Thursday, July 31, 2008

'In Bruges' ...

Ohmygod, I love this movie.

Extreme profanity.
Graphic violence.

Bits of dialogue such as "What are they doin' over there? They're filmin' somethin'. They're filmin' midgets!"


"You can't sell horse tranquilizers to a midget!"

No, it is not politically correct. But it is brilliant.

I knew nothing about it going into it, other than that it was well-received by critics and that Ciarán has an uncredited role in it.

Colin Farrell is great, but Ralph Fiennes is outstanding. Remember his role as the dashing count in "The English Patient"? His role as Harry in this movie is absolutely nothing like that.

And look: two movie posters. I like the top one much better than the bottom. But check out the tagline: "Shoot first. Sightsee later."

Rent it. Rent it now.

Or buy it.

Or rent it then buy it.

Either way, see it.

Unless you can't abide the sight of blood.

Then maybe not.

Maybe just listen to it, because the writing is brilliant.

Martin McDonagh, making his directorial debut, also wrote the screenplay. I bow to him.

And You People Wonder Why We're Still Single, The Best Evidence Yet ...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

'The God Of Animals' ...

At the beginning of the year, Mercurie challenged me to read one book of fiction per month in 2008 because he thinks we just don't read for pleasure enough anymore.

I have a bit of a book habit. I love buying books. I don't buy a lot of them, but it's not for lack of interest. If someone handed me a credit card and let me loose in Borders, I could do a lot of damage.

Instead, I've started using my library card again. Libraries. What a great deal! Books! For free!

I don't read most books more than once. Some books I buy and read and then put on them my shelf. Some books I buy and read and then give them away.

So the last time I was at the library, it was to check out a book that was already on loan to someone else. (I ordered it from Amazon today. But Stephen King recommended it, so I told myself that I need to own it to study it.)

I keep a list of books in my wallet, titles that I've run across in my Internet wanderings, titles others have recommended. And I found myself standing in front of The God Of Animals, which was on the list. Far be it from me to ignore a sign.

So I checked it out and headed home and plopped myself on my deck and packed away 70-some pages before the bugs started to really annoy me.

It's a good read. Not fluffy-beachy but neither Beckett.

It's the story of Alice, a pre-teen girl, and her dysfunctional, horse-farm dwelling family in the Colorado desert.

I don't like to go into details about books or movies because I want everyone to experience them from their own perspectives, but Aryn Kyle weaves a substantial story with many thoughtful threads, adult themes processed through the intellect and emotions of a 12-year-old, wise beyond her years.

Quilting ...

Many years ago, when I worked the Tribune, I met Cheryl. Our desks were near each other. I did television- and radio-related things. Cheryl was Bob Greene's assistant.

We became friends – and are friends still. I loved her creativity. She taught dance and was involved in community theater. And one day, she decided to make a quilt.

I don't know why. Just another thing to do that she hadn't done before, I guess.

But I loved the idea. So one day, we went shopping for fabric for me and she loaned me her pattern and cutting wheel and cutting mat and quilting ruler (which I still have). I cut my calico into 960 pieces and started stitching.

I remember sewing the first pieces in bed, but the bulk of the quilt was created on my loveseat in my first apartment, a studio on Waveland within hearing and cheering distance of Wrigley Field. On game days, I would watch my TV and when someone hit a homer, I could hear the roar of the crowd through my open windows.

It was a stressful time at work – looking back, I wonder why I let myself be so bothered – and quilting provided solace. The repetition of stitching was like a mantra. I was meticulous with the spacing of each stitch. Quilting required focus, allowing my brain to drain of all the stress of the day.

My quilt grew until the day that I tied off the thread one last time. The top of the quilt, mind you. The pieced part of the quilt. And to this day, it remains in a dresser drawer, folded, unfinished. I never had any inclination to buy the backing and the batting and actually quilt my quilt. I liked the piecing.

My mom encouraged me to show it to my grandmother, my dad's mom, who was never particularly crafty, at least not that I remember as a child. We held it up so she could see it in all its queen-size glory. She took a corner in her hand and flipped it over to examine the stitching.

"You did this on a machine. These stitches are too perfect," she snorted.

To which I wanted to reply, "The hell I did. Listen, old woman, I spent a year of my life on this. And I did it all by hand."

But I didn't. Didn't say that to her, that is. But I did sew the whole thing by hand.

My friend Henry wrote this morning and mentioned his upcoming family vacation in Wisconsin where he and his kids will fish and his wife will quilt. I love the idea of sitting on a porch or a deck breathing in summer air, listening to the far-off sounds of nature, and creating a quilt. What a good vacation.

I might have to buy more fabric soon.

I just took my quilt out of my drawer for the first time in I don't know how many years. It was nice to see it again. Here, let me introduce you:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Love By 10:30 A.M., Guaranteed? ...

The thing is, I work from home and I live alone, which pretty much snuffs out any chance that I'm going to meet someone at the office.

Unless I feel a thunderbolt when the next FedEx guy shows up at my door, odds are I'm not going to meet anyone job-related. Then again, maybe I don't want to consider dating anyone who has "Ex" built into the equation.

Lately, I don't get out as much as I'd like to. Blame the cost of gas. Blame busy work weeks and the desire to just collapse on the couch by the time Friday night rolls around. Blame everyone's jammed calendars. Or just blame me for not being creative.

But hey, I saw three movies this weekend! Yessirree, sitting in a dark theater being silent is a sure-fire way to meet Mr. Right!

I cannot, in any way, shape, or form, stomach the idea of online dating again. Ugh. I'd sooner have my gums scraped.

I'm no fan of online dating, can you tell? Too needle-in-a-haystack-y. Fix-ups/blind dates are dicey propositions. You'd think that your friends and family would be the best equipped to pair you up with prospective dates, and sometimes such situations aren't horrible, but sometimes you walk away thinking, "Why did s/he think I'd be interested in him?! Do they know me at all?"

I have tentative plans to meet someone tomorrow. We "met" online years and years ago and have made a couple attempts at actually meeting face to face, but none of those have ever come to fruition. Tomorrow, though, he has a five-hour layover in Chicago on his way overseas, and hey, who doesn't want to hang out in baggage claim and sit a spell? What? They have Starbucks kiosks down there.

We'll see if all the stars align to make it so. I'll let you know.

My friend Linda once told me I should get a part-time job in a camera store – or did she tell me to loiter in a camera store? – in order to meet men. Her reasoning was that I'm attracted to creative types, and guys who frequent camera stores would be likely to be creative and reasonably smart – what's an f-stop, anyway? – and have some semblance of disposable income if they were buying camera gear.

I never did become a camera junkie, but I was charmed by her way of thinking. Not every opportunity to meet men exists in a bar – gack! – or a club – gack gack! – or the office.

Which got me wondering: If you're part of a couple, where and how did you meet your significant other? When you were single, what methods did you try to meet someone? Which did you like? Which did you hate?

'Persepolis' ...

What comes to mind when I say, "Black and white 'toon about Iran?"

If you said, "Big heapin' helpin' of happy!" you'd be wrong, wrong, wrong.

"Persepolis" is interesting to be sure – worth renting – but a happy movie it is not. Then again, Iran is probably not the happiest place on earth. There's no Disney World in Iran, after all.

3-Day Closing Ceremonies Info ...

(For those of you who read my blog who may not have received this e-mail – Henry, any others – I'm posting it here, too.)

Hello, friends, family, contributors!

The 2008 Chicago Breast Cancer 3-Day will soon be here.

As ever, I'd love to see you at closing ceremonies. (I'd love to see you at closing ceremonies even more if you show up with an icy bottle of Grey Goose and a huge platter of pasta.)

In years past, closing ceremonies have taken place at Montrose Harbor.

This year, they're happening at Soldier Field. Cool, huh?

Not sure WHERE at Soldier Field. Maybe near the lake. Maybe in the stadium. I, like you, won't know for sure until the actual day. Why not show up and find out for yourself?

I've included the official closing ceremonies info from the 3-Day below.

I'll have my cell phone with me so we can find each other. Otherwise, in years, past, the 3-Dayers erected signs with alpha-slices on them for people to meet under. But hey, I'll probably be the tallest walker there, so I should be easy to spot.

In any event, I'd love to see you there. Closing ceremonies are really remarkable, filled with emotion. And, if I do say so, it's cool to see a few thousand people united by a common cause all cheering each other on to the end. (Sap that I am, I'm tearing up just thinking about it. Every year, I dole out Kleenexes at closing ceremonies because I always have a pack on hand for myself.)

My thanks once again for your oh-so-generous contributions. Because of you, I sailed past the $3,000 mark this year. And I still have time to raise even more.

The event kicks off on Friday, August 8th. Think cool-weather/no-rain thoughts for me.

And if you need any more info, just pop a line my way.

With love and thanks,


Closing Ceremonies

Sunday, August 10
4:30 pm

Soldier Field
1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605

Your friends, family and supporters should arrive at the Closing Ceremonies site at least one hour early to secure a space by the stage that will give them the best view of the program.

All walkers and crew members are encouraged to remain in the Participant Holding Area where you will receive your victory shirt, cheer on fellow walkers and crew members and reflect on your experience together before the dramatic victory walk into Closing Ceremonies.

The Participant Holding area is CLOSED to spectators. If you wish to meet with friends and family before the Ceremonies begin, please exit the Holding Area and join them near the stage. Just remember to return to the Holding Area no later than 4:00 pm to join the victory walk.

A Few Words About Randy Pausch ...

Someone just left a comment on my brief post from Friday night that read, "FYI Randy Pausch died this morning."

Yes, I am aware of Randy's passing. I received a note from Jeff early Friday morning and learned that Randy was in hospice. A couple hours later, I received an e-mail alert from the Chicago Tribune that he'd died. Jeff, I presumed, was en route to Virginia. I e-mailed him a quick note of condolence, hoping it wouldn't be the first he'd hear of Randy's passing.

Some of my friends, sweethearts that they are, called and e-mailed and IMed to see if I was OK.

"Yes," I told them. "I'm fine. I'm sad for his family. I'm sad for Jeff. But I'm fine."

I didn't know Randy personally. My only contact with him was through an e-mail string between me and him and Jeff.

But I, like millions of others, was touched by his story.

As I read Jeff's manuscripts (one partial, one full), tears ran down my cheeks.

ABC will air a PrimeTime special tomorrow night devoted to Randy. Some of it will be footage from the original special. Some of it will be new.

Randy – and everyone else – knew he wasn't going to beat his cancer. But he made the most of the time he had left. And he happened to inspire the entire world along the way.

My copy of "The Last Lecture" has sat on my desk since Jeff sent it to me earlier this year. And there it will remain. In that way, Randy will never be very far away.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blockbuster Weekend (And One More) ...

My movie-going tends to happen in spurts. Like this: No movie, no movie, no movie, no movie, MOVIE, MOVIE, MOVIE!

Here are my short takes on this weekend's bounty:

"The Dark Knight": Give an Oscar to Heath Ledger's family now.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull": Meh. Indy. Hat. Whip. Cobwebs. Treasure. Again. Are we done now?


Friday night, I bought a ticket on Fandango for "The Dark Knight." The theater was rather full, but not packed. So I probably could have just walked up and bought a ticket, but $1 seemed like pretty cheap insurance for a guaranteed seat.

And 10 days later, the film has hauled in $300 million and it's no wonder. Wow. What a movie. I'm sure I'm in the vast minority who thinks that it could have been just a wee bit shorter, but maybe it's a guy/girl thing. However, I'll cop to making some noise at the conclusion of the BatPod/cable/slalom/18-wheeler scene. Very cool.

As for Heath's performance, it was simply nothing short of extraordinary.

Saturday was double-feature day. Ethan had told me more than once that I really wanted to see "Iron Man" in the theater, but I also wanted to see "Indiana Jones," so I figured out the best times to see them consecutively and that plan put me in "Indy" first.

I gotta say, I almost walked out. Not because it was bad, but because I was bored. I mean, seriously. Like I said in my review up top, "Hat. Whip. Cobwebs. Treasure. Again." Add to that, "Villain with thick European accent." I guess it just goes to show you, if a couple decades have elapsed since your last installment, maybe it's best to just let it lie.

After "Indy," I had some time to kill before "Iron Man." Quite a bit of time, actually. So I considered going home and catching "Iron Man" another day.

Ohmygosh, I'm so glad that I went back to the theater.

The audience broke down like this: me, a middle-aged woman, four middle-aged couples, and a father and son (I'm presuming they were not seeing it for the first time).

Many thanks to Ethan for his cyber-poking to prod me to the theater. "Iron Man" is the definition of "summer blockbuster." Robert Downey Jr. is outstanding, and good for him for overcoming all those obstacles and for making a movie to which he can take his kid.

"Iron Man" might be the reason I finally get a big-screen TV because I want to watch it again and again. But clearly, the letterboxed version on a 27-inch Sony just won't do.

And then, because I hadn't spent enough time on my ass this weekend, I popped in "Bee Movie" last night. And then I fell asleep. So I finished it this morning.

There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but I just can't watch animated films without spending all my time picturing the actors behind the voices. I'd love to see an animated movie that uses voice actors, not movie stars, per se. I'm pretty sure some guy named Walt Disney used to make movies like that.

Walk This Way ...

I was off this past Tuesday. I took the day off because I had a hair appointment that was going to last a couple hours and I had plans to see Coldplay that night with Steve, which meant that I also had plans to have a drink or two before the show, because Steve is very social that way.

With no work that morning, I went for my usual two-mile jaunt to the post office and back. That's my standard walk most days. Two miles. No big whoop. I could certainly do more if I tried, but it's more than most people walk these days.

I headed downtown and parked for the day at Doreen's compound, a lovely community of town homes and mid-rises and a high-rise right along the Chicago river. From there, I walked to my salon. Once my hair was bouncin' and behavin', I skipped over to Michigan Avenue in search of something to wear to the concert that night. (The black T-shirt I was wearing was decidedly boring.)

Several stops along Boul Mich left me empty-handed, but I finally scored at Nordstrom's. That, however, meant that I had a large shopping bag in addition to my purse.

So I did what any sane concert-goer would do: I went to the Hotel Intercontinental, nabbed a handicapped stall, and changed into that evening's new top. And then, at the little make-up counter in the bathroom, I floofed my hair and proceeded to put everything I'd need for the rest of the evening into my pockets. I really hate showing up at a concert with a purse.

Once I'd pared everything down to the essentials, I headed back toward my car to put my purse and my bag in the trunk. Then I headed to Steve's building (very near where I'd been shopping) to pick him up for our scheduled imbibing.

When he walked up to me in the lobby, I knew all bets were off. He was sick. Food poisoning, the poor thing. So I walked with him to Walgreen's to procure Gatorade and Sprite and other assorted provisions, then walked him to his building near Navy Pier, then started dialing like mad on my cell, trying to find someone who could use the other Coldplay ticket on very short notice.

I walked while I talked to everyone's voicemail, heading toward the United Center. And I walked while I talked to the people who called back. And at some point, I realized that I had walked so far that I'd feel like an idiot hailing a cab for the final few blocks, so I just kept walking.

On Wednesday, I queried MapQuest to get a rough sense of my mileage for the day. I figured I had to have walked about 10 miles. MapQuest returned a total of 10.08. Holy crap, I'm a good estimator.

It produced a little mapped route for me, but given that it was based on driving, not walking, it wasn't entirely accurate.

So I made my own version. Which isn't 100 percent accurate either, as I couldn't easily denote which streets I walked on twice, so in some cases, I nudged my route by a block. But this gives you the general idea. (You can click on it to make it bigger if you're the type who's really into details.)

And it's a good thing that I ended up walking 12 miles total that day, because work got crazy for the rest of the week and I hardly walked at all. But I got a week's worth of walking in in one afternoon. Even if the shoes I was wearing weren't expressly made for walking.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whither Tribune? Withered ...

Did the dinosaurs disappear so quickly? Did they roam the earth for all those eras and then, in the span of a few months, just suddenly start dropping like flies?

And what, exactly, spells extinction to a dinosaur? Something cataclysmic, like an asteroid, or something microscopic, like the virus behind the common cold?

It's been more than a decade since I walked the halls of the Chicago Tribune but once you're part of the Tribune, it is part of you forever. I used to quip that the Trib was the Hotel California of journalism: you could check out any time you liked, but you could never leave.

Turns out, I wasn't joking.

I, like many, was intrigued by the notion of a real-estate mogul taking the paper private. I, like many, waited to see what he would bring to the waning fête, waited to see what libation he would hoist over his head as he walked through the door at 3 a.m. to rouse the party back to life.

It was an idea that seemed so crazy, it just might work. The old model was broken, so why not smash it entirely and build something new? Really rethink the status quo, not just turn in another redesign. Actually write a good report, as it were, not try to distract the teacher with a fancy cover on a rehashed effort.

Maybe newspaper people were too entrenched to innovate their way out of their outmoded thinking. Maybe the foul-mouthed maverick was a shot of adrenaline into the heart of a dying estate.

Or maybe not.

The man who said he would not cut his way to innovation started announcing cuts. He blamed worse-than-expected ad revenue. But a toddler with a Magic 8 Ball could have predicted this downturn. Hadn't he been reading the paper?

Maybe not.

When I received an e-mail alert that the editor of the paper was resigning, my jaw momentarily hit the floor, allowing the escape of an "Oh my God!" And then I realized that I wasn't actually surprised. When your professional life is built on ethics and then your new boss starts heaving the establishment out the window, you see the writing on the bathroom wall and you get out. You don't stick around to be sullied.

When I heard Maury Possley on NPR, I got a little misty. That a Pulitzer Prize winner feels the need to walk away from his long-standing professional home makes me sad. But he's smart enough to know that you can't cut your way to innovation. Innovation requires morale.

One of my friends who remains employed – for now, anyway – told me today that through the doom and gloom, he's seeing more innovation than he's ever seen, that crises have a way of focusing minds. Maybe. When times are tough, someone always figures out a way to feed a family with whatever's in the cupboard.

But shouldn't one of the most venerable newspapers in the world be able to do more than find a way to simply survive?

My brain continues to grapple with how all of this could unravel so quickly. When I was there, the paper celebrated its sesquicentennial, 150 years of history. Now, 11 years later, I wonder how much longer it will last. Surely, a newspaper as renowned, as storied as the Chicago Tribune will weather this economic climate, this revenue drought, right?

Maybe. Then again, the Titanic was an unsinkable ship.

I know that the only constant is change. Innovate or die. What worked in 1847 or 1937 or even 1987 doesn't necessarily work today. Cars and people need new parts. Nothing lasts forever.

But at the end of the day, no amount of young blood can fully take the place of the intelligence and integrity that is seeping out of that gothic tower. Some have the opportunity to walk out the door, others are being kicked down the stairs, but they all leave gaping voids.

For many, it is simply time to go while others wonder when their moment will come. The pain and sadness brought on by a long-time lover who one day reveals a side you thought you'd never see. And it breaks your heart. Because it's more than ink on paper.

To selectively quote Nelson Algren from Chicago: City on the Make:

"You'll know at last that ... something went wrong ...
and divided your heart.
Leaving you loving the joint for keeps.
Yet knowing it can never love you."

Friday, July 25, 2008

'The Dark Knight' ...

No need to wait until February: The Academy should give Heath Ledger's family the Best Supporting Actor Oscar now. Wow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Based On True Stories ...

Earlier this month, I wrote about how we don't see ourselves the way others see us.

Amusing as it may sound coming from a woman who blogs – and who has, therefore, been having a very long, rather one-sided conversation for three years – I rarely talk about myself. Most of the time, I don't like to draw attention to myself, which is funny, because at 6'3", I'm pretty damn hard to miss.

A few months ago, I was perusing Mother's Day cards with my friend Brian and was telling him about my trip to New York in March to see Ciarán's play. (With certain friends, I open up.) Brian asked, "What is it about you? You meet these people ... and then you stay friends with them."

And I truly had no answer for him. I don't know why it happens. It doesn't happen with everyone, but it happens enough.

So I wrote to my friend Jeff, who I've known since I was 17, to ask get his take on Brian's query.

This is part of what I wrote:

It happens all the time. I've known you since I was 17. Whenever I see Bill Kurtis – on the street, in a restaurant, in his office, wherever I – get a hug or a kiss and a sonorous, "Hi, Beth!" I met Ciaran at TCA press tour in 1997 and we've been in touch, albeit not as often as I'd like, ever since (I zipped off to New York in March for an overnight to catch him in the play he was in on Broadway and then we had dinner, and then we had breakfast before I headed back to the airport). Stuart Garner, the then-CEO of Thomson Newspapers, sought me out every time he came to Chicago and referred to me at a conference as "a star." I interviewed a woman for a story last year and when her new book came out this year, we met up in Chicago and spent hours together. In the inscription in her book, she invited me to visit her and her family out east someday.

People, apparently, like me.

And yet, most of the time, I feel ridiculously inadequate in so many ways.

And I'm totally not living up to my potential.

I wrote a post the other day about how we rarely see ourselves the way others see us, and I wouldn't ask this of many people, but you're special.

So, in your opinion, what is it about me that attracts then seems to hook people (except available single men – badump bump!)?

Jeff's reply really struck a chord. I knew he'd have something interesting to say – he was an advice columnist for many years – but I truly had never considered the point of view he presented. This is what he wrote:

I think the thing about you Beth, is that you’re funny and bright and so intuitive about other people. And you’re interested in them, really interested. And you have a good heart. And so that’s what draws me and others to you. It’s a great package!

Maybe you’re doing exactly what you should be doing. Living up to potential is relative. Some people live up to their career potential but they’re jerks at home … so what’s that??

Cue the chorus of angels and the light bulb above my head! "Living up to potential is relative." I'd never considered that before.

Of course, I replied to him that while I appreciated his fresh perspective, I also had to own up to the fact that I've let fear hold me back for far too long.

This morning, I IMed my friend Charlie to congratulate him on his pending induction into the Illini Media Hall of Fame this fall. We hadn't chatted in ages and works for the the Chicago Tribune so I asked how things were going, and he, being polite, asked how things were going with me. I told him I was boring, that I had nothing much to report, other than trying to muster up the courage to pursue my singing. "Scary!" I wrote. To which he replied, "If we do not face our fears, we remain scared always."

No kidding.

So what's my point? As these thoughts have been marinating in my brain, I've watched two movies based on true stories that have left me totally inspired.

Last night, I watched "Freedom Writers," the story of first-year teacher Erin Gruwell who drew a classroom full of troubled teens, who landed smack dab in the middle of a world she couldn't begin to comprehend, but found a way to turn their differences and indifference into so many senses of self. Her secret? She gave a damn. She refused to be one more authority figure who turned their back, who silently said, "There's probably no hope for you so I won't even try."

Instead, she held the bar high and expected them to sail over it. She learned how to connect with them. And she stood up to the school district that wanted her to fall in line.

Just one teacher.

And tonight, I watched "Music Within," the story of Richard Pimentel who overcame a tumultuous childhood and a disability sustained in Vietnam to become an advocate for the disabled and one of the driving forces behind the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Just one man.

Of course, not everyone will change the world in such dramatic, high-profile ways. But little things really do mean a lot.

As we were leaving the United Center Tuesday night, Angela and I were approached by a woman with a clipboard who asked us if we were members of Oxfam. "I am," I told her. She thanked me. As we continued on our way, Angela mentioned, "that organization that gives the loans."

"Kiva!" I said. "I contribute to Kiva." I love the idea that just a few dollars from a few folks can literally change someone's life.

So maybe we'd do well to focus on the small things we can do every day and let them build, one small thing at a time, into something bigger.

Over the past few years, I've raised well over $10,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. And while I could always do more to raise more, it was gratifying to realize that $25 here and $50 there adds up to something substantial.

Before the advent of tollway transponders, I used to pay the toll for the car behind me every now and then. Just one of those tiny random acts of kindness that I always hoped would leave an impression on the other person so much so that they might pay it forward and do something kind for someone else.

What's your favorite random act of kindness?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Coldplay Redux ...

As I write this (it's 10:20 p.m. at the moment), Chris Martin and Co. are winding up their second show at the United Center, presuming tonight is following the same basic schedule as yesterday.

Before I face-planted on my desk last night, which was really early this morning, I managed to squeak out a few words about how amazing the show was last night. I'm listening to my Coldplay iTunes library at the moment, reliving the show.

"The Scientist" is up first. The boys played this selection in the second tier of the United Center. They finished a song, left the stage, ran across the main floor, up an aisle, through a doorway and reappeared through another doorway to perform among the fans. Who says the best seats are always in the front row?

"Politik" now. A powerful song on its own, a steady driving beat, but the chorus, "Open up your eyes," was reinforced by a video montage of world events. Political? Sure. The song is called "Politik." But it's not a gimmick. Just as Bono and U2 really are involved in AIDS awareness, Coldplay is aligned with Oxfam International. When you're one of the most popular bands on the planet, you might as well use your notoriety to raise recognition.

I was supposed to see the show with my friend Steve. Steve, however, managed to get himself embroiled in a nasty case of food poisoning yesterday afternoon. So after I met him at his office, walked with him to Walgreens to procure Gatorade and Sprite and other assorted sickness supplies, and then walked him to his apartment near Navy Pier, I hopped on my cell phone, scrolling through my contacts, seeing who might be free on short notice to use the other ticket. I walked and talked and by the time I'd called every viable candidate (read: everyone local), I realized that I was close enough to the United Center that I should just walk the rest of the way. It seemed pathetic to grab a cab for six blocks or so.

Those of you familiar with Chicago might be saying, "Wait. You walked from Navy Pier to the United Center?" Yes, I did. Yes, it is rather far. About four miles. Not far if you're driving. Not really far if you're walking, even. Unless you'd already logged 8 miles of walking that day, six of which in shoes not particularly conducive to walking. But hey, it was good practice for the 3-Day.

So I arrived at the United Center with no takers for the ticket and decided to eat the other seat. I didn't want to try to sell it to someone I would then have to sit next to for the next several hours. I had a fleeting thought that perhaps fate had brought me to that moment and if I sold the ticket, it would be to the man to whom I was meant to spend my life.

And then I thought, "Nah."

I headed inside, plunked down four dollars for a bottle of water, which the woman at the counter then poured into fountain cup, topped off with ice, capped with a lid, and handed to me. I'm sure Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow must be really fond of the idea of creating twice the waste at all of his concerts.

"Green Eyes" now (speaking of not being green). This was the band's only encore performance, performed by Chris on acoustic guitar and the drummer on, natch, piano. As Chris said, and you'll pardon his French, "This is going to be an encore in the true sense of the word, because we have no fucking idea what we're going to do for you." They consulted for a moment and "decided" on this song. But it was a lovely way to close the show, like one of those small, square, pastel after-dinner mints. And I have green eyes, so I appreciated the lyrics, including:

That green eyes
You're the one that I wanted to find
And anyone who tried to deny you
Must be out of their mind

Here, here.

Earlier, though, my phone rang as I settled into my seat. Angela, one of the friends I called on my trek, turns out, lives right across the street from the United Center. I had no idea! So she walked across the parking lot, I met her at the gates with the ticket, and she joined me for the show. Mind you, she was one of about four black people there, but she had a good time. It's rather impossible not to have a good time when Chris and the boys are on the stage.

The show hit all the high notes, opening and closing (if you don't count the encore) with "Life in Technicolor," the intro to "Viva La Vida," the band's latest effort, which I strongly encourage you to buy if you haven't already.

Yes, I know not everyone is a fan of Coldplay. Chris knows it, too. The concert was being filmed last night, so he told us that they were going to play an old song so we could sing along and blow the rafters off the place (that was "Yellow") and then they would play a new song, and if we sang it well, they would play it again and record the second take. The new song was "Lost," which is one of my favorite cuts from the new album. He was pleased with our performance on the first take, and they launched into the tune a second time. The crowd did not disappoint. We were the very vision of ecstatic concert-goers. Chris thanked us for our enthusiasm afterward, saying he knows it's not necessarily easy to be a Coldplay fan these days.

The band does seem to engender a fair amount of animosity. And frankly, I don't know why. I think they're all incredibly talented musicians. They stand for something yet refrain from heavy-handed preaching. And they put on, undeniably, a rollicking concert experience.

"Clocks" now. Even Angela knew this tune. And while I don't remember the song that inspired it, we were both taken with the shower of confetti late in the show, the "rainbow rain," as Angela called it. It was magical.

P.S. Greg Kot's review for the Chicago Tribune is here.

Coldplay ...

I'll post at length tomorrow (well, later today, really), but suffice it to say the show was a knockout.

As was the last Coldplay concert I caught two years ago.

I know the band engenders a lot of strong emotions, both good and bad, but they put on one hell of a show.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Best Song You Probably Haven't Heard In A While ...

"You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals.

Excellent keyboards in this baby. (Really never should have quit lessons when I was a kid. Really should start playing again.)

I heard a snippet on TV tonight and thought, "Wow, I haven't heard that song in years!"

And thanks to iTunes, I owned it about 15 seconds and 99 cents later.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Late For Breakfast ...

I started writing my last post (see below) with the thought that I would include Late For Breakfast as part of my telling of an aural journey, but, as I am wont to do, I blathered on at such length that it hardly seemed fair to include them at the end of such a long post when the post was really meant to be about them in the first place. So, without further ado, let me try again:

Once upon a time, I happened upon a podcast, the Explore Your Voice Show, the product of three charming and affable folks sitting behind mics in Melbourne, Australia. I blogged about the show but hadn't yet tried the course for which the podcast was meant to drum up business.

But a few months ago, I ponied up through PayPal and gave the course a whirl. And I liked it. But then it fell off my radar and each month, when I'd pay my credit card statement, I'd think, "Oh, I should probably cancel that until I have time to focus on it."

So the other day, I tried to cancel but I have having issues. So I wrote to Michael Oliphant, one of the lovely podcast people, and he replied and offered help, and I replied to thank him, and the next thing we knew, we were trading e-mails about singing.

(A few months back, my friend Brian asked, "What is it about you, Beth? You meet these people and you become friends with them." Heck if I know. And I wouldn't presume to call Michael a friend, but I do tend to strike up interesting exchanges with people, at the very least.)

Michael's band is Late For Breakfast. You can sample their EP on the band's home page or check out a brief compilation video (I like the posterized art) here or below.

And, of course, they have the obligatory MySpace page.

Michael, second from left, supplies vocals and keyboards. Late For Breakfast also features Roger McLachlan (LFB's bassist who is also part of the podcast trio and also a member of Little River Band, or LRB for short; Roger appears to like being a part of bands whose acronyms start with L and end with B), Gerry Pantazis (a most-excellent drummer), and Greg Clarkson (a saxophonist who can give David Sanborn a serious run for his money).

In our e-mail exchange, I told Michael that they sound like Steely Dan, but different. "Michelle" gets into quite an R&B groove whereas "Kiss The Sea" is reminiscent, especially on the chorus, of Pat Metheny. "I Wouldn't Change A Thing" calls to mind Michael Franks. Michael's piano intro on "Someone Said" reminds me of Keith Jarrett (until Roger's very cool bass takes over) while "Single" has a bit of an Al Jarreau feel. And yet, it all adds up to Late For Breakfast.

The band's EP is available on iTunes and elsewhere. The album is due out later this year.


Music To My Years ...

Back in the mists of antiquity, as English Teacher Dave would say, I discovered Pat Metheny. Not on my own, mind you. That self-same Dave introduced me to Metheny's music, and I really liked it. Dave made a tape for me (remember tapes?) and one day, in my room, I played it for my friend Tracy who said, sarcastically, "Cool music, Beth."

I was 16, I believe. Now, her crack was understandable. I was 16 in the mid-'80s. Pat Metheny wasn't exactly gunning for my demographic. But I've always felt older than my years. Even in grade school, I preferred to talk to my teachers instead of my peers.

When I graduated from high school, I spent a chunk of my graduation-gift monies on new speakers (Pioneer – still have them), a CD player (Technics – don't), and my first-ever CD.

And what did I buy? The Cure? The B-52s? Depeche Mode?

Nope, I bought Jerry Goodman's "On the Future of Aviation." (Which you can get through Amazon and which boasts a five-star rating among reviewers, thankyouverymuch, at least one of whom references listening to it when they were 10 years old, so I'm not only young'un who dug Jerry's sound.)

And how did I know about Jerry, you ask? I heard Jerry for the first time live when he opened for ... wait for it ... The Psychedelic Furs at the Riviera in what, to this day, stands as the oddest billing of any concert I've ever attended. Because The Furs, as you know, are all iconic '80s and Valley Girl and "Love My Way" and Jerry Goodman is, of course, a violinist.

But he's not just a violinist. He's an amazing violinist. Which doesn't say enough about him, because Itzhak Perlman is also an amazing violinist. But Jerry layers a lot of other tracks behind his violin to create really cool violin-fronted atmospheres of sound. "Sarah's Lullaby" still knocks me out whenever I listen to it, which I am doing right now. He's part of my iTunes library.

I was thrilled when WNUA debuted. Back in the day, WNUA played amazing artists like Andreas Vollenweider. I already owned "Down to the Moon" and couldn't believe I was hearing him on the radio.

Andreas Vollenweider, if you're not familiar with him – and if you're not familiar with him, you should check him out – is a harpist. But not a flowery-crescendos harpist. Vollenweider, like Goodman, creates multi-layered compositions that amaze me. At the moment, I'm listening to the title track from "Dancing with the Lion" which is included on "The Essential Andreas Vollenweider," which is a fine introduction to his music, if you're of a mind. Interestingly, you can't buy that collection on iTunes, though iTunes offers most of Andreas' music. Still, check out the track listing for the Essential album. It lacks "Hirzel," which is a serious must-own, but you can buy that individually on iTunes or just buy all of "Book of Roses."

For the record, I think that whole "Smooth Jazz" sound quickly became too milquetoast and homogenous. I will absolutely cop to owning Yanni's first album. I had never heard anything like it. But then he grew out his hair and started dating Linda Evans and became "Yanni."

By now, though, I have buried the lede so far that we need heavy equipment to excavate it, and so I'm going to create a new post to give the topic its due. See you in the next post.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Parched Blog ...

So much for Sunday's flurry of blog activity. A blog drought blew in this week, but it's not my fault.

Tonight was the third night in a row that I worked until 9 p.m. And as a bonus, this morning I started work at 7 a.m.

Woo hoo! Girlfriend knows how to par-tay!

Of course, I don't blog about work. It's never a good idea to blog about work. Unless your work is blogging.

But now I'm free for the evening, even though the evening is well on its way to over.

So here I am, Wednesday night, and the only things I've done all week that haven't been directly related to work were two sessions at the gym with Brandon. Yesterday was biceps, triceps and shoulders. Deltoids. Today was chest and back. I have intermittent back issues (because I am OLD) so Brandon tries to suggest exercises that will strengthen my muscles without leaving me clutching my back – and cursing my trainer – the following day.

But yesterday, as I was doing my bicep curls, Brandon was looking at me in the mirror (my gym has a LOT of mirrors) and asked, "How's the eating?" Brandon has me on an eating plan that, for the moment, I've altered to cut out grains.

"Good," I told him.

"You're going down," he said, meaning that I'm getting thinner. "You can tell in your lower back."

At which point, I started laughing.

"What?" he asked.

"I've never had anyone say, 'Hey Beth, your lower back looks thinner!' "

But I turned to the mirror, and yep, sure enough, my lower back looks thinner. Well, not thinner, but more defined. There's a lovely curve back there.

I wonder what's worse: No blog post or a blog post that says next to nothing?

This Dream Brought To You By ...

OK, so I understand why Paul Anka was in my dream last night: I recently watched the episode of "Gilmore girls" that featured "the real" Paul Anka and "the dog" Paul Anka.

I do not, however, understand why, in my dream, "the real" Paul Anka was relegated to sleeping on a love seat with his feet hanging over the side.

He did, however, look very natty in his blue-on-blue satin suit with high Nehru collar.

That's not what he slept in. That's what he wore when he was awake. He slept in a burgundy waffle-weave Henley. That's the part I saw underneath the afghan. I couldn't tell you about his choice of bottoms.

All of which is well and good and dream-like, but none of which explains the very lengthy appearance of Geraldo Rivera in the same dream.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Record? ...

I think this might be the greatest number of posts I've ever logged in one day.

When it rains it pours. Perhaps my intermittent blog drought is over.

Getting Back To Form ...

Just walked my usual two-mile route and clocked a 12 1/2-minute mile.

At that pace, I could walk the Chicago Marathon and complete it in 5:45.

Tonight's pace isn't my best time, but I'm getting close again.

'Stop-Loss' ...

This movie was an automatic must-see because Ciarán is in it and I see everything Ciarán is in. And my Irish friend turns in a damn fine Texan accent in addition to yet another performance that leaves me shaking my head that he can convey so much without saying a word. He has amazing eyes.

The movie itself was hard for me to watch because it's such an intimate depiction of what soldiers are enduring today, both while deployed and when they return home. I was practically sobbing at the end.

It only made $10 million in this country, and I think it was another casualty – if you'll forgive the expression – of our collective war fatigue. Or our collective suppression of something that's so horrific that it's best to not really contemplate the actual goings-on.

But it surely cemented my desire to become an active participant in Boods For Soldiers, to do what little I can to make their lives better in some small ways.

And Speaking Of Angelina ...

Yes, yes, she had the twins.

Happy for her and Brad and their Brady-Bunch brood. Moving on.

I was at Target this afternoon and was suckered into an impulse purchase in the checkout lane because holy mother of God, this is the most stunning magazine cover I've ever seen.

Truly, is the woman human? Who is this beautiful?

Guitar Dos and Don'ts ...

While I have yet to embark on my own guitar education – soon, soon, or as soon as my nails stop looking so fabulous; it's be a shame to cut them all off at the moment – I marvel, regularly, at those who can play, really play.

So I took an immediate shine – no, shine isn't really the word; it was more than a shine, it was a blinding glare – to Danny Elfman's "The Little Things" from "Wanted," the Angelina Jolie event that isn't taking place in Nice but rather in a theater near you.

I haven't seen the movie – I'll get around to it one of these days, I'm sure; vive le Netflix! – but I heard the tune and I immediately bought the tune and I immediately synched my iPod so I could immediately go for a walk with the tune because, hoo baby, if this tune doesn't get your blood pumping and your feet moving, I don't know what will.

Give a listen (you can skip the video; it's not cut together very well; but then again, if you're a guy – or a chick who's hot for Angelina – you won't care about the editing, you'll just gawk at the guns, Angelina's and the weapons):

Danny Elfman is the coolest, isn't he? Really, he needs to sing more in addition to composing.

But that guitar lick! Hello! I LOVE it!

Contrast that, then, with this this little ditty by the Danish Mirah. It's a free mp3 download through Amazon until July 14, because the album is available July 15.

Warning: Keep some Kleenex nearby, because this song possesses the mighty aural ability to induce spontaneous ear-bleeding.

I mean, seriously.

As I've said before, hey, I'm not getting out there and doing my thing, musically, so far be it from me to judge artists, but I think Mirah has a pleasant-enough voice. I have no quibble with her vocal talent.

But that guitar "playing." What is that? It's like sawing through metal. It's almost unbearable.

So I'm supposed to believe that Mirah and whomever else was involved with the production of her album sat around the studio and heard that mix and all nodded their heads and said, "Yeah, now that should be the single we release to entice people to buy this disc!"

I'd rather listen to Björk. And if you know me at all, you know that I never, ever want to voluntarily listen to Björk. But if it end of the world was nigh and the only two musical acts left were Björk and her odd caterwauling and Mirah and her guitar homicide, I'd make Björk a very rich woman.

Björk is from Iceland. Mirah is from Denmark. What's in the water in that part of the world? (And check out Mirah's album art. What's goin' on there?)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Lars And The Real Girl' ...

Yes, it's about a man who has a relationship with a, um, "love" doll, but the humanity of the film is really touching.

And while he loves Bianca, he never loves Bianca, so while the movie may be weird, it's not perverse.

And I know it's crazy to say that Bianca loves him, but she helps him overcome his problems, and isn't that, in part, what people who love each other do?

Even if one of them happens to be made of silicone?

Trust me: It's sweet. Rent it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wanted: Magic Mirror ...

On the 4th of July, my friend Gail was flipping through my copy of Sexstrology, reading excerpts from her sign, when she stopped and said, "Well, this is way off."

To which I replied, "No it's not. You just don't see yourself the way others see you."

But then, who of us does?

This morning, my mom's cousin Michael called me. I don't think Michael's ever called me before, but he wanted to tell me about his son Nick's blog because my mom had told him that I'm a writer and he wanted me to take a look, to "analyze" it, as if Nick, who is this family's own Doogie Howser, needs anyone to tell him that he can do anything to which he sets his mind.

We had a good chat, Mike and me. It was nice to catch up with the goings-on of his three kids, all of whom are entirely amazing. Nick, for example, has recently followed a girl back to her native Sweden. He's 27. If not now, when, right?

As our conversation was winding down, Mike mentioned that he should stop bragging about his kids, but that my mom loves to brag about my brothers, and about me, to which I replied, laughing, "I wonder what she could be saying!"

After we hung up, I thought, "My life is boring." And then a voice inside me said, "Well, do something to change that."

And then I thought, my life isn't boring. My life is really pretty interesting. I just rarely stop to think about that.

And modesty prevents me from asking others, "How do you see me?" Because I'm really hoping that they don't say anything negative, which means I'm really fishing for compliments. And I'm not that person.

But sometimes, I'm lucky enough to meet people who are secure enough in themselves that they have no problem in commenting on my qualities, unsolicited. And when that happens, I'm always rather stunned at how they see me.

And I think, Why, if I had such a good opinion of myself, I'd be unstoppable!

And then I remember Faye Rosner, who helped me land my first "real" job out of college – at the Chicago Tribune – who said, "Beth, we can't all be wrong about you."

So maybe I should spend a little more time getting better acquainted with the Beth the world knows and spend a little less time listening to the critic in my head.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Do Something ...

This is about the troops.

Earlier today, Doreen sent a story to me about Books For Soldiers, a program that enlists volunteers to ship care packages to troops that make requests through the Books For Soldiers web site.

Books For Soldiers was started during the Gulf War by Storm Williams who started sending books to the troops who, according to the site, "were faced with massive downtime and were restricted to their base due to the travel limitations set by the Saudi government."

In the current economic climate, though, Books For Soldiers is struggling to keep operating. Even though volunteers fulfill orders directly for soldiers and incur all the costs, Books For Soldiers needs money to continue operations. It's currently in the midst of a drive to raise $70,000 by the end of 2008, a pittance, really, when you consider that Obama and McCain, combined, raised more than $40 million in June.

Am I asking you to contribute? No. I'm making you aware of the organization. You can decide for yourself if it's something you want to support. Me, I'm blogging about it and I've registered on the site and printed out the application and filled it out. I need sign it in front of a notary and get it notarized, and once BFS receives it, I can start fulfilling requests.

Later today, I popped in "Lions For Lambs," Robert Redford's film that cost $35 million to make yet failed to earn back $15 million in this country.

And now I know why.

No, not because it's not a good movie. As a movie, it's told as separate stories, a la "Syriana" or "Traffic." And like those movies, it attracted top-tier talent. But it's not really a movie.

I submit that it didn't do well for at least two reasons, one much more powerful than the other:

1) Because the majority of Americans have proven that they don't want to have to think after they've slapped down their $35 for tickets and popcorn; and because

2) This film, if you have any vestige of a conscience, will feel like sand in your psyche.

It's been more than six years since "Shock and Awe" and "Mission Accomplished" and today "World News with Charles Gibson" reported that an American solider hasn't been killed in Iraq for 11 days.

Our country is at war, a war that's now lasted longer than World War II (and World War II was waged on a much grander scale and with much-less-sophisticated weaponry), but Iraq has largely fallen out of the headlines in favor of broadcast-topping stories that the price of oil has hit another record high and gas now costs, on a national average, two cents more this week than it did the last.

Of course, the war is alive and well every moment of every day for the families of the troops, but for the majority of this country, it has quite literally become yesterday's news. I'm noticing far fewer yellow-ribbon magnets on cars. Are you?

And so Redford, who lends his voice to the national discourse beyond his offerings for the silver screen, made a movie that holds up a celluloid mirror and asks us just how much more we're going to swallow, how much longer we're just going to shrug.

Of course people didn't flock to see it. People don't like to be reminded that far too many of them are far to quick to stay seated and hope that the next guy will do the right thing.

But what if the next guy has been deployed?

I abhor this war. But I, too, have been far too uninvolved. I suspect many people feel powerless. What good do protests do, we wonder? And so we click the buttons in our e-mails and feel like were lending our voice, like we're doing something.

But more than six years later, such "somethings" don't suffice. Not that they ever did.

So today, my "something" became signing up to be part of Books For Soldiers. Because now that I know about this organization, if a book and a magazine and a few personal products will help make a soldier's deployment even the most minute bit more bearable, how can I not fulfill such a simple request? For as many soldiers as I can?

That's my "something." What's yours?

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

'Rocky Balboa' ...

Several people told me this movie was "inspiring."

Sheesh. No kidding. And not just when Rocky takes off his robe in the ring. Yeow! You can't fake a body like that. Well, maybe you can fake a body like that, but I'm pretty sure Sly didn't have a CGI stand-in.

He's become a bit of a punchline over the course of his career, but he's a good actor. As evidenced by his Best Actor Oscar nod for "Rocky."

And his Best Screenplay Oscar nod for "Rocky."

Not a lot of actors can claim those two credits. You know, just schlocks like Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles.

'I Am Legend' ...

On this 4th of July weekend, allow me to confess that I have never seen "Independence Day."

But I think Will Smith is cool as hell – he's as famous as they come yet he seems truly grounded. I saw him recently on "60 Minutes" and found him refreshingly honest and forthright.

So I was interested to see "I Am Legend," interested to see how well he managed to carry most of a movie by himself.

Tonight, L.A. Dave said, "I hear he was screwed out of an Oscar nomination."

I heartily agree. Like Tom Hanks in "Cast Away," Smith spends most of the time on screen alone.

Well, OK, he has a dog, which provides slightly more opportunity to play off than a bloodied volleyball, but still.

They say you should never work with children or animals. In this movie, he does both, and he's exceptional. The scene when he talks to the mannequin broke my heart.

Cram It ...

Does anyone else find it altogether disgusting that in this country we have people cramming inhuman amounts of food into their bodies under the pretense of "fun" while people in other parts of the world are dying of starvation every day?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Where The Hell I Have Been ...

Not that the blogosphere demands to know, with its collective cyber-hand on its collective cyber-hip, why I haven't posted for the past few days, but as someone who endeavors to have fresh content up for those who visit daily, I feel compelled to offer this explanation:

I've been working my butt off.

Sadly, my butt remains.

But this year's 4th of July bash came off without a hitch.

In fact, it was so hitch-free that late this morning, I HAD NOTHING TO DO.

Granted, I put in a 15-hour day yesterday, getting as much done as possible to make today as stress-free as possible, so it all comes out in the wash. There was a finite list of tasks to accomplish and I just happened to do the lion's share yesterday. New John IMed last night, somewhere around 9 p.m. to ask, "So, did ya get everything done?" to which I replied, when I happened to pop into my office to get another Swiffer cloth (the box of which I had set on my desk), "Still doing."

A busy day, to be sure, seeing as how it started about 7 a.m., but today was a joy. I was busy for most of the morning, but it was pleasant, puttering-busy, not "I curse the day this country declared its independence, thereby forcing me, 232 years later, to have this party" busy. It wasn't "Holy crap, when the hell am I going to have time to shower?!", it was, "Oh, I think I'll put more peppercorns in my pepper mill."

And now it is "I think I will sit on my deck with a glass of vodka lemonade." Because in writing to Doreen yesterday, confirming her arrival for today, it dawned on me that I was vodkaless. Why, you ask? Because I couldn't remember when I'd bought the vodka that was in my freezer, so I poured it out, and then I forgot to buy replacement vodka.

I forgot to buy vodka. Good God, I need to get my priorities straight.

So one of my many errands yesterday was to the liquor store where I bought a fifth of Grey Goose, which I'd never bought before. I've only ordered it in restaurants. You know you're a grown-up when you plunk down that kind of money for vodka. And did you know that Effen makes black cherry vodka? I was tempted to buy it, but I thought it might seem lushy to approach the counter with two bottles of vodka.

I'll pick up the Effen tomorrow.

Typically, I'm a straight vodka girl (as opposed to a lesbian vodka girl – badump bump!), but black cherry vodka seems worth the gamble.

Anyhoo, the day is winding down, the weather couldn't have been more perfect – upper 70s and sunny ... in CHICAGO ... in JULY – my kitchen is all squared away and all I have to do tonight is nosh on leftovers and watch one of the many Netflixes that have piled up next to my remotes.

And go to bed early.

And sleep late.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The New Man In My Life ...

On Sunday, I fell in love.

I spent three magical hours with a really cute guy.

His name is Charlie. He has the softest sandy blonde hair and the sweetest lips you've ever seen.

It was his birthday.

His one-month birthday.

My friends Chris and Ginger welcomed Charlie at the end of May and Sunday was his "coming-out" party at Ginger's folks' house. He was asleep when I arrived. Sleeping. It's what babies do. Besides eating. He woke up long enough to eat and to make everyone swoon over his cuteness.

I tried to play it cool, to not immediately scoop him up and sniff his perfect little head, even though I was dying to get my hands on him.

Luckily, dinnertime rolled around and I suggested to Ginger that she go ahead and eat. I gathered Charlie against my chest, his perfect, soft cheek against the cloth over my shoulder.

Within moments, he fell asleep. Lots of babies fall asleep on my shoulder. They're usually boy babies. Which sets me up to deliver the line, "Yeah, I have that effect on men."

From time to time, Charlie would start to stir and fuss for a tiny moment. I would sway back and forth and "Shush" his little head and he'd settle down again.

I think rubbing his little back helped, too. So much so that he slept on my shoulder for three hours.

Though he wasn't always on my shoulder. He'd smoosh down into strange little contortions and I'd pick him up and realign him on my shoulder, only to have him smoosh down again.

I kept thinking that he'd wake up with a kink in his little neck, but he seemed content in his smooshedness.

Eventually, Chris woke him up so that Ginger could feed him. Charlie wasn't happy to be roused. And I was sorry to let him go.

Earlier, as everyone ate dinner, several people said, "You're a natural."

To which I replied, "I hope to be so lucky someday."

Again With The Dreams Already ...

Will someone please develop a dream-recording device so I can capture the electrical impulses that flash through my brain all night long and leave me dreaming some really good ideas for movies?

One of last night's dreams was about my friend Ciarán who, in my dream, was an actor, just as he is in the waking world, but who, my brain decided as my dream progressed, had a dark hidden life and was using acting as a front.

Like, a dark life. He lived in a house that looked very stately from the front, but the back was literally collapsing. Hmm, dream in symbolism much, Beth? And inside the part of the house that was collapsing, which was dark inside despite plenty of windows, in the basement – because nothing good ever happens in basements – he would torture people. Nice, huh?

Where did that come from? Why did my subconscious decide that my cute-as-a-bug friend who loves stout pie and who wears the hell out of waistcoats and makes women swoon in period dramas is really a psychopath? (I love this picture of him from Men's Vogue because it's dashing. Ciarán is very dashing, but he's far from the ascot-sporting sort. Unless Men's Vogue is skulking about, and then who can say "No" to an ascot? Men's Vogue gets what Men's Vogue wants, I reckon.)

But it'd make a good movie, no? My dream was very cinematic. It looked beautiful. Very moody. Good locations. Like when I ran into him in the lobby of a grand old theater. I was with a group of friends and he was with the cast of the movie he was making. I hugged him and said, "Have you finished filming?" And we all left the theater together to make our way to a restaurant to celebrate. Outside, it was grey and cold, the wide expanses of wet pavement half-covered in ice. A woman in front of me fell, the clutz, but not me. I sought out the nearest ice and gracefully slid across it, stopping with precision like a professional figure skater.

Then later, in the bar of the restaurant, I donned a coat that someone had been carrying for me, that'd I'd recently bought at Marshall's, without trying it on.

Which turned out to be a bad idea, partly because it was too big for me, and partly because it was shiny tan leather, but mostly because it was floor-length and I looked like a pimp.

Not that I have a lot of first-hand knowledge of pimp apparel. But in my dream, that's what came to mind.

I can't wait to find out what I'll dream about tonight.

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