Monday, February 21, 2011

Surprise Party

Jeff, my mother and I headed down to New Jersey on Saturday for a surprise 70th birthday party for my cousin Barbara.

We all met at a restaurant in Tom's River just before the bridge to Seaside Heights (official Jersey Shore locale.) My cousin Greg (Barbara's nephew) and his wife Steph brought Barb to the restaurant about a half hour after she said she hated surprise parties.

Barb's brother and two sisters who had traveled up to 20 hours, joined her at the head table. The people who spoke described how Barb was the one who kept the family together.

At first I was surprised that I knew only about half of the people there. At the after party at Barb's and at breakfast the next day, I was with family members. We exchanged stories and memories--how Cindy and I played UNCLE and Honey West, Thanksgiving dinners at our house in Audubon.

It was fun to compare notes; I enjoyed reminiscing. It was a pleasure to be among family members who genuinely care about each other.

What a novelty.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Did You Expect?

Several years ago I ordered a hot dog from a vendor in the stands at a Mets game. After I bit into it, I complained that it was cold.

"What did you expect?" said my nephew Matt.

I expected a hot hot dog. They're supposed to be warm--it's in the name--plus they're wrapped in metallic paper and stored in a metal box.

To paraphrase Rick from Casablanca: The temperature of my hot dog doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

But "What did you expect?" is often used to try to keep people from hoping for something more, to keep people in their place.

Currently I'm thinking of CBS journalist Lara Logan. She's been getting that reaction after she was sexually assaulted in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution. There are two strains to this argument: women shouldn't go to dangerous places because they can be raped; and blond, attractive women can't be near dark/swarthy/foreign/Muslim men without inciting them to rape.

I know bad things happen. I know optimism is considered naivety and cynicism is thought to be the smart, sophisticated attitude. But damn it, we all lose something when we expect the worse, when we blame people (usually women) when something goes wrong as they live their chosen lives.
I'm reminded of Bobby Kennedy and GB Shaw: Some people see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and say why not?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Seen 2-11-11

Spike and I walked through the hospital parking lot this morning where I saw the following bumper stickers.

1. Hillaryous

2. When fascism comes to this country, it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

I thought the first was clever, although I don't agree with the sentiment. The second sounds frightening but true.

Monday, February 7, 2011

And in the Winter...

extra blankets for the cold
fix the heater, getting old
you are with her now, I know
I'll live alone forever
Not together now--

Janis Ian "In the Winter"

I found myself singing some of these lyrics yesterday--of course, another winter song.

In my arbitrary, incomplete analysis of winter songs, the "bad" (Sometimes in Winter; In the Winter) outweigh the good (It's Now Winter's Day). I could add Winter Wonderland to even out the score. It's usually considered a Christmas song, but there's no specific mention of Christmas in the lyrics.

How do other seasons fare in songs?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow-Cramped Lifestyle

Last week my friend Debbie complained that the snow was so bad, it was starting to affect our lifestyles. She's had problems getting out to find a new location for her business.

I don't have a full time job, so I don't have to drive every day. Instead I can arrange my tutoring appointments and errands around bad weather. That's a luxury many can't afford.

Snow and ice are piled along every street, in every yard and parking lot. Cars parked in front of our building block an entire lane of traffic. Walking anywhere is difficult. Some sidewalks have not been shoveled at all making people venture onto the roads. Other sidewalks are are covered in a blend of snow, ice, sand and salt.

Going anywhere is such a challenge, it's easier to just stay home. I'm not alone in feeling this way: January's poor economic results are even attributed to bad weather; people can't shop if they can't get out.

The only good thing right now is that the days are getting longer. I cling to the hope that it will get warm. someday. soon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tudor Tuesday?

For most of the last two days, Jeff and I have been staying inside because of the storm (insert corny snow name here.) Yesterday Jeff happened to find a show on the National Geographic channel about the secrets of Elizabeth I. I caught only part of the program. It focused on possible theories why Elizabeth didn't marry and produce an heir: she was scared by her bad parental example, she was a hermaphrodite, she was in love with Robert Dudley. The most bizarre--Elizabeth died as a young girl and was replaced by a boy.

The next program was on the body of Henry VIII. This show was more fact-based and less speculative than the show about Elizabeth. I was particularly interested in the discussion and recreation of Henry's jousting accident. He was either unconscious or unable to speak for two hours afterward (the reports are ambiguous.) Ironically, Henry's attempts to show his strength and vigor by jousting led to injuries that aged and weakened him. This accident also contributed to Anne Boleyn's downfall and death; she miscarried a male fetus upon hearing about the accident.

That wasn't the end of the Tudors last night. TCM showed The Private Life of Henry VIII, A Man for All Seasons and Anne of the Thousand Days. I had seen A Man for All Seasons recently. It's been years since I've seen the other two: I recorded them to watch when I have more time. I'm curious how I'll react to Anne of the Thousand Days--that film may have started my fascination with Anne Boleyn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Songs: Mellow and Melancholy

According to CNN, the current storm is affecting as many as 100 million people from New Mexico to Maine. Here in Connecticut, we've only seen part one of this storm--a few inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain. More freezing rain is on the way.

I'm holed up inside--only going out as necessary to walk Spike. Thinking of a warm, loving cocoon, I remembered this song by Tommy Roe

I then thought of another winter song--sadder but also beautiful--by Blood Sweat & Tears