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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

If Only

The other night, Jim and I watched The World According to Garp.  I read the book long ago and this was the second time I’ve seen the movie.  Watching it again, at this point in my life, seemed pertinent to two things that are nearly always on my mind but perhaps have been more in the foreground lately: parenting and writing.

My favorite thing about parenting was sharing as much of my knowledge with Mycol as I could and expanding his world to include as many experiences as possible.  I loved teaching him the academics, like reading and math, and I loved talking philosophically with him, at any age, in an effort to get him to consider the relationship between himself and the world.

When Mycol was 13, John Irving was on the schedule of presenters for the Drue Heinz Lecture Series.  Because I’d read nearly every one of his books, I was excited to go and hear him speak.  He was promoting his then yet-unpublished novel Until I Find You.  I took Mycol with me.  A prominent theme in many of Mr. Irving‘s stories is that of an only-child; a son, raised by a single mother.  At the lecture podium he spoke to the audience about the pros and cons of this relationship, which was again featured in the upcoming book.  He spoke about how only-children often get included in adult conversations, and in particular, only-children of single parents are likely engaged in even more still, because the parent relies on the child to be a sounding board for venting daily struggles they would otherwise dump on a spouse.  And to top it all off, Mr. Irving felt that this situation is most exaggerated when the only-child is a boy and the single parent is a mother.  So, there we sat, my 13 year-old son and I, in the Carnegie Music Hall, listening to John Irving talk about how the single mother in Until I Find You treated her son like an obligated boyfriend, and when I looked around the room all I could see were couples, not one single other pubescent child at all.  True, I’d wished my boyfriend would’ve gone with me, but I also felt glad that my son said he’d go when I asked him.  I was proud when he participated in things of that nature without so much as sighing, as if he really had learned to thirst for knowledge and new experiences (from me, of course!).  But when John Irving started to say those things, I felt like a spot-light was on us and I was flushed with embarrassment.  He’d called me out and announced to everyone that it was inappropriate to bring a child to adult programs.  After all, he was (is) John Irving.

Well, thank God, my son wasn’t scarred for life!

It reminds me of how my brother and I grew up in a house filled with books.  I am by far a more avid reader than he is, which I can only imagine is a direct result of the trauma incurred by Richard III when he was merely 3!

Then there is writing.  Another prominent theme in Mr. Irving‘s novels is a main character who is a writer.  A writer who struggles.  Authors are always saying the same thing about writing – that it is hard.  It is so hard to find the necessary discipline to keep at it, to not think everything you write is crap, to stop procrastinating by doing everything under the sun other than write something and just do it.  John Irving had a lot of athletic discipline as a wrestler.  I’ve been inspired every time I remind myself of what he used to do.  He used to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and sit at his desk to write.  He set an alarm clock on his desk to ring at 8:30 am, at which time he would push away from his desk and lead the rest of his life, which was the life of a father, husband, wrestling coach, and teacher.  Whether he got anything on paper in those 3 hours was not necessarily the most important thing.

I have a slightly different clock than John Irving.  I don’t ever plan to get up before the sun rises, it makes my stomach turn.  But I am pushing myself, challenging myself every day to try harder, to do my best, and looking for inspiration.  Sometimes I think that I could pour all of my parenting energy into writing discipline and I may end up with yet another creation (besides my only child).

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Some things that I’ve been thinking:

I saw Iron Man 2 the other night with Lord Mycol.  I liked it better than the first Iron ManScarlett Johansson playing a bad-ass brunette reminded me of my friend Christine.  After the movie Lord Mycol mentioned that they will make an Avengers movie and that there is a rumor that Brad Pitt will play Captain America.  I said, “Oooh!  Brad Pitt can be MY Captain America. . . . He can colonize me!”

The day before yesterday Lord Mycol and I sat in the recently re-arranged living room and had a nice conversation for about an hour.  I like the living room better this way.  The sunlight and shadows combined with Lord Mycol in a white t-shirt against the backdrop of the spider plant and the matchstick blinds reminded me of Martin Sheen in the opening of Apocalypse Now.

Do you see it?  How about that koala bear?

Last Tuesday Yim and I spent all day working on the farm.  I transplanted our tomatoes and peppers from their indoor nursery into the garden.

Oh, the disappointment!  All but a few of our fledgling tomatoes submitted to death.  Of the 36 tomatoes only about 6 of them survived.  The peppers fared much better; nearly all of them made it.

Overall, the garden is doing well.  My favorite part about it is witnessing its amazing growth and progress from day to day.

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As I was saying,

I had heard that there was a casting call for extras for a movie being shot here.  I didn’t think twice about it, but then a friend said, “Hey, it’s a mafia movie and they are looking for Italians.  You should go.”  And so I did.

The “movie people” called me about two weeks later and told me to be at a local funeral home at 3pm on the given date.  I should expect to stay for up to 8 hours,  and could I come looking as if I were attending a funeral in 1985?

I was going to be paid $50 for what could potentially be 8 hours of sitting around and waiting until the director was ready to do a 6 minute scene that I may or may not even be chosen to appear in.  I thought it would be fun.  I hit the thrift stores looking for the appropriate outfit.

On the day of the shoot I wore eyeshadow, lipstick and nail polish, all in shades of purple.  I let my hair dry curly and teased it and sprayed it.  I brought a collection of old ’80’s style earrings with me to choose from on location.  The rain wouldn’t stop that day, and by the time I got to the funeral home my hair had become a frizzy Afro.

The extras were told to wait in the basement of the church across the street from the funeral home, which was the location of filming.  When I walked in it was like stepping back in time.  The room was filled with old men wearing dark suits and fedoras, none of them over 5’7″, and women, mostly in their 40’s, any of which could possibly be wearing the same clothes and hair-style they wore the day before to work, but to see them come together in one spot was a sight.

Hours passed and us extras were served box lunches for dinner.  We started talking with each other, playing cards, and telling stories.  I found out that some of these gals had done this before.  Many times before.  They were professional extras, maybe hoping to get that break one way or another.

Eventually, a casting director came in with a clip board and scanned the room with his eyes.  A hush fell over us as we tried to act nonchalant.  I could see in my peripheral vision that he was taking second glances at me.  I held my breath.  I knew what was coming.  He pointed to me and directed me to follow him.  He beckoned two older gentlemen, as well.  As we left the room I sensed the disappointment of the others staring at our backs.

Across the street the funeral home was electrified with lights and quiet, quick action.  Crew members were all over the place, like bees on a honeycomb, adjusting sound equipment, duct taping wires to the carpet, moving cameras, and setting up lamps.  I must admit I was rather in awe of this behind-the-scenes display.  All of this was taking place in and around what appeared to be a funeral viewing, with an open casket, floral arrangements galore, and family and guest seating.

The two gentlemen and I were introduced to our director and promptly given instructions.  Okay, let me set it up for you:

At the front of the room is the casket surrounded by flowers.  There is a man in the casket with his eyes closed.  To the right of the casket are four chairs lined up for the immediate family.  The main area of the room has 4 to 5 rows of chairs for other random viewers.  Two of the four chairs for immediate family are empty.  Those are the two closest to the casket.  In the other two chairs?  That’s where Brad Renfro

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and James Marsden are sitting.

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The two gentlemen extras are taken towards the back of the room, behind the rows of seating.  I am taken over to Brad and James and we are introduced to one another.  We exchange names and shake hands.  “You are a cousin of the deceased,” my director tells me.  “When you hear ‘ACTION’, you will pass down the line, hug your ‘cousins’ with condolence, first Brad and then James, then walk to the back of the room and mingle with the ‘priest’ (the extra holding the Bible) and the other visitor.”  We extras are advised that we must not make a sound, but rather mouth all of our conversation.  The highly sensitive mics on the set must only pick up essential dialogue; background noise will be filled in post-edit.

This is exciting!

James Marsden is my cousin!

But wait, it gets better.  If James Marsden is my cousin, then this guy must be my Dad?

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Huh.  Well, no shit, a guy like Dennis Hopper could be my dad.  But in this case I think he was playing my uncle.

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Right.  So, as show time approaches the atmosphere on set changes.  Things get a little slower, a little less tense, a little quieter.  We are in our places and waiting.  Fifteen to twenty of the other extras are filed in and seated.  Giovanni Ribisi

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and Lesley Ann Warren

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come in and sit in the first two chairs for immediate family.  That’s right.  I am standing there, in front of Brad Renfro, looking down at Giovanni Ribisi to my left and James Marsden to my right.  Lesley has headphones in her ears and her eyes closed.  She is getting into character.  She is rocking slightly back and forth, drawing on a deep sadness from somewhere in her youth.  I’m guessing.  I mean, she’s really putting on the show, you know?  I was not, apparently, the only drama queen in the room.

Lesley takes the earphones off, an assistant buzzing around the room takes them from her and quickly, oh quickly, quickly, makes a last-minute sweep to insure all is ready.

Aaaaand . . . . . ACTION!

Dennis Hopper is suddenly RIGHT BESIDE ME offering his condolences to Giovanni Ribisi as I hug Brad Renfro, then, when I move to hug James Marsden, Dennis Hopper hugs Brad Renfro, then, when I walk away to mouth a conversation with the priest, Dennis Hopper hugs James Marsden.

Aaaaand . . . . . SCENE!

Did you notice what I noticed?  That Dennis Hopper is a copy-cat who wants to be me?  I thought so.

Anyway, when I got down the aisle to “talk” with the “priest” and the “other guy”, the priest was actually whispering his words rather than mouthing them.  He kept saying things like “I’m so sorry,” and “It’s such a shame,” and “I just can’t believe it, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”  All of which are appropriate things to say at a funeral.  The problem was that we could hear him!  So, our director comes over and explains to him that he should just mouth the words.  Please.

Aaaaand . . . . . ACTION!

Aaaaand . . . . . SCENE!

Again, Dennis Hopper copied my every move.

Again, the “priest” whispered his dialogue.  The other extra and I mouthed to him, “Shut.  Up.

This time our director was not as kind when he came over to reprimand the priest.  He emphasized the utter importance of complete silence.

But the priest would not be stifled.

So we moved on to the next scene.  This time, all of the extras, minus the priest, were asked to mingle in the funeral parlor, while the real action of the scene took place between James Marsden and Brad Renfro out in the foyer.  Our mingling bodies would be a backdrop to the action.  And to my sheer joy, I was again chosen as the only extra directed to actually move during the scene.  When I heard “action”, I was to walk diagonally across the parlor and re-convene with another group of extras.

The night ended after that.  We’d all been there for about 6 1/2 hours.  It was still raining outside.  But I went home with a new and exciting experience under my belt.  And $50 in my pocket.

Would you believe that the next day I ran into Brad Refro?  I spoke to him for about 5 minutes.  I said, “Hey, I worked with you last night.”  I asked him where he was from and how he liked our city.  He was personable, but I have to say, he seemed like a dolt.  I walked away thinking, “How did that guy make it?”  And then he died.

But before he died, the movie, 10th & Wolf, premiered here at the Byham Theater.  Zia, UB, and Mycol came with me to see it.  The producers introduced the film and discussed it’s conception before the lights went down.

Remember yesterday’s post?  “Coincidental Teaser”?  The coincidence was that Yim and I saw Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Byham, which is where the movie 10th & Wolf premiered.  Which got my brain thinking about other coincidences, minor though they are.  Oh, they are so minor.

Zia is from Italy.

Dino De Laurentiis is from Italy.  He is an Academy award-winning movie producer.

Zia wanted to be an actress and one of her favorite Italian actresses is Silvana Mangano.

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Silvana Mangano was married to Dino De Laurentiis.

10th & Wolf was produced by Suzanne De Laurentiis.  She was born and raised in New Jersey, not Italy, so in spite of her last name, I can’t figure out how she fits in.  Is she now married to Dino?  Just related?

On the other hand, Veronica De Laurentiis had a small role in 10th & Wolf.  She was born in Italy.  She was born to Dino De Laurentiis and Silvana Mangano.  She was also at the Byham that night talking about the movie.  Zia said, “Hey, I think that must be Dino De Laurentiis’ daughter.”

A couple of times I have been told I look like Giada De Laurentiis.

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Minus the cleavage.  Giada is Veronica’s daughter.  She is Dino and Silvana’s grand-daughter.

My Zia admired Dino and Silvana, and I resemble their grand-daughter Giada, whose mother Veronica was in a movie with me, to which Zia accompanied me to the premier of, in which Dennis Hopper pretended to be me.  Isn’t that a coincidence?

Anyway, we all sat through the excruciating length of the film, posted on the edges of our seats, waiting to see the brilliant funeral scene.  Here, take a look for yourself:

See the white blob of hair to the right of Brad Renfro’s head?  See the dark fuzzy Afro blob of hair to the right of that?  Follow it down to the slender legs in dark stockings.  That’s me!  Don’t I look like Giada?  Sadly, this is what made it onto the big screen.  The entire scene with the casket was cut, because THE “PRIEST” COULDN’T MOUTH IT!  (I bet you’ve heard that one before.)

A small portion of the casket scene was used in the trailer, but you can bet you won’t see me in it.  This is largely considered the reason for the movie’s lack of success at the box office.

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Coincidental Teaser

Last night Yim and I saw Rodrigo y Gabriela perform at the Byham.  They are extraordinary guitarists and after the show I turned to Yim and asked, “Now, what are we going to do with our guitars?”

I think that Rodrigo is highly skilled in a way that is learned, while Gabriela’s relationship with the instrument makes me think that she played with a guitar in her crib.  She has an instinctual talent for producing sounds from that flat-top box that I’ve never heard come out of a guitar before.  And yet, neither of them can stand alone.  Without a back-up band and lyrics, 2 hours of manic guitar strumming would be monotonous if it weren’t for the way in which they each compliment the  other’s  style.

The crowd clapped along most of the time, but I felt a little ashamed for the collective lack of enthusiasm when Rodrigo tried more than once to goad people to their feet.  I’ve never before seen a performance that would warrant standing at the Byham, and the theater seating is certainly why people were reluctant to get to their feet.  In the end, however, the crowd could no longer contain their energy when Rodrigo y Gabriela began their encore performance of “Tamacun”.  Finally the vibe was like that of a Mexican street party celebrating liberty and people ran down the aisles towards the stage to dance and clap as close to the heart of the driving rhythms as possible.  Ole!

After the show, Yim and I headed over to my favorite spot in town, Shadow Lounge and Ava.  The night was coincidental.  We met up with Alison.  It was open mic night for spoken word on the Shadow Lounge side.  We ran into a cast of our favorite people creating great stuff for the enjoyment of the masses; Ricardo Iamuuri, Gene Stovall, and Brian Francis.  Brian performed Here I Am, Awkward, and we reminisced. (Didn’t I just post about that recently?)

Throughout the night people mingled back and forth between Shadow Lounge and Ava, and every time someone passed through the doors between the two venues we heard a snippet of whatever the DeeJay was spinning over on the other side.  Eventually, a bubble of sound from Ava slipped through the doors to where we sat on the Shadow side.  When that bubble burst, Alison, Yim and I all looked at each other knowingly.  We had to go over and dance to Luther singing “Never Too Much.”  (Didn’t I just post about that recently?) Is my life on a loop lately?

We were hooked.  The three of us danced until Alison had to leave, and then the two of us danced until we’d had enough fun for one night.  What?  You can never have enough fun for one night!

Incidentally, not coincidentally, I think the last time I was at the Byham was for the premier of the movie I was in, 10th & Wolf.  The movie is based on Donnie Brasco‘s tale of a mafia war in South Philly.  It was a bomb.

I had heard that there was a casting call for extras for a movie being shot here.  I didn’t think twice about it, but then a friend said, “Hey, it’s a mafia movie and they are looking for Italians.  You should go.”  And so I did.

The “movie people” called me about two weeks later and told me to be at a local funeral home at 3pm on the given date.  I should expect to stay for up to 8 hours,  and could I come looking as if I were attending a funeral in 1985?

But I am getting away from myself, here.  I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open and I realize that what I want to say about being cast as an extra in the movie 10th & Wolf is longer than I can stand to write.  Reconvene for the story here on Friday morning, 9:09 am.

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Warm Yolk on Toast

An ideal Saturday goes like this:

I awake well rested and in time to turn on the radio before “Click & Clack” begins.  We have a weekend breakfast, which means it includes hot, rich coffee, creamy, cold milk, juice and sliced fruit, maybe fresh pineapple, cantaloupe, or strawberries.  The main dish is dippy eggs with buttered wheat toast and smokey bacon or sausage links.  There is hardly a better combination in the world than warm yolk on toast.

As the morning rambles on the radio continues to play the NPR shows I look forward to all week; “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!”, “Michael Feldman’s Wad’ya Know”, and “This American Life”.

Although I love jazz, if the weather is permitting, then by the time “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz” begins, it’s time to get outside.  Otherwise, I will go through the early edition of the Sunday paper and start doing the crosswords.  They always run two puzzles; it used to be The New York Times Crossword and the Chicago Tribune, but now they run some other second-rate puzzle along with the NY Times.  Still, that’s the one I start with.  It’s like stretching before working out.

In late afternoon we will have dinner and then I will ask Mycol if he’d like to go see a movie.  Usually he’ll say yes.  After the movie it is traditional to have dessert at Gullifty’s.  I will order the Triple Chocolate Cake and Mycol will order the Chocolate Raspberry Chambord Parfait.  And then I will try to eat several bites of his because that parfait is always better than my cake.

Home again, I will listen to “Rhythm Sweet and Hot”, the old-timey jazz program on WDUQ where they play stuff like this:

Check out Tex Beneke, and then Milton Berle around the 2:05 mark.

While I listen I will continue to work on the crosswords until it’s time to put them down and go to sleep.  I know it sounds like I’m 80 years old, but I swear I’m not there yet.

This ideal Saturday has occurred and will occur again.  Unless it is 75 degrees and sunny or I have to work.  And Yim likes this ideal Saturday, too, but he’s usually at home with his kids.

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When I was in high school I discovered the real difference that warmth and sunshine could make in my life.  Growing up in the city, I lived in a huge, drafty house built a hundred years before we moved in.  Nights between October and May were spent under so many layers of blankets that I couldn’t roll over under the weight.  To this day I can go to sleep and wake up eight hours later in the exact same position.

Then I went to boarding school my freshman year of high school.  And there was warmth.  I spent a lot of time after that thinking of ways to stay warm once I graduated.  The short story is, I went to live in San Diego for three years before moving back north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  The long story is for another time.  But since moving back I have closed my eyes more than once in the dead of winter, to imagine myself lying in the sand, half naked, with the sun toasting the surface of my skin, as a balmy breeze drifts over me.

In the summertime I feel energized and strong.  Even though when we reach August I start to feel a little anxiety over the eminently approaching winter season, I am able to convince myself that it’s no big deal.  This is false, of course.  This is the talk of “summer muscles.”

In November I will start to think about flying south in January or February, but the holidays provide just enough distraction so that I start to rationalize with myself that I could buck up and survive without falter, save my money, and maybe even embrace the weather.  And when February makes me shiver, I begin to regret my fear of flying, metaphorically speaking, and start to look for opportunities to GET ME OUT OF HERE.  Seriously, people, you must try to understand that cold weather HURTS me.  I am obviously too weak to fight the chronic pain of it.  After all these years of being told to “put another sweater on” to no avail, for the love of God, if you love me you will understand my burden.  Enough said.  (Until I address poor circulation, low blood pressure, and what the acupuncturist did.)

Enter 2008.  It was February.  I was heartbroken.  (See “On Time and Love“)  This is when it is good to have great girlfriends who will hang out with you while you pick up the pieces.  And, as promised, a cure for the winter doldrums. . .

One of my favorite pastimes is beach camping.

From the beaches of Assateague to Puerto Rico, I have enjoyed the merging of outdoor living with my favorite outdoor location.  For adventurists who love the ocean and are more impressed with nature than a mint on their pressed pillowcase, beach camping is an ultimate vacation.  In 2008 my friend Alison told me she wanted to return to the Florida Keys for a camping trip.  In my wretched state it was music to my ears.  We made plans to fly out in April.

Although I often travel without a plan because I get excited about feeling as free as possible, Alison assured me that it’s best to make reservations in the Keys.  Even when camping.  Especially when camping.  The Florida Keys are a hot spot for RV’ing fishermen who are devoted to spending their vacation time fishing the blue waters.  And don’t forget that each key is narrow and small, limiting accommodations.  There are only about 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West.

So, Alison and I flew into Miami and rented a car.  We had packed our luggage wisely, I with the tent and lantern, she with the headlamps and lavender mist for inside our shared sleeping quarters.  Incidentally, there are approximately 65 miles between Miami and Key Largo which can be enjoyed driving with the windows wide open and Luther Vandross belting “Never Too Much” as you sing along.

Alison made reservations at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon.  We spent a day at Bahia Honda, touted as the “Best Beach in the Continental U.S.”, and although we did not bivouac there, we did mooch on their facilities.

There is a lot of snorkeling to do in the Florida Keys and Alison is an ocean lover of the aquatic variety.  There are two types of people who love the ocean.  The type that loves it from within, i.e. Alison, Yim, etc., and the type that loves it from without, i.e. me.  All I wanted to do was lie in the hot sand and warm my bones, but Alison is such a good friend and when she begged me to go snorkeling with her I acquiesced, on the condition that she sing karaoke with me later at the Caribbean Club.

From Pennekamp we made arrangements to board a boat going 7 miles out to snorkel the Banana Reef.  There were about 25 people going out that day.

I should mention here that I am not a fan of horror movies because they are generally unbelievable and therefore do not frighten me.  I don’t mind a good scare, though.  When I saw the preview for Open Water, I made a point of seeing it because my worst fear ever is to be in water that I cannot see below the surface of.  And that hosts other living creatures.  And that is too deep for me to touch my feet to the bottom.  And that movie scared the crap out of me.

So many things happened in my life when I was three, but one of them was that I stepped off a sand ledge in the Atlantic while camping on Ocracoke Island and when I realized I was under the water with the fishes, fishes that I could see!, I had to quickly learn how to swim towards the light to save my skin.  This is why when I was 15 and wiped out while water-skiing (hey, alliteration) I panicked while waiting for the boat to swing back around for me because I saw an enormous dead tree log floating waaay over by the bank of the lake and was able to convince myself that it could possibly be a Loch Ness Monster.

When snorkeling 7 miles off the coast, the guides advise you to stay with your partner.  Seven miles off the coast the waters were colder and there was a damn cloud, the only cloud in the sky, right above us, blocking the sunshine.  My bikini and a life jacket were not enough to keep me from shivering with goose bumps.  When someone said, “Hey, there’s a shark,” I did not care that it was a 6-7 foot lemon shark swimming deep below us in the reef.  My eyes confirmed what my ears heard and I turned and high-tailed it back aboard our boat, leaving Alison alone and up to her neck in sharky waters.  I was the first one back to the boat and I had to wait another half hour, at least, before the guide signaled everyone else back.  I am a land creature.  I do not require breathing apparatus on terra firma.

Alison did sing karaoke with me at the Caribbean Club.  We sang Madonna’s “Cherish” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  Alison did not run off the stage.  Later in the week we would return to the Caribbean Club to witness a rehabilitated manatee being released back into it’s natural habitat.

My favorite place in the Keys was Curry Hammock in Marathon.  The camp facilities were pristine and the beach was peaceful.  Beaches in the Keys are narrow and sometimes a bit rough to walk on, but the sand is nearly white, the water is shallow and warm a long way out, and the wildlife is amazing.  At Curry Hammock we got kayaks from the park office and paddled out around the key.

If you are quiet and patient the wildlife will reveal itself to you.  Manatees and sharks, jumping fish, cranes and other birds of Florida can be seen.  Alison and I took the kayak into the cave created by the low growing tangle of the mangroves that grow so thick, only slivers of sunlight shine directly through.  I felt like an explorer in the rain forest.

Lastly, we drove down to Key West and toured Ernest Hemingway’s house.

We ate fantastic food and drank salted margaritas while listening to live music outdoors.

We stumbled upon a street party celebrating freedom of expression . . .

And athletic abilities . . .

We stood in a crowd and watched the sunset, just like Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines (R.I.P.) did in Running Scared (cue Michael McDonald!).

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And then we enjoyed the buskers performing on the waterfront.  I bought 2 great pieces of silver jewelry in Key West, a ring and a cuff bracelet, as souvenirs.

So there they are.  The Florida Keys: cure for the wintertime blues.  And for heart-ache.

So we went in April, which is technically spring.  And Hemingway killed himself anyway, but he was a severe case.

Oh, what the heck:

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I’ve been going to Flagstaff Hill most of my life.  When we were kids we’d go on summer nights, covered in city dirt after running and playing all day long, and watch the free movies projected on the outdoor screen.  Troops of people carrying blankets and children, pulling dogs along on leashes and toting anything that would carry the drinks, headed along the curved sidewalk towards the hill.  Before dusk college boys played Frisbee and the music of the late ’70’s blasted through the amps.  When the sun settled, so did the people.  Groups of friends and families shared blanket seating in the grass.  When the darkness came and the movie started, an herbal aroma wafted past our noses.  Whoa.  We saw Rollerball there.

Flagstaff Hill evokes memories that are part of the essence of who I’ve become.  The memories of going there with people who knew more than I did and were smart and funny with their words, and seeing young people who were older than me and watching them laugh, play, and love, wearing their clothes and hair in a way that was so ‘now’, then.  The memories of going there and feeling exciting but safe, romantic, fun.  It was cool, because of the crowd it attracted, and still so familiar it felt like my own backyard.

It is the backyard of two universities.  During any semester when the weather is good, the hill is crowded with dorm-dwelling co-eds.  They use the hill for outdoor studying, picnic lunches, or sunbathing on their days off.  I’d read a text or two on the hill when I was a student.

Flagstaff Hill is across the street from Phipps Conservatory, and from it’s mount you can see “the cloud factory” that Michael Chabon made legendary.  Just beyond that you can see the Carnegie Library and the Cathedral of Learning.  This is a cultural landmark.  Lovers can lie on their backs at night and gaze at the stars and the lighted skyline and feel smart!

In the summer when I was ten years old, I rolled down the great hill, over it’s green grass flocked with white clover, my arms stretched over my head, making like a log.  I was stung twice in the armpit by honeybees.

Any winter that graced us with heavy snowfall warranted a trip to the hill with our sleds.  This winter was one of those, and I shared my love of Flagstaff with Yim and his boys.  Another beautiful day on the hill.

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