Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Random thoughts, (some up, some down), to end September

As I said in a previous post, last week was great because I kept myself busy the entire time getting ready for the dinner party on Friday. (And I need to add here that one of the books that was crucial to the dinner party's success FINALLY arrived from the library today, all of two and a half weeks after I place the request. I had to find the actual book in a bookstore and copy down the recipes.) This week has been a big ol' letdown so far. Since I see no point in buying unlimited Metro Cards for the time being, I tend to stay in my neighborhood a lot. No problem as it's a nice neighborhood, (one of the cast members from "As the World Turns" lives up here and I see him all the time) but some weeks are more boring than others. This is one of them. Perhaps it's the cold and the fact that people are bundling up. I like cold weather, always have and will, but this year it reminds me how much time is going by and that I am still out of work. I'm looking forward to a nice Indian summer if anything to get those Columbia boys back in t-shirts.

Also compounding the general malaise is the sudden uptick in rejection letters that I am getting. I suppose it's good that there seems to be movement but none of the movement is in my direction. But I still send out those resume dutifully and faithfully every day. I know a job will come, but I just don't want it to happen too late. Yeah, the news is rather depressing about the job situation and I know so many others are in the same situation as I, but I get a little selfish and think, "Yes, but only I can control what happens to me." So I second guess myself, wonder what I am doing wrong, wonder if I have done nothing but take the wrong career path my entire life, kick myself when another rejection arrives as though it's some form of judgement.

Nevertheless, there is something satisfying about sending out resumes, knowing that you're working on getting it out there, that each day your name goes out to more and more people, like a ripple effect in a pond. And the more who know about me, the better the odds have to be mathematically. Right? RIGHT??? It's that conundrum: I know I can do the job well, but these people can only choose one person and in this competitive climate, they'll go with the most "golden" resume. And so I am still here and so ashamed to admit that last week, I made it a point to tune into "Oprah" to see the Mackenzie Phillips debacle. Oh, how I've fallen.

Geez, thank god for this blog so I can get it all out. I don't want there to be too much annoying navel-gazing here but every now and then I have to vent.

So, let's talk Sarah Palin for a second. And only for a second for that's all I can take. The woman is incapable of stringing together a coherent thought - this is not saying she cannot form a sentence, she can. It's just that her sentences makes very little sense. Therefore, her book will be completely ghostwritten as we know. The only thing that bugs me is that it probably will be a bestseller. I guess there's no accounting for taste.

And finally, a farewell to September, a month that began with me on Martha's Vineyard, having one of the most glorious vacations ever, to a more sobering month as some friends lost loved ones, members of the family sold their homes, ending an era, and a final gathering was held on the ground of another relatives home that will be sold soon. That was especially moving as it was the place where our families have been gathering since I was an infant (and before) and I'm sad to see the house go.

As I finish writing this, somewhere outside my window, some old creaky door is opening and it sounds like the effect used in horror movies for coffins. That can only mean that it's time for October.

Another month, more possibilities.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where's the Boeuf? (Yes, I know that was terrible.)

I can cook. I have made entire Thanksgiving dinners, I am a whiz at eggplant parmesan, my shepherd's pie is a delight but I was feeling limited in what I was able to produce. So, as many of you know, I took a big step last week and tried something new. A multi-step recipe that required real attention and skill. And I did it. Have I mastered the art of French cooking? No. But I came that much closer the other night.

I spent the better part of a month worrying about cooking up the boeuf bourguignon (god, I wish that were easier to spell) and as of last Friday night, I served it, people ate it, they seemed to enjoy it and that was it.

The last several months of my life have been very rote. A typical day goes with me getting up, taking my walk, going home, and sending out resumes while I have "The Young and the Restless" on in the background. (For those of you who used to watch it but haven't in years, you'll be delighted to know that Kay and Jill still hate one another. Since 1974.) Then I tend to worry about my future obsessively for the rest of the day.

Last week was a change of pace and it was nice to stave off the few work rejections that I did get and go shopping. I turned in my coin at the bank and bought items a few at a time. I think that was a psychological thing so it wouldn't look as though I had spent too much money all at once. Always the glutton for punishment, I even walked through the heat and humidity last week to the Fairway down under the viaduct to get the stew meat. And truthfully, I just didn't want to pay for a subway ride to the Fairway on 75th. A friend insisted that I should only go to Fairway, but I'm not sure why that should have been my only option. But I did get my meat and bacon there. Yes, the recipe calls for both bacon and beef. Vegetarians had best stop reading here.

My mind wouldn't rest. While lying in bed on Wednesday night, I was puzzling over what it would be like to cut the bacon from the "rind." I don't think I'd even seen bacon that hadn't been sliced before. The task of separating the bacon from the rind ended up being a lot easier than I thought. The rind is just the skin anyhow. And it all worked out swell. I bought a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" recently but didn't want it to get all messy. perhaps I shouldn't have been so reticent. I always tell my mother that I want her old Betty Crocker cookbook one day, and that things is so splattered by grease and flour and shortening and god knows what else that the book could probably be cooked in the oven and taste good. But I couldn't bring myself to soil my new cookbook. I photocopied the recipe and had it right in front of me as I went step by step, bit by bit over the recipe. There were a few adjustments I had to make - the bacon didn't render out enough fat to brown the meat successfully and in the end, there was no fat to pour out. I started at 1:30 in the afternoon and was done by 7:45 pm. That includes the whole process of cooking in the oven (and frequently checking to make sure it wasn't simmering too much.) Unlike Julie Powell, I did not fall asleep and burn it. Although, my recipe looked a lot different than the one shown in "Julie and Julia."

And as Julia said, the flavors come together much more harmoniously when left overnight. There was barely enough for leftovers when the party was over. That's partly due to a nosy roommate with boundary issues but that's another story entirely.

So what do I tackle next?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Special, esoteric "Mad Men" fans only posting

As I've mentioned many times before, I'm obsessive. My latest obsession? "Mad Men." How can I even begin to describe how much I loved last night's episode? My friend and I are hooked on this show. In the early 90s, he and I used to spend every Saturday night in his basement watching "Twin Peaks" and nearly twenty years later, we have another "Twin Peaks" to capture our interest.

First, here's a good quote from an"Onion" critic about the season that reflects what I've discussed with people about the slow nature of the show and is it better to watch all at once on DVD or week by week:,33092/

"I’ve read a lot of criticism—in the comments section here and in other places—that while Season Three has featured a number of memorable moments, it hasn’t really cohered. The leisurely pace that’s been Mad Men’s trademark mode has, at times, seemed a little indulgent, as though creator Matt Weiner were trying to convince us that there’s more happening than there actually is… if only we’d look hard enough. Since I enjoy spending time in the Mad Men universe whether it's drama-filled or not, I haven’t minded the slow-drip, scene-by-scene approach. I think of this show as being like one long novel, and though each chapter has its own careful construction and unique themes, it often feels wrong to judge the individual elements of the composition until we’ve seen the whole picture. Three years from now, when we see how much (or how little) everyone’s lives have changed over the course of Mad Men, those “not much happe
ning” times we’ve spent with them will be all the more meaningful, because we’ll have come to know these people."

I totally agree.

Some things about last night I really liked:

- Pete's reaction when they said that Ken Cosgrove is head of accounts as is Pete Campbell, "for the time being." Vincent Kartheiser has some great, momentary reactions shots, like a few weeks ago when the jai alai guy was talking about "balls coming at his face."

-Peggy fainting into Pete's arms.

- Joan. Joan. Joan. Was she great in this episode or what? How can she leave Sterling Cooper? And how can they let her go? I swore she was going to ask Don to help her get her job back when they were in the hospital but she didn't. Damn. But man, she and Don have some smokin' chemistry. But as Joan noted in the first season, he never went after her. I'll bet Don never has affairs with coworkers. Joan is the one with brains in her fingers, not her husband.

- Betty apparently still doesn't care for Bobby much. "Go beat your head against the wall. Only boring people get bored."

- Evil Bubble Cut Barbie.

- Why don't we know Don's secretary's name? Peggy has Olive, Pete's had Hildy forever, Paul has/had Lois.

- Did you notice the quick shot of Mr. Hooker and a secretary run into the room, all mussed up when the accident happened? Man, I wish Joan would put him in his place.

- Paul Kinsey going crazy over having to cut his beard and then playing the guitar while the top brass comes through.

- And the accident itself. Completely unexpected but this is the way MM always confounds our expectations. Here I was thinking, we now have this young upstart, he's going to cause all kinds of trouble and tension, everybody will hate him. There will be episodes worth of resentment and then blam!, his foot gets cut off by a lawnmower and suddenly the status quo is restored. Brilliant play on the title as well, "Guy Walks Into Advertising Agency" as his name was Guy and then of course, he doesn't walk out.

I love this show.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary Travers (1936-2009)

Just a few hours before I had heard that Mary Travers had died, I was listening to the song "Early in the Morning" on You Tube as sung by Colin Hanks on "Mad Men." That song is the first song on the first "Peter, Paul and Mary" album. It wasn't until maybe an hour after I had heard that she died that I realized I'd just been listening to one of their songs earlier that day. That made everything that much sadder for me.

Amidst all this contemporary tea party nonsense, the ugly rhetoric being thrown around, the sense that everything is falling apart, we have lost one of the voices in the struggle for freedom and civil liberties. It was once said about folksinger Malvina Reynolds that her protest songs sound gentle, but she doesn't protest gently. The same can be said for Mary Travers.

I have a CD boxed-set from a few years ago entitled "Washington Square Memories" which is the folk music from the era. One of the photos in the booklet shows a young, pretty, teenage blonde singing along with a girl in a guitar. The photo is dated 1954-55. I can give you three guesses as to who that young blonde is.

If you want the quintessential 60s folkie, I'd say it would be Mary Travers. This isn't to put down Joan Baez because I love her but Travers was the archetype of the folkie. She was a city dweller who would go down to Washington Square on the weekends and sing along. Eventually, she played the clubs, was discovered and recruited to be part of a folksinging trio. Yes, you heard me right - "recruited." "Peter, Paul and Mary" did not form spontaneously but were put together by a record company. This doesn't take away from any of their legacy for me (or the fact that, as a book I once read noted, that Mary was blonde whereas the true authentic folk singers all knew that it was the brunettes who were the most earnest, the type who carried a copy of "The Bell Jar" in their purses.)

So there's both a hint of authenticity and the commercial in the story of Mary Travers. But to me, it doesn't matter. What I remember are the songs. My mother had a few Peter, Paul and Mary albums and when we were growing up, she would often play them when she was doing the dishes after dinner or on lazy Sunday afternoons. My mother owned their first album, the one when Mary is holding a bouquet of flowers and the name of the group is written on chalk on a brick wall behind them. The song I seem to remember best, and I have no idea why, is "Lemon Tree." But the song I grew to love when I started listening to them on my own at the age of 17 is "If I Had a Hammer." Yes, in the era of hair metal and Funky Colmadenas, I went in the opposite direction.

It's because of the influence of "Peter, Paul and Mary" I went and discovered all these other wonderful, brilliant folk artists from that era and beyond. It's why I always feel as though I was born too late and wish that the Greenwich Village I knew was not the one where I worked for 6 years in the '00s but the Village of the 50s and 60s. I know I idealize it, smoky coffeehouses, acoustic music, beatniks but there has to really have been something there for the legend to grow. It sure beats all the Marc Jacobs boutiques that have taken over Bleecker Street.

Goodbye, Mary. Thanks for the fight, the music, your voice, your inspiration and everything else. I was going to try and end this with some reference to one of her songs, like "your soul is blowin' in the wind" or "now you're much further than 500 miles" but I think it's best to show my love and respect and just stop right here.