Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

 

The other night I was at this thing at my ladies club, a sort of mixer, and there was this ice-breaker game. This gist of it was this – upon entering, each attendee had a sticker placed on her back. She couldn’t see it, but others could. Each sticker had an image (likeness) and description of a woman of note. Some were recent (Rosa Parks, Queen Elizabeth II) and some were ancient (Sappho, Eleanor of Aquitaine). The wearer of the sticker asked yes/no questions of other attendees, in order to try and figure out who was on her damn back. It was fairly simple. How hard could it be?

 

When that sticker was slapped on my back and the game was explained, I immediately declared that unless the broad over my shoulder was T-Swift, I was unlikely to figure out shit. It was a joke, of course, but it was also kind of true. I don’t necessarily have a clue about, well, anything. Let me cut right to it. I wasn’t excited about this game. But I’m a go-er. So I did my best to encourage others to ask questions, to involve and engage them and make them feel welcomed at the club. That was not only easy for me, but fun. But wouldn’t you know it – there were other people there who also wanted to involve and engage others. That means they turned to me and put me in the hot seat.

 

As a friendly introvert, social stuff takes a certain amount of energy. And that usually means stress is involved. I’m a grown-ass woman, though, so I can generally muster the strength and deliver the goods. At least I think that’s the case.

 

Anyhoo – once I chilled the hell out, I went for it.

 

Living or dead? Dead. I liked that.

 

European? Yes.

 

World of literature? Yes.

 

The UK? No.

 

France? Yes.

 

And so I asked, “Am I Simone De Beauvoir?”

 

Yes. I freaking was.

 

Simone De Beauvoir

Oh Boy, Hey Hey – It’s a National Holiday

 

 

Here in America it’s Labor Day. Typically, we endeavor to not labor at all on this fine day, unless you count bending one’s elbow to drink beer or manning a grill. Which I do not. Count, I mean.

 

Anyhoo – this particular holiday has been around since the late 1800s and I’m not sure I’ve ever once thought of the labor movement on this holiday. A lot of American holidays are like that – we forget their primary focus and the very reasons they exist. Maybe that’s not only American. Maybe that happens everywhere.

 

But back to that barbecue action. I can focus on that, yes-sir-ee. I can even focus on it while bending my elbow. I believe that’s what they call multi-tasking.

 

Happy holiday to you and yours!

L.A. Tennis Club

 

 

The other day found me attending a meeting at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. I never even knew this joint existed.

 

I saw only the main club house, but it was still a lot to take in. Completed in 1927, it is stunning. Spanish Revival style homes and buildings can be found throughout Los Angeles. And I’ve been privileged to visit many. But this marked my first time seeing a painted ceiling in this style. Most are usually white or some sort of neutral tone, with the wood being the star. As shown by this beautiful blue example, the wood is still a standout.

 

I read quite a bit about the L.A. Tennis Club’s history at their website, and I found it fascinating. I don’t play tennis, but I do watch the heck out of it. And I happen to love Los Angeles. We don’t have the same history as the east coast, but what we do have is grand. And it’s fun! Who doesn’t love fun?

 

I may never again find myself at the L.A. Tennis Club. But I got to go this past week, and that counts. Here I thought I was simply attending a meeting. Turns out I was visiting history.

Ladies First

 

 

I am still riding the wave of the goodness of Rock Camp. That week generally leaves me feeling strong and comfortable in my gender. I smile when I see a female doing something radical or bold. I openly support women I know and women I don’t as they pursue their dreams. I feel grateful to have this female experience.

 

None of that means I am anti-male. I adore men. I’m married to one, for cry-eye! Being a feminist and a strong woman doesn’t equal discrimination against males. On the contrary, it equals respect. I have that in spades.

 

But I digress. Because I’m feeling all girly-proud and what-not, I got such a kick out of something I recently learned: the first known author and poet to sign work and leave a lasting record of writing was Enheduanna – a woman. She lived over 4000 years ago (yes – four thousand) in ancient Mesopotamia and her writings are still referenced and translated today by contemporary authors. Wow.

 

I’m guessing there were other poets, perhaps writing at earlier times. And their works may be documented somewhere. But the first person to leave a signature with a work was Enheduanna. And I get a kick out of that. I hope I remember this historical tidbit, and I hope I smile whenever it glides across my mind. Honestly, how could I not smile? Honestly…

Dough!

 

 

Yesterday was National Doughnut Day in America. And I admit – I had jaded thoughts about the whole thing. I mean, aren’t most National Fill-in-the-Blank Days all about marketing? Weren’t their origins based in raking in bucks?

 

Well I was wrong, friends. Mister sent me this link, which gives the sweet history of National Doughnut Day. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait for you. Just thinking about those Chicago-area women, volunteering their time and efforts to increase the morale of soldiers, well, it makes me smile.

 

So in the spirit of lovely history, yesterday I took myself on a little trip to Krispy Kreme. I thought I’d enjoy an Original Glazed and a coffee. Maybe I’d get a half dozen for home so that Mister wouldn’t miss out. When I arrived at the heavenly store, I saw a traffic cop directing the drive-thru customers around the bend. Then I saw about a hundred people in a line that swerved and snaked to the other side of the building and out of view. A single doughnut costs around $1. That line looked to me like it would take up at least 45 minutes of my life. I may be cheap, y’all, but I ain’t that cheap. So I steered my car away from the Krispy Kreme and toward home.

 

I love Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And I like the idea behind National Doughnut Day. But I’m not too keen on crowds, so going forward I think I’ll have to get my doughnut fix a day or so before (or after) June 5th. That’s okay. I’m content having experienced Doughnut Day in my heart.

Stellar Afternoon at the Movies

 

 

Mister and I went to see “Insterstellar” a couple of weekends ago at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. But this post isn’t about the movie.

 

We had pre-purchased seats for the IMAX showing and all was going well. Found the seats, took a load off and pretty soon the movie began. There were no trailers before this viewing, so the action kicked right in. And just as it did, a theatre representative approached us and said he needed our seats for a disabled party of viewers and he’d be happy to re-seat us elsewhere.

 

 

Okay. We’re not seat snobs or anything, but we do have preferences as to where we like to sit at the movies (hence the pre-purchased seats). Not too close, toward the center please. And the seats we’d reserved fit the bill. But, as it turned out, those seats should never have been available to us. They should have been reserved for wheelchair viewers and their friends/family. Why these particular moviegoers waited until the very last minute to buy their seats – I don’t know. Nor do I know what they would have done if someone with a wheelchair-bound viewer was already seated there. But hey – our take on it was just move us quickly, as the danged film had begun. Um-kay?

 

So we got up and followed the theatre dude toward the back of the auditorium. Then we followed him into the lobby. Then we followed him past a secured door and up some random stairs in the very bowels of the building itself. Next thing we knew, we were being shown into a private area – the “owner’s box” – and that was that. There were only 5 seats – all empty – and we were about as far up as you can get in the historic theatre. As the movie was going on without us, we just focused and tried to catch up, having missed the first couple of minutes.

 

 

At some point, I realized how isolated we were and leaned over to Mister and whispered, “We could totally do it up here!” He nodded and we both watched the rest of the film. (For reals.)

 

Once the movie had finished and the curtain was closing over the screen, I snapped a couple of photos. We then wound our way out, to the best of our abilities (only one wrong door!) and looked for the guy who’d re-seated us. Once we found him, we suggested our original seats be earmarked for special seating and not sold to the general public. He took the advice and told us how special our second seats had been. He said those seats are hidden and used for celebs. And always have been. I said I was glad it had worked out and that I appreciated seeing the box. Because we were nice about the whole thing – I suppose – he gave us free passes for a future flick. Mister and I walked to the subway and headed home.

 

 

It has occurred to me that the Chinese Theatre’s long history means just about any legend could have been in that box before. Think about it. Clark Gable. Charlie Chaplin. Bette Davis. Joan Crawford. I could list names all day, but the truth is I just don’t know. And I never will. It was a fluke that we ended up ever seeing those seats. A beautiful, crazy fluke.

 

 

By the way, I enjoyed the movie. Truth be told, I may have enjoyed it more than I should have – all because of my historic vantage point. What a lucky, lucky gal I am.

Goes to Show You Never Can Tell

 

 

I recently saw/read a BBC News report about a WWII MI5 spy. (It’s pretty short – watch it here. A link at the bottom of that page leads to a slightly longer written piece.) It tells a bit about a bank clerk and his secret life.

 

Ain’t that just the way? We tend to think of a spy as being some Hollywood-type, with a chiseled jaw (if male), or legs that go on forever (if female). Having just typed that, I know I’ve never once considered a mixture of those 2 as spy material. But now I can’t get the idea of a drag queen-spy out of my mind. Thanks a lot, brain.

 

Anyhoo, this little piece (referenced above) throws James Bond out the window and intimates how effective a regular joe can be. I guess it goes to show you never can tell. I mean – who better than a run-of-the-mill bank clerk to infiltrate a Nazi-sympathizer ring and expose valuable war secrets? Who better, indeed.

London – Heaven and Earth – A Wrap-Up

 

 

“Some moments that I’ve had,

Some moments of pleasure…”

Kate Bush

Moments of Pleasure“ from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

I’ve been writing about London all week now. And today’s post shall serve as a wrap-up. But first, our final day in London…

 

 

Just because we’d managed to eat breakfast the day before, we saw no reason to break from the path of deprivation on our final day. So we got up and readied for a trip to Highgate Cemetery. This was another of those places we’d likely never have gone on our own. But thanks to the dude who blogs at The Endless British Pub Crawl, we had traveled to London with this recommendation on our to-tourist list. And boy were we glad we had.

 

 

As one needs a reservation to tour Highgate Cemetery West, and as all reservations (at that time) were booked until October, Mister and I only toured Highgate Cemetery East.

 

 

It is truly beautiful, and I felt so at ease. (Honestly – if they offered a camping / sleepover sort of deal for the living, I’d sign up.) If all we’d done was simply walk through with no knowledge of anyone buried there, we would have enjoyed the morning. But we were given a handy-dandy guide upon entrance, so we were well aware of some of Highgate East’s residents. For instance, I fairly dorked out over Douglas Adams’ gravesite.

 

 

George Eliot is buried here also. For those who don’t know, George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans. She wrote Middlemarch and Silas Marner, among other works. Some think she’s buried in Westminster Abbey, but the plaque there is merely a memorial stone in “Poets’ Corner.”

 

 

I was also moved by Malcolm McLaren’s grave. His hands stirred the punk movement soup to a great degree (New York Dolls, Sex Pistols), and he also played a big role in ’80′s music (Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow).

 

 

There were beautiful graves of folks I’ve never heard of, too…

 

 

And then there’s Karl Marx. I don’t know why this one surprised me, but it did. Hey – socialists gotta be buried, too.

 

 

After a few hours in the peaceful cemetery, we decided to head back into London proper. We definitely needed lunch and we had a destination in mind: Newman Arms.

 

 

We’d had this one on our to-eat-at list and were so grateful we fit it in. We each had pie and it was sublime. I would definitely go back to this joint.

 

 

After lunch, we figured we could get one more item ticked off our list: Westminster Abbey.

 

 

We have no photos of the interior, as photography is prohibited. But trust me when I tell you it is an amazing experience, simply to enter this structure. The history! Construction of the present church began in 1245, for cry-eye. And some mighty historical folks are interred here, friends: Elizabeth I, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Henry VII, Charles Dickens, George Frederic Handel, Laurence Olivier, Henry Purcell, Alfred-Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Mary Queen of Scots – big breath – and about a jillion others.  Coronations have taken place here since the 11th century and include Henry I (my distant relative), Henry VIII and the reigning Queen Elizabeth II. And if you caught any of that there Royal wedding in 2011, you got an eyeful of The Abbey.

 

 

Anyhoo, we walked around and saw as much as we could, then headed back to the hotel to pack up before the next morning’s flight. Once that task was handled, we went out for dinner (yep – 2 meals that day).

 

 

 

We were mostly quiet during dinner. I think we were processing the adventure of London. As vacations go, we’d done quite a lot. It was the first trip in ages where Mister wasn’t working or stressed about work. That made a huge difference in the experience – for both of us. Yes – I fell ill, but it could have been worse. The London Croup wasn’t a cakewalk but it wasn’t debilitating, either. Could we have done more while in London? Sure. (We certainly could have eaten more than one meal per most days, but I’m trying to forget that.) The truth is we had checked off a lot on our to-tourist list, and if we’d managed to slot in a few more activities, I’m afraid certain experiences would have suffered. Besides, now we have the beginnings of a new To-Tourist List – for the next time.

 

 

The next morning, we woke early, dressed and checked out of the hotel. We took the Tube one last time, then boarded Heathrow Express. Within minutes we were at the airport, bags checked and ready. We found ourselves one final Bacon Butty and we proceeded to the designated gate.

 

When I think about it, it would have been far easier if this trip never happened. Let’s face it – it was a big commitment. Time, money, energy – all those things were required in spades. Preserving those precious commodities would have been so much simpler. But that’s not what we chose. No, we opted to check an item off a Bucket List. To be perfectly honest here, I didn’t know I had a Bucket List until I made that middle-of-the-night Kate Bush-concert-ticket purchase. And once I realized the magnitude of what that meant, I was a bit thrown. Bucket Lists are for old folks, right? I mean, am I of the age where I need to start ticking things off lists, as I may not get another chance?

 

The short answer is yes. I am of an age. And thinking about this could attract a rain cloud above my head so fast as to make me dizzy. But as I’ve contemplated my Bucket List and what it means to own that, I’ve realized I’ve always had a Bucket List. I just never called it that. When I was 16 and wanted to skydive – that was a Bucket List item (checked off). When I was 20-something and wanted to experience Italy in all its wonder – that was a Bucket List item (checked off). I could go on and on with items both large and small. Some are checked off, others not. The younger me would simply think ticking off Bucket List entries is cool. Present me – the of an age me – is a bit more grateful. A bit more emotional about the gravity of life’s passing. I suppose that’s why Mister and I chose to take this big trip to London. We knew we may not get another opportunity for such an adventure.

 

 

This trip was amazing and there were multiple moments of pleasure. We got to see Kate Bush. Kate friggin’ Bush! We got to eat at one of the best restaurants in the world. We got to spend 4 1/2 hours touring all things Harry Potter. We walked in and out of history. We had exactly 1 argument (and only 1). For the first time, we felt like we understood The Underground. (We must have appeared confident, as we were constantly being stopped by other tourists with their direction requests.) In short, we loved London. And we loved each other. And while I will take many, many memories from this trip along life’s journey, I hope the memory topping that list is standing side-by-side with Mister, singing the final notes of “Cloudbusting” while Kate Bush directed us from the stage, just before she herself sang “The sun’s coming out. Your son’s coming out.”

 

 

Tell Me A Story

 

 

I just finished a book. It was given to me years ago, and only recently found while unpacking a box. I admit, I never thought it would be my kind of book. There’s a dog on the cover, for cry-eye! I love dogs and all, but I just don’t see myself as the kind of gal who gravitates to books with dogs on their covers. Does that make sense?

 

Anyhoo, I decided to give this book a chance and cracked its spine.

 

Why do we like books? What is it about a story that draws us in, causing us to lean forward in our seats and to hold our breaths? A good book can stop the ticking hands of a clock, and before we know it we’ve engrossed ourselves in a book for hours on end. I suppose a good movie is just the same. But what is it that digs into our attention in the first place?

 

I’ve read that in many cultures, women are the keepers of stories. They are charged with holding on to the tales and fables that make up a people’s history. (In other cultures, men protect the same.) As this responsibility of story-keeping has lasted through millennia, it is clearly important and worthy of safe-guarding. This says to me that our regard for and attraction to stories have always been a part of us. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Our desires and hopes for more in life? Our longing? Our sense of thrill at being frightened? The joy of laughter? The catharsis of crying?

 

I swear, I should probably not wonder at all why I love a good story. I should just keep seeking them out. Reading when I can. Watching good movies. Telling others about a good story when I cross its path and asking them to do the same. Have to try to remember that.

 

For now, I have to admit – I ended up falling for a book with a dog on the cover. I ended up respecting and admiring the dog. In fact, the dog ended up inspiring me to be a better person. I could cry right now, just thinking about the final pages. Instead, I think I’ll dry my tears and drop this book off in my neighborhood little free library box. Maybe someone else is ready to conquer her aversion to books with dogs on their covers. Lucky, lucky them.

On This Date in History…

 

 

A birthday poem for my friend, Felicia…

 

I wasn’t there. I’m not one of those souls who can tell you exactly where they were,

how they felt.

I didn’t live in Camelot, expecting the sun to shine forever,

only to ache as it dimmed unexpectedly. Royalty silenced. Humankind changed.

And as the planet wept, as the citizens of earth collectively turned inward,

vainly attempting to stifle the pain,

the world continued to turn.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Though doctors and nurses were unable to tear themselves away from non-stop news,

the labor pains persisted. Time, though blindsided, would not wait.

And so tiny lungs gasped for sweet, sweet oxygen.

For that first fiery burst of over-the-speed-limit, barefoot-on-the-beach,

mad dash of life.

Inhaled adventure.

Yes, dreams were laid to rest on this date in history.

And entirely different dreams were set in motion.

Dreams that still burn, that still race around life’s carousel and beyond.

Brass rings dangle on strong, slender wrists,

as limber fingers reach for the next precious band…