Wednesday, December 28, 2016

See it!

LaLa Land, LaLa Land! If an entertainment columnist isn't raving about Hamilton, he's rhapsodizing about LaLa Land!

The reviewers were right about Hamilton, they're right about LaLa Land. Where Broadway's hit is all-new and transformative, LaLa Land is an homage to the Hollywood that's gone.

Mia keeps trying and trying to get a break as an actress while paying the bills as a barista. Sebastian keeps playing weddings and garden parties as he dreams of opening his own jazz club, even though everyone tells him there's no money in jazz or intimate clubs anymore.

They meet, they fall in love. They break into song and they dance. 

Emma Stone is adorable, ready to pick up the mantle of America's Sweetheart that Julia, Jennifer and Sandra have all outgrown. Ryan Gosling is so intense and so handsome. You really want them to live happily ever after.

It's not a perfect movie. It doesn't have a memorable score. There isn't a song that stayed with me or that I'm still humming. None of the supporting cast is remotely interesting.

But it's joyous and consequential. It's what we go to the movies for. See it!


Where did these bug bites come from?

My friends don't literally live in Key West. Their house is on Stock Island, a small and less-developed island about 15 minutes away from the center of touristy Key West.

I've never before spent much time out there. All the fun stuff is "in town." But on Christmas Day, Henry took me on a walking tour of Stock Island and it really is lovely. (At least for now, before the proposed marina and hotels are constructed.) But today, three days later, I'm scratching and scratching because I did my wandering and picture taking while wearing shorts and sandals.

The rich folks and their boats, docked year around
A tugboat, a different kind of boat on the working side of the island

The as-yet undeveloped area


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1. What are you currently reading? An Appetite for Murder.Haley is an aspiring but down on her luck journalist who tells everyone she would do anything for a job at Key Zest, Key West's new lifestyle magazine. Then unfortunately (or perhaps fortuitously), the potential boss who was unimpressed by Haley's CV is found murdered and the Key West PD is knocking at Haley's door. So far I'm enjoying it because author Lucy Burdette has nicely captured the Key West foodie scene.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Hercule Poirot's Christmas. An eccentric, wealthy old Brit unexpectedly decides to invite his family (some estranged) and friends for Christmas. Somebody gets dead. On the one hand, the mystery was really unsolvable by anyone but Poirot.  I suppose the clues point to the perp, but the mystery and the circumstances surrounding it really are rather fantastic. On the other hand, I appreciated the way Christie set it all up. It's the framework she herself devised, so it's no wonder that she's expert. She's coloring within the lines, but she's doing it masterfully and I thoroughly enjoyed being in the hands of an old pro.

3.  What will you read next? A biography from my tall TBR pile.

I wonder what JFK would think of this

At the Tropic Cinema in Key West, the Seward Johnson sculpture of Marilyn stands before the poster of Jackie. Icon vs. icon. Carnality vs. elegance. Mistress vs. wife. What an odd coincidence!

Henry and I saw Jackie, a most intense movie. And close to the facts as established by reputable historians and oral histories. We have a tendency to forget what a violent crime that assassination was, and this movie is unflinching in portraying the brutality. The brains on her face. The blood in her hair. According to this account, her strength and resolve were unleashed by the savagery of the crime. Henry was so moved by what went on in the backseat of that Lincoln Continental that he actually began to cry.

But my favorite scene was a wordless one toward the end of the film. She tells the reporter -- obviously modeled on Theodore White -- that she wants to see his article before it's submitted. He looks at her with great skepticism, since journalists of his caliber don't show their work to their subjects. A few moments later, there she is, his pad in her lap and his pencil in her hand. "That's my girl!" I whispered to Henry. Was she right to personally edit the first draft of history? No. But it gave her the illusion of control at a time her world went mad, and I admire her for doing what she believed needed to be done for her family and for her sanity.

"Do you know who James Garfield was?" she asks the ambulance driver who drove her and her husband's casket away from Parkland Hospital back to Air Force One. "What about William McKinley?" When the driver can't answer, you can see the wheels turning. The horror had to mean something. Her husband would not be forgotten. She would not allow it.

Natalie Portman did a wonderful job in the title role. I'm glad that future generations will see that there was a brain beneath that pillbox hat.

A hiccup

We were going to have Christmas dinner at Duffy's Steak and Lobster House, a Key West restaurant that I'm unaccountably fond of. It's fine, standard fare, but I think the reason why it makes me so happy is its location. Duffy's is a light green/white structure on one of the main drags, and it was one of my first "landmarks" when I first began going to Key West, decades ago.

I had Cubs champion baseball caps for Henry and Reg. I, of course, would be wearing one of my many Cubs shirts and a holly, jolly time would be had by our little group of 3.

That was before Cynthia. Cynthia is a 60-something local who worked at a coffee house/internet cafe a few blocks from the joint where Reg tends bar. Her home was foreclosed on sometime in 2015 and her furniture is in storage. Lately she was the houseguest of a couple and the three of them got in a spat and they threw her out. She came in to the bar each day and down a few before retiring to her rented room. Reg told me that she was discontented but hopeful that she would find an apartment she could afford.

All of a sudden, Cynthia stopped coming in. None of the other bar patrons knew her well so no one could tell Reg what happened to her. Finally she shot him a text -- she was in the hospital, recovering from a stroke. He visited her in the hospital and found her very frightened. She let her boss know that she had lost partial use of her left side and was told that they couldn't afford to hold her job for her until she could perform her duties again. With no job, she had no way to pay for her rented room.

Reg and Henry took her in. She moved into their house on Wednesday and I arrived Thursday.

Things are bad for a woman when the only one she can turn to is her bartender.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, we had a summit at Duffy's. I was glad because I at least got to eat lunch there (seafood salad). I gave Reg and Henry their Cub caps then because, well, I didn't have one for Cynthia and I didn't want her to feel left out.

Her happiness and comfort was especially important to Reg. Cynthia was embarrassed about her stiff left arm and hand and her walker and wouldn't want to dine out with us on the 25th, and the thought of her left alone and behind on Christmas night was just unacceptable to him.

Reg's actual turkey and carrots
We had our assignments: Reg would make a turkey and his fabulous glazed carrots. Henry would prepare the potatoes and pick up a pecan pie for dessert. I would come up with a small gift for her. Something inexpensive so she wouldn't feel embarrassed, but holiday-themed to put her in the spirit of the season. (I decided on a gift bag with chocolate Santas and coconut wreathes and candy canes, etc).

So Christmas Eve, Henry and I went to church and said goodnight, knowing what we would do on Christmas Day.

The only flaw in our plan was Cynthia. A friend she knew longer than she did Reg invited her to a home-cooked brunch. Reg was thrilled because it would get her out of the house when he was cooking. However, Cynthia had too many bloody marys and returned sloshed. She lay down "for a minute" but was lost to the world and never joined us for dinner.

Still, this story tells you what good people my friends are. They are giving a woman a private room with her own bath for free simply because she needs it. I'm very proud of them and their Christmas spirit.

PS JUST CALL ME WRONGY MCWRONGERSON. I found out it wasn't an old friend who invited her over for bloody marys on Christmas morning. It was an elderly LGBT support group that the hospital introduced to Cynthia when she was in the hospital. They have helped her arrange rides to follow up doctor appointments, etc., as well as giving her a few cups of holiday cheer.