Sunday, September 23, 2012

the hills are alive with the sound of fun drunks and judgy jerks

1. dr. frankenwhatever, just hand me a cigarette

When I was in college, I accompanied some friends to Rocky Horror at the Nuart. They were aging punk rockers, meaning they were twenty and had been going Fugazi shows since they were twelve and were sort of over it all. They still wore twenty-hole Doc Martens, but there was no way they were going to make the effort to dye their hair green and shape it into a mohawk again.

Once upon a time, they’d been Rocky Horror cast members. My friend Jenessa’s boyfriend Bill had played Dr. Frankenfurter perhaps for years. Now they watched a few minutes of the movie and spent the rest of the time smoking in the lobby and making snarky (unscripted, unrelated to Rocky) observations.

I suppose they weren’t actually smoking in the lobby. Even in 1998, I’m pretty sure smoking in movie theaters was illegal. But they were all but smoking. 
It's just a jump to the left, and a step to the lobby.

I was bummed out because I’d never seen Rocky Horror all the way through, and I wanted to know how it ended and throw tortillas. It’s the hazard of being a late bloomer with prodigy friends, which is the story of my life in too many ways.

2. the deceptive simplicity of do-re-mi

I had a similar experience at the Sound of Music sing-along at the Hollywood Bowl Last night. Everyone was there to sing and wave fake edelweiss, but I hadn’t seen the movie in years and I kind of just wanted to know what happens.

Sure, it’s campy and Julie Andrews’ Maria is relentlessly cheery, but I had the same reaction I had the last time I saw Dirty Dancing, which was, Wow, this is a really good movie. Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics are simple and poetic in a way I never appreciated before because 1. my roots are maximalist and 2. the songs favor sopranos, which means I can’t sing them, which means I can’t be bothered.

“To laugh like a brook when it trips/ and falls over stones on its way” sounds like a brook tripping over stones. Edelweiss, “strong and small, clean and white” sounds like an old folk song and captures the beauty of the Austrian alps…even if it also sounds a little bit like Aryan propaganda.

The “Do-Re-Mi” sequence does that amazing thing that only musicals can, which is to transport characters from Point A to Point B in just a few bars. That kind of development would take a hundred pages in a novel. The lyrics are literally as simple as “do re mi,” but as the arrangements grow more complicated, we see the Von Trapp kids finding their voices—discovering that discipline doesn’t have to be dour, but can be paired with playfulness to create something new and beautiful.
It's all about the stair choreography.

When Rolf first sings “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” to Liesl, it’s condescending, patriarchal and a shameless bid to get in her lederhosen. When she sings it back to him, she knows what’s up and makes it a savvier shameless bid to get in his…proto-Nazi pants? In the reprise, Maria sings it to Liesl. When she says “I’ll take care of you,” she means it, and it’s a moment of genuine empathy and mentorship.

Before I declare The Sound of Music a work of feminist genius, I should add that I was annoyed at the portrayal of the Baroness, whom we were encouraged to hiss at because she’s not Maria. Moral of this love triangle: The worldly, independent woman who wears suits and isn’t terribly interested in motherhood doesn’t deserve the guy. Never mind that she also happens to be kind, wise and beautiful.
Look at that conniving bitch in her smart little jacket.

3. shut your von trapp

Anyway. So that’s my review of The Sound of Music, just forty-seven years after it came out. As for the sing-along, I’m giving two thumbs down to the family that sat in front of us. Actually, the first family that sat in front of us had a very sweet one-year-old who kept turning around to grin at us. Her parents seemed nice too, even if they had dressed her in baby jeggings. They’d spread out on the bench, as people do before the Bowl fills up.

When Family #2, who had seats on the same bench, came along, the dad immediately started belligerently telling Family #1 to move over, without so much as an “Um, I think you’re in our seats, so if you could just scoot down a bit….” Wow, what a douche, I thought.

“Us” was me, my sister and three of her fellow high-school-teacher friends. They spend fifty hours a week censoring what they say because young people are around. When they’re off the clock—at a campy, gay, wine-infused evening event—they can get a little raucous. Costumes are a big part of the sing-along, and there were more than a few people who dressed as “brown paper packages tied up in strings.” Cathy’s friends Ryder and Adam started joking about how they wanted to plan some sort of dick-in-a-box play on notion of “package.”

Douchey Dad whirled his head around and told them to keep it down. He and his wife had three elementary school-aged kids who probably already know that penises exist, unless they’re home-schooled, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Throughout the show, the mom cuddled with the two girls, pulling them so close you’d think the Nazis might find them any minute. A big stretch of bench away, Douchey Dad cuddled with the son. I was glad he wasn’t one of those dads who thinks boys shouldn’t be hugged, but I decided to judge them on the weird gender division in the family because, hey, they were clearly judging us. The mom shot us dirty looks every five seconds, even when people just chuckled at stuff like the Baroness calling the children “pussies.” At one point she put her hand up to the side of her mouth and whispered something very angry-seeming to her husband. If something went down, I suppose it was the man’s job to initiate.

I sort of felt like Maria, about to get in trouble with the strict nuns for doing something crazy like running, and I half wanted to stand up and say, “Bring it on, bitch.” I have an unfortunate tendency to feel like a second class citizen around all parents, which is probably why the self-righteous ones piss me off so much, because clearly they agree with my internalized shit.

I think the Sound of Music is a great family event, if you’re the sort of family who believes children are capable of growing up in the actual world. A world in which people sometimes drink and swear, and men sometimes dress as nuns. If you think your kids can handle a movie about Nazis, it seems like they can handle the above. I can’t tell you how many adorable little kids came dressed as Gretl and cuckoo birds. I bet some of them heard the word “penis” during the course of the evening and I bet—I mean, I have no proof—but I bet they didn’t immediately start turning tricks behind the park-and-ride buses after the show.

Monday, September 17, 2012

hello you must be going to see this movie

I'd spend more time like this if our couch were long enough to lay down on.
I broke my No Movies About People In My Demographic rule this weekend to watch Hello I Must Be Going, because the trailer assured me that Melanie Lynskey’s character, Amy, would be sufficiently bummed out as to not stress me out.

(Can I just say how refreshing it is that a character allegedly born in 1977 is named Amy? Not Lily or Ruby or Madison, or another name given to humans born circa 2007 and movie characters born in 2012. AK and I have a thing about how trans guys tend to rename themselves, like, Brayden, even when they’re thirty years old. If your female name was Jennifer, your male name should probably be Dave or Brian, not Owen. That is, if you’re going for realism. If you just want a name you like and you don’t mind turning around every time the parents at your hipster coffee shop call their two-year-olds, carry on, Brayden/Owen.)

Where was I? Hello I Must Be Going and realism, right. The script is sort of a B+: divorcee moves in with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein) and encounters all the humiliations you would imagine, all while wearing an old, ill-fitting T-shirt. Thirty-five-year-old girl then meets nineteen-year-old boy who turns out to be cooler and more genuine than her ex, though not without his flaws. But Melanie Lynskey puts a sweet, savvy spin on even the most B+ lines. She has a nice non-actressy doughy-ness about her, like she’s waiting for the world to shape her.

It’s crazy how much less good this movie would have been if it were about an angular divorcee named Ruby.

There’s a scene where Amy tells someone she’s really, really busy, which gently cuts to Blythe Danner reading a story to Amy’s niece, and Amy slouching in an armchair, staring at nothing, contemplating everything. I’ve spent a good chunk of my thirties this way so far. I felt grateful.

Another reason this movie is good: The parents have their own lives, which don’t just revolve around making Amy’s difficult (though they do some of that too). At one point Amy is sure her parents are giving her the near-silent treatment because she’s really, really fucked up this time, but it turns out they just have their own shit going on. For kids—even adult kids—this never stops being a revelation.

We also spent a little piece of the weekend painting papier-mâché calacas for AK’s sister’s wedding, which is in October and has a Dia de los Muertos/eternal love theme. I guess you could argue that a second wedding might acknowledge the sometimes non-eternal nature of love, but I really like the idea of folding all stages of life into the mix. Love means the dark and the light, and all you can do is throw a party and cover the graveyard with marigolds.

Monday, September 10, 2012

whatever comes after the fallow season

Ollie takes ownership of the cube.
Ahem. Hi. Well, gosh, I feel kind of bashful. When you’re internet-quiet for four months, you feel like the next thing you say should be really important, even if that was never the aim of this blog. But all of a sudden this is turning into that worst-of-all-creative-writing-products, the I Don’t Know What To Write A Poem About poem. Or its blogosphere equivalent, the Sorry I Haven’t Posted blog.

I’m not sorry. I’m…rested? I actually have about a thousand things to do this week, so that doesn’t feel like the right word, even if it’s true in the mental sense. I took some time off partly because I felt like my blog was alternately disingenuous or TMI-ish, or maybe both at the same time. This morning I was wondering how to create a voice that is both authentic and not overly revealing. It would have to be some sort of experimental narrative that is always doubling back on itself and calling attention to its own tricks. And that would be no fun. I’d rather try to approximate reality (but with prettier words) and fail (see: pretty words) and live with the consequences.

I’m not sure what Bread and Bread 2.0 will look like. Probably a lot like O.G. Bread and Bread, with slightly less frequency.

It’s fall now, or as I like to call it, Pumkin Spice Latte Season. That feels like a good time to start blogging—it’s a new beginning (love those, always), but not in the naïve, dopey way of spring, or Dark Cherry Mocha Season.

Here is one bit of actual news: A new cat named Cousin Oliver has come to live with us. This has elicited neutral shrugs from Ferdinand and OC, which is the cat equivalent of a warm welcome. I haven’t been too share-y about Ollie, because my PTSD way of thinking is Things that you love go away. But he had a UTI from hell last week, so if force-feeding someone three medications twice a day establishes permanence or ownership, he is ours. He’s crazy-eyed, playful, sweet even when you’re poking him with an eyedropper, and even if he runs away tomorrow, it’s too late: I’m vested. I love this little guy.