Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Quilt for every Occasion

I've said it here before and I'll say it again: I don't care for Halloween. For the reasons that 1.) I don't like scary things or the glorification of them, 2.) I don't care about dressing up, and 3.) I can buy my own candy, thank you very much. So around September of each year I find myself starting to get a little cranky about it. Like, why do people have to hang bloody severed heads on their front porch, like on a house I saw recently? And why does every channel on TV except for Hallmark show nothing but creepy shows for the entire month of October. The whole month is a gauntlet of horror for delicate flowers such as myself.

Things were no different this year and a few weeks back I found myself feeling grumpy about it all. But I don't like to feel grumpy! Aren't there enough things in the world to put me into a funk? I should not let a dumb holiday do that to me. So instead of succumbing to it I decided to combat it...with crafts! Making things has a real magical power over me. It's hard to be cranky when you're making something fun and cute. I headed out to the fabric store with the intent of just strolling for ideas and I came how with bag full of yardage and started making myself a Halloween quilt.

It should be noted that I have zero use for a Halloween quilt. It never gets cold enough for snuggling under a blanket until well into November. In fact, it's been over 85 the entire time I've been working on it. But I got it into my head that it's what I wanted to do and there was no stopping me. I found a cute idea online and set out to recreate it. Because I'm dumb. What do I know about quilting? Practically nothing. I've made a few in my time but most were really basic, and a long time ago. It's been ages! Also, it involved triangles and I literally failed geometry in high school. But I had a vision, for crying out loud. And a love of learning how to do new things, and confidence in my ability to figure things out, and a seam ripper. What more does a girl need?

And it turned out cuter than I even imagined!

Witches hats! It's hard to tell from this picture but there's a lot of metallic and sparkle in it too. It's backed with minky so it's really soft. It is also a mess. I mean, really, this would not even earn me a nice-try ribbon at the fair. The quilting is wonky and the puckers are abundant BUT it's cute and I love it.  And making it was good for my soul. I loved the whole, very long process, even the ironing. I did a test run with the bias tape on an extra square I had and when I finished I held it up in the air and said, "I am a sewing genius!" even though women have been binding quilts with their own bias tape for centuries. Get over yourself, Rachel. But still, I felt like the craftiest of all crafters. Like Amish women were going to send me invitations to join their next quilting bee.  

And now I want to make a quilt for every occasion. I don't have room to store all the quilts I want to make, and again, Southern California heat. But whatever. Crafters gonna craft. If the Amish don't come through with their invitation who wants to start a quilting guild with me?

PS. Remember how way back in January I was lamenting about how kids today probably don't know who the Talking Heads are and how I was introduced to them on KROQ when they would play Psycho Killer but that I was pretty sure they don't play that anymore. Well guess what I heard on KROQ this morning...Psycho Killer! It was a Halloween Miracle! 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Murder Most Foul (Wait...that's Hamlet)

Well, schools have started back up and California is on fire so that means we're in August. I've told you my thoughts on August before, right? It is best represented by that child you see in line at Disneyland at about 10pm. She is crying on her dad's shoulder. She is exhausted from hours of over-stimulation. She has been on every ride and eaten one too many churros. She just wants her bed but she must press on because her parents have spent an outrageous amount of money for her to have the memories!  THAT is August. 

But also, my birthday is in August so la, la, la! Let's drink Slurpees! 

My dad and I had talked about going up to the Utah Shakespeare Festival for a few days but then life happened and we never finalized any plans. But Othello called, as it always does, so, just because it seemed like a crazy thing to do, and because we were limited on time, we decided that we would leave very early in the morning, drive the 6 hours to Cedar City, watch the matinee, then drive the 6 hours back. So we did. And I know it sounds crazy. Who wants to spend 12 hours in a car to see a play? But sometimes you just need to do things like that. Because it will be fun and you'll have memories. Isn't that reason enough? And you guys, it was totally worth it. We both have been to many shows there and agreed that this was the best production we had seen. It was staged in their smallest theater and even though we were bunched up in the far corner we were still only 4 rows away from the action. I'll just say that being 20 feet away from a woman being strangled to death in her bed by her jealous husband is...intense. The play ended with bodies strewn across the stage, we hopped back in the car and got on the highway, only briefly stopping to pick up some dinner and then to check out the totally random Eddie World in exotic Yermo, CA. The conversation was great, we listened to good music, we watched a fantastic play and ended the day with ice cream. What could be better?

Hey, speaking of murder... (I shouldn't be so flippant about murder but a segue is a segue.)

I love this shot of the house my family stayed in for our reunion in Oregon because it looks both charming (the dock! the kayaks! the lights on the deck!) and also - because of the angle and the looming dusk - slightly nefarious, like muuuuurder is about to happen. This is totally the shot in a summer movie where a group of friends gather to reminisce about old times that says, "Meanwhile, back at the house, SOMEONE IS ABOUT TO DIE!"

Reader, we lived. But no thanks to the army of spiders that hung in every window. The spiders!

I've thought about doing a whole post about the reunion but here's the thing, it would just be me being all, "My family is great!" And you already know this. So I'll show you some pictures, how about that:

There were games

and hootenannies

and footraces

and service projects

and secret gardens

and dock jumping

and babes in hot tubs

and family pictures

It looks like we did a ton but the bulk of our time involved us sitting around talking and laughing. To wit, my family is great.

I'm going to say something about dock jumping. There is a hierarchy of preferable bodies of water in which to swim. It is, from best to worst:

1. Pool (clean, regulated temps, proximity to spa)
2. Ocean (waves, wee!)
3. River (continual replenishment of fresh water, although depths and temps are questionable)
4. Lake (gross)
5. Reservoir (gross, plus trees in shallow water with dead fish on limbs)

I have been in all of these this summer. And jumping off the dock at dusk was a thrill. But touching down at the bottom of the lake the thought came to me, "Well that was really fun but now I am wearing socks made from thousands of years of fish poop."

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A New Muumuu Destination

You:  "Hey Rachel, what have you been up to?"
Me: "Oh, you know. Not writing."

You guys, for six months I haven't written a thing! Not on this blog, no short stories, no emotional rants scrawled on any random notebook while sitting in the Target parking lot (I have done this, I will admit, more than once.) Sure I've written in my journal like any good Mormon girl but that's about it. And here's the thing, I need to write. When I joke that writing is my one talent I kind of mean it. Because it's the one thing I've always known I was good at from a really young age and not doing it makes me feel like I'm not living up to my potential. No one actually lives up to their potential. That thing is limitless. But I still like to give it the old college try. Although that's not a great turn of phrase in this instance considering that, even though I wrote constantly in college, it was mostly analyses on the Romantic poets or a comparison of the book and film of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I got an A on even though what I really wanted to write was, "Both were awful.The End." I don't think I mentioned Prince a single time in any of my college papers.

So I'm writing again. We'll have a party to celebrate. You eat a piece a cake and I'll eat a piece of cake and we'll both, at a designated time, thrown confetti in the air. And then I'll get back to writing. I'm not making promises people (all 3 of you) but maybe from time to time I'll put some little nugget up here, mostly to remind myself that I love it.

Speaking of cake I had the best, hands down, no competition, piece of cake I've ever had in my entire life. Purchased at a place called Rosine's in Monterey, CA. Eaten, primarily, on the road out of the plastic container it came in. I find most cake to be just okay. It's not moist enough or there's too much frosting. But this was a giant, chocolate piece of perfection.

Also on the perfection list: Monterey. Have you been? Gosh it's pretty. I went for the first time this weekend after a disappointing several hours in Santa Cruz (which will forever be known as NotMonterey, CA) The dramatic beaches! The abundance of funky looking cypress trees! The frolicking baby seals and otters! The proximity to Doris Day's house over the hill in Carmel! I mean, it's really the best. I've always thought I would spend my golden muu-muu years in Palm Springs but now I'm reconsidering. I would have to learn how to golf, of course, but I'd have to do that in the desert too. The level of Elegant Leisure is on par (see, I'm using golf lingo already!) with Newport RI but this is West Coast Elegant Leisure, which allows for flip flops and tacos.

Monterey came at the end of a two week blitz of travel. I was in Zion National Park for girls camp (hot, hot, more hot, and fun) then a week later I was in Oregon for a Knecht-fest that deserves its own post (21 Knechts, one house). And then a long drive down the coast through the Redwoods, loads of vineyards, the Bay Area, NotMonterey and Monterey (I used the bathrooms at Pebble Beach. Deluxe!) a quick stop off in Salinas to pay homage to John Steinbeck even though he hated the place, then home. I have been luxuriating in my own bed every night since. The joys of sleeping in your own bed after many nights of things that are not your bed, and things that couldn't even be considered a bed, cannot be overstated. I will say though that buying the World's Largest Cot and lugging it all the way to Utah for girls camp because I flat-out refuse to ever sleep on an air mattress again was one of my better decisions.

Here's a picture of me as Frodo Baggins leaving the Shire.

And here is the freakiest tree knot you've ever seen.

And here's Clark. Because what the world needs now, more than ever, is Clark.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Letting the Days Go By

1. Have you heard of Choir! Choir! Choir!? (That's what it's called, I'm not just shouting it three times at you.) It's a sing-along where you practice the back-up harmonies to a song for an hour and then you sing it all together, sometimes with a famous musician on lead vocals. I'm dying for them to come to LA. I miss singing with strangers. Well they had one recently where David Byrne sang David Bowie's Hero and you guys, if ever there was a moment where a Wealthy Benefactor would have come in handy it would have been this moment so I could have flitted off to New York to sing back-up with David Byrne. I would have BEEN THERE. Because I love sing-alongs and I love David Bowie and I love David Byrne. So much in fact, that a few months ago I had this really depressing realization that kids today don't know who the Talking Heads are. And I started to panic about that. The internal monologue went something like this: (A Talking Heads song shuffles on) "Man, I really love the Talking Heads. Does anyone not love them? Wait, that would assume that everyone knows the Talking Heads. They're old. People my age surely know them, right? But kids? I found them in the 80s because they played Psycho Killer on KROQ all the time but kids don't listen to the radio these days. And I'm sure KROQ doesn't even play them anymore. Kids are certainly not googling '70s and 80s new wave groups' when they're looking for new music. And what if their parents don't know the Talking Heads?! It's a parent's responsibility to introduce kids to old music they would otherwise miss. KIDS TODAY WILL NEVER KNOW THE TALKING HEADS!!! (end scene.) I'm going to start driving around town with my windows down and Mr. Jones blaring from my puny speakers so that the Youth of America can be informed. I'm around the Youth of America all day long for crying in the mud. From 6 AM to sometimes 6 PM I am with the young. I should be doing my part. My seminary kids are going to be so well versed in the Talking Heads catalog. Anyway, here's David Byrne and several really lucky ducks singing Hero:

2. Have you seen The Post? It was a great movie. But the best thing about it, by far, was Meryl Streep's caftan.

Behold the glory of it!  This isn't doing it the least bit of justice because you have to see it in motion. It's like she's wearing a shimmery cloud. She wears it for quite a few scenes and the whole time I kept thinking, "This is as close to perfection as any shapeless lounge-wear will ever get." It is magnificent. I hope to be wearing something similar when you visit me in my retirement in Palm Springs in 25 years. 

3. You know how loads of girl names were once boy names. Leslie and Tracy and Ashley and Beverly were all once 100% boy names and now are 100% girl names. This is a trend that has gone on forever and will continue to do so. But names are skewing older now. Which means that parents who follow the trend of giving their daughters traditional boy names are now giving them old man names, as shown by this article Katie came across. You should really see the whole list but I'll give you the highlights and then you too can wonder, "Were they high or something?" (all from births in 2015): there were 205 girls named Ezra (like the Old Testament prophet?), 97 named Ira (was she born with hair coming out of her ears and eating a tuna sandwich?), 65 were named Asa (I hope she got 500 heads of cattle at her christening). There are some Declans, which, I don't know why you would name your daughter after the Irish exchange student you had a crush on in high school but okay. And some Reeds, who will definitely all become accountants who wears polos every Friday, even though very few women actually look good in a polo. But my personal favorite is Uriah. There are 28 2-year-old girls toddling around America with the name Uriah. We could just assume that these parents really love the Dickens classic David Copperfield and connect on a deep level with the villain Uriah Heep. But I'm not sure even my love for Dickens would bring me to give any child, let alone a daughter, a name that sounds like something you'd have to have your urologist check out. 

Monday, November 20, 2017


I came home from work today and didn't have any piano lessons because I gave my kids the week off to sit and contemplate how grateful they are that I'm the type of teacher who doesn't make them do recitals. (Although I have to tell you that a couple of weeks ago I had two consecutive students in tears. They showed up that way and I had to throw out every trick I know to get them to cheer up and play the piano for 30 minutes.) And I don't have a seminary lesson to plan because we don't have class this week and here I am facing an evening free of all responsibility. I don't even have to cook dinner because Katie's got that covered. I'm living in a dream right now.

So I thought I'd pop on to this poor old neglected blog to tell you that this morning I saw an RIP sticker for Paul Walker on a brand new car. The RIP sticker has finally gone out of style here, so I was surprised to see it in the first place. But then doubly surprised that it was for Paul Walker. Because a.) not to make light of his death but it's been a while and b.) there is such a good chance that the gentleman who owns the car did not actually know Paul Walker. And with it being a new car he would have had to either get a new sticker or remove it from an old car. Can you picture this guy standing in the dealership parking lot like, "Wait! My RIP Paul Walker sticker!"

This begs the questions, do you think I should get an RIP Charles Dickens sticker? I can't think of a single person who has recently died that I would memorialize with a window decal. I mean, I still get a little sad when I remember that Prince died, but I don't want to be that person with an RIP Prince sticker. But Dickens, that's just funny. And I am slightly bummed that he's not around for me to go to a book reading and awkwardly stand by as I try to think of something clever to say that would make him want to be my best friend and also wish that a hole would open in the ground for me to fall into while he signs my copy of Bleak House.  Be honest, would you die laughing if you saw an RIP Charles Dickens sticker because now I kind of want one. In really fancy script with 1812-1870 on it.

Happy Thanksgiving back, turkeys!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

No Camp Pies for Whiners

And just like that summer is over. I'm back in seminary (I have the BEST CLASS, you guys! I want to adopt all of them!), things are full steam ahead at the Institute, the county fair has started, and the Tyranny of the Pumpkin Spice has returned to Pinterest. I mean, it was 113 degrees last week (I wish I were exaggerating) but as far as those summer good vibrations go, it's done-zo.

We ended things with a bang at the old Knecht Homestead this year. The bulk of the fam (we MISSED all the rest) came down and we all went beach camping at our beloved South Carlsbad.

Here's the view from the campsite:

It was alright, I guess.

I mean, you certainly don't want to go there. 

On to all the good things:

1. My birthday hit on the second day we were there. And I spent the day with my favorite people in my favorite place swimming in the ocean and lounging on the sand and laughing and playing games and eating shaved ice and tacos. It could not have been any better. There was even a pinata. How can I top this birthday? I'm not even going to try. 

2. At one point we all waded out into the waves. There was something kind of magical about that moment that I have not been able to adequately describe. Many of us had a small child on our hip and we all were laughing from the sheer joy of the waves crashing on us or being carried up by the swell. There have very few times in my life when I have felt that level of happiness.

3. No sunburn! Well, except for that spot just above my armpit where I ALWAYS get sunburned. I don't know why, okay? I just do. But it wasn't even bad. You should have seen the assortment of sunscreens I had in a wide variety of SPF levels. And the rag-tag canopy of umbrellas, EZ-ups, beach tents and hippie blankets we used to shield us from the sun was quite a sight to behold.

4. I've always said that camp food is better than any other food. It takes forever to prepare but it is always the most delicious. Case in point, the hamburgers Lindsay made for us over the camp fire. Hands down the greatest burger I've ever had. Also, Casey and Kylea drove down from Oregon with their own marinating meats for tacos. Plus, they made real horchata. As in, they soaked the rice and cinnamon for their entire drive down. That is hardcore!

5. There are hundreds of people who camp at that site but very few of them go down to the beach. They pack up for the day and drive to other beaches. It's a mystery. But I'm not going to dwell too much on it because it means that we practically had our whole section of the beach to ourselves. Life of Elegant Leisure!

I'll just let the pictures do the rest. Dear Fam, let's do this again!
Addie doing her best Audrey Hepburn

Lindsay brought her long board and the kids dug it.

The Kitchen and the Number 1 breakfast crew. Hippie blankets galore!

Look how happy we are!

Caswell, living his best life. Me having the best yawn.

We recreated a picture we took many years ago. We're missing Gina but saved her spot between Camille and Linds.

Camp pie time. I believe they were experimenting with chocolate cake and cherry pie filling.

One of my favorite sights of beach camping are all the towels hanging on the fence.

These kids were in HEAVEN with all the sand. 

The Family Motto

If only your kitchen had this view.

Look how content I look on the eve of 42. I mean, that's a face at peace. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I drove to Utah to see some rocks.

There seems to be a lot of people making jerky out in the middle of nowhere between Las Vegas and Barstow. It used to be that Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker held the market for dried meats in those parts but I counted no fewer than 8 billboards advertising jerky from other enterprises. A jerky boom is happening people, whether you're ready for it or not. This has nothing to do with the rest of the post but I thought you should be prepared for it.

I went to Utah with a few plans in mind, but the one I really needed to accomplish was to see Spiral Jetty. When I was a teenager, lo these many years, I saw a picture in an art book of a spiral jetty that Robert Smithson built at the north end of the Great Salt Lake as a piece of land art. I've wanted to see it ever since. I don't know why! Maybe it called to me. I mean, I don't want to get all woo-woo mystic on you but I've thought about it a lot over the years, is what I'm saying

"But Rachel," one of you is wondering, "you're an old woman. What took you so long?" Well, Cheeky McGee, when I was a student up there it was underwater - the circumstances of land art are that sometimes nature takes over. And then a drought struck the West and the water receded but every time I've been in Utah since then I've been on a schedule and it's a long trek out there. Plus, it's kind of a hard sell for people you may be with. "Who want to drive forever to this barren place to see some rocks that you've never heard of but have been calling to me from across the wilderness for decades? Anyone?" But I was entirely on my own this trip and the master of my own schedule. (Don't get me started on this because I will talk your ear off about the benefits of solo travel. Although I met up with Camille later that night for another adventure, so you don't have to worry that I'm becoming a total recluse.)

First stop was Promontory Point, where the railroad met between East and West in 1869. Because you have to drive through the visitor center parking lot to get to the county road that takes you out to the lake you might as well just go in and have a look and use the bathroom. And then you get to learn all sorts of fascinating stuff about trains and how the US abused thousands of Chinese immigrants on the project. Sorry about that.

I asked a ranger about driving out to the jetty and after he gave me directions he said, "The conditions are good today but please don't go unless you have a tank full of gas and a car full of food and water. You have no idea how many phone calls I get from panicked mothers in different parts of the country saying that their idiot sons are stuck out there." I assured him that I was a very sensible middle-aged woman with lots of snacks. As long as he thought my wee car could handle the washboard road then I'd be fine.

And I was fine, my car was a little champ. No frantic calls needed. The drive was surreal and stark and beautiful. And silent. At one point I stopped the car and got out just to see what it felt like and it was as if someone had put noise cancelling headphones on my ears. There was nothing. No wind, no animal noises, no distant cars. Nothing. I'm not sure I've ever experienced that kind of silence before in my life.

This was my view about half-way there. I would like to thank the clouds of Utah for helping out with my pictures.

You know how when you've been wanting to experience something for a long time it has the potential of letting you down? This did not. It exceeded all of my expectations. It's just so cool. Once I got there I scampered down the rocks and started walking around it all the way to the center, which had been my plan all along. When I first saw the picture, in fact, my first thought was that it would be cool to see it and walk all the way to the center. Childhood goal - achieved!

There was only one other person out on it and the only sounds were our shoes crunching the salt. There's a lot of salt. And dead birds, I assume because of the salt. SO MANY DEAD BIRDS! I'll spare you the pictures although I took plenty. I'll show you these pictures instead and you can just presume that there are plenty of decomposing birds in them.

I had to stop myself from making all of my pictures black and white.

From the center looking out.

At the beginning.

Go Dodgers!

Friday, July 21, 2017

'Tis a silly place

You probably celebrated in your own special way but the 10 year anniversary of this blog came and went like me at a social gathering I'm feeling awkward at. You got a confetti gun, didn't you. That was sweet.

Around the time I started this blog I was house sitting for someone and watching their dog Maynard, who was mentally challenged. He had fallen off the kitchen counter (WHY IS YOUR DOG ON YOUR COUNTER?! THEY STEP IN THEIR OWN POOP!!!) as a puppy and also OD'd on his owner's medication that was also open on the kitchen counter (geez) and it all left him a little special. He was cross-eyed and his tongue lolloped to one side and he would regularly just stand in front of me and stare.  He was so wee that he could very easily slip through the fence posts. Many nights when I would let him out he would wiggle through and dash down the street and I'd have to chase after him shouting, "MAYNARD! MAYNARD GET BACK HERE!" Which may be one of the most ridiculous things you could shout into the night.

I don't know why I brought up Maynard. Maybe because he kind of set the tone for this whole blog. It's a silly place, this.

I've been going through the process of editing (for spelling and grammar only. What, like I'd change this beauty.) all the old posts because I eventually want to have them printed out. For no other reason than what if some day the world is struck down by a pandemic and 90% of the world population dies and the grid goes down and we lose everything and we have to somehow find a way to rebuild our lives, I'm going to want to remember all those times I wrote about Slurpees. And Wayne Newton and Tyra Banks and Prince Face and The Queen. And Ruby St. Germaine and her crack problem (RIP). And all my crazy jobs (remember the Doc?! Chiquita?!). And the World's Largest Felt Collection. And how many times I posted the link to the video for I Don't Want Your Freedom. And this picture:

And now, to stay on theme for random stuff that finds its way into my life: I took my car to a different mechanic yesterday (I am loyal to mine but this other place took my warranty) and when I went in to pick it up the guy helping me out said, "For you, for your first time with us," and reached under the counter and pulled out a bottle of Tapatio with their address label on it. This is the most genius thing I've ever seen. It's way better than a business card or magnet. It's a cheap way to get your name out there. Those bottles are $0.99. And, most important, you're always going to remember the mechanic who gave you Tapatio. I'll think of them whenever I have scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Backyard Mysteries

1. Mystery of My Backyard Part 1: My sprinkler system is acting screwy - sprinkler heads are exploding in the pre-dawn hours - and I have no earthly idea how to fix it. Almost always I can figure manual stuff out with the help of Google but this one has me stumped. So I'm back to manually turning on the sprinklers like it's 1995. Any ideas as to why I can turn them on manually and they work like champs but when the system is running they explode? Two mornings in a run I woke up at 4:45 to geysers in the back yard and had to scale a rickety old step ladder to turn off the outside water valve. I didn't even know there was such as thing as an outside water valve. I had to call my dad.

2. Mystery of My Backyard Part 2: Should I be concerned that there are cigarette butts in my backyard? I found two tonight whilst watering my plants. There are a few explanations. 1. My gardeners smoke. I'll ask. Although this seems unlikely that they would go through all the trouble to make my yard look so nice just to throw butts on it. 2. My neighbor is throwing them over the fence. I have often found butts in the front yard on the side that borders our neighbor's lawn. It would explain one that was close to the fence but not the one I found in the middle of the yard. That is some flick he has. 3. Someone is wandering the school yard behind our house and tossing them over. This seems possible, right? 4. (Yikes) Someone is coming into my backyard and smoking. Oh, geez. Let's change the subject.

3. Seminary has been out for a whole month and as usual I feel flushed with free time. The days are longer and I can stay up past 9 and I don't have to prepare a lesson every single night. On the days that I'm not teaching piano I have hours of free time after I get home from work. It's amazing! I have been mostly filling that time up with Lady of Elegant Leisure activities like reading and drawing and writing and sewing and practicing my calligraphy and learning Italian on Duo Lingo (Il cavallo mangia la mela) and shopping for caftans. Would anyone like a coin purse. I can't stop sewing them. Or a book recommendation? The Secret Diary of Charlotte Bronte (her life was so tragic, I can't stand it!!!)

4. And now for a harrowing tale. The other night I was sitting in my reading chair in my room when I felt what I thought was a strand of hair on my collar bone. I swiped it away but still felt something so I looked down and saw what could only be (so my gut told me) spider legs on my chest. But I couldn't see the other part of the spider so I gingerly peeked inside my shirt and there was the rest of him. There was a dead spider in my cleavage! In my swiping I must have killed and partially amputated him. Oh, the absolute horror! I did not scream. But I did hyperventilate. For several minutes. Let's change the subject again.

5. Every June the LA Conservancy shows classic films in the fabulous old movie theaters in downtown. It is maybe one of the coolest things you can do here. On Saturday Liz and I went down to the Los Angeles Theater, which is my absolute favorite (you have GOT to see this ladies room), to watch Easter Parade. It was a glorious night. And not just because we got free donuts at the Nickle Diner beforehand. The next day I found myself in a Fred Astaire YouTube wormhole. Here, watch him be amazing:

Monday, May 22, 2017

An Old Lady Review of Anne with an E


On the weekend that the Netflix "Anne with an E" came out I received no fewer than 8 texts from people asking if I had watched it. My love for Anne Shirley is deep and well known. And I'm happy about that. 

Confess, when you heard that they were making another adaptation you were a little apprehensive, right? I certainly was. Because the books are so dear to me, and the 1980s adaptations are so good, I knew that I would be nostalgic about it and would probably compare too much. But as comparison is the thief of joy I went into it trying my best to be open minded and embrace another retelling.

But I soon found that in order to do that I had to completely separate the Anne that I know from what I was watching. And then I could handle it. Because, you guys, it's different. Like an elephant and a flat head screw driver are different. And even after separating it I thought it was just an okay show. It is very heavy-handed. It never missed an opportunity to hit you over the head with a visual metaphor. For example, in the episode when Anne gets her period (yep, we get to see Anne freak out as she washes her bloody drawers. It's accurate.) Marilla and Rachel Lynde are discussing it with their hands deep in red berries. At Gilbert's dad's funeral (yep, Gilbert is an orphan too. Because you can't expect us to believe that they would fall in love unless they're both sad.) it starts to snow and Gil catches a snowflake and it melts in his palm and slides down just like a tear. This is not a subtle show. There were definitely moments of sweetness. Matthew can't help but be a dear and both he and Marilla have back stories alluded to that were compelling. But as a show I could take it or leave it.

But here's what I can't take. You know how Anne is awesome? How she's always able to turn things around with her charm and her smarts and positive attitude? How she stands up for herself but does so in a way that is natural and pure and then everyone except for Josie Pye is all, "Oh Anne, you're right"? How she's sometimes too passionate and a little weird but still lovable? How she loves nature and beauty and looks for it everywhere and shares it with everyone? How she makes mistakes and laments for a bit and then moves on? How she's not perfect but tries. How she's generous and kind to everyone and when she isn't she recognizes it and tries to change? How she's just generally good and happy despite some really tough trials? That's not this Anne. This Anne is unhinged. This Anne is all about the fight. She will fight and demand and lie and belittle. Sure she quotes poetry, but she does so like her life depends on it. She has to fight to make friends, she has to fight to stay at Green Gables, she has to fight against the stigma of being an orphan. They're all against her and it is nothing but fight. And it's exhausting and entirely joyless.

This is an adaptation very much influenced by the times we live in. And boy does it want you to know that it is current and modern and aware of our problems. Every adaptation is influenced by the times. This is nothing new. But this seemed to pick every single current hot button topic and shove it in your face. Global warming was mentioned in the first episode. Marilla attends a feminist book club, making you think that Avonlea must be a hotbed of progressive thought if it weren't for the Patriarchy. She hyphenates her name "Anne Shirley-Cuthbert". Period-shaming: check. PTSD: check. Sexual assault: check. And Great Aunt Josephine is a lesbian. There is a lot of reading between the lines and some of it I found kind of interesting but most of it I felt was too much. I do not deny that all of these things were part of those times. They just were never much a part of Anne. I felt like it came at the great expense of the joy that has always been a part of those stories. You will not get any rambles through the woods here because everyone is so busy standing up for their principles. Also, the whole thing is set in winter lest we forget how difficult the road is for her. She is literally slogging through life. (In cute boots. I liked the costumes.)

I suppose what really gets me down is that lots of young girls are going to watch this and think that this is what Anne is all about. The Fight. It bothers me that it tries so hard to make Anne into a heroine by doing even more extraordinary things. That the character that was created a hundred years ago and has been loved and admired by every generation suddenly needs to become something more because it's not enough for these times we live in. It is not enough that she was academically gifted and socially invested, or that she went to college and had a career and was a published author. In this day she needs to be a warrior and a survivor which leaves little room for the things that have made her special all along. They've tried to turn her into a feminist icon when she always has been.

I was disappointed.

But I will give it this: in that period episode Anne shouts out, "Years?! Every month?!" It does not matter how much you changer her, Anne still speaks for all of our hearts.
Here. Because you need it.