Friday, March 25, 2011

An Elizabeth Taylor Story

For nearly 20 years, I lived catty-corner to the old F Street Club. It has since been converted back into a residence, now for the GWU President, complete with quiet zone signs. Don't know how he rates them, but there ya go!

Anyway, the F Street Club was famous for not being famous. Membership was very exclusive and select. Comings and goings were usually discreet, but when various presidents came to visit, we'd have Secret Services guys on our roof and others surrounding the club. They'd yell at us if we opened a window. Kinda scarey with all the binoculars and fire power they carried.

When Elizabeth Taylor became Mrs. Senator John Warner, she sometimes visited the club. No paparrazi in those days, at least I don't think anyone ever told them about this private club. Besides, it's members were mostly old Washington society, business and government types. I do believe Mrs. Warner was the first real star to put in an appearance.

Our 1937 apartment building had a maintenance engineer probably born around that time. He was a big, lumbering guy with a habit of cooking chitterlings (pronounced chitlins, y'all) very late at night. The odor would waft up into our bedroom through the ancient heating ducts. Now I like chitterlings, but I don't want to be wakened by the smell of 'um!

George was a gentle giant who enjoyed his "baby" -- any bottle of scotch that made it's way into his huge hands. He worked hard and smoked like a chimney, too so there was always a pungent odor about him.

Over the years we became buddies. My apartment had a serious case of mice and George always came up to empty the traps and reload them with peanut butter. To this day, I WILL NOT handle a mouse trap! Never have/never will. Thank God George was so understanding. Although, come to think of it, he often expressed an interest in getting to know me better . . . . uh hunh.

Back to Liz -- George was seeing the cook who worked at the club. I never was quite sure whether or not they were married, but he spent a fair amount of time over there, especially after banquets or luncheons. Lotsa leftovers!

It seems Mrs. Warner was a pretty down to earth lady and enjoyed visiting with the help in the kitchen. She made it a point to express compliments and thanks for a good meal.

On this particular evening, George was again hanging out in the kitchen when Mrs. Warner toddled in. She was wearing THE RING -- the humongous diamond Richard had given her. George ambled over to her to ask if he could see it up close. She took it off her finger and put it on George's!! He didn't make it out of the kitchen with it but the memory stuck with those of us he told.

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George has been gone for years now. I wonder if he'll see Elizabeth in heaven. Maybe she'll introduce him to her buddy Michael Jackson.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What the . . . now I'm scared

Last night two commercial jets landed at Washington National Airport ON THEIR OWN!! Both tried to contact the tower, but no one answered. Being smart pilots, they decided to circle for a while and contacted regional traffic control operations to see what could be done. They, in turn, tried phoning, radioing and by means of a loud speaker to reach the tower. Nuttin'. Turns out the night shift is covered by ONE person. Granted, there aren't many flights that land at National during the late night hours, but ONE person?! What if he/she had an intestinal disturbance during his/her shift? Who'd cover?? The FAA says it will make sure this situation doesn't happen again. One regional person said that the controller may have locked himself out of the tower -- 'it happens.' Uh, if a person can't remember to take the keys when he leaves his post, what are the chances he's responsible in any other way. Our airport is within 6 miles of the White House. It's a noisy, stinky, pain in the butt for those of us who live in town, but it is convenient. Still, I'd hate to have some plane run out of fuel and ram into someone's house while it's trying to make contact with an air traffic controller. I cannot understand how airport authorities could think a single person on duty was adequate coverage. An extra salary would cost far less than the tragedy and havoc if a plane made a mistake.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Drinking From a Swimming Pool

That's what it smells like anyway. For the next three months or so, our tap water will smell and taste like pool water. Every Spring, the authorities switch from chloramine, used to kill cold weather germs, to chlorine for warm weather germs. I have no clue about the chemistry, so I have to accept that the switch is necessary. I don't have to like it though. Taking a shower is no longer a pleasant, relaxing and/or invigorating experience. The smell of the water makes me gag. One advantage, I suppose, is that I use far less water because my morning shower is now a quick in and out event before I barf. Having grown up drinking the sweetest water on Earth from Lake Michigan, I'm spoiled. The Potomac River just doesn't cut it in so many ways! The water filter manufacturers must really appreciate this annual ritual. Hmmm -- maybe I should look into buying their stock . . ..? Oh, and, did you hear that Constitution Avenue is going to be repaved? That'll be fun . . .

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Cleaning Surprises

I've got a pretty severe case of Spring Fever today. I'm thinking it's about time, but winter this year really wasn't all THAT bad . . . ? Two forsythia bushes across the way are waving lovely arms of bright yellow. Buds on flowering trees are about ready to burst and some already have.
As so often happens, particularly to females, I felt a gut-need to start cleaning out my nest. In the process, I gave my paper shredder quite a work-out.
I'm ashamed to admit I had years worth of receipts, magazine articles, newspaper clippings and stuff I now cannot imagine why I kept. From the accumulation of dust, I could tell they were already years old and not once looked at.
Among the junk I found little treasure. They are postcards from my Dad's mother's collection. When she was a girl, the hot thing to do was have pictures made of each other, printed on post cards which they then mailed to each other for mere pennies. Those that were actually mailed and received were addressed simply with the name of the recipient, the name of their town and the state. No street address! I guess small-town Iowa in the early 20th century didn't require that.
I wish someone had thought to write the date or at least name(s) of those in the pictures, but most remain a mystery. Still, I can see family resemblances in many of them. The first reflects a sense of humor I hope I inherited. In the second, the sitters look so morose! I know it wasn't the fashion to smile in early photographs, but really. . .!
Note the man in the background -- naked or in long underwear?
Someone covered him up with pencil;
then someone else [no, not me] erased the markings.
Oh my!
These folks I believe are members of my Dad's family.
Nope, there's no Irish in 'em.
Straight Norwegian!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Henry's Sisters"

If Cathy Lamb's novel is ever made into a movie, I will not go to see it. Please allow me to explain.
The story is about three completely different grown women, sisters in their 30s. The youngest child in the family, Henry, has the mental capacity of a five year old and is all about pure love and devotion. He is adored by all. Their mother is a psychotic mess with the temper of a troll. But, that changes later in the book when a key person reappears in the lives of these five, very different and traumatized people.
A movie theater is not where I'd watch a film of this novel -- I'd be a snivelling, mascara-streaked wretch by the time it was over. The emotions run deep and fast so I'd need the comfort of watching it on a DVD in my own living room -- with a box of tissues at hand. Truthfully, I don't remember EVER crying so much over a book!
Cathy Lamb created such realistic characters that many will relate to them. Family dynamics often are puzzling and they certainly are in this novel. By the end though, the painful history for this family is sorted out and healing begins in earnest.
I am the oldest of three sisters in my family and we, too are totally different women. Thankfully, neither of my sisters are as screwed up as are the characters in this story. We fought as all siblings do -- pecking order nonsense. I am grateful that my evil big sister acts have been largely forgiven. Having said that, I'm not positive our two brothers have recovered from having three, strong-willed sisters.
"Henry's Sisters" will remain in my permanent collection for when I need a reminder of how lucky I am.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tacky Torture or Good TV?

After a studying marathon with Spouse (see previous post) I needed a break and turned on the TV. It happened to land on a Lifetime channel show called "Coming Home." It features military members reuniting with their families after service overseas. As many others have, I've enjoyed seeing home videos of this sort of thing on YouTube, etc. Sometimes there are ecstatic dogs involved and more often stunned and thrilled children being surprised at school by a returning parent. Lifetime channel's show takes it a few steps over the line, if you ask me. Maybe it's good that I caught only the second half of last night's episode. The host of the program is likable enough and seems sensitive, but some of the gimmicks the show uses to surprise unsuspecting family members didn't work for me. The worst offender was a manufactured scene in which knights (in shining armor, of course) fought on horseback and on foot. The soldier's wife had already reunited with her husband, introducing him to another son born while he was away. No one clued-in the 8 year old son who thought he was just going to a cool jousting match. He and his mother sat in a special viewing area above the action. When it came time for the father/soldier to come out, he was dressed in chainmail and armor, wearing a shiny helmet to conceal his identity. Waiting for his moment to enter the ring, he was standing directly below where his son and wife were seated. He kept looking up, realizing he was this close to hugging his son, but had to follow through with the charade. I was screaming in my head for him to dump the costume and go grab his son and wife. Instead, torturous moments passed with the son kneeling in front of the knight/father while the host commented on the moment. AAAARGH!! FINALLY, the father took off the shiny helmet, revealing himself to his overjoyed little boy. Lots of hugging, kissing and "I love you" and "I missed you" made me weep with happiness through my anger. I was disgusted and embarrassed at how much the show was milking this intimate moment. Now I like a happy ending as much as anyone else and I'm sentimental to a fault. However, dragging out a homecoming with stupid gimmicks is disrespectful and cheapens the moment - or - am I missing something important here?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Real Rip-Off or Not?

For some unfathomable reason, Spouse decided to take a course on basic air conditioning. It is offered - at a stiff fee - from an foundation located in northern Virginia and meets Tuesday evenings for four months. Classmates are from nearly every continent on earth, so English is not their primary language. Nevertheless, the course uses a huge text book, weighing around 8 pounds. That's a problem in itself because these guys have to travel to their evening classes from work or home -- mostly by public transportation. Still, that's not my biggest gripe with this program. Thumbing through the text book I was stunned by the complexity of information and high language skills necessary for these guys to get this information. I should think even graduate students would be challenged by the content! Traditionally, I thought that adult education texts were written at a 5th grade level. Coming from Somalia, Ethiopia, Iran, Ecuador and other countries, English is enough of a challenge without throwing in specialized, technical terms and American idioms! [If you've ever been asked to explain an American idiom, you know how hard it is!] I've spent hours trying to help Spouse study. He is determined to succeed in this class and spends several hours every morning before work and after work trying to absorb what he is expected to learn before the next class. I don't think it was simply my ADD that nearly sent me over the edge today. Spouse is task oriented to the extreme and is still going at it! I admire his determination, but I couldn't handle any more. I have a decent understanding of the English language and have written numerous proposals, reports, programs and curricula. The guys taking the class Spouse is in are being ripped-off because it is way over their heads! Oh -- and earlier last week, Spouse emailed and left a phone message for his instructor about an assignment -- still no response from him. Doesn't say much for his professionalism and I'm still wondering about his teaching credentials -- if he has any. AARGH!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Never thought I'd be saying this. . .

. . . Justice Alito got it right. His was the only dissenting vote among his fellow U.S. Supreme Court justices when they decided in favor of those dreadful, half-witted, insensitive, despicable, raunchy, demonic, totally whacked-out people who picket military funerals. Freedom of speech is a sacred right for all Americans. HOWEVER, I seriously doubt that the writers of our constitution and bill of rights could have imagined the sort of acidic rhetoric their radical idea would end up protecting. They must be rolling over in their graves right about now! As usual, the Supreme Court went with the letter of the law which protects ALL speech, even if it is vile and intended to hurt, slander and otherwise insult others. It is at times like this that I have to remember that God punishes far more harshly than any human being can. That said -- I'd sure love to see those jerks and their ugly signs get swept away by powerful fire hoses at the next funeral they invade!