Popping Over The Pond, Are We? Jolly Good!

June 29, 2009 at 10:34 pm (Housewife Life, Uncategorized)

A travel agent friend of mine recently told me she won a week-long trip to England, through work. A lifelong Angophile, I have to confess my envy. I went there on my graduation trip in June, 1988, and raised about as much hell as any freshly-graduated American girl, suddenly legally allowed to consume alcohol, could get away with. My friend is a travel agent, so undoubtedly knows things about the local attractions…but I thought this would be a good opportunity to make her a scavenger hunt that adds some ZING to her trip. ūüėČ As a bonus, I will include a list of dont’s, all learned the hard way. My only disclaimer is that I take no responsibility for the fact that my information is over 20 years old. With that…congrats, Cindy, and enjoy yourself!

British Travel Scavenger Hunt
1. Watch the changing of the Buckingham Palace guards. (Bonus points if one of the horses craps while passing you.)
2. Take high tea at the Savoy Hotel. (Bonus points if you already know what the hell a “scone” is.)
3. Get your photo taken in front of Big Ben, on London Bridge, with a Beefeater and a Bobby, on top of a double-decker bus, on top of that scary-big ferris wheel, and inside a little red phone booth.
4. Tour Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Bonus points if you can do either without thinking of the scene in Indiana Jones 3 with the subterranean crypt, and more bonus points if you can tour both places without stepping on a tile where a dead person is buried underneath.)
5. Spend one full afternoon shopping at Harrod’s. I cannot begin to describe why this is necessary, other than to assure you that it is.
6. Go boutique-ing in Covent Gardens.
7. See something naughty in Piccadilly Circus. (Bonus points if someone in a caftan offers you a camel in exchange for sexual favors. No, really! It happened to me!)
8. Day trip to Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. (Bonus points for standing at the very top and yelling “FREEEEEEEDOMMMMMMM!”)
9. See a play, a Shakespeare one in Stratford if at all possible. (Bonus points if you actually get to see the line “to be, or not to be” performed live in its original context by an actual British Shakespeare company.)
10. Stay one night at the “Hard Day’s Night” hotel in Liverpool. (500 Bonus points for getting busy in the Lennon Suite!!!!)
11. Sit on a bench outside of Oxford University, and BOYWATCH. (Bonus points if you avoid arrest.)
12. Walk or drive down King’s Road, London, just to soak up the punk-rock juju. (Bonus points if you see someone with a mohawk, ask to take his picture, and he tells you to sod off.)
12. Visit Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and conduct an investigation as to which male likeness boasts the most lipstick marks. (Bonus points if the answer is Johnny Depp.)

List of DON’Ts While in the UK…
1. DON’T, for the love of all that’s holy, ask an Edinburgh Castle guard what he’s wearing under his kilt.
2. DON’T be too depressed when you find out that Big Ben is only a clock.
3. DON’T decide to visit Stonehenge on Midsummer’s Eve…literally…you might inadvertently get arrested on one of the police sweeps for people exhibiting druid-like behaviors.
4. DON’T wear your licensed Brazilian world cup jersey.
5. DON’T make fun of the queen’s hats. Charles’ ears are fair game.
6. DON’T get offended if someone mentions “bumming a fag.” (That means “mooching a cigarette”.) They also call getting your hair blow-dried at the stylist, a “blow-job.”
7. DON’T order a pizza. Pizza as you know it does not exist there.
8. DON’T try too hard to heckle a Palace Guard.
9. DON’T bother the front desk about why you only get 6 channels.
10. DON’T forget to have an AWESOME TIME!!!!!


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Lactose Intolerance

February 3, 2009 at 6:47 pm (Uncategorized)

Harvey Milk collapses on a sofa, exhausted, and tells his campaign manager he’s going to stop running for office, because he just doesn’t have it in him anymore. I understand how Milk felt. This is the year I myself have announced I will not be seeking re-election to my town’s council after six years of service. Somehow Milk found the strength to keep going. That alone, to me, was mind-boggling and right there enough for me to respect the man.

Friends told me to bring Kleenex with me to see Milk. They were not wrong, but, I did not get verklempt at the times when the audience is clearly supposed to be. Instead, I found myself teary-eyed at a point where Harvey Milk and his staff are certain they’ve lost their battle against Proposition 6, a law with unprecedented unfairness and discrimination against gay individuals (gay teachers and anyone who supported them would be immediately fired, causing a government witch hunt as to who is or is not gay). The phone rings, and Milk learns that Prop 6 has been defeated. This for me was the most poignant scene in Milk, because it’s what should have happened earlier this year when Proposition 8 (barring gay marriages in CA and nullifying those which already exist) passed. That’s when I cried.

Sean Penn is absolutely mesmerizing and sincere. My Litmus Test with Penn is always, does merely yell to get his point across, or does he dial it down a little. Mostly, he yells, and it annoys me. Not so in this role, where his emotional range is palpable. I believe in my heart of hearts that he and Mickey Rourke have given equally compelling performances this year in their Oscar-nominated roles, but that this year…the year we celebrate Harvey Milk through our outrage that intolerance is alive and well in Milk’s state 30 years later…Penn will take the Oscar not just as a testament to his wonderful job here, but, as an acknowledgment that discrimination in any form is wrong, and must be fought by large groups of people (say…Academy voters…) willing to stand up and say, “that’s enough.”

Here in Pittsburgh, PA, I don’t get many glimpses into actual Hollywood.¬† My LA-living brother-in-law winces whenever my kids ask him “what famous people he’s seen” since they last talked. My husband’s friend from college has a brother who left HBO’s “True Blood” to do the costumes for Milk, and he was nominated for both the Costumers’ Guild Award and his first Oscar this year. I truly wish Danny Glicker well. Even knowing him peripherally, seeing the comments on his FaceBook page, indicates that Milk is a film which touched everyone who worked on it in a deeply personal way. Certainly, in a year when HOPE was the central theme of a groundbreaking presidential election, parts of Harvey Milk’s legacy remain, and his life still speaks profoundly to gay and straight people alike.

Milk is a special film, and certainly one of the best this year.¬† It does more than share one man’s extraordinary journey. It opens discussions about fairness in American society and encourages all of us to have the courage of our convictions.¬† It helps us examine whether we embrace our differences, and drink in more Milk, or whether we manifest lactose intolerance and judge others.

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February 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm (Uncategorized)

My parents did not want to see Frost/Nixon for the same reason I would not see W: they lived it, and it was bad enough the first time. I was 4 years old at the time of the depicted events. I don’t remember the scandal, but I *do* remember Nixon’s resignation speech on TV because it’s the earliest memory I have of my father hitting me (apparently I wouldn’t shut up).

Frost/Nixon is another movie, like Doubt, which evolved from a stage play. I submit that both would have been better served remaining on the stage. Both Oscar nominations for acting (ie. Frank Langella as Richard Nixon, Best Actor and Michael Sheen as David Frost for Best Supporting Actor) are well-deserved, though neither man will win.

Frank Langella looks nothing like Richard Nixon, though the voice and mannerisms are uncanny. You never quite forget it’s Frank up there, not Dick, which is the one difference between Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, a performance I described similarly. I was convinced by the end of The Aviator that Cate WAS Katharine, not just Cate acting a whole lot like Katharine; by the end of Frost/Nixon I could not escape the idea that this was Frank Langella, acting a whole lot like Richard Nixon. Though I do give the guy props for the eye-twitch thing he had going on, it made my eyes itch to watch.

Overall, Ron Howard has been a director with a lot of heart. Even when he’s made a movie I haven’t liked, it’s at least had heart. This one, while I can’t say I liked it, also had heart. Sam Rockwell’s character, a jaded type who wants to see Nixon made accountable, says at one point, “How can anyone have sympathy for Richard Nixon?” Howard does try, and very nearly succeeds, at asking us to have some sympathy for a tired old man haunted by his bad choices. Nixon is very much a modern example of Greek tragedy, a man who is judged so harshly for his failures that his accomplishments (and he did have a few!) have been all but forgotten.

I saw parallels between this story and that of George W. Bush (though Bush even has the “complicated Daddy element” in his Greek tragedy), and wondered how Bush will feel in the coming years about some of his choices, and how history will judge him in the end. I tried to put myself in my parents’ place by thinking about Bush and how I will feel if some of his choices go unquestioned, if he is not held accountable…wondered how it would feel to see him on television, admitting wrongdoing and apologizing for it. Would doing that really change anything, for Bush, for us? And did it ultimately change anything for Nixon?

It is a dance accomplished without flourish or fanfare, but with some question as to who is leading, and with one of them in a pair of “effeminate Italian loafers.” One question I came away with at the end of Frost/Nixon was, did Frost suddenly wake up halfway through the process and “bring it,” or was it his strategy all along to make Nixon think he was incompetent and then hit when least expected? I thought I knew, but reflecting on the fake smiles and the front Frost puts up in front of others…now I’m not so sure. The loafers thing made me laugh though, as my ex-husband wore ONLY Italian loafers. He’d have loved this movie.

Perhaps it is because the American mind has now been trained to have a shorter attention span, and to expect nonstop action in movies. Perhaps it’s because the movie was first a stage play. There have been other “talking movies,” as my daughter calls them, which I’ve liked more than Frost/Nixon (including, ironically, another one starring Michael Sheen…The Queen). This one, however, will not win Best Picture, nor am I sure it should have been nominated.

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A Sort of Homecoming

December 2, 2008 at 5:53 pm (Housewife Life, Uncategorized)

So, this past weekend was our 20-year HS reunion. Everyone has been asking me whether it was fun, how’d it go, etc. Judging from the number of e-mails that have been flying, and the talk of a 25th this early out of the gate, it must have been a success, and I feel good about that. As to whether I found it fun, I think the more appropriate word is “surreal.” Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but…it was surreal.

The first thing I can’t exactly wrap my brain around is how I can be old enough to have a 20-year reunion when I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. There are faces I will never quite get used to seeing under a bald head.

The second strange thing…my back was hurting that night so I was on Vicodin and therefore couldn’t drink. When you’re at a party like that one and not drinking, and just about everyone else is drinking heavily,¬†interesting things happen.

Maybe someone will confess to you¬†his secret desire¬†to dress up like a cheerleader. Maybe someone will regale you with the list of medications she’s on. Maybe someone will overcompensate for living with his mother. Maybe someone will swear that escort really is his girlfriend. Maybe someone will tell you a story about her severely handicapped child that breaks your heart. Maybe someone will crack your shit up telling stories about a¬†moronic¬†supervisor who actually believes him when he calls off due to “an outbreak of Coulrophobia” (fear of clowns). I’d love to say I’m making ANY of this up, but, not even my imagination could have conjured this stuff!!!

It¬†makes me wonder, what would I have said if I’d been drunk, and who would I have said it to?¬† Not all of these folks were “BFF’s” in school…in fact, with a couple, it was kind of the opposite (which, when¬†I was¬†a tubby goth-type in school, there WERE unkind people…). I would love to believe that this episode means I’ve gone from being an outcast to being approachable, but these people were drunk. Regardless, it was genuinely nice to see these folks again and have them treat me like Friend, not Freak.

I am not yet above looking around the room and praying that I see at least someone who is fatter than me. I am still petty enough to notice which people in the room who clearly knew me, didn’t even say hi. As much as it felt great that “here we are, all grown up,” there was still¬†the tiniest¬†element of it all just being “so high school.” I guess we all still have some work to do. And you know what? GOOD. Because it means we’re not finished yet, we’re not used up, these lives are still works in progess.

In the meantime, as we wonder whether to plan another one of these in 5 years, I’ll be deciding whether to get as drunk as everybody else next time, or stay sober and maybe not have as much “fun.” I’m leaning toward sober, if only because I learned a lot more about people and about life.

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