First and Last

Digging around in my computer, I happened upon this little rhyme from 2008, which I do believe is the outcome of an exercise assigned by G— C— for her poetry blog. 


First in the morning, what was said?
It’s hard to tell. It’s in my head
A jumbled mess of words and phrases
Like a book with missing pages.
One night I stayed up with pain
I sorted through the words in vain.

What was said last at night?
To my cat I think it might
Be all the words I have to say
Because I’ve been at work all day.

Spinnaker: Then and Now

For all of my life, I’ve never really been a fan of roller coasters or other thrill rides. Especially if it has a loop in it, I can totally live without the experience, but there’s usually enough other attractions at amusement parks that I can still have a satisfying time. At some point in my childhood, I found myself at Six Flags Over Texas with my sister, stepmom, aunt, and older cousins. We were in line for the Spinnaker, a spinny thing on an arm which lifts to a vertical position, giving the riders a few moments of being upside down. I had no desire to ride it, so I said that I wouldn’t. This decision did not sit well with my stepmom, and so began a battle of wills. I eventually lost, influenced in part by my cousin Brian’s offer to let me ride with him in his pod (this same cousin Brian introduced me to peanut butter on pancakes, so I knew he could be trusted).  It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but I still didn’t like it, and never rode it again. I just didn’t see how taking a turn on an amusement park ride would bring the slightest amount of betterment to my life as a whole. It did, however, provide me with a lasting memory.

Which is why, sitting at the bar of Oddfellows last night with Maryam, I felt compelled to drink a cocktail named Spinnaker. From what I can tell, it is a house creation, and its ingredients are bourbon, Bonal, Cointreau, and bitters, served with zest of orange. It was not nearly as scary to me as the amusement park ride, so it was not difficult to convince myself to get it. I had no previous knowledge of Bonal, but it is apparently harmless (as much as a 16% alcohol beverage can be), and actually quite tasty in the Spinnaker. I may have to check out this aperitif next time I’m at the ol’ liquor store. I can be quite adventurous in aspects of life that don’t involve mechanical arms and such throwing one’s body into the air.

I Don’t Mean This to Be a Dream Journal

So the night before last, I had another “taking off for somewhere else” dream, only this one did not fit the mold of any of the others. It was not in New York, or at my dad’s house (a very common theme), it was not even on Earth. I was in a space ship, relocating to Hong Kong, which is apparently on a neighboring planet. There was quite a bit of waiting, as one might expect from interplanetary travel, and I did a lot of looking out the windows at the stars.

Last night was a whole new ballgame. I was at a dinner party for my writing group – Maryam and Meg were there, as well as Ben, and other people as well – and our new member was in attendance. Not anyone I know in waking life, he was one of those dark and mysterious handsome guys, perhaps inspired a bit by Richard Armitage in MI-5. Well, as it turns out, in my dream I had formed the writing group with people who had killed other people. I had, however, lied to everyone else and had not actually killed anyone myself. This new guy maybe suspected as much, or maybe he was just a murderer, but he glared at me during this whole party as if to say “I know your secret.”

Well, that’s how dreams go.

Cell Phones Off, Please! Enjoy the Films!!!

I remember back in 1997, seeing Lost Highway at the Angelika at the midnight showing on opening night. The film is, in a lot of parts, quiet – long stretches of silence or near silence throughout. It was an amazing experience to be in a full movie theatre – in New York City especially – where no one made a sound. The audience as a whole was totally into the film and respected the silence. It was beautiful.

I had a similar experience five years earlier at a preview screening of Dracula at a nice midtown theatre. Not a particularly quiet movie, but still the audience did not detract from it by whispering, crinkling candy wrappers, or letting their cell phones ring (were cell phones even a big thing in ’92? There definitely wasn’t texting yet). We were allowed by the silent audience to make it a private experience while also sharing it with a couple hundred fellow filmgoers. This was in direct contrast to my 2nd viewing a week later at a multiplex in the East Village where there was a more typical NYC movie crowd. They laughed outloud at the cheesy parts, talked back to the characters on screen. . .  And I cannot say it wasn’t enjoyable also, just in a completely different way. Still, I’m glad I saw it first with the quiet crowd.

Yesterday I completed my second week of films at the 35th annual SIFF festival. In between films, I overheard a conversation about the change in the audience “consideration”. (I think this may have been a general statement about film audiences, stemming from a direct observation of the SIFF audiences.) Every year, audiences are asked to turn off phones and beepers, a couple years they added “anything that lights up, including watches”, and this year they’ve added “no texting”. Despite these requests, people still pull out their phones mid-movie. I sometimes ask myself: Do people really need to be told not to text during a movie? And the answer is Yes, yes they do.

Last week I watched Small Crime at Uptown Cinema. It was a cute little comedy set in Cyprus. Apparently the female half of a newlywed couple sitting in front of me was from that part of the world and had extensive knowledge to share with her other half. Throughout the entire film, she was offering little tidbits to him which I’m sure were interesting. I couldn’t actually hear what she was saying, but considering the subtitles floated just above their heads, I sure did notice. It was quite distracting, but not wanting to distract anyone else, I refrained from saying anything to them. I did kick her chair a couple times “on accident”. To them I say, if you want to discuss it as you watch it – rent it and stay home!

There have been a couple films in which I find myself in serious need of a potty break. I sit there, trying not to squirm, trying to figure out if I can hold out ’til the end, or if I should just make a break for it. I really don’t like getting up in the middle of a film, but when Nature calls . . . So I can empathize with other people who are wondering “how much time has already passed?” and “how much longer until the credits roll?” Sometimes it’s a very helpful piece of information, sometimes it just eases an anxious mind. To these people I say – Wear a watch.  Timex makes a really affordable white-face analog time piece that can be read in the light of most films, without even having to turn on the Indiglo. There is absolutely no reason you need to pull out a cell phone and light up the entire row just to find out what time it is. (You know what time the film started, take a guess!)

There is also no reason to have your phone on at all. If you really anticipate that someone might call or text you and cannot wait up to 2 hours for a reply, you really should consider renting a movie and staying at home. That way, if that emergency does take place, you can stop the film and resume it later, after the crisis has been averted. In this way, you are not annoying your fellow movie watchers, and you don’t have to miss the film. It’s a win-win situation.

The overheard conversation mentioned the more frequent home viewing as a cause for this type of inconsiderate behavior. I think there is more to it. As we become more addicted to our devices which connect us to other parts of the globe, we become less aware of our very immediate surroundings. If it weren’t a problem, we wouldn’t see signs at the coffee bar asking customers to refrain from cell phone usage while they are in line. Do people really need to be told to be more present in their immediate interactions with their fellow humans? Yes, yes they do. Will they listen? Hold on, I’ve got to take this call . . . .

Christmas Is Not My Bag

I haven’t celebrated Christmas for sixteen years. I haven’t wanted to for more than I can remember. Growing up in an ostensibly Christian family, however, it was hard to avoid as a child. In my house, for me, Christmas was veritable torture. Oh sure, I got presents, and we had a big party, and I got two weeks off from school which allowed me to spend a whole week with my mom.

It started with putting up the tree. The task of decorating was left to my sister and me, and it just wasn’t something I liked to do. Christmas decorations don’t appeal to me aesthetically, and it only seemed like another chore.  Luckily, most of the gift shopping was done by my step-mother, but I still had to wrap everything. Wrapping presents itself is pretty enjoyable; seeing all the meaningless gifts we were giving to people was disheartening. I know people who buy Christmas gifts early in the year, generic gifts for no one in particular, but knowing they were going to have a list later – these are gifts I want nothing to do with.

On Christmas Eve, preparations started early in the day. Pack up the gifts for the extended family, finish baking cookies and other goodies, wash up and get hair put in rollers, get dressed and go to church for the twilight service. None of this was especially gruelling. And the party after church at my grandparents’ house was always much fun. Good food, fun with my cousins, warmth from the fireplace, more presents. It was great, at least until I was a preteen. Then, because I was a girl, I was made to help all the women clean up at the end of the festivities. None of my girl cousins had to help – their mother wanted them to have fun. I was resentful.

Things got worse for me around 14. It was about that time I realized I didn’t (still don’t) believe in Christ as our savior. What had become more chore than joyous occasion had now become completely meaningless. I’m not the type to make waves, so I kept my thoughts to myself, and I went through the motions. It ate at me, though, because I really don’t think it’s right for someone to celebrate or observe a holiday that is not “theirs” (I struggle with this on Halloween, my second favorite holiday).

As time goes by, it’s not only the spiritual disconnect that makes me dislike Christmas. The crass commercialization of an event that is supposed to be (for some) the defining moment for a whole religion is revolting. The Christians who are mortally offended by atheist placards should be burning down shopping malls for desecrating the image and symbolism of their savior. And why aren’t they? Because they like to get the latest gadgets wrapped in red and green, too, I guess. F-ing hypocrites.

Christmas, like Easter, was created by Romans to trick pagans into converting to Christianity. I’m neither a Christian nor a pagan, so I think I’ll stay out it.

My Tour of the Capitols

In 2005, after lamenting that I had not traveled any place new in many years, and that most of my traveling was work-related, I decided to give myself an assignment. I would venture to visit every state capitol building in this country. No deadline was given for completion, and photo essays were to be made for each visit. This February, I saw my 10th state capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. I am a fifth of the way to my goal!

When I visit a capitol, I take what I hope to be interesting photos that capture the essence of each building.  So far, I’ve witnessed a couple trends, and now I take note of these things at each subsequent visit. Namely, capitols tend to be made from marble, and there is often an inset drinking fountain that looks very much like a urinal. Because I ate enchiladas during my first capital visit – Salem, Oregon – I also try to eat enchiladas in each capital city.

I keep a log of my journey online. The pages for each city are linked together, so that one can scroll through the cities in alphabetical order by state – my own little web ring! As I visit a capital, a page is inserted into the ring. On the main page is a list of all the capital cities, along with a graphic guide to my familiarity with each.  This is measured by the time I’ve spent there – was I passing through on a train? did I have a layover at the airport? did I spend the night?

I’ve found that my reports are a nice way to keep in touch with distant friends and family, as well as a way to let non-travelers experience places they’ve never been. My capitol tour has been interesting and quite rewarding thus far, and I look forward to continuing and someday completing it.

Mini Coinky Dink

For about six months of my life, in the mid-1990s, I lived in a Houston suburb. I was taking a semester off from college and working a temp job to save up some money. It was here I had the pleasure of meeting a nice, god-loving black woman named Barbara Harris. She was what I consider a true Christian. She was genuinely kind and had no judgments for those of us who were less – shall we say – pious. After I moved back to NYC, she wrote me a couple times (I can only assume I wrote her back), but then I didn’t hear from her again.

Soon after our acquaintance, I began seeing her name in movie credits, mostly as ADR Voice Casting. When I saw “Barbara Harris” scroll by, I simultaneously thought: I hope my Barbara is doing well, I should write her, wouldn’t that be funny if it were the same person, boy that Barbara Harris works on like every movie! Seriously, it seemed like at least 2/3 of the movies I saw had Ms. Harris is the credits, probably more. I saw her name so much, it became a point to me to look at the ADR credit in every movie I saw. For years I’ve been meaning to look her up on IMDb. For one, to convince myself that my Barbara and the Hollywood Barbara are not the same person, and two, to see just how many movies she’s worked on.

Last night I forced myself to watch Hearts in Atlantis. It’s one of only two books by Stephen King I’ve read, and I had really liked it. When I heard that they were making a film out of the book, I immediately picked out what actor should play Ted Brautigan,  and it wasn’t Anthony Hopkins. I’ve never been able to figure out his name, but there was an actor on an episode of “The X-Files” that really captured the essence of Ted, I thought, and I really wished for him to get the role. But he’s a no-name actor (almost literally) and I knew in my heart of hearts it would never happen. (The movie wasn’t that great, by the way.)

7/15/08: Seems he’s not a no-name actor after all. He’s just been in things I didn’t watch. As it turns out, he’s John Finn and he’s on the show “Cold Case” which I’ve recently been catching in syndication on Saturday nights.  His character on “The X-Files” was Michael Kritschgau, and he was in five episodes.

Anyway, Barbara Harris did the ADR on this movie, too, so I finally looked her up. As per IMDb, her voice casting credits total 659 dating back to 1982. Additionally, she’s got numerous “loop group” and “adr voice” credits. She’s also got a couple dozen acting credits, mostly of the “voice” kind, except for a few key roles. They include “Party Guest” in both Fatal Attraction and Some Kind of Wonderful, and as “Black Customer” on an episode of “Hill Street Blues”.

So my Barbara Harris and the Hollywood Barbara Harris are both black women. I’m still left to think, in a tiny corner of my mind – what if they really are the same person?