Summer always brings back memories of my father; having fun, outings with friends, dancing, picnics of ham sandwiches and fresh fruit, dining al fresco on fresh lobster, driving in a convertible, and sun drenched skin with trips to the beach. But Winter is my Mother’s season. She symbolizes home and hearth, family, singing, gift giving, Christ consciousness (love) cozy blankets, luxurious sweaters and savoring hot Mexican chocolate. In case you’ve never had it, remember the Aztecs invented chocolate. I recommend Ibarra made in whole milk- I promise you, you’ll never drink anything else again.
Last night when I heard about the incident in Berlin, I recalled browsing through the aisles at the marketplace hot apple cider in hand while choosing a gift for her. Despite the fact that she’s always been and still is fashion-conscious, unlike me she’s easy to shop for. Perhaps it’s her mother gene that appreciates any gesture I or anyone else makes, but her receptivity produces a pleasure in giving her things.
In Macy’s http://www.macys.com/ last week on a hunt to buy her a Christmas gift, I mentioned to the sales clerk that she likes color and described her style; flats, skinny jeans, nautical striped tees, and scarves topped with her bob hair-cut. Despite her youthful appearance she never has looked age inappropriate. In fact when I was growing up I once asked her, “Why don’t you wear shorter dresses,” her response was matter-of-fact, “I can’t show my knees, I’m a mother.” The sales person naturally asked her age. But that’s for me to know and not for others to ask.
When I found this video, Christmas with Love from Mrs. Claus, I thought of her. Perhaps it’s because she lives by the Jane Austen quote; It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.
On Sunday at The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse I saw a silent film that had an organ accompanist. Your probably wondering why I’m writing about it now? Because the humor hasn’t left me. Every time I tell someone about it the words don’t come out because I’m full of snorts, cackles and tears. So I’ll share the story-line and what made it special.
The 1928 film Speedy stars Harold Lloyd who plays Speedy. He can’t seem to hold down a job. Because of his love of baseball, he gets fired from his job as a soda-jerk, then spends the following day and all of his money with his girl at Coney Island. On Monday he becomes a cab driver and delivers Babe Ruth to Yankee Stadium, where he stays to see the game. There he overhears of a plot by a railroad executive who plans to hire thugs from a gang to try to run the last horse-drawn trolley (operated by his girl’s grandfather) out of business. Speedy organizes the neighborhood old-timers who play cards with Grandpa to thwart their scheme. But it’s their shenanigans and how they go about it that’s hysterical and pure slapstick.
There’s a blacksmith who throws horse rings around the thugs necks and stops them in their tracks. The cobbler uses his hammer to bruise fingers. But it was the Chinese launderer that comes out with a steam iron to smooth out a few bottoms that had me in stitches. Now I have to admit I liked the Three Stooges, I know they were a little rough, with their face slapping and eye poking but I enjoyed their antics. But watching Speedy I didn’t identify with the Stooges but my own slapstick tactics growing up.
One summer when I was ten two cousins came to visit. One was male, 4 years older than my brother. The other was female, 6 years older than me. Our days were consumed with fun and trips to the plunge, water balloon fights, bike rides, games of kick the can, a trip to the beach on public transportation that was an adventure and of course, Disneyland. We even set up tents in the backyard, boys against girls.
Every evening we ended our days with a good pillow fight. Knowing they could wipe us out, I had to think quick and was determined, we had to win. I wasn’t going to go down like a good little girl or a scaredy cat. I knew all we needed was one good hit so I suggested that we each stuff one of my father’s wing tips into each pillow. My cousin obliged and seeing stars and a black eye ensued. I was grounded for thinking up the scheme but laughed all the way to my punishment sentence.
What outrageous schemes did you pull as a kid that can still make you laugh now?
The summer when I was eight, I danced and sang for my Grandmother, flinging a camellia with its leaves, at the end of my performance. That summer would be the last one we would spend together and it seemed cloaked in romance, with trips to the store, the fresh fruit she would buy me, nature walks and the stories she would narrate late at night.
I stood at one side of the fireplace that was about two feet off the ground. It gave me a platform. She sat watching me and when I finished she applauded. When I told her my ambition was to be a go-go dancer, she pointed out that singing was the avenue to refinement and introduced me to opera. I remember her words in discrete images. Her tone created a fully realized sensory world. My guess is that she was indoctrinated to opera in the 1920’s by her Italian neighbors while living in Northern California.
Rosa Ponselle, was the last century’s greatest soprano. Artists such as Callas and Caruso acknowledged her vocal supremacy. Her voice had volume, beauty, emotion, sure intonation and remarkable flexibility. Before her, there had been no leading American singer who had not first made his or her mark abroad. Listen to this broadcast from 1928 which demonstrates Ponselle at her best.
I’m going to share a story with you today. It took place while I was grocery shopping, as I was about to leave the produce section. To one side of produce is the bakery and deli of the supermarket. Nearby are huge displays of the supermarkets own baked goods and those which they are trying to sell. Most likely they have the highest profit margin. It’s where snacks seem to override our senses. As I was about to turn the corner an average looking lady of about 70 stood in front of a display, stopped me, and asked if I could give her my opinion.
Perhaps it’s the way she was looking at the packaging. She was confused. There were so many choices. She held up a box and asked me, “have you tried these?” Caught off-guard, I hardly qualify to be a spokesperson. My response was; “when I was a kid, I wouldn’t eat one now.” Realizing that my comment sounded like a criticism, I backed it up with, “when I eat sweets, I bake them myself. I asked, you’ve never tried them,” she shook her head.
That I couldn’t fathom. Then I didn’t know if I should feel sorry that she was denied a rite of passage as a child to taste sugary snacks, or if I should applaud her caretakers dietary choices.
My mother had and still has such a wild sweet tooth that she never denied us trying anything sweet as long as we ate our meal. In our house, sweets were a way of life. It’s probably why I have so little desire for them now. Besides I’d rather fit nicely into my clothes than eat caloric sugary snacks.
But I also learned through living history to make an association with the snack product; a shooting spree and an assassination.
And so if your dying to know what the product was; they were Twinkies.
I remember the yellow baked snack, packed into the plastic packaging, and unwrapping them, the sponge cakes appeared billowy soft, their filling so creamy.
And later on I recalled the Moscone Milk assassination http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscone%E2%80%93Milk_assassinations and the Twinkie defense.
But today was the first time I stopped and actually read the ingredients. It read like a scroll. Long. Normally, you need butter, milk and eggs to give a cake moisture and tenderness.
But butter, milk and eggs spoil, and they aren’t ingredients to be found, so Twinkies needed a way to defy the laws of baked-good longevity. That job is filled by ingredients like monoglycerides and diglycerides, and emulsifiers. — and palm oil, and sodium stearoyl lactylate, and corn syrup and on and on.
It’s pure junk. Stuff that makes your stomach bloated, hits your pancreas like a rock and can either kill a testing animal or produce a form of cancer.
She asked me which one she should try. I wasn’t aware that they came in flavors, “why not go for the original,” I said knowing she was intent on purchasing a box.
“For every now and then,” she added. I smiled thinking that maybe trying Twinkies was on her bucket list. Or perhaps it was a desire to celebrate a missed childhood treat or a way to reward herself. Whatever her reason, it’s her business, not mine.
Have you ever found yourself asked to give your opinion on a product at the supermarket?
Birthday greetings to my beloved cupcake, S. and to another born on this day also inclined with great imagination, Henri Matisse.
Matisse defies categorization and enjoys a unique position in 20th century art somewhere between abstraction and figuration.
Seeing his color develop from his first Fauve period, the portrait of his wife (see below) and the early landscapes, the Moroccan paintings and interiors of his middle years to the last paintings before his illness in 1941, the pink nudes, the great still lifes, is to map a joyful journey. There are no political statements in his art, no social significance, just exciting, stimulating use of color and forms.
Illness marked at least two important milestones in his life; the first being when, recovering from appendicitis, he was given a box of colors. The effect of his first attempts to paint inspired him to quit his job as a lawyer’s clerk and enroll in art school where he met and became friends with painters who would eventually form a movement which became known as the Fauves. On seeing their work exhibited a critic had written that it was like seeing wild beasts (fauves) together and the name stuck.
The second milestone came when he was recovering from surgery for intestinal cancer and, unable to stand for long he turned to colored papers and scissors to create his famous — the papiers decoupé.
Illness turned inward, the forced inactivity allowed reflection about a past and possible future.
In these examples we can see an artist using all the various and complex skills acquired over years of creativity— knowledge of the human form, and of course that last and most difficult thing, a mastery of color. There is no doubt that he had come to perfect and complete his oeuvre. He had such an ability to create harmonious compositions using a powerful palette of rich colors. The success of his art and their popularity is largely due to the careful placing of evocative shapes which suggest plants, animals, flowers, figures etc. but which never impinge to the extent that our imagination is trapped by them – he leaves us free to make associations in our own way from the sublime choice of colors from deep magenta, through ultramarine to gold ochre and black.
What better day to have a birthday when there’s a world party! Have a colorful and happy new year!
The last few days have been extremely chilly which brings to mind the end of a season. Luckily, I do not live where there is snow; but when I did, I would feel melancholy in late autumn knowing that a freeze would soon be upon me.
There is nothing like the light of an autumn afternoon and it’s landscape when your on a road trip. The solitude of driving, looking and observing natural beauty in quiet spaces. The explosion of color saturation— a reminder that life is bursting at the seams while in the same glance the delicate falling leaves that show us all too well the presence of fleeting time.
My first autumn road trip was with my Father.
I like to set memories to music. The memories I’ve made with the people I care most about, and the memories that are yet to come, are marked by change, just like a season.
So this short play-list is yours. For those long drives, or intimate dinners at home with friends or family in the days of quiet rain where drops of water are absorbed by velvet leaves that will then float reminding us that nature is a gift and all is temporary.