Archive for July, 2012

July 23, 2012: Wait for It

          Seriously, the next time a waiter or waitress asks me, “How is everything tasting for you?” I’m going to throw myself into traffic.

          Where did this phrase come from? Its inanity sends me around the bend; its grammatical flaws make me lightheaded with ire.

      No one used to say this. Waiters have always asked senseless questions, but not this one. How did it catch on? And what, exactly, does it mean? How can something taste for you?

      This phrase must be stopped.

     I’ve printed a short stack of small cards that I plan to take with me to every restaurant I dine in, to leave behind with my tip. The cards read, “Congratulations. You’re the seven millionth waitperson to ask me ‘How is everything tasting for you?’ This is not a real question, and saying it out loud makes you sound like a baboon. Copy this card and hand it out to every member of the waitstaff here, or you’ll be cursed with ten-percent tips for the rest of your career.”

          I’ll let you know how this works.

I don’t need to know what a preposition is to spit in your salad.

 Thing I Hate Today: Saturday Night Live


July 22, 2012: You’re Spellchecker is Broke

And your an idiot.

Thing I Hate Today: Writing headlines

July 21, 2012: Gianna Encore

          Today, I held the first class of the new session of Gianna: Art for Kids, a free art class I’ve been teaching the last three years. The first class of a new session is always my favorite; I like meeting the new kids I’ll be working with for the next half-year, and watching how excited the littler ones get about making their artist’s smock.

          I arrived at Willo North Gallery, where I hold the Gianna classes, to discover that the air conditioner wasn’t working. Dead as a doornail. It’s a summertime curse we’ve all learned to live with: one day, your AC just expires, and while you wait for repairs, you suffer.

          The kids didn’t seem to mind, but I wanted to claw my own eyes out. The four giant fans I pointed at the group of wee artists didn’t cool things down, they just made everything windy. While the kids made color wheels and I pretended to be cheerful, I found myself wondering, Don’t they notice it’s scalding in here? Did I not care, when I was a kid, that summer here is like the surface of the sun?

          I’ve been here nearly 50 years, and I’m still waiting for that fabled moment when I’ll “get used to” the fire and brimstone.

Hey! Little girl! Your paint is melting!

Thing I Hate Today: When someone refers to an article as a “write-up”

July 20, 2012: Hurry!

          I was rolling my eyes this morning at my iPod. The diet-monitoring app was taking forever to load, and I was pissed. I needed to log the fact that I’d just added a 35-calorie-per-serving non-dairy creamer to my morning cup of coffee. Now.

          “You know,” Tevye said, looking up from his knitting, “you’re amazing. You live in a world where everything in life is faster and more convenient than it’s ever been, and yet you’ve actually grown more impatient. You have a computer that answers any question you might have in just seconds, an iPod to count calories for you, a reading device that loads books onto itself as soon as you decide you want to read them, and yet still everything takes too long.”

“You mean like that sweater you’ve been making since 2009?” I asked, sweetly.

 Thing I Hate Today: Termites

July 19: Words

I love words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.                      

Anne Rice

Writing is like giving birth to a box of broken dishes.

—Robrt Pela

I’d rather be doing anything else.

Thing I Hate Today: The phrase “My bad.”

July 18, 2012: Who’s That Girl?

My friend Lilia came over to play cards with my mother today. Lilia is my friend who comes over to visit Mom simply because she wants to, and in the hopes that I’ll take an hour off for myself while she’s there. Lilia certainly has other things to do—she’s just signed her first book deal with a real live publisher, and she recently launched a suddenly-successful copywriting business that’s keeping her busy—but she insists on coming over to visit my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

After Lilia went home, Mom went to the bathroom. When she came out, she seemed surprised to see me.

“I’m glad you came to visit,” she said, giving me a hug. “When did you get here?”

“Oh, about eight hours ago,” I replied, cheerfully. I’ve discovered that sounding thrilled about everything keeps my mother happy.

“Well, I don’t remember seeing you here today,” she said, as we walked to the kitchen. “But there was a really nice girl here a little while ago that you would have liked.”

 Thing I Hate Today: Summertime in the desert

July 17, 2012: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Argh)

          This morning, as we sipped our coffee, Tevye noticed my black mood from across the room.

          As I was leaving to go care for my parents, he stopped me. “Here’s your assignment for today,” he said, and I groaned. “I want you to think of one thing to be happy about, once every hour, today.”

          Shit. Busted for being gloomy. Again.

          “I want a list!” Tevye called out cheerfully as I headed out the door.

          I made the list. And it did help lighten my mood. Here are some highlights:

7 o’clock hour: I’m happy to have a spouse who cares enough to notice when I’m in a shitty mood and tries to help me pull my head out of my ass.

8 o’clock hour: Both my parents are still alive.

9 o’clock hour: I just filed my news column at one of the magazines I write for, and now I don’t have to write anything until next week.

Noon hour: I am happy to know that there exists in the world a real live person whose name is Vincent Yellow Old Woman.

2 o’clock hour: Emails from my cousin Eileen keep me from throwing myself off the roof.

4 o’clock hour: Bacon.

6 o’clock hour: I am happy that my husband is so funny. I texted him to say, “I’m tired of being happy once per hour, can I stop now?” And he texted back, “Go fuck yourself.”

          Tevye came home during the 7 o’clock hour, and I stopped writing down what makes me happy and started just being happy.

Thing I Hate Today: People who replace the cap on their bottled water after each sip. (There isn’t a genie in there, and the water won’t try to escape if you leave the lid off.)

July 16, 2012: I Woke Up in Hock This Morning

A whole bunch of David Cassidy’s 1970s solo albums are being reissued this month. For people who care, that’s nice. Still, it’s not a great time to be David Cassidy. Last week, he was nailed by the press for showing up on stage in Las Vegas bombed out of his mind, slurring and tripping and forgetting the words to songs, haranguing the audience with nasty comments. (His management later claimed he had a cold and glugged too much Nyquil before going onstage.)

Yesterday, he lost a lawsuit with Sony Inc., whom Cassidy was suing for royalties he feels he’s owed from his Partridge Family years. And today, he lost his condo in Florida, which was foreclosed on because he owed a gazillion dollars in mortgage payments.

Sad, sad, sad. I do feel bad for David Cassidy. But I’m also sick to death of what I call The Mike Nesmith Syndrome. I don’t want to hear any more whining about how celebrities became famous for something they didn’t want to be famous for — which Cassidy has made a late-life career of. Oh, really? You wanted to be an actor but not for the role we discovered you in? Sorry! Oops! You wanted to be a singer but you want us to forget about all those million-selling records you were “forced” by your management to record? Fuck off.

Thing I Hate Today: Whiney millionaires

July 15, 2012: Au Revoir, Addie Ross

Celeste Holm has died today at age 95. In honor of her passing, here’s an essay I published in 2006 about my favorite movie, A Letter to Three Wives, which Holm narrates.

Every New Year’s Eve, I watch my favorite movie. I used to think that everyone had a favorite film until a few years ago, when I hosted a party to which I asked each guest to bring a clip from their most-loved movie. One by one the invitees phoned to tell me that they didn’t have a single favorite film, but instead a number of them.

“You can’t have more than one favorite film,” I explained. “You can only have one. That’s what makes it your favorite.”

Up until then, I assumed that, like me, every adult person had chosen as their own a favorite song, film, and book; a definitive list of beloved things that helped define who they are and to which they planned to remain loyal forever. My spouse, a patient man who thinks I’m insane, told me I’d read too many issues of Tiger Beat as a child. Having favorites, he told me, is something sane people eventually grow out of.

Not me. Ever since November 7, 1976, my favorite film has been Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1949 masterpiece A Letter to Three Wives. That’s the date when I first saw this gorgeous comedy on an installment of Nick Salerno’s Cinema Classics, a popular “late show” program on the local PBS affiliate. Every Saturday night throughout much of the ’70s and ’80s, Nick would screen a different movie from Hollywood’s golden era, and afterward he’d discuss the film he’d just shown. I don’t remember what Nick said about my new favorite movie that first night. He must have mentioned that Mankiewicz won Oscars for Letter‘s direction and screenplay, and that he would go on to win the same awards the very next year for his more-famous All About Eve. He probably noted that A Letter to Three Wives was nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture award as well. I couldn’t tell you. I was still recovering from having watched cameraman Arthur Miller’s stunning black-and-white photography; from having heard Mankiewicz’s arch, literate dialogue read by the gorgeous men and women he’d cast in this enormously sentimental, brilliantly crafted movie.

Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Jeanne Crain in A Letter to Three Wives.

Letter‘s story is uncomplicated yet sophisticated: Just as they’re about to leave on a boat for an all-day island picnic, three women (Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, and Jeanne Crain) receive a letter from a friend, Addie Ross, who’s written to say she won’t be joining them that day because she’s left town and taken one of their husbands with her. It’s 1949, so, rather than cell-phone their spouses, the three are left to ponder their lives in a series of flashbacks that reveal what’s wrong with each of their marriages.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen A Letter to Three Wives, although 30 viewings seems like a reasonable guess. I haven’t committed every minute of the movie to memory, nor can I pause my DVD copy to point out the continuity flaws in the rear-projection scenes. I’m not that kind of fan. And although I’m not the sort of fellow who runs around quoting lines from his favorite film, I did, in an essay I wrote only yesterday, use the phrase “breeding like rabbits,” which is from Letter‘s charming opening sequence. And I have on occasion quoted Ann Sothern’s line about why her character, Rita Phipps, works as a writer: “Because each week I receive in return an envelope filled with the most restful shade of green in the world.”

But I can tell you I haven’t seen a movie in the past 30 years that I like half as well as this one — and I’ve seen hundreds of movies, many of them excellent, during that time. I’ll admit that A Letter to Three Wives is not a flawless film. As one of the wealthy husbands, Jeffrey Lynn gives a perfectly terrible performance. There’s an annoying synthesized voice used to introduce each of the film’s three flashback sequences. And the movie’s ending is so ambiguous that the first time, I (and, according to film lore, tens of thousands of others who have seen Letter over the years) wasn’t entirely sure I understood the story’s solemn windup.

But A Letter to Three Wives is a superior film despite these flaws. Kirk Douglas is perfect as the suave schoolteacher whose wife earns more writing illiterate radio scripts than he does in academia. As the lecherous department store owner, Paul Douglas is grumpily beguiling, especially in the film’s longish New Year’s Eve sequence. But what truly sets this movie apart is Mankiewicz’s obvious love of his female characters. Rather than the idealized, inert pinup girls popular in films of the era, Mankiewicz has written three smart, funny, deeply flawed females who predate Annie Hall by decades.

But what I love most about A Letter to Three Wives is that it’s mine. I never tire of its soothing narration (by an uncredited Celeste Holm), sparkling dialogue, and glamorous sets filled with beautiful people. And I never watch this film, on New Year’s Eve or any other day, without recalling my teenaged thrill in discovering a wonderful movie, and the joy of making it my own.

Thing I Hate Today: Expiration

July 14, 2012: Contretemps

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

                              —Gustave Flaubert

Blow it out your ass.

                             —Robrt Pela

Thing I Hate Today: Writing