Tickets, Please

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Reputation Tour, Heinz Field, 8/7/18

 

Last Tuesday, I went to the Taylor Swift concert.

It wasn’t easy.

Back in December when they went on sale, I volunteered to buy the tickets for our group of Swifties. I thought it would be a simple matter of logging onto Ticketmaster, picking out seats, entering a credit card number, and printing out tickets.

Oh, how wrong I was.

One does not just purchase tickets for Queen Tay.

Back in November, I bought Taylor’s new cd, Reputation.  Inside, the cd informed me that I could use the specific code included to sign up for a Reputation Tour account to secure my place in line before the tickets went on sale.

Back when I first started buying concert tickets, getting a spot in line meant lining up at the physical Ticketmaster location the night before and literally camping out.

But this is 2018. So getting in line involves a smartphone.

Because I did not want a nose bleed from sitting in the back row of Heinz Field, I played along. Buying the cd earned me points.  So did following Taylor on Twitter and Instagram.  I even bought an official Reputation t-shirt off the website.  All of these points boosted my place in line.

When the tickets finally went on sale, I had my spot and ended up with prime pickings in the “cheap” seats section.

And that’s where things got interesting.

Ticketmaster informed me there would be no paper tickets. They wouldn’t mail them to me, I couldn’t pick them up anywhere, and I couldn’t print them out.

Taylor was going mobile and so was I.

Reader, my tickets were on my smartphone.

I’m a smartphone-skeptic. I have one, and I use it, but still with some reluctance.  I was one of the last people I knew to give up my dumb-phone with a slide-out keyboard, and I miss that thing every time I text.  I don’t do my banking on my phone, or use it to pay for things, and I can’t quite figure out how to use Target’s Cartwheel even though everyone promises me it is super simple.

But like it or not, my group of Swifties was counting on me to get them into Heinz Field with nothing but my phone.

A month before the concert, paranoia set in. What if so many people were trying to download their tickets at one time that I couldn’t get through?  What if I’d used up all the juice on my data plan?

Two weeks before the concert I made my preparations. I downloaded the tickets into the Ticketmaster App (which I had to download).  I also downloaded them into my phone’s “virtual wallet,” though I had been previously unaware my phone had a wallet.

One week before Ticketmaster began sending me menacing e-mails like the one below:

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Of course I didn’t want to be the fan that holds up the line! I began having nightmares that I was that fan.  In my dreams, I walked up to the ticket-taker and my phone’s battery had died.  Or the Ticketmaster app was gone.  Or some virtual pickpocket had stolen my virtual wallet.

Three days before I took screen shots of the tickets as an extra precaution and stopped sleeping.

Then, on Tuesday night, my moment arrived. Sleep-deprived, nerves frayed, and sweating profusely, I boldly walked up to the ticket-taker.  I had the tickets downloaded in three places.  I pulled up the first ticket, and she scanned it with her magic wand.  It worked.

Three more ticket swipes and we were in!

I nearly dropped to the floor in sheer relief. We weren’t going to be shut out of the Reputation tour because of my ineptitude.

And the show?

Completely worth the months of anxiety. Taylor delivered.

But next time, can you please just let me print out my tickets?

 

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Beauty and the Beast

The hills are alive…oops, nevermind.  This is when I fell in love with Belle.

 

To my way of thinking, there are four classic Disney Princesses:

  • Snow White
  • Cinderella
  • Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

You may not agree with this list—or, more likely, you’ll find it incomplete.  These are the first five princesses prominently featured in Disney films, and the ones I remember from my own childhood.

I’m sure Mulan, Tiana, Merida, Elsa, Anna, and Moana are fantastic ladies, but as a thirty-seven year old woman without any kids, I’ve had no cause to watch their stories.  And great as they may be, they’re the modern ladies.

Today we’re talking about classics.

They’re on my mind because this weekend I saw the Beauty and the Beast musical.

Belle has always been my favorite of the classic princesses.

I was ten when I first saw the Beauty and the Beast movie, and like every girl who spent her childhood reading, I felt a kinship with bookworm Belle.  And every one of us reading girls grew into women who couldn’t help eyeing the Beast’s library with genuine lust.

Beyond the books, Belle is the first Disney princess with a spine.  She is a good girl at heart, of course—minding her father and having a heart of gold—this is a Disney movie, after all.  But she doesn’t give a fig for the expectations of the townspeople and knows from her reading that “there must be more to this provincial life.”

My favorite scenes come minutes into the movie—Belle refuses the marriage proposal of Gaston, the metaphorical meathead bro quarterback of the football team, and then subsequently mocks the idea of being the “little wife” of that “boorish, brainless….”  The idea is so horrific poor Belle can’t even finish her thought as she tosses feed to the chickens.  She vows that she will never become his wife before having her Sound of Music moment where she yearns for “adventure in the great wide somewhere.”

Can you see Cinderella or Snow White turning Gaston down?  I can’t.  Those two were toiling away under the tyranny of evil stepmothers, so you’d better believe they’d have taken the first marriage offer that came their way.  Nice girls, sure, but beaten down and compliant.  They were waiting for a man to come and save them.  They both just got lucky the man that finally came happened to be a prince.

But Belle was defiant.  She knew what she wanted—and what she didn’t.  I love defiant heroines, and Belle was one of the first I’d met.  She was like the heroines I’d come to love in regency romance novels, the ones who are plain and aging in a cut-throat marriage market, who turn down perfectly acceptable but boring, boorish, and brainless suitors so they can hold out for true love, knowing they will be spinsters permanently on the shelf and dependent on their brother’s largesse if they lose their gamble for love.

And the way Belle talks to the Beast!  The girl has gumption.  She’s afraid of him but still isn’t going to put up with his temper tantrums.  Some people say Belle has Stockholm syndrome, but I don’t think so.  I think she recognizes the soul of the Beast—she can look past his flaws and his temper to see the man inside.

And I think she’s just plain got the hots for the ultimate bad boy.

The sexual tension is crackling…Belle wants to take a walk on the wild side!

 

Cinderella and Snow White are just too nice.  They’re as boring as their plain vanilla princes.  Cinderella probably spends every night slathering her face with anti-wrinkle cream and measuring her waist to be sure she hasn’t gained an inch while her prince falls asleep on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother reruns.  Snow White packs hand-made lunches with organic apples and all-natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly sandwiches for the dwarfs, her husband, and her kids.  And when someone gets mad and demands grape jelly instead of strawberry, she runs out right then to the twenty-four hour Wal-Mart.  That one’s got doormat written all over her.

And Sleeping Beauty?  Let’s not kid ourselves—that woman can’t make it through the day without a Xanax-induced nap.

But I’ll bet Belle and her Beast put the kids to bed early and have sexy time.  She sexts him at work, telling him she bought new lingerie, and he cuts out early and rides his motorcycle back to the castle.  In the bedroom, she still calls him Beast and he still growls like an animal.

At least, that’s what I like to think.

But I’ve read hundreds of romance of novels since that first viewing of Beauty and the Beast, so maybe I’m projecting.

Just a little.

But seriously…how many times do you think they’ve done it in that library?

Inside Job

 

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The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main Branch

How about this for a movie idea…over twenty years, a Pittsburgh librarian steals $8 million dollars’ worth of rare books and maps from the very collection it is his job to protect. He works with the owner of a prestigious Pittsburgh rare bookshop who acts as his fence, and they rake in the profits.

If we told it from the point of view of the thieves, it could be a great caper, like Ocean’s 11.

But what if I told you the thief netted only $134,000 from these thefts, was caught and is now facing jail time?

Now it sounds like a bumbling idiot comedy starring Will Ferrell.

Would you watch it?

As you already know if you follow Pittsburgh news, this is no movie script but a true ripped-from-the-headlines tale of a disgraced librarian and his bookshop-owning partner in crime.

The librarian’s job was to watch over this collection and protect it from the public. Instead, he allegedly cannibalized it, cutting maps out of books with an X-Acto knife and rolling them up to take with him.  He stole rare books by Issac Newton, Adam Smith, and a journal written by George Washington that had Thomas Jefferson’s signature in it.

He passed them off to the owner of a local bookshop, who forged provenance documents and sold the stolen items to unsuspecting collectors, libraries, and bookshops.

I’ve spent many hours writing and reading in the library where the theft took place, and it is painful to see this shame brought down on such a wonderful institution. I’ve bought books at Caliban Book Store, the shop implicated.

I won’t pretend to know why these men did what they did, and I won’t presume to judge them. There’s enough judgment on the internet, and this blog focuses on what is good and funny in day to day life.

But the items in libraries—especially historical items—belong to all of us, not just a privileged few. What a great gift it is to be able to see Thomas Jefferson’s signature or read accounts written by the Founding Fathers.  Sure, many—okay, most—people have no interest in looking at such things, but that’s a bit beside the point.

I once saw Candice Millard speak. She’s a historian who wrote a fascinating biography of President James Garfield (before I read this book, I didn’t even remember there was a president Garfield, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough).  Anyway, Ms. Millard was talking about the hours she spent in libraries researching the book, and among the gathered materials she found an envelope with a lock of the former president’s hair from when he was a boy.  She was so inspired by that moment, and I was inspired by her passionate recollection.

What a shame if that envelope had been stolen and sold to a wealthy collector, who kept it locked away in a drawer somewhere.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a wonderful institution that has enriched my life as well as the life of many others. I’m sure it will take steps to prevent such a thing from happening again, as well they should.

But I can’t help but think those steps will—out of necessity—make it harder for the average person to access the rare and collectible items.

I can’t blame them, but I can mourn the loss of the items, and the inevitable loss of access to such documents.

As the saying goes, thanks for spoiling it for the rest of us.

 

Postscript1: You can read more about the case here.

Postscript 2:  I wrote about the girls I met in this library here.

Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

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The Bridgertons are coming to Netflix.  Between this and Outlander, my tv life is complete.

Have you heard the news?  They’re making Downton Abbey into a movie.

As much as I love the Crawleys, I’m not sure there’s any story left to tell.  Movies that continue beloved television shows (rather than recast or re-imagine) are irresistible to fans but usually quite indulgent and mediocre.  I’m trying to think of an exception (Veronica Mars, Sex and the City) but can’t come up with one.

I’m far from the first to point this out, but as today’s movies get worse and worse (as I’ve whined about here and here), serialized television only gets better.  As such, I find my most rabid ardor reserved toward the television instead of the silver screen.

This has been a gradual and mostly unnoticed departure.  Growing up, there was only one television show that ever mattered to me, and that was General Hospital.  Five days a week I was there, and the weekend after a spectacular cliffhanger was agony.  But otherwise, I had no use for the sitcoms and game shows that many of my friends watched.  For me, it was General Hospital and the movies.

Everything in the movies was bigger and better, not just the screen.  Bigger stories, bigger adventure and romance, bigger soundtracks and sweeping scores, bigger stars and cinematography.

But that’s no longer true.

As lackluster as I feel about the upcoming slate of movies, I couldn’t be more excited about television.  Outlander is taking the Frasers to America.  Need I say more?

Any movie would love to have the buzz garnered by new seasons of Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, Sharp Objects (starring Amy Adams!), and Big Little Lies (Nicole Kidman!).

And Shonda Rimes is bringing Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton’s—yes, that’s right, I said the BRIDGERTON’s—the most beloved family in all of historical romance novels—to Netflix.  If you’re a romance novel fan and this news doesn’t make your heart skip a beat, I’d check for a pulse.

So television is where the excitement, the stars, and the quality is.  The problem is not a lack of quality entertainment, but a surplus.  Where does a girl begin?

And yet, I lament my lack of interest in the movies.  Why?

For me, there is still no better way to spend a hot summer afternoon than in a cool theater with a bucket of popcorn, transported for two hours to a world bigger and brighter than my own.

The solution to this dilemma—television or movies—is so obvious I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.

Television on the big screen.

Don’t give me a warmed over Downton Abbey retread movie, give me Downton Abbey episodes!

Imagine it.  Your favorite show on the big screen.

The Red Wedding in IMAX.  Jamie and Claire Fraser voyaging across time and the world for love in the dark of the theater.  Stuffing popcorn in your face while the Dowager Countess lands her barbs with the cool precision of a lifelong aristocrat.

I’d pay to watch my favorite episodes on the big screen.  I’d buy a season pass and show up every Monday night for the latest installment.  Think of the watch party you could have at your local theater.

Television drama.  Movie theater.  It’s as obvious—and as blissfully indulgent—as peanut butter and chocolate.

Duke’s and Me, Not Meant to Be

This is a story of the unconsummated flirtation between Duke’s and me.

Maybe I should back up.

Have you ever heard of Duke’s Mayonnaise? I hadn’t, not until I recently saw a commercial for it while watching a serious and informative documentary on PBS.

Wait, what? You say there’s no commercials on PBS? Okay, okay, I admit it, I was watching the Bachelorette, are you happy now? I’m just trying to write a blog, so stop judging me and LET’S DO THE DAMN THING.

Anyway, this commercial came on and though (like everyone else) I think I’m immune to advertising, this one got under my skin.

I love mayonnaise, but I’ve always bought Hellmann’s. To me, Hellmann’s is mayonnaise. To even consider switching seems heretical.

But listen to this ad copy:

Duke’s is the perfect companion for so many things. It makes a tomato taste more like a tomato, it makes bacon taste more like bacon.

It’s a unique flavor, the texture is incredible. Duke’s really adds integrity to our recipes.

Duke’s is smooth, creamy, it has a lemony edge. It’s not sweet.

It tastes like real ingredients because it’s made with real ingredients.

I don’t think there’s another mayonnaise that compares to Duke’s.

It has more egg yolks. No sugar. It’s got a texture like custard. I mean, you’ve got to try somethings that makes a tomato taste more like a tomato, right?

I do.

At least I thought I did.

Until the universe conspired against me.

I went to my local grocery store and searched the mayonnaise aisle. Beneath the Hellmann’s, beneath the Miracle Whip, and beneath the store brand, there it was.

Or wasn’t, actually.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one awed by their advertising, as the shelf of Duke’s Mayonnaise was empty. Wiped out.

They were sold out.

It was around Independence Day, so I checked all the endcaps decked out with mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, and baked beans.

No Duke’s.

Hmmm.

Undeterred, I decided to look again on my next shopping trip. This time the universe sent a louder signal.

I found a shelf full of Duke’s Mayonnaise. They only had a 32 oz size, which is too large for one person, especially since I might not even like it, but I was committed to my quest now. Duke’s had been playing hard to get, and that only made me want it more. So I loaded the giant tub into my cart and away I went.

In the parking lot, I loaded my groceries into the trunk. As I closed the trunk lid, a panic swept through me, but it was too late.

I’d dropped my keys in the trunk. And the rest of the doors were locked.

For a moment, I just stood there, dumbfounded. I was holding a dozen eggs in my hand, because I keep those on the front seat so they don’t break.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon, ninety-five degrees and sunny. I had no way to get into the car.

And I had no cell phone.

Stupidly, I’d left it at home. It was at the top of my stairs, charging, and I decided not to go back for it because I was just making a quick run to the store. (If this was a movie, there’d have been a nice long foreboding zoomed-in shot on that phone, sitting on a table at the top of the stairs.)

I should also note that I had been pulling weeds in the yard, and had decided to make a quick run to the store to buy grass seed and groceries. So I had my gardening clothes on, dirty legs, and sweaty hair.

In short, exactly the kind of person you are not going to lend your cell phone to.

Fortunately, I did find a kindly older man who let me use his phone. It was then with horror that I realized I only had two phone numbers memorized: The landline at my parent’s house, and the landline for my best friend’s mom’s house, which I had punched in approximately 8,000 times as a teenager. Said friend no longer lived there of course, and said Mom was on vacation in Mexico.

So it was down to Mom and Dad on the landline. They didn’t pick up, but that was no surprise with an unrecognized number. I started telling them to pick up. When it was clear they weren’t home, I left the following message:

It’s me, your daughter. I’m at the Giant Eagle in Tarentum and I’ve locked my keys in the car. A nice man let me use his phone. I don’t have my phone so you can’t call me back, just come and get me when you get this.

I had no idea where they were, or if and when they would get the message. I gave the man back his phone and thanked him.

Now what?

As far as places to be stranded for a few hours on a hot day, you can’t be the grocery store. There’s food, water, and a bathroom. I bought a Snickers, a bottle of water, and all the gossip rags I could carry, then settled in to wait on the bench outside. My carton of eggs sat next to me. I should’ve fried one up on the pavement, it was so damn hot.

By the time my parents showed up, I was caught up on the all celebrity gossip. (Leave Duchess Megan’s crossed legs and Zac Efron’s hair alone!)

They didn’t have the key to my car, so we drove back to my house, then back to the grocery store.

Hours later, I unloaded the groceries and pulled the warm 32 oz jar of Duke’s Mayonnaise out of the plastic sack.

I held it up to the light, and saw an inch of oil at the top of the jar. The mayonnaise had separated, and it went, untasted, into the trash.

I don’t know why, but I’m not meant to try Duke’s Mayonnaise. At this point, I’m actually afraid to eat it. I feel like I’m going to get food poisoning and the universe is going to scream out, “I tried to tell you!”

So Hellmann’s, you’ve got yourself a lifelong customer. Thank the universe.

And Now, a Word from Blinker

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Hard at work on my kitty guest blog

 

My human mommy is the best mommy on earth. I picked her out right away when she came into the shelter.  Most of the other humans that had come in recently were real duds, and I was holding out.  When she came in, the other cats made fun of me.

“No way are you going to get that human!” they laughed. “You’re not a kitten anymore, and you only have one eye!  And anyway, she says she just looking.  Didn’t you hear her?”

But I just sashayed on over to her and told the other cats to watch how it was done.

That was eight months ago, and I’ve taken over every corner of this house.

Because I love my human mommy, I do a lot of nice things for her. I kill all the bugs in the house, and I go to the bathroom in the box, and I sleep on top of her every night to keep her warm.

And this week, I did something extra nice.

You see, as much as I love mommy, she had some butt-ugly lamps in the living room. People think cats don’t notice things like this, but even with my one eye I could see these lamps had to go.  Mommy said that they were fine, she’d bought them at a yard sale when she moved into the house years ago.

They weren’t fine. They were brass and old and I wanted them out of my house.

“There’s nothing wrong with the lamps!” Mommy said.

I could fix that.

So one day when Mommy left for work, I got to my own work. I brought my claws out—they were nice and sharp because all week when Mommy tried to cut them I ran away—and got down to business.

Two quick swipes and that lampshade was done for.

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Problem solved

When Mommy got home, she was mad. I pretended I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she knew I was responsible.  Fortunately, I’d knocked over all the picture frames on the end table.  That made it look like I’d jumped on the table in pursuit of a fly.

I flopped down on my side and licked her hand and then she wasn’t mad anymore.

Today she came home with two new lamps. Really nice ones, with butterflies and clean white shades.

“You better not mess with these,” she warned me.

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Much improved!

Please. One, I don’t take orders from any human, even an adored one.  And two, why would I mess with them?  New lamps were the whole point.

 

After Melanie had the lamps in place, she turned on the bulbs and stood back.

“You know,” she said to me. “The room looks a lot nicer with these lamps.”

I nearly rolled my one eye. Of course it does, silly human.  Of course it does.

Can’t Take the Heat

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This is one hot weekend!

 

Is this Fourth of July weekend? Or is it next weekend?  With Fourth of July falling on a Wednesday this year, it’s hard to tell.  Last night I heard quite a few fireworks going off, but we could have a repeat of that next weekend.

It’s a mystery that may go forever unsolved.

But whether this is Fourth of July weekend or not, one thing is certain…it’s hot as hell outside.

And my air conditioner stopped working.

It didn’t go on the fritz—working a little bit here or a little bit there. It didn’t just partially stop cooling.  It went dead.

I’d been half-expecting it. The air conditioning unit and furnace in my home are on borrowed time.  They’ve way outlasted their official life spans, but thus far I’d had no problems with either one.  So it wasn’t a big surprise…but did it have to be on one of the hottest June days or record?

This seemed like a disaster in the making. My wallet was already crying, thinking of tales of a new air conditioner and potentially a new furnace to boot.  That was if I could even get anyone to come out on what may or may not have been the Saturday of Fourth of July weekend.

Fortunately, my parents know a guy. He runs his own business, and has installed air conditioners and furnaces for several members in my family.  He was at my place in a matter in a few hot, sweaty hours.

He checked the furnace. He checked the thermostat.  He checked the fuse box.  He checked the machine.  He didn’t say anything, just looked around while I hovered over him in suspense.

“Let me get some tools from my truck, see what is going on,” he said.

That didn’t seem good.

While he worked, I was trying to think which friends I could hit up to stay with for the evening, as Sunday was supposed to be another record breaker. I pulled up the weather app on my phone, and it was the first time I’d ever seen the description, “air quality will be poor for certain sensitive persons.”

That did not sound good. That sounded like a euphemism for “hot as hell” if I ever heard one.

Then suddenly I heard the sweetest sound I could ever imagine. Sweeter than a lullaby.  It was the sound of my air conditioner whirring to life.

Turns out it was a simple and cheap fix (at least for now, as the thing isn’t getting any younger) and the man had the replacement part in his truck.

I paid him gratefully, and gave him a Pepsi for the road. I cranked up the air and spent a peaceful night instead of a miserable one.  And I was grateful for the air conditioner, which will get me through the longest and hottest of these dog days of summer.

An Alien View

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Friday is grass cutting day, and even a pouring rain won’t keep these guys away…

 

If aliens are watching us from another planet, they are observing some strange behaviors.

For example, we spend 364 days a year telling our children not to talk to strangers, not to go into a house or car with a stranger, and to absolutely, positively never take candy from a stranger.

And then on the 365th day, we dress them up in costumes and take them to stranger’s houses for candy.

We call it Halloween. The aliens call it strange.

Halloween is one thing, but our relationships to our yards is positively schizophrenic.

Think about it. We have a plot of ground filled with a bunch of hearty, native growing plants.  They don’t need any care from us—no water, no food, nothing.  Do we sit back and enjoy the wildlife?

Oh no. We designate these plants as weeds, and spend our summer in an epic, never-ending clash to destroy them.  We spray them with chemicals.  We yank them out by the root again and again.  We cover them with lawn cloth and mulch.  The mulch, by the way, attracts bugs and termites.  And we do battle with the insects in much the same way.

Once we’ve temporarily slayed the weed dragons and claimed our little plot of dirt, what do we do?

We dig hole and put new plants in the ground. But we don’t call these weeds, we call them flowers.  And these flowers aren’t nearly as hearty as the weeds.  They need pampered—they can’t get too dry or too wet.  Not too much sun or too much shade.  They need their dead buds plucked off.  We spray them with chemicals to fertilize rather than kill them.

The aliens must be scratching their heads.

Then there is the grass. Our insanity there is like the flowers on steroids.

We plant the seed. We water it constantly.  We have a four step program of repeated fertilization and feeding.  If we don’t want to do it ourselves, we hire a lawn service.  We segregate the grass.  Kentucky bluegrass—good.  Crab grass—bad.  Zoysia grass—good.  Dandelions—the devil.

Out on their planet, the aliens are munching on the alien-equivalent of popcorn as they watch this show. A father alien is watching with his young son, who has never seen a human summer before.

“Is it going to grow?” the young alien asks.

“Oh it’ll grow,” the father alien says. “And you will never believe what the humans do once it does.”

“What?”

“Wait and see.”

Because you know what the humans do after they’ve spent all their time and money making the grass grow?

THEY CUT IT! Every week, with a big smelly, noisy machine.

Sometimes, especially in July and August when the weather is hot and dry, they cut it back too far, and the grass turns brown. It doesn’t grow.

“The humans will be happy they don’t have to cut their grass, won’t they Daddy?” the baby alien says.

The father alien just shakes his head.

Because as soon as the grass turns brown and stops growing, the humans are out there furiously watering, fertilizing, and spreading chemicals on it to make it grow again.

This is insanity, right?

Yet I do it. You do it.  We all do it.  And if you don’t do it right—if you don’t cut it enough, or weed it enough, you are the scourge of the neighborhood.

Believe me, there are no exceptions.

I have a friend who lived all her life in the city and recently moved to the suburbs. She and her husband had never before cut grass.  When I asked her how she liked living the American dream, you know what she said?

She said that everyone says the suburbs are so quiet, but that all she hears on lazy Saturday mornings when she is trying to enjoy her coffee on the porch is the buzz of lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and weed whackers.

“It’s an obsession,” she said. “A competition.”

Well said, old friend. Well said.  The aliens no doubt agree with you.

Hollywood Beef

Why do all the new movies look so terrible?

If I’m wrong, tell me. Maybe this is just my cranky side coming out, but I used to go the theater to watch a movie every week.  Now I’m lucky if I go once a month, but it’s not for lack of trying.  Since hope springs eternal, every Friday I pull up Fandango on my web browser and take a look at what’s playing at my local multiplex.  Let’s do it now together:

  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I saw the original Jurassic Park.  In 1993.  You know, eight years before the iPod was invented.  Eleven years before Donald Trump would star on the first episode of The Apprentice.  Glad to see Hollywood is keeping it fresh.
  • Tag: A (likely raunchy) buddy movie.  I’ll probably end up seeing this.  You will too.  This is a compromise movie—ie when you want to watch the new Nicholas Sparks weepie and your beau wants to watch Fast and Furious 804, you settle on a movie like Tag.  Neither one of you really wants to see it, but neither will you hate it with the fire of a thousand burning suns.
  • Incredibles 2: I’ll give this one a pass, as it’s a kid’s movie and therefore not my thing.  But by the time we get to Incredibles 10, this franchise will no longer be spared my wrath.
  • Hereditary: Horror films also aren’t my jam, so this gets a pass.  It gets points for not being a remake or sequel, as far as I can tell.
  • Ocean’s 8: What would you do if you had Ann Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, and Helena Bonham Carter at your disposal? I can tell you I wouldn’t waste the combined acting firepower that garnered four Oscars and thirteen nominations on a female remake that even the trailer can’t make look any good.
  • Solo: A Star Wars StoryIt took ten films, but Star Wars finally has a bona fide bomb on its hands.
  • Overboard: Another remake.  This original is from 1987.  Not all remakes are terrible.  But any remake that replaces Goldie Hawn with Anna Faris is certainly trending in the wrong direction.  The least they could do is put Zac Efron in it.  I love me some Zac Efron.
  • Avengers: Infinity War: I probably have a post somewhere in the archives bemoaning the super hero movie.  These things breed like rabbits.  I used to love them.  But after 8 X-Men movies, 8 Batmans, 6 Spider Mans, and 18 Marvel Avengers universe movies, I’ve personally had enough.

These might all be great movies, but you wouldn’t know it from their trailers.

Where are the non-raunchy comedies? Is there a law against romantic comedies?  Give me a good costume drama.  A tear jerker.  Even something just a little offbeat.  To give credit where credit is due, I have seen some good stuff lately.  Book Club. The Greatest Showman.  Battle of the Sexes.  But mostly?  I just stay home and re-watch 13 Going on 30. Or The Lucky One. I told you, I love me some Zac Efron.

Is anyone else out there with me? Anyone?  Bueller?

And if you have seen something good lately, I’m begging you, please let me know in the comments!

This is the Way the Woodstock Ends

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Calling in reinforcements!

The Woodstock is dead. Sent straight to hell on the road paved with my good intentions.

I’m talking, of course, about my antique typewriter, a lovely piece of mechanical genius mass manufactured in Chicago in the 1930s.

About two months ago, I became the proud owner of the big black standard desktop. It was covered in dirt and grime, and needed a new carriage strap, but overall the thing was in remarkably good shape.

Until I began my amateur restoration project.

As all disasters do, it started off well enough. I cleaned as much of the inner machinery as I could with mineral spirits.  I cleaned each individual typebar with a q-tip.  I wiped and rubbed, scrubbing away dirt and grime until some of the metal parts gleamed.

So far, so good.

The trouble began when I applied a layer of Soft Scrub to the painted body, figuring the gritty cleaner would help take off nearly one hundred years of grime. I was right—it did take off the grime, but a good chunk of the paint came off as well, to say nothing of the beautiful Woodstock decal.

No matter. I found a website that sells replacement decals for antique typewriters, and I figured I could touch up the paint with shoe polish or automotive paint.

But the next evening when I went back into my makeshift workshop, I discovered the first deadly blow. As I’d applied the Soft Scrub, I hadn’t been careful enough.  Much of it had dripped down into the inner workings of the typewriter.  Overnight it had hardened and gummed up the machinery.  The typewriter wouldn’t advance, some of the keys were now difficult to press, and the carriage had to be awkwardly forced forward by hand.

There was no way around it, the insides would have to be cleaned again. And not just from the outside—I had to really get into the guts of the machine.  So I made the mistake that would signal the death blow to my new friend.

Reader, I took the carriage off.

For the typewriter uninitiated, the carriage is the entire top part that contains the mechanism that you feed the paper into, the rollers, the return handle. All the most intricate pieces of the machine are in the carriage.

It’s a bitch to get off. It’s impossible to get back on.

And so this typewriter, who had lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Desert Storm, and 9/11, could not survive my feeble attempt to restore her to her youthful beauty.

The poor old typewriter would click-clack and ding no more.

This is the way the Woodstock ends.

Not with a bang but a whimper.