The Prisoner of Twisselburg

I don’t generally share upsetting news with my online friends because that’s not why I started this blog.  I started it because my now-defunct publisher told me it was the way to sell books.  The theory being, if you could get people to like you then they’d buy your books.

You don’t have to say it.  I will.  What a load of crap. 

But by the time I made that stunning revelation I was hooked.  Today I literally blog more than I write and from what I’ve read buzzing about the hive, I’m not the only one.

However certain things I just don’t like to write about such as Joel’s disease (chronic couch potatoitis) or the acute pain in my gluteus maximus (the result of my bizarre sleeping habits).  Don’t get me wrong. I think bloggers who write candidly about issues such as depression and chronic pain do a great service and should be applauded for the bravery and candor.  I’m just not one of them.  Uptight? You betcha.  It’s those Puritan genes.  You know, skeletons staying in closets, dirty laundry staying in the hamper.

But today I cannot contain my grief.  I’ve eaten all the saltines in the house, stuffed them into my mouth and chewed them into mush and still that’s not enough.  The bottomless void in my heart  has migrated to my stomach and it’s all over now Baby Blue, bring on the Tamborine Man. 

You see, dear friends, my cat hates me. Absolutely despises me.  Wouldn’t give the sweat off his balls (if he had them) to save me from eternal damnation. Of course, I’m not entirely sure he ever liked me but at least he would let me pet him during a full moon cycle at precisely five o’clock in the kitchen as he sniffed my gin and tonic hoping to get lucky.  Now, nothing.  Not even a look in my direction.  It’s tense here, friends, very tense. 

It all started when the back door was inadvertently left ajar and out he walked, tail high in the air like a question mark.  I became aware of his escape when he strutted past the window and looked in at me, a little surprised at his own brilliance, “Holy Shit, I outsmarted you bozos.” 

Once free, no amount of “Here Kitty” would entice him back in. He promptly found the nearest mud puddle and had himself a spa day and then, when the sun set and it started to get cold, finally submitted to Joel’s pleas.

I don’t know what the hell was in that mud but he returned a changed kitty.   Arrogant and bossy.  Demanding to be let out and when told no, a damn pain in the patootie and, as I previously mentioned, my patootie already has a pain.

“You used to have a pet, humans, now you have a caged beast who hates you. And don’t try buttering me up with various cat treats and toys. It wouldn’t work as long as I’m condemned to your lousy lockup!” Woe is me. On a positive note, the calla lilies are blooming.

A tip for time travel

I keep dreaming up stupider and stupider ideas for the ending of The Return of Flipka.  My latest had her time traveling from 1978 to 2016 as a part of an FBI plot to stop the presidency of Donald Trump  and yes, aliens were involved. Obviously I’m in a slump.  If the weather were better I’d forget my writing gig and go down to the teahouse and paint.  But the teahouse has no heat.

I write this sniveling, whiny post while listening to Rachmaninoff, someone so gifted that he could not possibly have ever suffered from writer’s block.  Or so one would think.

Of course, he did. As a young man he needed therapy for a depression that plagued him for four years and came and went  throughout his life. One of his most famous pieces, The Bells, was inspired by another famously depressed artist, Edgar Allen Poe. 

I don’t know nearly as much about classical music as I’d like but luckily my husband once belonged to one of those CD of the month clubs. I don’t know why as most of the hundred or so CDs he received are still wrapped in plastic but his loss is my gain. So now I’m going through composer by composer and trying to learn something about each one.

First I was hooked on Bach (whose birthday is coincidentally today).  His compositions aren’t as rhapsodic and soulful as Rachmaninoff but it is possible to listen to them over and over again. Try listening repeatedly to Rachmaninoff’s  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, I dare you.  That piece is so achingly romantic it’s been used as the sound track for many a movie, including Somewhere in Time

In this movie, for those of you who haven’t seen it, Christopher Reeve is a playwright who’s approached after his debut show by an elderly woman who hands him a pocket watch and says “come back to me.” He forgets about the incident until, while on vacation, he becomes obsessed with the portrait of a woman who lived in the early 1900s.  Many plot convulsions later he manages to hypnotize himself and go back in time and meet her. Unfortunately he can’t stay back in time forever.  He has to return to present day where he finds out his true love has just died of old age. After this point the plot goes into an infinite loop of past and present spinning like tops and all because of a little self-hypnotism. 

Okay, I guess my time travel idea for the Return of Flipka is not so crazy after all, is it?  (yes, it is!)

Me and Jane and the Zombies

My Jane Austen dolly

It has become evident that I’m not going to get any serious writing or editing done before the end of the year so I’ve decided to rift on the most boring thing about me: I’m obsessed with Jane Austen and will watch just about any production inspired by her work. Especially when I’m not feeling well. She can always squeeze a happy tear out of me.

In my defense, I’m not quite as looney as many so-called Janeites who dress in bonnets and empire waist dresses and have tea parties in the garden. 

But I did watch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies all the way through. Actually, other than the fact that the Bennett sisters are zombie killers, the plot is fairly close to the original.

That’s not always the case with P & P.  In the first film version (1940), the producers changed the time period to the late 1800s so that Greer Garson could dress and act more like Scarlett O’Hara and less like, well, Elizabeth Bennett. Then they compounded their tomfoolery by casting that obnoxious gasbag Sir Lawrence Olivier as Darcy. But it could have been worse. They originally tried to cast Clark Gable in the part. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy cannot be played by just any actor.  He or she has to be able to capture a character who is beyond stinky rich and prickly as a cactus but also kind and generous. Not to mention sensitive. But not too sensitive. In the 2003 version of P & P a little known Scottish actor plays opposite Kiera Knightley. She does a decent job as Elizabeth but he looks at times like he’s going to cry.  No, no, no.  Darcy is a Englishman gentleman and they do not cry!  Stiff upper lip and all that!

I also do not want to see Elizabeth and Darcy as a bickering married couple, as in the 2013 film Death Comes to Pemberley.  Even if Wickham is accused of murder and Darcy is forced to defend him for reasons that make no sense, Darcy and Elizabeth do not bicker.  They all out fight. Then they make up. Darcy gets wet, and, well, you know.

Speaking of wet Darcys, in the 1995 PBS miniseries, Colin Firth did the impossible. He pulled off Darcy. And for his efforts, look what they did to the poor guy.

They turned him into a swamp monster.

Happy New Years everyone!

Flaming Balls of Gas

It’s that month again; the one in which I get to turn another year older. When I was a child I got it into my head that the date of my birth held the key to my destiny. That I had been sent to earth for some special reason. By this logic anyone born on my birthday was special too. This idiocy was reinforced when I found out how many famous people were born on May 26th. 

John Wayne was born May 26, 1907. He rode horses and shot guns.  I tried to ride a horse once but the critter paid me no never mind (as my grandmother would say) galloping off into the desert until it finally got tired.  Luckily it knew the way back to the barn because I sure didn’t.  Clearly being a cowboy star was not in my stars.

Sally Ride was born May 26, 1951. At one time I wanted to be an astronaut. My motives were entirely selfish.  I wanted to sail off into space to find the mothership that deposited me on Earth like a demented stork with a sick sense of humor.  But then I hit high school and realized I have math dyslexia.  I can’t even copy down a telephone number without transposing the numbers.  Plus they drink their own urine in space,  Yuck. Did I ever mention that  I’m a real picky eater?

Stevie Nicks was born on May 26 1948 and Peggie Lee, May 26. 1920. I tried out  for choir once and sang so beautifully that the choral director suggested I consider a career in comedy.

Indeed, of all the celebrities born on May 26th (Dorothea Lange, James Arness, Jack Kervokian to name a few) the only one I feel a kinship with is Isadora Duncan born May 26, 1877.  I love to go barefoot in the garden. I love to dance in loose clothing. And I suppose one day my scarf will get caught in the spokes of a Bugatti and that will be end.

As I got older I realized that having my picture taken all the time or reading about myself in “stars who’ve aged badly” would have ended, well, badly.  Very badly.  It’s a good thing my path was not one that led to celebrity.

 

Do you feel a kinship with any celebrity born on the same day as you or are the stars just flaming balls of gas twirling out in space?

The Beatles’ Slept Here (or not)

Last week I wrote about the legendary Mapes Hotel in downtown Reno Nevada. Well, if you cross the Truckee River and walk down a block you’ll run into another landmark hotel, the Riverside.

The Riverside. Today, low cost artist lofts and studios.

The Riverside. Today it contains low cost artist lofts and studios.

As you can see, it’s a good, solid structure, almost boring in design. However, at one time it was more notorious than the Mapes.  Not because it was a rocking, rioting fun place to stay but for a different, almost more scandalous, reason.

The current structure was built in 1927 reportedly on the spot where the city of Reno was founded in 1861.  During its heyday (1930 to approximately 1950) its select clientele stayed in two or three bedroom suites on the upper floors which were equipped with kitchenettes and had been designed specifically for them.  Generally they were women traveling alone or with children and servants in tow.  Many books and movies set during that time contain references to the Riverside including the “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand and the movie “The Women.”th-4

Another clue to the hotel’s notoriety (if you haven’t guessed yet), the old courthouse is virtually right next door. 

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Lobby of the Riverside from Historic Reno

After the women no longer needed to trek to Reno for its special services, the hotel went into a tailspin and by the time I knew of its existence it was a moldy though dignified and staid sort of place where one’s grandparents might stay.  Finally it closed in 1987.  But, unlike the Mapes, preservationists prevailed and the building now serves a community of artists and has an organic coffeeshop in the lobby. What an interesting life that old gal has had!

As to why the Riverside has a place in my heart, well, according to a popular urban myth the Beatles once stayed in one of those multi-room suites on the sixth floor. Only, I know it never happened. It was just the mind fart of a couple of silly girls that somehow got out of control, resulting in an assault on the sixth floor of the Riverside.  Unfortunately the word got out at school and for years after I was the butt of many jokes.

I left Reno shortly after high school and only returned for short visits with my family thus I rarely saw any of my old classmates. So when I found out at my 10 year reunion that the kids who’d made fun of me now firmly believed (and supposedly had evidence) that in October 1965 the Beatles hid out in the Riverside Hotel, I felt like I was on an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Even when I told them it was hokum, they stuck by their stories. I, the instigator, was irrelevant.  The story had a life of its own and was now entrenched in the minds of people who wanted to believe. (I fictionalized the whole thing a few years back on Wattpad.)

So if you haven’t guessed the Riverside’s claim to fame, here’s one last clue: For many years the phrase “I’m going to Reno” meant only one thing and it generally wasn’t something any man wanted to hear.

Trumps Come and Go

One of my favorite blogging buddies left this comment on a recent post:

Trumps come and go. Sometimes humanity has to step back to make a bigger step forward. Most important is to stay human in any circumstances. Better future comes when people change their mentality, not when they change their government.

And she should know. She’s Irish and they’ve had their fair share of Trumps. A few years back we embarked on a suicidal mission to see as many historic sights in the United Kingdom as possible in just two weeks.  We undertook this mission with only rudimentary knowledge of the English monarchy.  This is akin to mowing the lawn with nail clippers.  After only a couple of tours of places like the Tower of London and Westminster Cathedral we were forever lost in all those Plantagenet, Norman, Beaufort and Tudor spats and back stabbings. So we bought this book to help us make sense of it all:

img_2541It promised to transport the reader “on a regal journey from the earliest days of anglo-saxon monarchs, through famous battles and the foundations of historic buildings.” Those of you who know a lot more about the British Royal Family than I do will probably scoff.  You can’t really learn much from a 126-page book whose aim is to leave tourists marveling at the enduring institution of the monarchy.  For example, the five pages devoted to the current royal family contain not one picture of Princess Diana nor is there mention of the Duke of Windsor’s ties to Adolph Hitler.  Indeed, the book ends with this sentence: The monarchy continues to be a strong thread in the fabric of national life, its powers reduced, its pageantry more symbolic but its magic at times hardly any the less diminished.

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“Bloody Mary” – so named because she liked to slaughter non-Catholics. Black magic must have been her thing.

In the United States we number our presidents and, from the results of the last election, do not favor the idea of dynasties. But it was interesting to read that from the 9th century to the 21st there have only been 56 kings and queens (not counting the formerly separate realms of Wales and Scotland). Since 1776 the US has had 45 presidents. Of course the more frequent turnover, in my humble opinion, has not always been positive. When the Dems get in power they undo what the GOP has done and vice versa.  This seesaw only hurts people and the environment. 

LadyJane

Lady Jane Grey 16, convicted of treason and beheaded.

Another difference between our two systems is we do not elect infant presidents (until now that is), whereas many of the British monarchs were preteens used as pawns in bloody struggles for the crown. Those who had “protectors” with their best interests at heart might just make it to adulthood but most were left in the hands of murderous rival gangs. 

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Edward V and his brother Richard probably around 11 when they “disappeared.”

One thing I particularly enjoyed while reading the history of the Kings and Queen was learning how monarchs earned their nicknames:

  • Harold Harefoot (Harold I) so named not because of his hairy feet but because he was “fleet of foot.” 
  • And Silly Billy (William IV) who never expected to be king and apparently enjoyed his youth enough to be thought of as “frivolous.” He was also the oldest person to be crowned (64) but it appears Prince Charles will beat that record.

The kings were often known for their interests: there were warrior kings, sailor kings, farmer kings and kings who just liked to ride around on their horses and hunt. There was even one king with a passion for digging ditches (Edward II). The queens also got nicknames: Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen (no sex for her) and Mary I, Bloody Mary (no Protestants for her).

So Inese is right.  We will somehow survive and perhaps learn something. Is that too much to ask? By the way – please check out Inese’s blog.  She’s an amazing photographer/blogger.  And to all my friends in the UK, kindly remember that I got my facts from a book written for clueless tourists!

What Not to Wear to a Tea Party

Last summer I was invited to a tea party.  By that I mean, tea and crumpets with ladies in frocks and garden hats and not a group of people with teabags hanging from the rims of their hats screaming “Obama is an Arab.”

The Tea Party

The Tea Party circa 1930

I hadn’t been to a tea party since my daughter was three and the teacups held apple juice. My first thought was “goodie, I get to pretend to be a lady again.” You see readers, I spend 90% of my time in baggy clothes and flip-flops and rarely wear jewelry.  My mother describes my fashion IQ as “mid-century homeless.”

Therefore, what to wear was an immediate concern. It would have to be something I already owned (and fit into) because, even when I was very thin, the thought of being watched as I stripped to my panties always freaks me out. So, you could say my unwillingness to bare my butt to hidden security cameras lowered my frock candidates to two, both of which were bought for funerals but worn to any and all special occasions, including weddings.

The next big decision was which piece of jewelry to wear. Oh my, the true test of whether or not you’re a sentimentalist lies in the jewelry you’ve carted all over the country.  I like to think I’m not but below are pieces I haven’t been able to part with so you tell me:

buttonsButtons – from the assortment above you’d think my political inclinations swing wildly but the Nixon, Rockefeller and Bush buttons I inherited from my father.  They’re a reminder of all those arguments we had around the dining room table, many of which resulted in my expulsion to my bedroom sans dessert.  They also remind me of one of the last things Dad ever said to me before his death “Republicans really aren’t nice people.”  I have no idea what prompted him to say that, probably the swift boating of John Kerry. I’m sure Trump would have mortified him.

blueplastic

This cheap plastic pendant was given to me by a sixteen year old boy who lived with his foster parents in a trailer park in Ridgecrest California. All three raced dirt bikes out in the desert at a time when movies like The Wild One depicted motorcyclists as thugs. But they were good people.  They taught me a valuable lesson about rushing to judgement. The pendant always reminds me of a spaghetti dinner, the drive-in movies and what it’s like to be sixteen and forbidden to ride on the back of a motorcycle.

hippie

I bought the sun pendant in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco.  It always reminds me of following Country Joe and the Fish (who were playing on the back of a flatbed truck) and singing “Well, it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for.  Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, next stop – Vietnam.” I may have to wear it again.

The charm bracelet was from my Aunt Elvira who had no children of her own and used to take us to Disneyland. Until I was about thirty-five, it was my dream to live in FantasyLand.  Guess what – I’m having that same dream all over again.

keys

Whose jewelry drawer doesn’t contain an assortment of oddball keys? You can’t throw them away because one might unlock a diary that’s been hidden in the back of a closet for decades, full of childhood stories you’ve long forgotten.

junk

 

Other treasures include earrings without mates (they’ll show up), my grandmother’s charm bracelet, the odd pendant or two, and a couple of unpolished garnets.  It might surprise you to know that my jewelry collection is not insured.

Back to my ensemble, I decided that wearing old campaign buttons and just one earring might make me look even kookier than I generally do. They were definitely on the what not to wear to a Tea Party list.  Instead I wore a simple set of hand strung beads and clip on pearl earrings that had belonged to my grandmother.

You may wonder why I’m telling this story now. Well, months ago I predicted Trump would eventually go to war with the Pope not really believing it would ever happen.  Well, it’s beginning and I’m moving to Wonderland to have tea with the Mad Hatter.