Archive for May, 2010

In a rainy french town…

May 31, 2010

I’m not a big opera fan. I keep thinking something will click, so I keep trying, but try as I might, I can never get past the silliness of singing every single little line of dialogue. “How are you today, fa la la la la?” “Fine sir, and you, la la la la la?” And no, I don’t have that problem with musicals in general. Perhaps because I think people should burst into infrequent bouts of song, throughout the day. What? I do it.

There are a few exceptions. La Boheme works for me. Les Miserables totally works. Pieces with a massive, massive amount of pathos and plot-driven poetry make sense. But I need to be carried away, from the very beginning. Even better than Puccini and Val Jean, for me, at least, there are the Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

In the late 90s some time, the wife of the filmmaker finished a massive project to restore the original color to Umbrellas. There was a limited re-release, and my mom and I went to see it at the Palm. I was entranced. I went around humming that song for months. I even bought the sheet music, and I think I may have used it as a performance piece for some random audition or talent show.

I think that part of the reason I fell in love was that it connected two worlds for me. I had the world of the Palm Theater, not-so-better known as the Rainbow Theater, for us old-school kids. The best, and most frequent, connections with my mom were when we were sitting in a dark little room, sobbing to old German films or guffawing to new low-budget indie movies. The first sex scene I ever saw was in “Les liaisons dangereuses.” I wasn’t allowed to watch “Police Academy,” but I could watch that.

Then I had the world of the stage, and the many ridiculous theater productions I appeared in throughout junior high and high school, some of them musical in nature. Even though those worlds should overlap, being of a like performance based nature, they just didn’t. Musical theater was never an art-house kinda thing. You don’t see a filmed version of “Wicked” knocking Sundance off their feet.

Then Umbrellas came back, and my mom took me to see it, telling me about when she had first experienced it, brand new in the theaters. Looking at old photographs, especially the one of her on Fiji, with hair in an updo, huge eyelashes, resting her arms and head on roof of a white VW bug, poking out of the sun roof, gazing coquettishly at the camera, there’s definitely a little something Catherine Deneuve-esque in her style. She adored french film and fashion back then.

(And dang, I can’t find that photo. It keeps coming up in my screensaver, but because iPhoto is blasted and won’t open, I can’t seem to find the library of iPhoto pics I have. Anyone know a workaround for that? Or maybe… Yep, genius appointment made, let’s let the Mac boys fix it.)

So maybe it’s less the merging of those two worlds that attracts me, and more the mama connection. This is kinda a rough, bittersweet time of year, with Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday, and the day she died all falling in the same two-month window. It feels nice to be able to enjoy Umbrellas of Cherbourg again. And y’all should go see it, too; it’s streaming on Netflix for one more day.

Oh, and an English, Connie Francis, version of that song:

Anywhere and Everywhere

May 18, 2010


visited 48 states (96%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

This makes me happy. And sad. Alaska and Louisiana, I’m coming for you. Thanks PBR for reminding me of this!

In a Columbarium, 5 miles and a world away from San Francisco

May 16, 2010

Last November I spent some time (okay, fine, 4 completely absorbed hours, and I need to go back again) in the San Francisco Columbarium, in the interest of research for my NaNoWriMo book, but also because I’m a ghoul and I love that shit. Today I decided to wander the Oakland Columbarium, in part because I always walk by it and wonder about what’s inside, and in part because when I do start planning for my eternity, I may be firmly East Bay, and not want to spring for niche in The City.

I guess I should have expected that there wouldn’t be many similarities, but I was stunned. Where SF’s house of the dead is full of remembrances, personalities, and memorials, Oakland’s is full of somber good taste. And good taste is really not “in” anymore, making this a cold, empty place. Structurally, it’s similar, and beautiful, with stained glass and a gorgeous dome. It’s just everything human that’s missing.

By the numbers
Built in: 1911
Dearly-departed souls: 40,000
Living souls spotted in the hour I was there: 1 (I caught a glimpse of myself in a pane of glass)
Dead flowers: A dozen or so
Artificial flowers: Half a dozen
Live flowers: Maybe 5
Pictures of loved ones: 2
Personalized inscriptions (beyond just a name and date): 2
Urns with any tiny spot of color: 1

 This place has themed rooms. In one, all the urns are the classic book shape. In another, they all have wood paneled fronts. Uniformity and matching is prioritized here. There were even guidelines, stating what could and could not be put on the interment spaces, and these guidelines included the phrase, “uniform beauty.”

It’s not at all surprising that this place was so empty. They’ve made it into a beautiful storage space, and nothing more. On a Sunday just after noon, not a single one of the chairs that looked like they were stolen from someone’s grandmother’s patio were occupied, and no one came in the entire time I was there. It’s even starting to affect the caretaker’s moral, I think. There were buckets in a couple rooms to catch drips from skylights, half the lights were off, and on the cracked marble steps that wobbled beneath me, there was a smattering of dead flies.

The worst thing was that it wasn’t even spooky! You’d think a silent, dark, empty columbarium would scare the crap out of you, right? Nope! I was on edge and looking for ghostly reflections in the first couple empty rooms, but after that, I just felt a little dead inside.

In a shady neighborhood

May 14, 2010

I live in a neighborhood that has, by all appearances, been steadily improving for the last big handful of years. There’s a higher concentration of families and baby strollers, equally matched by happy artsy hipsters riding their bikes to the farmer’s market up the street.

I’ve been here for the past few years, but I feel like I can claim it going even further back. I was, after all, born at the hospital right up the street. Yes, that hospital was roughly 15 miles from my family home, but whatever. It’s my ‘hood.

When I moved in, it was right on the verge of shady. It kinda felt like the scene at the end of Roger Rabbit, where if you turn left you can see the giggly, singing sun and bluebirds, and on the right you have cement, crazy-eyed villains, and steaming piles of Dip. But I never felt unsafe. Not once. I made wise choices, but even walking home from bart alone, well past midnight, I always felt secure.

So long, cozy safe feeling. Care to hear what’s happened in just the past month and a half, within a 2 block radius of my house?

• Someone shot bullet holes into the brand new, temporary Detour sign. I expect that in Montana. I expect a hell of a lot more than two little holes, in fact. But here? Literally feet from my door? And really, were they just shooting signs, or was the sign an innocent bystander? Lovely.

• I’ve caught completely unknown kids (or, humans younger than me, not necessarily kids by most folks definition of the term) 1) sleeping, 2) eating, 3) peeing, and 4) smoking illicit substances in my backyard and driveway.

• Someone ran up and down the street waving a hatchet. A hatchet. Again, this is Oakland, California. Not Oakland, Montana. Or Bellevue.

• A friend was held up at gunpoint. Two men approached him, one casually placed a gun right on his temple, my friend’s fight or flight instinct kicked in (and it’s tough to roundhouse kick a bullet out of the air, so he ran), and he was then pursued for a block and a bit, in the rain, until he was able to get into his girl’s apartment building and slam the glass door literally in his chaser’s face. Fun times.

• This actually deserves it’s own bullet point, since it’s one of my personal Oakland pet peeves, but it is really an expansion on the above point. The next morning, scraped and bruised, having taken some time to let his heart stop racing and his breathing slow, said friend called the police. After being given the run-around all day, he was eventually told that unless he was actually IN THE PROCESS of being murdered, then he was a fairly low priority, and somehow the cops never seem to get to the low priorities. ‘Cause, you know, there’s enough murderings in process that keep them all occupied. The good ones, anyways. The bad ones are off getting illicit handjobs in dark corners of parking lots. All of which makes me particularly worried when…

• Two plainclothes detectives approached me as I was sippin’ my fro-yo on the front steps today. They identified themselves as cops, then asked if I’d seen any women’s clothing around today. There’s often bits and pieces strewn around, including a really cute pair of men’s trousers on the neighbor’s rose bush yesterday, but nothing  today. “Mind if I look?” one said. “Go ahead,” I said. While he was poking, his partner made small talk. “Pretty quiet today?” “Yep,” I answered. “Did you happen to see a naked woman on the corner yesterday?” “Nope.”

Well, I’m glad they’re out and about and investigating. If, however, a woman somehow lost all her clothes on my street in what must have been an involuntary manner, I am not at all thrilled. Boonie dog, you’re going to have to hold your bladder until daylight, my dear.

Again, this is not a backlog of complaints. These are not stories I’ve been accumulating from my urban lifetime. This is the past 6 weeks, maybe 7. I never thought Montana would sound like a safe alternative. Okay, well, it still doesn’t, but it’s getting close.

A Spring Day at Albany

May 13, 2010


downsized_0430001030.jpg, originally uploaded by jujuwiz.

God, I love the bulb. I need to always have a camera when I go there, instead of just this wee camera phone.

A completely fictional… ah, forget it.

May 6, 2010

Dude, I could be funny here. If the internets weren’t so goshdarned… public, I could be hella funny. I could let loose with a string of ridiculous parodies that would make your head spin.

Except… the public thing. What happens on the internet does not in fact stay on the internet. Or it does, but that doesn’t help anything, since it goes viral. It’s tough to write any other posts, because the big thing in my life right now is this giant, ridiculous aspect. It’s kinda taking up far too much of my brain right now. I can fictionalize the ridiculousness, and I do, but that doesn’t help this blog, since the veil here is too thin. So what do I post here?

A Fictionalized Account of the Worlds in My Dog’s Ears

My dog has big ears. You hear that phrase, and you get a picture in your mind, but truly, your regular, man-sized brain can’t truly conceptualize the size of my dog’s ears. Each one is the same size as the rest of her head. When she looks up and perks her ears forward, it’s like looking at the top half of a six-pointed star.

Like anything else with dogs, they’re bigger on the inside. I am the Dr. Who of the canine world, because I am her master. Inside, there is a whole little factory of doozers erecting strange scaffolding and building little triggers and booby traps into the hidden nooks and crannies. These are to protect the community further in. That community I don’t know much about. It’s too deep and dark in there. All I know is what I can see near the surface.

The first line of defenses is a water sensitive strip. It’s the same mottled paper from cellphones that turn muddy and flat when water touches them. This one also starts to run straight onto the sensitive skin of the inner ear, burning like a stream of fire from the third sun of Hades, causing my little dog to buck, and shake, and essentially flip the heck out.

This strip actually activates in the simple presence of water. A shower turned on in the same house, a stream crossing barely covering the paws, even a pier or bridge 1/4 mile above a bay can activate the vile, burning acid. Water is just a big no-no.

There are other defenses, as well. Trip lines that lead directly to the lip area, forcing a happy, smiley face into a street dog I’m-gonna-tear-your-nose-off snarl. Those perhaps will be saved for another day of trying to avoid the ridiculous.