Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Chores: Two to get ready and four to go

Anxiety Makes People Clean Obsessively, scientists find.
Being anxious, stressful, may make people less slovenly. According to a new study, there's a link between anxiety and obsessive house cleaning...
-- Current Biology

All these years I thought I was irritatingly anxious, but now it appears I'm just irritating.

I like a clean house, sure, but more in theory than practice. I find no succor in sucking and sweeping things in that general direction. The process of cleaning, or thought of the process, fills me with ennui -- prone to one of those Parisian exhales, where the eye half-shutter and the lips flap. Of all forms of grease, I dislike the elbow-variety most of all.

Which is such a damn shame. I wish I wanted to do all the things I don't. Cleaning is but a small part of that package. I'd like to like to work at anything with great diligence. Practice to make perfect. Write like there's no tomorrow. Or at the very least, scrub stuff.

But as that's not the case, I have worked out a certain approach to house cleaning.

The window washing bucket sits outside a window, and I plant my industrial-sized shop vac in the middle of the hallway -- both stew in their own juices for a day or a week. The time line between product placement and product purpose proves somewhat variable. A stubbed toe in the middle of the night? Two? A bloody shin? One can't hang a specific date on such things, how much pain will evince a final call to action. But action will eventually occur.

When it does, kicking that cleaning show on the road requires caffeine. Lots of caffeine. Meth-identical quantities of caffeine. And after three or four hours of furious, barely conscious activity, I'm like, whoa, everything looks great, but what happened, where am I, what's my name?

Some people, highly intelligent people, too, get real satisfaction out of the act of cleaning. Maybe "highly intelligent " is the operative here, because I don't get it.

Shame eventually does the trick. Though for me, shame sets a high bar, one I can walk under time and time again without even ducking.

After spending the better part of the day polishing, uncluttering, mopping and so forth, things do look wonderful. Restful. And I think, you know, if I just did a few chores every single day, the process wouldn't be so monumental. But I never do, so it always is.

In a parallel universe, and there might be such a thing, I hope perfect me likes to do all that I haven't but should and don't. And as a bonus, hadn't done all that I have, shouldn't have,  but did.

Monday, December 7, 2015


We'll be back -- maybe in another week, give or take. In the meantime, in between time ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Darling Lemontime

You like lemons? I've got lemons.

You don't like lemons? I've still got lemons.

And pomegranates. Strange that my notoriously under-achieving trees are suddenly fecund. Strange that I actually have cause to use the word fecund. Always wanted to, but the occasion never arose. Fecund equals fertile plus something vaguely lascivious, I think.

Yes? No?

In any case, worth pondering, while I peel another bucket of guavas.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Altadena Hiking

Ok, Blogger threatened to remove the "hiker" from my name if I failed to post a recent hike. Something I shoulda woulda been doing, except I hate both my cameras and rarely carry them.

So I fired up the mini-cam this morning. Good, good. But forgot to clean the lens. Bad, bad. I realized the error of my ways half-way back down the trail and licked the lens and rubbed it on my shirt. Your lucky day.

This is a nice trail, though not my favorite, as it's exposed to the sun and the elements. Best tackled when covered in fog or clouds. Today there were no clouds. But I like the old Mt. Wilson toll road, as it's wide enough to accommodate both bikers and hikers, so we don't get into squabbles over who stops and who goes, which of us owns eight of the 12-inches of trail.

My hiking etiquette -- when the trail narrows, those going down yield to whoever is going up. Those of us going up faster than the other uppers, pass when it's comfortable for them, so no one has to stop.

And this is just a bite, a nibble, of all the things I've come up with, over time. Life would be ever so pleasant if everybody played by my rules.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cat nip

Oh yeah, you look nice now -- with your head reclined, whiskers relaxed, sporting your little raspberry nose. But come 3 am, we know, we know.

That's when you'll wander the house like Lady MacBeth. Or no, actually, you'll sound like an extra in Doctor Zhivago, after the Bolsheviks killed your baby and burned the village.

You will sing an A flat minor, holding the note for what seems to be forever. Ewowoooow. Sometimes ending with a question mark: Ewoooow? Or an exclamation point: Ewooow! But most often just ending in an ellipses: Ewowow....Ewowow...etc.

What do you want? To go outside?

--No, are you crazy? There are coyotes out there.

Then are you hungry?

--No, not particularly.

Well, do you want to chase a ball or something?

--No, I want you to understand: It's 3 am, and my heart is filled with music, mystery, opera. What I must do is sing, what you must do is listen.

Ok, so we're going to burrow under the pillows and listen to your aria that way. No offense.

--In that case, I might have to bite your toes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Candyland: The inside scoop

No one decorated their yard with severed legs, dismembered children, and Day of the Dead tableaux when I was growing up. We were lucky if neighbors remembered to put out a pumpkin.

Half the time, they didn't even bother to stick around. There'd just be a basket of candy on the porch with "Boo! From the Hendersons" scribbled across a piece of graph paper. As the basket held nothing but Smarties, the Hendersons often found an unpleasant return on their investment. But not from my quarter, I assure you.

Me and my friends, we never tricked. That would have taken both too much time and too much imagination. We didn't even bother with regulation costumes after the age of five. A little grease paint, a torn shirt, and we were good to pillage. Sugar. We wanted sugar, and nothing but sugar. Specifically, chocolate sugar. "Open wide for Chunkies!" (Which must be the creepiest ad slogan ever.) No time to chat, just in and out, done and done.

Most parents in the subdivisions spent Halloween watching Gunsmoke, and would answer the door feigning only the barest vestige of interest. But there was always that one house. That house where the grown-ups were way too excited, way too invested in the evening's entertainment. For whatever reason, they had passed through adolescence and teenagery into dotage, somehow blissfully unaware of Halloween's true purpose.

So these -- we'll call them "enthusiasts" -- had a yard decorated with some sort of children of the corn configuration. The mom dressed up as Morticia and the dad as a vampire. While the Addams Family theme played in the background, they'd greet us with a cauldron of Hi-C fruit punch and dry ice and say, "Come into our chamber, my pretties."

We had no choice, we had to go inside, they played bridge with our parents. Thus, we'd waste precious chocolate-accumulating minutes dipping our hands in a bowl of cold spaghetti labeled INTESTINES, peeled grapes labeled "EYE BALLS." We'd smile politely. "Oh, that was real spooky, Mrs. Johnston." And she'd wag her finger and say, "Mrs. Johnston? Who is this Mrs. Johnston you speak of? Gomez, Do you know a Mrs. Johnston?" Then Mr. Johnston would jump out from behind a door and flap his cape, "Cara mia!"

We felt greatly embarrassed on their behalf, and finally understood why their kids had taken up pot at such a tender age.

When we eventually escaped the clutches of Morticia and Gomez Johnston, I'm sure I wasn't the only kid to appreciate my own parents, whose Halloween lassitude suddenly seemed quite sophisticated.

Many of us lived in sugar-restricted homes and any candy we hadn't eaten along the way was confiscated as soon as we opened the front door.

Next spring, we'd set up a stand outside our house and sell the candy back to the original owners. But at a discount. And I suppose they handed it back to us the following fall. Who knows for how many years that went on. Some Dutch scientists recently proved that subatomic particles travel both backward and forward in time. Apparently the same principle applies to candy corn.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A blogger friend died last week

I considered him a friend; maybe you did, too. Birdman -- that's the only name he provided on his blog -- even if you and he had posted back and forth for several years. But he generously shared other sides of his life.

What did we, the virtuals, know about Birdman? He was an English teacher, who on a dare wore a kilt to school. He loved and was loved by his wife Elenka. His family lived in Maine, and he grew up somewhere on the North Atlantic coast. Had kind of a Tom Sawyer childhood, rode his bike delivering newspapers as a youth, protected birds and other wildlife, loved the sea, dreaded the dead of winter, longed for spring, traveled in summer. And most of all, he had the gift of gab, a wonderful optimism, and a talent for photography.

Birdman always struck me as the uncle or cousin you'd want to be seated next to at a Thanksgiving Day dinner. The one who could spin a yarn, tell a joke, at the appropriate time, break up any sort of tension. Kind of the Will Rogers of bloggers.

One of his October posts -- and he blogged every single day -- ended with:

"Always remember...Wishing is important. Sometimes pieces just tumble into place."

His last post is here. If he touched you too, say good-bye.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What I'll never know

If there is a heaven, for my mother's sake, I hope heaven has a skylight roof, six escalators, seven hair salons, eight movie theaters, ten shoe stops, a Sears, Broadway, and a few furniture stores named after famous early American patriots. That might bring her eternal peace.

I never understood mom's love of the grand indoor shopping malls, but then, I never understood my mom. This is true. And the lack of understanding was mutual. We directed eye rolls in each other's general direction from the day I screamed my way onto this planet.

We practiced a certain amount of unkindness upon one another. The reason for this escaped me then, escapes me now. Sure, I have theories, everyone has theories, but the thing is, I could have risen to the occasion, but didn't; been the bigger person in this relationship, but wasn't.

So we gave up on one another very early in the game.

It wasn't until she had Parkinsons that we played nice. Me, because what kind of a shit wouldn't treat someone with this disease kindly, and she -- she had way too much on her plate to bother chewing over an ancient grudge. And both of us, because we only saw each other about once a year.

Not that we ultimately, at the bitter end, liked each other. That Titanic of childhood and parental bonding or non-bonding rarely swings a 180. Still, I do realize I've spent way too many hours in this life thinking about my mother. And after all those ill-spent hours, I've reached a conclusion: I don't believe she screwed with me intentionally. More likely, accidentally -- incidentally. Perhaps inevitably, and from her point of view, quite forgettably.

That's the thing with most intimate relationships -- you generally don't press the save button on similar memories. And why a certain one means so much to you and so little to the other is probably more significant than the incident in question.

But back to the malls.

Our relatives from Europe would visit. As social and cultural coordinator, Mom didn't put the Getty or a national park or the Art Institute on the docket. She piled all who were willing in the Monte Carlo and drove to cathedrals of consumerism called something like West Haven Galleria, Grand Traverse Mall.

I remember one uncle preferred to stay back at our home and play bocce balls. Bocce balls is a tedious, pointless game. We got quite good at it, my uncle and I.

When mom and relatives returned, they didn't drag in trunks full of plunder. Maybe just a modest upscale bag or two. While mom loved the malls, relished the act or the process of shopping, it rarely led to an actual purchase. Same with the relatives. After all, they had shops, likely better shops, back home in Europe.

When the relatives left, so did I. I think the only time mom and I felt some degree of comfort in each other's company was in the leave-taking ritual. We waved, and I ran through the airport like running for my life. When my plane taxied down the runway, I sighed with relief, mostly. And unexamined regret.

Where did we go wrong?

Wasn't there a time? There was a time. When you came to my first grade class, dressed in a beige velvet suit, gold and pearl earrings, with a solje pinned to your white linen blouse. I don't know why you were there -- maybe to talk about Norway or painting, art. But beautiful more beautiful than any movie star. I looked around the room and saw everyone adored you. But you didn't belong to them. You were mine, in all your glamour, and I owned you. After your speech, I grabbed your hand and dragged you out of the classroom to the hallway, tugged at your shoulder so I could kiss your cheek. I tried to tell you something important, but my feelings out-sized any words I knew. "I just love you so much." That's the best I could muster. You looked surprised, but not displeased. Touched a cool hand to my forehead.

This is also true.

Was there a love between us, a love up for grabs? Did you not see me reach for it? Did you reach for it too, when I wasn't looking?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A five block walk

O world, O life, O time. This property rests only a jog away from my house -- three blocks west, two blocks north, one block cross. Might just as well be a continent away.

Some living in the brown might resent all the green. I don't. I'd give every bucket of my shower water to keep it looking thus. Seriously -- I don't wish brown upon this family, I just wish they'd invite me over for cocktails.

On the same block, we have a reality check.

Not that the that is better than the this, except, well, that it is.

In spite of what you may read, SoCal is not a desert climate, we're a Mediterranean climate. Or we were. Something we share with Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Africa, and the obvious. But currently, we're thirsty.

As we're living high and dry, here are some of my Altadena favorites, playing by the rules.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Traveling by Trail

Where middle-age starts and ends seems immutable when you're on the outside looking in. But from the inside looking out, that span -- the middle-age time frame -- grows surprisingly elastic.

Still, we all can probably agree 40-something kicks that middle-aged ball in the air and 60-something will likely catch it.

Which is one of the reasons I'll not see the movie version of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. The book is an autobiographical, picaresque tale about a middle-aged, kind of angsty, definitely out-of-shape writer and his equally middle-aged but way more out-of-shape friend, and their semi-commitment to thru-hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail.

In the movie, Robert Redford plays Bryson. Age-wise, Redford has nearly a two-score advantage on the protagonist as originally written.

Now, this isn't to say 80-year olds can’t walk one of longest trails in the world. They can and do. In fact, every year, all manner of folk complete the AT – men, women, girls, boys, the blind, the homeless. An amputee walked it, which fills me with all sorts of hiker-slacker shame. These are stories worth telling -- it's just not this story.

The other reason I won't see the movie is that, other than free climbing the face of Half Dome, a long walk isn't exactly a spectator sport.

Without hoops, home runs, or triple hand springs, the visual glory of hiking pretty much resides in the eye of the beholder. And what the beholder spends plenty of time beholding is the top of his boots. Look skyward at hawks or treetops once too often, and before you know it, nose meets trail -- there will be blood.

Along the way of course, hikers find intermittent moments of transcendent beauty. Viewing the world from a mountain top is spectacular. But that's a teaspoon of time, versus the getting-up to, and getting-down from.

Knowing that, those who don't hike surely wonder what the attraction might be. I really can’t explain it. There's no particular skill involved, no trophy waiting at the end.

Hiking is basically a self-congratulatory exercise -- and strictly a matter of personal interest how high, long, hard the journey. Trust me, I've been on both the giving and receiving end of those stretchers, and nobody cares.

I think the appeal rests in that you're not out to impress anyone; which is a good thing, as you're not going to impress anyone.

But how liberating, if you think about it. To set the boundaries, goal, and take the measure of your own success. Should you succeed, meet those personal expectations, there will be applause, you betcha. A beautiful noise. You clapping for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tennis: Let's Dance

Of all the US Open tennis I've watched these past two weeks (and I've consumed more than the recommended USDA daily allowance), the doubles matches have been the best. Not the men's doubles; they're as boring as ever. I'm talking the women's and mixed doubles. Mostly due to the return of Martina Hingis.

Along with Roger Federer, Hingis is probably the best chess-playing tennis competitor ever. Though unlike Federer, she ultimately wilted when major fire-power hit the scene; today, if partnered with another great player, her mind-game is magic.

(By the way, her partner in the women's doubles is Sania Mirza from India -- an international star whose courage, both athletically and politically, eclipses every other player other than possibly Serena Williams.)

Just to say, if you're not a tennis fan, or even if you are, and kind of yawn at the idea of witnessing another win by Williams and Djokovic in the singles, catch the doubles. Hingis with Mirza, and Hingis with Leander Paes (he's 42 years old, for god's sakes, old enough to have partnered and won with Navratilova, the original Martina).

It's tennis when tennis looked like no other sport. The prehistoric tennis of the 1990's, and earlier. Before a wild-swinging bat could hit a home run in the service box; when an inside-out forehand or a sweet backhand down the line would make you gasp.

Catch the doubles. It's a beautiful sight.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Live and learn

One of the interesting things I've discovered about cats, aside from their having no conscience (quite like birds in this respect, and quite unlike dogs and horses), is their assumptive ownership over any surface they fancy.

Not just trees and porches, though trees and porches, of course. But anything inside the house, as well.

And should you protest, present a well-argued position against their surface of choice, you're really nothing but a bit of temporary static on their radio.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

St. Paul's Prep School Rape Case

You may have heard about this case, maybe not. But a graduating senior is charged with raping a graduating freshman. He was 18 at the time, she was 15. And I'm definitely for letting justice take its course. I'm in the camp where I don't think those accused of rape should have their names published unless convicted. Also, I understand that no one looks at their best in a mug shot (if that is Labrie's mugshot; it might be a student ID, I don't know). Still, I can't help but wonder, what machinations were required to transform someone even vaguely resembling the individual above ...

into this. I hope by trial's end we won't see an example of the best justice money can buy -- that the defense doesn't score a touchdown with a Hail Mary pass based on nothing more substantial than a Harry Potter makeover.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bad Hair Years

When I was about seven, eight, or whatever age qualifies for third grade, I saw an ad for synthetic hair on the back cover of my comic book.

"Feels and looks JUST LIKE REAL HAIR!" and "They'll think your hair grew OVERNIGHT!" and "NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW it's not yours."

Not a full wig, but per the illustration, a braid as long as my arm and twice as thick; priced at something extremely reasonable -- maybe $2 or $3.50? -- doable, if you hoarded your allowance, which I did.

(I didn't hoard like Scrooge, of course. Or DeeAnne Hartshorne. Her father owned a plumbing business and every night poured his spare change into her giant pickle jar, sometimes dollar bills, too. This money she never spent; the pickle jar was an art installation, one her friends were called upon to admire and total at least once a month. This we did, not because we liked DeeAnne, but because she had a pony. "Hey DeeAnne, let's count it later, after we ride Thunderball.")

At this tender age, my observational, anecdotal research indicated that little girls fell into two categories: Those with long silken locks which a mother would wash, condition, brush, ponytail, pigtail, braid; and those like me who got a quarterly shearing by interns -- or convicts for all I know -- at a local beauty college, freshman class.

I begged my mother to let me grow my hair long, but she claimed, given its texture, cowlicks, and kink, I'd look like a sheepdog. In retrospect, I see her point. But in retrospect, I also see mine.

Eight-year old kids don't have bad hair days, eight-year old kids just have hair and days.

But it wasn't really about the hair, not entirely, anyway. This was one in a series of losing battles for a square-inch of self-determination, and long-hair territory seemed worth a fight.

In elementary school, I always chose a seat in the back of the classroom. Shy? Hardly. I was the annoying child waving her arm, exploding with all the answers. "Meeeeee, call on meeee!" I sat in the last row because if I couldn't be the teacher and see all the faces, then at least I could see all the backs. Which led, contributed to my long-hair obsession.

My friend Kim, for instance, had golden tresses that fell to her waist. Every time she sat down, her back and chair held her hair hostage so she'd have to fling her wrist behind her neck to free it from captivity.

My other friend Lynne had a ponytail situated high on her crown and it would whip around in a dramatic, poetic fashion every time she turned her head. "Whoosh, whoosh," it whispered, when on the journey from left shoulder to right. Oh, how I ached with envy.

So while I did listen and learn multiplication, long division, e.e. cummings, Pippi Longstocking, Native American history, my attention switched regularly between the lessons and admiration for breathtakingly beautiful hair. Hair that could have been, should have been, mine.

Back to the braids. They came in three colors -- black, brown, and blonde. I selected Blonde, and, throwing caution to the wind, sent for two, then anxiously awaited for the box (heavy box, maybe two pounds, I reckoned, to contain them both). According to the advertisement, important beauty tips along with attachment apparatus would be included at no extra charge.

I told no one of my plan, let them all be surprised when I transformed from short to long hair OVERNIGHT. I stalked the mailbox all week.

Turns out, my braids didn't need a box at all. The two wizened offerings fit neatly into one slim envelope. And they didn't feel and look so much like REAL HAIR as real kitchen twine, and the most important beauty tip was not to wear my braids near an open flame.

Did I wear them? Just a couple of times, in the privacy of my bedroom. I swung my head from side to side, hoping for a Whoosh, or at least a whoos, or a whoo.

After a week, I lost interest in my braids, and my attention shifted from glamour to scientific observation, experimentation, and validation. I took my braids to the stove, and switched on the burner.

I'd like to say the braids taught me something -- that personal power, control over one's own destiny, isn't a matter of hair or anything external in general, or that one shouldn't envy friends when they have something you lack. Or that a high octane imagination will never make something out of nothing.

But what I really learned was that the manufacturer wasn't kidding about the open flame. And a dish rag won't remove soot from walls, and it's hard to explain your innermost thoughts and philosophical ideas to a mother when her kitchen is smoking.

I learned that life's lessons may cost more than one's original estimate. There might be hell to pay.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Midweek Matinee -- Greta Gerwig: A short appreciation

Not that my appreciation for Greta Gerwig is short; it runs long. I've liked her in everything, but most especially Frances Ha, which she co-wrote.

She has a new movie, and I was going to just put up the trailer on Facebook and toss out a few words, maybe -- "Can't wait to see." But I didn't like the trailer, though pretty sure the movie is worth the ticket.

So instead, I've decided to put up a clip from Frances Ha.

You know how in the old Francois Truffaut movie, Jules et Jim, you got under the skin of the male characters, but never grasped the female? I mean, you understood why two boys would be fascinated by Jeanne Moreau, but she seemed too mysterious to be lovable, inscrutable to the point of incidental? Finally, just a plot device, someone or even less -- a something. There only to mess with and ultimately mess up the guys.

In Frances Ha, you meet the girl. It's all about the girl.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Andrew Wyeth SmackDown

Monday, August 10, 2015

Take and give

Oh, hi. It's me.

Look, I'm really sorry I ate some of your plants this past spring. Don't know what got into me; was just feeling a bit peckish, I guess. But that Magnolia Coco did my family a world of good. Also, thanks for not putting pesticides on your milkweed and butterfly bushes, even though that aphid problem must have been, shall we say, embarrassing. (I heard the neighbors talking.)

Anyway, to show our appreciation, I and my extended family have been hanging out in your yard all summer.

It's the way we give back to the community.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hot hikes and cool jams

I've been hiking a lot, and could never make it up the mountain, or even out the door, were it not for my tunes.

This summer, I hit the trail with

Then, the thing about hiking, is to get your mind off your legs and your butt. The first mile is the hardest. You need a booster.

When you're cooking, and slap your hand against the two-mile post, you're ready for I like this three times over. Sometimes four.

When I hit the badlands, and have a long stretch of unrelenting sun and heat, then I relax my pace, look at some scenery, get all up in my head with

And now, feeling kind of rested and sweet, because the legs say they can take it from here, then I go to

Sounds like Madonna? I'm ok with that.

I don't have goals or an ultimate destination in life. Except when hiking. And when I reach the summit, I give myself this gift

This is Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon, by Ren Guang.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Preserving the Evanston Inn

Buildings of historic significance can disappear in the blink of an eye. Which is why some friends and I expected the worst for the Evanston Inn, teetering and tottering, after years of neglect, on Marengo and Del Mar. We expected it would be razed, replaced by a tri-story concrete/steel condo, painted in various shades of baby diarrhea and spit-up. (Nothing against baby gastric-intestinal offerings, but why does New Pasadena love this palette?)

Whatever. Here's where we stand.

The Evanston Inn, of the distant past, circa 1890.




And future.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Catty corner

Though it's been raining all day, I'm not bored. Some of us rely on intellectual pursuits for entertainment. Give me a window shade, moth, and electrical cord, and I'll see you tomorrow, don't let the door hit you on your way out. The Dog, on the other hand, has fewer -- to put it politely -- personal resources. Which is why we let him outside. To do what? Sniff wet and then wetter things, apparently, from what I can see.

I've been giving this a lot of thought, and you know what I think?

I think rain is for suckers. I told him as much, believe you me.

And I told him if thinks he's going to run back inside and kiss me, he can just think again. Towel off first, buster, then, well, we'll take it under consideration. Maybe when the moth is dead and I've completed my autopsy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Midweek Matinee: Winter Sleep

Prior to Winter Sleep, when was the last time I watched a Turkish film? Wait, let me check the calendar to make sure I have the right date ... ah, here it is: Never.

You'd think a movie that won the Palme D'Or in 2014 would create a little buzz, but if it did, I missed it. We lost a lot when we lost most of the small movie houses which showed nothing but foreign films.

Not that Winter Sleep is hard to find -- it streams on Netflix, for one.

When I heard this was a Turkish movie, and given my vast experience of never seeing one, I assumed the major theme would involve war, politics, and/or religion. Because I've never read anything about Turkish people except as some collective entity who apparently are involved in nothing but war, politics, and/or religion.

Winter Sleep is a movie about individuals and their personal struggles: an upper middle-class, aging man-- a landlord, the owner of an hotel, and a writer of columns in a newspaper nobody reads. His true claim to fame is that once he was an actor of limited fame, and shared the screen with Omar Sharif. He tells any hotel guest willing to listen, "I remember the day Omar told me..."

The other characters merely exist in his sphere. For him, they're his misbehaving satellites, often tracking questionable orbits. The much younger wife, once star-struck, now disenchanted and straining to break her husband's gravitation pull. The property manager, the bankrupt angry tenant, the one friend, and the sister who serves as a bitter Greek chorus to most of the characters.

I suppose I'm not doing a good job selling this movie, am I? It might not help if I tell you it's over three hours long, with acres of dialogue, and initially quite reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman -- the chatty years.

But I broke this movie up into three-day chunks. Which worked perfectly fine. Because you're not going to miss a rising exposition that ends with a building exploding, a wife who is beaten, a man who is shot. The most violent act involves two inanimate objects. And you won't even be surprised when that happens. You're supposed to see it coming. Like a Chekhov story, you're asked to balance two things in your mind at one time: the dialogue, and the inevitable.

In the end, I realized that Winter Sleep doesn't owe a debt to Chekhov or Bergman, but shares their history. Most of all, it reminds me of Joyce's The Dead. A story where you watch the ego inflate and deflate, time and time again. And how we protect the ego, assuming we'll die should it deflate. So we patch it, pump it up with argument and self-deception, aggrandizement. Until finally, maybe one day, we just let it go. Watch all the hot air escape; accept the pain, for pain it is. And pick through the ruins, for what remains.

And realize comfort, perhaps even redemption, should we find our self.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Some people like from the get-go. Who knows why.

I don't like it when people I like move to some faraway place. I don't like it at all. When you come down to it, it's quite rude, actually, as they've obviously not taken the sense of loss I'll feel into consideration.

(I also don't like that "Like" has been redefined, usurped. "Like" should not be batted about like a balloon. It's special. I'm reclaiming it.)

I liked Bellis the first time I met her. To begin with, I liked her accent, and told her so. And she said, "Why? Because it makes me sound like a nanny?"

She's a Brit, you know, and rather exacting.

So I think I said something like, "Oh no, nonononono."

Over the past six years or so, we liked walking and hiking together. Not that we made it a habit, it was very occasional, just from time to time. But some really special hikes -- like in Angeles after the fires, when we took a trail, and later walked on the highway, shut to traffic, as if we owned the place. The time in East LA, Haha, Icehouse, San Rafael -- oh, quite a few others, now that I think about it.

Her knowledge of the San Gabriels puts her up there with the 1%. She does her homework, and knows the history, the names of the trails, campsites, peaks, and valleys. A walk with Bellis is always an education.

And now she's moving to Germany. Pretty sure she'll like the change. More history to explore, mysteries to uncover, new peaks and valleys requiring identification. She'll teach the life-long residents a thing or two.

Over the years, I think Bellis and I had only two major points of disagreement -- whether her dogs should be leashed when hiking (Bellis: no; Karin: yes; I lost that one), and whether one could/should leave the shells from hard boiled eggs on the trail (Karin: yes; Bellis: no; somehow, I lost that one, too).

Oh yeah, one other: whether Bellis should leave California. I guess that means I'm 0 for 3.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

You can't always get what you want

No, you can't always get what you wa-ant

But if you try sometime

you just might find

You get what you need.