Will I write something today that I think is grand? Will I sew something fun and interesting-looking? Today on I've Got A Secret, Jayne Meadows started singing "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," while they were taking turns singing tunes for musical chairs, and that was mildly funny in 1962, for reasons that looked boring to other people once I typed it all out, but anyway, mainly I know this version:
Which I like quite a lot.
Anyway. I have some semi-serious writing on my mind, influenced by an ongoing conversation I have with someone I know only online, a woman who really has a knack for cutting straight to the heart of a matter and explaining it as if it's the simplest thing in the world. I told her she should be sharing these explanations, but also, as Birthday Week encroaches (encroaches sounds so negative, doesn't it? but I haven't enjoyed this year much, I gotta say,) the nature of nostalgia, particularly, if we must use labels, Generation X nostalgia, is influencing all my perceptions just now. And it's already a hackneyed topic, yet I feel I have a perspective I'm not seeing onscreen, so. Perhaps I can add something to that conversation, or start a better or at least more-interesting-to-me one.
I think I'm going to sew for awhile, though. I have a baby quilt I'm very involved in just now, for one thing. Okay, okay, you do have to watch this. And the thing to remember, tiresome young persons, is that it's really, really okay to miss and appreciate what once was there, while at the same time acknowledging what was not there, wishing it had been. So you can stop beating everyone with your know-it-all binary sticks of negativity, and start developing some context. This is a fun thing.
It’s because it’s Mother’s Day and Bobby Darin’s birthday, and my oldest daughter, a new mother, I swear if you hear her voice without seeing her face, you think my mother has come back to life. Jazzy mezzo-soprano: strong-minded, filled with dry humor, and... tinkly. Anyway. My timey-wimey detector went off today.
But I don’t know quite where I want to begin except you should know that no one sang “Lazy River” better than my mother. I never heard anyone else do it well, until I got a Bobby Darin record when I was about 17, and that was the B side.
Before Bobby Darin and later Frank Sinatra records, my knowledge of vocal standards came from a) what my mom might have sung, though she was way more into 50s rock and roll, early Motown and disco, and b) whatever happened to be floating around on TV variety shows that I didn’t pay much attention to. They were just kind of there.
Anyway. I heard “Mack the Knife,” and then I heard “Beyond the Sea,” and I realized this guy, who I thought sang only dumb pop tunes, sang all this other much better stuff, and made it interesting. And what he did with “Lazy River,” which starts slowly and simply, and gradually builds, well, Mom did that, too. As I said, did it better, but that’s another track for another day. Mom had a few Saturday morning lessons at the Met when she was a child, so she knew better what to do with her voice than most people.
This is meant to be about firsts, and kind of about lasts, I guess. Circles, maybe. The last Mother’s Day I spent with my mom was when my oldest daughter was two, and we went to that restaurant in Martin City, you know the one, except of course you don’t, but if you were there then, you would and still do.
Now my daughter is thirty, and she has a teeny tiny baby, and when she speaks, my mother’s voice comes out of her mouth. It was similar before, but has become downright astonishing. It’s pretty fantastic. She has the same hair, too, actually. Some of these things skip a generation, I guess.
So Bobby Darin introduced me to the understanding of how people took vocal standards and made them their own. Then around ten years later, when I was in the hospital with our first child, my husband brought me a Frank Sinatra cassette tape, Reprise: The Very Good Years. And around five years after that, I bought Mack the Knife: The Best of Bobby Darin Volume Two. (sound off for All Music reviews; they auto-play ads and won't show you the page if you adblock.) Those two albums were my Bible testaments for what a singer could do with good songs. I learned from them like I was learning a language. It took me awhile to adapt to all the songs on the Bobby Darin compilation. I wasn’t used to the slow stuff. But they captured me eventually and held onto me, note by note. I can recall each note in each song, in both that album and the Sinatra one, because they both mastered every syllable they sang, and I drank it all in, over and over again.
Darin had a better voice, considerably. But what Sinatra could do with a song made up for that, and then some. I tend to think of Darin as my young love, and Sinatra as my more mature one. That's probably a subject to take up and examine another time.
Next there was Limewire. I remember spending hours looking up the names of all the albums a former in-law stole from me and finding copies to download. I had a conscience about this; I didn’t want to take anything I hadn’t already paid for. Only at some point I realized there was also a lot of music being shared that literally could not be purchased in any format except through foreign sales, and a certain amount of happenstance. And I decided to see what other Bobby Darin music I’d never heard.
Do you remember that just 15 years ago and more, we couldn’t hear just anything at all we felt like hearing? It’s true, children. We didn’t even have YouTube yet. The world wide web was expanding rapidly—like the Old West, lawless and free—but very limited in scope compared to what we have now if we’re willing to concede personal ownership…
I remember the light in the room and the temperature of the air the day I ran across Bobby Darin’s version of “Call Me Irresponsible.”
It changed the way I hear music, the way I listen. I was so young, how old was I? 36, 37? Darin was 37 when he died. I was just getting started. I’m still just getting started. I hope. But that song, this song:
arrested me. Sinatra’s award-winning recording is nicely crafted and touching. It fits the movie, I suppose, though it was written for Fred Astaire, and wouldn't he have put a marvelous spin on it? This recording, though, is something else altogether. It’s something I wanted to know, as intimately as it could be known. I hope you really listen to it, at least once, please.
So, 15 years have passed, size 4 is a tender memory, there’s a lot of grey in my hair to cover, and I have really the most splendid grandchild to be had, that is, until my second daughter produces her first child later this year.
And today people were sharing pictures of time spent with their moms. Most years I really enjoy seeing that, but this year it felt kind of painful. I can’t quite say why. I am tired of the internet telling me relentlessly for an entire month each year that I should think of Mom, when I’ve been one longer than I had one. But the same was true last year, so I can’t say why this one felt different.
My youngest son came home from work with these two ragged tomato plants and said, “You better plant these before they die. I got this kind because I like how yellow tomatoes taste.”
He’d never gotten me a Mother’s Day gift before, but was told at work this is a thing to do. So downstairs waiting for me as well, was a nice hanging planter of miniature petunias. I trimmed the tomato plants, gave them a good root soaking, and set them on the counter. They’re lovely now, and ready for a planting in the morning. (He was told to give me a card, too, but his reply was, "I think she'd be confused and wonder why I was giving her a card." He's right.) Also, I received a big lovely bouquet of lilies via Federal Express from one daughter, and a fun pair of shoes in the mail from another. I felt loved.
I read earlier the reminder that the original intention of Mother’s Day was for women to support each other as needed. Women should do that, should lift each other up whenever and wherever possible. But honoring our own mothers as we each do is a lovely tradition, as well. And so, this is how I am honoring mine, twenty-eight years gone now. She gave me “Lazy River,” and thus, Bobby Darin, and thus, so much more, and I pass it all along in my own way, and I guess it’s all energy that changes form now and then but never really disappears, like "a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ... stuff.”
Now and then I start thinking about an old out of date topic, make some idle remark on it, and learn that I have uncovered a passionate opinion that others will not ever let go. Humanity: maddening, yet sometimes adorable.
Darrin Stephens, fictional husband of fictional Samantha, star of Bewitched, is one such topic. Such intensity. And it’s my own fault I remained slightly mired in it.
First, Twitter is forever. Well, kind of. Not if you used Brizzly or Twitpic. But anyway. Nearly two months ago I came out in favor of Darrin number two, because he doesn’t stress me, and oh, what an unpopular opinion that turned out to be. Only I accidentally removed the most fired up tweet from this combined screenshot
So after the third person hearted the disagreement over a month after I shocked (a super tiny part of) the world with my heavy-handed proclamation, I got to thinking, “That must mean someone is doing a Twitter search for this very topic.” And why? Therefore, I examined Darrin number one further, which I hadn’t done in awhile. I forgot what an imposing physicality he possessed. Maybe that was attractive. Was it? For research purposes I typed into the Google box, “Was Dick York fit” or maybe I typed “did people think Dick York was sexy,” or honestly, I don’t remember. It was three or four days ago. And this was the top result.
I kind of thought that sometimes he looked like an old lady with a rictus grin, but maybe if he’d have taken off his shirt during the show, I’d have forgiven him that and his general daily wailing. He looked good with a beard in Wagon Train.
As an aside, I’ve read that the term beefcake was originally used to describe the unbelievably handsome Guy Madison. I ran across a picture of him in later years the other day, and golly, he really held up.
Anyway, recently, between the first thing and this thing, Antenna TV asked on Facebook, as they do, “which replacement actor did you like better?” and I don’t usually answer, but wasn’t thinking clearly, I guess, and I said, “Aunt Vivian and Darrin Stephens.”
And that whole thing went on for too long. What on earth possessed me to remain in the conversation and make sure I finished it? But I’m sure no one disagrees with me about Aunt Viv.
It’s not that I found Darrin number two attractive. And he wasn’t very…butch, I guess, is what I mean. Without falling into the trap of discussing who was in a better situation, Jeannie or Samantha, because that’s a fiery hotbed of disagreement, let me tell you, I had to wonder who Samantha, the character we know, would prefer in bed. (I've forgotten how this relates to Astronaut Tony Nelson, to be honest. Maybe another bit of blather sometime.) Whiny Darrin or Exasperated Darrin. I just have to believe Darrin number two knew things that Darrin number one would never have been able to imagine. And I don’t think Dick Sargent was so wealthy he’d have a 37 year-old boyfriend at the time of his death for that reason alone. There’d have to be other perks. But I don’t want to “argue” about any of that ever again, because it’s a super weird thing to do. Also, let it be known, in case those Twitter ladies find me, that I think Dick York was swell, and it probably wasn’t his fault about the overabundance of sclera, or that he was made to look like a useless tool in an oddly fitting suit coat.
For someone funny who agrees with me, sort of, click on the picture. Read the comments so you don't think I'm making this all up.
This morning on To Tell the Truth, we saw the first woman to sail alone across the Atlantic, ten years earlier. I have a pretty good batting average for choosing the correct one as they walk onto the stage combined with their reaction as the votes are shared. But the reasons the panel choose who they think is the true person vary from great sense to nonsense. Today, Peggy Cass chose the same one as me, but her reason was that the lady was so incredulous at all their questions, she must think they’re boobs. And she was the right one. I picked her because she looked like she’d spent time in wind. Also, she wore a black dress and pearls. The others were trying to look like tough women don’t bother.
ANYWAY. I had this little scenario going in my head during which a small gaggle of 14 year-olds were watching this show together at a sleepover, during a school break, perhaps, and talking about which panel member was dreamy. First, of course, none of them were what you'd think a 14 year-old would find “dreamy.” But girls will be as they are. A girl begins by gushing a little about Bud Collyer, because he highly resembles her Algebra teacher, Mr. Sullivan. The other two squeal and rock back with laughter. He’s so old! But Linda says, “No, not really so old. I’m sure he’s younger than Dad…” And the other two laugh some more. Pat says, “Well, that’s much too old for you, Linda. Besides, Johnny Carson is much more…” I should find a word that girls might use in 1962…they spoke so strangely back then, didn’t they? “…much more handsome, although ancient.”
Sharon jumps up and says, “You don’t think he’s ancient, you want to kissss him!” She grabs a cushion off the sofa and hugs it to her face, twisting around and making smooch noises.
Linda grabs another cushion and jumps around with it, saying, “Oh, Johnny, you’re so gorgeous!”
Sharon laughs and says, “She calls him Johhhhnn!”
Linda drops to the floor hugging her cushion and says, “Johhhhnnn, darling!” Pat looks disgusted and says urgently, “Be quiet, you two! I don’t want Bobby coming in here and pestering us!” Bobby, of course, being Patricia’s 12 year-old brother. I suppose he ends up face down in a jungle swamp in a few years. Or maybe he gives up his lifelong interest in aviation engineering to study finance and gets to stay at college until well after his number comes up. But that’s another story.
The girls squeal and scurry to replace the cushions and sit back down, and Pat says, “If you dare mention that name at school, Linda, I will tell every single girl we know that you dream about kissing Bud Collyer!”
Linda replies indignantly, “I never said I want to kiss him! He just reminds me of Mr. Sullivan…” She stops, realizing what she’s said.
“You want to kiss Mr. Sullivan!” Sharon yells gleefully.
“Shhh,” Linda and Pat both say, “Be quiet!”
Sharon says, “Okay, okay, besides, I’ve Got a Secret is next, and Kim Novak will be on it tonight. I want to see what she’s wearing.” Her cheeks are a little pink, worrying if that sounds casual enough to the other girls, but they don’t notice.
It all started because we were out of cat food, and also Kroger had a huge bakery surplus yesterday, heavily marked down. But I mean, I didn’t know we were out of cat food while at the store. I just got the bread, and some other things.
There was a sliced sourdough loaf and a package of brioche buns. And I got them out to ponder this morning, when the cat started meoling at me. I realized she had no food, so I pulled out leftover roast chicken from a few days ago, and managed to get some dark meat from it. The dark meat has taurine in it, which cats need. And so I decided to make stock from the remainder of the chicken, and put it in the stock pot, but as I was pulling out celery, carrots, and half an unpeeled onion from the refrigerator, it occurred to me I hadn’t cleaned in there since the beginning of the year! It was not a good situation, because that is wrong. You can’t treat a refrigerator like a clothes closet you throw things into when you’re feeling lazy or out of sorts instead of hanging them up. So I put the stock to boil and began emptying the refrigerator. And while I was doing all this, I put the iPod in my little kitchen stereo and started with Anya Marina’s “Waters of March,” which is the best version of that song, though they are all great, because it is the best song. I was really busy cleaning, so it just kept playing through W songs and I thought, well, that’s fine. I will have W song day. I got to thinking about how, eighteen months ago, my grocery budget was more than I needed, and things are now dwindling fast, but condiments last so long, even if the pantry gets low, I will still have five different kinds of mustard in the refrigerator. Life is odd that way. Because of a miscommunication, we have more eggs than anybody maybe ought to have, so I thought I’d use some in bread pudding with the brioche buns. Then I remembered I forgot to add a chicken neck to the pot, so I got one from the freezer. My freezer door has a bottle of gin and several chicken necks in it. Life is also like that, if you are me.
Speaking of which. My friend Karen recently ordered a whole bunch of old Playboys for me, from what I figure is their peak period, the mid 60s right before Penthouse started up and changed things. They have come so far in three packages, and today’s had several from 1963. I stopped to flip through one and saw there was a review for the movie Mondo Cane. I decided to set it aside and remember to read that later, because I had to take someone to work. When I returned, I ate a sandwich while watching The Joey Bishop Show, as one does, and lo and behold, there was Andy Williams singing “More!”
That song is fromMondo Cane. A neat bit of serendipity. And I must say, though I like Darin’s version best, and not so much Sinatra's, Williams did it exactly like I imagine it was written. But then of course, he would, wouldn’t he? Here, if you're interested, from a concert.
The second episode of the show for today featured fun talent show-type performances from several members of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Here's some of that.
Now I have a clean organized refrigerator, and lots of soup stock, and not any bread pudding yet, but that’s all right. If you are working with a strict kitchen limit, it’s important to stay organized and keep track of your inventory. You have more scope for creativity that way, and also it’s depressing and overwhelming to deal with chaos on top of budgetary concerns. No one needs that. You might get home from taking a second someone to work and discover the dog got out without his collar on, and when you get home from finding him, the last thing you want is to have to weed through Ziploc bags and old sour cream containers in order to find your dinner ingredients. Something to bear in mind.
“Well, you bring it up and I think somehow it must still bother you.”
“To be sadly honest, it’s probably just me getting older and forgetting.”
“But there must be something lingering or you wouldn’t think about it.”
“I never do think about it. Something I see like this cartoon will trigger the memory, and since the cartoon is so similar to the joke he told which started the whole thing, it reminded me. That’s all. I’ll remember not to retell it aloud anymore.”
How to tell a person who is much younger and still inclined to heightened emotional perception that quite a lot of what you think about is just triggered by keywords or pictures, linking themselves to the past like a phrase someone says which reminds you of an old song? Because each link is a little different, you don’t always realize before speaking that it is merely the same non-fascinating story to someone else. And that is, I suppose, why some older people bore some younger ones so often. We still make new stories, new memories, but we relive many of the old ones as our brain works to keep everything fully accessible and operational by alerting us to parallel situations. It's strengthening pathways, keeping us on top of things. It’s unlikely I’ll repeat that tiny tale again, but it is a certainty I will repeat others.
I never had the luxury of learning to be patient with my parents as they aged. My mother did not age much past where I am now. And I moved far, far away from my father, so I didn’t see the developing process. I saw the conclusion of it, and regretted the loss of all that space between. The Dad-shaped hole in my life isn’t because of his death, but because of the fifteen previous years we were apart. I am not sure my kids will see the aging process in me as something enriching for their own lives. That worries me a little. But everyone forges their own path as they can. I am preparing now to understand impatience I might face, but I also expect to not be treated like a child, or a fool. My thoughts are already a little slower sometimes, but they are also a whole lot deeper. Not deeper like discussing Kant and Heidegger. Deeper like soup that simmered for a good long time and has developed layers of flavor, nuanced richness, satisfying comfort. I hope I get to simmer for many more years, because there’s still a lot to take in and to share.
I love movies. I don't tend to categorize them into good and bad or by genre or period or country of origin. There are just the ones I really like, which is a lot of them, and the ones I don't, also a lot of them. I can tell the difference between quality and mediocre acting, direction, dialogue, production, etc. And I can discuss all that with you during my bruschetta and your risotto or whatever. But I am just as happy talking about the corner of a man's mouth or the way a couple's hands first meet and etcetera.
I read some Valentine’s Day movie lists recently, and about the only thing we all agreed on was 10 Things I Hate About You. So I started writing some down, and wow, is that hard to do. I’m sure this list isn’t even personally comprehensive, but I wouldn’t know how to make it so without way more effort than I am willing to put into it. The name links are to places you can watch them for free (if they're underlined, they'll auto-play,) or at Netflix or for 3-4 dollars at Amazon, and the other links are to various articles about them.
Looking it over, some obvious double features come to mind. I’d happily pair 10 Things with Drive Me Crazy. Make no mistake; the latter is not as good a movie as the former. Yet it’s easy to watch, endearing, and there’s plenty to both aw about and guffaw about. You can admit to enjoying it while making fun of it. Both these movies were released in 1999, which was kind of the apex in teenage transformation romantic comedies. And maybe Adrian Grenier was no Heath Ledger, but you would still want to ruffle his hair if you were standing near him, and he would be good to kiss (and something more, apparently, according to this sort of meta-trash article.)
I’d pair Moonstruck with Wild At Heart for an intense Nicolas Cage double feature, which is a sentence I could never have imagined writing before I just did. These movies are not alike. They just both have Nicolas Cage in them, and are from the same time period, and I think you could get down a sizeable volume of wine during your viewing of them. I’m not sure which I’d say to watch first; kind of depends on how you personally see life playing out. Best not to read too much about the latter before watching, just know it’s a little sexy, a little violent, a little gross, and also kinda sweet. You know, David Lynch. Not everyone would find Wild At Heart romantic, though, plus you have to buy it or watch carefully, so you could always watch Moonstruck with Big Night, which is a wonderful romance with food.
My favorite light romance of all just might be A Little Romance. (But it might not be; I don’t do favorites very well.) It’s both dreamy and cheesy, and if you have a soul, you won’t care about the cheesy parts. Or that you would be watching it for free since it's 38 years old and...worth it. Its most obvious double feature partner on this list is Moonrise Kingdom, but I know some people have a deeply inexplicable dislike for Wes Anderson films, so if that’s you, god help you, watch it with Roman Holiday, instead.
For pure romance, I love Portrait of Jennie. For an intense double feature, follow it up with Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. I’m not a great fan of Jennifer Jones, but I appreciate her in these films, and a couple others. You could instead have a Jennifer Jones double feature which also features Joseph Cotten by pairing it with Love Letters, which is uneven, but ends satisfactorily. (Jones and Cotten were in four films together, and my favorite is actually Since You Went Away, only it is not a Valentine’s Day type of movie.) Or you could pair Portrait of Jennie with a Joseph Cotten/someone else film: September Affair if you lean bitter,I'll Be Seeing You if you lean hopeful.
Finally, for reasons I cannot begin to explain, I have watched What A Girl Wants so often I could recite its dialogue. It’s romantic mostly if you want it to be. It’s the B side of A Little Romance, I think, but it would be more fun with Sweet Home Alabama for a light-hearted look at 15 years ago, or with Say Anything for a more direct parallel and so that you can say you know what a good teen romantic comedy should look like. Or you could follow it up with A Single Man for a reminder of how good Colin Firth can be with great material, but there is no other common factor involved.
It took me awhile to decide whether all the title links should go to descriptions/reviews or places to watch, but I went with the latter because it felt most useful. After all, you can just go to IMDb and plug in all the names you want to see, like this.
This morning after taking care of the usual morning items—a few dishes, tidying the living room, planning dinner, etc.—I happened upon a Jack Lemmon movie I’d never seen, called The War Between Men and Women. I suppose I could find it commercial-free online, but if I did that, I’d have to pay full attention to it instead of just having it on the TV for a little company while I do whatever else needs doing. And I’m not sure it’s worth anyone’s undivided focus. I feel like this is the kind of movie my parents would have made an effort to see without me. As I’ve mentioned before, they seemed to have no qualms about letting me watch outlaws escaping to Bolivia, cynical cops chasing down French drug dealers, people attempting to avoid death on a capsized boat, or creepy TV shows about vengeful stepchildren, but no hint of sexiness was allowed, even the awkward Jack Lemmon kind. This is super funny to me for reasons that would be boring to go into. But parents were commonly like that back then, from what I understand. And I doubt they had any idea how wildly attractive I’d find late 40s rude schleppy swinging Jack Lemmon with greying, slightly overgrown wavy hair and glasses. Or maybe they did. I’m not reviewing it, much. It’s watchable, but not great. Barbara Harris is terrific, and Lemmon is, as always, exactly what is required. Lisa Gerritsen, who played Phyllis’s daughter Bess on Mary Tyler Moore, has an important role as a girl with a stammer, and she performs that well. Jason Robards has a small key role as a character James Caan apparently decided to base his career on. The story itself is awkward and runs in more than one direction at the same time. I doubt James Thurber, on whom Lemmon’s character is loosely based, would have been impressed by it, but there are funny lines, touching moments and amusing animated sequences, and it’s a good fair look at 1972, which counts for a lot with me these days. This reviewer thought very well of it. PS: one very good element of this movie is the scene near the end with Jack Lemmon and Lisa Gerritsen walking though animated pages of James Thurber's The Last Flower. I didn't find video just of that, but you can see the book itself here; mute it if you don't like the music.
I turned on the TV this evening to keep me company while I made linguini and meatballs, then left it on for the dog, for some silly reason, when I went out to pick up my son from his job. AND THAT WAS AWESOME TO DO. Because if I'd turned it off before leaving, I probably wouldn't have bothered to turn it back on. But Dick Cavett was on the Decades channel, and I'd been meaning to check in with that, so I sat down to have a look. Eartha Kitt was the guest, and she was interesting and pretty and a little bitter, but that's fine, and then Dick started listing the movies his next guest starred in. I wasn't paying any attention at that moment, to be honest, but suddenly I realized they were all William Holden movies. I held my breath. Okay, probably not, but let's say I did.
And there he was, in a nicely fitted dark suit and perfect narrow 1969 tie, in one of his sober periods, I guess, talking about African conservation efforts and being serious and dreamy. I was swimming in a world of magic show. Dick asked pretty good questions, too. Bill told Eartha it was okay about her leopard furs, which I thought was nice. He said when she bought them, leopards weren't endangered, but don't buy anymore. As if that wasn't awesome enough, Dick told us his next guest would be Rex Stout! I never before saw him in a TV interview, so I was super excited, and of course he was good. He was a brilliant man, erudite and charming. For this interview, Dick was kinda awkward, but it rolled along well, anyway. Mr. Stout told us he was working toward better copyright laws for authors and explained about that. I think they've gone too far at this point, but he made a good case for how he wanted it to be in 1969—when he was nearly 83, by the way.
I was so excited I wanted to tell everyone! But honestly, even in my family, there isn't a single person who could understand the thrilling sensation of seeing a talk show featuring both Bill Holden and Rex Stout, and purely by accident. Sometimes this sort of thing makes me feel a little lonely, but not for long. It is what it is, I'm just me, and that's just fine. No one cares, you dweeb.
Interestingly, as I was picking up my other son from his job after the show ended, a local radio station played "Crazy Baldhead" from Bob Marley's Rastaman Vibration, which I was just talking about last week. A nice piece of serendipity to conclude the affair.