Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Good Lines in Unusual Places

I've been a fan of the Bowery Boys for a long time. No one will mistake their movies for great cinema, but I like them even if they're not as funny as I remember. TCM has been showing the Bowery Boys on Saturday mornings and last Friday had a marathon, so I've seen several of the films recently.

One of the movies I watched this past week was Angels' Alley (1948). Most of the dialogue was forgettable but one line really stood out: "A halo has to drop a foot to be a noose." I liked it enough to jot it down. Amazing how screenwriter Tim Ryan's words in a B picture can still have an impact over 60 years later.

Checking In on Time Management

Last week I wrote that this could be the week that I get it together http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/07/measuring-your-life-stephanie-klein.html.

I sat down on Sunday night and made some plans. I knew that I couldn't go from what I'll charitably call a "relaxed" attitude to schedules and to do lists to a master of time management overnight. So I set realistic goals for Monday and today. On both mornings, I ran about 20 minutes late but didn't sweat it. For the most part, I accomplished what I wanted to do. Both mornings I started with coffee and morning pages, checked emails and took Spike to the dog park. Monday morning I went to the gym (the first time in two weeks); today I went out for coffee and conversation with my friend Cynthia. Afternoons I ran errands, made calls and reviewed paperwork for myself and for my father's estate.

Overall I'm happy, even running late both mornings and not checking off every item on the list each day. It's a start--a first step--and I'll go on from here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saying Goodbye: The Celebration

Last Sunday, we had a celebration of my father's life. We chose his old hangout in New Jersey, taking over the back room of a neighborhood bar. About 30 people attended--most of them relatives. We hired a keyboard player/singer, who knew Sinatra songs (but damn not "My Kind of Town") and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" as well as other standards. Thanks Jeff (my husband) for the idea. Dad loved to sing and I think he would have appreciated it.

Dad was the last of his generation. His three sisters are long gone as well as their spouses. I think he would have been happy knowing his nieces and nephews, their kids and grand kids were there.

I wonder how he would have felt about his ex-wives attending. Maybe my mother would have gotten a pass--as the mother of his children, despite his issues with her. My ex-stepmother was there also. I don't know the story of their break-up; it was 25 years ago. But Marie said she still thought of my dad as her husband and I knew she was truly mourning him. My brother Jim gave me Dad's wedding ring to give to her; she was touched. I also gave her a few pictures of her parents and from one of their trips. She had been asking for more photos. I didn't want to tell her that I think Dad destroyed them. I found one picture from my college graduation. He and I were there and she was torn off.

The worst part of the day was wondering what my nephews and brother-in-law would do. My nephews (I believe guided by their father) are trying to get a piece of the estate on a legal technicality (is there any other kind?) I am a lawyer and years ago, drafted a will for my father based on New Jersey law when he lived there. I declined his request to re-draft the will after my sister died and he moved to Florida. That proved to be a mistake. I have never practiced law and was far removed from legal research when he asked me. I felt uncomfortable and it would have been inconvenient for me to get to a law library for research. I guess I was a fucking fool.

Now my brother and I are fighting mean spirited, greedy opponents who are trying to take advantage of my father who tried to save a few bucks re-drafting his will without legal advice. This left an opening for assholes to disregard his clear intentions and try to shake us down for money.

Next we have a quintessential example of adding insult to injury. Friday night before the celebration, my mother handed me a sealed letter from my brother-in-law. In it, he accused me of driving a wedge in the family for money and dishonoring my sister. I don't know if he is living in a bizarro world or if he just thinks he can manipulate me by invoking the possible wishes of my dead sister.

All I know is that I won't be manipulated; my father has a right to have his wishes honored, and my family has been reduced by three.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Blogday or Blogiversary

It's been two months since I started this blog. I wrote two posts exploring why a blog here http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-blog-i-cant-resist-answering-why-no_23.html and here http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-blog-part-two.html

If I had kept up with my goal of posting every day, I'd have about 60 posts now. I would have been happy with five posts a week; if I had done that, I would have about 45. Instead this is my 23rd post.

I am far from my goal, but I'm not going to beat myself up. This is a start.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Make-Up and the Feminine Ideal

During her recent visit, my mother told me that I look much better when I wear make-up. She's never been shy about commenting on my appearance. Recent topics: my hair color (too red) my shorts (too short) and my skirt (no one wears skirts anymore.)

Now I happen to agree with her; I do look better with make-up. My tinted moisturizer evens out my skin tone between a pale complexion and freckles. Eye make-up keeps my eyes from looking like small dots now that I wear glasses exclusively. But that doesn't mean I have to be "on" at all times--i.e. put on make-up to take Spike to the dog park or go to the grocery store. Who cares?

Apparently, my mother. She approved of my make-up as we headed out to dinner last Saturday night. Then she described a magazine article that said women should wear make-up at all times, even when they are just at home with their children. She added that I should do the same because I have Spike.

Part of me wanted to challenge her. Did she think kids (or Spike) really care if their mothers wear make-up? Should I also wear pearls when I vacuum because that's what June Cleaver did? Did she take every stupid magazine article as gospel? Does wearing make-up make someone a better mother or an ideal woman? Did it ever occur to her that the magazine could have a vested interest in selling make-up? In supporting the patriarchy?

I said nothing, let it slide and we headed out to dinner.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Measuring Your Life--Stephanie Klein

My last post started with housework and ended with deadlines and schedules. The next day I was browsing some blogs that I hadn't read for a while and found this post: http://stephanieklein.com/2010/05/525000-minutes-how-do-you-measure-your-life.html

Stephanie asked how do you get things done and what's your daily schedule? She listed some of her to-do's. Many items on Stephanie's list aren't on mine--and getting monogrammed aprons for the kids wouldn't make my list even if I had kids--but that's not the important part. Apparently, many of us struggle to complete all the things that we need or at least think we need to do. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone in this struggle.

It's almost midnight. I think about my priorities for tomorrow, then remember tomorrow is Friday. How about I put myself on a schedule next week? Yeah--next week I'll get my act together.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Housework, Houseguests and Deadlines

I am doing my housework
Got no time to fool 'round
I am doing my housework
Cleanin' up and I'm gettin' down

From Housework, The B-52's, Bouncing off the Satelites http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsBBz353UGU

For the next few days, my mother is staying with us for the first time in the 22 years we've lived here. For most of those years, she lived only 20 minutes away so there was no need for her to stay overnight. After she moved to Hilton Head, she'd stay with relatives who have more spacious homes when she'd visit.

Having her stay here meant that I had to clean and organize the guest room, which recently has been functioning more like a storage area.

I'm not big on housework--I tend to let it slide. Plus I'm an inefficient cleaner. I get easily distracted and can take all day to do a simple task. Cleaning is frustrating because I know I'm going to have to do it all over again--it's never really finished.

Having a deadline was crucial for me to finish this job. Otherwise, I would still be saying to myself, I've got to clean and organize the guest room. The whole deadline thing reminds me about the idea behind nanowrimo: if you don't give yourself an artificial deadline, you'll never write a novel.

Thinking about nanowrimo leads me back to something that I've been saying and not doing for months. I need to put myself on a schedule. That sounds boring and pedestrian. Maybe I should say I'll design a vision or a mission for my life and then decide on goals based on them. At least it sounds loftier.

Maybe next week.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I was channel surfing the other day and saw that Double Indemnity was on. I was surprised to see it was a 1973 TV remake with Richard Crenna in the Fred MacMurray role, Samantha Eggar as Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis and Lee J. Cobb as Keyes originally portrayed by Edward G. Robinson. This post by Riku tells how EGR made the film http://rikuwrites.blogspot.com/2009/04/busby-b-edward-g-and-woody-makes-three

I turned it on in the middle and only caught a few minutes. The scenes I saw seemed to mirror the original movie (later I saw on IMDB that Steven Bochco of Hill Street Blues fame worked on the screenplay.) I'm sure the actors relished the chance to play such great characters and they were good in the scenes I saw, but why remake such a classic?

Perhaps TPTB in Hollywood thought that remaking films would bring in the audience. It worked for the Maltese Falcon; the third version was the classic everyone knows today. I liked the original Ricardo Cortez version and would like to take a closer look at it. The second version in 1936, Satan Met a Lady, was almost unrecognizable. It was bad, even with my favorite actress, Bette Davis.

On the other hand, my favorite film of Bette Davis, The Letter, is a remake. I'd love to see the original from 1929. Herbert Marshall plays the murdered lover in that version and the husband in the 1941 version with Bette. I have to admit that as much as I love Bette, her version of The Letter suffered from restrictions imposed by the censors (though the filmmakers did as well as they could under the arbitrary code.)

There are no clear-cut rules for remakes--but please hold off on TV shows for now. For every somewhat enjoyable Brady Bunch, there are dozens of mistakes such as Car 54 (I long to see the original TV shows again) and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another Dog Park Morning

Today marks the fifth day of the Northeast heat wave. No chance of triple digits--the temperature will top out at around 90. Unfortunately, humidity is also in the 90's. The humidity is like the canopy in that old horror movie--was it 13 Ghosts?--when the unsuspecting victim settles into bed and the canopy lowers to suffocate him. (One of my more creative analogies if a bit long-winded.)

Spike took care of business quickly then we walked through the woods. I tried to concentrate on feeling at peace. Instead I was distracted by feeling sticky and uncomfortable.

A dog park visit takes longer than just walking around our neighborhood. Plus there's something problematical about driving somewhere just to walk. But the benefits for Spike outweigh these minor issues. Spike gets to walk off leash, see other members of his pack and meet new dogs. Apparently, dog park also offers intriguing scents and a delicious selection of grasses.

Other things make dog park visits memorable to me. Today it was finding honeysuckles (most have dried out) next to a bush of ripening wild raspberries. The other day it was seeing a white heron in the tidal pond as we turned onto Canfield Road.

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "You can observe a lot by watching."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Writing Your Life

A few weeks ago, I posted about my memoir group doing a reading at New Canaan Library and getting our book published.

Here is the link to purchase it. http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/writing-your-life---2010/11272065?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/1

I've heard most of the entries and will soon sit down to read the book it its entirety.

Favorite Lines: "This is an outrage..."

It's funny what lines stick with you, It can be a lyric that gets stuck in your head that you sing over and over. Or it can be a line from a movie or TV show that you appropriate for your own.

One favorite line is from A Night at the Opera. Groucho as Otis B. Driftwood is late for a dinner engagement with Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). She has him paged to discover he is sitting directly behind her, dining with another woman. After the waiter brings Groucho the check, he says, "This is an outrage." Handing the check to his dinner companion, he adds, "If Iwere you I wouldn't pay it." Here is the entire scene; the line appears around 2:17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9sRTTKwvys

My husband, Jeff and I use this line almost every time we go out to dinner. My father also used it often. It's now a permanent part of our family lexicon.