My Kind of Gal

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A distance grows between Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years.”

Recently I spotted the actress Charlotte Rampling on CBS’s Sunday Morning. Just shy of 70, Rampling has been nominated for  a Best Actress Oscar this year for her role in 45 Years. She plays half of a seemingly content older married couple – Tom Courtenay plays her husband – whose calm quotidian existence is upended when a letter arrives with very unexpected news.  

Rampling lives in France and doesn’t court Hollywood, but patiently waits to be sought out: “I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned girl” she says, “and I like to be asked to dance, you know? I know I had something going for me. I thought somebody is going to ask me to dance always.”

Lucky for us she partnered up with Courtenay in this exceptional film. “Older people now are really quite interesting,” says the actress. Too true!

E is for…

Think of all the “E” words you know that say lively. For example:

Eager – strongly wanting to do or to have

Energetic – showing or involving great energy

Electric – very exciting

Effervescent – lively and enthusiastic

Then there’s’ “elderly.” For me that’s the cruelest of the senior labels. True, I cringed when my first issue of AARP magazine arrived and thought it a bummer when I realized that even 55+ meant I was toeing into seniorhood. Moi? Couldn’t be.

The other day, as we bounced onto our bikes post yoga, I was feeling pretty perky…until our encounter with a younger yogini: “Can I take your picture” she says, waving an iPhone at us. “I want to show my parents elderly people on bikes.” Oh, how deflating! Call me sensitive, but the comment stopped me dead on my two wheeler. Desperate to provide some credentials to my youthfulness, I wanted to shout: “Look, an orthopedist said I had the spine of a 50-year-old, just last year. And today, my dermatologist said I had great skin.” At close range, with ravines cutting into my cheeks I find that debatable. Still…

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“Who you callin’ elderly?,” she asked bitterly.

And the night before The Elderly Episode, we took in the Paul Anka concert. See Paul below, then and now. Hold the giggling. Sarasota’s Van Wezel hall was packed with what you’d expect in FL for a late Fifties/early Sixties pop icon. We made our way to our seats dodging those accompanied by canes and walkers and seated in wheel chairs. Surveying the throng, I felt – well – young, even if we hit the average age. I wondered how old the voice was that loomed behind us shouting “I love ya Paul!”

Paul, at 74, is no slouch in the voice department. He belted out all the favorites – “Diana,” “You are My Destiny,” “Puppy Love,” “Put Your Head on My shoulder “ (Jack related to this make-out tune of his youth) and “My Way” written for Frank Sinatra.

But the one melody, penned by Paul in 1975, that hit home for me was “Times of Your Life.” OK, you can call it a schmaltzy advertising jingle.

Good morning, yesterday
You wake up and time has slipped away
And suddenly it’s hard to find
The memories you left behind
Remember, you you remember

Remember the ginormous Kodak color image in Grand Central zeroing in on cozy family moments? And will you ever forget the trailer for the series finale of “Mad Men” showing great scenes from this landmark TV show played to “Times of Your Life?” Talk about perfect lyrics for Don Draper’s trials and successes. The sheer genius of Don’s pitch to Kodak in “The Wheel,” episode 13 in Season 1: He’s loaded a Carousel with slides of his family. We witness photo after photo of the Draper clan.

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Betty and Don in happier times from “The Wheel”

The laughter and the tears
The shadows of misty yesteryears
The good times and the bad you’ve seen
And all the others in between
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life

LOVE YA PAUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An Ode to the Old

“I was transported recently to a place that is as enchanting to me as any winter wonderland: my local post office.” Really? How so I asked as I read past this opening sentence of an Op-Ed piece. Don’t we all have our grumpy post office stories – the MIA clerks during the busiest times, the lines at all times. Written by a former immigrant from Turkey, the current assistant professor remembers fondly of discovering “the magic of reliable mail…Mail was one of the more enchanting aspects of life in my new country,” he writes. Bravo! We should throw our beleaguered P.O.s an appreciative bone as they demise locations and cut back hours. I’d rather get a personal letter than an email/text any day!

The post office offers a Premium Forwarding service which is totally reliable. Our weighty packages appear every week in FL or CO, having been posted just 3 days earlier in MA. It ain’t cheap, but worth it. Saturdays mean the arrival of  magazines, too many catalogs, bills,  our 2 local papers and if I’m lucky a personal letter or post card.

 

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This week The Dukes County Intelligencer, Journal of History of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands was included. I lingered over this image of  signatures belonging to “nine leading citizens” endorsing a 1837 petition to Congress. Love that penmanship. The P word is defined as “the art or skill of writing by hand.” Thanks to short-cutting emails and texts, it’s an art we have lost.

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What’s In Store?

Bookstores that is. Before launching into new releases from some of my favorite authors, I want to share a heartening piece in The Wall Street Journal from author Ann Patchett.  Four years ago Patchett and Karen Haynes opened Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett now reports that the duo are doubling the size of their store this year and they’ve bought a mobile book van! So, let’s keep frequenting our local bookstores to keep any death notices at bay.

So, what’s new on the shelves…

*”There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks.” That’s how Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, a mother-daughter story, opens. It’s out this month. Patchett calls it “her best novel yet.” And didn’t we love Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge?

So, I wasn’t surprised to see it reviewed ON THE COVER of today’s NYT Book Review. In her review, Claire Messud, she of The Emperor’s Children you may recall, labels Lucy “powerful and melancholy…an exquisite novel.”

Lucy also took up a lot of ink in The Wall Street Journal‘s Review section Saturday. That piece told us that Lucy  is “not just about trauma and family; it is also about the difficulties of writing about those things.” So Lucy’s a writer. Another plus.

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*Just got word that British author Tessa Hadley’s The Past has arrived at our local bookstore in Sarasota. Hadley tells a tale of siblings returning to the family haunt to decide what its fate will be. Bickering ensues and secrets percolate. I discovered one of Hadley’s short story collections a few years ago at The Boulder Bookstore and have looked for her name ever since. You’ll also find her fiction in The New Yorker.

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Interesting that both Strout and Hadley employ gossip as a kind of distracting balm for their characters.

*Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl appears in June. Inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, it’s part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which current novelists update the bard.

*And here’s a novel approach from the prolific Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of Downton Abbey. According to The Times, the ever-creative Fellowes will serialize his novel, Belgravia, via an app beginning in April on a website or through e-book retailers. With a nod to Dickens and his ilk, there will be 10 weekly digital installments: $1.99 for each chapter; $13.99 for the lot. Or you can purchase the hardback in July.

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But wait, there’s still more! The app will also incorporate an audio version, music, video, character portraits, family trees, images of period fashion and maps of Belgravia. Yikes, dothere’s a lot going on here to distract from the story, no? And what’s that about anyway?

We’re looking at London in the 1840s. Belgravia, perfect for Downton junkies on withdrawal, explores the class divisions between the established aristocracy and newly wealthy families who made their fortunes through the industrial Revolution.

So what think you?  A bit much or bring it on?

A Backward Glance

Since the New Year on my calendar doesn’t start until all holiday vacationing worker bees are back at their respective salt mines tomorrow, there’s still time for my 2015 review.

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Ring and Fitzgerald

When reading the obit pages in The Times I’m drawn to the names that “may have rung few bells,” as the paper put it in its 2015 obit review. One passing  I particularly noted: Frances Kroll Ring. Ring was the last personal secretary to F. Scott Fitzgerald and by all accounts a most devoted one. Her passing touched my nostalgic heart because a look at her life, among others The Times mentioned, had “the pungent effect of evoking an era long concluded.”

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Lara and Zhivago at Varykino

There were many others who left us and brought back memories — Omar Sharif in Dr. Zhivago. OMG, the summer dacha, Varykino transformed into a crystal palace and filmed not in Russia, but just 100 miles northeast of Madrid; Lesley Gore. Can’t forget her lyrics for It’s My Party:

“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you.”

Well, if you were partnerless at a make-out party assigned to changing 45s on a Victrola (a favorite old word), you’d cry too if that happened to you. I speak from experience.

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A Victrola obviously!

On a perkier note, I took in my 50th high school reunion at the Greenwich Academy which made me want to start kindergarten all over again, or “connecting class” as it was called. Vast and enlightening changes since the days of uniforms with matching bloomers, mimeograph machines and gradeless, hand-written report cards. Here’s to a chorus of “Jerusalem,” William Blake’s poem put to music and sung at every graduation. Still tear up when I hear it, most boisterously at Prince William’s nuptial.

Whatelse…

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*Riveted to The King and I at Lincoln Center with my great pals Donna and Diane.

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Along the Danube

*Cruised down the Danube and biked along its shore. Before boarding our vessel, we took a brief jaunt through Munich. Want to return to that city of fantastic architecture. And why not Berlin on a future itinerary? Or England’s Lake Country?

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Jack and Pammi taking a break from biking in Bavaria

*Had my first MRI after a most painful back saga. Was told by a physical therapist never to cross my legs again while seated – not even your ankles – to stay in alignment. Another edict: No more shoulder bags to weigh down one side. Took that advice and haven’t had a problem since. Word to the wise.
*Took my first online course: The Creative Habit: Cultivating a Daily Writing Practice, an offering from Stanford’s Continuing Studies. Still prefer sitting in a classroom, but better than expected and completed the course.
*Finished The Brothers Karamazov
*Went on my first health retreat in Crested Butte, CO and left with a love of Korean cuisine prepared by our chef and now pal Justine Park.
*Discovered Palm Greens, an organic eatery in Palm Springs, CA tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza. The spinach nut burger is a must.

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An Organic Find in Palm Springs

*Met with old friends in Healdsburg, CA and paid an unexpected visit to our former doctor Paul Marguglio who facilitated a necessary blood test for Jack. Paul is one for the medical books. Was the best doc and still is!

And looking ahead…
May 2016 be a healthy year for all of us, provide great reading and viewing on the big screen and small. Satisfy your curiosity and make time for play because, according to a Dr. Stuart Brown, “it opens the imagination and invigorates the soul.”

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All About Play from Dr. Brown