people. Needless to say, Mom couldn't resist a call like that. Curiosity won out and she quickly accepted the collect call. She immediately asked when Mr. P would be getting out and how his health was. Turns out he's had a couple of bypasses and his diabetes is a problem but he was getting out this Monday, that was why he was calling. Mrs. P recently moved because she lived too close to a school. Registered sex offenders cannot live within a certain distance of schools. When she got her new phone set up it had a bock on it that he couldn't get through. He needed to speak with Mrs. P to give her instructions on how and where to pick him up on Monday. Mom said she'd call Mrs. P and have her take the block off her phone so Mr. P could call her tomorrow. She also told him that if he had any more trouble calling Mrs. P that he could call Mom and she'd pass along any messages or instructions he might have. Mom said she actually felt sorry for him, like he didn't get to talk to people much and he was hesitant to hang up the phone, but what do you say? Again, it's all very sad. What Mr. P did was wrong and God only knows what else he did in his life but when it's a person you know only as a good neighbor from many, many years ago it's hard to get your head around the whole thing. Mostly we feel bad for Mrs, P. What a nightmare she has lived through. I was proud of my Mom for being so open minded. It can't be easy to get a long lost friend to accept a collect call from a prison. Mr. P never would have gotten a call through Dad, not because Dad hates him but, because Dad would have heard that automated voice and would have hung up before he knew what it was about. Mom said she would have felt terrible if Dad had hung up on the message and the P's thought Mom and Dad hated them forever when it was really just automated voices that dad hates.

Part of me wants to know what exactly put Mr. P behind bars. The other part of me just wants to remember him as a quirky, Pepsi drinking super genius who used to be the nice man living across the street with his nice family.

When Mom started freaking out about the super-shiny-glossy-white shutters I said "Calm down! It's not like you have to go spring your pedophile husband from the clink on Monday." Mom just looked at the shutters and, without a trace of irony, said "I don't know. Glossy white shutters are pretty bad."

Mom, I love you, but you're loopy.

Tuesday, September 8

Rip off (?)


I ordered that Beatles remastered albums set from Tower Records online. Unfortunately I've received no info on the shipping status. Do you think I've been ripped off? You'd think they'd send some word even if it was to say I had to wait weeks and weeks for my precious set. Also, they were selling it for about $40 off the other prices I saw online. It's all feeling sort of suspicious now. Dang, wouldn't it suck if I just gave some online scoundrel $200 from my credit card?

*Dammit!*

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 7

Whiplash


Remember yesterday when I was talking about Brian Boitano and his great recipes? Well brace yourself for a completely different subject: Pro Football!

I'm really more of a baseball gal. However, the sound of football in the background of a house means fall is here and that always makes me happy. I used to like football a bit more than I do now. These days pro football often seems to be an endless series of interferences and penalties. When I was a kid I remember watching games that actually moved along without constant ego trips erupting on the field. And that awful grandstanding after a touchdown? The worst! I always think, dude, you just did your job so settle down. I also wonder what would happen if I did a little dance after each successful meeting I had? How obnoxious.

More recently I had adopted the Green Bay Packers as my football team of choice. A good friend is a fan and taught me about them while I helped her adopt the LA Dodgers. I like the fact that the Pac is a publicly owned team and that they still play in an ancient stadium. It's old school and I like that because it reminds me of the football from my childhood when I'd hear Dad shouting "TOUCHDOWN!" from anywhere on our cul de sac.

Tonight I went to my brother's house for a family bbq. While there, Michael and his wife turned me on to a new reality show called Hard Knocks. It's an HBO reality show/documentary that follows a pro football team and it's rookies during training camp. This year they're following the Cincinnati Bengals. We watched the first episode and I really liked it. It features the business side of pro football and all of the heartbreak. Man is it harsh! I watched as player after player was cut from the team. Oh, and there is no skirting around the cutting process. A couch comes to the cut player's room at the crack of dawn and basically says you have 24 hours to get signed, if you aren't signed then you are a free agent... good luck with that. When one rookie asks why he's being cut, the coach says "We always cut players around here because of ability. I'll need your play book." Ouch! That would be like HR coming to me one morning and saying "You suck. Give me your laptop."

I also learned that The Cincinnati Bengals is a family run team. That alone makes me like them. Then I found out the Bengal's EVP is a woman and I was sold. She's seriously tough. She happens to be the owner's daughter but, again, it's a family run business and she definitely knows the biz.

I've always enjoyed a good behind the scenes pov of an interesting business. I like Deadliest Catch too and I'd have never guessed that about myself. Macho men are NOT my idea of a good time even on tv but DC and HK are both so entertaining. I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed Hard Knocks. Even more surprising is the fact that I plan to watch rest of the episodes on demand. I may even root for the Bengals this year. Who knew?

Sunday, September 6

You're Welcome


Imagine my surprise: I'm flipping through cable channels yesterday and came across a new show on The Food Network called What Would Brian Boitano Make? Well, hells. I gotta check that out.

Brian was hosting a party for a bunch of roller derby divas. Turns out these derby girls love them some bacon. They love bacon so much they made bacon-tinis. A bacon martini? God knows I love bacon but even I would draw the line at a bacon-tini. The good news was that the theme of the show was BACON! Yippee!!!

Brian proceeded to make some of the most delectable looking bacon appetizers imaginable. Here they are:
Take a look at tell me those don't look delightful. WTG Brian Boitano, I'm impressed. You're giving Paula Deen a run for her money!

(This post is dedicated to Kathleen, Shandon and Howard. Enjoy!)

Saturday, September 5

The US of A(wesome!)

This is why I heart the internet.

Friday, September 4

On the Bright Side

As mentioned in previous posts, I've been particularly crabby lately. It's mostly work related. I'm lucky enough to genuinely like my job. I find my work challenging and it's always changing so it's never boring but lately I've been terribly annoyed and irritable. I'm not ordinarily an angry person so this state of mind has been bothering me.

I work for a company that is smart enough to invest in lots of classes for it's employees. The best classes I've taken have taught me to recognize a person's "communication style" and how to "flex" my communication style to that of those I'm trying to "influence". Learning about communication styles has not only been interesting but something I can use in my personal life as well as professionally.

However, all of these learnings have not helped me pull myself out of my funk. Unfortunately, understanding a person's motivation is only making me more annoyed because I'm able to see how insecure and selfish some people are. I won't go into details but some people are SO LAME!!!

I'm thanking God that it's a long weekend since I really need one. I've been working on a project at work for some time now and it's finally finished and ready to be presented next Tuesday. I'm proud of what I've pulled together and am actually looking forward to the meeting but I think it's all gotten to me.

I was talking about this to my friend Tony tonight. Tony is one of the most upbeat people I know. He's also a realist and is someone I can tell almost anything to. His suggestion was to watch some Mary Tyler Moore shows and A Star is Born (the Judy Garland version of course!). I think he's right. We also decided that I should do some reading and cooking. It's time to seriously chill out, eat well (and by well I mean healthfully) and not worry about it all.

I think world events are getting to me too. I swear I can feel my blood pressure go up when I hear a word about health care or war or how conservatives are mad that the President wants to address the kids of our country. It's all so awful. What's wrong with everyone? I wish people would stop operating from fear. It never gets us anywhere, unless, of course, you're a Republican. In that case fear can be very beneficial.

Anyhoo, I saw Liza Minnelli at The Hollywood Bowl the other night with Tony and it was one of the nicest nights I've had in a while. Nothing but cute, polite boys and loads of Liza fabulousness! It was a really good time. I think I need to focus on the fun stuff and not worry so much about the bad. So, with that in mind, I think I'll try to keep this little ditty in mind, at least for the weekend:



I can't help it... it makes me laugh. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 3

Where have I been?


After my Ode to the LP post I decided to listen to some classic music. I've been particularly crabby the past couple of weeks and I recalled that sometimes the right music can improve my mood. Last night I put on my fancy Bose headset and listened to the Beatles songs on my iPod in shuffle mode. It was great. I didn't sleep much but I did notice lots of fun new things upon carefully listening to those songs. I enjoyed Paul's awesome bass licks on She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. I'd never noticed it before but Paul sounds amazing on that song. (.. and yeah, you heard me. I referred to Paul's playing as "licks" and I meant it. I reserve the right to refer to the guitar as an "ax" later on.) I also loved hearing Hey Jude and Penny Lane up close and personal. (By the way, any of my friends out there who may survive me, I have a request for you. Will you please make sure that somebody plays In My Life at my funeral? I'm serious. I don't mean some attention-whore standing up front with a guitar lamely plucking away and singing. No! I want The Beatles recording of In My Life played at my funeral and I want it dedicated to my family... especially Jake and Alex. Yes, it's a sort of depressing thought but I want it known. Make that happen for me, will ya?)

Oh! I was also reminded of what an eff'd up song Run For Your Life really is. Don't let your children listen to that one OR Happiness is a Warm Gun. Kids are cute but they don't seem to understand irony. Oh, and Revolution 9 will certainly cause brain damage to any self respecting kid so steer clear of that one too. (Thanks a lot Yoko.) It would, however, make for a pretty funny ring tone.

Anyway... I thoroughly enjoyed my little meditation on The Beatles and suggest you give it a go.

On one hand, listening to a Beatles shuffle mix is a blast. On the other, its somewhat disturbing. I know the later Beatles albums so well that when one song ends I hear the next in my head before it even starts. When you're listening to an iPod shuffle and the wrong song follows the last it can confuse your brain. I listened to 96 Beatles songs between last night and today at work. I loved every one of them.

When I got home my niece called to say "I'd like to order a pizza with cat poop on it." I replied "Wrong number!" . I did, however, need to talk to my brother and they seemed to be in the car so her call was convenient. The conversation went something like this:

Lucy: "Ask Daddy if has any more Beatles CDs than I have."
Niece: *mumble* "Daddy says he has A Hard's Days Help and Night."
Lucy: *stiffling a laugh* "Ok, thanks. Tell him I need to borrow them."
Niece: "Ok. Daddy, Aunty Lucy says she needs to borrow those CDs."... "Daddy says he wants to talk to you."
Michael: "Dude! You know all The Beatles albums are being remastered and re-released on September 9th, right?"
Lucy: "What?! I thought it was just that Beatles Rock Band game that was coming out."
Michael: "No! All of the remasters are being released in a big boxed set."
Lucy: "Crap. That's gonna cost me."
Micheal: "Yeah. Hey, I listened to the entire White Album the other day and... *shouting over his shoulder* "Alex! Ear muffs!" (His way of telling her to cover her ears.) *whispering into the phone* " ya know, some people did their best work on serious drugs."
Lucy: "Yeah, I've always said that some of the best music out there came from heroin and cocaine. Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, the Stones... everyone rocked when they were stoned!"

(Disclaimer: Don't get me wrong, I do not condone drug use but there is no denying that some seriously great art has come from the stuff. Of course, it never ends well but that zenith sure can be inspired while it lasts.)

Well hells, back to my imminent remastered Beatles set purchase. I hopped online to search for the scoop on the goods. It seems the remastered Beatles albums can be bought individually OR in a mono boxed set OR a stereo boxed set. I repeat... hells! What am I supposed to do? I read up on it all and decided the more expensive mono version might be a good way to go. The clarity is supposed to be excellent and it is the way they were originally recorded. Besides, I've always hated Paul singing in one ear while Ringo drums away in the other.

I then called a friend who works at a record label. I figured he must know a thing or two about old school recordings. Surely he'd understand the difference between the mono and stereo sets and have a solid opinion on the matter. (His wife, who I know much better chanted "Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!" in the kitchen while we spoke. I don't deny it. I am most definitely a nerd.) Well, my conversation with the record label friend just made the decision more difficult. Turns out he's buying BOTH the mono and the stereo sets. He explained that the early recordings were, of course, originally mono but that they are also the only recordings The Beatles were around to consult on, so that's a plus. He went on to say that, yes, we were supposed to hear tons of never-before-heard details on the mono remasters. On the downside Abbey Road (my favorite and the one I had to buy in the 80's as a UK CD import) is not included in the mono set because it was only released in stereo. DAMMIT! However, the remastered stereo CDs include documentaries on each disc going through the making-of that particular album. DOUBLE DAMMIT! What the hell am I supposed to do?

Did I mention that these sets are NOT CHEAP. Both are well over $200 each. I can barely justify buying one much less both. I tend to be more of a fan of the Beatles' later records. We all love the early music but I never felt compelled to buy any of it because it's so frequently heard in day-to-day life. I have LP and CD copies of Revolver and everything released after wards. Beatles fans have long complained about the poor quality of the currently available CDs. Meanwhile, I'm happy to finally have a reason to buy all of The Beatles CDs once and for all. The fact that they are remastered makes the set downright irresistible.

I told my brother I'd buy the mono set if he'd buy the stereo set. We'll see. I keep changing my mind. I really want to see those album documentaries. I'm nerd enough to enjoy multiple viewings of them. But... oh, I don't know. Apparently all versions of the sets are sold out for God knows how long so I've got time to make up my mind.

Wednesday, September 2

Snapped


I had lunch with some colleagues from New York. They were asking if it was always this hot this time of year and why it was burning up every time they visited in late summer. I explained that yes, it's always this hot this time of year and will remain so deep into October. "We don't acknowledge September except to send our kids back to school." I then explained that So Cal is always burning up at this time of year because we haven't had any rain since last spring and there is nothing but kindling on our mountains.

They then wanted to know where all the smoke was. "I was in Vegas yesterday and could see it rolling in from my hotel room." Again, I explained, "You don't see it because you're in it." The son seemed surprised. I told him he was lucky that he was far enough away to not smell it. He seemed surprised at this detail as well.

I then went a bit further (maybe too far). I told them that I thought New Yorkers, as much as I love them, are a bunch of pansies. I broke into a girlieman impression of a New Yorker flailing hands in the air "Ooooh, it's snowing. Oooh, it's so cold! Oooh, Willard Scott told me it would be sooooo coooooooold!!!" Whatever. Turn on the heat, bundle up and gimme a break. "At least you see your disasters coming." I said. Try rattlesnakes and bears in the backyard, burning hills that later turn into dreadful mudslides and top it all off with some earthquakes for good measure. They nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I'm a city boy. That's too much nature for me."

Harumph. That's what I thought. Bunch a pansies.

Tuesday, September 1

Olden Days


My brother and I tend to communicate most during my morning commute. His kids are off to school and his wife teaches so it's usually a good time to catch him for a minute. The other day we were discussing his recent acquisition of an album collection from one of Dad's old buddies who had finally decided to get rid of his rather bulky album collection. If Michael (my brother) and I have one thing in common its a love of music... well, that and The Dodgers. Both loves come from habits my parents established when we were kids but seem to be long gone these days.

Michael brought the 4-5 boxes of albums home and began searching through them. He found lots to love in the collection. While he was flipping through the records his kids crowded around and asked what those were and what he was doing. He told me he tried in vain to explain the lost joy of buying and listening to records. He described the olden days of spending hours in a record store listening to new releases over the store sound system and carefully selecting a new record to buy with the limited allowance he had. He told them about his favorite old record shops (Poo Bah's, Record Jackpot, Moby Disc, Rhino and Tower) and how after a shopping spree he'd bring home the new record (s) and listen to them over and over again while reading the liner notes and lyrics. He went on to tell them about the ritual of listening to albums with friends, of sitting in a sea of records and covers on the floor while you talked and laughed with your best friends. He then got sort of sad thinking that they'd never have that experience. Record stores are barely hanging on and flipping through CDs has never felt the same as flipping through racks of records. And forget about admiring album artwork. Talk about a lost art! Kids today may listen to an iPod mix of music but most are busily hunched over their phones texting friends and ignoring the ones right in front of them. Michael's right, those days are over and it's really too bad. I know I sound like a granny lamenting the lost days of radio but I believe that while technology has done a lot of good it has also robbed us of some pretty nice times.

I grew up in a very loud house. There were only four of us but we were loud. Much of this was due to eclectic tastes in music. My Dad loved classical, Mom leaned towards show tunes and Waylon and Willie, I liked pop and rock while Michael liked rock and, later, punk. Like I said, it was loud at our house. Up until the age of about 10 my Dad would wake us up with Wagner playing on his old Fisher stereo to about 11. Our beds would practically bounce across the floor it was so loud. Dad liked us all up and at 'em by about 7:00 am. At the time it bugged me but it did eventually make a morning person out of me. I got to know a lot of classical music. Dad would play Copeland and ask "What do you hear?" I'd shout "A bird!" or "A storm!". It was actually pretty cool. Because of Mom I happen to know most of the words to Funny Girl and The Red Headed Stranger. Kudos to both ma and pa!

When we got older Michael and I would share much of our music. I always say that when college sent Michael and I our separate ways it broke up one of the best records collections around.

Michael and I are less than 2 years apart so we had some friends in common. I remember very well sitting on the floor of Michael's room with the all of the lights out except for his red lava lamp at our parties while he played DJ. We listened to Pink Floyd, The Cult, The Sex Pistols, The Beastie Boys and God knows what else. I remember hating Bruce Springsteen until the day Michael sat me down and said "Dude, I'm telling you you're really going to like this. I think you're a Springsteen fan waiting to happen." He played "Thunder Road" for me on Dad's stereo and waited for my reaction. He was right, I fell in deep love with Springsteen that day and spent the next decade going to every Springsteen concert that came to town. I also got way into REM, U2, The Replacements and bunch of obscure college bands who later disappeared.

To this day Michael knows what music I'll like. He occasionally sends me suggestions via iTunes, but again, it's just not the same as having him sit across from me waiting for my reaction.

When I was in high school I liked to turn off all the lights in my bedroom on the night of full moon. I'd open the sliding glass door that led to the back yard, lay on my back, hang my head out the door and listen to music on my headphones while staring skyward. I can't remember the last time I did anything remotely like that with my iPod. I mean I listen to my iPod when I can't sleep but it's not the same. I did, however, turn off the tv while writing this and turned on my Moody mix. (What's a Moody mix you may ask? It's my favorite iTunes playlist full of stuff like Beck, Air, Muse, Hem, Keane, Portishead, Richard Hawley, Wilco, Zero 7 and lots more. I bet Shandon and Norm are wondering where the hell was that playlist on our last road trip, since I made them listen to my 70's mix. Sorry guys! Better luck next time.)

My brother and I used to also make killer mix tapes. (Don't worry, I won't go off on a lost-art-of-mix-tape-creation here, but I remember it well.) One mutual friend still has one of those mix tapes and says her kids know every song on it. She tells me that it's worn thin and is now barely audible. I can't believe it's still hanging on. I now make mix CDs for that friend. About a year ago she called in a panic. "Lucy! My kids don't know who the Beatles are! Can you make a mix CD of your faves for us?" I told her that not knowing the Beatles was child abuse and promptly made her a killer mix. I am happy to report that her kids now have a clear understanding of the Beatles. It was the best intervention ever.

I still have all of my vinyl, Beatles and all. I've even kept all of embarrassing records. Unfortunately I'm in need of a turntable. I got a great portable turntable for Christmas a few years ago but the needle broke (Michael?!). I now want one of those turntables with a USB connection so the music can be transferred to my iPod. Ironic, huh? A friend at work is encouraging me to get a Kindle but I think a turntable might be a better investment at this time in my life.

I recently filled a thumb drive with music for my niece and nephew that my brother would not approve of. My nephew lost it. That or my brother disapproved so heartily that he made it sleep with the fishes. I'll never know. Either way, a thumb drive is no replacement for a well compiled mix tape and I know it.

It's strange, on one hand I love the portability of having my entire music collection in one little device. I often think about how the concept of an iPod would have blown my mind when I was a kid collecting my babysitter's cast off copies of Tommy, Captain Fantastic and A Night at the Opera. On the other hand I miss sitting on the floor (it was always the floor wasn't it?) with friends talking and laughing while listening to those old records. Maybe I'll get that turntable and start having listening parties when I buy my condo. Hmm, we'll all have to sit on the floor since I won't have any money for proper furniture. Come to think of it, that really doesn't sound so bad does it?

Last weekend I caught a segment on Wilco on CBS Sunday Morning. They showed the lead singer jamming on guitar in his son's room. Later in the segment I saw that kid race across screen with a copy of Television's Marquee Moon tucked under his arm. I now know what the phrase "It made my heart sing" means. I thought that Jeff Tweedy might be the best dad in the world. He's my people. With dads like Jeff Tweedy and Michael out there maybe there is hope after all.