Night of the Living DeadI like zombies.  I think they’re cool. There’s not much to them, being that they’re dead and all, and have a mental acuity of a goldfish. They shamble along, wandering aimlessly in any direction, looking for something to eat,  growling. If they spot some likely human prey they head off in that direction, without picking up their pace, or discussing strategy amongst themselves. Your average living person can manage a few zombies without too much trouble, a shot to the head, or a quick detour behind a tree… really, these guys aren’t hard to avoid. Unless there’s a swarm of them, all spread out and coming at you with the determination of ants on their way to a melting popsicle. Then you have to watch yourself, maybe run, or if you brought your car, you can drive away, always a reliable solution to zombie trouble.

Zombie movies can serve many purposes; some are just monster movies, some have more to say.  Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s classic, was hailed in Europe as an sharp allegory for the American Civil Rights struggle.    The Walking Dead television drama is really about ordinary people who survive an apocalyptic event, not so much the monsters who pursue them. The show’s story lines focus on the challenges of finding and building community, and on the mistrust and savagery that can evolve between humans in bleak and stressful situations.  It’s a character driven drama, and you root for the main cast and try to forgive them for the terrible things they do because, well, zombies.

And speaking of zombies that’s about how I feel on this, the last day of April and the last day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. It’s been a great event, I’ve learned a lot, and enjoyed checking in with everyone.  Happy May!


PInk CocktailI’m not getting any younger.

Last night, for fun, my husband and I went to a popular Beverly Hills restaurant. It was a busy place; when I pulled in, the valet asked if I was there for an event.  Feeling like an awkward loner, I told him, no, just dinner, and he directed me to the awkward loners’ valet line. I handed over my car and stepped out into a sea of happy well-dressed people who were all off to a party I wasn’t invited to.

I got there before my husband, so the hostess sent me to wait in the bar. I felt a little daring, sitting there on my own, so I ordered a drink.  I never order drinks. But, there was something on the menu with gin, and rhubarb bitters, and that seemed weirdly exotic and very American all at once, so I ordered it.  It came in a martini glass and it was pale pink, just the shade that generally appeals to eleven-year-old girls. I was vaguely embarrassed, sitting alone at the bar with a pale pink drink, but I drank it anyway.

When my husband came, he ordered a drink too.

Then, at dinner, each of us wanted a glass of wine but we had trouble choosing.  Our helpful waitress suggested half glasses, so we could experiment, and then she then she filled our four glasses with enough wine to fill a bottle.

“Generous half glasses,” my husband said, and I agreed, but the wine was good and I drank it anyway.

This morning I woke up with a hangover.

I’m not getting any younger.


X-Men ApocalypseToday, the A-Z Blogging Challenge is brought to us by the letter X.

X is a tough one.

When I was a kid, and we would go on road trips, my mother would try to keep us occupied with alphabet games.  It was the kind of educational entertainment that she favored.  We would run through the letters, thinking of things that started with each one, and we would get to X and someone would say “xylophone” and that was okay and then the next person would say “x-ray” and the judges would have to consider, but it would get through because it was X we were dealing with here, and it was tough to come up with words.

But now I’m thinking, what about X-Men?

My mother wouldn’t go for it, since she had no use for superheroes, but the rest of us might find it hard to ignore the X-Men, because a movie about them comes out every couple of years or so, featuring a Millennial cast of thousands.  Jennifer Lawrence keeps showing up, in spite of all her Oscar nominations, and in this next installment she takes on a leadership role which should be pretty straightforward after all that Hunger Games nonsense.  The bad guy she’s fighting is called Apocalypse, and that’s interesting because we haven’t seen it before, a villain bent on ending the world who has a mission-appropriate nickname.  Oscar Isaac jumps into the Apocalypse role, hopefully reaping a big payday in exchange for saying grand things like, “Everything they’ve built will fall! And from the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one!” (You know, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the bad guys would try to end the world just because it seemed like a cool idea.  Those were simpler times, I guess.)

X-Men: Apocalypse hasn’t been screened for anyone, but best I can tell, it’s the sort of movie where everybody battles (almost) to the death, and then the good guys win, and then we all head out to the back yard for a Memorial Day barbecue.

Seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Possibly better than an alphabet game.

Are you an X-Men fan? Do you think Jennifer Lawrence is wasting her talents? Can you think of a lot of words that start with X?

Saturday at Whole Foods

whole-foods11I was at Whole Foods, studying the organic bananas and attempting to sort the very green ones from the less green ones in the weird light cast by the environmentally correct light bulbs. It was cold in the produce department, the refrigerated cases lining the walls sent a chill into the air.  I thought longingly of the sweatshirt I’d left in my car, and started rubbing my hands together, very fast, trying to generate some heat. This drew the attention of the man next to me, a tall guy with a gentle face, who was pondering the heirloom tomatoes.

“I’m cold,” I explained.

He nodded thoughtfully.  “Well,” he said, in a slow, deep drawl, “of course you are.  It’s cold in here.  I don’t know why they do that.”  He glanced around, looking for someone to complain to, but there were no Whole Foods employees nearby.  So he sighed and returned to meditating on the tomatoes.  “What do I know,” he muttered. “I voted for Mondale.”

Mondale?  Wasn’t that like, 1988?  I felt disoriented, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“I voted for Mondale too,” I said.

Encouraged, my new tall friend looked up from the tomatoes.  “I believed him when he said he tried pot, but didn’t inhale.”

“Ummm,” I said, “that was Clinton – ”

“What’s worse?” he demanded, pulling himself up to his full height, and spreading his arms wide. “Lying about sex, or lying about a war?”

“Lying about a war,” I said.  I was pretty sure that was the answer he was going for.

He sighed again, and shook his head.  “I don’t get it,” he said.  “I just don’t get it.”  He moved on to the wild mushrooms.

Later, the produce department ran low on plastic bags, causing a minor frenzy until the hipster shoppers pulled themselves together and formed a line behind the one remaining roll.  I was after a tall, attractive man I figured must be some sort of celebrity; when it was his turn, he pulled off one, two, three, four bags, then turned, smiled, and gave two to me.  I thanked him, trying not to blush, and quickly made my way to one of the refrigerated cases, where an old woman in Birkenstocks tried to sell me on the benefits of okra.  “It’s good for stews,” she said.  “And digestion.”  She pursed up her lips. “Mucilage,” she said.

I threw some okra into one of my bags. She nodded approvingly and moved on.

Afterwards, making my way back to my car, a guy caught my eye and grinned, and we both started to laugh, in a punch drunk kind of way, two survivors of a Whole Foods shopping trip on a Saturday morning, wheeling out loaded carts of hip groceries.

It was pretty funny. Even if you did vote for Mondale.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: W is for Whole Foods)

United States and United Kingdom

usa-uk-flagI have a friend whose brother married a Chicago Cubs fan.  This was troubling, because her  brother is loyal to the Boston Red Sox, and the supporters of these two baseball teams aren’t known for being friendly to their rivals. Further complicating matters, the Cubs are in the National League, and the Red Sox are in the American, so it is possible that these two teams will meet up in the World Series one day, causing all kinds of familial angst. (Except that the Cubs have trouble reaching the World Series – the last time they got that far was in 1945, and they haven’t won the championship in over a 100 years.  The Cubs are the saddest team in baseball. The Red Sox have been a little more successful.)

To show that they were ready to overcome these baseball differences, the bride and groom devised a symbolic gesture: during the wedding, a little girl and a little boy came up the aisle, one wearing a Cubs cap, the other, Red Sox.  When they got to the front, the exchanged caps.

I’ve been thinking about that story as my daughter makes plans to marry an Englishman.  Her wedding will be the union of two people, and two families, and two countries. There’s already been some confusion about the planning, since we’re having two weddings, one in London and one in LA, and the expectations and traditions are different on the two sides of the pond. It seems we all speak the same language, but we don’t always understand each other.

So I’ve been thinking we need something for a symbolic exchange during the ceremonies. Maybe flags. Lovely cups of coffee and tea. Or shots of high quality bourbon and gin.

Now that would be a fun wedding.

Ta-Nehisi and T’Challa

Black PantherI was checking Twitter one morning, looking for news and information and maybe a retweet of something clever I had written, when I noticed Ta-nehisi Coates tweeting about Daredevil, one of those Marvel Comics superheroes who is featured in a noirish series on Netflix.

Ta-nehisi Coates is a serious political journalist, he writes for the Atlantic and he recently won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for Between the World and Me, a sharply written discussion of being black in America.  It contains some of the best writing I’ve ever encountered.

And this guy loves comic books.

I wasn’t allowed to read comic books when I was a kid, because my mother didn’t believe they counted as reading, so she wouldn’t buy them. My sister sometimes blew her allowance on an Archie or two, most likely to read about Betty and Veronica, and Mom would find us pouring over those and shake her head.

“Why don’t you read something worthwhile?” she would say.

“These are worthwhile,” we would insist, and she would shake her head some more.

After a while my sister found that some of her friends’ brothers had comics they were willing to give away, and we dove into the worlds of Superman and Batman, passing them back and forth between us, studying the elaborate pictures and sorting out the plot lines.   In adult hindsight I can see that it was a love of story that got us lost in those colorful pages, simple but satisfying tales of the battle between good and evil, expressed with an economy of words and lavish illustrations.  And then there was the part where the meek had heroes who could save the day, or in some cases, the meek become heroes themselves. Mild mannered minister’s daughters, we liked that part too.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new gig: he’s writing the reboot of Marvel’s Black Panther series. The Black Panther was the first black superhero, originally appearing on comic book pages in 1966. Out of costume he is T’challa, the Chief of Wakanda, a fictional African nation with large resources of vibranium, a valuable made-up mineral useful in things like Captain America’s shield.  According to Marvel the Black Panther is “is a brilliant tactician, strategist, scientist, tracker and a master of all forms of unarmed combat.” He’s African but, like most Marvel superheroes, he ends up in New York City, and gets involved with both the Avengers and Daredevil.  Look for him in the upcoming Captain America movie, the one where Cap takes sides against Iron Man. He gets his own movie in 2018, starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler, who pulled off the Rocky reboot last year. Black Panther will probably join up with the Avengers a few more times, too.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates is planning eleven comic books.

(Are you a comic book fan? Did anyone ever tell you that they weren’t worth reading? Do you think superhero movies will be the downfall of American filmmaking? Speak your mind in the comments!)


pl7_371514_fnt_trI woke up in the dark, my iPad a glossy black rectangle in my lap. I had fallen asleep while I was reading.

Damn, I thought to myself.  I hate falling asleep reading. It’s what old people do. My grandmother did it, and so did my mother, although my mother would drink wine at dinner and then take Ambien before bed.  I often wonder how she managed to read at all.

My husband emerged from the bathroom and strode purposefully through the room.  That must have been what woke me up, I thought, him getting out of bed. He didn’t notice that I was sitting up with my iPad in my lap.  Then, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little boy, a vague image, streak past and run off through the house.

A ghost! I thought.  A little boy ghost! I was pleased. We live in an old house, and we always thought it would be the kind of place ghosts would like, if we believed in ghosts, which neither of us do.

My husband let out a snore.  He was already asleep.  I was disappointed, I wanted to tell him about the ghost.

When I woke up again, the bright sun was rising on a beautiful Southern California day. My iPad was on my nightstand, its cover neatly in place. I flipped it open and it took me to the beginning of the next chapter in my book, the spot where, the night before, I had decided to stop reading because I was tired.

So I hadn’t fallen asleep reading.

That was good, because it meant I’m not yet evolving into one of those people who doze off without warning. It also meant that I must have dreamed the whole thing, about waking up with my iPad in my lap. I tell my husband about it over coffee.

“Wasn’t that a weird dream?” I asked him.

He looked up from the newspaper. “You mean because of the ghost?”

“No,” I said. “Because in my dream, I woke up. It’s like I was dreaming about sleeping.”

“Hah!” he said, turning back to his paper.  “You can’t dream about sleeping.”

Which makes me wonder about that ghost.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: S is for Sleep)




The Queen

The QueenThe letter of the day in the A-Z Blogging Challenge is Q, which has got me thinking about the Queen, meaning Elizabeth, the Queen of England.  In the house I grew up in, she was the only queen who mattered, my mother being of English descent. My mother cried at anything British –  a royal wedding, the Queen on TV. Heck, a bunch of American elementary students singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” could get her going, because in her mind all she heard was “God Save the Queen.”

I admire Queen Elizabeth, the way she became queen unexpectedly but accepted her responsibility with grace and dignity; the way she’s hanging onto the throne until she believes someone suitable is ready to take over. I especially liked the Her Majesty when she was played by Helen Mirren in The Queen, the 2006 film about the Royal Family trying to sort out their public role during the week after Diana died. Mirren won a well-deserved Oscar for that performance, showing us a version of the always reserved monarch as a warm and vulnerable woman, at a loss for how to relate to her people in the wake of this tragedy.

I understand that there is a contingent in England who thinks the Royals serve no purpose except to cost the government money, and maybe that’s true, except I have an English friend who’s lived in America for 25 years and has no intention of becoming an American citizen, because of the Queen.  “I couldn’t do that to her,” she told me.  “Now Charles, I might reconsider if he’s on the throne.”

But if Diana’s son becomes King, she’ll stick with being an ex-pat.

My daughter is engaged to an Englishman, she spends a lot of time over there and one of her local friends told her that Americans are more interested in the Royals than Brits.  This opinion was supported by the fact that my daughter knew that Kate Middleton was pregnant before her English friends did.  Then again, when Kate’s due date approached, all of those Londoners were texting her for updates.

Which puts me in mind of my mother, tears sliding down her cheeks while she watched Queen Elizabeth on TV.

Pajama Game

Pajama GameMy husband doesn’t like musicals. I knew this going in. His logical accountant brain can’t wrap itself around the notion of someone bursting into song because, you know, they walk outside and it’s a Beautiful Morning. Never mind that our youngest daughter does this all the time.  She sings spontaneously on the street and in the house and in the car; in the car she might randomly launch into a song that is entirely different from the one playing on the radio. This doesn’t bother her at all. It is somewhat difficult for the rest of us.

My husband doesn’t like musicals, or he didn’t until our daughters were in a youth theater production of The Pajama Game. Now here was a story he could get behind — it’s about a business, with workers and managers and labor disputes. There’s even a song about adding things up:

Seven and a half cents doesn’t buy a hell of a lot,
Seven and a half cents doesn’t mean a thing!
But give it to me every hour,
Forty hours every week, 
And that’s enough for me to be living like a king!

Our youngest daughter was only eight when she was in The Pajama Game so she played a Button Sewer, kind of a mini-cast member. All the eight year olds were Button Sewers; they sat on wooden boxes in front of the stage and pretended to stitch buttons onto pajama bottoms.  During chorus numbers they would join the rest of the cast and sing and spin around each other and take little ballet steps. But they could be short on stamina – one Saturday the director scheduled a matinee and an evening show, and during the prep for the late performance, we found the Button Sewers sprawled out on their boxes, sound asleep. Fortunately, they were able to rally by curtain call.

My husband loved that show.

The Pajama Game was made into a movie in 1957, starring Doris Day.  She was the only actor in the film who was not part of the Broadway cast; it seems Hollywood needed a star.  She was perfect for the role, anyway, and the film did pretty well, just the sort of upbeat, happy movie musical that was popular in the fifties and early sixties.  I caught it on TV once, the colors were a little washed out, and the picture was grainy, but it was still a lot of fun, full of great performances.

But there weren’t any Button Sewers.

(A-Z Challenge: P is for Pajama Game.)

Obvious Child

Obvious ChildHave you heard about Indiana’s governor Mike Pence? He’s put such restrictive abortion laws in place in Indiana that a group of Hoosier women have taken to calling his office regularly, to let him know how their reproductive systems are functioning.  They figure, he’s so interested in what their bodies are doing, they should keep him posted.  All the time.

A typical exchange:

Them: “Good Morning, Governor Pence’s office”

Me: “Good Morning. I just wanted to inform the Governor that things seem to be drying up today. No babies seem to be up in there. Okay?”

Among the restrictions in a recent law promoted and signed by Pence is the requirement that the “remains” from miscarriages be buried or burned.  This could be tough, since women who miscarry early just experience what amounts to a heavy period; there are no discernible “remains” to bury. Sometimes the pregnancy ends before a woman is even sure she is pregnant, which begs the question, how will the government know?

Well, I guess in Indiana, you can just call the governor’s office and ask him what he thinks.

The Periods for Pence movement got me thinking about a lovely little film that came out a few years ago called Obvious Child. Jenny Slate, in a terrific performance, plays a struggling comedian named Donna who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand. She chooses to get an abortion, but that’s not what the movie is about – instead, the question she struggles with is when, and how, or even if she will tell the young man she slept with that their evening together had an unplanned result. The two of them cross paths, and miss signals, and otherwise mess up opportunities to spend time together, all while she is carrying the responsibility of telling him she’s pregnant. It’s a bit like a romantic comedy, with a very topical twist.

The beauty of this film is in the understated way it approaches the story.  This isn’t about politics, there are no ideological screeds or protesters or horrified family members with strong ideological positions. On the contrary, it’s one woman’s story told entirely from her point of view – and that makes it unique among films in general, regardless of subject matter. Anyone who has ever been young and independent and female will feel a personal connection to this movie. And the filmmaker – Gillian Robespierre – manages to find the humor in this emotionally charged situation, so we are laughing (frequently) with these young people while we are pulling for them to figure everything out.

Obvious Child got a lot of attention on the Indie Film Festival circuit, with both the film and Jenny Slate receiving nominations and awards.  Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

(A-Z Challenge: O is for Obvious Child)