Sunday, May 29, 2011

Holiday Weekend

I prefer to stay close to home on holiday weekends. On a holiday getaway, you have to be prepared for traffic jams, crowds and increased expenses.

A few people asked me about my plans. They were probably surprised to hear that I will be studying to take the ACT  This will give me the opportunity to train to teach/tutor the ACT as well as the SAT. I've been wanting to do this for a few years but training wasn't offered. I'm glad that training does not start next weekend--I'm going on a writing retreat then.

Back to the books.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The other day I started thinking about musicians I've seen in concert and decided to make a list.

In roughly chronological order:
Wayne Newton - with Jack Benny at some summer music fair
Dave Clark 5 - NJ
Fifth Dimension - Cherry Hill NJ
Chicago - Philadelphia Spectrum, PA
Rare Earth - Cherry Hill NJ Arena
Janis Ian - University of Delaware
Led Zeppelin - Madison Square Garden
Who - Madison Square Garden
Leo Kotke - New York City
Rachel Sweet - Bottom Line New York City
Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Doobie Brothers, John Hall, etc. No Nukes Concert, Madison Square Garden
Who - NJ Meadowlands
Billy Joel - New Haven CT
Howard Jones - New York City
Joe Jackson - New York City
Cyndi Lauper and Eddie Money - New York City
Ramones - Port Chester NY
The Band - Stamford CT
Platters, Drifters, Coasters (licensed bands) Foxwoods Casino CT
Joni Mitchell - Madison Square Garden
Eve 6 - Stamford CT
B-52's - Stamford, CT

That's all I can think of right now. I may add to the list later.

ETA: Howard Jones

Second ETA: Joe Jackson

Third ETA (7-6-11): Cyndi Lauper and Eddie Money

Fourth ETA 2-15-12 B-52's

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frustration Dreaming

The other night I dreamed that I couldn't submit my work hours online. My boss had just told me that I should submit them at 12. Here it was 12 and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. A coworker told me that I didn't have the second power switch on.

I've always wondered about the real v. fantastic elements in dreams. I do submit my tutoring hours electronically but the computer in my dream looked more like a cross-trainer at the gym. My boss and co-workers in the dream came from two different former employers.

This dream is the latest incarnation of my frustration dreams. Usually I dream that I need to call in sick to work and can't get the telephone to work--the rotary won't turn or the buttons won't depress. Sometimes I realize it's 4 pm and I never called in.

Another variation is that I can't find a restroom to use. They are either out of order or the toilets are completely out in the open.

My sister used to dream that she couldn't remember her locker combination.

I don't think the details are important but frustration is a topic to explore in my journal.

Birthday Getaway Part Two

We were gone only a day and a half, but it felt much longer--a relaxing and mellow getaway.

We left around 10:15, much later than our soft goal of 9 am. But by leaving later, we could go to White Silo Farm & Winery on our way to Interlaken. White Silo specializes in both dry and sweet fruit wines. We tasted a few and checked out the current art show with furniture. We were especially impressed with a piece that looked like a wardrobe but opened into a workstation/desk. It was beautiful but cost $3700.

Our next stop was the Merwinsville Hotel. I suggested we drive down the South Kent Road to see if the old White Peach restaurant had reopened. Apparently a burger place will replace the Peach. We continued down to the hotel I checked the calendar on the bulletin board but there wasn't any information that I hadn't seen before (I'm on the Merwinsville Hotel email list.)

On to Kent, where we had brunch and shopped at my favorite store, Foreign Cargo  Next stop: Kent Falls where we hiked the short but steep trail.

We had been listening to the Mets in the car. By the time we checked in, they had blown their lead against the Yankees. But we didn't let that drag us down. We walked down to the lake and threw the ball for Spike, had wine and cheese and watched the third season finale of Jersey Shore. (To be accurate, I watched Jersey Shore while Jeff took a nap.) Dinner at Morgans was excellent as always

Monday morning we headed over to Millerton, New York. We did a little antiquing but spent most of our time in the tea tasting room at Harney's

A great mini getaway--I got to go to my favorite restaurant and store and combine many of the things I love to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to me

One year (and a day) ago I wrote my first post.

In this 145th post, I am still answering the question I raised then, Why a Blog?

For one thing, I enjoy blogging. I get satisfaction of seeing some of my thoughts and my work preserved (for lack of a better word.)

Blogging has helped me to write more consistently although I haven't reached my goal of writing daily. Sometimes I question if I should try to post daily. I don't want to post drivel but if I wait for profound insights, I'll never write.

Last November my goal was to post every day. I missed Thanksgiving, but managed 33 posts. I found if I don't give myself a blogging goal, I tend to forget exactly how much writing I'm doing--more precisely I underestimate the time between posts.

April was a bad blogging month for me; the first half of May was only slightly better. On May 17, I resolved to post daily for the rest of the month to get to some kind of acceptable blogging average. That will also make May my biggest blogging month of 2011.

Today I start my second year of blogging with the goal of posting more...even if no one else is out there reading.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Birthday Getaway

In minutes, we'll be leaving for Interlaken Inn on a petaway package I'm looking forward to a delicious birthday dinner at Morgan's. We'll also go to Harney's Tea and antique stores in Millerton, a winery or two and do a little hiking. Unfortunately, it's misty outside now and my brother told me it's raining in Danbury, but I'm hopeful it will clear up.

Interlaken has become our go-to getaway spot. It's less than a two hour drive, pet friendly, in a beautiful setting with lots to do. And there's Morgan's; my favorite restaurant.

Time to go.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Judgment Day

Today's doomsday prediction got more publicity than most.

I guess it had to do with the billboards; paying for all of those must have conferred some kind of legitimacy on the prediction. CNN broadcast two different experts debunking it in just one hour.

Jeff and I joked about what would happen if the world really ended. If Spike were raptured, would he put in a good word for us? We thought about things we could do before the end. Here are some ideas:

Despite all the world's problems, I'm glad to be still be here. If for no other reason, today is the wedding anniversary of my sister-in-law and her husband and tomorrow is my birthday. I want to celebrate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guilty Pleasures: Soap Operas

I've had a love/hate relationship with soaps for over 40 years.

Like many, I started watching the soaps that my mother watched. I remember coming home from school and going down to the basement to say hello. That's where my mother set up her sewing machine and a small black and white TV. I watched Days of Our Lives and General Hospital with her.

My mother. however, wasn't much of a soap fan. She watched soaps because they were the only option in those days--at least until late afternoon when talk shows with Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas aired. We'd laugh about the bizarre coincidences and outlandish plots of soaps.

But then I came back from a family vacation to learn that a friend had discovered that the man who had raised her was not her biological father. Her mother had altered her birth certificate by adding her stepfather's name. My friend only found the truth when her biological father came to claim her after her mother's death.

At that point, I figured that maybe soaps weren't that outlandish after all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It was 475 years today...

May 19, 1536 when Anne Boleyn was executed at The Tower of London.

To some she is just the first beheaded in the rhyme about Henry VIII's six wives: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

Some of us are fascinated with her. I wrote my senior term paper about Anne; I have 13 books about her; I have an Anne Boleyn doll, paperweight, pin as well as Six Wives of Henry VIII paper dolls and coffee mug. (The Six Wives dish towel from Hampton Court disintegrated a long time ago.)

I went to London for a week in the early '80's. Hever Castle was closed but we made it to Hampton Court. I think that was our only trip outside London. I was thrilled to look up and see the intertwined H and A in the archways at the gatehouse.

Anne endures.

Anne continues to enthrall us.

We will never forget her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meanderings and Musings Redux

Perhaps Spike has gotten bored with our usual walks. For the second consecutive day he varied our route.

Today as we passed houses I thought about how they might have looked long ago before they were subdivided into multi-family units or expanded into condominiums. I bemoaned the current trend of builders to squeeze as many units as possible into a lot obliterating any hint of greenery.

A few blocks up the hill from our street is Highwood Avenue. A block down the hill is a large rectangular stone column inscribed "Highwood." A while ago I decided that Highwood Heights will be the name of one of my novels.

Titles are one of the hardest things for me to write; I consider it a good omen to have a title before I have any semblance of a story. In the context of my real neighborhood, I imagine Highwood Heights as the original enclave of the well-to-do doctors who worked in the new hospital. What kind of wood? A former neighbor once told me that the only remaining Chinese chestnut trees in Norwalk are located on the hospital grounds. Perhaps the neighborhood changed as the elite moved to a new area. I haven't figured that out yet--my best bet is to create a new neighborhood on the water.

Could this be my next nanowrimo?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meanderings and Musings

Today was the third of five predicted rainy days. Downpours gave way to misty rainfall; it was almost 12:30 before I got Spike out for a long walk. We took a different turn off one of our usual routes and walked down two blocks where we haven't been for a long time.

I gazed at the homes we passed and thought about what it would be like to live there. Would it be difficult to park? I wondered about the costs of roof repair and replacement. I placed myself onto porches and into back yards. Then I imagined myself into a small garage/tool shed that I had converted to an artist's/writer's studio.

I looked at a Cape Cod with a real estate sign in front. The house was painted a pale turquoise with pink shutters. Its shutters were carved with something like heart shapes; other areas decorated with shell designs. Although I had seen the house many times before, it suddenly occurred to me how feminine it looked. I wondered about a man living there and imagined one angry at the feminization of his home.

A little later, I saw a bumper sticker: Republicans Democrats Same Shit Different Piles.

During our evening walk around the block, the wind picked up enough to blow off my beagle baseball cap. The weather felt more like early April than mid-May, but the greenery belied that. It was bracing and I hoped that the rain would at least get rid of some of the pollen that was plaguing us.

I smiled when I saw a large patch of lily-of-the-valley in front of Prospect Gardens. When I saw the sidewalk covered with maple keys I remembered how we used split them open and stick them across the bridges of our noses.

I had gone to the gym for the first time in six weeks this morning. I felt good because I could feel muscle strength in my legs and I felt virtuous for finally getting back for a workout. If only I could keep that up.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Other Side of the Story: The Sisters

Yesterday, I recorded two Bette Davis movies from Turner Classic Movies: The Sisters and All This and Heaven Too. I've seen both films several times but not recently.

I re-watched The Sisters. Bette plays the quintessential good girl, Louise Elliot Medlin. At the beginning of the film, she plays a mother figure to their two younger sisters, although they have a real mother in their lives. For example, she discusses the acceptable amount of powder to be worn by a girl of sister Helen's age.

Louise is living her life day-to-day, passively awaiting the next phase. When asked when she's going to marry Tom (Dick Foran playing the banker's son) she and her father both respond he hasn't asked her yet.

She is such a good girl that when she ditches Tom at the Election Night party and spends most of the night with San Francisco sports reporter, Frank Medlin (Errol Flynn) her father refuses to even consider that Louise could do something wrong. Even when Louise runs off with Frank after only knowing him for a week, they get married. Louise is obviously a respectable lady.

There is no explanation for Louise's behavior except Helen's proclamation that Louise is in love. Louise goes to live with Frank in San Francisco. Helen marries an older man (Alan Hale) the father of a friend. Grace, the youngest sister, who has long admired Tom, marries him.

I watch this film first for Bette. But I also love the supporting cast. Beulah Bondi and Henry Travers play the Medlin parents. The other sisters are Anita Louise as Helen and Jane Bryan as Grace (who played Bette's sister, daughter and rival in various Warner productions.) Did Errol Flynn have a contract clause that required Alan Hale as a costar? Donald Crisp supported as a newspaper associate of Frank; Lee Patrick was a neighbor Flora who may have been a floozy. Harry Davenport and Laura Hope Crews also make appearances. The scene with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was quite impressive (according to Wikipedia, Warners spent $200,000 on sets and included scenes from the 1927 film Old San Francisco

After seeing this movie several times, I started to wonder about the plot line in which the sisters force the woman who is allegedly having an affair with Tom out of town. We see the typical set up of movie proof of an affair: Tom has been buying himself new suits; he overreacts when an employee of milliner, Isabel Taylor, stops by the house during Tom Junior's birthday party. Soon the employee tells all; apparently Isabel is working on Tom to keep her property safe from foreclosure.

Grace writes to Louise; Louise and Helen immediately return home to help. Although Grace criticizes Tom for not living up to his marriage vows, the sisters don't confront him directly. Instead they discreetly and delicately threaten pillars of the community to get rid of Isabel or the sisters will turn to the men's wives for help.

I had viewed this scene as a triumph of the three sisters banding together to protect one of their own. Now, I wonder about Isabel--whatever happened to her? I think of Claire Trevor in Stagecoach--did she share a similar fate? Did she deserve it? Was she the amoral corrupter of gentle classes or was she just an target for their advances? After all, did she have anyone to protect her? Is she so different from Flora--who became Louise's only friend in San Francisco?

A few pages from the original novel appear on screen as transitions between scenes. Isabel was summarized as "Tom's problem."

Isabel. Less than a minor character--she doesn't even appear in the film--she was just a plot point, an obstacle.

I like to think Isabel was more than that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

This morning Spike wasn't interested in a walk. He quickly peed and then was ready to go back inside. I figured he was more concerned about what Jeff was cooking for brunch. After we ate, I took Spike out again.

He sat down on the stone wall in the front of our building. I waited for about five minutes, then tried to get him to walk. He still wasn't interested, so I settled on a tree stump and he sat beside me on the grass. Soon I noticed a bird traveling from the tree in our front yard to other trees and bushes and back again.

She was carrying twigs and leaves to build a nest for her children.

I hope to see more of her and her family.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Half Way Day Spike!

I mentioned half way day before Today is Spike's half way day; he is now ten-and-a-half.

He's been part of our lives for over nine years now. Every day I am thankful that we found each other.

We love you Spike.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gettysburg Weekend

On April 9th, the first anniversary of my father's death, Jeff and I headed to Gettysburg with his cremains. It was my brother, Jim's idea to spread his ashes there. I thought it was a good one; my father had been a Civil War buff. We had spent many summer vacations touring battlefields. But for some reason, I had never made it to Gettysburg.

The Gettysburg National Military Park was dog-friendly (except for the cemetery and visitor's center) so we took Spike. Although Jim decided to make the round trip in one day, Jeff and I decided to head down Saturday and return the next day.

We selected the Battlefield Bed and Breakfast for our overnight stay and that was an excellent choice. The B&B was conveniently located and offered delicious breakfasts and complimentary history programs. Our room was large with a sitting area and private bath.

We also liked the town itself. I only wish we had allowed more time to explore it and to enjoy the B&B property. It was definitely Jeff's and my kind of place.

But then we weren't there for a vacation. We met Jim on Sunday morning at the Visitors Center of the Park. We first went to Little Round Top but it was too crowded for us to discreetly spread cremains. We saw no tour buses at our second stop, the Peach Orchard so that is where we said our final goodbyes.

I guess I got the sense of closure I had been looking for. Unfortunately, the sense of peace that I had hoped for still eludes me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Other May Day Celebrations

In my last post, I wrote about May 1st as International Workers Day. May Day is also an unofficial dividing line between winter and summer (with apologies to those in North Dakota who experienced snow over the weekend.)

The Celtics celebrated Beltaine, a springtime festival of optimism The traditional spring festival of Walpurgis Night is associated with dancing and bonfires in northern and central Europe.

Here in southwestern Connecticut, May day was beautiful, appropriate for the occasion: warm sunlight, budding trees, singing birds. That's a holiday that I can get behind.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Workers of the World Unite!

May Day represents many things--one is to celebrate workers:

It wasn't that long ago--just over 100 years--that police attacked striking workers to keep them in line. One of the ironies of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was that the policeman who beat back the 1909 strikers were among those trying to save the same workers two years later from the fire. Perhaps a successful strike would have curbed some of the practices (e.g. locked doors on the factory floors) that contributed to the deaths of many workers.

In an age when politicians are practically rabid in their zeal to blame union workers for economic problems, we need to remember why unions are needed to protect workers. We need to remember the sacrifices made by workers who didn't have protections.

For the workers all over the world:,