Sing it long and sing it strong for Rah rah Paulding…

So I decided not to go to my high school reunion…not this time, at least. 1. We had already planned to be in Columbus, not Defiance. and 2. I just didn’t want to. And yet, when 15 or 20 rolls around, I just might do it. But mainly, I didn’t want to haul ass from Paulding County to Columbus and back.

I feel a little weird about not going, but I guarantee I’d feel weirder about going. Some of those guys have known each other since birth. I showed up at age 14. I never quite felt…hometowney? Part of me feels like I should go to Archbold’s reunion, where I went to school a majority of K-8. But then THEY would feel weird.

So Go Panthers tonight! I’ll be cheering in spirit. INCLUDING spirit fingers. Heck, maybe I’ll even wear my old football cheerleading windbreaker.

Anyhoo, I’d like to say that I do things in my own time frame. Sometimes it’s way faster than other people, and sometimes it’s way slower. Excluding perhaps fashion, I actually don’t keep up with new releases, etc. It really stresses me out. The reunion just isn’t occurring in a time frame that works for me, both literally and mentally. For example, last night I watched Cast Away. Not exactly a new release. But now is when I got around to it. Kind of a weird little movie, huh? I mean, Zemeckis fairly lolled himself all over it (somebody take access to emotive music away from that guy), but I did enjoy myself. Afterwards, Will said, “How was it?” and I said, “Oh, you know…manipulative and entertaining.”
Here’s what I liked: I liked that we got to see a mainstream movie with this weird little relationship between a man and a volleyball. It was…okay, I’ll say it. Feel free to boo, but it was existential. I also liked the ultimate message of Life goes on. The Universe is taking care of you. The Universe provides just enough. Not too much and not too little. You can be handed a sail. But a sail is only as good as the boat you put it on. So that. That I liked.
And I love Tom Hanks. He reminds me a lot of the men I know. From Dads, to Uncles, to friends.
What I didn’t like: Helen Hunt.
I also felt like, okay, really I think the score bothered me. It was like Zemeckis was saying, “Feel touched….NOW! (Swell of strings…)”. I just wanted to say, “Okay, this is poignant, but I’m going to feel it when it hits home for me.”
Weirdly enough, Chris Noth showed up in like, 3 other shows I watched last night. That guy must RAKE in royalties between Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Sex and the City reruns.


She wheeled her wheelbarrow…

I have “Molly Malone” stuck in my head. This isn’t a random occurence. I’ve been searching out “seaside” type songs for the show I’m directing for Rascal Children’s Theatre, Judith Lynn: A Story of the Sea. It’s been really fun so far, actually. And who do I have to thank for it? Well, Sting, of course!

I listen to weird music. I always have. Last year sometime, whilst listening to NPR, I bumped into a recording that thrilled me to my toes. It’s called Rogue’s Galley: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys.

I downloaded the song “Blood Red Roses” as performed by Sting. It’s just fantastic. As I drove toward my auditions for Judith Lynn, I listened to it and thought, “AHA! This album will be PERFECT for Judith Lynn!”

After I got home, I started to listen to more of the songs on the album. “Baltimore Whores” sure wasn’t going to make the cut. And then there was some lyric about “Goddamn sailors…” and well, I had to start from scratch. (Sidebar: Rogue’s Galley is smashtastic, children’s theatre aside. It’s like a night a gritty dive bar….in 1792.)

Sort of. I looked up all sorts of Sea Chanteys and Pirate songs and such and I found a few I could use, including (you guessed it) “Molly Malone.”

Ahem: “Cockles and Mussels alive, alive-oh! EVERYBODY ALIVE ALIVE-OHHH, ALIVE ALIVE OHHH, COCKLES AND MUSSLES ALIVE ALIVE OH!” Once when I was at Hilton Head over St Patricks day, myself and some friends found ourselves at a little pub listening to some Irish guy singing songs like Molly Malone. And then he said, “Hey! Let’s do a Scottish tune for our Scottish friends,” and he and I, alone, amidst a crown shout “Wallace! Wallace! Walla— *cricket….cricket*…. The Scots don’t get a lot of love. (I really am a Wallace by the way…It’s me mother’s maiden name.)

The point is, I like to use music theatrically, but not, hmmm…musically…like….musical theatrey, if you know what I mean. I like the music to occur organically from what is happening onstage (re: the “This Little Light of Mine” scene in Storming Heaven.) It can be so powerful. So I’m clam-digging up possible songs for me show. I also asked the cast to bring in songs among other things that rang true for them. (it’s too bad my banjo isn’t it working order…or that I don’t know how to play it… I do have one. It just needs a banjo doctor. Possibly even a banjo pyschiatrist.) I’m sure that some folks find it difficult to be sort of limited to the public domain, but there are so many treasures out there. But then, I’m a bluegrass fan. So, you know…

I like to find a “root”, so to speak, in which I can relate to something. How does a former-farm girl tie-in to a “story of the sea?” With music. And that’s just how I plan to do it.

I’m gonna let it shine…

Every once in awhile, a book brings me to tears. Typically, it’s because a beloved character dies (Hedwig the owl…oh god…I can’t…I can’t even talk about it…), but yesterday a book brought me to tears with the sheer weight of a scene.

A group of miners–poor, weak, sick, filthy, abused–gather together in solidarity, and slowly join in a chorus of “This Little Light of Mine”… This scene occurs in the novel Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina. Structurally, I found the novel and writing to be similar to Barbara Kingsolver’s work in The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer, two of my absolute top o’ the list favorite books of all time. But the images, the subject matter, the raw truth and leanings of the book were Steinbeck all the way. If Steinbeck had been a woman, which I know in some circles would be impossible to imagine, if not blasphemous. I encourage those circles to read Storming Heaven.

When I did the show Radium Girls I often found myself saying, “How could I not know this happened?” I feel the same of Storming Heaven. While the book may be fiction, the Battle of Blair Mountain most certainly was not. One the critics on the book jacket may hit the nail on the head (I’m paraphrasing), the reason we don’t know this happened is because our government was the bad guy.

What struck me the most about the struggle between the coal companies and the miners was that while the coal companies shouted “Reds!” when the miners tried to organize, I couldn’t help but think the coal companies has capitalized themselves to the point of socialism. HEar me out. In a mining town, the company owns everything from the house you live in to the store you buy food in. It controls EVERYTHING. Pretty freakin’ red, eh? It actually reminds me of the people that are protesting healthcare reform. Afraid we’ll socialize medicine? Whaddya call Medicare, Grandma?

But I digress.

Storming Heaven is EASILY the best book I’ve read this year. Thank you to Rebecca and Jamie for pushing it my way. I’m going to pay this one forward.

The Fall of Piety

Over the years I’ve been able to lord certain “accomplishments” over my nearest and dearest. “I’ve actually never had a cavity, so, I wouldn’t know…” But as time passes, I slowly cavitied and hangovered myself into the land of the Ordinary Person. This list of little “Nyah-nyahs” has dwindled and last night, finally collapsed entirely.

I got my first speeding ticket.

I won’t go into all the details. I was speeding. I mean, there it is. In my defense, I really and truly did not know that it was 25 mph in that area (mainly because I had no idea what “area” I was in. I was nearly irretrevably lost, save for the grid system.) I was going 38. (I know. I’m such a speed demon. Only I would get a ticket for going a speed that would get me cursed by other driver’s for it’s elderliness. But whatever, I’m not a fighter when it comes to law enforcement.

Except…okay, I’m an Ohio girl. And while I’ve never been awarded (note: positive spin) a speeding ticket until last night, I have been pulled over a couple times. IN OHIO. Land of the traffic laws that make sense. In Illinois, they take your license! Literally, you hand it to them, and they don’t hand it back. I’m driving using my f-ing ticket as my god damn license. Barbaric! I’m going out of town this weekend! What if we go to a restaurant and I want a drink!? What do I just hand them my Scarlet Letter “S”? And frankly, I don’t even know how I get it back. Do they mail it? Do I have to pick it up somewhere? Do I, gasp, have to see that cop again?

Anyway, I ended up bawling in a Walgreen’s parking lot, mainly because State Farm conveniently forgot to send our updated insurance cards, so I had to do a little song and dance called, “I swear to god we’re current, Officer!” (tappety tap tap tap TAP, jazz hands.)

By that time, I’d missed the meeting I was supposed to attend and went home and played with all the different things you can do with amaretto and vodka. I’d tell you where the speed trap was, but I honestly don’t even know where I was at the time. I’ll say, in the vicinity of Cicero ave. Which, of course, runs the entire length of the city, so good luck with that. Thank god for the grid system, or this girl would still be driving 24 mph seeing the mirage of 94E in the distance.

Oh and by the way, what’s a Triple A bond card? Anyone? I know I sure as hell don’t have one.

Wait. WAIT! Knock on wood and dances around fairy rings and all other sorts of superstitions before I say it: I’ve never broken a bone! Not officially, at least. Ah…put that list back up on the fridge.

Shopping List

As fall approaches, I alluded to this yesterday, I start seeing my wardrobe with a critical eye. What works? What doesn’t? What items will “open it up?” “Open it up” is my term for an item that is the key piece to many an outfit. My last big “Open it up” purchase was a pair of knee high black boots (that I purchased to replace the last pair of knee high black boots.) It just makes so many things work: skirts, minidresses, jeans. It allows me to seriously dress up even when it is brutally cold. (A lot of people in Chicago give up when the temperature hits a certain degree below freezing. I find this to be a weakness in their character. The brown full-length puffer coats…yikes. I mean YIKES. It looks like a walking dog turd. At least pick a color, you know? OR…and I highly recommend this, pick up a book on backpacking and poodle over to the chapter about backpacking in the winter. There will be oodles of info on layering without creating bulk. I actually use these techniques. No big turdy coat. Underneath that cute little sweater, try silk long underwear! They are thin, warm, and undetectable.

But I digress.

This year’s “open it up” item will likely be a pencil skirt. I already sort of own one, but it’s jersey and I want something with more structure. To quote Harry Shearer in A Mighty Wind, it will look “now-tro” as opposed to retro. That’s sort of the theme of this year’s shopping list Now-tro. Kinda retro, kinda my own thing.

I also had to rank the items in order of importance. This is because if I don’t I would buy shoes and only shoes and have no bottoms to put on. And that is a dilemma. Without further ado:

The Fall Shopping List
1. A pair of perfect jeans. Likely these will come in the form of Long and Leans from the Gap…if, god willing, they still carry them. (The Gap just went through a big jean makeover concept thing and I haven’t seen what they’ve got in there…). The point is they must be non-stretch, long enough for me (I have a challenging inseam), and be slightly bootcut, but not to the point of flare.
2. A winter coat. This year, while everyone is working the “Bright Color Coat” trend (finally. My god. Fashion editors finally got the memo that black wool isn’t the only material out there…), I will be concentrating more on a dramatic sleeve, I think. 1. I already did the Bright Color Coat thing. (Not to say I won’t again, I’m just not concentrating my efforts there.) 2. There are some very pretty options from some interesting sources….and they just might look right with opera-length leather gloves.
3. Ballet wrap-sweater straight from a dance supplier. One of my fave go-to’s. I wore my last one to shreds.
4. A Silk tie-neck blouse, print, long-sleeve, no ruffles.
5. The Leopard Print Pencil Skirt.
6. White shirt. Long-sleeved, french cuffed (I love french cuffs), also no ruffles.
(It’s not that I don’t like ruffles…it’s that I own so many of them, I had to introduce sanctions. I’ve also had to do this with Dolly Parton t-shirts.)
7. A vest – menswearish, with buttons. Smallish fit. (I may attempt to sew this myself….how hard would that be? I really don’t know. A standard vest is easy, but I’m looking for some fairly careful tailoring.)
8. A sweater vest. I really love sweater vests. I will actually probably knit this item myself. I found a cute vintage pattern.
9. The Mary Janes. I know I probably won’t be able to afford them this year, but should I pick up a quick $300, ahem, you know..
10. The opera-length leather gloves (look out ebay.)

That’s the top ten. The “Open-Uppers” are the pencil skirt and the tie-neck blouse. They will take what I have into the next level.

Now, the following pieces are not essentials so much as experiments.
11. Cashmere pashmina, wrap, or scarf. Basically I’m looking for a soft, thin, 28 x 28 piece of fabric. It’s the most versatile. I would even take bigger if I could find it. Sure you can use it as a scarf, but what if someone demands I do the C section of “Matchmaker” and I’m not prepared?
12. Lace-up flat oxfords, tiny. Basically I want a pair of jazz oxfords with a thick enough sole to walk around the city. Hmmm…maybe I should just pick up a pair of jazz shoes and have my shoe guy sole them. Anyway, I want to try these with cuffed jeans. Kind of a 1940’s workin’ in my Victory Garden look.
13. Minidress. Long-sleeved, print…preferably literal graphics, if you know what I mean (newspaper, toile, something non-abstract.) I love minidresses, and looks like long-sleeved are in this year. Plus long sleeved I can wear all winter. The short-sleeved get a little chilly.
14. New glasses. Sure, I should probably have prioritized this one at say, number 1, but my contacts are fine. My glasses, however…whew. No good. They are cute but I can’t see a damn thing.
15. Black bag. Far from experimental, I know, but sometime finding the right handbag can take so long, I have to mentally prepare myself for the search.

And then come the last 5 items (actually, my list doesn’t stop at 20, but after that it’s more of a brainstorm session.) The last five items are pieces that are classics, have been in my wardrobe at one time or another and I miss them.

16. Leather jacket. I really have a strange relationship with leather jackets. They are undeniably cool, but as an animal-lover, I feel a sense of guilt when I wear them. But then fake leather is…sweaty. And, well, fake. So. I’m hoping to find a vintage or used leather jacket. No extra animals are sacrificed and I still get quality.
17. Cords. I own a pair of corduroys, but they are old, and a little too beachy for my taste. How I found a pair of corduroys that can be described as “beachy” is beyond me. What I want is a perfect fit, slightly bootcut, in a pretty jewel tone…or pink.
18. Tretorns. I used to have a pair. I wore the hell out of them. And then I fell into the mid-late 90’s and my love affair with adidas. And now, I’m ready for tretorns again.
19. Black long-sleeved wrap dress. As I said before, I often have to institute sanctions when I overbuy an item. Being in theatre, and having performed some backstage duties, I buy a lot of black. I already own two black dresses. But. One is decidedly a cotton summer affair, and the other is a tropical wool LBD. They are versatile, yes, but I really want a black long-sleeved one to round out the mix.
20. Leotards. After yesterdays post, I was thinking…what’s stopping me from wearing what I love? Me. That’s it. I don’t mean I’m going to be jogging around wearing leotards, tights and legwarmers. But why not a leotard, jeans, and a wrap sweater? Scoff if you will, it’s an outfit I love to wear. Post musical dance rehearsal shouldn’t be the only time I wear what I love.

There’s more to the list, saddle shoes, glen plaid cap sleeve dress, little jackets, a twin set….but they are far from priorities. Then of course, there is my list of stuff I will always buy, that won’t ever get checked off a list: tights, bras, aprons, slips (I love slips), earrings, white tshirts, black tshirts…perfume, makeup…

I love fall.

Step, bump…step bump bump.

It’s nearly fall shopping season, my third favorite time of year (trumped only by Halloween and the Christmas season.) Actually, I suppose it is somewhat an extension of Halloween for me; at it’s heart, it’s all about having fun getting dressed up. It’s no wonder I chose theatre as my …pardon…ONE of my professions. I’m still eagerly (read irritatedly awaiting the September editions of Vogue and Instyle…note to drugstores, I KNOW you have a box full of September Vogues back there. The display date was TWO DAYS AGO. Put them out!) But I’ve had Elle and Lucky and Vanity Fair to tide me over.

The fall season is my favorite fashion season because it encompasses things I love: tweeds, tartans, maryjanes, tights, deep jewel tones, and fishnets. It’s also the season that I really try to hone my wardrobe. Summer is fun, but I basically live in sundresses and strappy sandals. There may be style to it, but there is little art.

Each year, I come up with a list of clothes I would like/need, and either head out on a marathon weekend of shopping or slowly use the season to pluck things off my list. This year I think will a slow pluck…ahem.

Meanwhile, for years, yes YEARS I have been searching for the perfect mary jane. I used to own them. They were buy Antonio Melani and now they are no longer in production and I wore mine out. I mean right out. I had them repaired and repaired but finally I had to accept that by the end, they would have looked better on Judy Garland in Easter Parade.

Since then, I’ve been at a loss. A long time ago I made a decision that I would only purchase items (clothing, movies, shoes, music, etc.) that I absolutely LOVED. Not just liked. LOVED. Even if it’s 3 bucks on clearance I have to love it enough to be willing to pay full price for it. As such, while many contenders have come along, no true love for mary janes has sprung.

Until now. I was perusing through the August issue of Vanity Fair when I happened upon this picture:

It’s an enterpretation of 42nd street.
I used to listen to the song 42nd street specifically for the big tap break in which 50 dancers crack it out in 20’s-style mary janes. If I could dress like this spread, I would. Always.

Anyway, there, on the second girl in, I spotted them: the perfect mary-f-ing janes.

They are from Repetto in Paris. They are $300. I don’t even know how European sizing works. I think I can get them at Saks. Of course, I don’t have $300. So I must add them to the grand wish list.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been attracted to the same fashion influences for the most part: Ballerinas (particularly of the early 80’s), vintage pinups, the 40’s and 50’s, the 20’s, tap dancers/Bob Fosse, a touch of that Ali Mcgraw/Jane Birkin thing, a dash of Fairy, and Edith Head.

Truly TRULY if I wore what I absolutely wanted to with no regard to practicality and other people I would own four outfits:

1. A leotard, tights, wrap skirt, perfect black mary janes, and leg warmers with a wrap sweater on top.
2. A tight white tshirt, perfect pair of boot cut jeans, black Christian laboutin pumps, and red lipstick
3. A navy velvet and satin ballgown with mountains upon mountains of fabric with a strapless corseted top, probably barefoot. Toes painted in OPI Affair in Red Square (my favorite color. Not just in nail polish.)
4. A perfect Bombshelly leopard print wiggle dress with some rockin’ red satin pumps.

That’s it. Really.

With that in mind, Introducing my grand wardrobe wish list (for my actual life that I live now):

1. Repetto Mary Janes (see above)
2. Christian Laboutin black pumps
3. Black leather opera length gloves (With or without Gloria Swanson)

*You may be wondering at this point if I’ve chosen to pursue a career that involves whips and chains. I assure I have not. I just have this little red satin evening jacket that is begging for these items…*

4. Perfect 40’s-y wide-leg wool pants with a bow Preferably, I’d like them in a camel color. But when I googled “40’s tie-waist pants camel” I got an assortment of pictures of pants and camels.

5. A leopard print pencil skirt. This, friends…this one may not be too far out of reach. I found just the thing at my little best kept secret: Newport-News. Newport News!? You shout, horrified. “I know!” I say, evily crinkling my eyes. “You thought all their stuff was horrid!” Well, a lot of it is. Trrrust me. They are more pleated pants and polyester tops than you can shake a stick at. But if you dig…you just might find something like this:

And sometimes I have a discount code.

So that’s the grand wish list. The wow am I glad I hid my credit card wish list.
Tomorrow I think I might share my actual fall shopping list.

A Euro for your thoughts?

I’ve never been to France, as I’ve said in the past. This continues to be true. However, I’m trying to change that. In my quest, as I handle all other quests, I research. Rick Steve’s (My favorite Euro-guru, of NPR and Public Television fame), has a list of recommended reading for people looking to visit France. Sixty-million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong is one of them. I should tell you now that I was a Political Analysis minor, so the fact that for intents and purposes, Sixty-Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong was basically a study in Comparitive Politics didn’t bother me. It could, however, be excrutiatingly boring for someone who isn’t into learning the ins and outs of government.

Except, here’s the thing, Sixty-Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong purports that France is Government. France is the State. So any book analyzing the French will therefore be a book about government and politics.

Sixty Millions Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong is not a travel guide. That’s why I read it, now, so far from our trip. It’s a book about France, French History, the French People, the French character, and those that run the country written by a couple who are from Quebec. I had heard a few years ago when I was considering makeup school in Paris (yes, I considered it. The dealbreaker? Quarantining my cats.) that France is a bureacratic nightmare. And I think, that it probably is, except it seems like the French have no problem with this. They like to know the State is there taking care of them. Of course, your average American would shout “BIG BROTHER!” and dive under his bed at that thought, myself included to some extent. But the French State isn’t looking to control a la Big Brother. It’s just doing what it’s citizens want in the first place. Whereas in America, it’s citizens do NOT want that in the first place.

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong presents the French as the “aborigones of Europe.” It hopes its readers will think of the French as a foreign culture, as foreign as the Chinese. The authors of the book assert that one of the main rifts between the French and North Americans, is that we tend to think of the French as like us, with a different language. And then we become frustrated when they don’t act like us. The point is, it’s a really fascinating take on a really fascinating people.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered a couple things. Somehow my upbringing has been a little more “French” than I ever thought. 1. The French tend to put rural life on a pedastal. This comes from pride in their cheeses and cuisine. Certainly, NW Ohio isn’t known for its cuisine (unless you are fascinated by what foods suspend the best in jell-o), BUT in both France and NW Ohio, if you run for office and you can’t talk agriculture or can’t manage to look natural in a picture with livestock, you probably won’t go far. So there’s that. 2. Paris, in particular, is considered a “City of Neighborhoods.” One Parisian expert said that one thing tourists can’t seem to grasp is that each arrondisement has it’s own center, and character. Hello, Chicago! Don’t we all sigh a little when tourist never make it much past Chicago ave? (Unless they go to Wrigley…) The point is they don’t make it to Lula or The Violet Hour and that’s a shame…for them. Not for me. They are crowded enough.

Am I comparing the French to Midwesterners? I think maybe I am, but this is based solely on research and not personal experience. There is an anecdote in the book that talks about how one French politician attended a county fair of sorts and in a botched photo op, had a lamb pee on him. He then subsequently lost the election. If the rep. for the 75th District in the Ohio General Assembly got peed on by livestock at the county fair, I’m just sayin’….

But then, in France, there wouldn’t be a representative for such a non-centralized area. As far as the book is concerned, all roads lead to France. All roads in the US certainly don’t lead to Washington, DC, let alone, Columbus. So maybe the comparison is moot.

My only complaint about the book is truly just the nature of this type of book. It’s copyright is 2003, but obviously it headed off to editor in 2002 sometime. There is not mention of the tensions between the US and France at the beginning of the war in Iraq (I’ll be frank, I’ve been strongly opposed to the war from the very beginning. HOWEVER, I’ve read enough to know that France and Germany’s hesitations were far from humanitarian in nature, due to monetary interests in the Persian Gulf, etc.) But the point is, none of this is mentioned in the book because it hadn’t happened yet. So, were they to release an updated edition (and I hope they do), I’d be very interested to see what it says concerning anti-Americanism, etc. (They definitely DO cover anti-americanism, fyi.) They also cover the situation in Paris’ “cites” concerning the “Jeunes” (a euphamism for France’s angry Muslim youth.) But that situation swelled as well, in 2003 – present. I guess I’m basically saying some of the info is by nature, outdated. Luckily, Rick Steves and his associates (not affiliated with this book) produce updated podcasts on Europe on a weekly basis, so the information is available, if not as convenient.

All in all, I’m glad I picked this book up. And I highly recommend it if you are looking to learn about the French from a certain perspective.
Sixty-Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow.