Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Guy


This is
Liza’s Fault

I started writing these things down a while ago, and wasn't sure if they added up to an entry. Then Liza responded to a post I wrote about holding back my mushy relationship gushing by saying, "I always enjoy hearing about the fun relationship stuff... Feel free to share." So this is her fault. ;) (edit: ahem. Liza gets CREDIT for making me feel it is okay to share this stuff. So yay her for helping unleash my warm fuzzies on the interweb.

I am also posting this now because a couple of days ago I celebrated my 6 month anniversary with The Guy. It’s not a very long time, but hey - 6 months and he still thinks I'm great. Go figure.

The little pros and cons of a man become almost irrelevant once you get past a certain point. He gets into your bloodstream and you wake thinking of him and you find he is suddenly familiar in that way that allows you to fall asleep with your head on his chest. Instead of whys and why nots the details just become who he is to you. The further along my relationship with The Guy goes, and the more impossible any thought of turning back becomes, the more I find myself contemplating the details. As if I can examine them more closely, now that I am hooked and they are in that sense immaterial. I find myself chronicling them, as if to remind myself years from now how the pieces of him came together for me.

He has these crinkly laugh lines in the corners of his eyes that just GET me. Right there in my gut. Some part of me stands still when he laughs or smiles widely; this wide, genuine smile with bright white, very slightly crooked teeth and starry, squinty eyes.

He does accents, really sharp accents. It’s silly but the accuracy of the accent is strange and striking and he’ll just burst into one out of the blue, as if he’s always been Scots or Irish or Russian and I just never noticed before because I haven’t been paying attention.

He asks about my artwork, sometimes feverishly curious, but has never expressed an opinion about the paintings on my wall. He knows they are mine - he has at some point made an offhand comment that indicated this - but he has never expressed an opinion about them (this may just mean they are quite awful... but then I cannot imagine why he wants to see MORE).

He is worshipful of knowledge, knowledge for the sheer useless existence of it. Not the application of it, or specific knowledge, but just knowing things in a general sense. You get the impression that he must have been one of those children who tried to read the encyclopedia cover to cover.

He points out things that he feels will be useful to me and that he (often incorrectly) assumes I do not know. It makes me want to bonk him with a frying pan in a Wyle E. Coyote sort of way. But then he'll tell me something I actually didn't know and I realize I'd rather he tell me these things for the benefit I get on the occasions when I do learn something new.

He's kind natured. Far more than I am. It's probably the most noticable difference between our personalities.

He loves absurd humor the way I do and loves the book Good Omens but has somehow never read any other Terry Pratchett which just seems counterintuitive to me (since writing this he has started reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. It is a wonderful feeling to be sitting next to someone while they are reading a book you love and have them laugh out loud and then have to stop and tell you what it is that made them laugh because they want to share how good it is with you.)

He dances with me when we’re just talking. We’ll be standing in the kitchen or hallway talking about something and he’ll take my hand and spin me out and pull me in toward him and just start dancing with me to no music at all while we talk.

He often uses the phrase "when we're old and gray" and when I point this out to him he says, "Sometimes you just know."

He makes perfect pancakes. They’re surreal, each one is exactly the same size and they are perfect circles and they are always just the right golden color and even though they are made from a mix - MY pancakes from a mix never look like THAT. It’s like he has special magic pancake powers. I, who cook so often and typically with much success, am in awe of his pancake skills.

A lot of the truly thoughtful things he does are things I would never think of. He buys me a new tube of toothpaste because he noticed I was running low and he happened to be at the store ANYWAY so he figured he’d get some. He was putting rain-ex on his windshield and goes ahead and does my windshield, too, while he’s at it. If he notices that something needs to be fixed, he fixes it. He’s that kind of guy. I never dated that kind of guy before.

We think alike. He’s crazy forgetful like I am and, like me, has the attention span of a chihuahua on crack. This works out because, being the same way, I know how to work with that.

He forgot our three month anniversary. Which I realize isn’t even a “real” anniversary. But I remembered and had a gift waiting when he arrived empty handed... so THEN, two days later he showed up at my house with a bottle of wine and bags upon bags of groceries and rich red roses and proceeded to roast an entire chicken and steam veggies and make some fantabulous cheese sauce with Gruyére and Mozarella and some sort of herb and pepper Gouda. He poured me a glass of wine and brought me slices of baguette with bits of the cheeses to try and I stood there in the doorway to my kitchen thinking, “Where on earth did this man come from?”

If we go to bed late we typically end up lying awake for a while, chattering goofily to each other. We call each other dumb nick-names and talk in silly accents and goose each other and laugh until we cannot breathe.

Never before have I felt so at home as I do when he and I are laughing like fools and making no sense but understanding each other perfectly all the same.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


from Life Magazine, 1949

I find it fascinating to see that the reader is reassured that this hemline won't be reaching the "revolutionary" lengths that were apparently en vogue in 1930 and 1947. In spite of the headline that this is the U.S. hemline rising, the length is incredibly demure by today's standards. The style is timeless. You could walk down the street in one of those suits today without much fanfare, in part because modern designers have learned to borrow so heavily from the past. I love the shoes and hats! Being an hourglass shape myself, I gravitate to the 40's silhouette. That Hattie Carnegie number would suit me to a T.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Do You KNOW?

photo by Andreas Reh, purchased at istockphoto

Several people in my life have reached important turning points with their spouse or significant other over the past few months. At varying places in their lives and relationships, the question they all seem to have in common is - How do you KNOW? How do you know you are with the right person? How do you know that this man is your true love ("Wuv, Twooo wuv..."), the Westley to your Buttercup, and that this is IT?

My father and I had a talk about this a few weeks ago. The Guy and I have become fairly serious. I think my father is nervous. He has been married more than once and knows it doesn't always work out. He wants me to be happy, but is naturally worried. (Which I think is a big part of parenting. Right up there with teaching us to use the big person potty and share our toys and keeping us from breaking too many limbs at one time. We grow older and these things just shift. They hope we will learn to take care of ourselves, be good to other people and not get our hearts broken too badly.)

When I was younger, my father told me that he never wanted me to depend on a man. He wanted me to take care of myself, to always land on my feet. There have been many divorces in our family, as well as some unhappy marriages that lasted. Perhaps this awareness prompted him to raise me to be cautious and self-sufficient.

Standing in his driveway the other day, my father listened to me explain where things stood with my new beau. What I saw happening here. He listened; my father who has had his heart broken, who was left by a woman he pledged to stay with for the rest of his life, and who has now been married to the same woman for over two decades and with her has been though both better and worse. I stood talking hopefully about my future to this man who saw my last long term relationship crumble and watched me go through the ensuing depression and struggle to pick up the pieces.

With this pained expression on his face he said, "I wish I had some great words of wisdom, some way to guide you. But I don't."

I understand his concern, but I told him this - I think everyone hopes for an answer. We all want a silver bullet. People who aren't married hope the people they know who ARE married can tell them The Secret. How you KNOW? How you can be CERTAIN? But he's off the hook because I don't think it's like that.

Everyone would like to think that when you meet THE person they will glow with a halo of light and you will hear music in the air and then you will KNOW - that there will be signs (wouldn't it be freaky as hell if that actually happened?). You probably should listen to your gut... but then I think all you can do is make the best CHOICE that you can. Don't get married unless you love them, but just being crazy about them isn't enough. Choose someone who you like as well as love. Choose someone who is just as willing to put in the effort as you are. Choose someone you have a lot in common with so when you're 80 you still have something to talk about. My grandmother always said to choose someone who makes you laugh, that nothing else will get you through hard times the way that laughter will. And even the most loving couples have doubts and/or times when they want to bonk their partner over the head with a frying pan a'la Wile E. Coyote. That's to be expected.

You make a commitment and spend the rest of your life making it work. I realize there are no guarantees except perhaps that life won't be perfect no matter who you are with. I can live with that. But I imagine it's better if you're in it with the right partner.

Frogs don't turn into princes. So you choose carefully. After that all you can do is give it your all. Single or married or whatever, the lucky ones are the ones who find their home - the life and the places and the people that fit them and increase their happiness.

Funnily enough I learned a lot of this from watching my father. I think he has more wisdom to share than he knows.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Trek Earth

photo © Maciek Duczynski
Maciek Duczynski's gallery includes photographs of Italy, Sweden, Poland, Iceland and Croatia... I find his photographs of Norway particularly striking and unusually beautiful.

New favorite website. Trek Earth has gallery upon gallery of photographs taken all over the world by what appear to be both amateur and professional photographers. While you can certainly search Google or Flickr for images of these same places, the difference is that these photographs have been uploaded for the specific purpose of sharing the travel experience. Typically the images are of high quality (and often quite breathtaking), while a Google or Flickr search will result in a hodgepodge of good, bad and occasionally quite ugly. The photographs are organized by country, region, and city or town. You can look up any place on earth. The city where my mother grew up in Australia - which I had seen few photos of before, the place where my friend lives in Scotland, the small town in the Southern United States that I call home - They are all there. Places I have been. Places I have dreamed of visiting. I am completely thrilled with this treasure chest of gorgeous images. Pick a place, search on Trek Earth, and spend a few minutes transported.

photo © Tom Hill
This street in Edinburgh is very near where my friend lives and, to my mind, does a good job of capturing the feel of walking those streets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prerequisites for Executing Women

I found this article in the September 5th, 1949 issue of Life magazine.

The text of the article reads:

‘Lonely Hearts’ murderess will be the
seventh woman electrocuted in Sing Sing Prison

In a Bronx courtroom last week Justice Ferdinand Pecora, with shaking voice, pronounced the death sentence upon two stolid defendants who seemed less affected by it than he did. Then hefty Martha Julie Beck, 29, and Raymond M. Fernandez, 34, her ‘Latin lover,’ were hustled off to Sing Sing Prison to die for the murder of an Albany widow they had met through a mail-order ‘lonely hearts’ club. When Martha Beck’s sentence, now set for the week of Oct. 10, is carried out she will follow in the footsteps of seven other unglamorous women who have gone to the electric chair in New York state, six of them at Sing Sing. The six (left): Mrs. Martha Place, who killed her stepdaughter (executed 1899); Mrs. Ruth Snyder, convicted with Henry Judd Gray in the sashweight slaying of her husband (1928); Mrs. Anna Antonio, who plotted her husband’s murder (1934); Mrs. Eva Coo, who insured, then killed her hired man by running over him in a car (1935); Mrs. Mary F. Creighton, who helped her lover poison his wife (1936), and Mrs. Helen Fowler, who, with a partner, bludgeoned a service-station attendant in a holdup (1944).

Now I am not sharing this because I wish to get into a discussion about the death penalty or disparate media coverage of the executions of women or any other such matter. I cannot say whether the media's approach to this topic has changed significantly in the past 60 years.

I just want to make an observation.

Under the photograph of Martha Beck arriving at Sing Sing, the photo has a caption that reads, “Escorted by an officer and matron, 200-pound Martha Beck arrives at Sing Sing, two hours after hearing her sentence.” In the body of the article, the reporter notes that Martha Beck “will follow in the footsteps of seven other unglamorous women who have gone to the electric chair in New York state.”

Life magazine is reassuring their readers that it is okay.

Women are being executed in New York State - but only unattractive ones. 1950’s America could rest easy because no women who were thin and pretty had been executed in our fair nation.

Oh. What a relief.

If you would like to read more about the women mentioned
in this 1949 Life magazine article, try the links below:
Martha Place (1899) / Ruth Snyder (1928) / Anna Antonio (1934)
Eva Coo (1935) / Mary F. Creighton (1936) / Helen Fowler (1944)
Martha Julie Beck (1949) / Sing Sing Prison / An article comparing
Helen Fowler's 1944 conviction with other murder trials

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pippi Longstocking

Astrid Lindgren, the author of the Pippi books, pictured with Inger Nilsson as Pilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking

In search of a Halloween costume this year, I came up with an excellent idea and rediscovered my love for a favorite character from childhood. I have not read the books (yet), but I was mad about Pippi Longstocking in the 1969 Swedish TV series that got edited into four films and dubbed into English. Inger Nilsson plays the indomitable Pippi as authentically quirky, independent and good natured. She was spot-on perfect. (The fact that Columbia Pictures put out "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" in 1988 is, in my opinion, a tragedy best ignored.) The 1969 version was created under the watchful eye of creator Astrid Lindgren, and she wrote the original scripts for the show herself.

Pippi was my childhood hero. Living on her own (as her seafaring father allowed her to), rich as a king (paying for everything with gold doubloons), strong enough to lift a horse and always getting wrapped up in new adventures. Pippi was tougher than any of the boys (or pirates) she encountered. She was also uniformly unimpressed with anyone who underestimated her or tried to limit her because she was a child or because she was a girl. Brilliant. I remember that when I was young I imagined (rather self-importantly) that Pippi and I had a great deal in common.

So I am going to be Pippi this year, making good use of my red hair. I have no idea why it never occurred to me before. I've got to run out and find copies of the series to rent. As I understand, it was re-released in 2002 with better dubbing... although I suspect I will prefer the original version and its choppy mealy-mouthed dubbing.

Now to convince The Guy that he would make an excellent Mr. Nilsson.

Pippi hits the candy shop

Pippi defending the weak and generally harassing the neighborhood bullies

Interesting bit o' trivia - The character is SO loved that she has inspired a Japanese Musical, which I think is a hoot.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Friends You Can Call At 4am

My closest female friend and I have known each other since we were twelve. For the purposes of anonymity, we’ll call her Eddie. Mostly because I called her that when we were 12.

In the way of friendships formed during childhood, we don’t necessarily share a lot of interests. I love to cook, she orders takeout with great panache. I follow world news and politics, both of which bore her to tears. She knows all about finances and interest rates and credit scores, matters that completely evade me. I enjoy the charm of small towns, she needs the rush of a big city. She almost never wears make-up. I have been wearing a “full face” since I was 13. Her hobby is riding a motorcycle, mine is community theater. I love foreign films and ensemble dramas. She likes horror and action films with things that blow up. She’s athletic and good at sports, I... am not.

We both love handbags, Colin Firth, Chinese food and romantic comedies.

Also in the way of friends who have known each other since childhood, our bond is less about what we have in common and more about how intimately we understand each other. When you have revelled and commiserated with the same person through every high and low of your adolescence and adult life, they get to know you fairly well.

Eddie (who does not live in the same part of the country as I) flew to the Northeastern U.S. a couple of days ago to attend a wedding as her significant other’s “plus one”. She has been seeing her S.O. for a few years, they are pretty serious. While she knows his immediate family well, there will be friends and extended family at this wedding whom she has never met.

The day after she flies out, I get a phone call from her at my work.

Eddie never calls me at work.

She apologizes for calling, ascertains that I have a minute (very considerate, no?) and, having made certain it is ok, commences crying hysterically.

“I just got the worst haircut I have ever had.”

She is in a drug store. The S.O. and his family are waiting in the car. They have been waiting for forty minutes. She is frantically trying to select a hair product / accessory / large bag that will help the situation. The wedding is tomorrow. A wedding at which she will be meeting a bazillion people who matter to her S.O. People she wishes to make a good impression on. And her hair looks “somewhere between a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet and the Jennifer Anniston shag.”

This is not a good look for her.

In between sobs, she tells me she feels silly to be crying but she can’t help it. She knows S.O. and Company think she is being ridiculous. But she knew I would understand.

I try to calm her. I make suggestions. We decide a thick headband a’la the 60’s is her best bet. Hairband is selected. Texturizing mousse is located. All will be well.

I get off the phone thinking how good it is that we have each other.

It is important to have friends you can call up and confess something awful to or share something absurd with. She and I will call each other some days just for perspective (i.e.: “He said this. Then I said this. Now HE says I’m being unreasonable. AM I being unreasonable?”) or to be reassured that we are not the only one in the world who thinks that leggings look idiotic. I am fortunate enough to have a few friends whom I can call at 4am crying, but Eddie knew me before I was really me. Sometimes we call when we’re upset and would have difficulty explaining why to anyone else. It’s nice.

In Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan calls Rosie O’Donnell and admits that she has flown to Seattle to see that guy from the radio show. She knows she can tell her friend this thing that she would never under ANY circumstances tell anyone else. Because it is INSANE. Because anyone else would have her committed. Because it's the kind of embarassing that you can hardly admit even to yourself. But she knows that her friend will understand.

Eddie and I have that kind of friendship.

She is (rhetorically, of course) the first person I would call if I had to hide a dead body. Or if I hopped a plane to Seattle to stalk Tom Hanks. OR if I had been holed up crying in a Walgreens for 40 minutes because some idiot hacked off my hair.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mary Pickford

The formation of United Artists in 1919;
D.W. Griffith signs while his new partners Douglas Fairbanks (far left), Charles Chaplin (2nd from left) and Mary Pickford (at far right) look on.

“Make them laugh, make them cry, and hack to laughter. What do people go to the theatre for? An emotional exercise. I am a servant of the people. I have never forgotten that. ”
- Mary Pickford

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What A Difference A Year Makes

One year ago today, I was crying so hard I felt I would never be able to stop.

The man I had spent 5 years of my life with, who I had helped support financially while he pursued his dreams and who had been introducing me to people as his "fiancee” told me he did not love me anymore. I had confronted him about suspicious behavior and it devolved into a long talk in which he told me he was through with our relationship, but denied any wrong doing. He was gone within a week, leaving behind a pile of unpaid bills and a lot of unanswered questions.

Of course, you know what happens next. I found out that he had been seeing someone else. That I had been right to be suspicious. Finding out he did not love me any longer was devastating. Finding out that he was not the man I had believed him to be was, honestly, a great deal worse. It made me feel those five years were wasted. It robbed me of a lot of my self-confidence and faith in my own judgement. It was painful just to breathe, to get out of bed in the morning. I felt as if my world had collapsed and, in many ways, it had.

It's been one year. So much has changed.

I found a place of my own in another part of town. I dropped several dress sizes. I got involved in the local theater community. I traveled to New York and to Scotland. I started dating again. I learned a lot about who my real friends were and the value of maintaining connections. I went from having one close local friend (so many of my friends live elsewhere) to having a large network of local friends. I became closer to my family. I learned to be myself again.

After a few months, I had started telling people I was alright - like you do (If you aren’t actually HAPPY, then at least you can convince the rest of the world that your life is faaaab-u-lous. Living well is the best revenge and all that.) I made jokes about it. I told friends it didn’t bother me anymore. Then one day the ex told me he missed me and it didn’t knock the wind out of me. I started laughing. I was surprised by the joy of knowing that I really WAS free of those emotional ties. I wasn’t just saying - mantra like - that I was happy and better off. I actually was happy and far better off.

In the midst of my healing, I met (or re-met) The Guy. The icing on the cake. My perspective on relationships and what I want from life has altered. If you described my life now to the woman I was a year ago, she would have told you these things were impossible. Being cast in plays, traveling to another country, seriously discussing marriage with a wonderful man and - most shocking of all - having a child in my life. Highly improbable.

The Guy and I just returned from a weekend away. Just the two of us. We stayed at a family member's vacation house situated on the side of a lake. We went antique shopping and drove down country roads singing loudly to favorite songs and played cards on the back porch while the sun went down and ate olives from the jar and drank wine and talked about the future and slept in late and took afternoon naps. It was glorious.

When you have lost hope, when your world feels broken, it is so important to remember what a tremendous difference a year can make. Anything is possible. Sometimes the universe surprises you.

the lake

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Anne Bancroft

photo taken, I believe, during the shooting of The Miracle Worker, 1962. Her performance in the role of Annie Sullivan won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. This accomplishment was forever overshadowed, however, when she stepped into the iconic role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate only 5 years later.

“I am quite surprised, that with all my work, and some of it is very, very good, that nobody talks about The Miracle Worker. We're talking about Mrs. Robinson. I understand the world... I'm just a little dismayed that people aren't beyond it yet.”
- Anne Bancroft, 1931-2005

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Best Word Book Ever

(1963 on left, 1991 on right) appears with the caption:
"Will the Brave Hero rescue the Beautiful
Screaming Lady? Not in 1991, he won't."
from kokogiak's photostream on Flickr

Do you remember Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever? I HAD THAT BOOK! The original version. I loved it and would pore over every minute detail for AGES when I was a tiny tyke. A man who goes by the name Kokogiak on Flickr has posted a series of images here comparing the original 1963 version he had as a child with the 1991 edition read by his children today. It was eerie going through his documentation of the changes made. I remember the beautiful screaming lady cat in the building on fire. I remember the Brave Hero fireman. Being the feminist and generally all-around liberal gal that I am, I find I am uncomfortably torn on this one. It is right that the simplistic, stereotyped images of Native Americans have been removed. But I have NO IDEA why the words "lady" and "gentleman" were pulled. I love that there are more women and more depictions of boys and girls playing together in this updated version (although slapping on a bow and calling it a girl is a little absurd). I do think it's BRILLIANT that there is a daddy bunny in the kitchen helping mother bunny and yet...

I find myself nostalgic for the little Indian mouse. And the "Pretty Stewardess" cat. An the milkman. And the outmoded gender roles. Because when I was little, they were in the book. I think if I had little ones of my own (which is rapidly becoming part of my future plans) I would buy my kids the updated version so as not to teach them wonky backward ideas about race and gender. And THEN I'd find the old version for myself on Amazon because my kid's copy would just make me miss the beautiful screaming lady.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Ageless Project

The website I am most recently fascinated with is "The Ageless Project," a site that links to widely varied participating blogs - all organized by the decade in which the blogger was born. It was brought to my attention after I made the aquaintance - online - of Savtadotty, a lovely lady whose blog is at Cousin Lucy's Spoon and has a link to The Ageless Project. I have barely begun to explore the various blogs linked to the project but my favorite find thus far has been Goldendaze. Goldendaze is the blog of a 74 year old woman living in South Carolina and in recent posts she recounts her memories of the McCarthy trials, seeing Fantasia as a child when it was first released in '41 and what airports were like in the 50's as well as musing on things more current in her life, like a woman she met in her AA meeting who had a profound impact on her. I'm absolutely hooked.

I know the Ageless project also links to blogs written by people my age and on down to young teens (the youngest is 13), but right now I am most fascinated with reading the first hand perspective of people who remember things that happened long before I was born.

“The process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained. By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth.”
- Marya Mannes