Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On Joni Mitchell And Aging Gracefully

I love it when movies and television make good use of classic music as a way to enhance or move their story. The wonderful "Love Actually" did that rather brilliantly (writer/director Richard Curtis spends a disproportionate amount of his time matching music to film, as meticulously as Cameron Crowe, who started his career as a music critic before becoming a filmmaker). One song in particular was Joni Mitchell's remake of her own "Both Sides Now." She originally wrote and recorded it for her second album, "Clouds," released in 1969. Most associate the song with Judy Collins, whose version was a chart-topper, but Mitchell reinterpreted it on her "Both Sides Now" CD in 2000, and it is gorgeous. It's from the perspective of an older, wiser woman who truly embodies the lyrics she sings, and it's stunning.

Mitchell's delivery of the lyrics alone is enough to make you weep, but when paired with poignant scenes, as it was in "Love Actually" and, recently, on the daytime drama "General Hospital," it can become a sobfest. I speak from experience.

What I find most ironic about my new appreciation for Joni Mitchell and others from her generation of singer/songwriters (James Taylor, Cat Stevens, CSNY, Carole King, etc.) is that during their heyday, when I was a pre-teen and then a teenager, I could barely stand them. I was tortured at summer camp, surrounded by cabin mates who not only played the aforementioned artists ad nauseum, but also had singalongs, accompanied by two of the campers who were actually decent acoustic guitar players. This did not mesh well with my favorites, KISS, Led Zep and the Stones. We battled constantly, and I usually lost.

Here's the irony: as an adult, I have attended several James Taylor concerts, adore Carole King (actually, I found her tolerable way back then, but would never have admitted it at camp), and have an appreciation for much of the music (except for one or two CSNY songs; they truly don't do it for me) of the other artists. Rod Stewart's recent remake of Stevens' "Father and Son" is lovely, as was the original. Do I still listen to Led Zep and the Stones? Absolutely. Even KISS, if I'm in a bizarre mood. However, I'm more likely to put on a Sarah McLaughlan or Sting CD these days.

I'd like to say I've matured, but I think I'm simply getting old.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Rest For The Weary

This past weekend, I had a wedding to attend in South Beach (Miami, FL). My dear neighbor (now former neighbor) Charlotte was marrying Sam, and it was an event I could not miss. Prices being what they are in South Beach, though, made me reluctant to spend the weekend there. Brainstorm! My good friend KellyB lives in Ft. Lauderdale, not that far away. Could I spend the weekend with KellyB and the Bs? Absolutely!

I arrived Friday night and KellyB met me at the airport. It was great to see her. We picked up her son, JT, dropped him home (where I met their adorable weiner dog, Woody), and went out to a French bistro, where we dined lavishly on escargots, rack of lamb, and chocolate mousse cake. In many ways, KellyB is my Doppelganger. We drove around the beach area afterwards, then headed back to her home. Hubby Michael was already asleep after his grueling evening of MBA courses.

Michael the ghost had to head to campus early for part two of the weekend's courses, so I missed him again. KellyB and I went out sightseeing. I realized it had been 30 years since I'd been in Ft. Lauderdale. Lots had changed. The Jolly Roger Motel off A1A was renamed and revamped. Another piece of my childhood gone. No matter. KellyB then took me to her favorite Greek restaurant, where we inhaled about a pound of garlic. She also made me try octopus, even though I remembered having done that once, and it's not something I'd order for myself. Everything else was wonderful, though, and I can see why she loves the place.

Back to the ranch for naps and for me to then get ready for the wedding. A car was coming for me at 6:15, so I reluctantly threw myself in the shower around 5 and started the dressing and makeup process, aided at the end by the talents of KellyB. When I came downstairs, Michael was home, and it was a delight to meet him. Nice guy, easy to talk to, and I can understand how the high school sweethearts fell for each other all those years ago, and are still a happy, loving couple. They have a great son, a great weiner dog, and a great life.

Unfortunately, a limo showed up for me about 15 minutes later. I was going to show up in South Beach in style. It was a scaled down limo (intermittent radio, no TV, empty bar), so I made a few calls on my cellphone and then arrived at the Tides Hotel.

Posh. Very posh. I immediately felt uncomfortable, but, fortunately, I saw two of the three people I knew (other than the bride and groom) right there in the lobby. We chatted, then Charlotte and Sam made their entrance. Wow. They looked glam, stunning, and happy as clams. The ceremony was held poolside, followed by a cocktail hour. I met two of their very good friends, Maryanne and Bart, and it turned out we had many things in common, so I enjoyed their company. To make things even better, the three of us were seated at our own table for dinner. Talk about serendipity!

The meal was lovely and the conversation even better. I will be keeping in touch with Maryanne and Bart. Good people. Charlotte and Sam took to the dance floor, still looking fabulous and absolutely perfect in the lovely setting, which was accompanied by a wonderful guitarist.

I was the first to leave, as my car showed up at 10:30, but that was fine. I was exhausted by the trip down and from running around Ft. Lauderdale. By the time I got back to KellyB's, she was half-zonked on the couch, so I threw on my jammies and watched some old episodes of "Roseanne" and "Designing Women" until sleep came.

Michael the ghost had already left for campus by the time I got up (and it was early for me, 9am on a Sunday!), so KellyB and I deserted JT and Woody and had breakfast at a local diner before I headed to the airport. It was sad to leave my friends, but we're planning more get togethers in the future and until then, there's always email and the phone. (Michael, by the way, is not a professional student but an actual professor at Nova, taking advantage of the educational opportunities outside his field that the university offers. Just so you know.)

Weather conditions in the Northeast delayed my trip home, but I was very happy to be greeted by my three insane cats, and happier still to climb into bed with them and the remote, catching up on purr time and on the shows I'd taped while I was away. It's nice to travel, but as Dorothy said, "There's no place like home." Well, except for Paris.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I forgot the promised update to the 90th birthday luncheon. Overall, it turned out okay, but the evil, rotten branch of the family (henceforth, GGG&J) managed to cause a few uncomfortable moments.

To refresh your memory, this was held the day after torrential rainstorms hit the tri-state area. Oh, good, thought I, GGG&J won't make it. Ha. Remember what I said about the allure of a free meal? Those bastards would have swum the Long Island Sound if need be.

The deal was that P and I would meet at the restaurant a half hour early to set up balloons, place settings, and so forth. M (already at my grandmother's house) was tasked with getting her there. My "aunt" J and I arrived at the restaurant early, as we'd left plenty of time to deal with potential bad traffic, slippery leaves, and so forth. After parking, I grabbed her arm and hissed, "DUCK! The bastards are here!" We hid behind a red van and I pointed out the car filled with evil GGG&J. They were 45 minutes early. No doubt they thought there would be a complimentary bar they could cozy up to. Ha. Took care of that option, as in there was none. Since half of the evil group were geriatric, it took them a while to sleaze their way to the restaurant. I was furiously dialing P on my cellphone. "They're here." "Who?" "The bastards." "NO!" "Fuck, yes, and J and I are hiding behind a red van in the parking lot." After hilarity ensued, P and N pulled into the lot, and J and I scampered over to their car. N was a bit snarly, but who could blame him? We picked up all the balloons and stuff and made our way to the restaurant, past GGG&J, who were lurking outside the (surprise) bar.

Since my name was on all the paperwork, Herman, our headwaiter, presumed I was in charge. He asked me about refilling the wine carafes should they beome empty, and we agreed he would check with me first. I indicated the group of lowlifes and said, "They're the reason we're being careful about the drinking, and look who showed up early!" The four of us set up the balloons and the place cards, and then the leeches decided to join us. Grrr. I did my best to snub them. G, my grandmother's twit of a sister, kept going on and on about how she was up all night worrying about the weather. She thought of calling to see if the party had been cancelled. I looked her straight in the cataract and said, "Non-refundable deposit. Party going on as scheduled." Naturally, one of them went straight over to the table where the beverages were set up and took one of the carafes of red wine down to their end of the table. Ha, thought I, don't drink it so fast, losers. Fortunately, the invited guests started trickling in, so it was easier to snub the undesirables.

We expected the birthday girl to show up at 2:15, the appointed time for her arrival. Since M was in charge of getting her there, that was a bit foolish. Really foolish. They got there around 2:45. Herman had already taken the food orders. However, my grandmother was pleasantly surprised by the gathering, and that's really all that matters. (She did complain to me later that she'd been seated next to her sister, but I said, "Hey, she's YOUR sister. Too bad!")

The service and the food were both very good, and things passed along peacefully. My cousin M (normally my partner in family dinner crime, but I was instructed to behave as I was a co-host) tried to start me up by making airplanes out of the place cards, but I didn't cave. (I have Thanksgiving dinner coming up, where M and I normally are up to no good, usually shooting rubber bands and throwing peas at the other guests, so I kept that in mind.) Naturally, that carafe of red wine down by GGG&J emptied out, and they actually came down to our end and took the dregs that remained in ours. Not much damage was done to the carafes of white wine, which I would take as a sign if I ever planned to have this group together again, but since I do not, I don't much care.

A beautiful carrot cake was brought out for the birthday girl, which pleased her no end. Unfortunately, no one had remembered to bring a camera (well, M did, but his girlfriend, A, had stolen a battery out of it, so it was a moot point). That was a shame, but we finished the meal without incident and without photographs.

Here's the punch line: nowhere among the pile of cards and gifts brought for my grandmother was there anything at all from GGG&J. Not so much as a card. Freeloading bastards. Well, I consoled myself with the fact that I will never have to see them again. P reminded me about future family funerals, and I said, "I'm not going." I also consoled myself later with a massage administered by Jennifer of the Magic Hands, a bottle of good red wine, and pleasant thoughts of funerals (specifically, those for GGG&J) I would not be attending.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Showed Them!

Every single vote counts. This was certainly proved on Tuesday, Election Day, which saw the Democrats take over both the House and Senate. The Senate status wasn't determined until today because the last two races being tallied were close. Darn close. Nevertheless, in Virginia, Webb beat "Macaca" Allen, which gave me great pleasure. In Missouri, I think some credit must be given to Michael J. Fox's stem cell research ads, which helped his candidate beat the Neanderthal incumbent. (Incidentally, I understand that the St. Louis Cardinals' ace pitcher filmed a rebuttal commercial against stem cell research, which ran during the World Series. Though he's a good pitcher, I hope my beloved Yankees don't try to buy this player, as -- like Curt Schilling - his views are contrary to those of people searching for advancement in medical research and cures for disease.)

At any rate, I was also impressed while watching my tape of "The View" yesterday, where the mostly-Democratic panelists were trying not to crow too viciously, as the youngest panelist, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, is a conservative Republican. For once, I say kudos to Elisabeth, who kept her mouth shut about the election results in general but gave props to Nancy Pelosi and her ascension to Speaker of the House, which she called a big win/step for women, rightly so. Like her or not, Pelosi is now the most powerful woman in the country, second in line to the presidency (after the vice president).

I think those of us who voted clearly showed the current administration how pissed off we are about the situation in Iraq. To his credit, Bush finally fired Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in response to the nation's dissatisfaction. A few more heads must roll, and a clear exit from Iraq must be determined before we're on our way to being satisfied. How many more Americans must die in someone else's civil war before we wise up and get the hell out? How much must our worldwide approval rating decrease before we start earning back the respect we should have maintained all along? There are a lot of things that need fixing, but the message has finally been delivered. Let's hope it works.