Status Report (And My First Resolution?)

31 12 2006

I’m home, although maybe that’s ambiguous since I just described Oklahoma as home. Well, anyway, I’m back in Philadelphia, just in time to spend New Year’s Eve alone. Woo hoo! Actually, I had a last-minute offer, but I was already on my way home from the airport…and I just didn’t think I had the wherewithal to head back out again. Of course, if the offer had come from a handsome, single man, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here, nursing my travel wounds.

Speaking of travel, I’d like to apologize to the cosmos for being such a cranky cuss today.  Traveling is stressful these days, of course, and I try to approach a day of travel in my best frame of mind.  At some point today, though, I lost my patience and resorted to mumbling under my breath and giving dirty looks.  We could blame the exceedingly (and often inexplicably) long lines, or the poor customer service, or the people who cut in line, or the woman who rolled a stroller over my foot, or any other number of small humiliations.  But, really, I should’ve just taken it all in as some sort of elaborate character-building exercise, I guess.

I resolve to do less eye-rolling in 2007.  At the airport, anyway.

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Home Cooking

28 12 2006

Stove
I had such good intentions. I was going to write all sorts of things while I was off for the holidays. Maybe I’ll still get to many, or at least some, of those things…. Unfortunately, I’ve just been too full to write much. Excuse me while I loosen my belt. Again. Ugh.

Yes, Mom is feeding me well. I had all the treats I missed at Thanksgiving—cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry salad, turkey, broccoli and cheese, pumpkin pie, fruit salad, and on and on and on. Mom’s Christmas Day meal was a parade of some of my personal favorites. Even the leftovers from that single meal have been filling (and delicious).

The food didn’t stop on Christmas Day. Since then, there have been breakfast waffles, crisp bacon, chili, nutty fudge, chocolate chip cookies, cranberry bread, and a half dozen other things that I’m already forgetting. And there’s more to come, too, I know. I overheard that another of my favorites, potato pancakes, is on an upcoming menu. There’s no way I can resist those.

I’ve surely gained at least five pounds on this visit. And, of course, Mom’s insistence that I eat (yes, she’s one of those moms) isn’t entirely to blame. I am, after all, an adult—although I’m not at all sure my mom recognizes that. I could say no to a second, or third, helping of cornbread stuffing. And I could’ve resisted my own (self-destructive?) impulse to pick up a half gallon of Braum’s peppermint ice cream. But that’s one of my personal holiday traditions. I couldn’t forgo the peppermint ice cream! (As always, it was way tasty. Braum’s is one of the things I really, really miss about Oklahoma.) I’m also determined to have some good barbecue and Tex-Mex while I’m here. Neither is readily available in Philly.

And the problem isn’t just all the food. I’m getting almost no exercise at all. My parents are elderly, and they move in slow motion when they decide to move at all. They don’t do too much, and they don’t particularly want me to spend my limited time here anywhere else…. So I’ve barely been out of the house. Today, sure, I took a 30-minute walk of the neighborhood (random aside: if I’d had a skateboard, I could’ve completely felt 13 again), but that didn’t help me work off much of my newly acquired heft.

Tomorrow I have to do better. Ugh.





Question of the Day: My Favorite Holiday Movie

26 12 2006

What’s your favorite holiday movie?

Desk Set
Desk Set
. Desk Set is a Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy movie that was released in 1957. It’s not really about the holidays so much as it merely takes place during the holidays. In form, it’s a pretty straightforward romantic comedy. Tracy plays Richard Sumner, an engineer whose computer is about to be installed in a TV network’s New York-based research department, run by Hepburn’s Bunny Watson. There’s a sub-plot involving whether everyone in the research department will be replaced by technology. The atmosphere’s so light, though, that you can’t really be too concerned about that. Instead, you watch the romantic friction between the absentminded-but-brilliant Sumner and the not-at-all-absentminded-and-probably-more-brilliant Watson.

As I said, Desk Set takes place during the holiday season. There are Christmas decorations everywhere, and one pivotal scene takes place during the network’s raucous Christmas party—the kind of party where everyone is tipsy and flirting and cavorting. I’ve always wanted to work at an office with parties like that….

When I watched Desk Set a few nights ago (I watch it every December), I was struck by something different. Sumner and Watson are middle-aged. Middle-aged and single. Wow, I thought, Desk Set is a love story about never-married, middle-aged people. Today, I suppose, the couple would have to be much younger or, at least, in their 30s. Pathetic as it may be, Desk Set sort of gave hope to the loveless 40-year-old in me.

Where’s my Katharine Hepburn Spencer Tracy?





Oklahoma

26 12 2006

Neon
Since Friday, by the way, I managed to travel home. For the next week, I’ll be blogging from semi-rural northeastern Oklahoma. See if you notice any change in my accent, ok?

Flying on Christmas Eve afternoon was remarkably easy. I was afraid the airports would be chaotic, but nearly everyone must’ve already been where they were supposed to be. Even Chicago O’Hare, where I made my connection, was—if not quite subdued—somewhat less than manic. (I was awfully curious about the Christmas Eve service at the aiport chapel, but I didn’t have time to check it out. What would that have been like?)

I knew right away, by the way, that I’d found the gate for my flight to Tulsa. It was the only gate notable for cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and a country boy carrying a guitar.

Oddly enough, my only travel hiccup occurred in Philly. I was on the first of two commuter trains to the airport when, suddenly, the train just stopped. The train backed up about half of a mile, got on a different track, and tried again. We stopped in roughly the same place. After about 20 minutes, as the passengers grumbled, the conductor finally told us that the train system had lost power, inexplicably, throughout the city. We couldn’t get any closer than we already were…. After a few more minutes, about 20 passengers, including me, jumped off the train, climbed through an open space in a fence, and walked about three-quarters of a mile to a busy-ish street. I was absolutely relieved to find a cab to take me to the airport…. Thank heavens we were close enough to the city to do that. Otherwise, I might still be trying to get to Oklahoma (and my mother would not be amused).





Volver

26 12 2006

I’m slowly catching up on holiday-vacation updates. (Yes, I’m even behind schedule when I’m on vacation!)

Anyway, on Friday, the highlight of my day was seeing Volver, Pedro Almodóvar’s new film. It was so much fun. I’ve been a fan of Almodóvar for years. The anything-goes, screwball-comedy quality of films like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, and Matador has, strangely enough, profoundly affected me. I just “get” Almodóvar, and I want to live in his madcap world. (My world is all too mundane, I guess.)

In Volver, which means “to return” in Spanish, Almodóvar returns to a familiar theme—how women manage to get things done. It doesn’t matter what the obstacles are: Even death doesn’t stop Volver‘s heroines from returning to sort everything out. Along the way, of course, it’s a wild ride. There’s a little love, some sort-of ghostly goings on, a bit of trash TV, and the inevitable mother-daughter tensions. There’s no particularly deep message to Volver; it’s just fun. If you see Volver, and you should, just sit back and enjoy the whirlwind, the colors, and Almodóvar’s askew vision.

By the way, Penélope Cruz, who stars in the film, is better than I’ve ever seen her. Usually, she just comes across as a not-so-talented celebrity, one of those people who seem to be famous for no good reason. But in Volver, she’s an actress. And a damn good one. So good that I sometimes found myself scrutinizing her and completely forgetting about the subtitles. The Queen‘s Helen Mirren will win the Academy Award for Best Actress this year, but Cruz surely merits a nomination.

If you see Volver, let me know what you think.





Merry Christmas!

25 12 2006

Christmas Balls





Johnny Brenda’s

23 12 2006

I started my Christmas vacation yesterday. There’ll be no more work for me until January…. And thank heavens for that. I’m feeling way unappreciated and undervalued at work (probably unfairly), and I need a break from various, um, workplace irritants.

Actually, I guess the vacation started Thursday night. I had tickets to see mewithoutYou, an indie band whose most recent album, Brother, Sister, really impressed me. A colleague joined me at the gorgeous Johnny Brenda’s, a new-ish venue in Philly’s Fishtown (really) neighborhood. Johnny Brenda’s is awfully cool…. We sat at a table in the balcony, overlooking the small stage. Johnny Brenda’s bar serves local beers, and I was drinking a Stegmaier winter ale (which, by the way, really kicked my butt). Good music, good company, good beer, good seats—I couldn’t have been much happier.

The opening acts were good, too. Missing Palmer West, a local band (click here to learn about the band’s name), played a short set to get things started. MPW has potential, although I think the current sound might be a little too Ben Fold Five-ish. (Random aside: I keep hearing that kind of sound in local bands. What that’s all about?) Dr. Dog, a local band that seems to be on the verge, followed with a longer set. Dr. Dog has quite a following, and more people came to hear the Dogmusic than to hear mewithoutYou. In fact, a good portion of the audience wandered off before the headliner began to play… That’s a real shame because mewithoutYou—which has its own local roots—did a fierce set. I guess I might describe the band’s music as accessible post-punk. The driving vocals, more shouted than song, are distinctive. The lyrics are distinctive, too, for their poetry and, I guess, for a kind of vague undertone of Christianity. (The occasional religious imagery certainly hasn’t put me off.)

I poured myself out of Johnny Brenda’s about 1 a.m., which is really, really late for this middle-aged body of mine. Happily enough, a cab seemed to be waiting just for me. And thank heavens I didn’t have to go to work on Friday….