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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Parking Hell with a Happy Ending

I believe Parking Hell is the garage under 50 Staniford Street where The Amazing Bob and my Primary Care Physician offices are located. Invariably some big horking SUV or pick up occupies a space and a half or more, berthing their giant boat of a vehicle across two spots, effectively eliminating an entire precious and scarce spot. Also too, the words Compact Car Only seem to be incomprehensible to the pilots of these monsters.

It’s never a Prius or one of those cute new Fiats. No. It’s always some giant tank of a vehicle with a name like Armada, Sequoia, or Expedition. The idea behind the model names, mebbe, is to convey the sense of security, well being and superiority one might feel if sheltered by a giant tree or protected by a massive, scary army. OR the auto marketeers want to entice intrepid explorer types. You know, the sort who’re willing to travel to far, hostile reaches of the planet as long as they’ve got a craft the size of the Nimitz with cushy leather seats, polished aluminum wheels, wood-grain trim accents and a guaranteed awesome Sony® Sound System.

In any case, I managed to wedge Bix into the space and even emerge without first coating myself in Vaseline but it was a tight thing. If the driver was as portly and inelegant as his/her vehicle, I was certain they’d not be able to get back into their road ship without destroying my driver’s side door. Luckily, TAB and I were done and outta there first.

 n.b.: I know the vessel in the pic isn’t all that far over the line BUT this was a compact car only space (SMALLER to start with!) and there was a huge concrete stanchion on my right. NO wiggle room.

Though mid afternoon when we completed our mission, rush hour traffic was in full bloom. By the time we pulled into Valhalla I'd gone Full Metal Cantankerous. Not pretty. And then I checked the mail.

The Gods of Fabulous Fiction had left me a prezzie—The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies. It's by one of my big time fav authors, Martin Millar. Frustratingly, I'd not been able to find it in the local book emporiums so I'd had to order online and wait and wait. *sigh*

From The Guardian's review: 
Set in the Athens of 421BC, Buttercups and Daisies is a comedy that is by turns rambunctious, satirical and bittersweet. It features appearances by Socrates and a young Plato, the playwright Aristophanes and, intervening in the affairs of the city-state and its neighbours, sundry capricious gods and near-immortal heroes. 
Also mentioned is that:
Neil Gaiman likened Millar to Kurt Vonnegut, “if he’d hung around with entirely the wrong sort of people”. 
AWESOME! If you've not read Millar yet, pick up The Good Fairies of New York. That was my first and it totally hooked me.

Thank you Mister Millar and the book gods for saving my day! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bookstore Meanderings

I was in my local Barnes and Noble yesterday and came upon a couple of old book friends, prominently displayed.

Apparently Fear of Flying, a racy novel for the literary set—first published in ’73, is a thing again. I was surprised to see it in the featured “Top Picks” section. Confused as to why this this saucy read from my college days is once again big, I googled.

Fear of Flying is having a 40th birthday party.
A Woman’s Fantasy in a Modern Reality ‘Fear of Flying’ by Erica Jong, 40 Years Later
Isadora’s frank, explicit, chatty account of her quest for no-strings, satisfying sex (“absolutely pure” and “free of ulterior motives”) electrified and titillated the critical establishment. John Updike called the book “fearless” and compared it to “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Portnoy’s Complaint”; Henry Miller predicted it would “make literary history” for its “wisdom about the eternal man-woman problem”; and the novel was hailed by many (not all) in feminism’s second wave as a pathbreaking achievement for female self-expression.
Gotta say, when I read the book at the tender-ish age of 20, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It was an entertaining, very sexy read (Great Beach Read!). Isadora Wing wasn’t someone I could really relate to though. She was married (twice and too damn young), financially very comfortable and a twice published author before hitting 30. All this and she was quite tardily coming upon the notion that what she wanted out of life counted.

For me this wasn’t a great feminist read (as it’s been hailed). It was a hot little page-turner to read on the Greyhound as I crisscrossed America visiting chums and joining up with traveling carnivals.

From a women’s equality perspective, all I remember is that Isadora seemed, at least in the beginning, acquiescent and lacking in self confidence. Yes, she evolves, grabs some confidence, becomes less of an ornament, an accessory and more her own person but was she embracing feminism or just experiencing personal growth? Is that the same thing?

Maybe I should reread?

And then, also on the Top Picks shelf I found Grendel. Goddamn I loved this book! This is Beowulf from the monster’s perspective. And monster? Such a negative, unnecessary term. Tsk, tsk.
As a young monster, Grendel lives with his mother in a cave on the outskirts of human civilization. A foul, wretched creature who long ago abandoned language, Grendel’s mother is his only kin or companion.
Poor thing had an uncommunicative mother and no friends! I could so relate. This story, maybe more than any philosophy tome or lecture, brought me to the stone awareness that there are two (and more) sides to every story—the whole life-as-big-grey-area doctrine.

Grendel really lit my fire and sent me on to find other retellings of fables from the supposed villain’s POV.

Wide Sargasso Sea was the first one I found post-Grendel. The madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre has her say and WOW. Loved this book and really came to despise the selfish, emo, cruel Rochester.

I’m also keen on how Jasper Fforde portrays him in The Eyre Affair.

Other retellings that I wasn’t so taken with?

The Mists of Avalon—King Arthur from the supposedly evil witches standpoint. Meh, the author’s style didn’t grab me.

Neither did Gregory McGuire’s Oz story—Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I really wanted to love this but found myself being miffed over having spent the bucks. If I'd been familiar with the author's writing I still would've read Wicked but I'd have borrowed not bought.

I’m a sucker for stories told from the opposite beach. Got any recommendations?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Never Enough

The creeping dawn as we left for the airport
Adieu to Nantasket
Time that is.

Jen and I flew down to see my father, Pop, Vati, on Saturday. It was, as uzh, a wham-bam-way-too-goddamn-fast trip but a good one. Daddy’s in great shape. Well, as great as a 79 year old man in a wheelchair can be. We had a picnic lunch in his room and a bunch ‘o’ fun gassing and blathering about all manner of topic—serious, enraging, disheartening, hilarious and generally effluvial.

I gave him a mini iPad lesson too. Vati's and my goal is for him to be able to use it for emailing, IMing, Facetiming and such. There's nothing more fun than a yap fest with the old man. Since I can't get down to see him more often, we need the electric avenue communication. Also too, his pal Jim Buechler in New Mexico would like to be in touch, misses the wild convo times.

And then it was time for Jen and I to race back to Pittsburgh where we met my pal Heike for dinner before our flight home.

Heike, who’s moving to Oregon in a couple of weeks, suggested we check out The Church Brew Works located in the former Saint John the Baptist church on Liberty Ave. in the Lawrenceville section of town (which reminded me an awful lot of our old neighborhood in pre-BioTech Boom East Cambridge.
Wow, wow, wow! GREAT choice Heike! I’m just sorry that she’ll have moved by the time I’m in Pittsburgh again. The joint was tremendous. Incredible grub and GORGEOUS environment. It was perfect.

We started with the Mushroom Lentil Fritter appetizer. Having just, it seemed, had lunch with Poppy, I ordered the Grilled Vegetable Salad for my entree. Fabulous. Jen had the Bay of Fundy Salmon sammich. Dreamy to say the least. Next time, and we really will need to go there again (with Helen!), I’d like to order the Veggie Spaghetti.

Zucchini noodles served atop a beet marinara sauce.  Served with lentil and mushroom “meatballs”
it always seems to be raining in Western Pennsylvania

Jen’s keen to work her way through the pizza offerings:
Artichoke, Spinach & Feta
Portobello Pesto Pizza
Cinco Fromaggio
and, of course, the Pittsburgh Pierogie Pizza
For those who aren’t suds quaffers *cough* *us* *cough,* there’s a full bar with a very talented mixologist. I had the Moscow Mule though I believe they referred to it as a Mexican Mule—whatever the national heritage, it was fab.

And then, we were back at the mega packed airport. Apparently this past weekend marked the beginning of Summer Vacation Season. Everyone and their 1,012 children (plus stuffed animals) are flying somewhere. Where to? And how can they all possibly afford airfare for a fam of five PLUS hotel, rental car and general holiday expenses? $$$$$$

Ah but that's a puzzle rant for another day.

Rocco, Coco and The Amazing Bob were happy to have me home. Coco needed to play hide and seek, Rocco demanded that I serve as his mattress and TAB totes missed my nagging *snark!* It's good to be home.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Neck News

Ever since we, The Amazing Bob, Jen, Oni and meself, moved to the Neck there've been a few empty storefronts along Sea Street, the main drag.

They've always struck me as great spots for some local entrepreneurial bee. With the slow recovery from the Bush Recession, the windows stayed dark, the shops unoccupied.

Jen and I fantasized about what fab joints could occupy those vacant biz berths.

* Book store/Coffee shop!
* An art supply emporium!
* A cool, hipstery wine bar, serving vegetarian fare and Fratelli-crafted astounding pastries. There'd be meet-the-author nights with ASL 'terped readings from new novels, slender poetry volumes and scrawling from subway walls. The joint would also feature art by local painters (ME, darlings!), sculptors, potters and jewelry artists.

Yeah, that last idea, while mega magnificent, would be a long shot to say the least--a real pie in the sky but doesn't it sound GREAT!?

Here's the dealio, some intrepid impresario has just, this past week, opened an ice cream shop!!! Can you say AWESOME PLUS?! I sure can. Astoundingly, TAB and I've not been there yet. We will though--later today. Every fiber and molecule of my being is shouting MUST CHECK THIS OUT!

On the day they opened, there was a line, a crowd, a block long to get in there. I can't wait!

The name of the place is Hough Many Scoops. Snicker, snicker. Our locale? Houghs Neck. Named for Atherton Hough, Houghs is pronounced "Hows." Of course.

The place is situated, ideally, steps from an elementary school and directly across the street from the nastiest dive bar around. Yep, a bar so foul that even your faithful scribe (Moi!) won't go in. Maybe ice cream will melt the hearts of the miscreant element which frequent The Manet.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Why Do I love Obama Today?

R It's about equality.

Of the races—black, white, red, brown, yellow, fuschia, polka dot and lavender.

"What a life Clementa Pinckney lived," Obama said to rounds of applause and "amens." ''What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41. Slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock."

"Removing the flag from this state's capital would not be an act of political correctness," he said. "It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong."

It's about equality for all.
Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Bi.

President Obama called the Supreme Court's decision affirming the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry a "victory for America" that had "made our union a little more perfect."

"Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American."

It's about equality and justice for all.

Everyone, NOT just the rich and the lucky, deserve decent health care.

"As the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working,"Obama declared at the White House, hours after justices read their opinions. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay."

"Today's decision is a victory for every hardworking American. Access to quality, affordable health care is a right, not a privilege."

It's been a good week.

Man's Inhumanity

I'm puzzling over this word:
1. characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed:
humane treatment of prisoners.
2. acting in a manner that causes the least harm to people or animals:
humane trapping of stray pets.
    mid-15c., variant of human (compare german/germane, urban/urbane), used interchangeably with it until early 18c., by which time it had become a distinct word with sense of "having qualities befitting human beings." But inhuman still can be the opposite of humane.
Given the barbarous and savage history of the human race, using the word "humane" to describe caring for those less fortunate, is laughable. Conversely, “inhumane” is used to describe heinous acts perpetrated by shitstains of the highest levels of fecalhood. Huh.
Fer Bast’s sake, here in the good ol’ US of A alone there’s been (short list!):
Americans don’t have the corner on despicable words and deeds though, on any given day, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Jeb can be counted on to spew idiocies, inanities and callously cold-hearted packed cretinisms.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
~Upton Sinclair
Who’s paying their bills? To whom are they on the take? When did their souls take the highest bidders mark? What happened to all their respective centers? Were they born without? What derailed them into Opposite Land, where down is up and backwards is forward, full speed ahead.

Are they all incapable of making an honest dime? Have they, at long last, no sense of decency?

IF there is a devil, IF Hades actually exists, these folks will have seats at the big fuck’s table.

After the gross insanity, cruelty and ruthlessness of the Bush/Cheney reign, it's taken Obama eight years and counting to restore sanity, some semblance of dignity and, yes, humanity. Has he been appreciated for it? Lauded as much as he should be for this heroic and, seemingly, impossible task. Only by those who voted for him. The Republican/Tea Party and their paid shills (Fox DUH) continue to cry—Obama’s the anti-Christ! Obama’s a Socialist! (how/why, if true, would this be bad?) Obama’s a Muslim! (again..bad why?) Ad nauseam.

So then, to me, “humane” is a laughable term.

“I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man.”
~Primo Levi, If This Is a Man / The Truce

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Inside In

So I went to see a kids movie. I thought, since it was a matinee in the middle of the week, I’d have the theater to myself or nearly so. Nope, apparently the munchkins finished school on the 24th of this month.

The joint was jammed with small fry zooming around like packs of jet propelled ecstatic sharks. Joy. Successfully dodging the kid-mines, I found my seat and yes, in this packed house I was surrounded by popcorn and jujube snarfing energy machines. More joy.

Here’s the thing though, this was the Braintree theater where every seat is the size of the Lazboy Cooper Power-time recliner. Also too, I’m deaf. The brats can make all the noise they want—their gleeful agitato won’t distract me from enjoying the moviola. Though hemmed in on all sides by percolating, jiggly kiddles, I was safe in my giant, cushioned, quiet island of a chair.

And then, then the commercials began. Swear ta Bast there was 20 minutes worth of ads flogging mondo SUVs. Clearly the auto marketeers knew they’d have a captive, suffering parental audience at an animated feature. BOOM, time to sell them outsized, gas guzzling monsters that’ll float the promise of quiet rides even if the back’s loaded with Sweetie’s entire, excited soccer team.

I considered walking out. I didn’t pay eight bucks to see endless (seemingly) slick, high end squibs for Nissan, Ford and VW. But then the movie began. It started with some musical story about a lonely volcano, singing for a mate. He nearly goes extinct but then a lady volcano springs up outta the ocean, brings him back to life and they live happily ever after. The End.


 Seriously, ‘the fuck was that all about? It had nothing to do with the story of the interior emotional workings of a tween, unhappy over her family’s move from Minnesota to San Francisco (N.B., the town in Minnesota is never named. It’s just some blissful pastoral ideal.)

The basic (wickedly so) story is that we, the audience, has a view inside Riley, the kid’s head. We see her emotions—she gets five. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. They’re located at emotion HQ in Riley’s head and help her cope with her world.

 COOL idea!

Somehow Joy and Sadness are pushed out of HQ—Anger, Disgust and Fear are left running the show. Yeah, cue the ominous music. The movie mostly focuses on Joy and Sadness’ struggle to preserve Riley’s good memories and return to the Control Center in order to guide her through this hard
transition—the big fat move.

Long Term Memory Stacks
My fav parts of the flick were when Bing Bong, Riley’s nearly forgotten imaginary friend, leads Joy and Sadness through Imagination Land and Abstract Thought. I’d see the movie again just for those fantastically inventive scenes.

Given that this is a Disney offering, there’s a neat, tidy happy ending. No, the family doesn’t pick up and move back to the rural Midwest of her happy memories BUT Riley’s parents discuss how hard the move, the change is. They empathize with her. They help her get through the big-ass hard transition. Wow. I was all wistful and jealous. In the eight moves that my family made together, my folks never once rocked that Disney idyllic parenthood thing. Gee. Rilly!? Muti and Vati Maderer were real versus romanticized bits of fluffy fiction? Shocking!


There’s more to the story of course. Rachel Simon’s got a fab post over at Bustle:
Is 'Inside Out' About Depression? The Pixar Film Isn't Afraid To Put Sadness In The Spotlight.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

If it’s Wednesday, this must be Venice…

Snake Charmer!
Beach that is.

OK, our Southern Cal traveling heroes (Jen and Oni DUH!) were actually there on Monday not today.

Venice Beach is the one California locale that I’ve ever wanted to see and, as yet, haven’t. I grew up with the idea that it was this wildly magical, far away, beachified version of Greenwich Village—a place filled with artists, scribes, musicians, street performers and a lot of romantic film noir-ish crime. Venice Beach also had body builder’s and skaters—it was extra special funkified cool.

I remember watching the Rockford Files as a teen (LOVED James Garner) and thinking “I AM gonna live on that beach and Rockford will be my neighbor.” Honest! ...sorta....

How is it that, in my great long life, I’ve not been there yet? That seems all tragic-like—ya know?

Maybe, once my bud Heike’s a West Coast babe (three weeks until the big move!), she can fly down to meet me for a little Venice art vaca?

Here’s the thing, Jen tells me that a lot of the vendors along the boardwalk are selling cheap, mass produced, made-in-China type crap versus their own handcrafted offerings. I need to NOT expect that I’ll be stepping into Venice Beach of the’50s and ‘60s when the West Coast Beats, The Doors as well as known, lesser known and legions of flat out unknown artists flourished.

Still, it’d all be worth it to see Rip Cronk’s big beautiful murals. I wanna get up close and personal with Emily Winter’s work as well as Chase and Logek’s funky stuff .

Venice Beach—a warm, sunny, sandy version of Reykjavik with all it’s killer street art?