Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Freakin' Christmas

Another year, another Christmas. I enjoy parts of it, but lay wasted by others. I am delighted that the shopping is over, and the wrapping completed, even for the folks I exchange with after the holidays.

I spent Christmas Eve, as I always do, with my friends, the Mocklers, and their huge extended family. They are amazing. I always say that they are such a pleasure to hang out with, as they are one of the few families I know that genuinely enjoy spending time with each other. Some family members try to tell me I'm wrong, that they're dysfunctional. Uh-uh. That would be MY family!

We spent Christmas Eve just enjoying each others' company, along with the wonderful food produced by the clan. I really should have been born Italian. There was so much love in the house, even more when I found out that daughter Michelle was expecting baby number two. Everyone is so affectionate, and I just love being with them.

I finally remembered to bring along something I've promised for years. This is a hard one, so follow me: Patty's brother-in-law, Kevin, was once married to a girl, Eileen, with whom I went to elementary and junior high school. They divorced, and I never really saw Eileen again, but I always saw her kids on Christmas Eve. I kept promising to bring our junior high yearbook, and finally remembered to do so this year. Unfortunately, son Kevin Jr. was out snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, but her daugher, Keira, was thrilled to see the yearbook. Her older brother took a picture of her photo in the yearbook and emailed it to Keira's computer so she could torture her mom with it today. Truth be told, my photo was worse, but I'm not the one being tortured!

Today, Christmas, was pretty easy. I spent the night waking up with the beginnings of a cold, but managed to knock most of it out with Airborne. I then went to my Aunt Judy's and saw her family. They came with me to my grandmother's house, where we had the traditional Christmas dinner, including the Swedish meatballs I made (with pal Marna) last week. I also enjoyed the traditional frozen caramel chocolate candy fight with some of my relatives. It was a short evening, but that was good. I am a bit tired and look forward to spending the last few moments of Christmas with my furry fiends, um, friends. Cousin Christine bought them a stocking filled with catnip, and they immediately found it when I unloaded the car. I'm hoping that will make them sleep through the night. Actually, they will probably have kitty munchies and will pester me for food earlier than usual. Oh well.

The Tragedy of Anthony Perkins and Berry Berenson

A strange night to be writing about the actor Anthony Perkins, but I'm going through Season 1 of "Saturday Night Live," and I've just gotten to the show he hosted, number 15. It reminded me of how much suffering the actor and his family have gone through, astonishing, and such a difficult legacy for his two sons.

Consider: Perkins, son of a stage and film actor, had his greatest fame in the movie "Psycho." Later efforts never really lived up to his early triumph. Though long suspected (and then admitted) a bisexual, he married model/actress Berenthia "Berry" Berenson. She had an even more impressive family tree, which included designer Elsa Schiaperelli, along with a well-known art critic, and sister/model/actress Marissa Berenson. Berry and Anthony produced two sons and remained married until Perkins' death from AIDS. It has never been established -- nor do we really need to know -- how he contracted this disease. Some years later, after son Oz (named for Perkins' father, Osgood) started making his mark as a supporting "geek " in movies such as "Legally Blonde," Berry died on September 11, 2001, a passenger on the American Airlines flight from Boston, which was the plane that hit the first (North) tower of the World Trade Center.

I cannot imagine this much tragedy affecting one family, and have always felt the need to express the sorrow I feel for them. I certainly don't know them, but I have a lot of empathy for them, as no one deserves this much sorrow. Well, okay, there are some that do deserve it, but from what I've read and researched, the Perkins/Berenson family did not.

I've been mulling this entry around for a while now, and would probably still be mulling it if not for the fact that I saw the Anthony Perkins-hosted "SNL" tonight. I guess I've been thinking about it since 9/11, when I learned that Berry Berenson was one of the victims. No media outlet really reported on the fullness of her life, and I felt she deserved that. She was truly a courageous woman.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Greatest Kids in the World

Those who know me well know that I usually prefer to spend time with adults over kids. I do not turn to mush when presented with a baby. When they are at an age when they can speak and be reasoned with, my attitude softens. Especially if they're nicely behaved. Call me a Grinch, call me what you will, but that's simply the way I am. Of course there are exceptions, but none so exceptional as the children of Katy and Scott.

Scott's my twin, but that's not the reason why their kids are so spectacular (well, maybe a teensy bit...). The simple fact of the matter is that Karl, Shannon and Mary Elizabeth have been raised properly, with a lot of love, a fair amount of discipline (more than most these days), and a lot of respect. They are well behaved and polite, but even the most well behaved kids can sometimes be...well, kids. However, a quick look or a word from one of their parents, and they toe the line. Immediately. They know what will and what will not be tolerated. (Heck, they even listen to me!)

Katy and Scott have also created an ideal environment for their children. They supervise homework, practicing of various music lessons, and so much more. Total involvement with the kids. All accomplished with a lot of love. Believe me, it shows.

The kids had their Winter Piano Recital a couple of weeks ago, and I was there with bells on. Third year in a row. That in itself should be an indicator of how special these kids (and their parents) are to me. Naturally, they were the most talented in the bunch, and I enjoyed hearing how their piano skills have improved. After helping their teacher (also a family friend) clean up, we all went out to dinner (thanks, Scott!). It should be no surprise after having read this far that all three kids were a pleasure to dine with, unlike so many of those horror shows you see when some families dine out in public. Now that the kids are getting older, it's possible for them to have overnight visits with trusted relatives and friends. Karl will be coming to my place soon, and I plan to take him for his first meal at The Cheesecake Factory (he loves cheesecake!), and then hang out, exploring other common interests, like trumpet playing. I have lots of music to introduce him to, and a DVD or two I'm sure he'd enjoy watching. We'll have a fine time, and I'm looking forward to it.

This family will never need the help of Jo "Supernanny" Frost. In fact, I bet she would learn a few things if she spent a few days with them. I know she'd be impressed.

Christmas Is Very Nearly Here

One more day of work and I'm outta here until January 2. Yay. My brain was about to turn into mush. I need a break, if only to get motivated to store or throw out some of the crap that has built up in my life. I took a quick look at what I could see of the kitchen table and noticed that at least one of the piles is totally made up of catalogs and a few magazines. They're going out. The same goes for the front hallway table (I really don't need to keep those MRI films on the top, do I?), plus all the statements and other nonsense I continue to get from my brokerage account. I don't look at them, and I don't need to, so long as Uncle Bill is managing my nest egg. I'm going to have to bring in all those statements to the office and make use of the shredder, I guess. Normally, I tear sensitive-type mail up and place it in the same bag I use for cleaning the cat litter, and that seems to have stymied any wanna-be thieves, but this is months and months of accumulation. Grr.

There are also plenty of DVDs and CDs that need attention/filing, but those piles just seem to grow and grow. It's incredible to think that I have no space to properly store them (i.e., in a fashion that would permit me easy access).

This is starting to sound more like "my apartment is a freaking mess" rant than a "welcome, Christmas, Christmas Day" paeon. One more gift to purchase tonight, conveniently at Kohl's, which is next to my gym, where Ivy will be kicking my butt tonight. Then the wrapping frenzy, locked away from the cats, who are no help at all. Particularly Scraps, who loves to jump into the sheets of wrapping paper, destroying them in the process. I have not been able to buy bows for wrapped presents since going out on my own (in 1987!) and adopting the first cat who belonged to me and me alone, Frisco. He thought they were great chew toys and fun to bat around. After people tired of getting gifts with pre-chewed bows on top, complete with cat saliva, I gave up. Subsequent furry roommates, strangely enough, also shared Frisco's attitude towards bows. (Nowadays, if I should need one for a couple of the gifts going out to my family's gathering, I steal a few along the way while visiting my aunt. She pretends not to notice.) I'm beginning to think that my first cat, Miouki (shared with my mother) was a saint, as my mother always produced elaborately wrapped gifts, none with cat saliva or any other evidence of cat-assisted wrapping. Then again, Miouki might have attempted it once and been severely chastised, which would have prevented future misadventures. My mother was very fussy about her wrapping, so it would not surprise me in the least.

Speaking of cats and Christmas, this will be the fourth Christmas in a row without a tree. In 2003, Moochie and Scraps were less than a year old, so it was out of the question. In 2004, we had young Spunky Bastard, aptly named. No behavioral improvement has been noted since then, so no tree for us. I had considered giving it a shot this year, and right when that thought crossed my mind, I saw Spunky and Moochie sailing through the air, through the space in the banister, and continuing up the stairs. The tree would be placed near the bottom of the stairs. Um, no. Another treeless Christmas. Well, perhaps they will be mature enough next year. We can always hope.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"The Drowsy Chaperone"

This is a laugh riot that received about five Tony awards this year, and if you have the opportunity, go see it. It's a "show within a show" with a terrific cast. I went in with an admitted bias towards Danny Burstein, who plays Alfonso, as he is good friends with friends of my own. (He was robbed at the Tonys!) In fact, we had the best seats in the house, thanks to Danny's influence, so it was a grand night. Georgia Engel ("Georgette" on the classic "Mary Tyler Moore" show!) was astonishingly good, as was Tony-winner Sutton Foster, who performed a knock-out song-and-dance number with a couple of amazing costume changes and even a few cartwheels. Truly, there was not a dud in the bunch. If you're a fan of wild farce, you'll love this show. Even if you're not separated by one degree from Alfonso.