Archive for November, 2010

Six Word Story #18

Winter evenings gave her abysmal fatigue.


They Gathered Together (Mini-Saga #13)

“Grandma?! Why are you here?”

“It’s Thanksgiving.”

“Oh. I’m having bourbon roast turkey at the Union.”

“Nonsense. We’d enjoy your company at the farm. ”

“The farm…how could you go back after decades in New York city?”

“How could you break my violin? Come along. I brought the Lincoln Town Car.”


Get your Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on

In my house, the viewing of Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a tradition every year on Thanksgiving day.

When time permits (which it usually does, as my husband and children are such devotees of this tradition) we even do our own recreation of the final scene, where, instead of the traditional fare of turkey and mashed potatoes, they have toast, jelly beans, popcorn, and ice cream, because they weren’t on top of things enough to prepare a proper dinner. Shopping for these items a few days before Thanksgiving is also a tradition the girls look forward to.

We usually do this Charlie Brown Thanksgiving routine in the late morning before we go off to our regularly scheduled Thanksgiving festivities. We also go around the table and say what we are thankful for.

Here’s a clip from Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:

You can watch the whole thing for free on Hulu.


In which we replace the word “fricking”with Jabberwocky

I heard the word “fricking” one time too many today (ah the joys of half days of school) so I made a certain daughter recite the Jabberwocky poem out loud.

I told her I dislike the repeated use of this word, not because it closely resembles the F word, but because it indicates a lack of imagination. This poem would show her that there are far better made up words out there than “fricking.”

When I was in fourth grade my class had to memorize and recite this poem. I did this with far more relish than I did my recitation of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in college.

Of course my daughter loved reciting it. I intend to require recitations of it again if there are other “fricking” violations.

Here’s the poem, which is by Lewis Carroll:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree.
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came wiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Frumious” and “uffish” would make for great substitutes for “fricking,” methinks.


The best 46 seconds of cello music

I know, here I am yapping about cello music again. I can’t help it. It’s another gray November day and nothing accompanies gray November days better than cello music.

My favorite 46 seconds of cello music is from the first movement of the Elgar cello concerto. The late cellist Jacqueline Du Pre made this piece famous in 1962 when she first performed it as a teenager (unfortunately she was diagnosed with MS in her late 20s and had to stop playing. She died at age 42). The way Du Pre plays this section of the movement usually makes me cry so I don’t listen to it often, because I don’t want to desensitize myself to it.

I recently studied videos of Du Pre, Yo-Yo Ma and newcomer Alisa Weilerstein (she’s 28 and hailed as the next Yo-Yo Ma) performing the first movement (specifically my favorite 46 seconds of that movement). I still think Du Pre performs it the best, with Alisa a close second. I made my four daughters watch the four clips and three of them say Alisa’s is the best.

Here is Jacqueline playing the first movement (begin at the 2:10 mark and continue until 2:56):

Here’s Alisa Weilerstein. Continue until the 52 second mark:

An here’s Yo-Yo. Start at 2:20 and continue until 3:05:

A side note: Daniel Barenboim was the conductor for all three performances. He was married to Jacqueline Du Pre, so one wonders what he was feeling during the Ma and Weilerstein performances.


Six Word Story #17

The last bird sang until death.

I bought cellist Zoe Keating’s album a week ago and have been listening to it somewhat obsessively. I especially like the song The Last Bird (if you have iTunes you can hear a preview of the song here).

At the beginning of the song the cello literally sounds like a bird. Several other cello voices join in (all the cello tracks are performed by Zoe). Then at the end of the song the bird/cello is singing alone again and, with all the gray November days we had last week, the song made me think so much about fall and what fall symbolizes to me – achieving brilliance right before death. Such was the thinking behind this six word story.


We Gather Together

“When you go home to where your parents live it’s like saying that the place you live in now isn’t really home.”

Ah, Thanksgiving.

As a kid, Thanksgiving gatherings couldn’t be large enough. The more cousins and the more game-playing the better.

Then comes middle age, when Thanksgiving serves as a reminder of how some family relationships have almost imperceptibly accumulated a certain amount of baggage over the years. The weight of this baggage is felt during Thanksgiving and its demand that we still must gather together anyway.

If recent convos with friends are any indication, gathering together at Thanksgiving can often take non-traditional forms these days, from gatherings in hospital rooms, hotel rooms, in the kitchen cooking for the homeless, and restaurants.

Which brings me to the “We Gather Together” Thanksgiving episode of thirtysomething, which also took place in a non-traditional setting, to avoid that baggage.

I happened upon episodes of thirtysomething on Netflix instant viewing the other day and have since found myself watching an episode every evening.

I watched the show when it originally aired (1987-1991). I was a young twentysomething at the time and don’t recall being annoyed at the show.

Now I’m a fortysomething and found myself wanting to throw my slipper at the screen during the first episode, when Michael whined about how Hope no longer took care of him like she did before they had kids (i.e. no more massages or fancy home cooked meals, the poor thing), except I haven’t been able to find my old Ugg slipppers this fall (wah!), so I wasn’t able to throw them.

I wanted to throw my slippers again when Hope whined about being a stay-at- home mom. The SAHM vs. working mom debates bore me to tears in 2010. The clear cut working mom/SAHM divisions, and the superiority complexes on both sides, seem antiquated in today’s society where the great majority of moms now work at least part time.

But I’ve kept watching the thirtysomething episodes anyway (it’s especially interesting to compare it to Mad Men) and watched the Thanksgiving episode We Gather Together last night.

Instead of doing the normal thing and getting together with family, the friends all gathered at Hope and Michael’s house for Thanksgiving, opting to spend the day with the people they see the most and have the most fun with in their everyday lives.

When Hope asked Gary if he had family to spend Thanksgiving with he said, “Yeah, but they don’t like me as much as you do.” Another reality of middle age:  sometimes you like your friends more than their family does and can better appreciate both their quirks and their strengths.

They forgot to thaw the turkey so ended up getting ice cream and eating it on Hope and Michael’s bed.  It’s a fun scene. It certainly is not the way one would eat Thanksgiving dinner if spending it at your parents’ house, causing Ellen to say,When you go home to where your parents live it’s like saying that the place you live in now isn’t really home.”


Rich Boy (plus Six Word Story #16)

Rich boy’s money made him poor. (Six Word Story #16)

I finished reading the novel Rich Boy by Sharon Pomerantz over the weekend and that six word story is one way to summarize the plot.

The first half of the book is about Robert Vishniak’s working class upbringing in Philadelphia and his college years at Tufts University, with the remainder of the book focusing on his life after he marries an extraordinarily wealthy woman and tries to make partner at a law firm. The book ends with the 1987 stock market crash.

Perhaps the most interesting insight from the book is when Robert, after several years of living and working with the affluent, notices the rich sometimes like to pretend they are middle class and this is the one thing they have in common with the poor.

Rich Boy is Pomerantz’s first novel and took her ten years to write. Below is a short video of her talking about the job she worked as a shoe shine girl in New York City, which brought her into the company of the wealthy men in the financial district about whom she would write in Rich Boy. She analyzes various pairs of men’s shoes and describes the wealthy men who wear them and describes how a shoe shine is a “shockingly intimate act” in the midst of a hustle and bustle environment like this. It’s interesting to watch even if you haven’t read the book:


Hallelujah! A random act of culture

Have you seen this video yet? A couple of weeks ago 650 choristers from 26 choirs in the Philadelphia area went to the local Macy’s disguised as everyday shoppers and sang the Hallelujah chorus. We need more random acts of culture like these:


Autumn Meadow Missive

On Wednesday the temperature was in the 60s.

When you live in Wisconsin you don’t tend to take 60 degree November days for granted, so I determined to spend some of it outdoors, figuring this might be the last 60 degree day for months.

I decided to take a walk in the meadow at Aldo Leopold Nature Center. I hadn’t been there for a couple of months and looked forward to a mosquito-free walk.

In recent years I’ve realized I prefer rustic trails through woods, meadows and prairies over pristine gardens, like those at Olbrich.

This was made apparent to me a couple of years ago while gazing at an extraordinarily large and elaborate backyard flower garden. There literally wasn’t a weed anywhere. No visible dirt either. The lack of weeds was so distracting I couldn’t see the flowers for the lack of weeds.

The flowers were nestled atop beds of mulch. The gardener told me he adds a few dozen bags of mulch to the flower beds every month during the spring and summer.

I dunno… as beautiful as the flowers were, it seemed unnatural for all of them to sit in flower beds with no dirt or weeds in sight, just the mulch. Give me unkempt flora over the pristine kind any day.

Then again, I’m one who favors a purple yard, so you may want to take my opinion on such matters with heaps of salt.

Anyway, I set out for the meadow, with fantasies of a nice stroll through the meadow one last time this fall. I thought perhaps the colors would be similar to those in the painting at the top of this post. (I know. Silly me.)

I’m sorry to say I didn’t even set foot in the meadow. As I approached it, the grass looked scorched and uninviting. I didn’t hear any birds or honking geese. I realized then that fauna is as integral to the meadow experience as flora, which is another reason I prefer meadows to pristine flower gardens.

Like the recent time change, the autumn meadow was too much of a reminder of the approaching winter.

Speaking of winter, in a fit of optimism a few weeks ago I actually pondered the possibility of acquiring used snowshoes so I could snowshoe in the meadow during the winter. (I know. What was I thinking? I hate the cold.) But I fully expect my next meadow missive won’t be until next spring where, I hope, there will be white-throated sparrows waiting for me.