Monday, November 28, 2005

The New Young Old

When one hears the word "Grandma", certain images come to mind: A kind, loving old woman with spun sugar white hair who bakes apple pies and talks about church. She's big, soft and sends you checks for your birthday and pinches your cheeks. Oh, and homemade cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. That sweet lady, though still very much around, has grown a new layer, a fascinating swaggery stripe that becomes her. She's 70+ going on 55 and she hasn't got time for you this weekend, she's booked. You can pinch your own goddam cheeks.

I recall my grandmothers, in their 70s, slightly hunched and politely making sure everyone had enough to eat. My mother, age 72, does that as well, befitting her Midwestern training, but she also has the jukebox playing, or the Superbowl on, and definitely has plenty of booze on hand. She does all this after working a 40-hour-a-week job and acting as a very busy membership chairman for a seniors single club. (They used to be called "Life Begins at 40" until they realized all their children were 40. It was unanimously changed to "Young at Heart . . . But Older in Other Places.")

She loves her life and it loves her back, no outside assistance necessary. The doddering, passive "whatever you decide is fine" granny is going extinct. It's not about loving the kids or grandkids any less, it's more about building one's life beyond them.

I recently spoke with a friend who described her mother (also age 72) in a similar fashion. Her mom had recently moved to Cincinnati to be closer to another daughter and grandchildren and, having come from a California beach town, she dreaded it. She has since joined a singles group and is now racking up social adventures, including making out in front of bars at 2 a.m. "Apparently," my friend said, "they find her exotic because she's from the West, has been a fashion designer and has smoked pot." At this point, the local daughter complains that grandma is no longer readily available for babysitting, that she often has (ahem) "plans." Mind you, the cookies still get baked, but on her schedule.

I still credit Joan Collins for earning us ladies a sorely-needed extra decade when she posed in a sell-out issue of Playboy at age 50. Though her peers may not admit it, they have unwittingly taken the gesture to heart. Indeed, there are no shortage of role models. When my mother complained about being an old lady one day I calmly informed her that she was two days younger than Yoko Ono who, having just come out with a new album, was currently being played in all the nightclubs of Europe. This seemed to quiet her a bit.

And it's not just women! William Shatner (age 72) how do I love thee? So many ways! Leonard Cohen (age 71!) still wearing his perfect blue raincoat. Willie Nelson! The only guy to smoke a doobie on the roof of the White House! Woody Allen! Talented and twisted mo-fo! Even those 70+ers that have passed on, (Johnny and June, RIP) continued creating at an impressive pace despite their many years on the road.

Once again, as I face 40 (yes, a theme is developing) I feel relief that I do not have to conform to a blue rinse and country ducks-decor in my kitchen. Strangely enough, it's always the friggin' boomers who get credit for changing societal expectations but these folks are the pre-pioneers who quietly turned their backs on stereotypes. Furthermore, they are less needy and self-involved, which is why I'm proclaiming them: "My Favorite Generation of the Week."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Home Again

It's always bittersweet to return to your home town. Ghosts everywhere. Vague recollections, startling memories and everything in between come barreling around every corner. Sitting here in my mother's house, sleeping in my old room, I suddenly become aware of time, how it cruelly marches on and makes way for today.

Though I do not turn 40 until next month, already I can hear myself speak the language of a senior citizen. "See that Barnes & Noble? When I was a kid, it was a really cool drive-in and we used to sneak our friends in the trunk and . . . " Everything is always better when you were a kid, never now and certainly never in the future.

My girlhood bedroom is now my mother's office, from which I type this post and remnants of me are all but erased. There is still the giant tropical beach mural, necessary to cover the damage done from my Wall of Dedication to Shaun Cassidy. There is a small plaster cheerleader statue, which I painted myself, yet feel nothing toward, and so she remains. There is a bulletin board which once held concert tickets, playbills and secret love notes, now covered with photos of The Grandchild, Robbie.

The feeling of the house takes me back so quickly, it's somewhat unsettling, like I am visiting a movie set. A friend once commented that my mother's house was a bona-fide "Americana Museum" and that is plenty accurate. Old family photographs, a ragtime piano, antiques from North Dakota, framed Doris Day albums and state centennial plates are arranged with a definite national pride in our culture and history. I feel patriotic just walking in the door.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, so much to be thankful for, so . . I guess I'm starting with my mother's house. Her presence fills the walls with so much love and the kitchen bursts with food - I was truly fortunate to come from such a blessed place.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When Johnny Met June - Hollywood Gets It Right

Never before have I been so nervous to screen a film but in the case of "Walk the Line", I looked forward to and dreaded the date, fearful that Hollywood might somehow caricaturize or disrespect the memory of the late Johnny Cash, who meant so much to so many. For the film's promotional TV trailers, the music was some godawful generic modern rock clearly selected by someone in marketing – not a good sign. However, I'm gratified to report that the Man in Black has officially been bio-picked with great care and respect.

Rather than squeezing over 70 years of the man's life into two hours, director James Mangold and screenwriter Gill Dennis, focused on the pivotal years when Cash was dark, troubled and on his way down following quick success. Balancing domestic demands with the highs of touring resulted in a sleepless, angry troublemaker addicted to amphetamines, hardly the spiritual grandfatherly figure that Rick Rubin re-delivered to us in the '90s with the Grammy-winning American Recordings series.

Joaquin Phoenix aptly depicts a young Cash, tightly coiled, pacing like a panther and full of a heat he himself doesn't understand. Phoenix knew little of Cash prior to filming and had never played guitar or sang yet he quickly got up to speed. Same goes for Reese Witherspoon, who spent months learning the auto harp and researching June Carter, the love of Johnny's life and the woman who ultimately brought him salvation. The on-screen chemistry is palpable and important, not just for entertainment sake, but because the passion that Johnny and June had for one another was known the world over. Furthermore, all music scenes were actual live performances lending the production a powerful ring of truth . . . and fire, of course.

Other notable performances include the feature debut of singer Shelby Lynne, nearly unrecognizable as a timid Kerry Cash, John's mother. Also, Dallas Roberts, as Sam Phillips, delivers an unforgettable monologue that proves pivotal for young John. Robert Patrick also turns in an immovable portrayal of Ray Cash, John's proud, unfeeling father.

"Walk the Line" deftly revisits the birth of rock-and-roll and reflects this magical era without sugarcoating it. When we see John touring with Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, June Carter and Roy Orbison, we also see them acting as their own roadies and drivers – humble and impervious to the legends they would soon become. The physical grind of it all and what these young punks risked amidst the conformity of '50s, against the backdrop of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Nat King Cole, is part of the story here.

When John becomes hooked on pills (usually chased with alcohol or morphine) he becomes fully, achingly human and it's not pretty. The film leads up to the seminal event, the recording of "Live at Folsom Prison", a huge success, outselling even the Beatles. If it t'weren't for the fully armed intervention of the Carter family (even mother Maybelle chased off riffraff with a rifle) Cash would not have much relevance today.

The real John and June spent many hours with the filmmakers and approved the final script though both passed before filming began. "Walk the Line" ends with their version of "Wastin' Time" which is something, once together, they never did.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Real Apology, At Last

Sincere apologies are rarely seen in the news these days. Apparently, no one has done anything wrong and that's why the world is so gol'darned perfect.

Which is why it was refreshing to see Philip Schuth, 53, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who was sentenced for attempted homicide, reckless endangerment and concealment of a corpse (that'd be his mother in the basement freezer for the last seven years) offer up a heartfelt apology:

"I apologize to Jennifer Garner and her pool boy Ben Affleck for involving them in my fantasies."

See? Goodness and sanity rule after all!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Quote of the Week

All business roads lead into China thesse days as they slowly kick our ass and take over the world. As a free market system spreads like wildfire, there are many here who understand the bometh that will rise. We may be America and all that but they are 1/6 of the world, period. And so, during his Asia tour, all awaited how the U.S. President would get along with the Chinse President Hu Jintao. So many could benefit from a strong bridge betweeen and so many lives lay in the hands of these two powerful men.

When a reporter suggested Bush had seemed unenthusiastic in his joint appearance with Hu, the president responded, "Have you ever heard of jet lag?"

Eyes on the ball, as usual, sir!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

History is a Tape Loop

Normally, I love re-runs and leftovers but for those of us who remembver the 70s, this deja vu is getting uncomfortable.

Today, Dick Cheney let loose a vitrolic tirade against critics who suggest the administration may have manipulated intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. "Political opportunists!" he spat. Normally the cool cucumber in the room - actuslly dead, some say - he exposed some frothy indignation, a sure sign of paranoia.

And speaking of Nixon, today also saw the release of 50,000 classified papers from Tricky Dick's era. The documents reveal that in 1970, President Nixon told the military to keep our whole bloody Cambodian incursion on the down low and just tell John Q. Public that it was merely supporting South Vietnamese troops.

What's extra creepy is that only about half the national security files from the Nixon era have now been made public. How long will it take us to find out the truth from the present administration?

Quite frankly, I just don't have that kind of time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blockage in the Right Ventricle

Back and forth we argue, the Reds and the Blues, the liberals and the conservatives. One lives by God and the other is just friends with Him. So many differences but what I've noticed lately is how the Right lacks a comprehension of satire.

It's as if there is a missing bone - while not necessary for total body function, it neverthless provides increased flexibility and movement. Does that mean those that embrace and appreciate satire for what it is, a mirror, are more highly evolved than those who do not?

Why, yes. Yes, it does.

If there was (is?) right-wing satire, what would it look like? Would it be like blue collar TV? No, because even that is smart enough to be self-effacing and done with great affection.

This has been the household subject of late. I offer that maybe it has to do with most creative types being pre-disposed to left-leaning ideals. Then, that creative minds are a pre-requisite to creating and/or enjoying this art form. Cousin Ryan built on this theory: "Since they can't create things, they need to be TOLD things," he said. "They're sheep, they wanna be led. Whether it's a God or a government or whatever."

Of course, it is this type of thinking that leads to that election-crushing disease known as Liberal Smugness. It is the distant cousin of the yawn-inducing behavior, We Know Statistics. Both are why the Left has nary a lick of power in this country.

Which is why it's so damn fun to watch Bush Meltdown 2005. Again, I am reminded how happy I am that Dubya won the last election, fair and square. Every mess we are in, he got us into. Kerry (or whomever we dug up) would've inherited it and then would have been blamed for the handling of it all, no matter what.

This way, it all remains on Bush's watch. All of it. Every drop of blood. When those history books get written, his name will be right there next to it and his memory will be tainted. If there is one thing Bush cares about, it's his Presidential legacy. (Followed closely by keeping tight abs, I'm sure.)

Ironically, the only time I remember feeling sorry for Bush is soon after we invaded Iraq and were coming up empty on finding certain weapons of, well, you know. At the annual White House Press Corps Dinner, traditionally an evening of rare hijinks, Bush screened a hi-larious video of himself searching under White House couch cushions and in closets for the gol'dern WMDs. Woo-wee, that there is funny stuff!

I be damned if the joke didn't fall flatter than a pancake. Crickets chirped. Tumbleweeds rolled by. Someone coughed. Against the backdrop of my day-to-day Bush-aimed rage, I had to admit, I felt a pang of sympathy. It's one thing to be the President of the United States and run the world into the ground but it's quite another to attempt comedy-disguised-as-what-it-is-mocking.

Strangely enough, at this year's dinner, First Fembot Laura Bush apparently brought down the house, playing it like a weary, sharp-tongued Dino to W's fumbling idiot Jerry. She joked about George being so rural-life clueless, he tried to milk the horses. Strange, but I can picture it.

So why am I not laughing?

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Cheery Little Note

Lord, just typing the word "devil" brings to mind the head of Dick Cheney, which is something I'd prefer on a plate.

More on him later.

I've just realized exactly how safe my world is. It faces the back of a baby hospital in the one of the wealthiest neighborhoods (I'm in rent control, people, calm down) in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Because the janitors and nurses are on strike (mostly in the morning, as luck would have it) and these are security-minded times, there is an armed guard at every entrace and exit, sometimes two.

One of these portals faces my apartment. Sporting a long black trenchcoat, leather gloves and the always-present wire, all he has to is stand outside my door and wait for threat to darken my door. If it does, he and twelve of his best buddies are going to put the smack down.

Still, as many of us know, society is just a ruse, a thin menbrane of pretension that we are not just a bunch of apes. I've closely watched apes in the wild and I've been to frat parties; I'm telling you, baseball caps, cell phones and lattes do not make us civilized. Especially as we continue to shit where we eat.

The worst part is, we've always been that way. The current adminstration is just one tiny chapter in several thousand years of short-sighted greed and relentless violence.

This is mainly the reason why I never really bought into the whole "Peace on Earth" business. There will never be peace on Earth until humans have offed themselves completely - it will be quiet then. Still, the sentiment does make awfully nice Christams cards.

OVERHEARD: "People always think it's so romantic that this old couple would still be holding hands but they don't realize it's also to keep one another from falling down."
--heard in the physical therapy room at Sutter Hospital from a 90-year-old woman

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A World of My Own Making

It's official: I'm delusional. I thought it was just Bush & Co. but apparently, I have my own cardboard-shaped ideas about how the world really is.

I recently got back a batch of photos I'd taken in Wyoming, the state with open spaces, very few humans and an annual budget surplus - utopia, basically. As usual, I took far too many photos and because I remain standing on an analog river bank looking nervously (somewhat enviously) across at digital, I'm still dealing with negatives and prints.

During my stay at Bitterroot Ranch, the most magical part of the day came when 180 or so horses were let out of the yard and allowed to gallop in one big herd up the hill to the grassy butte that overlooks the property. There, they spent the night, munching away, sleeping standing up and enjoying the change of scenery. The enthusiasm they displayed was not unlike Fred Flinstone at the rock quarry whistle, signaling the end of a workday - skep-di-de-do-dah, yabba-dabba-do and all that.

Imagine my dismay when shots of this equine spectacle were delivered to me with white lines running through them, apparently a machine malfunction of some sort. All these glistening beautiful animals framed by ugly white lines; I was so disappointed and annoyed.

I took them back to the photo lab, pointed out the damage, accepted their apologies and came back a few days later to collect. "I hate to break this to you," said Helen, the kind, patient woman behind the counter, "but our lab tells us these are actual power lines. Here, look at the negatives."

It was true. My god, how is it I never saw them? So strange that my mind's eye had clung to a vision so visciously that my actual eyeballs just went along for the ride. Oh, I suppose even the good folks in Wyoming need telephone communication but at the expense of my clear-sky fantasy? I mean, what happened to smoke signals?

I guess we only see what we want to see which is why mirrors and I have never gotten along very well. Such determined realists, they are always throwing facts in my face while I prefer the glossed, edited ideals of my recollections. Reality seems to be one of those thorned beasts that gets uglier every year and, short of Photoshop and Blanche Dubois lighting tricks, I'm woefully short on battle tactics.

Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Extended Broken-Wing Report

Tonight was a big night for me. Not only did I manage to make own ponytail but I can finally reach my wounded arm around to shave my armpits. Just in time too, for it was starting to feel normal and next thing you know, Bill O'Reilly wouldv'e called for a boycott of me.

As I swung my machete through the thick underbrush, I hummed the "Star-Spangled Banner" and thought how great it is to be an American Woman once again - shiny, smooth and not the least bit natural.

Next week, however, is the big goal: My first professional gig as a photographer! A woman is paying for my trip to NYC to shoot her daughter's bat-mitvah party. I'm hoping that my elbow bends enough to get that all-important index finger up to the shutter button . . . .

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another Drunken Posting

Never a good idea and yet here it is, edited for your safety and sanitary protection: My Second Official Drunken Posting.

The evening was unforgettable. I spent it with Pedro, a man born in Portugal raised in Brazil who was celebrating the one-year anniversary of his American citizenship. This will be a short entry as it is taking so long to correct all the drunken spelling mistakes.

After visiting (and celebrating) all the expansive wonders of the newly revamped DeYoung Musueum, we retired to Solstice, a friendly bar at California and Divisadero, to discuss politics, ad naseum.

I consider it a personal victory that I managed to convince him of the reality of the political game. It came in the form of Gavin Newsom v. Matt Gonazalez for the mayoral race. Obviously, Newsom won but the argument continues in this very liberal town. It is a harsh reality about how the politcal system works and how we need a savvy player on our side (with balls! how novel!) that won him over.

The bartenders celebrated by offering up several shots (on the house) that simulated the color of blood spilled for the American cause for the big event. I don't know what to say.

Luckily, Pedro is married, otherwise, I would have to rethink my move to the South and how my plan to infiltrate the political system there is the only course to my salvation.