Category Archives: Into the Mystic

Don’t Worry Baby — It’ll be Fun Fun Fun

So, it’s in the high forties in the ‘Ville, I’m in a creative slump and I miss California. The Rx was lying there, unjacketed, slipping around on our tower of cds.

The Best of the Beach Boys. Oh man, I was fourteen again, frugging in the basement rec room of our house in Trois-Rivieres Quebec. I’d never heard of a girl named Rhonda — my friend’s names ran to Elizabeth, Joanne, Kathy and Debbie. I liked my school fine, but being true to it was an alien concept. I’d swum only in fresh water, never seen a surfboard except on a Beach Boys album cover, and “Tach it up, tach it up, Buddy gonna shut you down,” might as well have been Finnish.

It was mysterious sunshine, a teenager existence I couldn’t imagine. (I did realize they’d ripped off Chuck Berry, big time.) I totally got “In My Room.”

When I got to college the Beach Boys dropped acid  in quantities that made my two terrifying trips look like two grains of sand on Manhattan Beach. The upside: “Sloop John B” and “Good Vibrations,” and that’s a huge upside. The downside is that Brian Wilson went nuts.

When my daughter moved to Los Angeles I understood at last that blissed-out, sunny, surfy SoCal car-driven culture. I understood the close harmony singing. “Surfin Safari” made sense. So did “Little Old Lady from Pasadena.”

And, oh yes, “Good Vibrations.”

So, the cold and grey has disappeared and I’m grooving to “Dance, Dance Dance” as I type this. The Beach Boys are the sonic equivalent to those bright lights that fight SAD in dark northern climes. So bright, so happy, so about dancing and surfing and driving fast. I’m not up to all of this stuff, especially the driving, but the sunshine, the surf, the heroes and villains are making me hear a V-8 purr and smell salt water and feel the clouds lift. The Beach Boys are aural Prozac, irresistible, the remedy for Celtic genes. Cheap sunshine.My new cure (and old cure) for the grim and grey. If only everything was so simple. Wouldn’t it be nice?

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Filed under Body, History, Into the Mystic, Music, Ten bucks or fewer, The 'Ville, Uncategorized

Dick Lit

I actually believed I’d made up the literary descriptor “Dick Lit” but a quick Google proved me behind the curve. But, whatever, I love it, because I’ve become so pissed with the “Chick Lit” thing. I mean, what happened to “Romance Novel?” Allison Pearson’s tremendous “I Don’t Know How She Does It.” was a star in the Chick Lit category, and now, big sigh, is a Major Motion Picture starring Ms. Parker. (Why couldn’t it have been set in its original London setting with a British cast?) Point is: “I Don’t Know How She Does It” had, um, literary merit.

“I Don’t Know How She Does It” is no Sophie Kinsella meringue about shopping. It’s no bodice ripper –it’s a witty straight-up novel about being a modern professional and mother.  Sorta like the hero of Joseph O’Neill’s hero in my fave literary novel of the last ten years: “Netherland.”

OK. I was going to say “Don’t get me started,” but my foot is hard on the gas pedal. My husband has admitted that he’s never read Jane Austen, George Eliot or Virginia Wolff. WTF? Why did I have to sit through endless paralyzing hours of Melville, Faulkner And Henry James in college? I mean not a single novel by a woman author?

Now, there are Good Dicks — Balzac and Trollope, for two — who cared about what women thought and felt. But why the heck is “Moby Dick” still required reading and “Sense and Sensibility” isn’t? I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a hairy-legged feminist in a Womyn’s Commune in the ’70s (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and I’ll return to the fascinating topic of Dick Lit.

(BTW, Lou adores Donna Leon, Louise Penney, Tess Gerritsen and Agatha Christie. He probably checks out more books from the Libe by women than by men.)

Dick Lit can be fabulous, as long as it’s  being written by say, Carl Hiassen, Elmore Leonard, and BOOK RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK: George Pelecanos’s The Cut. 

Pick it up and wave bye-bye to your day –and night. I’ve read all three of George’s previous novels with admiration and the feeling that there was a DC film over my body and mind that would never shower off. I’m haunted and coated by “The Cut” but the  new protagonist Spero gives me that rarest quality of a Pelcanos novel: hope. I’ll be waiting to take you out for a beer, Speros.

Any Dick Lit faves? Lemme know.

Read it.

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Books, Into the Mystic, Library Card

Making Bargains

I had a big birthday this summer, but I still feel as bewildered and bedazzled as I was when I  was fifteen. I think, at least back in my day when I was cheated out of the fun of an IPad, an IPod and an IPhone, I had I huge fantasy life. That fantasy life included Ray Davies, Glenn Gould and Pierre Trudeau falling madly in love with me. Those fools.

(I still don’t own any of those IThings. but I know my son-in-law could hook me up.)

In my early twenties I saved my money — 1000 bucks, and it financed four months in Europe. London, Paris, Rome, Florence.  Viarreggio. Oh, for the romance of one’s early twenties! Yeah, I picked  up a husband over the breakfast table at the Locanda Anna in Florence.

It stabs me, I mean it stabs me to the heart to know  that without an enormous creative effort from me and huge economic luck, , I’ll never see St. Paul Covent Garden again. I’ll never see the Pyramids, Ankhor Wat (forgive the bad spelling!) and Machu Picchu, Or Venice. Or NYC.

Maybe this is a list of the possibles:

Spillsville, Iowa. Antonin Dvorak lived in Spillsville for a year and wrote “The Symphony From the New World” there. I want to smell the air he breathed. I love Dvorak, and I adore annoying my husband by saying “He’s better than Brahms!” (He is.)

Columbus, IN. Here’s the deal from Travel and Leisure:Travel + Leisure magazine said:
Designed by legendary architect Eero Saarinen, the J. Irwin & Xenia Miller House ranks alongside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, and Philip Johnson’s Glass House as a hallmark of Modernist design.  It was completed in 1957, but unlike those residences, it is surrounded by some of the most beautiful Modernist gardens in the United States, created by landscape architect Dan Kiley.“ 

Nauvoo, IL, the stop off point for the Mormons on the way to Salt Lake City. Freaky, but worth it.

Hannibal, MO. Mark Twain, period paragraph.

But my big North American travel dream is to get to Newfoundland, that wild and crazy place endowed with huge history, fat fish, cliffs, meadows and sea. And L’Anse Meadow, a Viking settlement whose existence has haunted my dreams since I was ten. (Of course, I’d have driven around Cape Breton Island,checked out Halifax, hopped the ferry to PEI where I’d visit Green Gables and gorge on shellfish and potatoes before I got to The Rock.)

Closer to home, there are Arthur/Arcola, the Amana Colonies and the Indiana Limberlost of Gene Stratton Porter. I have a huge crush on mounds, especially if they’re in the shape of animals — do I have to go to North Dakota to see one? (Attention Dale Simpson Jr.)

I’m laughing. Seems like my trip to Newfoundland will cost as much as a trip to Rome. I want it anyway, and I want to rent some goofy SUV and go with my father,my husband, my daughter, and my son-in-law.

And please, if you have any touristic advice — chat on.

 

 

 

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Filed under History, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Worth it anyway

Things I Learned This Week

It was a weather week and an insomnia week. Weather: grey skies, nearby tornadoes, humidity and temps in the sixties. The low sixties. Insomnia: Asleep by four am, though I’d been twitching in bed since midnight, then bolt upright at nine. Five hours sleep  = Margaret, Zombie Empress from Hell.

It was an unproductive week. It was too wet to garden, my mind was too fuzzy to write, yadda yadda yadda. So, I’ll try to scrape my errant brain cells together and try to sum up the things that I learned this week. Or relearned this week.

I won’t spring for cable, but these two weeks tempts me, every darned year. Why? Wimbledon. I want to see every match on the outside courts, the white tennis costumes against the green grass, the passion and brilliance. I’ll get over it in a couple of weeks. But then the US Open will commence and I’ll have to hold serve and stay tough not to call some Godawful cable company.

I admire the writing of Elizabeth Berg, and I’ll write a full Library Card post about her. She can string together a plot with poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I learned that stabbing a half onion on a fork then dipping it in olive oil is a swell way to oil a grill.

I’ll never stop missing my daughter and son-in-law. Ever.

I just don’t understand people who want to retire to a rustic farmette. I love the ‘Ville and all, but I want to walk out my front door and stroll to a street scattered with shops, restaurants and businesses run by folks I’ll get to know.

My archaeologist next-door-neighbor, “Little” Dale Simpson, (honorary nephew) was climbing Machu Picchu two days ago. I reel with jealousy, and salute Dale for his passion, and, as we say, following his dream.

I might not ever be a Jeopardy champ, but I could come home with a few thousand bucks.

Basil is always, always, reliable grown from seed.

No news here, but let me tell you, editing another writer’s work isn’t a clinical affair.

Friday night cheeseburgers with grilled onions and a beer is Friday night comfort.

I need insomnia advice.

And NBC is broadcasting Wimbledon tomorrow!

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Filed under Body, Books, Free, History, Into the Mystic, Library Card, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville

Spring in the ‘Ville. Again.

Spring in northern Illinois is a warmer version of spring in Quebec — three weeks earlier but just as maddening. We hit 84 one day, and a terrifying nighttime prairie thunderstorm later be were back in the thirties. T.S.  knew what he was talking about when he wrote that :

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain

 

Well, April is also National Poetry Month.

But a couple of things on this April day made me breathe in the cool sunny air. As in every April, my daffodils are furling, along with some tulips and scilla. Heaven bless my bulbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thyme and tarragon are back too, and I suspect the oregano will surge as it gets warmer. Tomorrow I’ll move the tax forms and the sewing machine from the dining room table and center a pitcher bulging with daffodils and tulips.

Here’s another eternal sign of spring, from out my back door. This kid was kicking around a soccer ball with his big brother, his uncle, his Dad four years ago when he was two. He’s bigger now, but the grass verge futbol, which will continue until the snow falls, is a sign of spring as indelible as my crabapple tree leafing out, the cats twitching at the fresh birdsong, and the soft thunder of an EJ&E train rumbling through my open window.

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Filed under Free, Growing things, History, Home, Into the Mystic, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville, The Great Outdoors

Good Advice

This post isn’t about big life-changing good advice — I am zero qualified, as messy as my house, brain and life is. This is about non earthshaking advice that’s made my life better, from magazines sometimes, but mostly from people I know that are way smarter and together than I am. I love you and I thank you.

  1. The only color of mascara to buy is black.
  2. Keep your ginger in the freezer — it keeps perfectly, which doesn’t in the depths of a vegetable drawer.
  3. Argentinian Malbec is huge tasting and underpriced.
  4. Thank you, Delia Smith: To make insanely rich, flaky pastry, grate frozen butter into the flour. Trust me.
  5. Learn to pick up your pie dough on a rolling pin.
  6. Thank you, Jacques Pepin: Keep your whole chicken from bopping up above the poaching water by enclosing it in an upside down colander.
  7. From Mummy: Never ever buy an article of clothing unless you’re seriously mad for it. Then buy it, right away.
  8. From Nonna: You need to use a black pan to make pizza.
  9. From Dave: Drop the adverbs, push the narrative.
  10. Gulp water when you’re ascending or descending on a flight –it will keep your ears open.
  11. Pennies make awesome pie weights.
  12. Mummy: always make dessert. Every night
  13. You learn more from your children than they learn from you.
  14. Honor: Always wear sunscreen — at least in SoCal.
  15. Daddy: Cling to your intellectual life, your family life, your impeccable wardrobe, no matter how  grim life is.
  16. Keep up with your friends. Not only are they life connections, they offer love and advice.
  17. Studs Terkel: Take it easy, but take it.

I’d love to hear your advice, on any and every subject from lingerie to Life.

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Filed under Free, History, Into the Mystic, Uncategorized

Boursin Boxes and Bliss

My readers have noticed , I’m sure, that I’m good at keeping myself entertained. Give me a piece of paper, half a pound of butter, a crochet hook, a yard of fabric or a book, and I’m all good. (In a couple of weeks a few package of seeds and a rake will keep me out of trouble until Memorial Day.)

Origami is my private place — it calms me, focuses my mind, satisfies my twin fondnesses for mystery and order. The mystery is trying to figure out how the hell anyway will I ever figure out the series of folds that emerge into a beautiful or practical object. The order comes from the knowledge that sometime, sooner or later, I will figure it out.

Saturday afternoon my fingers were twitching for a piece of paper and a challenge. I pulled Didier Boursin’s Advanced Origami from my bookshelf and decided that I’d try, for the seventieth time over a period of three years, to complete his Serving Dish. Biographical information on Boursin is scant — he’s a French architect and famous paper folder. His style is clean and modern and his fold patterns are, well, different. I’ve loved his work since I found it four years ago and I’ve wasted reams of paper trying to get it right. (By the way, my  piece on Boursin’s origami wallet is the most viewed post ever on this blog, so I’m not Didier’s only fan girl!)

Reader, I did it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this little box so make, and was so relieved that I’d finally done it, that I tried to attempt two other boxes from Advanced Origami.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these triangular boxes so much I’m going to post another picture. Humor me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was blissed out enough at my progress, and my boxes, to risk one more model I’d never completed before — this cunning cube box. You make two identical cubes, but there’s a tricky and satisfying series of folds that locks the inner box into the outer box — it opens by pulling opposite corners. It’s cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not preening — there are at least forty more forms in the book I may figure out before I draw Social Security. Mais, merci M. Boursin for two hours of  perfect peace.

 


 

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Filed under Art, Books, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper