Saturday, October 14, 2017

Two Old Wimmen go to see NORMA



My friend and I went to the movies to see Met @ The Movies first offering of the season NORMA by Bellini. My friend went to NYC sixty years ago to be an actress. She was an actress, too, and has terrific stories about performers like and then taught in city schools, because that's often the way "careers" in the Arts go--your chosen professional becomes a hobby, or you starve. She's verbal, sophisticated, and she Got Experience, as we were all instructed to do we young adults of the '60's.  She is, in the language of grand opera Tesoro mio (think that's right--except maybe in the feminine).  She's got first hand stories from those days, a few about actors of the calibre of Albert Finney, who she met back when he'd just played Tom Jones (!!!)   I'm just chuffed to know her, a lovely person in my town who also shares a love of opera. When she returned home to finish up her days--NYC is no place for the old unless they are also, very much, The Very Rich--there was mutual celebration when we discovered one another. 

Neither of us had ever seen NORMA before and were unfamiliar with the story, although we vaguely knew it was Druids v. Romans. We both love the operatic style "Bel Canto," which was brought back to the stage by great divas like Ponselle, Sutherland, and Callas.  Bel Canto means "beautiful singing" which really doesn't give you much information when the subject is opera. Lots of "too many notes" if you're like the Emperor in Amadeus, but let's face it, that's basically so clueless that only an Emperor could get away with saying such a thing and go blithely unchallenged.




If you know any Rossini, you get the drift of how Norma sounds, although I think Bellini is far more entrancing, with his long lyrical lines. My friend and I were just knocked over by both the singing and the production by Sir David McVicar, whose Druids looked like--well, Druids--in a dark forest with the monster stub of an dying oak decked in skulls and swords and shields as the lurking focal point. The singers were stellar, as we Met @ the Movies folk have come to expect. Joyce DiDonato and Sonya Radvanovsky sang with balance, craft, and beauty. Both women can act and handled their closeups well. The tenor who played the point of the love triangle, the super-male Roman commander who thinks he can discard wife#1 without consequence, was played by a charming--in his actual self--Joseph Calleja.  We noted that while he played the villain, he seemed determined, in his interview, to express his personal dislike for the behavior of  male Chauvanist pig he played. 




For a libretto crafted in 1831 in Italy, the story came amazingly close to being a feminist shout out. When the two women, one older and one younger and both priestesses, discover that they are both in love with the same man, they draw together instead of fighting one another. Of course, the older woman has to sacrifice herself for the "greater good" in the end, so we can't give it full marks on liberation, however, my friend was sufficiently amazed to burst out "that's how women should treat one another." 

We could barely get back on our feet when it was over, because we'd stayed where we were during the intermission, which was filled with another fascinating look backstage at workers and machinery at this grandest of all grand opera venues. All those hours later, I was bent like 97 years and grasping the handrail all the way down the stairs from our seating. 

~~Juliet Waldron

P.S.  And is it obligatory that all movie theaters (and Casinos) have those "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" carpets? 





http://amzn.to/24EUxiC  Nightingale ISBN:  B00D8MEL8E



Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Songs of Norfolk Southern


We live on the wrong side of the tracks—or at least, too close to them. Our local rail line used to be  sleepy underfunded Amtrak, finally starved to death by the geniuses in Congress who don’t think passenger trains are necessary anymore—now that they all have their big black SUVs, air travel at the taxpayer's expense, and lifetime employment, all guaranteed by black bag lobbyists--plus a little attentive gerrymandering.

Now, I do like trains, and have spent a fair amount of my life living in close proximity to tracks. (Draw your own conclusions.)  I’m a believer, as far as transport goes, in these efficient movers of both freight and people.  I'd like to see the US recommit to railways again.

Despite all this friendly feeling, I must report that in the middle of the night my local Norfolk Southern regularly awakens me by conducting loud conversations. Their wee-hour prehistoric hoots, grunts, snorts, wails, and shrieks could put T Rex and all the rest of his ancient super-sized kinfolk to shame.






Around 2:30 a.m. and off and on for the next 24 hours,   ;)   I hear what I believe is signaling, perhaps when an eastbound train sidetracks, waiting for the westbound to pass. These communications eventually morph into a noisy, complex composition I'm dubbing Jet Engine Metal.



 I think I’m even getting to know the engineers too, in a way. Some of them must surely be frustrated musicians. At least that’s the conclusion I’d draw from all the back and forth, the rattle-the-windows staccato rending the air in an apparently endless series of short blasts, as if the engine suffers from a terminal cough. There are sustained hoots, followed by sudden roaring discords, as if someone has lowered a gigantic fanny onto an electronic keyboard and depressed all the keys at once. 

Finally, while I lie listening, the sound at last begins to die away in a bluesy Doppler effect. Cretaceous vocalizations diminish to pianissimo as the freight lugs another load on its way East, toward The Big City.



~~Juliet Waldron

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Friday, September 15, 2017

The Fuller Brush Saga



Those Were The Days, 1970


I’ve brushed my hair with this model -nylon handle, hard nylon bristles—since the 50’s. Over the years, I’ve bought replacements from Fuller local distributors--in Connecticut, in Tennessee and later, in Pennsylvania. The last Old Reliable came from The Vermont Country Store catalog. This, however, should have given me a clue that the unthinkable which was about to happen. 

A few weeks ago, when I went to order a new brush from Vermont folks, I found that they were no longer pictured in the personal care section of their catalog. I called them—no dice. They had my old 520 Half Round Brush, but when I inquired further, I learned that this 520 ain't the same as the old one. Now the only available "Model 520" has a wooden handle and soft boar bristles.  That sort of thing won’t even go through my hair. I may be old, but I still have hair. 

 L

To clean a hair brush it must be soaked in a hot soapy solution and then combed out, rinsed and sun dried. The old time boar bristles could stand up to such treatment, but the new cheap-o ones go from soft to softer—my balding husband has one of the wood + bristle versions, so I know. Moreover, you shouldn't soak wood. If you do, results will be dire. 

So now the search begins--either for Old Faithful--which may be waiting for me in a dusty warehouse somewhere, or in the remainder stock of some disgruntled Fuller Brush distributor I've yet to locate. I hope to get lucky and find one, but the chances, even with the 'net, are slim.



I've learned in my searches that Fuller has been sold, or more like "sold out." The industrious distributors, some of whom spent their whole lives working for the company, have been shucked off without the recompense they were originally offered.  Now they are just another set of victims of our steal your way to the top culture.






Sorry to digress into an oldster's gloom-and-doom rant about nowadays, but, damn, I'll sure miss having a good hairbrush. The current one is now beginning to lose bristles, and I dread the day when it finally has to be retired for good and all.



~Juliet Waldron

All my novels, all available publishers & formats:

Mozart's Wife
A Master Passion
Genesee
Roan Rose
Black Magic
and many others

Fly Away Snow Goose, a story set partly in the Canadian Residential Indian Schools, is a December 2017 release from Books We Love, Canadian Brides 




  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Untrainable




The old people stand in the kitchen, arms around one another, side by side, and regard the tiger cat. He sits erect, tail neatly curled around his tiger legs. They stand on the yellow linoleum beside the fridge. The cat is at rest now, but he has been swirling. and, with a nasal meow, asking for something which remains undefined. 

The old people are stymied.




The cat’s lamp eyes have exclamation points standing at attention in the center of each round green pupil. His eyes are a laser, lightly glazed with disdain for the poor mental capacity of the old people.

The woman addresses him.

 “We, your self-assigned caretakers and healthcare providers, continue, every day, to strive to serve you better. How may we help you today?”

“Yeah, cat. What do you want?” The man, annoyed because both treats and a lick of cream have been rejected, gets straight to the point.

The cat continues to stare. He’s unimpressed by monkey noises, all those different vocalizations they make.

He would like to see some action. As usual, Meow #24, though clearly enunciated, means nothing to them. Even after all these years.

Sourly, the cat thinks that the human species is, very nearly, untrainable.







Juliet Waldron
http://www.julietwaldron.com

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Enter the Smartphone




Okay! Here I am, like Constanze Mozart, making an embarassing confession. I must be one among the last people in the US to switch to a smartphone. On a trip to Atlanta to see a stellar grand-girl graduate High School, I was overwhelmed by family, both kids and grandkids, demanding that I get a "better" phone. So—I caved at last, regaled with all the storied delights that awaited me once I owned such a device.




I returned home with said smartphone tucked inside a pair of socks. We had been too busy with visiting back and forth from one side of Atlanta to the other and hanging out, or attending various graduation festivities to go searching for a case through the always mind-boggling traffic.   I'd figured this would be a good time to make the big change, as there  I’d have two sons, two DILs and a grand girl to instruct me in at least some of the Major Arcana.




I was once considered a tech savvy person, but those days are loooong gone. There’s a certain Luddite pride in still using a genuine IBM keyboard from the 80’s, hitched to 2004's computer. It is, however, getting to be more difficult to lag behind than to “get with the program,” as software (and hardware too) endlessly morph. IMHO, (as I learned to say on AIM) I suspect that all the “updating” is simply an excuse to wring more $$ from us hapless consumers. 

One of my friends has a terrific notion about a kind heart software firm (!) who would build MS65, a program guaranteed to run without chronic episodes of illogic/insanity (could I perhaps be alluding to MS 10??) and not to change or alter in any way for a decade. That’s about the right amount of time for many of us less sophisticated cotton-tops to learn new software.



I’m under no illusions, though, I’ll soon be scrapped and dissembled for the metal value of my components, along with my beloved Wang PC which still crouches sadly in the back of a closet.  Stability is not what software developers are into these days—the more things fail to work properly, I guess, the better it is for IT, or something. Anyway, while I’m griping, what’s with the penchant for hiding the most commonly used operations three or four—or five--pull downs deep? Is it so we have to humiliate ourselves and buy the latest copy of “…For Dummies”? And what’s with that “Search” that leads you into Alice in Wonderland conversations with "Cortana." (And, hell, I'm not fooled. It's just that g-d paperclip tarted up and back in our faces again.   Couldn’t "search" have just searched, as the word indicates that it does?

This morning, I awoke to the sound of chimes—my new phone, of course. I’d set the alarm, hitched it to the wall socket and left it wakeful. Now, I leapt out of bed, and attempted to turn the alarm off without first putting on my glasses. Next thing I knew, I’d taken four blurry pictures of myself--nothing you want to keep, especially those taken first thing in the morning. It took a few minutes before I managed to figure out how to put the camera back to sleep and delete the alarm. 




How did I, whose first and foremost mental image of “phone” remains the graceful black candlestick apparatus in my grandparent’s living room, enter a world where a small slim box in my hand can deposit checks, take pictures, tell time, and connect me to the internet and thence conduct me into untold wonders of consumption?  




~~Juliet Waldron, who just keeps getting older...




Monday, March 20, 2017

Husband in Kitchen

Possum sez: 


Every wife/working woman knows that after years of having her husband at work all day, when he retires, things change around the house.  Mine retired and flopped around aimlessly for several years before hitting on something to do with all this time on his hands. I suggested that there were things he could do around here which would be helpful—instead of just micro-managing me, reading The Economist, and playing solitaire. Eventually, he took something up.

Typically—at least, I think it’s typical—the tasks he decided he’d like to take over were also the ones I most enjoyed—shopping and cooking. Somehow, women are always left with the scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming, and cleaning of bathrooms, the least favorite parts of the routine. We must have it written on our foreheads, or on some stone tablet s somewhere:  “Woman, Thou Shalt Clean Toilets and Vacuum Cat Hair off the furniture to the End of thy Days.”


Anyhow, at last he took up doing something, so these are now mostly off my to-do list. I need to mention that he’s not much of a yardwork or DIY guy either. Not likely to launch into painting, or even mowing when it’s the season for that. I do half the mowing and at least half of the snow shoveling, so I’m standing by my man on those fronts, but I sometimes wish he had more of a bent for DIY. We’ve got a carpet in the unfinished basement that could probably qualify as a superfund site, but, I digress.

He’s been “learning shopping.” This entails frequent calls from the supermarket to ask me what the hell my handwriting says, or what the hell is that and where the hell can that weird-ass ingredient be found? There’s a smallish local supermarket that we’ve patronized for the last 30 years, so I pretty much have the place memorized.

There are pitfalls, however. The other day he returned with two sacks of yellow onions because they were a to-fer. He’s begun cooking Indian food—and in all fairness making delicious dinners, tasty, spicy vindaloos and curries -- so we do use a lot of onions in the course of making masalas of various flavors, but I didn’t see how we were ever going to use two sacks. After all, there are only two of us! So they sat on the counter, withering, until this snowy weekend I thought of a frugal solution: onion soup. Hating to throw anything away like a good Yankee, I suggested he chop them up. He, chef-like, has been working on his knife handling skills.


He chopped meticulously and produced an entire mixing bowl filled to the top with onions. Then with butter, salt, the same technique I’m learning as we do that “Indian Cooking” together, I slowly stirred them over medium/high for a very long time, while they cooked down and down and down and finally changed color. Next came the chicken stock, added a little at a time, all the while cooking and cooking, reducing and reducing, and at the end, a LOT of Parmesan, quickly whisked in.  It took us amateur cooks about three hours, but eventually we’d produced about six bowls of very tasty onion soup.

I don’t think either of us are going to be ready for Chopped any time soon.


  ~~Juliet Waldron


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sleeping with a Cat (When you’re stiffer than you should be at your age, for goodness sake!)


There's A Nap For That Bumper Sticker
One of the great blisses of old age is the nap—the bumper sticker with sleeping cat which says “There’s a nap for that” just about sums things up for me. Even when I was small, I don’t think I ever did too much fussing about the approach of naptime.  For me, tucked away on a smooth sheet in a room with a tree outside the window was as good as it got, in this strange new world into which I’d so recently been dropped.  Naps were a time of quiet rumination, of drifting away into Asperger’s heaven, without facing unsettling and unpredictable human interactions. 

Today, after an illuminating session of senior yoga with Kate, I arrived home relaxed, despite having had a spat with sig other before I’d gone to the class. Those spats are a feature of married life, or maybe just, this married life, but I am always left feeling as distressed as sig other is. Anyway, when I arrive in such a state  for Yoga, I think the best thing I can do is put it all behind me and JUST DO THE POSES.




“I love Yoga” our instructor announces with a blissed out smile.  It’s an invitation to join in her game. I-- and the other attendees--we’re no longer  “seniors” in any of our gym classes. We are all treated by the instructors as a crowd of very stiff, worn-out, yet tight-wrapped of kindergarten kids. This shiny faced instructor thinks that besides stretching, we also need to remember how to play again. We also need practice at smiling at the others with whom we share our circle.
Even after years of life, it’s hard to look others in the face and remember their names.  I continue to fall down at the task, even while calling myself “lazy” and “rude” and other worse things. It’s either “old” or “woman” that causes this “memory” failure—if that’s really what it is, and not some egregious character flaw. I am now working on the association thing: “Amy with the great sneakers” is also pretty and short, definitely a Little Woman.

 I can do the smiling part. Most people in this Yoga class are like me, so that’s easy, and a nice first step toward sociability.






Then, having stretched sufficiently--and sometimes, yes even in senior yoga it can happen, over stretched--you’re home, lunched on too much curry, rice and Brussels’ sprouts. Next, you are weary, heading upstairs for that retired folks’ mid-day lie down.  






Outside the window, breezy clouds flip the switch on and off as they pass. You reach your sleeping spot, but there atop the bed, head comfortably upon your pillow, is a twelve (at least) pound cat. You are going to have to readjust your plans for collapse, but you are ready because sometimes the cat switches things up like this—you have developed a strategy.  The knee pillow goes under the head, while you lie flat on your back with a prop in the “small”, catawampus, so you’ll fit, all because, after all, there has to be a good-sized sleeping rectangle for the cat.




~~Juliet Waldron

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http://amzn.to/1YQziX0  A Master Passion   ISBN: 1771456744