Oscars Tonight!

as good as it getsA freelance columnist like me is also a salesman, and one year, when my boy was in 8th grade, he came with me on a sales trip to Pennsylvania that was to be half business half pleasure. I was visiting newspapers, yes, but we would also stop at Hershey Park and check out the fun there. We took the train from Boston to Philly, rented a car and began making our way west across the state, the visit to the Patriot News in Harrisburg being sweetened by the Hershey stop.

There were disappointments of course, there always are: The Patriot News people told me they had to discontinue the use of my column, Hershey Park was not yet open for the season, and my boy wouldn’t eat any of those nice tuna sandwiches I made for the train. (There’s one truth I learned on that trip: a middle schooler won’t EVER be seen eating food prepared at home; in fact It’s hard to get a middle schooler to eat anything at all in public.)

There were nice parts too though, the best being the fact that I decided after Harrisburg to scrap all the remaining newspaper visits. Instead, as we drove back across the state staying a night or two in a motel, we saw three awesome movies, all up for Academy Awards that year. They were Good Will Hunting, Titanic, and As Good As it Gets.

In the car at one point, tearing across the Pennsylvania Turnpike to get from one movie theatre to the next in time for each show, he said, very much under his breath, “You’re really fun.”

“What’s that?” I asked, because I wasn’t sure I heard right.

But he was reluctant to repeat it.

Still, I’m pretty sure he said it – and I’m very sure that watching those three great movies, all within a 36-hour period with that lively child, all before we had to board the train for home was, in my mind, just about as good as it gets for this three-time mom.

And now a scene from Matt Damon’s and Ben Affleck’s first film, still a winner in my book. Enjoy it. Believe its message. And HAVE FUN tonight!

Happy Sunday! Stay Out of the Malls

stuck in traffic poor dog

Happy Sunday! Stay away from the malls, or else you’ll sit in your car for an hour just trying to get within a mile of the place.

Stay home and do old-time Sunday things.

Read the funnies.

Put a roast in the oven, which is really an old-time thing. (Write in if you’re under 40 and you don’t recognize words such as ‘roast’ or ‘oven’. We have a little pamphlet we can send you.”

Watch old movies while filling out the old holiday card. Yesterday I caught portions of TitanicThe Dream Team and The Bone Collector, all on my best friend HBO, while writing warm personal notes on 200 holiday cards.

Take a walk.

Light a candle when the sun starts to lower, which it does around here at like twenty past twelve in the afternoon.

Dig out those footed pj’s.


Go to bed early.

You’re not in charge of as much as you think you are; God can probably handle the sunrise tomorrow.


Where Do I GET This Stuff?

“Where do you GET this stuff?” a reader recently wrote me, after reading that post I did about contraceptive methods at the time of the Titanic, and all I could tell him was the truth: The universe delivers it fresh to me every day, the same way milk once was once delivered, the bottles clinking together in their metal crates.

The idea for that particular post came from the National Geographic Society, whose electronic eyes and ears had ‘noticed’  I’d been wandering the decks of that long-submerged craft on YouTube and decided to forge a bond with me.

I got an email in other words, with a video clip showing a couple of archivists talking about those difficult days when a doctor they cited as having given birth control advice was banned from practicing medicine for having done so.

Other ideas cross my radar in other ways, just as they do with all of us: We overhear a bit of conversation. We open our eyes just as a Canada Goose zooms past our bedroom window, showing the intricate weave of feather and sinew that lets him soar. One fall morning we look at our accustomed across-the-street view to see trees so fiery in color they look like a gathering of redheads.

I can hold onto sights such as these if I go right to my keyboard and set them down, and in such a way that a reader can almost see what I saw, or feel something like what I felt. Then I try to write the way people talk. I try to write the way a teacher talks when he or she is trying to make you feel happy you came to class. Happy and safe and undaunted by the fact that today you’ll be starting that four-week unit on Macbeth.

Undaunted because the teacher will be with you the whole way, as will your pals in the seats around you.

Undaunted because you trust by now that this teacher won’t single you out or send you to the board to drill you with hard questions.

I mean yes, it’s Shakespeare and yes, the language takes some getting used to with ‘an’ sometimes meaning ‘if’ and ‘marry’ meaning ‘By Mary!’ or in our parlance ‘By God!’ but if you hear it read out loud or see it acted, the meaning breaks upon you.

Anyway, no one will blame you if you don’t quite catch it the first time.  Certainly there’s no shame there. Think of the child who thought The Star Spangled Banner had a line in about ‘bums bursting in air.’ Or that poor soul who got the words to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds wrong, really belting it out when he reached the part where ‘the girl with colitis goes by” – and  apparently never even wondering what an affliction like that was doing in a Beatles song.

But hey, some of the best fun you can have in life comes out of how wrong you get things. I think of the time I mistakenly poured cat kibble instead of laundry detergent into the washing machine.  And the time my little daughter wondered aloud about that old Daryll Hall song. You know the one surely: Where he’s saying “every time you go away you take a piece of meat with you“?

So where do I get this stuff? The world just delivers it up, like those milkmen of yore with their clinking bottles. All I have to do is be there to receive it. 🙂

Drownin’ Here

I spent two whole days cleaning out the hall closet, and what did it do for me really but make me see how ridiculously thin I was back when that green leather coat was new? (How did we survive the fashions of the 70s with the super-tight waists? How did we breathe even ?

But what I really want to say here is you’re right, you are so right, all you wise souls who posted comments yesterday noting that the less you have, the lighter your burden. Because I also worked all weekend in the dining room which you see as it looked on Friday. Just try having Thanksgiving around six lamps and a world of wicker! The outside of the house is being painted – the screened in porch too – and everything has been in chaos for the last five weeks. If my camera had a wide-angle lens you could also see the box of human bones, a story for another time.

BUT! Less than 12 hours after the painters were done with the screened-in porch I had carried every last lamp, footstool and table back out there.

Single-handedly ’cause Dave was away.

Then I dug out my grandmother’s pale frail china from 1903 and her brittle little goblets. I found the pickle forks and the celery dish, unearthed and re-washed the tablecloth, and the tablecloth that goes over the tablecloth and ironed all 80 yards of both of them.

Now I’m turning to my mom’s wedding silver, which of course has gone goldenrod yellow with the passage of time and needed to be polished the old fashioned way (with the stuff that turns your hands black that means), then thoroughly washed, then dried with a linen towel and polished some more etc etc.

And the whole time all I could think was how appalled a guy like Henry Thoreau would be, who said Simplify! simplify!

How appalled Khalil Gibran would be who said Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.

This place isn’t even an anchor; it’s the Titanic and maybe it’s going down!

“Jaaaaack! Jaaaack! That’s me as Kate Winslet.

Or maybe we’re that old couple who stayed in their stateroom, hugging in their bed ‘til the last.

Anyway I’m not really complaining; I love the old things, the Limoges given to poor Grandmother Carrie, who died in her 32nd year.

I practically put her soup bowls to my ear and listen to them, just as if they were sea shells.

And you know what? Sometimes, sometimes, I think I actually hear things.


All Things Bright and Beautiful

The ants are back in the bathroom and in the kitchen some mice are tap-dancing around among the cake pans. The mice I wouldn’t mind so much if I could get their tiny bottoms into diapers.  (And while we’re on the subject don’t mice ever wet their pants? Why is it with just the little caraway seeds always?)

The ants I do mind but I feel terrible about pinching their shiny black-plastic bodies into a wad of tissue and tossing then in the toilet, because what must they be feeling they swirl round and round in an element foreign to them? Is it for them the way it was for those poor people who hung off the capsized half-hull of the Titanic 99 years ago now?

I got to thinking about that tragedy: cold death in the North Atlantic. And so I went to YouTube to look for the fearful footage that James Cameron gave us in his 1997 film. Here below is what I found, as moving a five-minute clip as you will see anywhere. The person who made it just ran the film backward and set it to music, specifically to James Horner’s “Hymn to The Sea” which is part of the movie’s soundtrack.

People of faith will see this and say “And so it shall be: all wounds mended, all suffering reversed.” And what a thing it would be to see that day come, what a wonderful thing!

Rose and Jack

Speaking of death on the North Sea and videos like the ones where people are seen sticking their faces under those industrial strength hand driers how about this for another example of what people will do to avoid getting starting on their homework? Seriously, how to be mean: someone making fun of that final scene in Titanic where Jack dies. The living just have no respect, that’s all I can say.