Rock You: Linda Ronstadt and me

“Queen of Rock” was the term used to describe Linda Ronstadt in the 70’s.  She has a documentary about her career out now. My husband and I went to see it this weekend.  I was surprised by how many actual clips from her concerts it included.  During her rock period, she sold out huge arenas all across America, just like the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Her backup band was all male because very few women played rock music in the 70’s, especially bass guitar and drums.   Some of her hits included, “Your No Good”, “Blue Bayou” and “I can’t help it.”

She gave up touring big arenas because she didn’t feel it was fair to the audience or the band. She thought the acoustics didn’t provide the right venue for the music and the travel isolated the performers. She went on to become one of America’s most an eclectic  female vocalists moving from rock to country, staring in Gilbert and Sullivan “Pirates of Penzance” on Broadway and releasing an award winning album sung entirely in Spanish.  She is now retired and suffering from Parkinson’s.  When we told my 20 year old daughter, we had been to Linda’s movie she said she’d never heard of her; demonstrating that fame is extremely ephemeral.

Linda was most frequently heard around our Boise home when my son, Scott was preschool age.  She had an album we listened to almost every night entitled, “Dedicated to the One I love”, a series of lullabies with one of my favorite songs being, “Be my Baby” .Album

Lullaby, and good night
In the sky stars are bright
Close your eyes, start to yawn
Pleasant dreams until the dawn

Close your eyes now and rest
Lay your head on my breast
Go to sleep now and rest
May your slumber be blessed

One day when Scott was about 3, he ran in the kitchen singing what sounded like “Fxxk You, Fxxk You”.  My husband immediately told him in no uncertain terms that was not something we would sing around our house.  Scott looked really confused and pointed at me and said, “But Mom sings it all the time.” Pete gave me a horrified look.  I finally got Scott to tell us where he learned the song and he ran over and got the “Be My Baby” CD from the stereo system.  He was actually singing “Rock You” from “We Will Rock You.”  He was right.  I did go around the house singing it all the time.

IMG_9977
Scott, Annie our lab, and I during our “Rock Me” period

Linda Ronstadt may not be known to the younger generation.  But she will always hold a special place in my heart for being a female rock and roll star in my twenties, my party years and giving us one of our favorite family stories. “ROCK YOU.”

Advertisements

Indian Summer

fall leavesTwo weeks ago, we drove home from Bozeman, Montana To Boise, Idaho in a blizzard.  Growing up in Wyoming both my husband and I are used to winter driving.  My husband, Pete, was going slow and had our hazard blinkers on. In a heartbeat, a white truck slid a few feet in front of us and off the road, over the bank towards the river.  Pete had a hard time braking to keep from hitting the truck and holding our car on the road. We didn’t stop because we could see the truck behind us had stopped.  I called 911.  It took us 5 hours to drive from Bozeman to Pocatello (a 4 hour drive in normal conditions).  That night there were winter watch warnings out in Montana and Wyoming and a hard freeze in parts of Southwestern, Idaho, impacting even parts of Boise.

Last weekend, we were back to cool mornings turning warm by mid-morning and early afternoon and then rapidly cooling off as the sun sets.  Our yard has yet to freeze.  We have glorious flowers still blooming but I know some yards in Boise have been touched by frost.  When we lived in Wyoming, the flowers would definitely be gone by now. Their blossoms hanging downward and graying a sure sign that winter has snapped their summer glory.

“Indian Summer” refers to unseasonably warm, dry weather in autumn.  The term is attributed to the fact that these conditions are very frequent in the areas where Native Americans lived and hunted in the fall, the Mountain West. These are the areas I have lived my entire life; Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, Washington, Colorado and now Idaho.  In several of these locations, particularly Wyoming and Montana, one can expect snow as early as August.  In Wyoming, we would frequently have hard freezes leading to the loss of the beautiful fall foliage before it really had a chance to change colors.  But in Boise, Indian Summer is one of the most glorious times of the year. The trees literally shout, “Look at me! I’m gorgeous.”  The warm days encourage folks to take walks along the green belt where colorful falling leaves shuffle underfoot or sit outside with coffee and a newspaper enjoying the day.leaves on ground

The summers are hot in Boise; too hot for my taste frequently hovering around the high nineties to over 100. But when fall arrives, our backyard comes alive with squirrels scurrying to bury acorns, falcons soaring high in the sky, the occasional sighting of a plump owl, coyote and/or deer and gorgeous orange, yellow and red leaves bursting forth every morning.

I’m glad for a whole bunch of reasons that pickup truck didn’t plow us into the river a couple of weeks ago.  But the terror it caused me has made me more appreciative of our gorgeous fall weather.  One never knows how many seasons we have to appreciate the bounty around us.

The Cost of Pets

We spent the weekend in shani pink1, Montana for Parents’ Weekend at Montana State University.  While we were gone our next door neighbor took care of our pets; Violet (a rat terrier), Shani (a Sheltie) and Angel (a white cat).  When we got home on Sunday, I noticed immediately that Shani’s white fur coat was pink, looking like she’d eaten a bunch of pink cotton candy.  I couldn’t imagine what she had gotten into.

Like a detective searching through the house, I found a chewed up piece of round pink Styrofoam on our kitchen counter. There was a little core sticking out of it.  Obviously a fake apple shredded to bits, the source of the pink dog fur.  The apple had been on my office bookcase, a good five feet off the floor.  When I looked in my office, I could see that all of the animals were involved in a wild play time.  The white cat had to have knocked the apple off the shelf.  Acting like the Siamese cats in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, she provided the temptation that led to destruction. Shani, like Eve, found the phony apple irresistible and shredded it, making her coat and the carpet bright pink.  Violet threw the blankets and pillows from the love seat on the floor.  Making the room look like a pink cotton candy whirlwind hit.

IMG_9877 (2)
Does this angelic kitty look like Devil Cat? The source of the phony apple.

I vacuumed up the remaining Styrofoam and tried a carpet cleaning product with a brush twice on the pink. The carpet is now quite light where I’ve cleaned with light pink shading.  Hopefully the rest of the carpet is not that dirty.  At a minimum we’re going to have to get in a professional cleaner.  Probably, we are going to have to replace the carpet.

On the way to Bozeman, I had read an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about how much people spend to have and maintain pets.  The particular story was about someone who had spent $125,000 to fix her home (https://www.wsj.com/articles/pets-can-take-a-big-bite-out-of-your-homes-resale-value-11569403804).  We have fenced our yards in Boise and McCall as well as adding an electric fence in Boise.  We built a special area for the cats to use the litter box in the garage.  We just replaced a door with a cat door that didn’t work for us. Our rat terrier has scratched up our back door and we will have to fix that before selling our house.  Now we are leaving it until something happens to her assuming it will just be scratched up again. Our dogs have run through our front screen door necessitating us purchasing a special screen with a metal lower half.  These expenses don’t cover the monthly food and treat bills and the annual vet expenses.

Readers without pets may think mine are particularly poorly trained.  But actually people who know the threesome think they are lovely animals, well mannered and house broken, loving to a fault.  I have always had pets around even as a child.  I can’t imagine a scenario where I would be in a house without animals.  The research is clear their companionship improves mental health.  Specially trained animals can help with a variety of health problems from blindness to PTSD.  But there is a cost to having pets.  I never really think about it.  Because I just think of my pets as family, I don’t assign a price tag to love and companionship.

24 Years of Toy Story

Toy StoryMy husband and I recently saw Toy Story 4 (released June 2019).  I think we were the only seniors in a sparsely crowded theater.  For me, it was a trip down memory lane.  I first saw Toy Story in December 1995.  I took my son, Scott, who was 22 months old at the time to a theater in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I have to admit this was an act of pure selfishness on my part.  I was a stay-at-home mom.  Cheyenne was hosting a freezing cold winter, making me frequently housebound.  I had seen the previews on TV and wanted to see the movie.  Why wouldn’t a baby at least sit in my lap I reasoned?

I got to the theater and settled Scott into a seat, removing his snow suit.  Then I turned around to pull off my winter gear.  When I turned back, the seat had folded up on my son.  He looked like a collapsed pop-up card. The only thing that showed were his huge eyes,smashed between velvet.  I was sure I had broken every bone in his body.  Apparently, babies are quite flexible because as soon as I yanked the seat down he seemed fine.  I saw another mother arrive carrying a plastic baby booster seat.  I raced back to the entrance with Scott in my arms and got him a booster and we settled in for the movie.  He does not remember this incident but I remember being absolutely terrified.

Toy Story was the first computerized animated movie and it made the Pixar name famous. Now, the jumping desk lamp and Pixar are synonymous to theater goers. A huge success at the box office, Toy Story groused $373 million worldwide, the highest opening weekend for an animated picture at that time. The movie made household names of Woody, a stuffed cowboy doll with a pull string voice (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Ligthyear, a plastic astronaut action figure, with a push button voice (Tim Allen).

I was totally spellbound from the moment the movie started.  The animation was brilliant, the plot warmhearted, and the characters engaging.  Unfortunately, Scott was not as taken with the movie as I was.  Because of his fussing, we needed to leave early.  But not to worry, Toy Story was soon converted into a home video, expensive toys, video games and three sequels.  I was treated to seeing Toy Story 1 and 2 over and over again at home.

Toy Story 2 was released in 1999 which is the year we adopted our daughter Kayla from China.  The sequel is generally considered better than Toy Story 1 and generated almost $500 million at the box office.  More importantly, Scott was in kindergarten and old enough to understand the movie and be captivated by it. That Christmas, Woody and Buzz moved into our house and I would find them lying all around the main living areas when I picked up night.   Just like Andy, the boy in the movies, my son loved both characters.  When little boys in the neighborhood played in our house, I would hear, Woody’s voice, “There’s a snake in my boot.” Or Buzz shouting, “To infinity and beyond.”

By the time Toy Story 3 (2010) was released, my son, a sage 14, had outgrown Buzz and Woody, just like Andy.  My daughter, Kayla, age 8,  however, was still into animated pictures and more importantly willing to be seen with her mother in public.  She and I saw Buzz and Woody packed up by Andy who was going to college.  After a complicated adventure, Andy donates his beloved toys to a younger child, Bonnie.  Back at our home, Buzz and Woody had been relegated to Scott’s closet long ago.  When we moved to a new house that winter, we donated both toys to the Youth Ranch. I hope some needy family had a fabulous Christmas finding a well-loved Woody and Buzz under the tree.

My son graduated from college in December, 2017. My daughter left for college last fall.  Just when I thought I am left with only childhood memories, I pulled a small stuffed Woody without a head out of bureau in the guest room.  I think MacDonald’s gave little miniatures away with Happy Meals.  I didn’t have the heart to give a headless Woody away so I stuck him back in the drawer.

I decided I wanted to see Toy Story 4 which is probably the last time  I will hear Woody’s voice on the big screen. Absent any children to go with, my husband accompanied me.  I think it’s the first time he’s seen a Toy Story in a theater.  I thought the plot was a little dark though in the end the characters end up in a good place.  But if you haven’t followed 24 years of Woody and Buzz, I’m not sure Toy Story 4 would give you the great pleasure created by movies 1,2, and 3.

My son, now 25, was home this weekend.  He works at Starbucks Corporate Headquarters in Seattle. The corporate Halloween theme is Disney Characters.  While he was in Boise, he used his phone to order a cowhide vest and went out to thrift stores looking for brown cowboy boots.  He’s going as his beloved Woody.  No matter how old you are, you never really outgrow the things that made you happy when you were young.

Shame on Us: Tommy Orange captures White destruction of Indigenous Peoples

51RuAbKH+tL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Tommy Orange opens his award winning book “There, There” (Knopf, 2018) with a discussion of the Indian head which used to appear on TV channels as a test pattern, circa 1939 to 1970. I’m old enough to remember this profile of an Indian Chief with circles around it, random bull’s-eyes and buzzing in the background.  The head meant no TV to me, hard to imagine today with our 24 hour news cycle.  But Orange uses the head as an indication of white culture devaluing Indigenous People.312px-RCA_Indian_Head_Test_Pattern.svg

The question of misuse of Native American symbolism bubbled up in Idaho where the four Tribal nations who live in the state have asked that school mascots reflecting Native Americans be shelved.  This request has been met with mixed results. In Boise’s liberal North End with the highest academically ranked high school in the state, the Boise Braves have been transformed to the Boise Brave. The ubiquitous Native American mascot has been removed and a contest is underway to identify a new symbol reflecting the  “Brave” value.  This change in mascot was not done without some public disapproval, but not as much as one might think because of the long liberal roots of the North End. Boise High is now “Home of the Brave”, a personal value shared by students. I read in the paper that some testimony at public hearing said, “a value can’t be a mascot.”  Having sat in a full gym and heard the entire student body shout in unison, “BRAVE” with fists raised high, I think an athletic opponent will be able to understand strength in community as a symbol of school spirit.

seminolesI was reading the Tommy Orange’s book when the Boise State Broncos played the Florida State Seminoles this fall.  I was surprised watching the game on national TV how offended I was when the Seminole mascot, clearly not a Native American,  rode out in full regalia  on an Appaloosa horse.  A Native American profile is the FSU symbol. Having just read how poorly Whites have treated Indigenous People, watching whites role  playing native people on national TV during a ballgame seemed a travesty. It gave me some sense of how offensive all these Native American mascots must be to Indigenous People.

Having a Seminole as the Florida State Mascot is extremely ironic. President Andrew Jackson launched two wars against the Seminoles between 1842 and 1855.  By the time he was done, 4000 Seminoles were forcibly transported to Oklahoma and the 350 remaining tribal members fled to the Florida swamps, not exactly a proud moment for white America. Yet Florida State still clings to this inappropriate mascot.  This is not to say that Idaho has a better record with Native Americans.  After all we are part of the Trail of Tears.  This is  name given to the retreat of the powerful Nez Perce in 1877 led by Chief Joseph in his unsuccessful effort to lead his people to Canada.  He and his people were captured in Montana.

White mistreatment of Indigenous People continues to this day not only on reservations but as Tommy Orange immortalizes in beautiful vignettes in our cities as well.  Mr. Orange’s fictional piece on the Big Oakland Powwow captures the strange limbo land in which Native Americans living off the reservation find themselves.  They are neither wholly Indian or fully integrated into urban settings. Whites have much more to regret than native mascots in our treatment of Indigenous People.  If you have any interest in emotionally understanding our despicable legacy, reading Tommy Orange’s “There, There” is a good place to start.

Will Streaming Replace Movies?

The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselWhen I was a kid growing up in Wyoming, my older sister and I would go to the movies once a week in the summer. These week day showings were sponsored by Dairy Gold and an empty milk bottle got us in free. Mom always gave us a quarter for popcorn, no candy or pop. I remember sitting down front in luxurious maroon velvet seats in a dimly lit theater with a bunch of noisy kids, crunching loudly on kernels like rabid chipmunks, waiting in anticipation for the show to begin.  I can’t remember a single show from these adventures. I do remember going to the movies was a special treat, an experience to be savored.

This week in a New York Times interview (Buchanan, Sept. 4, 2019), Brad Pitt was not particularly bullish on the future of movies in the era of streaming.  Pitt told Buchanan, “I’m curious to see if movies last, if movies stick around in the period of streaming.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Friday of this week (Morgenstern, WSJ, 9/6/19) described the recent Telluride Film Festival as showcasing largely movies for streaming. A move Morgenstern described as “tectonic” or a major shift similar of the earth’s crust, movements that cause earth quakes.

This last month I have had foot surgery giving me lots of time to stream movies and series. My experience is that some streaming productions, especially movie length features are unbelievably terrible.  For example, well known stars Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler’s “Murder Mystery” (released on Netflix, June, 2019) is a ridiculous farce, that transforms into a who-done-it, overlaid on a romantic comedy. My teenage daughter and I could hardly sit through the entire feature.  Both of us spent more time playing with our phones than watching the show. I was left wondering why any reasonable woman would marry the bumbling Sandler character.

Just out is another example of the travesty of full-length streaming, “Otherhood” short for motherhood (Nextflix, August, 2019). Featuring 3 middle aged women devoted to their grown sons  who said, “hasta la vista” many years ago and moved to New York, found apartments and jobs. The sons seem to be fully functioning adults.  Their moms, on the other hand, literally have no lives and no real connections to their sons. As the mother of a 25 year old son, who has moved successfully from Idaho to Seattle, I found the premise offensive.  Women can have children, careers, fun, hobbies and a life separate from their children and husbands.  But in “Otherhood” these three lost souls journey into New York, dropping in unexpectantly on their non-communicative sons to manage their lives. The sons, by the way, are young,  good looking and not the brunt of the writer’s humor.  The writers seem to think three older women who obsess about their looks, drink too much, interfere with their adult children’s lives and haven’t been dancing in years are not only hilarious but representative of the older female. This movie should never have made it onto the production schedule.Netflix

The one streaming movie featuring a strong woman I have seen this week is “Late Night” (Amazon) staring Emma Thompson.  I admit to my personal bias here.  I’ve never seen a movie with Emma Thompson that I didn’t like. “Late Night” features witty repartee about women, ageism, diversity and the white male culture of TV.  The basic plot is the difficulties of  successful aging focused on the challenges of pursuing both excellence and change in later life.  Would this show have drawn me to a major theater at a minimum $20 price point (ticket, parking, popcorn)? I’m not sure.  But the show is the best of my recent viewing of women leads in feature-length online movies.

The streaming plots seem more nuanced when they are structured as episodes.  “The Handmaiden Tale” on Hulu (Season 1) is gripping.  It’s back for a fourth season but I haven’t watched  seasons 2 or 3  because someone from Costa Rica stole my Hulu account.  “ The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon Prime is a great period piece, showcasing strong women in non-traditional roles with writing that leaves the viewer laughing at the pathos of the characters as they struggle with various neurosis. Both seasons 1 and 2 were outstanding.  I am eagerly waiting  season 3. “The Good Fight”  (3 seasons streaming on CBS All Access), stars attorney Diane Lockhart (Christin Baranski) as a tough, high powered,  older woman lawyer working in an almost all black law firm. She is the only white partner. For liberals, the plot focus on current events, dark humor, and undercurrents of an unknowable national conspiracy make the show binge worthy in my book.good fight

Even when I enjoy streaming a show, I don’t get the same excitement as I do waiting in a big dark theater with my over-priced popcorn for the show to begin. Short, high quality streaming episodes with a solid plot line can keep viewers watching night after night or binging away an entire day. But to get us out of our cozy homes and entice us to spend at least $50 for a family, movie producers and writers need to continue creating that special spell-binding magic that transforms our ordinary lives for a couple hours.  Without the magic, movies may go the way of my land line telephone which never rings or my dusty VHS collection, a relic of a past that was transformative at the time but unable to adapt to new technology.   But for right now, I still love a great movie on a big screen in a dark theater .

Find Me

Find MeFind Me is an award winning, Indie film, streaming now on Amazon Prime. Tom Huang, writer-director and star realized he wanted to make a movie about our western national parks when he was wading through Narrows Canyon in Zion National Park.

The unlikely hero in this movie is Joe, a Chinese-American middle-aged divorced accountant living a dreary existence of work, home, work. Amelia (staring Sara Amini), his bubbly younger Hispanic coworker and friend, challenges Joe to get out and see the world and shares her many adventures with him. That is, until she disappears.  But she doesn’t disappear until she steals some company funds and makes Joe promise to do anything to “Find her”.  That promise is the premise of the film as Amelia sends hints to Joe of her whereabouts.

Joe
Joe searching for Amelia discovers the beauty of the American west.

Joe’s journey takes him and the viewer through some of the most gorgeous vistas in America’s west including Zion National Park, Death Valley, and Yosemite National Park. An underlying theme in “Find Me” is diversity.  Joe is a Chinese American, a change up from the traditional sexy macho western hero.  His bumbling efforts to understand the bread crumbs Amelia leaves along the way provide moments of quiet humor. Other change ups from traditional white shows, Joe camps with a black woman from Detroit and of course, Amelia is a young Hispanic woman.  Amelia carries a secret with her as she crisscrosses the west.  The ultimate theme of “Find Me” is that we are in charge of our own destinies.  Fate may be an unequal broker but in the end, each of us has the opportunity to live life as we choose.

The scenery alone is worth cuddling on the coach with a loved one and a bowl of popcorn.  I have had the opportunity to travel the places showcased in the film but I am always awed by the beauty around us.

The underlying pathos of “Find Me” is also worth some personal reflection.  Are we living our best lives now?  Does the routine of life dehumanize your spirit and keep you from exploring new vistas.