Thursday, December 30, 2004

Falling

To get to my mailbox, I have to pass through my brother's backyard and use the gate that blocks the side of his house from the street. It's made from recycled pieces of wood, old pylons and palm trunks and with the past few incredibly wet days, the wood swelled. So much so that the gate would not open. I thought of a way to gently pry the gate open so I genlty pushed on the wood to which the latch is bolted and pulled the door toward the opposite wall. Well, I guess I leaned a little too hard against the door because in a few seconds, the door was falling to the ground with me on top of it. One of those America's Funniest Home Video Moments. The nails pulled completely free of the wood, and one of the hinge bolts bent out of shape. I managed to lift the door back into place and left a message on my brother's answering machine about what had happened, thinking to warn him in case he or is girlfriend attempted to use the gate.

A little later, my brother gets home then storms out the back, past my door and to the garage. I made the mistake of asking if he had heard my message. He proceeded to call me an idiot and to lambaste me for being such a moron as to break the gate. Gee, thanks, bro. No, no; you're right. I was trying all along to get that door to rip off its hinges. That's what I live for. It's all my fault that it rained, causing the wood to ballon to two times its normal thickness, too. The bolts probably would have pulled from the wood on their own eventually due to the weight of the wood, but my plan worked perfectly! I'm not hurt, by the way, thanks for asking.

Before he could say anything more, I turned back into my place and shut the door.


***Update 12-31-04: he stopped by before going out last night to apologize. We talked about what happened and are going to work on the gate once the wood has a chance to dry out.

Another Bizarre Dream, sans Fever

With most dreams, I usually only remember that last few moments before waking up. Back in college, I scrambled to write them down in my English 101 journal to turn in as a writing assignment. I would spend a good 15-20 mintues before getting out of bed jotting the events, sights, colors, feelings, people and sounds down in as good an order as I could remember and later check out what some of the ideas presented could mean. My dream journaling has suffered, of late, but I'm going to try to fix that by occasionally posting dreams here. Maybe even what a few of the symbols may represent, too.

After a bit of research on the dream of a few nights ago, I learned that the color black is associated with very negative feellings, but in old Chinese architecture, a temple, home or palace painted black represented water, something very cleansing to the spirit. The color gold, which trimmed the black of the palace, represents spiritual healing. Brother is also a spiritual reference and may also represent certain aspects which I see in my own brother on which I need to work. That's just a small portion of what I learned. This dream could mean that I'm going to experience some emotional upheaval that will also affect my brother. By remaining strong and clear-headed, I will eventually make it through and be able to help my brother to work through it. Hmm...intriguing.

But, as with anything symbolic, it's open to interpretation. Another may find something completely different when examining the dream. Then again, it may have no significance at all.

My dream of last night was a bit more bizarre than the Chinese palace.

The nuns are gathered in the chapel for prayer. The Mother Superior turns to me and asks me to sing the 9th paternoster. I rise from the pew and walk down the aisle toward the back row of nuns, my hands clasped in prayer just before my chest. I stop in front of a thick book and turn the pages to the paternosters. The word is spelled incorrectly in the book - "poternaster" - but I think nothing of it as I find the 9th and begin to sing the short phrase "Manufana La La La" in a surprisingly clear soprano. The Mother Superior asks me to continue with the paternoster as the echo slowly fades. I look down at the page, then back to her and ask if she knows where I may find the complete one.

And, I didn't even have a fever last night. Maybe it was the mac and cheese....

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Fevered Dreams

Being sick over the holidays is not fun. I've had a pesky sore throat for the past three weeks for which I'm taking Biaxin. It seems to be helping, but I really want the soreness to go away!! Then, Monday night after dinner, I suffered severe stomach cramps that had me running to the bathroom and prevented me from sleeping; the driving winds and pounding rain didn't help, either. In the morning, I dry heaved a few times before they stopped being dry - ick! - and develped a fever of 100˚F. Needless to say that I stayed home, watching home improvement shows in between fits of sleeping on the couch. The only food I ate was a jar of applesauce from Trader Joe's and a few glasses of orange juice.

Around 11 PM, I finally dragged myself to the bedroom, turned on the electric blanket and fell asleep even with a pounding headache. Thankfully, I didn't wake up until the alarm sounded at 6:45 AM. My fever broke, too, but the dream I had just before waking was both cool and bizarre.

My brother and I are treasure hunting in the hills of China. Climbing over a hill, we see what appears to be an abandoned palace, painted black with gold trim, hidden in the lush green trees. It's a many-roomed, long building, built close to the ground so that it follows the contour of the hillside. The sky has turned a dusky gray as we approach the palace from the topmost room. A huge hole pokes through the debris at what should have been a door. I remove some of the timber and rocks and climb into the room; my brother waits outside. This first room is filled with dusty, black furntiure most of it in shambles. The hardwood floor appears weather-beaten and creaks with each step. I keep thinking to myself that a ghost is going to surprise me at any moment. I make my way to the other side of the room only to find another hole, similar to the first one. Once again, I remove some timbers and rocks, then climb down into the next chamber. The room is very similar to the first, only with less furniture. A dim light diffuses through the boarded up windows. As I travel on, I go through three more rooms, each with a debris-blocked hole, with the amount of furntiure lessening in each room until I reach an outer deck. The wood of the deck is weathered gray like drift wood; steps lead off to the left into another part of the palace. Before me is a black wooden chest with a gold Chinese pattern painted across the front. I open it and find what we've been looking for: a black panel decorated with a solid gold circle studded with blue and red gems at its center. I look back through the rooms to where my brother is waiting. He's silhouetted by the sun from behind. I tell him that everything's alright. He quickly makes his way down through the rooms and onto the deck. As we both approach the chest, I see two figures pass by the bottom of the wooden steps and into the lower part of the palace.

I woke up feeling excited and exhilarated, as if I had actually been on that treasure hunting adventure. I'm one of those people who believe that dreams do give us a little glimpse into our psyche so I'm interested in finding out what some of those dream symbols mean. And, wouldn't that be cool if there really were such a palace in China? I've got to check that out.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

3-Day Weekend

Christmas Eve is the night my family gets together to celebrate Christmas and open presents. It's been this way for as long as I can remember, with Christmas Day left for the stockings and for rest after all the build up of shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning. We gathered at my Aunt and Uncle's house, gorged ourselves on hors d'oeuvres (or horse ovaries, as my Dad calls them), baked ham, potatoes au gratin, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and cream puffs, and then dove into the mound of gifts placed beneath their tree. I think everyone received what he or she wanted, but the best moments were when my Uncle tried to put on the too-small Red Army pilots hat, or when my cousin told me about the cologne that he and his partner had bought as a gift but which opened during the flight from Madrid and spilled over his clothes, or our parents relating stories about my cousin and me growing up (I still don't remember telling my first grade teacher that I was Jewish - and her believing me. I really feel that parents enjoy making those stories up just to embarrass their children.)

The next morning, I reluctantly forced myself from bed and moved to the couch. I decided to spend Christmas Day watching movies, reading books and playing Russian roulette with the TV remote. The first movie choice was Disney's Aladdin, followed by phone calls to my parents and friends to wish them all a Merry Christmas. Before starting the next DVD, I decided to take a walk downtown and out on the pier.

I've lived in Huntington Beach for a little over 4 years, but not once during that time have I visited the Huntington Beach Pier. It was completed in the early 1900s, extending 1,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean and made entirely of wood. Through the years, it's been pummeled by severe storms which have knocked it down only to be re-built each time by the community. So after the movie, I donned my jacket and headed downtown, soaking in the sun and the salty sea air. Many of the eateries were open, jammed with people enjoying the day; even Starbuck's had a line winding out its doors and down Main St. I made my way around the people, crossed Pacific Coast Highway and onto the pier. Dozens of people stood along the railings close to shore watching the surfers as they caught some good waves or crashed into the green waters. Farther along, the number of people thinned down to a few fisherman and families with cameras. I rested just before reaching the Ruby's Diner at the pier's end, staring over the railings at the thousands of minnows shimmering near the posts and pylons. Two white birds with short black beaks swriled in the air above them then dove into the schools, each time re-surfacing with a shiny fish. After 15 minutes, I turned around and headed back home to watch another DVD - this time Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake - and to break in my new stove.

This afternoon, CS and I saw La Mala Educación, or Bad Education, the newest film from director Pedro Almodóvar. As CS said, it's a film noir in color, filled with fantastic characters, great performances and a twisted tale of religion, sexuality and identity. One of my Top 10 movies this year. After the film, we braved the crowds across the street at South Coast Plaza, browsed the furniture stores and dined at Ruby's Diner. We did take advantage of a few sales, with CS finding new ornaments for next year's tree and me adding three more books to my list of To Be Reads.

Now I'm relaxing, getting ready for another 4-Day Week and the New Year's Celebration to come.

Friday, December 24, 2004

L'Opéra populaire

RG called out of the blue last night and invited me to dinner and a movie since he was leaving work early for the Christmas Holiday and didn't want to make the long trek to North Lake Elsinore just yet. I gave him directions to my place, and he arrived around 4:30. I gave him the grand tour, and then we searched the Yahoo movie pages for a nearby screening of The Phantom of the Opera. We'd missed the 3:30 showing so settled on 7 PM, just enough time for dinner beforehand at Oggi's.

Phantom brings to the big screen one of Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber's more popular musicals. Having never seen the stage show, I can't make any comparisons, but the movie was so-so. The set designs and costumes were dazzling. Emmy Rossum gave a fine performance as Christine Daae, the ingénue. Minnie Driver was wonderfully campy and over-the-top as La Carlotta, the Diva. Patrick Wilson did a good job as Raoul de Chagny. As for The Phantom, Gerard Butler is a good actor and sexy as hell, but his voice didn't seem strong enough for the part.

Joel Schumacher's direction left a lot to be desired. He seemed to pepper the movie with angled camera shots and superfluous scenes that detracted from the story. In fact, they kept reminding me that I was watching a movie and never afforded me the opportunity to get lost in the movie. (It didn't help, either, that the woman behind me was singing loudly throughout the entire film.) The story moved at a snail's pace, and I was surprised when leaving the theater that only 2 hours had gone by instead of three. Having never seen the stage production, RG informed me that a few of the very important scenes had been re-sequenced to give the film a more dramatic flair.

And, blasphemy of all blasphemies, the music annoyed me. Not the singing or the songs themselves, but when the synthesizers and electric guitars chimed in, I found myself cringing in the movie theater. The electronics struck me as being out of place with the time period b eing evoked: 1870s Paris. I've listened to the Broadway Cast Recording numerous times and believe the electronics work well with a stage production, just not for the film.

RG disagreed and loved the film. To each, his own.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Busy busy busy!

I haven't had much time to post the past few days. Lately, I've been socializing, going to the movies, cleaning house and even finishing my Christmas shopping. Saturday, I spent the entire day at Disneyland with CS and a couple he knows, whom I will refer to as Furniture Guy and The Husband. I hadn't seen Furntiture Guy and The Husband since June when we attended Equus in Santa Ana. The four of us fought the crowds and managed to hit many of the big attractions, like Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Around 4 PM, CS received a call from joela that he and The Spouse were on their way to meet us at the AMC for a showing of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Two other friends joined us, as well - everbear and KL - who decided to stay after the movie to join us for dinner at Tortilla Jo's and a trek into Disney's California Adventure. We closed that park then wandered through the stores of Downtown Disney searching for last-minute Christmas gifts.

Sunday, CS called to see if I wanted to join him and two friends for a movie and late lunch. I had planned on doing a bit more Christmas shopping, but then decided against it, giving in to the urge to have fun instead. I met CS and two of our friends, who just moved back from southern Illinois, at a theater near my house to see Christmas with the Kranks, one of the nastiest, least funny holiday-themed movies I've ever seen. Afterwards, we headed to Hamburger Mary's in Long Beach for a late lunch which lasted about 2-1/2 hours and was followed by some barhopping: The Falcon, Mineshaft and The Brit. Oh, and I bought my Christmas cards at The Crypt, which is an erotica/leather store. Shhh! Don't tell anyone.... Kind of a quiet Sunday at the bars, but we had a great time.

Monday after work finally afforded the time to finish my shopping, and I'm happy to say that I did. Everything's bought wrapped and waiting under my tree for our family gathering this Friday. I usually never wait this long, but I'm glad I did as I found some great deals.

Tonight, it's house cleaning and laundry as my cousin is arriving from Madrid. He's not staying with me, but he and his folks want to see my new place so I have some tidying up to do. And lots of laundry. My hamper overfloweth.

I want to leave you with another quote from Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal. It has nothing to do with Christmas or the holidays, but it struck me as I read it yesterday during lunch:

"Smooth, white, hairless except just beneath the spinal tip where a number of dark coppery hairs began, only to disappear from view into the deep crack of buttocks so tightly clenched that not even a crowbar could have pried them apart."

Now that's what I want to find under my tree on Christmas morning - along with the rest of him. After all, I've been a good boy this year.

I hope.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Blindness
by José Saramago


A man waiting at a traffic light suddenly goes blind for no apparent reason. Not a dark blindness, but a unique whitening, as if looking at a blank movie screen. Then, the man who helped him home goes blind and soon, more and more reports of sudden blindness are sweeping through the city. The government, in an effort to stem this epidemic, confines the newly blind and those who have been in contact with them to a mental institution. After a few days, the conditions become horrific, food becomes scarce, and baseness soon starts to grab hold of the internees. One lone woman is witness to everything, waiting for her turn to become one of the blind, becoming the eyes for a small group of internees as they survive in this new whitened world.

The sense of disorientation and loss caused by this inexplicable blindness comes across not only in author José Saramago's description of places and living conditions, but also in how everyone communicates. Saramago does not separate each character's speech into separate paragraphs, but has them run into one another in long, flowing paragraphs that confuse the reader, making him/her feel as though he/she is blind as well, not knowing who is speaking, only hearing voices. The reader also sees society at its worst: an alarmist government, soldiers going off half-cocked for fear of being blinded themselves, communities in the grips of fear that turn against one another, the degradation that one human can cause another.

The character of the Doctor's wife - the lone woman with sight - witnesses all these horrors, but still maintains a sense of what is right and wrong. She remains the voice and eyes of reason, altruistically helping those in her ward to survive until the next day and the next.

"Blindness" is a powerful and disturbing novel from author José Saramago that shows the resiliency of the human spirit. Things that we take for granted may suddenly disappear, but humanity can persevere and adapt in the face of such changes. A wonderous reading experience.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Page 123

Borrowed from his blog, I just thought this was a neat idea, being the book whore that I am.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

Miss Cluff is absolutely right and I for one would like to cut a corner or two and present her directly to an agent, instead of waiting until June, the usual time for the students to show what they can do which, traditionally, is not much.

From Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pinot Party

Last night, we held our company Holiday Festivities in combination with our Los Angeles office. Actually, our LA office invited our office to join in their fun so ST, her husband and I made the trek to Hollywood for a few hours of fun and food. Before leaving the office, we received a last-minute email telling us about the White Elephant gift exchange that was to take place. Seems that someone had forgotten to mention this to us. I already had a gift in mind for just such an exchange, and our Area Manager told ST that she would buy one for her (phew! - crisis averted!).

The party started at 8 PM at Pinot Hollywood, a French bistro/tapas restaurant set in the middle of the studio district of Hollywood. It's located on the corner of Gower and Sunset Blvd. immediately in front of the Sunset-Gower Studios which used to be Columbia Pictures. The interior blended varying shades of red and grays on the walls and carpeting with dark wood dining tables and chairs, and gigantic French movie posters adorned the walls, giving the restaurant a very cinematic feel, as if it were the place to go after the theater to unwind and relax. The food, of course, was mouthwatering: melted onion soup with thyme croutons or Hearts of Romaine as the first course; artichoke ravioli, herb roasted Free Range Chicken or (my choice) grilled Flat Iron steak with melted red bliss potatoes as the second; and for dessert, tiramisu or a warm chocolate brownie sundae with mint ice cream. The steak was like eating candy, it literally melted in your mouth and left a slight peppercorn aftertaste. The mint ice cream had to have been handmade at the restaurant as it tasted of fresh mint. I believe this is the first meal that I've ever deliberately eaten slowly so as to enjoy every single bite!

Two hours later, we held the White Elephant exchange. The most popular gifts turned out to be a plastic lawn Flamingo and a Chia Shrek, both of which were stolen numerous times before all the gifts were opened. I ended the exchange with a set of 5 DVDs containing classic TV shows such as The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. My gift - a Frosty the Snowman doll with the singing voice of a Japanese karaoke-goer who doesn't know the English words to Frosty the Snowman so he makes them up as he sings - found a happy home with the couple sitting next to me.

We don't see much of the LA office simply because of distance so it was nice to meet with everyone, to match voices to faces and to catch up with old friends. Another highlight was a semi-celebrity spotting. (Well, the man is actually married to one of the LA team members.) He's a personal trainer as well as the body double for Vin Diesel in a few of his more recent films. I've seen the pics and, after meeting the man in person, can verify that he is in fact the body double, only a bit more muscular and handsomer (great eyes, goatee, glasses, shaved head - if only he had a twin brother who happened to be gay and single...).

Now why couldn't I have dreamt last night about someone like him instead of Shrek with a green chia-fro sprouting from his head?

Monday, December 13, 2004

"it's a [shallow] world"

The delivery men installed my new stove on Saturday, but unfortunately, neither of them remotely resembled Pavel Novotny. (I realize the pic says Brad, but it's really Pavel. Trust me.) I had planned on them arriving closer to 3 PM so when they showed early, it sent me into a tailspin trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my day. So I bought a Christmas tree ($10.99 at Big Lots!), pulled out the two boxes of ornaments and yuletide cheer, and decorated. Then, I watched a great horror film from Hong Kong called The eye. My folks arrived later in the day to ooh! and ahh! over the stove - a beautiful 4-burner from Frigidaire - and my humble home. My Brother and his girlfriend stopped by, also, and the five of us drove to Chicago Ribs for dinner.

Sunday, my friend RG joined myself and the Gay Disney Annual Passholders Group for our monthly outing at one of the parks. We started off with 15 people but had upwards of 25 throughout the day. RG used to work for The Mouse and knows many of the hidden secrets - such as Hidden Mickeys and where a majority of the videocams are. (You know, in case you want to smooch or something.) However, on one of the newer attractions, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, JW from the Group pointed out three animal heads (Melvin the Moose, Buff the Buffalo, and Max the Elk) from the Country Bear Jamboree which used to reside in Winnie's new home.

After that, the Group wandered over to "it's a small world." Somehow we timed it perfectly to coincide with the last leg of the Holiday Parade so our wait was only 10 minutes. (When we exited the attraction, the line trailed away toward the horizon with a wait of 90 minutes.) I'm beginning to wonder what some of the ride operators are thinking when loading people into those boats. We told the attendant 20 people; He/she - I don't remember which - directed 14 of us into the first boat. Which doesn't sound like a problem until you realize how skinny the boats are: 6 rows wide enough to accomodate two adults, possibly a third person if the third is incredibly small or skinny. Many in our little group are of a more bearish stature, and this worked fine with the first four rows. Two people sat in those while the remaining six of us crammed into the last two. We didn't think much of it until we started moving, and my side of the boat (starboard) began to list and dip under the water. Needless to say, with a wet ass I slammed into RG who sat next to me who slid into JW causing the port side to list. It took a few minutes, but we organized ourselves and prevented a repeat performance.

Our boat slowly entered the building, and as we rounded the first sharp corner, we all heard a scratching from beneath the boat. That scratching sound was our boat dragging along the bottom of the flume. Then, we stopped, our boat wedged between the sides of the flume. After much laughter and shouting, we managed to free ourselves but had to pull the boat along. Thankfully, one of the ride operators (way to go Samuel!) walked alongside our boat to make sure we didn't beach again. The bottom draggged quite a few more times, but 25 minutes later, we finally made it to the other side. I haven't laughed so hard or enjoyed that ride as much in a long, long time. (Oh, and if you look carefully in one section of the attraction, you can watch an animatronic character choking his chicken. I kid you not!)

We ended the night with the wonderful fireworks display and a trip to Club Libby Lu or, as we call it, The Straight Man's Nightmare. Everything pink-frilly-feathery-glittery-poufy you can imagine a little girl (or drag queen) wanting: t-shirts, perfume, wings, poodles, phones, tiaras, boas, stoles, etc. Even a "Pretty, Pretty Princess" board game. I don't know who enjoyed it more: the little girls spritzing each other with the perfumes, or the gay men trying on the tiaras. One straight father sat on a stool, mouth agape and eyes glazed over, as his wife and little girl giggled with unbridled glee at everything.

I think I need a weekend just to recouperate from the weekend....

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Cooking with Gas

My Dad called yesterday to say that he'd bought a new stove for my place. Which is nice since the current stove doesn't work. And, even if it did, I'm not sure that I'd want to use it seeing as the last tennant left half a casserole and other "delicacies" in the stove when he moved out. I doubt that I'd be able to find enough Brillo Pads to begin cutting through all that black ickiness.

The store told my Dad that they would call me this morning between 6:30 and 9 and tell me a 4-hour window in which they should be delivering the new stove. So I've been up since 6:30, tinkering on the computer, watching some TV, reading a bit of Myra Breckinridge, and waiting for them to call so I can start my day.

Waiting is almost like being held hostage. I'm afraid to jump in the shower because once I have my hair lathered up, the phone is sure to ring. I can't step out to get a doughnut or two because once I lock the door and start my short trek down the alley, I'll hear the ring and rush back in time to just miss the call. And when they do call to give the time window, they'll somehow manage to show up as close to the very end of the period as possible. More and more waiting.

The only thing that will make this day brighter is if the delivery guy is some Pavel Novotny-looking hunk in blue Dickies pants dark brown construction boots and a short sleeved blue work shirt that shows off his incredible biceps as he single-handedly carries in the new stove firm ass staring at me as he bends over to affix the gas pipe asks me to hand him a wrench then pulls me onto the kithcen floor ripping off his shirt to show off his thick muscled chest as presses me to the floor and begins to....

Oops....sorry. The store just called. The delivery truck will be here between 11 AM and 3 PM. Probably closer to 3. The whole day's shot. Good thing I haven't made any plans.


***UPDATE!! Well, what do you know? The delivery guys showed up at 11:15 AM. I'm in shock! How am I going to spend the rest of my day?!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Ballbreaker!

Last night, CS and I attended a production of Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! at the Orange County Performing Arts Center - a fitting fulfillment of one of our New Year's Resolutions. What better way to bring in the holiday season than with Tchaikovsky's beautiful music re-telling E.T.A. Hoffman's story The Nutcracker and the King of Mice?

We both knew that this version was to be just a bit different, with the story changing from an elegant Christmas party to Dross's Orphanage. What we didn't realize is that Bourne threw out a large chunk of the original and created something unique and - unfortuantely - boring. The oversized sets and colorful costumes did much to enhance a childlike dream quality to the show, and the entire company danced wonderfully. During the ice skating sequence, the mixture of costumes and movements almost made me believe that they were in fact skating across the stage. The problem, though, lay in the choreography. To me, it came across as a hodge-podge of varying styles that never quite gelled with the music. Tons of upper body work, hand gestures (what CS charmingly referred to as "drag hands"), head movements, and some completely out-of-place seizures that had me wondering if they were channelling Charo. Also, the re-working of the story to take away the King of Mice with seven heads and the love story between Clara and the Nutcracker didn't sit well with me. The Nutcracker winds up with Princess Sugar and moves to Sweetieland leaving poor Clara heartbroken.

To put it in as nice a way as possible, I was disappointed with the performance. I'm not knocking modern dance or ballet. In fact, one of the best I've seen was a production of Agnes deMille's Fall River Legend about Lizzie Borden. I guess when it comes to nutcrackers, I'm a traditionalist.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

No Place Like Home

For the past few weeks, I've felt less desirous of going home after work. I'll hang around Best Buy browsing through CDs and DVDs; walk the hallways of South Coast Plaza not in search of anything in particular; go to the movies like last night, when I saw The Motocycle Diaries. Anything but head for home.

I'm not sure why, and this is really nagging at the front of my brain.

Perhaps the cold has something to do with it. The temperature over the last few days dropped to the upper 30's during the night. I know that doesn't sound cold to many back East or in the MidWest, but I've grown up close to the beach in Southern California. I'm accustomed to seeing sunbathers on Christmas Eve lying along the beach and watching Santa on a surfboard as he catches the best wave. My new place, though, reminds me of a refrigerator. A few of the windows are cracked or missing small pieces of glass allowing slight drafts to breeze from room to room. None of the windows is insulated from the cold. The house has no heating unit. Makes you want to rush right home, doesn't it?

Fortunately, I have yet to see my breath upon waking in the morning, but give it time. In the meantime, my parents gave me a space heater and CS an electric blanket to add to the three non-electrics already positioned on the bed. And, I wear the knit cap that my cousin brought me from Perú every night.

What I don't want to admit is that I think I'm lonely. This is my first Christmas as a single man living on his own. I've always had someone to come home to: the past four years have always been with my ex, and before that, roommates. The mere idea that someone else will be there was comforting. Now, it's just me. (Okay, and the potato bugs.) My routine is all out of whack, and I'm not finding it easy to get into a new one. I sometimes wonder if I ever will. Why rush home to empty rooms just to sit on the couch watching belly bulge as I feed myself frosted animal cookies?

So I stay away. Hide behind my "contented" face to let the world think that everything's okay and sit through another movie or another ride at Disneyland.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Infestation
We walked into my house last night after dinner, and I quickly entered the kitchen to hang my coat on a chair at the table. I pressed the light switch, and there, splayed on the linoleum like a baby tarantula, was another one of those mutant crickets.
"Oh shit!" I said, jumping nearly four feet back into the living room.
"What?" CS said. He stepped into the kitchen and saw the two-inch demon of Huntington Beach lying on the floor. "Oh, so that's what those things look like."
I was more shocked than anything else. I seriously did not expect to see another potato bug roaming about the place. Ants:maybe; spiders: definitely. But not bugzilla. The good news is that I think I know where this one came from. All I need to do is to find something to plug that gap in the baseboard behind the fridge.
CS bent closer for a better look. "It's hideous!" So he stepped on it.
My hero.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ramblings

Friday night, I met with CS to view the film Finding Neverland which delves into the inspiration for Sir J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Johnny Depp gives a wonderful performance as the Scottish playwright who finds inspiration for his classic story from the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four children - one of whom is named Peter. Kate Winslet, Julie Christie and Dustin Hoffman also give fine performances as does Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies. We left the theater doing nothing but talking about the film. To me, that's a sign of a great movie, when you step away but it still lingers at the front of your mind. The National Board of Review saw fit to name it the Best Picture of 2004, and I would definitely place it in the Top 5.

*******
With the holiday season in full swing, I've already stacked my Christmas-y and Winter Solstice albums by my CD player. The Carpenters, Mannheim Steamroller, The Nutcracker, a few "various artist" collections, and my absolute favorite, which is spinning now in the player, December by George Winston. Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit more than sipping hot chocolate while listening to Winston's solo piano resonate with seasonal sounds.

For a great list of tunes, check out his blog.

*******
On December 8th, I'm going to the ballet. Matthew Bourne's production of The Nutcracker has made its way to Orange County. I'm very familiar with the music but have never seen a live production, only those cheesy film versions. (My apologies to any Macaulay Culkin fans out there.) Bourne's dance productions have received worldwide acclaim, and I regret that I missed his all-male presentation of Swan Lake while it was in Los Angeles. (The DVD is on my Netflix list, though.)

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That's it for now! I'm off to spread some holiday cheer of my own by spending money. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Top 5 CDs of 2004

I decided to get a jumpstart on all those year-end lists we'll be seeing on TV and in the print media by giving you my Top 5 CDs of 2004!! Normally, I buy dozens of CDs every year but, with my money situation being the way it has been this year, I've been very picky about my music purchases. And, I also re-discovered many of my cassette tapes from the '80s and have been listening to them over and over again. This year has offered some interesting options: new CDs from Tears for Fears and the original line-up of Duran Duran; cast recordings for Wicked and Avenue Q; movie soundtracks including Garden State and Shrek 2; new artists such as Jet and Jason Mraz; and many of those American Idol folks burned a few discs.

However, I didn't buy any of the above-mentioned CDs. Go figure.

My favorites from what I did buy are listed below. I can feel the excitement pouring through my computer monitor.
5) Finally Woken by Jem: I first heard Jem's song They on a local radio station a few months ago and was hooked. The song was catchy, something that I found myself humming to while at work, and if it came on the radio, I turned it up to make everyone listen. The rest of the album is that way, as well, mixing a kind of 60s-Brit-Pop sensibility with today's ambient groove. Very stylish music combined with her fine, unadorned vocals. (By unadorned, I mean that she doesn't oversing like many of today's pop singers.) With an eclectic mix of songs, this has quickly become one of my favorite ablums this year. My favorite songs: They, Save Me, 24, Wish I, Stay Now, and Flying High.
4) Medúlla by Björk: in a departure from her techno-electronic sound, Icelandic-born Björk uses her quirky voice to full advantage with the collection of mostly vocal-only songs, including the wondrous Oceania which she performed at the opening ceremonies for the 2004 Athens Olympics. All the songs retain her unique songwriting style - even the ones in Icelandic which I can't understand but still sound marvelous. She continues to push the envelope with music, and it'vs incredibly refreshing in this world of over-produced pop clones.
3) Two Way Monologue by Sondre Lerche: a fantastic follow up to Sondre Lerche's debut album. The songs range from the instrumental opening track, Love You, to traditional folk/pop songs infused with a touch of Brian Wilson, such as the upbeat love song Counter Spark. One of my favorites, that showcases Sondre's talent as a songwriter, is the title song, Two Way Monologue, about trying to find common ground when communicating. It starts out with just the singer and a guitar then builds into a full-fledged pop-rock song, that keeps you tapping along with the music without missing the story of the song. Filled with intelligent and sometimes whimsical lyrics, energetic, traditional pop infused with a folk rock sensibility, and a deceptively sweet voice, this album displays what pure music can be.
2) Hymns of the 49th Parallel by k.d. lang: lang's sultry voice pays fitting tribute to her fellow-Canadian singer/songwriters, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Jane Siberry. The album doesn't come across as simply a collection of covers; it's almost as if the writers had her in mind for these songs. Her presentation makes the songs intimate and personal and gives them a solemn elegance. My favorite tracks: Helpless by Neil Young, Love Is Everything by Jane Siberry, and her haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.
1) Hopes and Fears by Keane: if Coldplay and Radiohead ever had a musical child, it would be Keane. This trio combines the best of both: intelligent lyrics and wondrous music. Not to mention the deceptively delicate voice of singer Tom Chaplin. Or the fact that the trio doesn't include guitars. With voice, piano and drums, Keane creates an incredible sound filled with driving rhythms and catchy lyrics. I never heard their songs on the radio. Instead, I was sitting in a movie theater watching the "pre-show," as they call it, when at one point, the theater filled with a heavy piano anthem backed with drums that drifted into a soft tenor voice. The song: Somewhere Only We Know, and I fell in love with it. And the CD.
There you have it! My Top 5 new CDs for this year. Now...what are some of your favorites?