Sunday, July 31, 2005

Colorful Lady

Today on 14th Street, instead of the usual street fair, there was a Mexican festival featuring music and dance. There was a stage set up at 8th Avenue and I caught a performance of ten year old girls giving a dance recital in colorful Mexican clothes.

They were from the parochial school connected with Our Lady of Guadalupe, a huge old church on the block. For decades, the neighborhood was lower middle class Latin. Recently, it's becoming upper middle class gay. Time swings on.

Our Lady of Guadalupe dresses in colorful Mexican clothes, unlike the blue-and-white Madonnas that adorn the lawns of Italian-American homes, and unlike Madonna, although that may be her next look.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Yep, Gallstones

I'm going to have them made into earrings.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Cat Doctors, Shopping, and People Doctors

We took Ashley to the vet this morning for a follow-up on the ears. They're healing very well, we only have to squirt antibiotic into her mouth for another week and a half. The vet said she'll probably develop these infections chronically, and to keep them in check we'll have to swab her ears twice a week with cotton balls saturated in Epi-Otic. And we all know how much she loves that.

The digestive thing seems to have been resolved. If it flares up again, the next step is to try a different brand of cat food. All those tests last Spring weren't for nothing. They were expensive and anxiety-producing, but at least we have the peace of mind of knowing our gal is okay inside and out.

On the way back from the vet, the cab passed a street fair on 14th Street, so after we got Ashley home I went to check it out. All the usual vendors were in attendance, and a guy from Empire State Pride Agenda was collecting signatures for a petition protesting Constitutional Amendments to ban equal marriage rights (gotta love that "framing" thing.)

"We'll contact you with the names of elected officials in your area who support equal marriage rights."

"My area is here...could there be any elected officials who don't support equal marriage rights?"

I browsed the booths and then realized I had enough junk at home already, so I went onward and upward to run some errands.

Later that afternoon, I stopped into H&M, which is Swedish for Old Navy. As always, I felt myself being magnetically drawn to the baubles and pastegems in the accessories department, where the prices for some odd reason are $4.90, $1.90, etc. instead of $4.99, $1.99, and so on. Most of my fellow shoppers were teenagers, and I realized that I'm at the age where, two or three generations ago, I would have been a doting Grandmama taking Eloise for a frappe at Schraft's instead of wrestling an adolescent for a rhinestone hair thing. Besides, I realized I had enough junk at home already, so I went home to cull.

In the next couple of weeks, I have a number of medical tests to confirm what the doctors think are gallstones or ulcers or both. So I have to drink a vile concoction and then get knocked out and probed. Kinda like a fraternity party.

The tests are expensive and anxiety-producing, but at least I'll have the peace of mind of knowing I'm okay inside and out.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Deadly Accusations

Here's a disturbing story that caught my eye because it combines political blogs, trusting people, and one of the worst cancers you can get: (Link courtesy of mediabistro)

The Internet saved Andy Stephenson's life. In May 2005, the voting-rights advocate's online community came together and raised $50,000 in 11 days to pay for surgery to treat Stephenson's pancreatic cancer. Now, the World Wide Web has spawned a bizarre campaign that accuses the nationally renowned activist of faking his illness.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My Son, The Fanatic

Also in Slate, June Thomas writes about a 1997 movie that seems eerily prescient in the wake of the London bombings, Udayan Prasad's My Son the Fanatic.
Farid confronts his father about his relationship with Bettina, asking, "Why are you so interested in dirty whores?" Parvez snaps, striking Farid in anger, until his son screams, "So who's the fanatic now?"

Kureishi's short story ends on those words, but in the movie, Farid leaves home, stalking off with suitcases in hand and an overstuffed backpack on his shoulders. It's an image that is all the more haunting after the events of July 7.

What's The Deal With Cat Ladies?

Since I'm always afraid I'll end up being one, Daniel Engber's article in Slate caught my eye.

It's not clear if and how animal hoarders could be treated, but the fines and jail sentences doled out by courts don't seem to work. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a convicted hoarder will almost always collect again.

True. Our cats Chico and Ashley were originally owned by a cat hoarder, an elderly woman. When the woman died, she had 50 cats, some of whom were in better shape than others. Ashley was so starved she could hardly stand, and required a month of home nursing before she was in good enough shape to be spayed.

A couple of years before, the woman had been busted for cat hoarding, and at the time she had 100 cats that she had to get rid of. The 50 they found when she died were cats that she had restocked since the previous bust.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Scoring On The Street

Pursuant to my previous post, my favorite pasttime this summer has been to shop outdoors. This past weekend was no exception, despite it being hot and humid enough for me to fingerpaint on my face.

My venue of choice is the street fair. Never mind that it's the same dozen vendors at every one and that most of the time I don't buy anything. The minute I see the point guard consisting of the banners of the food tents, with signs proclaiming "Sizzlin'!" or I hear the fingernails-on-a-blackboard sound of one of those little wooden frogs the vendors scrape on the back with a stick--and that never makes the same sound when you buy it and scrape it--I chortle "Street Fair!" as happily as Helium.

This weekend I hit pay dirt at the Discontinued Make-up booth and the Everything For $2.00 Jewelry Guy. The discontinued make-up was a lip pencil I've been looking for over the past four months, and I bought three at two bucks a pop. The jewelry guy, who looked sort of like Will Forte from Saturday Night Live if Will Forte was playing a speed freak with bleached blond hair, had some cool looking leather thong chokers with metallic beads. When I dug around in the earring pile, there was a pair of earrings that sort of matched the choker even though they hadn't been intended to.

I also scored a pair of kitchen scissors for $3.00 from a booth called "Interesting Things," which sounds like a Stephen King novel.

Since I was on a roll, I pushed my luck and got a palette of discontinued eye shadows for $2.00. Sadly, the shades aren't as flattering on me as I had thought they would be. And the next day at another street fair in the neighborhood, the $2.00 jewelry booth was full of different $2.00 jewelry and staffed by two tired young women.

There are always a few faddy clothing things every summer that are everywhere--street fairs, sidewalk vendors, the Korean fruit stand on the corner--and this year one of the things is the peasant skirt. They're extremely comfortable when it's ninety degrees and women of all ages and sizes are wearing them, whether they should or not. The only one I saw this weekend that didn't make me look like a sack of potatoes was a bandana print with sequins. I looked at the label for the washing instructions. "Do not iron ornamentation." I'm assuming here that the ornamentation here is the sequins, and since the skirt was liberally festooned with sequins, how are you supposed to iron it? Do you get a tiny little iron and try to press it between the sequins?

There is also this booth I've seen for the past couple of months that has bags and t-shirts with cartoons on them, usually Disney characters or Betty Boop, and writing that looks as if it had been interpreted by someone whose language is not English. Mickey Mouse is spelled "Mcikey," a handbag with Betty Boop says "Betty Boop from USA." This is either some workaround to avoid having to pay a licensing fee, or someone in a strange faraway place taking a stab at American pop culture and getting it almost right.

Besides the street fairs, I've been making the Union Square Greenmarket a regular stop on my Saturday errands. I've been told that the best time to go is first thing in the morning, and one of these days I will. But I've also gotten some pretty decent produce in the afternoon. My favorite has been the Jersey tomato and fresh herb people, although I now have more tomatoes and basil than I know what to do with and it's way too hot to make sauce. The tomatoes are fleshy, the way I remember tomatoes being when I was a kid. I've tried the yellow tomatoes, but this week the yellows were disappointingly mushy under a firm skin. The same could be said for many of us.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Street Clothes

This is what we're really wearing here.

The Indian slippers are everywhere.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tale of Two Willies

I've seen the commercial and the trailer for Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and read some discussion here and here. Ann Althouse considers the 1971 movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory "rather crappy" and says that it always struck her as being intended for the "pothead/acidhead audience of the day."

I first saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on network TV when I was a college student, although my drug of choice was acting. I had a big crush on Gene Wilder and thought he was a comic genius. I told everyone I wanted to be a "serious comic actor" because Wilder had been described that way in an interview. This was back in the days when really serious actors used "actor" as a gender-neutral word.

When I saw Wilder a couple of years ago on "Inside the Actors Studio" and learned that Gene himself had created Willy Wonka's entrance in the movie, I knew that my adulation, while somewhat over the top, had not been misplaced.

But that entrance doesn't come until halfway through the movie, and in the days before VCRs, the first part of the movie was the time for me to channel-surf, eat, make phone calls, shower, and otherwise occupy myself, making sure I timed all those activities to end right after Jack Albertson and Peter Ostrum sang "I've Got A Golden Ticket." In other words, even though I thought Wilder was great, I was never married to the movie as a whole.

I agree with Althouse that it's inaccurate to say that the new movie is a remake. Tim Burton is not remaking the movie Willy Wonka; he's doing a new version of the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Many books have had more than one movie version.

When I was doing comedy improvisation, there was a game we would do called "Movie" where the audience would assign four performers a different style or director. Then we'd tell a familiar story like The Three Little Pigs in the style we'd been assigned.

So with the two Willies, two different styles were assigned, and two generations of talented offbeat icons have rendered their interpretations. I look forward to seeing the new version. Heck, I'll even sit through the whole thing and shower later.

Monday, July 11, 2005

New Cube

The management at the company where I work has rearranged the seating assignments of everyone on my floor, about 75 people. Friday was spent packing our cubicles, and this morning was the first day of the new arrangement.

It felt like back when I was temping: the search for your desk, "where's the printer that I just sent this to?" and hiking or lowering your chair so that your legs aren't dangling.

Sometimes you don't even realize that you're used to something until it's no longer there. For example, I forgot to tell Facilities to move the keyboard tray I had them install when I first started here three years ago. The desktop was really high and I was typing with my elbows up around my ears. I hadn't even known at the time that you could have something like that drilled and attached if you so desired. Once a temp, always a temp.

All the files and supplies are unpacked, and people are putting into place the things that are really important: the snapshot of the dog and the kids and the night "the girls" got together at a fancy restaurant, the souvenirs of Mexico and Paris and Knotts Berry Farm. The kind of stuff that, when I was temping, made me feel as if I'd suddenly been dropped into the life of someone I had never met and would never meet.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Nostalgia For Nostalgia

Been spending the weekend making digital versions of the mix tapes of early 80's pop and rock that I made in the late 90's. As I compile them, I've been feeling nostalgia not only for the early 80's, but for the late 90's.

Ironically, during the early 80's, my cohorts and I were immersed in nostalgia over stuff from our mid-1960's childhoods. We'd be in some bar or club that was blasting new wave synth-pop dance music, shouting over it to each other. "Oooh, remember 'They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha!' Boy, that was so long ago! Are we ever old!"

Now that I'm feeling nostalgia for the late 1990's, perhaps it is time for a late 1990's mix disc/iPod playlist. After enough time, even "La Vida Loca" starts sounding good. Although I'd prefer "Novocaine For The Soul" by Eels.

Friday, July 08, 2005

They Do What They Do, Because They Do What They Do

Marc Cooper sums up nicely what pissed me off about the London attacks yesterday:

It was bad enough listening to the reports of the bombings themselves. That pain was aggravated by the politicization of the events. From the Idiot Right were the numbskulls arguing over Shock Radio that the bombings somehow justified the war in Iraq. From the Idiot Left came Janeane Garfolo's shriekings over Air America that somehow these bombings could be traced back to the Bush administration's supposed countenance of terrorism.

Pathetic, really. Whatever one thinks of Bush (and I hold him in very low esteem) the London bombers are monsters who are fully responsible for their butchery. Period.


No matter what our government and its allies are doing, al-Qaida does what it does because that's what it does. Dogs go woof woof, cows go moo, al-Qaida blows people up because it blows people up. It's like Manson: "Death is Charlie's trip, man."

And of course it's not only on the radio where these arguments are happening, which is why I'm taking it personally. It's among people I know who repeat memes and themes rather than think.

If the last four years have taught me anything, it's this: Stop taking advantage of a tragedy to push your own hairbrained agenda--or getting your non-questioning puppets to do it for you.

Meanwhile, the London office of the multi-national corporation for which I work is keeping us posted on goings-on there. Londoners unfortunately have a leg up on us New Yorkers as far as having to deal with terrorist bombings and The Blitz. I thought about them a lot on 9/11, as I went around singing, "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when..." Which is the song over the end credits of Dr. Strangelove.

Chico Sleeping With Wild Abandonment

Chico Sleeping With Wild Abandonment
Originally uploaded by brunobaby.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Group House

On my way to work on this last semi-work day before a holiday weekend, I saw a lot of young women in capri pants and flip-flops pulling suitcases on wheels or toting bags large and heavy enough to render them into the shape of the Elephant Man. Many of them, no doubt, were going to go directly from their office jobs to summer houses in the Hamptons or Fire Island that they shared with a dozen other young single people.

I had a share in a group house one summer half my life ago. I got it through a secretary at a company I'd interviewed with for a copywriter's job. I didn't get the job, and the secretary was looking for more single people to share the house a friend of hers was renting.

I figured the price was right and since I wasn't actually friends with any of these people, I'd have nothing to lose if it didn't work out.

It turned out to be a bad fit. My housemates, like just about every other house in the community, spent their weekends getting wasted on booze and stoned into garden sculpture on Qualuudes. The guys all wanted to screw me, not out of attraction but because they all had quotas. The women wanted me to get eaten by a shark because I was competing for the limited supply of actually desirable men.

When I wasn't trying to whip up an actual conversation with them or reminding them that besides recreational drugs, food must also be consumed, I was in the community's one teeming disco shouting inanities at my slackjawed dance partner that disappeared unheard into a deafening void: "Whose howwwwse are you in? Do you have a haaaaalf-share or a full?"

When I had made sure that my housemates and their related tribe of houses had seen me doing enough "normal person" things to keep me from being considered a total geek, I would go off by myself to read a trash novel or take a quiet walk on the beach.

My favorite walk was to a community called Lonelyville. There were no luuded-out disco singles there, but despite the name it was far from deserted. There were usually enough people around to have a short conversation with, including guys who flattered me by telling me I didn't seem like the group house type. I found out later that they told that to all the sweet young things from the group houses.

Every time I went to Lonelyville, I kept an eye out for a fabled pair of residents.

"That's Mel Brooks' and Anne Bancroft's house. That one, right there," I was told.

I would cast the house a surreptitious glance, lest Mel and Annie think I was a stalker. I always hoped to see them, maybe even meet them, and longed to have the genius of Mel and the class of Annie.

I never did meet them. And most mere mortals will never reach the heights of Mel-and-Annie-ness. But at least after that summer, I was no longer a misfit with a half-share in a stoned beach house.

Meet The Chicos

Meet The Chicos
Originally uploaded by brunobaby.
Phoebe and Chico, New Year's Eve 2002

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