Thursday, April 30, 2009


Thanks to Jane for pointing me towards Wordle. I used this blog as the source, and it chose words from my last few posts. Interesting how the shape my word cloud takes is quite different from Jane's. Try it out and have fun!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

hands clapping

This morning my iPhone/iPod served up two tunes that include actual hands clapping. Refreshing, got me walking a bit faster to the salt mines. Even with all of Beck's flourishes, it still sounded fresh, compared to some of the current over-processed musical offerings. Clap your hands...

Beck - Where It's At

And nothing beats the much-needed uplift of some Stevie...

Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground

where the (naked) boys are?

...What the heck was the Smithsonian thinking about this choice for a cover photo and story for the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine? I have a few theories, but none of them reflect well on the "nation's attic."

Simply, this photo and story are not appropriate for a magazine that featured in the past few months dinosaurs and Lincoln and Darwin. Someone, actually a committee of someones, must be asleep at the switch.

I can hear my five-year-old daughter's voice, looking at this magazine cover and saying, "I can see his bottom!" Smithsonian magazine, I can see your subscriptions dropping or rising, I guess, depending on what audience you think you are trying to reach.

Thanks to Liz for pointing this out - I think!

Elegantly Dressed Wednesday button

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

we're having a heatwave...

A tropical heatwave...some light hearted fun for a week that needs it.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I first saw him when he dashed across 12th Street in front of my car, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a few steps from the brownstone where I lived. I didn't see him again for a few days and was concerned, wondering what happened to him, where he had disappeared. A man stood across the street from me, watching me, obviously searching the block. "Are you looking for something?" "A cat, I think he's a stray. A black cat."
The man beckoned me over and said that a little black cat had been living in his basement for a week or so, but he already had three cats and didn't want another. He fetched his cat carrier and said if I was really interested, I should take him to the vet, get him checked out, to be sure he was healthy, and I could hold onto the cat carrier for as long as I needed. I nodded and he went into his basement to find the cat. I already had one cat, Baby, but I had a feeling about this one. As if he already belonged to me.

A few minutes later he was back, with the cat in his arms. He was smaller than I remembered, scrawny, and in the cat carrier in an instant. I thanked this neighbor I had never met before this day, and went home with my treasure. It was late afternoon, and I had been on the way to the store before this unexpected turn of events. As soon as I let the little cat out of the bag, Baby hissed as it tried to cozy up to her. I put some food and water in two bowls for our new family member, but realized that I was now out of cat chow and better go to the store. The two cats seemed OK, the little guy (I had determined it was a boy) sniffing around its new digs, and Baby watching him at a polite but wary distance.

I took off, going to the little bodega, the Yiyo, which was around the corner and a few blocks away. Just about ten, fifteen minutes to go there and back, buy some Purina and some cat litter. When I walked back into the apartment it seemed very quiet. Baby was just where she had been before I left, but the new cat was nowhere to be seen. I put some more food in his bowl, which Baby promptly dashed over to eat, and cleaned and replenished the litter box. No cat.

I lived in a fairly large, long, railroad apartment, so methodically checked each room. No cat. I made dinner, figuring the smell of food would bring him out. No cat. By 8pm I was starting to wonder where Baby had managed to hide the body. I called friends, my mom, my man, bewailing how I had "rescued" this poor animal, only to ensure its mysterious death and disappearance in my Brooklyn apartment.

At the stroke of midnight, still boring someone on the other end of the phone with my plight, I turned and watched the little black cat crawl out of the tiniest gap from under the gas stove, eat some cat chow, and nonchalantly stroll to the bathroom and take a dump in the litter box. The little Brooklyn street cat was nocturnal! Of course. It took about a week to get him to shift over to my human awake-during-the-day, sleep-at-night schedule. It took less time than that for a little regular food and love to change him from a skinny, scruffy-looking short-hair to reveal his true roly-poly long-haired Angora self.
That was over fifteen years ago. Now Henry is dying, and I'm feeling pressured to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. I don't want him to be in pain, but it is hard for me to understand how we can so calmly talk about "what's best" for an animal when we wouldn't even consider such alternatives (out loud) for a human being. I've never loved another pet as much as I've loved Henry. I don't feel right about ending his life. I hate the idea of it being done to fit my schedule or others'. Unnatural, is the word that keeps popping in my head. The lack of control I feel in this situation is just a microcosm of how the notion of control in our lives is just an illusion. But the bottom line is this is going to be a tough week, no matter how things pan out, whether I have to make the decision sooner or later, and I am going to have to take care of my daughter's feelings on top of all of this, as well as take care of my own. And of course, Henry's.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


"The internets" is an amazing place. I recently discovered through that one of my ancestors was one of the first women executed at what would come to be known as the Salem Witch Trials, Sarah Averill Wildes. I wonder what my maternal grandmother would think. She did extensive family research many years ago to prove a connection to a Revolution-era ancestor in order to become a member of the Colonial Dames. But this bit of history goes back farther than that. Sarah, at age 65, was hanged on July 19, 1692.

I remember having to read something about the trials in English class and being pretty bored with all the"Goody this" and "Goody that" characters. It must have been The Crucible, unless it was another popular fictional account. As interesting as the subject matter was, the Salem witch trials came most alive for me in two fantasy shows from my childhood.

In a two- or three-part episode of Bewitched, Samantha goes back to Salem. I always loved that show and Elizabeth Montgomery, but especially liked how they took what had been a fun, fluffy, fantasy and special-effects show and combined it with some real history.
In one of my favorite episodes of The Avengers, "Murdersville," Mrs. Peel goes to visit a friend in his new home and runs into a village full of twisted, crooked individuals. In an extended scene she is hunted and then imprisoned in a chastity belt, and then later placed in the dunking stool, which is a torture device that was also used to ferret out "witches." What human beings will do to one another is astounding. And in the name of religion, too. This scene of public humiliation and torture to a modern, athletic, kick-ass woman brought the horror of how a crowd can be deadly and how a strong woman can be perceived as very threatening.

I have some more research to do, but various accounts of Sarah and her fate suggest that she may have been difficult to get along with, and her disputes with a neighbor woman over something as mundane as the borrowing of a scythe may have contributed to the accusation and her execution. It's difficult being a strong woman in any era, but terrifying to contemplate how a weak-minded herd could result in this sad chapter of history.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

lucy skywalker

The bubbles strike back, episode one

Friday, April 24, 2009

GFE part deux

As per Jane's request, I have tried to find a few more images from Guilt Free Enterprise to share. I am still looking for more photos of our posters graffitti-ed across lower Manhattan, but did find a few of the original posters that I can share in the meantime...
perfectly symmetrical Eighties male torso, aka Sting, used to promote our music video to Tea in the Sahara

"film stills" of Al from our fabulous yet-to-be-seen untitled (or I forgot, help me out Mary) movie

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I love all flowers and am digging how the rain which seemed to never end has resulted in sunshine and these lovely tulips. I may be developing a touch of tulipomania myself...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

guilt free enterprise

Post-college my friend Mary and I formed our own little "company" called Guilt Free Enterprise (GFE) ©. Under its aegis, we made some short films and did a whole bunch of self-promotion which can now be viewed in the spirit of performance art. Making the graphics was quite fun and a bit involved, as it was just before Photoshop, etc. really hit, so we were old-schooling it with press-on fonts and acetate and collaborating with our local printer to get just the right color xeroxes for our posters. Then we had evening adventures of plastering our mugs all over SoHo. Those were the days. And don't we look elegant, on the right, juxtaposed with one of our GFE icons, Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner?

Elegantly Dressed Wednesday button

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

jack of all trades

Jack of all trades, master of none, was often used to describe my paternal grandfather. What a crock. He was at different times in his life a chiropractor and a lawyer. He had many interests and passed his inquisitive nature on to his ancestors, which of course, is why I am reacting a tad sensitively to this, as I definitely am similar to him, even never having met him.

A more flattering term would be polymath, or generalist, to try and describe all of my diverse interests, which range from history (ancient, Greek, Roman and Egyptian and medieval England and France), art (all of the aforementioned periods plus modern and more), sewing, knitting, cooking (primarily Italian and Mediterranean savory dishes - I don't really bake) - the list goes on and on.

I'm not upset that I have a broad range of interests and tons of books to-be-read in a wide variety of genres and subjects. I'll never be bored. And I'm passing this tendency on to my daughter, I'm sure. My main challenge is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things I am interested in, much less the mundane chores of bathing, eating, laundry, etc. I have about three or four interesting art projects in my head right now that I'm dying to get a start on, if I could only fit them in. So far the only thing I am able to squeeze in the time to do is this blog, which thankfully can address a wide range of topics to suit my polymath mood. I at least can apply some artistic discipline here. A post a day. If I ever get some free time for these other things, hopefully the blogging habit will be so ingrained, it won't suffer. Jack of all trades, master generalist!

Monday, April 20, 2009

movies I'd like to visit, maybe even live there

Hollywood is not really a town, if you've ever visited. Not a town like the small one that some folks come from, or a bigger one, like where I live, here in D.C. But every once in a while Hollywood puts out a movie that takes place in "a small town," just like the ones that we know never really existed, but maybe would like to visit, or at least pretend to live in, for ninety minutes to an hour. And it's clear that the key to the attraction is as much the locals as the remote location.

In Doc Hollywood Michael J. Fox plays his usual smart-ass, this time as a hot-shot doc wanna-be Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who lands smack dab in the middle of the squash capital of the South. After waking to a morning skinny-dipping goddess vision and a pee-in-the-woods mating ritual, he is smitten with the girl, the town and its cast of kooks and so are we. And it's got Woody Harrelson in a good bit part, among others. Anther film with the same small town fish-out-of-water fun is the brilliant Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray reliving a day and getting to know everyone and everything really well until he gets it right. He also is in one of my all-time favorites. What About Bob, where he takes over Richard Dreyfuss's vacation, family and life ably abetted by some helpful neighbors.

Julia Roberts manages to lure Richard Gere from the Big Apple, or is it the other way around, in Runaway Bride? The Maryland town she is supposed to inhabit is full of a bunch of people you'd want to hang out with. Any town that sports Joan Cusack would be worth looking into. There are strange, unexplained details that make you wonder. What's with all the multiples? There are different sets of twins and triplets in many background scenes. Maybe it's something in the water...Housesitter, directed by Frank Oz, is another small-towns-and-romance-go-great-together movie, where Goldie Hawn insinuates herself into Steve Martin's life after a one-night stand. It's interesting, because we watch her fall in love with his house and his life and his family and (most of) his friends and have to wait impatiently for him to catch up. Oz hits another home run with In and Out, which has Kevin Kline slowly but surely discovering his inner homosexual and learning that everyone in town still loves him as much as we do. The final scene where everyone parties down so that his mother can get the "wedding" she always dreamed of is pure fun. And again, Joan Cusack lives there.

Casablanca is a classic, with the magnificent Bogie and an exotic collection of individuals all trying to escape from something. Wartime and romance are major plot points, but as the credits roll, I am secretly glad that Bogie has decided to stay in Casablanca with Louis and fight the good fight. It sure seems like they're going to have a hell of a time.

There are some other excellent movies that have fascinating small towns that I am glad I only have to visit for a little while, as they would be terrifying to live in full-time. Hitchcock must have been fascinated by small-town America, because he depicts it many times, all to sinister effect. Two of my favorite of his movies, Shadow of a Doubt and The Birds turn the safety and familiarity of living in a place where you know everyone on its head, as one town is hosting a serial killer and the other is besieged by unexplained deadly bird attacks. A holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life, actually shows a town, that no matter how wonderful some of its inhabitants are, would be a pretty rough place to have to live. I'll pass, thanks.

I don't live in New York any more, but once you have, it never quite leaves you. New York is not a small town, but there have been a few film fantasies that somehow manage to get a sense of the city. Guys and Dolls is a real slice of Broadway history, both musical and depicting the sorts of characters that used to hang out near Times Square. A far cry from the Disney theme park that exists there today. And Marlon Brando sings! The Godfather, Part II is a crime classic, but it also gives a slice of what it meant to be an Italian immigrant in this country, coming through New York. Another fun film set in downtown New York is After Hours, the ultimate trip through SoHo in the 80s with Griffin Dunne being dragged from one bizarre situation to the next. Woody Allen is well-known to be in love with his home town New York and has made movies set in the city many times, but as an ex-new Yorker, I don't really get a strong sense of the city, except as travelogue, in his films. Hannah and Her Sisters is one exception, where the SoHo and downtown sequences seem truly "the city," as Michael Caine tries to seduce Barbara Hershey in bookstores, her partner's painting studio, and on the street.

So whenever big city life gets to be a bit much, I know I can retreat to one of these film oases. Any other favorite film fantasy small towns?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

wanted: Pied Piper

I saw the mouse tonight. Once out of the corner of my eye, as it ran behind the stove. I said "yikes," or something to that effect and scared the kid. Rats. Maybe not the best choice of words...

After my daughter was tucked in I saw it again, darting across the nook off the kitchen, in that confused, scared, vermin sort of circular dash, and then behind the living room couch, I think. I got a really good look at it this time. This whole situation is grossing me out and pissing me off and all I can hear in my head is DeNiro as Capone, "I want him dead, I want his family dead..."
Yeah, I know, that's terrible to think, let alone type, right? Well, imagine finding mouse poop in the bottom of your toaster after you made your kid an English muffin. Try falling asleep at night imagining this little creature in your bedroom, in your child's bedroom, sniffing around for food, maybe setting up camp in her dollhouse. And what if he has friends? Shudder.

Last week I had the building come up again to look for the entry and they finally found it, after pulling out the kitchen cabinets next to the stove. I lived in a fool's paradise for a few days thinking maybe we actually had solved the problem without anybody getting hurt. So they didn't find all the holes or they sealed him in with us. Either way, this has got to end soon, and I'm afraid it won't be pretty.

Years ago, when I lived in Brooklyn and I had just moved upstairs in the building to a nicer apartment, I had a dream on one of my first nights in the place that my cat, Baby, had brought a mouse to me and was rubbing it against my cheek. It was soft. When I got up that morning there was a dead mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor. Gulp. I never saw another mouse in the house after that.
A few years after that, when I was living in Manhattan with M we had a recurring mouse situation, which he tried to solve with steel wool around the sink, etc. One night I felt myself being shaken awake by M. I was lying on my back, spread eagle, and there was my cat Henry, playing with a mouse on top of the covers between my legs. Yikes. We saw him playing with another mouse on a chair another night. After that, no mouse problem.

Unfortunately, Baby is long gone and Henry is now too old to probably help with this situation. He has lived in "the country" for the past year at my cousin's because the kid and I needed to remove all of our allergy triggers. I've been told that not all cats are mousers, so it might not help to even get a "loaner" when all that might accomplish would be runny and itchy eyes and congestion. And still, the mouse. Hopefully, mouse singular. And even more hopefully, not our uninvited guest for much longer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


No, not Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or Puffy or whatever the hell he's calling himself these days. Fiditty was one of my dad's euphemisms for poop. Crap. Numero due. He had a lot of expressions for lots of things. I think he dreamed it up. I've never heard it anywhere else.

One of my brother's early words (learned from Pop) was lollapalooza (he pronounced it yayapayoozah), which was one of my dad's words for something unbelievable. Used in a sentence, "Munson's grand slam was some lollapalooza."

He did a fair share of name calling. I now wonder if it was a reflection of his generation, or alternative cursing. Bad drivers and errant Yankees (New York, that is) could earn the appellation "knucklehead," "dimwit," or "furshlugginer twit." Furshlugginer is of course an adjective.

He also cursed, whenever his Sicilian temper boiled over. I probably didn't learn all the really bad words from him, but I probably heard them first used to their full effect. Being a newspaperman, his most colorful cursing always read like a headline to me, "Shit, piss and corruption." Love that one. Used it myself.

Language is an amazing thing. We learn words, first spoken aloud, as someone speaks or reads to us, and then later, as we learn to read ourselves. Conversation, and not books, however, is where most colorful phrases seem to originate. Hopefully, as we read computer screens more and more, we won't lose the desire to converse, even curse at each other in creative and wonderful ways. No emoticons required.

Friday, April 17, 2009

white hot

Well, not exactly. But it is bright and sunny and decidedly warmer which is a definite mood lifter. The white blooms in the National Museum of Natural History's butterfly garden are really catching my eye.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

life in a bubble

My bubble umbrella has been attracting a lot of attention and compliments. I have been enjoying my rain spattered perspective.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

taxing questions

Am I a tortured artist or just a confused mom? Or both?
I need to think.
Sometimes I feel off-kilter.
I just want to relax.
I wish I could erase all the mean things I said the other night.
I just want to go home.