Sunday, March 30, 2008

Signs of Spring: North Portland in Photos

Suddenly it's Spring.When the girls suddenly bloom in bright colors and flirty skirts;When the hedges and borders suddenly blaze with red and pink, yellow, orange, blue and violet;When the sun struggles to part the clouds, the rain shatters the sunlight and half the sky is alight and the other in darkness.

When the stone rests beneath the climbing vine, and the song of the robin and the burr of the hummingbird return.

When the earth exhales damp, and the new mold and wet grass stain your fingers and shoes.

When the chill mornings hold the promise of mild afternoons...When the tree prepares to bear fruit, and the grass the head of grain.

Spring is also shaping as the time we will be finishing Missy's former-closet. Our friend Brent arrived today with a belt-full of tools and the cunning to help transform the former back hallway into a bedroom.

Probably the biggest Leap Forward was getting the siding down where the windows will go.Once again, the Former People left their imprint; in this case, it was nailing away like demented roofers. I'm not sure which was more irritating, the sheer number of nails these people used to hang the siding or the goofy assortment ranging from 4 penny flatheads to brads to those "twisty" nails lke you typically use in framing.

Damn, people...

And the siding wasn't in good shape. It was more damp, and less sturdy, than I'd hoped. That worries me, a bit.
But the main thing is that the siding is off, the junky drywall screws and assorted bits off the interior wall and we're ready for cutting through the cladding and emplacing the windows. Let there be light!!

Among the other signs of the season are the sudden outbreak of turned earth in the Peeper's garden. Little guy wants to plant strawberries, poppies and sunflowers - an eclectic mix - and is impatient for this cold spell to end so we can be out and planting!Needless to say, not all the actual spadework was done by the Peep himself.
I am sore all over, from digging and reefing on the wretched siding. Mojo is emotionally sore: the crumbsnatchers were particularly intransigent today. She never lifted as much as a nailhead but is as much a part of the successful work we did today as the two of us guys who did all the hammering. I saw the endgame and it was fugly.

Peep is a naked mass of jealousy and need right now. If we could give him all our attention 24/7 he'd be fine.

And it's hard not to compare, and critical not to. Peep slept over at his friend The Poet's (younger son of our friend Christine of Oscar the Giormous Fish fame) last night, and it was a real chore not to contrast the usual hectic, quick-quick-slow pain in the ass morning we have with two to the relaxed, easy breakfast we enjoyed down at the John Street Cafe with Missy being her usual cooperative self. Don't worry - we love you, Peeper...

So another weekend done. A little closer to summer; I am really tired of rain and cold. More home improvement to spend our money on. And the sunrise and the sunset of the seventh day.

Thanks for stopping by. G'night.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wood eye! Wood eye!

I actually hadn't planned to post anything else tonight - it's late, it's been a long week and I'm tired.

But I just had a brief e-conversation with a friend of mine (well, a sort of cyber-pal: I'm never actually met her - I should be so lucky!). I can't link to her - tho she writes well and her blog is fun - because she enjoys her password-protected privacy, but she knows who she is and IMO she's a hell of a great woman. And it was because said e-miga is, aside from a totally kickass person, mom-to-be, desert savant and mamma-jammer (literally) someone I think of as a sorta-kinda minor-celebrity-I-know, like being pals with Bernardo Brito, that I thought of this story.

This is NOT her, BTW. She's the hottie in red at the top. This is Anne Baxter doing 40's cheesecake.I've actually met a couple of other people I think of like this: my aunt and uncle lived for years next to Anne Baxter who was quietly retired in Easton, Connecticut just a couple of years before her death; very good lady and a smart person. And I actually got to shake hands and exchange hi's with Michelle Akers while she toured Portland with the U.S. WNT back in 1999 before the WWC. So I'm usually not a total dope around someone I've seen in the paper or on the screen.

Back in the day I was something of a fan of the thea-tah, and was used to going to New York every year to take in a show or three with my college buddies. To this day I cannot remember the show - probably something pretty rotten - that I was tolerating with my friend Sally when she suddenly started poking and jiggling me and bouncing in her seat like a mad woman.

"Jaysus, wench," I hissed, "can't you cross your legs and wait until intermission? I'm soaking in some utterly forgettable dialogue here..."

"No, no!" she whispered frantically, "I just saw Sandy Duncan sitting three rows back! Sandy Duncan!!

I'm not exactly a stalker but I thought that was pretty cool. But Sally was in an complete and utter swivet. I thought she was gonna hyperventilate and pass out and I was going to be stuck there in the eighth row of "The Fucking Guys in the Truck" or whatever in hell the show was with her dead body between me and the exit doors forever. Finally she made it clear that 1) she wanted to go over and say something to Sandy at the interval,and 2) my job was to be the person that came with her.

"No fucking way!" I snarled, "I'm not going to interrupt poor Sandy Duncan's entertainment like some star-struck trailer trash wannabe."

"You ARE a trailer trash wannabe," she replied, "just get over it, off your ass and stand next to me and say hi to Sandy Duncan, you goop."After begging and pleading and a few threats the lights came up to breathlessly perfunctory applause and Sally grabbed my arm and bolted up the aisle. She came to rest standing in front of a neat, blonde-headed woman of late middle age, jittering in one place as noisily as an idling Harley Davidson.

"Oh, Miss Duncan," she gushed, "I just wanted to thank you for all your great performances. You're really a great actress."

I have to say that Sandy was really quite gracious, thanking my friend and wishing her a nice time at the show. She looked at me, not pointedly, but a trifle quizzically and I noticed that Sally was too. They both waited a beat, as if to hear me say something, but I just smiled brightly, nodded like an idiot and began dragging Sally away up the aisle.
We got out to the lobby and Sally was as excited as I've ever seen anyone not actually getting paid.

"Wow wow wow wow!!!" she multiwowed, "That was soooooo cool! Sandy is totally cool! I'm SO glad I got to talk to her! Wasn't she cool!?" Suddenly she stopped and looked at me with a skeptical squint.

"What the heck's wrong with you today?" she said, "You're usually little mister chatterbox...I thought for sure you'd have some smart remark to make to Sandy Duncan!"

I stared at her as I had stared at Sandy.

"Yeah, that was the problem."

"What problem?" Sally asked, making those air quotes around "problem" with her fingers.

I looked at her and shook my head. "The problem was...I swear to God, Sal, I'm dead flat serious; I stood there staring at Sandy Duncan's face and the only single fucking thing I could think of to say was "Which one of your eyes is real?"

What I do for a living. And why.

I just don't feel like posting about war and politics today.
You've probably seen the news, or read the paper, or surfed the web and seen the latest news from the Mess-o-potamia. In case you haven't, here's the Cliffs notes version:

1. The Maliki government (i.e. the Tehran-aligned Shia factions) is hammering two umbrella groups in the Basra area: Fadhila and the Sadrists.

2. They may be doing this because the U.S. doesn't like Sadr's people's anti-occupation views and are worried that the Sadr trend might do well in the upcoming provincial elections.

3. They may be doing this because Tehran is getting pissed about Sadr's successfully going off the Tehranist Shia reservation and doing shit like cutting deals with the IAF, Dialogue Front and Allawi.

4. Or it may be both.

Anyway, it's up to y'all to decide if it's worth Yankee blood and treasure to decide which Iraqi loves them some mullahs better than others. As for me, Dick Cheney and his entire AEI/neocon pack can kiss my ass. My country has been led by some knaves and fools before, but never for this long and never as knavishly and foolishly as by these peckerheads. This tears it. The Iraqis just snatched Dubya's cunning Middle Eastern plans off the table, rolled them up and stuffed them up America's jacksie.

Can we just impeach the stupid fucking sons of bitches now?

Instead I thought I'd tell you a little about what I do.

I am what in this state is called a "registered geologist" (RG); some states call them "licensed geologists". Basically, like a massage therapist with an "LMT" after their name who gets paid for squeezing your gluteus, the fact that I can call myself "FDChief, R.G., C.E.G." means that I get to do dirt and rocks for money. Your money, if you're building a house or if your existing house is falling off a hill.So this is a typical day in the field for me: going out into some perfectly lovely farm field to dig holes, look at the dirt, collect samples and logs and soil and rock data so an engineer can design foundtions for houses and strip malls and porno book stores and cellular towers.

Occasionally I think of myself like the last swallow before the winter. If you're a bird or a bunny and you see me tromping up your hillside in front of that excavator, you'd better start selling your burrow or favorite perch on CraigsList. Cause it probably ain't gonna be there tomorrow.

Or the more sinister image in my head is of a little village somewhere in eastern Hungary in the spring of 1241. The sun has warmed the soil in the valley and in the fields the ox teams are turning the steaming black furrows over. Smoke rises from breakfast fires, the villagers are moving about their work as they always have, for to work is to wring a living from the land.

And in the edge of the forest, at the top of the ridge, a single horseman reins his shaggy steppe pony to a halt in the shadows. Invisible in the dappled gloom under the trees only his eyes gleam with a predatory light.

He is the first Mongol they will ever see.But even a Mongol does what he does as well as he can. And I do it well, and enjoy it. So I tromp past, with my field bucket in place of a pony and my notebook in place of a horn and sinew bow.

The bucket is a neat little tool: I got the seat and the carry strap as a gift from my ex many Christmases ago. I may not have the pre-Mommy anymore but the bucket is still part of me; full of pens and pencils and Sharpies, baggies, gloves, soil knife, pocket pen and torvane. And the occasional sandwich and trashy paperback novel.

So imagine: I get paid to tramp out into the country, enjoy the hills and fields, watch the birds and animals. I play with dirt and get paid for it. Is that sweet, or what?Of course there's more to it - there always is: lab testing and interpreting soil data and designing and running slope stability models, writing reports and doing graphics and setting up projects and dealing with people from hairy dudes with excavators to attorneys trying to get their client someone else's money. But the field work is the fun part, at least for me.SoI love my job - perhaps a leetle bit more when it's sunny and warm than when I'm out screwing in hand augers in the driving rain.

Even the sailor comes home frome the sea, and the hunter home from the hill. And who wouldn't want to come home to these little sweeties?The truth is that I love what I do, and I love the challenge of doing it well. And I love our home and my family and the lives we're building together.

And isn't that really what it comes down to? Living, and working well and hard, and at the end of the day holding those you love close so that you can all grow, each in your own way, but together, like the many turning channels of a great river running dark and deep down to the sea?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Not So Cool Things in North Portland: Chinese Food

We're not the only ones to bring home something nibblelicious from Canton.

Cantonese food - in it's more usual "Americanized" form - is pretty much a staple all over the world, a testimonial to the south China diaspora. No matter where you go you'll probably find that someone from Guangdong got there before you and started serving Egg Foo Yung. I ate Cantonese in London with pre-Mommy, in Jerusalem on leave from the MFO, in Panama, and all over the U.S., where-ever I lived. I'll bet that the first "Double Happiness Restaurant" opened in Portland, like, twenty minutes after Lewis and Clark paddled back up the Columbia dishing up Pemmican with Black Bean Sauce and Lake Tung-ting Chinook. I'll bet that the first settlers in Oregon City had them some sweet and sour pork for their first meal out washed down with three fingers of hot tea and a sasparilla for the young 'un.


The tragic reality is...

...there IS NO DECENT CHINESE FOOD in North Portland today.First problem is, there's only three Chinese joints in what is "offically" North to begin with, and one is "Mars Meadows", waaaay the ass up near the racetrack, and who the hell wants to hump all the way up there for some mediocre Lemon Chicken? Not the Master Chief's boy.

So we tried the first of the remaining two this past fall. The "Ying Ying" - we call it the "Yingyang" - pictured above is, frankly, just fucking scary looking. The building is dumpy, the parking lot looks like a West Side Story set minus a dead Shark or Jet or three, and the interior isn't much more cheerful. You know that smell that your crazy aunt's apartment used to have, the one that wasn't quite a stink but was just...wrong? Off? Kind of a skeevy, funky, musty, dried-cat-food smell? That's what this place smells like.

And the food is...eenh. It's not Panda Express bad. But it's not quite up to the Safeway Chinese deli, either. The rice dishes are dry and overcooked, the sauces glutinous and either too sweet or too salty. The fried-and-sauces dishes like sweet and sour or orange chicken feature immense nasty doughballs with tiny chicken bits in the middle. And the price is pretty mainstream for the mediocre-to-top-end-crappy dinner you get.

So. Okay. There's still the "Lung Fung" down Lombard towards the freeway.

Normally I'd give big props to any place with a "Tiny Bubble Room". But - so sorry, Lung Fung.

You suck.

I was coming home late from Longview and decided to chance a take out. Sweet and sour pork, General's Chicken, house fried rice. Foolproof, yes?

No. The pork McNuggets were twice as small, doughy and hard as the Yingyang's, the General apparently liked his sauce thick, brown, salty and in-the-style-of-meatball-gravy. The rice had a nasty sort of waterfront tang, like the water left sloshing inside of an abandoned drydock. It think that was the product of the elderly shrimp. Not sure. Didn't want to chance it finding out.

So I say this more in sorrow than in anger: we are bereft. We are hungry. We are poor, wayfaring strangers and we can't get decent Kung Pao Chicken to save our ass.

Well, fuck.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting it right...

I had to link to this: Jim Henley's brilliant version of the "How did I get Iraq so fucking wrong" whines playing over at Slate (and elsewhere, including the NYT) last week.Brilliant.

Tragic. Sad. But brilliant.

We. Are. So. Fucked.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

You're So Next...

Perhaps the greatest seven minute opera ever filmed: Chuck Jones' "The Rabbit of Seville".Hard to list all the great bits in the 7:31 running time of this classic. Is it the samurai frenzy of Elmer's first shave? The repeated gag that puts poor Fudd back in the barber's chair over and over again? The climactic "can-you-top-this" exchange that begins with Elmer chasing Bugs with a fire ax and culminates with Groom Bugs dropping Bride Elmer two stories into the "Marriage of Figaro" wedding cake?

Interestingly - and this may have something to do with my own thinning thatch - I think my personal favorite begins about 5:14 as Bugs waltzes his hapless opponent into the stage barber chair for the, what, fifth time? The inspired tonsorial mayhem goes on for over a minute until Bugs applies the hair tonic and the "Figaro Fertilizer" and the astounded Fudd sits up to watch his head sprout hair.

Or so he thinks.

Jones - who was probably the Warner's director most responsible for the "look" we who grew up with the Looney Tunes characters associate with the wascally wabbit (although Bugs' personality has always owed more to Tex Avery, the director who more than anyone defined what a "Bugs Bunny cartoon" was and is) - was at the height of his craft in 1949. The Warner Bros. animators were at the top of their game. For proof, look no further than the terrific interplay of expressions at the very end of this scene: Fudd first excstatic and then, as the flowers sprout atop the new "hair", furious. Bugs watching his work with a sort of smug satisfaction until the punch line, when he reacts to Elmer's rage with a typically exaggerated Tex Avery/Warner's "take" - here's Tex's Wolf reacting to the appearance of Red Hot Riding Hood:The Peeper loves this cartoon, but not as much as he enjoys "Bully for Bugs" - I think it's the graphic violence of the latter.Enjoy.


My daughter woke up at 4:15 this morning.She's back in bed, asleep (I think. I hope.) but I am downstairs at the computer, still awake.

I've mentioned before how these pre-dawn hours are my own time. I can think, and read, without interruption. Write, if the spirit listeth. In the house above the last page of my life sleeps warm and living in their beds: Mojo in our big sleigh bed, tousled in a tangle of covers, bathrobes and extra blankets (she gets very cold at night); The Peeper curled in a ball in his high bed with his little legion of stuffed friends all around; and now Missy sleeping in her crib in his room with him, usually sprawled on her back in the random way babies seem to have, arms and legs all akimbo.

How do we arrive where we are? How do we guess at where we're going? How do we get there from here? Twenty years ago I was this angry man striding out of life with an attitude but no idea what it meant: a rebel without a clue, as Tom Petty would have described it.And as I have grown older, and slower, and softer the world has changed around me in ways I wouldn't have recognized - or anticipated - when I lived in that body, in that place, at that time.He seems like another person who lived another life. As I look at the pictures of Panama and Fort Kobbe and Venado Beach I remember another morning in another place and a young woman who wanted a baby.Not a husband - she didn't particularly care for men, although her attitude wasn't so much dislike as disinterest - but a child.

Y'know...thinking back, I don't honestly believe that she'd thought about it any further than that. She hadn't considered midnight wakings and preschool and tantrums and learning to ride a bike and sleepovers and math homework and prom and carpooling to soccer games and financing a college. Neither had I, of course. We were neither of us thinking about "a family": she just loved babies and wanted a baby.

And I was a good male friend, and single, and had shown myself as openminded and fairly unsentimental.So she asked; framing it in terms that were designed to appeal to a healthy, sexually active young man - she was (and still may be, for all I know...) a happy, buxom gal with a sort of Middle Western fresh prettiness, the kind that can slip away with time and toil but is pleasing in youth. No strings: we make a baby, I keep the baby and you walk away. Forever. No contact, no daddy time, no child support. Zipless fatherhood.

I have to say I considered it. I was young, and single, and she was a nice gal, good friend, and attractive, and the prospect of the actual process of helping her achieve her desire was far from unpleasant.

But, in the end, I said no. I'm not sure tonight exactly why, but I recall it had to do with my ideas of kids and fathers and responsibility and abandonment. I think it had something to do with her youth - I was ten years older, which at the time seemed like ages - and her fickle taste in partners; she was fairly notorious in the Aviation Company for her way of taking, swearing fidelity to, and leaving, lovers.So in the end I left Panama twenty years ago without leaving behind a scrap of me who would be a young man or young woman today, who might this morning be him- or herself serving somewhere overseas, making the hard choices, contemplating the world from the surging confusion of young adulthood. Changed in incontemplatible ways from what might have begun that springtime in Panama long ago.

And I changed. And I'm sure she changed. And Panama itself changed.

And we lived our lives and died our deaths and the world changed.

How the hell did we get here from there?

And where will we go, tomorrow?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

For Whom the Bra Tolls (or: Fun with Underthings)

A couple of you asked about THIS picture...okay, well, YOU asked about this picture, C, and whether the size of this bit of lingerie is an absolute or simply immense relative to Little Missy.


First, I need to bring in a bit of background. The lovely people below are a friend of Mojo's - let's call her Geochick - and her new DH, the Rockman. They're Good People, and Geochick and Mojo go back a ways and are good for each other in all sorts of Wild and Crazy ways.Now she and Mojo also have some traits in common, like most friends do. And one of those things - at least one of the ones that is most obvious to me, hound that I am - is the fact that they are both...ummm...robust in the anterior torso part of their anatomy. They both have nice, full breasts. Large breasts. Loads of Lovely Lady Lumps. Enchanté with décolleté.

Overstocked in sweater meat. Busting out all over. Gifted with squirming baskets of Snuggle Puppies. Overstuffed Satan's love pillows. Krakatoa and Tambora, the Volcanic Mountains of Love.

Buxom, is what they are.

Now back in the day when Big Peeper was Fetus Peeper, Mojo went through a period where her abondanzas went from merely abundant to immense to oh-my-fucking-god-it's-like-staring-into-the-sun. Her wherewithal grew beyond normal human brassiere sizes. Out of the DDDs. Beyond the Fs and somewhere into the letters of the alphabet usually reserved for sports cars and abbreviating the first names of prep school kids from Saddle River. I mean, the fuckers got to the point where they began to develop their own gravitational fields.And this was the result.

The TitanoBra. Sort of twin personal Hindenburgs with some lacy bits and hook-and-eye closures at the back, this beast of a breast holster is rated at a higher tensile strength than some interstate suspension bridges. It's not exactly "cute" or "frilly" but it tamed the Kraken long enough to get through the "Peeperocene", also known as The Boobolithic Period or Peep's Breastfeeding Days.

Now Geochick and Rockman are Expecting. And it's Geo's turn to experience the Expanding Universe Theory. Our contribution to their burgeoning little family is - the TitanoBra.

But, of course, before we shipped Old Suspenders off to her new family, we ALL had to try her on to see how we would look.

Missy immediately disappeared. This wasn't exactly surprising, since each cup is larger then her head.

Mind you, she recovered nicely (as the topmost snapshot shows). She enjoyed hiding her sippy inside the Chambered Nautilus and whipping it with a giggle. Note: her Mommy's response to that activity, back in the day when little Peep guzzled up to the Korovo Milk Bar eight times a day, was markedly less enthusiastic.

The Peeper looked surprisingly dashing, in a Mae-West-meets-Herve-Villachaize-sort-of-way.

He also pranced around in it a bit, which kinds fits with the metrosexual thing he's got going on right now (changing clothes all the time, emotional crises 24-7...sigh...)

But no amount of difference could keep these two from fighting over the damn thing. I swear, if siblings had one tootsie-roll of dried cat poo, they'd fight over it. Most of the fights they DO have are as senseless as a punchup over a piece of Kitty Roca. And here they are:

Children, children...

Let Mommy show you how it should be worn.

Be still, my trembling heart...

Who is this that comes with tender lightsome step..?

Ah! She walks in beauty like the night...

That brave vibration each way free;
O how that glittering taketh me!
Um. Actually, Mommy, it looks like you're doing some sort of "Exorcist" deal where your head turns all the way around...

And, speaking of Satan...

Ohmigod, look away, kids!!

The red eyes of Shemale Evil! It burns! It bbuurrrrnnnnssssss!!!!


...enjoy the underthing, Geochick, and good luck birthin' that baby. We love you. Almost as much as we enjoy dressing up in women's clothes for the camera.

Bye, now.

Update 3/21: I realized that the one person who was probably most permanently affected by Mojo's abundance was Little Pea. And my thoughts on this run two directions:

1. Either he will be so permanently traumatized that he will wind up liking boys or else girls with teeny tiny little baby bumpers, or

2. He will forever dream of being the mooring mast at Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Whadda you think?

Malefactors of Great Wealth

In "honor" of the fifth aniversary of the clusterfuck Mess-o-potamia that our arrogant "leaders" lied us into, here's a Golden Oldie from the GFT of yore:

I get the feeling that we're all talked out on the subject of Iraq. We all know what’s happening: we can see the iceberg. It's huge, it's gouging its way deep into the hull, and we've spent the last two to three years pounding the helmsman on the back of the skull, shouting "Turn, you idiot! You're ramming a fucking iceberg!" only to have him slew around and stare at us with that skeevy grin and babble some inanity about "staying the course" and "no substitute for victory".

We know that the water is going to be cold, and the bottom is a freezing blackness that we will never feel at the end of that long, spiraling drop into the abyss.

And we know, because we can hear the clink of glasses and the bray of the band that on the saloon deck that many of our fellow passengers are still gobbling their meals and charging their glasses to the soothing sound of the stagefront crooner. Nothing we've said has touched them. No scolding, no pleading, no explaining will make them tear the lunatic helmsman from the wheel. The fear may be hidden in their hearts, but they won't stand up and act, won't admit that the damage is already done, that the black water is already pouring in, the ship is already doomed, and that whatever illusions of "victory" they have will end when the icy sea closes over our heads."

Five years on and we are still in denial. The traitorous 25% still clings to the illusion of "victory" while the fiscal crows are coming home to roost in an ever-increasingly Hitchcockian fashion. We have mortgaged our honor and our liberty for power and "security" and received none of the above. If we do not force our political masters to impeach these men; if Dubya walks out of the Oval office in January, 2009 under his own power and not in handcuffs we will have lost forever something vitally important to our Republic.

Iraq is over. The fools have committed their folly, the vile men whose interests never rose above their own cupidity and malice have seen to that. It will be what it will be, what its own people choose to make of it, and all the blood and treasure we choose to pour into it will not change that. The question for us now is how far will we let them lead us down the path of their greed, their anger and their fooling.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Black Irish

I have an odd sort of relationship with St. Patrick's Day.

My ancestry is the usual American mish-mash, but if anything stands out it's the Scots-Irish and Scots on my mother's side. Grandpa McMillian was a straight-off-the-boat haggis-beater back at the turn of the 19th Century. He was a good Scottish Prod through-and-through and took great delight in teaching me "The Orangeman's Toast" ("Here's to Good King William/who saved us from popes and popery, rogues and roguery/from brass buttons and wooden shoes/and whosever denies this toast may he be crammed, jammed and slammed into the Great Gun of Athlone/the gun fired into the Pope's belly/the Pope into the Devil's belly/the Devil into Hell and the key in an Orangeman's pocket/and here's a fart for the Bishop of Cork.") when I was too little to understand the bigotry - and as Millicent reminded me just yesterday, I have one of those pack-rat minds that forgets nothing.

So I tend to sort of gloss over the St. Paddy's Day festivities, feeling a bit like the clarinet player in a Hamas paramilitary band being asked to knock out "Havanagila" at a B'nai B'rith wedding. My type just don't DO that sort of thing.

I DO like corned beef and cabbage. So every year I boil up a dinner and we all sit down to it.

This was Missy's first year as an American, where everyone - even little Cantonese girls - are Irish on March 17th. So I dished her up a helping of little cut-up corned beef bits, cabbage, taties and carrots, figuring that worse come to worst she had potatoes and carrots, two things I know she loves.

Who knew!? The girl started shoving the good meat in like a mad Fenian starving for the Auld Sod. Carrots were forgotten, potatoes abandoned. It was ALL about the corned beef. At one point I think she had her arm down her neck to the elbow. I wish I'd gotten some pictures; she was funny in her frantic eagerness to get outside some good corned beef.

So. Perhaps I need to rexamine my stubborn Orange ways. Because if a little girl from the big city on the Pearl River delta can be as Irish in her tastes as Erin O'Bragh, why can't I?

(NB - yes, yes, I know - "corned beef and cabbage" is an "Irish-in-America" meal rather than truly Irish. But I guess that's the point; we're NOT Irish and our St. Padraig's Day isn't really about Ireland. It's about Boston and Father Flanagan and shilleleighs and The Quiet Man and New York coppers and leprechauns and all that silly Irish-American guff. Now sit down and drink your Guiness...)

Saturday, March 15, 2008


After Missy was in bed last night, Mojo and I snuggled in with the Peeper to introduce him to one of the world's truly offbeat pleasures: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"It's been some years since I watched this film last, and I had honestly forgotten:

1) What an appalling drip the part of Charlie Bucket is. He's the saintly Little Princess who loves his mom, gives all his money to charity, does his homework and exactly what the teacher says. He's the kid at school who always made you want to rub snot in his hair. The child actor, Peter Ostrum, who plays him in the movie, isn't bad, exactly, but the part is so diabetic-coma-inducing that you can't help wanting to strangle the angelic little Bubbles.

2) The number of truly awful songs, hitting rock bottom with "Cheer Up, Charlie", where the curly-headed little Snoogums' Mom reminds him that no matter how much his life sucks which, in this case, it does like a gigantic industrial shopvac, it's still terrific to be YOU!. Eeegah. That said, there are also several treats, but most of them related to the real heart of the flick.

Which is, simply stated, Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

Frankly, it's a tossup whether it's worth watching the first third of the film at all. You miss the setup where you're shoved to stand in the "Charlie the Great" corner, but you also miss the craptacular songs and all the nobility of the ingratiating little fellow Charlie. The movie begins for me when Gene totters out of the factory door, does his forward roll and comes up as, well, Gene-as-Willy-Wonka.
The wonderful thing about the performance is that you're never quite sure if the enigmatic candymaker is really quite mad or just playful and eccentric. My personal take, BTW, has been for mad and bad - perhaps one of the most delightfully sinister sequences in moviedom is the "Pure Imagination" scene, where Gene leads the greedy little group of visitors into his magic kingdom singing about how your imagination can lead you to paradise (while the Bad Children race about filling their pieholes knowing that they're going to shop Wonka's imagination to his rival Slugworth - except for Noble Charlie, of course). Everything about the scene is a fight between the innocent words of the song and the candyland set and Wilder's interpretation of them, from the curious minor key he sings to the herky-jerky dance down the stairsteps, where he puzzles and disconcerts the group with his odd stop-and-start and the sudden slashing of his cane. It's maaahvelous.

Wilder is simply a joy throughout, a completely unrestrained id in kinetic motion, a force of Nature, quoting Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Keats and Shakespeare while his inventions dispose of the Nasty Children in cleverly appropriate ways (at one point, Wilder turns to the survivors and coos: "Two greedy, bad little children gone, three sweet, good children left..."). He gives you the combinaton of delight and frightening power that comes from pure creative intelligence. He IS the movie, and while he's center stage it's a hell of a lot of fun.

It's far from a perfect flick: it does violence to the Dahl book, which is a worthy kid's classic; Wilder is WAY too young for the part, and both the dreary first portion and the odd little ending, where the whole adventure turns out to be a setup for making Charlie the Next Willy Wonka (am I the only person who thought this the most impossible thing in a movie full of flying elevators and chocolate-colored dwarves? Noble Charlie succeeding Mad Scientist Willy? Never happen...) are drags.

But - ignore all that and you can concentrate on enjoying one of the great performances in Western acting - Gene Wilder as the Greatest Madboy Evah.