Monday, March 31, 2008

D.B. Cooper, etc., or, musings on my misspent youth...

I’ve been reading about D.B. Cooper, mostly because some kids found what appears to be the remains of his parachute near Amboy, Washington. Whoever Dan Cooper was, in 1971 he thought $200,000 was enough to bring him some kind of, that seems like an incredibly small amount of money to risk one’s life for. Of course, things cost less then. Cruising around the net, I found some 1971 prices:

Yearly Inflation Rate USA: 4.3%
Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average: 890
Average Cost of new house: $25,250.00
Average Income per year: $10,600.00
Average Monthly Rent: $150.00 (I was paying $110 for a furnished room on Clark Street in Chicago)
Cost of a gallon of Gas: 40 cents
Datsun 1200 Sports Coupe: $1,866.00
United States postage Stamp: 8 cents
Ladies 2 piece knit suit: $9.98
Movie Ticket: $1.50

In September 1971, I entered the University of Chicago as a freshman. Having turned 22 on September 11, I was an
old freshman, but that was because I’d spent the 4 years since I finished high school working to support myself and to save enough money to pay my first year’s tuition...which was...listen up...$2475 plus an additional $2500 for room, board, and books...and yeah, it took me 4 years to save up that $5000, which in retrospect was pretty good, considering my starting salary out of high school was $4995 per year...(and I walked through snow, uphill, to attend school...)

What else happened in 1971?
  • The voting age was lowered to 18 in the U.S.
  • Women FINALLY got the right to vote in Switzerland (and you thought it was such a happenin' place)
  • Walt Disney World opened in Florida
  • Fed Ex was started

Popular Films

  • Love Story
  • Summer of '42
  • Ryan's Daughter
  • The Owl and the Pussycat
  • The Aristocats
  • Carnal Knowledge
  • The Andromeda Strain
  • The French Connection
A few other firsts...
  • Intel released the world's first microprocessor, the 4004.
  • Texas Instruments released the first pocket calculator
  • The first internet chat rooms appeared - of course, there was no internet, but there were local nets...and nerdy people chatted in them (& I can say that, having eventually ended up in a few chat rooms myself)
  • China was admitted to the UN
  • The NASDAQ made it's debut

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What I Did Today - Saturday, March 29, 2008

1. I began reading Cormac McCarthy's The excellent book;
2. I had a much needed pedicure;
3. I went online and ordered some neutral henna (cassia obovata);
4. I wrote a couple of letters;
5. I did a couple loads of laundry.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter 2008

When I was a bride (back before there was water), I received a fair amount of unsolicited advice from a multitude of people on various and sundry topics. As is my wont, I blithely disregarded (and promptly forgot) anything that didn't appeal to me, with two notable exceptions. "Always use cloth napkins," my soon to be father-in-law advised. That seemed like a stylish and sensible idea, and for 35 years I've been doing exactly that; even for picnics, I have a number of sets of washable cloth napkins that I always use. The other bit of advice that I chose to follow came from a good friend, who said, "Ask people over often; you'll clean compulsively ahead of time, which is a great way to keep your place looking good." Turns out she was quite right.

Case in point: I had my family over for Easter lunch at my house, and so I changed out the slipcovers in the living room a good six weeks before I'd probably have gotten around to doing it otherwise, with the added advantage that I had help doing it.

On Saturday, we went to see the Turner exhibit at the DMA, after which we walked over to the Nasher, where Chris horsed around at A's expense...

All of us spent some time sky gazing in James Turrell's Tending (Blue):

Then Alex and Chris caught some rays while overlooking the waterlily pond:

and Kath and Chris couldn't resist imitating some of the pieces of art:

On Saturday night, Alex and Chris treated Anthony and me to an amazing dinner at one of my favorite restaurants...I started to write "in Dallas", but it would be more accurate to simply write at one of my favorite restaurants, anywhere: Lola...there aren't a lot of places that can hold a candle to the experience of dining there. Click on the link and weep...

As for Easter lunch...when I got married, I didn't know how to cook. A really great wedding gift for me would have been a cookbook where the first line of every recipe read, "Face the stove!" However, I enjoyed eating and so I set about learning how to cook, using an early edition of one of Julia Child's books as a guide. A good thing too, or heaven knows what we'd have eaten on Sunday. As it was, we began with homemade bruschetta, served on crostini...

I also made tappenade...then it was into the dining room, where we sat down to an Easter lunch of red peppers grilled with olive oil, garlic and rosemary; steamed asparagus and hollandaise;grilled leg of lamb that had been marinated overnight in a mustard-rosemary sauce (a Juliarecipe) and served with fresh mint sauce; followed by a salad of baby spinach, mushrooms, strawberries, pecans, and white Stilton with lemon, tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. We drank a really nice Syrah with all this good food, and Anthony provided dessert: a homemade apple cake soaked with liqueur and served with a scoop of his delicious homemade Mexican vanilla ice cream.

It doesn't get much better than that...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

an appointment with Spring...

It’s a cold and rainy night, so cold and wet that the cats have come in, and a few minutes ago I found Leo hunkered down on the quilted runner on the dining room table, glowering at me, I’d guess because I hadn’t turned the furnace back on (it worked; the furnace is humming as I write). After driving home through the rain, I walked into the house, fed the cats, tossed a load of laundry into the washing machine and then had a long, hot shower; now I’m having a glass of red wine and listening to Barber (Adagio for Strings). There are things I should be doing...Alex and Chris are coming in on Friday and I need to wash the sheets on Mike’s bed, and I need to change the slipcovers on the living room couches...but those things will wait.

I’m reading Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’m old enough that I could have read it when it was first published (1974), but I pretty much only read fiction then. As I get older, I find I’m quite willing to read as much non-fiction as fiction, so long as the writing is good. It’s an interesting book...I find him incredibly narcissistic, but he points out that he’s narcissistic...not that that excuses it...anyway, the book is well written, and well worth reading. And maybe in part because I’m reading about a road trip and in part because work has seemed particularly irksome lately, and in part because it’s almost spring...I’ve been feeling like a hamster in its wheel, and I find myself longing for something, anything...perhaps a road eyes are hungry for something other than my commute and my computer screen... kiss the fingers of the rain,
to drink into my eyes the shine
of every slanting silver line,

to catch the freshened, fragrant breeze

from drenched and dripping apple-trees...

That’s Millay, from Renascence, and I’ve always loved that. Especially in spring, on rainy nights, I find myself thinking of those lines...and I find myself thinking of Pound, too:
the apparition of these faces in the crowd...
petals on a wet, black bough

and of cummings: when faces called flowers push out of the ground...

I was reading a questionnaire at work the other day, and I felt myself getting frustrated; the woman who’d completed it had written all over it, and across the letter I’d sent her as well, and what she wrote made little sense. At one point she’d simply stopped writing, mid-sentence...and she required follow up, and I dreaded following up with her. Then I came to the section of cc meds, and saw that she’s taking Aricept...a med for Alzheimer’s...and suddenly I understood.

Time seems to be rushing by...and more and more, I long for something else, but I have to admit, I’m not sure what it is. In On Man & Nature, Thoreau wrote that he had an appointment with spring, and there’s a wonderful story about Santayana, certainly referencing Thoreau...I was going to try to tell it in my own words, but I can’t improve on this:

In the early spring of 1912, students crowded into a Harvard classroom for the final lecture of renowned philosopher and poet George Santayana. Near the end of his remarks, the students hanging on his every word, Professor Santayana glanced out the window. His eyes caught sight of a forsythia blossoming in a patch of lingering snow.
At once, he quit speaking, picked up his gloves, hat, and walking stick, and strode to the door. He turned to the startled assembly and said calmly, “I shall not be able to finish that sentence. I have just discovered that I have an appointment with April.” He left his books, his associates, and the hallowed halls of scholarship and walked outside into the garden...from Clifton Fadiman, ed., The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (1985), 487.

I think that's it...I'm pretty sure I have an appointment, if not with April, then with spring...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

music hath charms...

I heard a beautiful concert tonight:

Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales
Stucky: Second Concerto for Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 33 (Pieter WIspelwey, cello)
Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird (1919 revision)

The Stucky was only OK, but the Ravel and Stravinsky were terrific, and the Tchaikovsky cello pieces, which I'd never heard before, were so incredible that as soon as I got home, I went online and ordered a CD of them: a remastered DG CD of Rastropovich playing them with the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan conducting.

The symphony audience is usually pretty grey on Thursday nights; so much so that I worry sometimes about whether classical music is dying out, but the Ravel & Stravinsky are popular pieces and this concert had been widely advertised, so the Meyerson was fairly full tonight, and I was happy to see that there were quite a few families who had brought children. A mother with four teenagers sat in the row in front of me, in excellent seats. Judging by the strong family resemblance, I'd guess three of the teens were hers; two of the girls, perhaps 14 and 17, and a boy who appeared to be about 15. The third girl may have been a friend, or perhaps she was a cousin; she also appeared to be 16 or 17. The boy was handsome and all three girls were lovely; they looked like they might have been dancers, and from the way in which they enjoyed the Stravinsky, I think I may have been right about that. This was a terrific concert, but it was also a pleasure to see how much these young people enjoyed the music. They were intent on it; they all sat a little forward in their seats, watching the orchestra, and the boy shot the girls a look and a smile at some of the more dramatic parts of Firebird.

I was listening to the Dallas classical station, WRR, on my drive to work earlier this week, and the announcer, a rather effete British guy, was advertising this concert. "Just get a ticket and GO!" he said, rather forcefully, and then he added with a sniff, "It'll make your workweek so much more PALATABLE!" I rolled my eyes at the time, but it turns out he was right...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

civilization and its discontents...

I’m listening to Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons singing Love Hurts (ignore the video - it should be Gram and Emmy, IMHO - just listen to the music) - I’m pretty sure this is the best of the myriad renditions of that song. It’s not a song to listen to if you’ve just broken up with someone (I write from experience), but that’s not my situation right now, so I’m enjoying it. I’ve been thinking about music in part because I went onto today to look for a CD by Canadian Romi Mayes - I wanted her new (last fall) CD, “Sweet Something Steady”. I missed her when she blew through Dallas at that time, but I heard her sing the title song on NPR, and I was blown away by her style, which has been described as “country bourbon bluegrass soul” - (gotta love that!) as well as by her sexy, sassy lyrics:

Don’t want no fancy diamonds
I don’t want your mother’s pearls
Don’t want you to tell me
That I’m your only girl
Just want a man
to come on back
pick me up
and take me for a ride
Why can’t you be my sweet something steady on the side?

Don’t need your folks for dinner
I don’t need to rest
I don’t need to walk the aisle
I don’t need a fancy dress
I don’t need to hear you love me
While you look deeply in my eyes
Why can’t you be my sweet something steady on the side?

Amazon didn’t have it, which doesn’t surprise me; shopping at Amazon for music is like going to Blockbuster for movies - they seldom have what I’m looking for at either place...anyway, lucky for me, Romi Mayes has her own website, so the CD is on its way. I did score three Allard and Marshall Stupids books at Amazon, though, and I’m looking forward to reading them to Xander, who’s requested more of The Stupids...Buster mowing the rug and other pleasures await us!

I’ve had a shower and washed my hair, and I’m barefoot and wearing a favorite pair of clean, soft, ancient sweats. I’ve removed my contacts and put on reading glasses and I’ve poured myself a glass of red wine and I’ve moved on to Billie Holiday (Them There Eyes is playing as I write). At the risk of sounding incredibly boring (what do I care?) this is my favorite type of Saturday night - home alone and enjoying myself immensely. My friend S has her own variation of this; she bought a big screen tv that she refers to as her Boyfriend, and when people ask what she’s doing, she says, truthfully, she’s spending the night with her Boyfriend, watching what she wants, no fights over the remote... ;p

I’ve moved on to Django Reinhardt, Swing from Paris (I Got Rhythm). In addition to The Stupids, I ordered a book for myself from Amazon this afternoon: Marshal South and The Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living. Marshal South was an interesting guy; a published poet, author and artist who, in 1930, moved with his second wife, Tanya (a Rosicrucian), to the top of a waterless, remote mountain in the middle of the Anza-Borrego Desert in California: Ghost Mountain. By 1932 they’d built an adobe house to live in and eventually three children were born to them there. They lived there until 1947, when the marriage ended acrimoniously. I’m fascinated by desert and mountain loners. There are actually quite a lot of them, and I always enjoy reading about them. I have to admit that there is a part of their leaving civilization that intrigues and appeals to me. Driving around Big Bend a couple of years ago, I spotted the ruins of a house on the top of a mesa. I decided to hike up to it. It was further than it looked; a good 30 minutes from the road, and I was hot and sweating by the time I got to the top, but oh - the view! I stood inside the remains of the house and wondered who had lived here, and when...and how did they haul water up, because there was no possibility of a well on top of the mesa, and there was no water nearby. (Marshal and Tanya South and their children solved this problem by being nudists in warm weather - their lifestyle was documented regularly in Desert Magazine.) The view was spectacular, there was no doubt about it - but I like my creature comforts: my big bed with down pillows and linen sheets; my glass of wine, some good cheese, a bunch of grapes; my walls of books, good coffee, a blooming orchid if I want it, and MUSIC - listening to Django Reinhardt 55 years after his death...and typing out my thoughts about all of this in my gameroom, on my keyboard, at 4:00 AM...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008 - SNOW DAY!

Today, at 2:00, my boss sent an e-mail telling her group to leave, because, as she wrote, we're of no use to her dead or maimed...and so at 3:00, having taken care of all the business to which I felt I had to attend before leaving, I did leave, laptop and stack of work in tow...but after one look at I-35, bumper to bumper, I decided to take my recently discovered alternative route...Campus Drive to I-30 East, then 820 North to 121, and from there...well, home, James...

It was snowing...big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow, the likes of which I've seldom seen, in spite of having grown up, a couple of light years ago, in the frozen north. It was usually too cold and dry, in the wintertime in Minnesota, to produce flakes of the size and texture that fell in Texas this afternoon. It was incredibly beautiful. The rooftops were white, and the lawns covered. On my alternate route, I cross the Trinity River twice, and as traffic crept along at a snail's pace, I gazed out the windows of my car and drank in the beauty of the river in the snow; the steam rising off the water and the barren tree limbs stark against the white. It took 3 hours to get home, and as my car crept slowly through traffic I kept thinking that I want to find a place to live where I can look out and see the land, and some water...that's what comes of growing up near water, in my case, the Mississippi...sooner or later, you begin to long for it...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What I Did Today - Tuesday, March 4, 2008

1. At 7:00 AM this morning I VOTED - and if you live in one of the states that had primaries today, I hope you did too. For what it's worth, I hadn't made up my mind when I walked into the booth. I stood there, hovering over the ballot, the marker in my hand...and then it came to me, there was really only one choice for me, and I made my mark and filed my ballot. Is this the most exciting election year since 1960 (when I was 10) or what? Katharine and Chris not only voted, but both were headed for the Texas caucuses tonight...exciting stuff! My parents had the sort of reverence for voting that only immigrants (or in their case, children of immigrants) tend to have, and they passed that trait on to me.
2. I made tomato pesto with penne pasta for dinner and it was good. Of course, I inhaled it while watching election returns.
3. I called Dave, my younger brother, late tonight to discuss the results in Ohio and Texas. I love talking with Dave, and as usual, we had a great conversation about what's happening politically in this country. One of the things I love most about living in these times is that although my baby brother lives a thousand miles away from me, I can pick up the phone and talk with him as if he were just down the street pretty much any time I want to, and that's a great thing, and a big change from the 60's, when there was just one phone company and long distance could be as expensive as a plane ticket.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What I Did Today - Sunday, March 2, 2008

1. I touched up paint upstairs;
2. I had the oil changed on my car;
3. I talked on the phone with Mike;
4. I read a couple of stories to Xander when he and Kath stopped by;
5. I spent the evening discussing books, movies and television with Chris.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

What I Did Friday

1. I went to work - of course. But a group of us went to lunch at The Modern where the food was only OK but the surroundings were beautiful and we had a great time. A young coworker e-mailed me in the morning to ask if I was going. I said yes, and recommended she come too, just for the experience of seeing The Modern. She emailed back and said she felt like she was back in high school, because she was willing to go if she could hang with the popular kids. Now that's an honor, to be considered one of the popular kids at 58!
2. I went to the symphony, where I heard another terrific concert: Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem and Verdi's Four Sacred Pieces.
3. I read a favorite blog (Lisa - check her out if you haven't done so), who mentions one of my all time favorite choral pieces, Orff's Carmina Burana...and that got me thinking about music, and how it really is my magic carpet, a description I lifted from pianist Paul Sullivan, while reading his wonderful essay, The Cellist of Sarajevo, published in 1996 about events that occurred in 1992, and posted in it's entirety (and well worth reading) by Patrick at his blog.