My 20 year-old son and I spent the morning preparing to open the pool, which we work hard to care for as though it's our own, though this place is a rental. But it has a terrible old porous cover, and if winter isn't super cold, it opens green, no matter how carefully we close it. This year, opening it a month late, it was green with the first signs of some new species of life developing on the surface. Well, he's in charge of the mechanics, I do the chemistry. But the pump wouldn't start! Signs indicate it must be replaced. So green the water will remain for now.
It is a sunny, sunny day, the kind of sunny day this area is not at all known for. And it's 85 degrees, but a nice 85, with a light breeze instead of a heavy stillness. He wanted to take me to see Wonder Woman tonight. I felt excited at the idea, then demurred after several hours of expense leading to futility. We will go on Monday. But I sent him with another brother to see it tonight, anyway. I feel like being quiet and comfortable and reflective. With The Mary Tyler Moore show for background.
Isn't perspective a funny thing? Set in the background this way, the green pool is kinda pretty, isn't it?
499 words is all, I promise. I went to Jungle Jim’s today, and got four big full bags of groceries. And the thing is, I got a lot of things specifically for me to enjoy. For the past three months and more, I’ve been eating noodles and eggs, and two or three good dinners a week, and just not a lot else, and I gained ten pounds. It really is like that, when you don’t have any money. And exercise vigilance is nearly impossible as caloric energy wanes.
I saw at least six people riding on electric shopping carts. All of them were very, very large, of a size that would have been incredibly uncommon to see when I was a child. I knew a few fairly heavy people, but they still fit into chairs and could push a shopping cart in a store and did all the other usual things people do. You thought, “that’s a large person,” not “that’s kind of unbelievable.”
But life seems like something else these days. One of them in particular was of an astounding size. She didn’t fit into the cart and rode it side saddle. Her belly reached her feet. I am not exaggerating. And she made the cart go way too fast, if you ask me. It didn’t seem safe for anyone coming around a corner. Maybe she was the impatient type. Her husband (in his own cart) might have been the “I will go slower to make you more calm when in fact it will agitate you instead” type. I’ve known men like that.
So anyway, I indulged myself for birthday week. This was also produce delivery day, so the larder is quite full now, and the only guilt would come if any of it goes to waste. Here’s some of what I put in the bags. I bagged the groceries myself. The cashier was not going to be up to doing it correctly, and I can do it much faster, anyway, plus use fewer bags. I brought in five, and used only four, weight evenly distributed.
First, mark-down meat! This should last a good while, going to freeze most of it tomorrow. I got the regular-priced ground round to go with the ground pork for meatballs. And I couldn’t pass up the jowl bacon; guanciale, during birthday week. It is de rigeur for Amatriciana, but I don't know what I'll use it for this time. Next, things I will enjoy for lunch. I couldn’t remember the name of that eggplant stuff I like from the Indian section, but they didn’t seem to have it, anyway. A few miscellaneous items also for lunch and this and that. And a few bonus items that were good prices. Oh, and I got cherries yesterday! Don’t you love when it’s cherries season? Cherries are great because you simply do not buy fresh ones in October or March, except frozen. You buy them in June. June really is the best month.
I’m wearing the eye shade from having my pupils dilated at eye exam, and who knows how this typing will go? I’m inclined to include all mistakes. Man, there I was, being my brother, and really probably my other brother, and my dad, having this whole long exchange with the various eye people and another customer and the Starbuck’s girl, and by the way, hush, on that point. That was a treat, which I have maybe once a month or every six weeks. I get a double tall breve latte, which is to say, some espresso and half and half. In winter hot, in summer on ice. More on that in a bit.
The front lawn is covered in clover, which is basically awesome, but not in my neighborhood, because you can’t putt theoretical golf balls on a clover-filled lawn, and it “don’t look classy” or whatever these people think taste is. Clover is important; it provides nitrogen to soil and food for bees. And I kinda think it’s pretty. But it has to be mowed, and it won’t be me doing it today, because my pupils are wide open and feel pretty weird. And it will rain yet again tomorrow, so one of these characters who isn’t working today needs to get to it.
Anyway, I thought I would tell you about my day. I meant to do a birthday countdown post each day this week, but was sort of bummed yesterday, and now I know it was probably because I didn’t hang around in the sun for awhile. I require sunlight in order to do life. And so here we are today, in which the minimum level of sunlight has been applied.
Hot flashes! I was being all tao about that, you know, because this thing is dragging on forever, it seems, but while I have said all along I want nature to just take its natural course, I would now like nature to just go on and get it done. I reflect on that perhaps differently than some other women, because my mother was a few months younger than I am now when she entered full menopause, and then she died two years later with breast cancer, eyes clouded by cataracts. Well, my eyes are real healthy, despite no longer being astounding at their assigned roles. I’m carrying less extra weight than her, though a bit more than I’d like. And last time I checked, I didn’t get the cancer. But I don’t want to be in a hurry to pass to the next stage of life; I have no frame of reference for it.
I like to think I won’t get the cancer, but part of it is a kind of crap shoot, they say. I have, at least, fewer risk factors than she did. I’m going to assume cheerfully that I inherited Dad’s family’s tendency toward long life, instead of Mom’s family’s much more uneven record.
Okay, here’s the thing. This is a long blog post already, so if you’re bored, let’s call it done and say these were reflections on soon turning 52 that I thought others might find amusing or thoughtul. It was lovely to see you again. And if you like, you can tune in tomorrow for something undoubtedly different.
On the other hand, I am still typing, so if you want to carry on reading what spills from my mind, here you go.
First, have you ever listened to Andy Griffith tell a story? It’s how he made his mark before playing a couple super creepy characters in the movies and then getting to be a hokey version of himself on TV for eight years. Anyway. It’s something quite…unto itself. Watch this bit in which he’s explaining a country feud to Opie.
I always crowd-source new glasses choices if I can. Today two opticians and a customer helped me choose new frames after I had my checkup with the doctor. I picked blue ones. Well, the first blue ones I picked were 200 dollars. That wasn’t happening. We managed to find some for 80. They won't be 80, though. Partly why I go to Target is that they know me there now, and Amy will play mob accountant for half an hour to get me the best I can get for the least I have to spend. I asked her about those mail order glasses things, and about how easy it might be for somebody to measure their own eyeballs at home in the mirror, which sounds absurd to me. We agreed it’s probably all right if you’re just regular near-sighted, or need readers. But add in two different astigmatisms, and middle-aged close-up needs, and then that middle bit which needs a number of its own? Then it starts to seem silly. The doctor informed me I’ll never be able to clearly see the bridge on a cello from the gallery again, unless I use opera glasses. Well, she said binoculars, but we meant opera glasses. I told her I would feel okay about it if I had a better understanding of what normal far-off vision is. Apparently it’s pretty much what I have now with the corrective lenses. I am no longer special in this regard, alas. :-)
Let’s pause for hot flash time. My ceiling fan remote and I are growing very intimate.
Okay, well, I went down the hall to Starbucks before leaving and got my iced double tall breve latte, aka espresso with half and half, and I asked about these cold brew options being advertised. One is sweetened and contains coconut milk. The other is just coffee. I said I might try that one sometime (next month) because what I think of as properly sweetened is just waving the notion of the sugar over the cup, and other people seem to like a whole other thing. The girl nodded and told me yesterday someone asked for “14 pumps” of vanilla syrup in her drink. I estimate that to be around 7 oz of syrup. In a 20 oz cup. We shared a sick face at the thought.
The dilation is wearing off much quicker this year. I think they got a new style of drops. I don’t feel normal yet, but can see fine, and the light isn’t bad.
It occurred to me today that I’ve often mentioned how I learned about cultural equality, that is, the need for it, from music I heard as a child, but actually and also, I learned about some important elements of social “justice” from my favorite TV shows, M*A*S*H and Barney Miller, as well as a few others from that era. I’m going to take up that topic sometime soon and talk it out. Maybe tomorrow, maybe some other time.
I decided to participate this year in the Cincinnati Library’s Summer Adventure. You probably know I read a whole lot, like, maybe egregiously, if that’s possible. But I haven’t done a summer reading program since I was a child and visited the Mid-Continent Library in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Then and there, if you read twenty books, you could choose a free one of your own to bring home. The first year I did it, my mom wrote the titles for me, because I could read far better than I could print. Mom got tired of returning to the library so often because of the book checkout limit, so they lifted it for us, allowing me to bring home great stacks at a time. And I received five free books that summer.
In the summer these days, I tend to read what some people impolitely call trash, because they’ve got no sense of balance, and also are snobs about things they haven’t bothered to examine in detail, or that weren’t listed in the articles they skim over in The New Yorker. Because what is summer for, if not to indulge in a bit of light-hearted pleasure? Mine usually takes the form of “cozy mysteries” and historical romances. But I do try to add in some “improving” material, as well. (Isn’t it funny to realize you can do a doctorate now on authors whose material was featured in weekly penny papers 150 years ago?)
I thought a good way to do that this year would be to follow this eight week program. (Click pic to see details.) So at least one of the books I read each week will relate specifically to the week’s theme, and I’ll do a few of the suggested activities, as well. Then I’m going to write a weekly update in this blog. I might briefly review the books, and I’ll include a photo or three of whatever else I did on the list.
For a long time, I thought a summer reading program for adults might be really dull, like you’d be made to read those heartstring-tugging books about a sister's death, with discussion questions at the back of them, or something worse, like I don’t know, memoirs of baby boomers who take motorcycle trips across Indonesia to “find themselves.” (Again.) But this one isn’t like that at all, and I intend to have fun with it. It starts on my birthday! I think it’ll be an amusing way to start on my second deck of cards.
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.