Monday, December 29, 2008

Cozy by the Fire

Miss Mabel always loves to curl up by the fire and our recent dip in temperatures has given her the opportunity to partake of her great joy.

It always freaks me out that she likes being so close.
She will jump up and run to me after the logs settle but I tell her it's OK and she goes right back.

The second night of cold, it started pouring rain so I had to bring her outside bed in. I arrange them so I have a place to stand when tossing logs on the fire... and that's the spot she picks to snooze.

At some point, she did realize that her bed would be more comfy. I love how she spreads herself across both, like some rogue dog is going to run in and nap on her bed.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seven Pounds of Doubt on Ben Button's Revolutionary Road

I got a cold Christmas Day. And I was lucky enough to get my mitts on dvds for some just released movies.

Seven Pounds (HUGE SPOILER ALERT HERE!): I actually saw this in the theatre last week with a buddy from film school. I've always been one of those annoying people that can spot holes in a plot a mile off. I'm known to lean over to my movie going partner and whisper, "The butler did it."

I was looking forward to this because there was supposedly some big surprise that would keep me riveted to my seat. There was no surprise; it was not riveting. Maybe if they hadn't told us in the first two minutes that Will Smith's character would commit suicide before the end of the movie, I could have gotten into it. But they did and I didn't.

Within twenty minutes, I was squirming in my seat and had to ask my friend, "You know where this is going?" "Yep." "Bored?" "Yep."

Once there was no mystery, there was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the acting. Will Smith is tortured in his roll of a man who killed seven people texting while driving...including his beloved wife. Is it his best roll? Not by a mile.

Rosario Dawson was heartbreaking as a heart patient and this the only performance of Woody Harrelson's that I've ever enjoyed.

Smith's character proceeds through the movie checking out the seven people he will leave his organs to - making sure they are "good people." And midway through, you easily figure out how he's going to off himself. But the other huge plot hole for me is - I think they reject organs from a poisoned patient...

Wait for video on this one but, if you are jonesing for a good Will Smith flick, see Six Degrees of Separation. I first saw this movie because I loved the play and adore Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland. I thought Smith was surely miscast in his first film role. He stole the show and I came away a die hard fan.

If you would rather see a movie with a less transparent plot and you are one of the seven people on the planet who hasn't seen it, rent The Sixth Sense.

is the star of all the movies I've seen. The actors are spot on, the scenery is perfect as are the costumes. There is nothing bad to say here. I probably wouldn't have seen this in the theatre - the subject matter of a priest sexually abusing a child is disturbing to me. And yet it is wonderful and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. I usually hate stories with vague endings that let the viewer make up their own mind but this film is just beautiful.

Meryl Streep is simply on fire and certainly deserves another Oscar for this one.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was annoyingly long at almost three hours! Thank goodness I watched in stages from the comfort of my sofa! I can't imagine being in an uncomfortable theatre for that long!

The story is about a baby born an old man who ages backwards, getting younger as time marches on. While Cate Blanchett always brings wonder and depth and honesty to any performance, Brad Pitt's performance was flat. I tried to chalk it up to being born with wisdom - no need to calm down as you age. But there was never any passion or fire in him even when he won his long lost love nor when he had to leave her.

New Orleans serves as a backdrop and it was lovely to see the Old Gal in her glory. But the whole movie feels like some kind of would-be Forrest Gump. I can actually envision the studio pitch session with the lame ass studio executive listening intently: "Yeah man, it's the new Gump, only instead of Alabama, he's from New Orleans. Instead of running across the country and meeting presidents, he'll be a sailor traveling the world meeting interesting people. Instead of being an army hero, his tug boat will get commissioned into the war... Instead of 'life is like a box of chocolates' we've got......" OK, here is where I get lost! The catch phrase we're supposed to take away is COMPLETELY FORGETTABLE! It's along the lines of "You never know what's comin'" I didn't think the end of this movie was comin'.

Button is a CGI (computer generated imagery) wonder and will certainly win awards for that but it is long and tedious and despite the promised tear jerker, I only teared up a bit when he was speaking about what he wanted for his daughter. My advice: wait for video.

Revolutionary Road celebrates the first pairing of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio since Titanic. They do have a chemistry about them. Winslet's character mourns her once hoped for life as an actress, dreams cast aside when she got pregnant. DiCaprio's character is a guy just doing the right thing, working at a job he hates to take care of the family.

The movie rarely shows them in happy times so we have no idea what really binds them together. We just see the ugly, nasty fights which are really sad and mean. And the make-ups are even stranger. After a horrible fight, he will return home or wake up and she's in the kitchen and dressed and cooking and forcing happiness. "Hello dear, how would you like your eggs?"

It's an astounding juxtaposition and made me wonder if she was bi-polar or just one of those many 1950's housewives who "needed" barbiturates.

The couple comes up with a plan to recapture some of the glory of their youth, before the kids and the house in the burbs. Then an unexpected pregnancy derails it. I found myself wondering about how many people must have their lives, hopes and dreams dashed in this way.

The movie is a sad commentary on marriage but all of the performances were wonderful. The most annoying part, aside from the downer of a plot, was Winslet's wardrobe. While the other women were dressed in the 1950's, Winslet's character didn't seem to know from whence decade she came. It made me wonder if the wardrobe department or director Sam Mendes (Winslet's real life hubby) gave the actress a little too much say in the costumes.

If you can handle a depressing plot during the most depressing time of the year, this movie is worth a trip to the mega-plex for the acting alone. Kathy Bates is also terrific in her role as a neighbor and realtor.

Creekhiker's Guide to Knowing When You're Really Sick

You are really sick when you look at the clock, thinking it must be close to bedtime and realize it's not even dark yet.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's NOT Holiday Malaise

... but I just can't seem to get any project, including blogging, completed. I've taken photos for the blog: Mabel curled up by the first fire of the season, the creek flowing again after our recent storms, a new hiking trail that I can't get out of my system, Mabel hiking with Kat's Chihuahua, Twinkie. But I can't make myself upload them.

I have undertaken other large projects: starting my taxes, giving away the thousands of rubber stamps I own to an art school, holiday baking, and cleaning out my closets. I do a bit of this and a bit of that, but complete nothing.

I am just in a state of utter relaxation. Once I realized I really can't afford to see the family and that no one would be hiring this week...and once I made my peace with the fact my future is about to change drastically - just not right-this-minute, all worry and hurry left my body.

And as luck would have it, a new book arrived. I've been a huge fan of the Daily Coyote blog for quite some time and Shreve Stockton has written a book. And while I expected it to be more of her breath-taking photos, I found instead a wonderful love story with messages about love, loss, healing, and so much more. I simply can't put it down.

So, I've been going on long walk abouts with the pup, sometimes in the rain. And coming home to a roaring fire and curling up with a good book. I feel like this is the best Christmas I've had in a long, long time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mama Drama

Plans for Christmas have me down...there's so much drama poured into one freaking day and it's really driving me nuts!

Excuse the vagueness but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings....

Party #1 was hosting at her big, chi chi house in the hills... it's been planned for months. Not my favorite place to go... catered food... but it's where my California family will be, so I go.

I would much rather be at my BFF's sister's house. Her family is so laid back and easy and everyone brings the best good food and we laugh and sing and just catch up. This usually takes place on Christmas Eve and we don't go because the ex hub goes with my godson and we all find it hard to watch him drink and it's more important that the godchild be with all his cousins.

Welp, Party #1 up and cancels Christmas two weeks ago because she's depressed none of her many kids will be home for the holidays. All are married with small kids and the closest one lives 2500 miles away. So she and hubby are going to a resort. Never mind the eight other people she'd invited over...

So I'm thinking we're free to go to BFF's sister's... but NOOOOOO. We somehow got committed to go to Party #2's house... people I barely hang out and bake cookies. Excuse me but being with strangers is NOT my idea of fun.

I could go to Party #3, close to home, good friend with drop in potluck. Only, her friends are all old hippies and I won't have finished eating before the illegal substances come out. It's one thing to be with one friend smoking something questionable but to be with 20 when I'm the only abstainer makes me more than uncomfortable.

OR... Party #4, another close friend who will have her grown kids with her for the first time since her nasty divorce a decade ago. And her drama queen father will be there too which will mean this won't be easy or laid back either.

But then, Party #1's hubby calls up. Wifey is all depressed over the kidlets not coming. And suddenly she wants family around so her hubby asks BFF to come out to the resort. (I wouldn't be included in this one.) No way, not gonna happen thanks to the godson coming and going over the holidays BUT now, BFF is expected to throw Christmas brunch!

All this back and forth has my head spinning and I'm really thinking if I had known I would have this much Mama Drama, I would have opted for Christmas with my own mother!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hardly Seems Worth the Effort

As I hold a spoon crusted over with garlic cheese grits for Mabel to lick... and lick and lick and...

It occurs to me, she's burning more calories licking that spoon than she will take in from the little bit of food she scrapes off it. And still she licks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chicken On Chicken

I know I mentioned that I rarely puke..which is why it is so shocking to my system when I do. But the thing that bugs me the most is the aversion to what ever food came up that follows and seems to last for ages.

When I was 11, a family friend we were visiting over Christmas in Washington D.C. bought these light, fluffy cinnamon / sugar/ crumb donuts. I over-indulged and to this day will only eat a Cinnamon sugar donut if it is the last in the box and I'm starving with no other options.

Around age 13, I biked over to the Dog N Suds in McComb one day that my mom and stepfather had to work late. I think it was the first time I ever ate in a restaurant by myself. I got my favorite: a hot dog. When it came, the dog was wrinkled and weird. I remember thinking something was wrong with it. I ate it anyway. It was years before I could eat a hot dog again.

I remember around age 18, being on an overnight church trip in the woods. All they fed us was hot dogs! I nibbled and swallowed and was so grossed out. I shoved the dog out of my bun and ate just the bread. I was in my twenties and living in California before someone taught me what wonderful hot dogs they have a Costco before I became a fan again. About a dozen years to get over that one!

New Year's Day of my 19th year, Mom had plans with friends and left me sitting at the large bar that separated our huge den and kitchen, gabbing on the phone with my childhood best friend Della. Della and I could have marathon conversations even after spending and entire weekend together! As Mom left, she placed a soup bowl full of her amazing toasted spiced pecans in front of me. Della and I talked for three hours and I ate and ate. The whole bowl was gone when I got off the phone. Too rich. Too spicy. And to this day, I never eat more than what I can pinch with my thumb and first two fingers. They're so delicious, it kills me to show such restraint. And it offends my mother.

And now, 26 years after that episode, I had to get sick on the most benign staple of my winter existence: chicken soup. I LOVE CHICKEN SOUP! I had bought a case of it at Costco the day before!!! That's how much I love it. I need a case to get me through winter!

But my aversion extends well past soup. I eat chicken most of the time. I live near an El Pollo Loco - a wonderful grilled chicken place with tasty, healthy and inexpensive choices. And there are three local places that also make incredible grilled chicken that I visit regularly.

And Costco has sumptuous roasted whole chickens for under five bucks. I stood in front of such a chicken counter last week and they were crating up the freshly roasted birds and people were queuing up, waiting. I gave myself a little pep talk: You love the roasted chicken. You can eat for days off the chicken and Mabel loves it. You can freeze some in little baggies for lunch. You love this. It's succulent and delicious. Just smell that....

As I was having the conversation with my head, my body turned the cart and was walking away before I even finished!

This CANNOT last for a decade. I know in my head, I had the stomach flu that so many here have had. It's no coincidence that the friend I saw Milk with got it the next day. We were both so busy, we didn't have dinner together, meeting at the movie theatre at 8.

So I keep trying to rationalize and be an adult about all of this. But, in the meantime, I think I'm gonna drop off that case of soup at a food bank.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Movie Review: Milk

The night I got the stomach flu, I was out with a friend to see a preview of Milk, starring Sean Penn. The movie is so amazing and I need to issue a Spoiler Alert for the simple reason, I doubt this movie will even get the play time it so deserves in middle America.

The Gus Van Sant helmed film about the life of seventies gay activist Harvey Milk is an incredible and surprisingly timely story. The casting is uncanny: all three major characters (Milk, Councilman Dan White and Mayor Moscone) are played by dead ringer actors (Penn, Josh Brolin and my favorite song and dance man, Victor Garber respectively).

The movie opens as Harvey Milk, living in the closet in New York picks up a younger man, played by James Franco. The two end up moving to San Fransisco and starting a business Castro Camera.

At first, conservative Southern Belle that I am, I was a bit concerned about the sex scenes... this was San Fransisco in the seventies: pre-AIDS, let's sleep with everybody, freewheeling seventies. And Van Sant is not known for his discretion. But they were really pretty mild. There is one tender moment early in the movie with Fraco's Scott Smith character sitting on a ledge in front of the camera store. Sean Penn as Milk was squatting on the ground and the two were making out. It felt so tender and personal that I felt as like I was some voyeur watching a very private moment.

While the Castro was quickly becoming a mostly gay community, homosexuals were still regularly beaten and even barred from some businesses. Milk quickly organized the gay community. They would boycott businesses that refused to do business with them. Even business owners who initially shunned homosexuals could not deny the power of their dollars.

Milk started running for public office by approaching groups who lacked representation: gays, hippies in the Height and the elderly. Still he lost several times. All the while, he has clearly become a leader in Castro and gay community thanks to a fight against Prop 6 and Anita Bryant. Prop 6 made firing of gay teachers mandatory. Even if you weren't gay but supported them, you could be fired.

How timely that the gay community is fighting a similar battle with Prop 8 here in California and in other states that refuse to give them the right to marry...even though a marriage provides different rights than a civil union would.

After one such loss, Milk gathers his inner circle and asks them if they are out. Most nod in agreement.

Then he asks again: Are you out to your parents, your siblings, your friends, co-workers, neighbors, your boss? Are you out to everyone you know? The room grows quiet. He hands a phone to one man and says, "If they know one of us, they vote with us.

I can't go into the ending and Milk's murder...I got ill and missed the last twenty minutes and will the see the movie again for that. But what I saw was beautiful and amazing.

Mr. Milk, I know many of you. I care about my friends and I love them deeply. I'm proud to stand beside you and vote for equal rights for ALL!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lipstick: Party of Two

My best friend is a complete and utter goofball... which might explain to you why she's my best friend. She's always open to adventure and we always seem to find one when we're together. An ordinary trip to the mall (that alone is pretty rare for us) can find us at a Polynesian dance show. Or a drive to her sister's might find us stealing a handful of avocados from an orchard. And simple things can be sublime... and the sublime can get ridiculous.

Today she phoned with a rather funny request.

"I want you to come over for coffee but I have an indulgence I want you to honor."


"You have to wear your reddest lipstick."


"You have to wear your reddest lipstick. I'm in a mood!"

"I will only wear lipstick if you take me Starbucks." (A deceptive ploy on my part. I hate her coffee...It puts hair on my chest!)

"But I made apple..."

I cut her off. "I'll be right over."

The BFF's Hungarian apple bars are stuff of legend at Christmastime around here. Pop into her house anytime during the month of December and you're likely to find her grating apples, cooking apples or baking apple bars. They are always wonderful. Her first seasonal batch was disappointing (to her). The apples were way too soft. I should've known she would be jonesing for another batch...

As I raced into the bathroom, I was dialing her number.

"Let me understand. Does this Lipstick Party require me to wear a clean shirt or a bra?"

She laughed and said no.

I dug through my little bag of most worn makeup. No red lipstick. I searched the little tray of "back up makeup." Still no red. I dug deep into my makeup drawer of stuff I never wear and started putting all the tubes of "not red" into the bathroom sink. I realized I buy the same shade of neutral beige over and over and over.

Finally I found a tube of something passable. It was more dried blood than red. She looked oh-so-happy when I arrived. She had Christmas music playing...trying force another mood. We laughed about how good we look wearing such bright lipstick and how she too buys the same neutral shade over and over.

And we drank her strong coffee and we ate too many apple bars and for an hour we just talked and laughed. I think it's one the best Christmas gifts I ever got.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Sweet Nurse

I forgot to mention what a sweet little nurse Mabel was during my illness.

The first time I was sick, she came running, curious to see what was in that trashcan Momma was holding. Then...she saw me putting stuff into that trashcan and she ran to the bedroom door and cried! Oh honey, if only Momma could've run away WITH you!

After that round, I decided I needed to be on the bathroom side of the bed...Mabel's side. I rearranged my pillows, got the t.v. remote, the overhead light remote, my little box of sinus sprays, lotion, tissues, etcetera (Good grief! I need a lot of crap to make it through the night!) all within reach. I got in and motioned to Mabel where I wanted her to be.

She always goes into my tiny bathroom to be able to have a two step "running start" which means: head into bathroom, turn left into the shower so her heiny fits by the toilet, pivot until facing the bed and LEAP! (Now I realize why Mabel loves going to her granny's in Baton Rouge: Mom has a 22 foot long bedroom! Mabel can actually run to jump on the bed.)

But as I lay there dying that night, I was appalled that she was planning to leap on the bed. But then she jumped so gingerly, I hardly felt her. She was quite confused and actually tried to curl up in the six inches of the bed closest to the bathroom. Finally she moved.

We would repeat all this after the next round. I fell asleep a for a bit and realized that I needed to start re-hydrating. I got up for some chamomile, brushed my teeth for the fifth time that night and crawled back into bed. This time, Mabel went straight to her new spot.

I was so proud and told her so. She crawled on her tummy to get closer, sniffing the air. She sniffed and sniffed and zeroed in on my mouth! She took a big whiff and blew her nose up in the air. With that, she looked at me so pitifully and took her paw and placed it carefully on my shoulder.

She spent the weekend sharing my bed generously instead of crowding me for space. And she was so obedient on every walk. In truth, she was the only company I could have tolerated for the the past few days.

I'm so blessed to have her...

That's the funny thing I've found about rescue dogs. People will commend you for rescuing a dog but in truth, all I've done is give her a home. It was she that rescued me.