New York

night-in-the-city-21851292200793awkSince I posted about Los Angeles for the A-Z Challenge it seems only fair to say something about that other city. My daughter has lived in New York for the last two years or so; after she graduated from college it seemed like all of her friends were headed there and she didn’t want to get left behind. But now she’s making plans to return to Los Angeles, the land of no winter and free rent, and I’m feeling a little disappointed because I enjoyed visiting her in NYC. I’d even found an Airbnb in Williamsburg where I liked to stay, near all sorts of cool restaurants and shops and the Bedford L stop.

Going to New York was always an adventure.  My daughter was full of ideas, bars and restaurants to try and neighborhoods to explore.  I would hang with her and her friends on weekends, staying up till all hours until they were ready to go out to some hipster club and I would (gratefully) get an Uber and head back to my apartment.

Except for one time, when the gang decided to walk to a bar in Greenpoint at midnight on a Saturday night. I got ready to leave but they said, “No, come with us!” and I thought it was probably the beer talking but I rolled along, walking the dark streets of Brooklyn with a bunch of people who were younger than me by about thirty years. When we got to the pub it turned out we were meeting up with the older brother of one of the kids, a nice guy who had just gotten engaged. He and his fiancée took an interest in me, since I was married and all, and I chatted with them, drinking a PBR that someone thrust in my hand, until the youngsters started doing shots and I figured it was time to go.

“You can just walk back to your hotel,” the youth advised me, and I thought that was a pretty bold notion since it was 2:00 am but when I set out I could see that there were busy clubs on every corner, so I just strolled back to Williamsburg, passing one raucous group after another.  I felt a little uncomfortable when I passed an old school bar where some folks my age were lurking, sullenly smoking cigarettes and studying me like I was a bizarre interloper, but I powered on.  When I got to the hotel I stopped by the bar and found a bunch of cheerful employees who were happy to recommend a New York bourbon, so I had a shot after all.

And that was a New York adventure.

But, as the song says, I love LA, and it’s better to have my daughter nearby than across the country.  There’s adventures to be had here, too. She’s bound to find them, and she might even invite me to come along.

Midnight Special

Midnight SpecialThere’s a cool movie in theaters right now called Midnight Special.  It’s about a boy with mysterious powers, an ability to connect with unseen things that surround him, things buried in radio and sound waves and even in highly encrypted satellite communications.  He also, under the right circumstances, can briefly fix on other people and draw them in with a bright blue light that emanates from his eyes. This experience, this blue light bond, is both comforting and illuminating. People who experience it are profoundly changed.

When the movie starts, the boy and his father, played by Michael Shannon, are on the run. They’re trying to evade both the government, which is unnerved by a kid who can decode highly classified documents right out of cyberspace; and the members of a cult that has grown up around the child and needs his unique inspiration to continue.  There is a deadline looming, and the two need to be somewhere soon, but the details are vague. Everyone assumes that the boy will figure it out in time.

It’s pretty cool.

My husband really wanted to see this movie.  He likes science fiction, and Michael Shannon. We saw it at a packed theater when it was in very limited release, and it was good fun – it’s a mystery and a thriller and Adam Driver is in it, playing some sort of government tech specialist who never had anything interesting to do until this kid showed up.

Midnight Special is playing nationwide but it’s not in that many theaters.  It’s a film that can wait for video, but if you’re looking for a fun night out in the weeks before the summer blockbusters take over the multiplex, this is a great choice.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: M is for Midnight Special)

Los Angeles

Back Yard

I moved to Los Angeles a few decades ago, when I was young and eager and open to adventure.  Also I had a spot in a graduate program at UCLA.

Some of my friends, those who leaned towards the hippie persuasion, were horrified. “You’re not going to stay down there, are you?” asked one.  “LA is so shallow, so superficial. You’ll be back when you graduate?”

I promised him I would, but I knew I couldn’t be sure.

Los Angeles is seductive.  You come here for a short stint – say, graduate school – and then you wake up on a sunny January morning and it’s 70 degrees and there’s a fresh ocean breeze and flowers are blooming, brightly colored things that seem incongruous and wonderful to a relocated Midwesterner.

In grad school, those of us who were newcomers liked to quiz our native born classmates.  Over and over we asked, “Is it always like this?”

They would look at us uncertainly, not sure what we found strange about eating a picnic lunch on the grass in the middle of winter.

“Well, we usually have a few 80 degree days in January…”

A few 80 degree days.

Now, observations about the balmy weather in Los Angeles often cause people who have never lived here to remark, “Yes, but I like the seasons.”

I like the seasons, too.  I like visiting winter in Chicago from time to time, experiencing the brisk breeze off the lake and the cold air that freezes your nasal passages whenever you take a breath.  I like to study the ice that forms on puddles and stare, awestruck, at the negative numbers on the thermometer. Then I like to go back to California.

My daughter attended college in Ohio.  She often came home for a few days in February and I would pick her up at LAX, a gritty concrete maze overstuffed with traffic and irritable travelers. She would smile happily when I pulled up.

“It’s so nice here,” she would say.

It was 70 degrees.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: L is for Los Angeles)


Kobe-Bryant-Black-MambaIt’s Mamba Day in Los Angeles, Mamba meaning the Black Mamba, the Black Mamba meaning Kobe Bryant.

In other words, it’s Kobe day.

Kobe Bryant, objectively one of the greatest basketball players of all time, plays his last game tonight at Staples Center.  I could rattle off his achievements but they’re well chronicled; around here today you can barely flip an electronic switch without hearing somebody say “81 points” or “third leading scorer.” His stats are remarkable, but what’s really amazing is just watching him play basketball – it’s almost like some strange evolutionary force made him perfectly suited to the game. He hits impossible shots, he cuts through astonished defenders. In his prime he pretty much made any game, no matter how pathetic, winnable.

But when his body started giving out on him and he decided to call it quits, he had one more remarkable trick up his sleeve – he made his last year in the league the Kobe Show.  Nearly every game he played this season had some element of nostalgia attached, and teams all over the country made tribute reels and gave gifts and otherwise acknowledged his impact on the game.  There’s never been anything quite like it before.  It was such a Kobe thing to do, unapologetically going out with a bang.

Meanwhile, his team could barely whimper.

There’s been some complaining that the Kobe Show has prevented the Lakers from hitting their stride this year, but that’s nonsense.  The Lakers are an abysmal team because of incompetent management and – with respect to Byron Scott – mismatched coaching. The team management (I’m looking at you, Jeanie Buss) has some work to do in those areas.  There are also some players who resent all the attention the Mamba is getting – well, actually, that’s just Shaq.

One of my favorite Kobe moments came during the first championship run, back in 2001, when the Lakers were in some impossible position in the final moments of the fourth quarter of whatever game it was. Phil Jackson called a timeout, and when he sent the team back out to play the camera found Kobe Bryant’s face.  He was just a kid then, and he was charging into the highest pressure situation of his young career with a wide grin on his face.  Everything about his body language said, “This is going to be fun!”

The Lakers won. And it was really fun.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: K is for Kobe.)


Jessica Jones

Jessica JonesI have a friend who is a hot shot attorney and a huge fan of comic books.  He’s also highly opinionated, and when I told him I had gone to see Batman v. Superman because it was the worst superhero movie ever made, he shook his head in disgust.  “Wolverine Origins,” he said.  “That’s the worst superhero movie ever made.”

I felt kind of sorry for him.  He loves Wolverine.

So I didn’t ask him how he felt about Jessica Jones, one of the giant pantheon of Marvel characters who is emerging into the comic conversation not on the big screen but on Netflix, in 10 episode seasons you can stream all day long. Jessica Jones is a smart, wisecracking, edgy young woman with a nearly soulful fragility that occasionally peeks out from under her tough exterior. She came into her superpowers when she was in a car accident that killed her family and exposed her to some sort of chemical; months later she awoke from a coma with super strength and near invulnerability. And she could fly, sort of – she says it’s more like jumping.

The cool thing about Jessica Jones is that she quickly loses interest in the superhero gig.  Turns out there are a bunch of Marvel characters who aren’t looking to hang with Tony Stark and the Avengers crew (oddly, they all seem to live in Hell’s Kitchen). These folks just want to be left alone, to lead their lives like regular folks, maybe getting the better of a bad guy now and then if they don’t have to go out of their way.

But you know how it is, trouble finds super people like this.   So Jessica Jones, living a near Spartan existence in a gritty, film noir version of Hell’s Kitchen, crosses paths with an evil old lover who can get people to do things –  even life threatening things – through simple voice commands.  He and Jessica never had a real relationship, he just compelled her affections, but he is obsessed with getting her back.  So he sets traps and terrorizes her loved ones and generally tries in a satisfyingly twisted way to force her into his arms again.

But Jessica isn’t having it.

The first season of the show is about this battle between the woman with super strength and the man with super persuasive powers. These are mismatched abilities, and overcoming her evil ex requires Jessica to use ingenuity, as well as courage and her amazing muscles. Krysten Ritter plays Jessica and she is terrific in the role; her opponent in season one, the evil Kilgrave is played by David Tennant, who nails his performance and apparently had a blast doing it too. Whether you like superhero stories or not, Jessica Jones is worth your while; it’s smart, funny, and thought provoking, and features one of the best female heroes currently playing on screens. Check it out.

Jeri: You’re coming across as paranoid.
Jessica: Everyone keeps saying that. It must be a conspiracy.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: J is for Jessica.  And Jones.)

Iron Man

Iron ManI’m a big fan of Robert Downey Jr. I like his comic timing, and the way a slight turn of his head and a cocked eyebrow can visually convey more than a half page of dialogue.  The guy is good at what he does.

Which doesn’t mean that I love the Iron Man films, although I am generally a happy camper at a good superhero movie.  I like the moral simplicity of those worlds, where there is good vs. evil and good triumphs, usually after some fight scenes that, admittedly, become tedious by the end of the film. Robert Downey Jr. brightens up all this stuff, his comic timing and rapid fire delivery keeping us entertained and yet entirely in the moment. He never breaks character. When he’s on screen – even if all we can see is his face reflected in the gizmos of the Iron Man mask – I’m having a good time.

But about Iron Man: he’s essentially an invented superhero, a man in a suit that makes him nearly indestructible, and gives him the ability to fly and turn himself into a weapon.  It’s nothing more than a big chunk of great technology, but a lot of the Marvel (and DC) superheroes are the result of science either run amok or gone awry – Captain America, The Hulk, Spiderman.  They’re all human, which means they are often conflicted and at odds about how to accomplish their many world saving missions. This makes them more interesting than a guy like Superman, who only has one difficult-to-exploit weakness and who is mostly interesting because of the impact he has on the regular humans – friends and enemies – that surround him.

Tony Stark, on the other hand, has a great ability to annoy and exasperate those around him, although his appealing charm generally keeps him in everyone’s good graces.  That is, except for Captain America, that defender of liberty who generally has a frenemy sort of relationship with Iron Man.

Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?

Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.

Which leads us right to the next big Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War, where old Steve Rogers is determined to fight for the American way no matter what laws or Constitutional Amendments he violates, and Iron Man – oddly enough, given his independent streak – is thinking that the Avengers might need a little oversight. This creates some tension, as the Avengers take sides against each other and William Hurt, playing the Secretary of State, does his part to mix things up.

I’m pretty sure that I would line up with Iron Man, even though I find Captain America sort of hilarious, in a good hearted country boy kind of way.  But I haven’t developed the sort of affection for Chris Evans that I have for Robert Downey Jr.,  so for now, I’m sticking with the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist and his suit of armor.

Blogging A-Z: I is for Iron Man.

So, what do y’all think? Are superhero movies a waste of time and money? Is RDJ an over paid sell out? Are you looking forward to Captain America: Civil War?

Holding Hands

DtlaBridgeMy husband and I were walking through downtown LA, strolling among the homeless and the hipsters, looking for a mezcal bar he wanted to try.

A film crew was setting up on the street.  A youngish man wearing security badges and carrying a big cup of coffee stepped out to the sidewalk and grinned at us.

“Holding hands!” he said.

“Absolutely,” my husband responded, like he had these conversations all the time.

“After all these years,” said the youngish man, who had never seen us before in his life. “Holding hands.”

I felt like saying, “Actually, we met on Tinder an hour ago,” but I didn’t.

We kept walking.   The youngish man went back to the film set. I saw him corner one of the crew people and point at us.

“Holding hands!” he said.  “After all these years.”

Up ahead, we saw a bouncer rousting a couple of homeless people out of the doorway of the mezcal bar.  He glanced at us, nodded, and jerked his thumb towards the door.  “You guys are okay,” he said.

I was relieved.  I needed a drink.

(A-Z Challenge Day Eight: the letter H.)


2016-01-31 10.38.58It’s a gloomy day in Los Angeles, which turns out to be a good thing, because we need rain and El Niño is letting us down.  Northern California and the Sierras have gotten lots of rain this winter, but down here some sort of high pressure system has kept the storms away.

This is disappointing. I like the rain in Southern California. It’s very dramatic – the sky opens up and dumps sheets of water on unprepared Angelenos.  Little kids pull on their rain boots and send paper boats sailing down curbside streams.  The roof – surprised to suddenly have work to do – reveals holes that have gone unnoticed for years.

The last time El Niño passed through I woke up to the sound of water dripping, and discovered a happy little stream flowing from the light fixture in my children’s bedroom.  By the time I grabbed a pot to catch the leak, new ones had sprung through, six or seven across the pink ceiling. My sleepy children were delighted. They ran off to get more pots, the youngest lustily singing “Seems it never rains in Southern California…”

I have no idea how she knew that song.

It’s gloomy today in Los Angeles, and it’s been raining off and on, and the powers that be tell us that the drought is not over but the lovely rain is falling, and my grass is dark green.

G is for gloomy, day seven of the A-Z challenge.  How’s the weather where you are?


X FilesExcept for J. Edgar Hoover, and the incredibly dull film that Leo DiCaprio made about his life, I have mostly positive feelings about the FBI.  There was that TV show in the sixties, with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. that I wasn’t allowed to watch, but my sisters would sometimes let me sneak down to see when our parents weren’t home. And The X-Files, of course, we all loved Scully and Mulder around here, although I think the show gave our daughter nightmares. She’s a sensitive type.

Recently a young woman I know was accepted into the FBI training program.  I met her when she was a baby; I remember when all she wanted for Christmas was a Little Mermaid doll in a wedding dress. Now I keep imagining her rushing into a building with her weapon drawn, like Clarice Starling.

I guess she wants more.

This young woman is a great believer in justice and she needs to take action – step right into the fight.  None of this studying the issue or lobbying for it, she wants to get out there and make the right thing happen. This is all very admirable and I think she’ll make a great agent, but I’m uneasy. FBI work is risky. Scully and Mulder got into all kinds of tricky situations.

But there’s not much you can do when an independent young person makes up their mind. They’ll do what they do; it’ll work out or it won’t.  I know a few twenty somethings who are on the verge of making big changes in their lives, all of them looking to shake things up, none of them opting for a traditionally safe path. All you can do is pull for them, kind of like Scully is always there for Mulder, no matter how wacky his plan.

F is for FBI – A-Z Blogging Challenge day 6.

(Anyone have thoughts or experience in the FBI? Any tips to share? Any wacky young people in your life who are doing their thing in a surprising way? Let me know in the comments.)

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the SkyEye in the Sky is a terrific thriller about a secret military operation to take out three of the western world’s top terrorism suspects. The bad guys are laying low in Kenya, but only a few of the personnel trying to track them down are actually on the ground there – everyone else in this international effort is running the show from a distance, relying on virtual communications systems.

So we have a British Colonel (Helen Mirren) who is controlling the mission from a war room somewhere in the UK. She reports, with some impatience, to a General (Alan Rickman in his final role) who is in London with a handful of high level British diplomats and politicians. Meanwhile, the people who have their fingers on the trigger are a couple of young American soldiers (Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox) sitting in a trailer in Nevada.

These far flung comrades watch the unfolding events through a video feed coming in from drones in Kenya. The drones are pretty cool – they’re disguised as bugs, and birds, and they sail around giving high definition visuals to decision makers who are thousands of miles away.

As the mission heats up, the two young soldiers in Nevada notice something moving within the potential missile blast range. A tap on the screen, and an inset close up – a sort of picture in picture – pops up and reveals a young girl innocently setting up to sell her mother’s fresh bread.

So, what do these high powered military commanders do now?

This is truly an edge of your seat kind of story – the players have to weigh the moral, political and tactical issues of the mission against the potential collateral damage, which is represented by this charming little girl.

War is hell, people.

The tension is regularly broken up by the sometimes absurd, and occasionally hilarious conversations had by the players trying to make these incredibly hard decisions under extreme time pressure. That includes the folks in Britain and Kenya and Nevada, as well as a few cameo convos with the British Foreign Secretary who is struggling with a bout of food poisoning in Singapore, and an incredulous American Secretary of State who is irritated at being pulled away from a ping pong game in China.

This movie lends itself well to discussions if your plan is to go out to dinner after the film. Or out for a drink. You might need a drink.

If you’ve seen the film, or want to, or if you have opinions on the legitimacy of drone warfare, let me know in the comments. (One last thing, Eye in the Sky movie starts with E, handy if you’re doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge.) Thanks for reading, folks!