Au revoir mes amies!

Beginning today, “Julie Wrote What?” is going underground – I will be starting a new blog about the movies, of which the title has yet to be determined. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read “Julie Wrote What?”  I hope you will enjoy what I have  to say about the movies, and tell me what you think.  Bye for now, campers!

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New blog is “After The Picture Show,” and it’s up and running; hope to see you soon –

Have a happy holiday season, and do it now!

I’ve had to go out to a few stores this weekend to return some things, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t window shop while I was doing it – what is the date? November 13th? You would never know it by what’s going on in the shops; seems to have been an agreement made among the retailers that waiting until after Thanksgiving to drag out the holiday gear is waaay tooo late, so the paraphenalia is now on display, and the madness has begun. And when I say “madness,” I mean parents yelling at their kids, wives and husbands arguing, and the jostling for parking spaces amped up to a ridiculous degree. (Seriously, unless a person has trouble walking, why would you bother waiting for a spot, when there are five spots two rows away?)

Not only have the retailers gotten off the blocks early, television programmers have shot out of the gate with holiday programming this weekend – the most prominent example has been the Hallmark Channel, which had a marathon of movies yesterday with the words, “Mistletoe,” “Christmas,” “Noel,” “Jolly,” and other festive phrases in the titles. I have been known to get warm and cuddly during this time of year, except that “this time of year” isn’t really here yet, is it? No, I don’t think so. With the avalanche of media and retail holiday images, the very phrases that we use will soon be obsolete – “holiday season,” “this time of year,” and even carols like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” will lose meaning, since the most wonderful time of the year will be all-year round, according to Macy’s and Dish TV.

I will say that I am giving it a shot this year; I will put up my pink tree with mermaids and seashells, and have a Christmas party, and bake – this year, I’m going to talk Jamal into dim sum in L.A. on Christmas Day, in place of the traditional Chinese from Sam Woo’s.  (I said I was giving it a shot, didn’t say how – when all of the badness happened, I had to do something to make the holidays good again.  Since I never see snow, I made Christmas into a beach holiday – with chow mein in place of mashed potatoes.)

But when I think of what I’ve been hearing recently, of people who I know who have been harassed by strangers, of others being yelled at and called “an abomination” by people brandishing Bibles like they are weapons, it gets more difficult to understand what the holiday season means. I love what Margaret Cho said in her stand-up (paraphrasing, but the meaning stands):  “I  can’t wait for Jesus to come back and say, “That’s not what I meant!”

How about this – how about we stop yelling at each other?  Here’s a radical idea – let’s be nice, and take care of each other. Give someone else the parking space, open the door for someone, or if you get through the door first, stand there and hold it for them, doesn’t matter who they are – and hug your kids in public, instead of yelling at them for being kids.  Let’s tidy up our behavior, why don’t we?  I think that has to be one of the reasons for the season that should occur all year. Cheers-

Masking it

Nice weekend at home so far – I cancelled my trip to Iowa for the weekend, mainly because I haven’t really gotten over being sick a couple of weeks ago, and I’m feeling exhausted all the way around.  The good news is that I now have a credit with US Airways, so for the next year I may need to take a couple of trips, including one to Iowa – still haven’t lost sight of going to see the family, and I know inquiring minds are curious about what it must be like to stay at the Motel Wilton (you know you can’t help but wonder, can you?), as am I, so…

When I was in my early twenties, I wrote a series of poems entitled “Mask,” (which I gave away to someone who didn’t deserve it – but I’m not bitter.) The series was a concept, about how we wear so many different masks in life, and how sometimes it’s hard to remember the person underneath. Lately I feel like I’ve forgotten who I am, like I’ve gotten lost behind all of the personas I have to be during the day.  It seems difficult right now to find myself, so I’m happy to have these few days to get my self back, and maybe get my joy back, too.

I read a quote once, about how we tend to look for happiness, when it is really a choice that we can make anytime.  It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But once the choice is made, then the next step is how, which brings us back to looking for happiness – if someone doesn’t know how to be happy, then choosing to be isn’t realistic for them. I’m not sad – I feel more like I’m allowing the universe to play keep-away  with my life, instead of grabbing the ball.  And what is so hard is that I feel like something is keeping me from doing it, something that I can’t grasp.  I know this – I don’t have a lot of time to figure it out; in the words of famous movie truant Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So maybe figuring it out isn’t the way to go; if I drop the mask, and stop to look around once in a while, I might not need to grab the ball – it’ll come to me. One never knows…

Bytes and pieces

So it’s the day after, and I’m still here, as is everyone I know – and no reports of anyone missing. If I remember correctly, if and when the rapture occurs, we won’t be getting an Evite….therefore, onward with the decline of civilization!

I’ve been having Internet connection issues this week, and since Jamal is in Chicago, I thought that I would try to correct it myself by calling tech support. After an hour of “Unplug this wire, type in this code” from a man with a very heavy accent and a bad phone connection (irony calling!), I was nearly in tears, and past caring if I ever had Internet service again.  When it didn’t work again the next evening, I called back to make an appointment with a technician.  Long story short, the company is sending a new modem and a technician on Monday morning – in another little touch of irony, every time I hung up with tech support, my  connection was restored for a short time. For now, it’s working, so I’m typing as fast as I can…

“Bridesmaids” – intelligent, profane and funny.  I found myself trying to stop laughing so that I wouldn’t miss the next line.  If you can handle smart women characters doing many silly things, go see it.

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and to kickstart the summer, there’s this: LACMA is having a Tim Burton exhibit beginning May 28th, and going through October. I’m going to the book signing next Saturday (getting a group together to see the exhibit later in the summer), then to the screening of “Vertigo” at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Tim Burton in the morning, Hitchcock in the evening…good beginnings; see you at the cemetery next Saturday?

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Buddha and Groucho and McConaughey, oh my!

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Image via Wikipedia

Strap yourselves in, friends, because I’m going all over the place tonight, and you must be this tall to ride this ride…Onward!

My renters moved in on Thursday – I am just now getting over one full week of cleaning, moving furniture, buying hardware for the bathroom, renting a dumpster, calling for bulky trash pick-up, having an estate sale (no good at haggling, so the next time I have a bunch of stuff to get rid of, it’s either going on Craigslist, or to Out of the Closet, now my exclusive thrift store for donations, you will understand why as you read on) and waiting…for the man to come over to install the dishwasher, the locksmith, the Salvation Army (who, by the way, never showed – boo, SA!), and several minor anxiety attacks later, everything seems to be resolved, except for a couple of tasks – no emergencies, for the moment, anyway.

I know what you’re saying: “Julie! Why did you wait until the last minute to do….EVERYTHING?”  And you would be entirely justified in saying it; I have no defense, just an overwhelming sense of relief that it’s over, and I can relax.  At one point during last week, I had changed my clothes, since I had been cleaning the bathrooms (I was soaking wet and covered in Soft Scrub – yes, I know it goes on the walls and not on me, smarties), went to the store, and when I returned, discovered that the sweater that I was wearing was inside-out, with a gigantic label showing at the back of my neck. Fabulous.

My last night in the house, I thought about all of the memories that were made there, and was a little sad, because I didn’t want to let go of those memories by having someone else come in and sweep them away.  Then I realized that my memories were always going to be in my mind, and nothing could take them away. Reminds me of a quote: “The only thing that remains the same is change.”  (You gotta take your epiphanies where you find ’em, don’t you? A little Buddha, a little Hereclitus, all on the bathroom wall of a poolhall – talk about a state of flux!)

For me, April is a transitional month; no fantastic movies, it’s the middle of the semester at work, and I have no idea how to dress, because the weather feels like it’s in between winter, spring, and summer.  I have a lot going on right now, aside from my new responsibilities as a landlord; started a yoga class last week, and hoping to make it twice a week (Sunday afternoon yoga in the park, can hardly wait), still painting the kitchen, and planning on finishing the two bathrooms by the middle of the year (fingers crossed). I’m also in the middle of knitting two scarves, reading, getting ready to walk the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon (I’ll be walking 13 miles), and…did I miss anything? No wonder I feel a bit…scattered.  Looking forward to yoga (and a little side order of meditation) to help me find my center – and hoping it’s not made of cream cheese, the way I’ve been eating in the last week.

No fantastic movies, but I did see a good one last week – “Lincoln Lawyer” kept me interested from beginning to end, and not only because these three were in it (someone needs to write a movie and cast Matthew McConaughey, Josh Lucas, and Ryan Phillippe as brothers; seriously, look at them!):

“The Lincoln Lawyer” – good plot, rocking soundtrack, Marisa Tomei and William H. Macy in solid supporting roles, set in Los Angeles, and…sorry, can’t keep my mind on what I’m writing. You should see it – it is good (the book was written by Michael Connelly, also good), and Matthew McConaughey deserves the nice reviews; he also deserves to make more films like this one. And why isn’t Josh Lucas a huge star by now?  What is the holdup, Hollywood? He has shown that he can play both leading man and character roles; give him work, now! Sheesh, what’s a girl gotta do? (Trivia question: both Matthew McConaughey and Josh Lucas have played coaches in two different movies; name those movies! No Googling allowed.)

I will leave you to your Sunday evening ruminations on the state of existence, or the state of blonde, blue-eyed actors who need good scripts, if that’s your idea of a good time. I was thinking of closing with a quote by Buddha, but hey, a little Groucho Marx works too: “Spring in the air!” “What? I should spring in the air, and fall in the lake?” Or something along those lines….you go have a week, now!

Weekend whirlwind

Sunday night; the weekend has gone from a six-mile walk on Saturday morning (I’m beginning to work towards walking in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in June with my friend Cyndi)  to an anniversary party at my hair salon this afternoon, complete with Cambodian food, traditional dancers, models, and a hair show. The salon combined the party with a fundraiser for Hearts Without Boundaries, a charity that raises money for children who are in need of heart surgery.  Here are the dancers:

The salon was packed with stylists, relatives of stylists, and customers – we were eating, talking, listening to music, watching the dancers, and having a blast —

In between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon was a trip to the movies with friends to see “Paul,” and a movie day today with more friends to watch “Megamind” (only got to see part of it, but the part that I saw was clever enough to make me want to see it all the way through):

“Paul”? I thought it was very funny – not sure everyone will agree, but that usually happens with me and movies, so I’ve come to live with it.

Just to completely throw you off, as I’m writing this, I’m also watching a documentary on the rise of the Third Reich on the History International Channel; it’s made with amateur videos, and narrated in the words of different people who were alive at the time.  Fascinating time in history – it’s always interesting to me to see groups rising to unite behind a charismatic leader; it happens over and over, and rarely ends well.

OK, enough for tonight – I have a heavy date with my pillow; good night, and good luck.

Dancing days in Long Beach

I was at work on Friday afternoon, when one of the scenes from the movie “All That Jazz” started playing in my head, and I just couldn’t shake it.  I know I’ve mentioned this before – I started ballet and tap classes when I was eight years old, and continued dancing until I was about 28, off and on.  My first show was when I was about 8, at the Long Beach  Municipal Auditorium (torn down, now the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center).  I wore silver tap shoes, a white costume with red and blue stripes, and tap danced to “Carolina in the Morning,” along with three or four other girls.   Here’s a photo of the LB Auditorium:

This was a great old building; I did several shows there before it was torn down in 1975.  Dorothy Castle was my teacher, and I used to dance in about half a dozen shows a year, including one at the Los Angeles County Fair in September. During the summer, Dorothy would usually book two shows at Bixby Park, in the bandshell (sorry, best shot I could find). The bandshell was damaged recently during a storm, but has since been rebuilt.  If you look at the second photo, you can see a door at the back of the building – that was our teeny tiny dressing room, not big enough for about a dozen pre-teen and teenage divas (“Mom, help me with my eyeshadow!” No, I want to leave my costume on!” ” Can we go eat after?”)

I soon added Hawaiian dance to ballet and tap, and for some reason, Dorothy thought that I would also be good at comedy, so she gave me and my friend Sandy Andersen the comedy duet “How Could You Believe Me?” to learn and perform.  Sandy played Jane Powell, and I was Fred Astaire – we did the beginning bit from the movie, we sang the song, and during the dance part, we got to push, kick, and throw each other around while we each tried to hog the spotlight.  We probably performed the number a dozen times or so; I was about 14 or 15 at the time, and I thought making people laugh was the most fun anyone could have.

We also performed for the residents at Leisure World:

Leisure World was always an interesting place to dance; we would perform at one of the clubhouses, and since there were no dressing rooms, we would have to dress in the cafeteria. I remember that we would be finishing a show, and as we were all changing back into our clothes, our audience would be filing in to have a meal.  This happened a few times – I remember having to scoot into the kitchen with my clothes, as I was still halfway dressed in sequins and fishnets while the  good people of Leisure World were lining up for dinner.

When I was 19, I went to one audition for a showgirl job in Vegas; a group of us sat around for an hour before realizing that the people who were holding the audition weren’t going to show.  This was the extent of my “professional” dance career – I think about it once in a while, especially when “All That Jazz” or “A Chorus Line”  comes to mind, or shows up on TCM:

Big finish – twelve years old, and ready to wow ’em!

Treats ‘n’ tricks

A basket of Halloween goodies:

I first saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with my brother Steve and his friend (soon to be my friend and sister-in-law) Naomi when I was 14, at the Towne Theatre in Long Beach; I believe we went to the 7:30 p.m. show, and we were three of maybe a dozen people in the theatre.  Since then, I’ve seen the movie countless times, including three in Germany (the audience came dressed in drag).  It’s on Fox Movie Channel this morning – and I thought the “Glee’ episode was a nice tribute.  “There’s a light in the darkness of everybody’s life…”

I dislike intensely how ad companies are taking songs that I love and grew up with, and sticking them in commercials to sell computers and cars; I know this has been going on forever, but it makes me turn off the commercial, because I don’t want to connect the song that I love with the product, I want to keep alive the memories of the song and how I felt whenever I heard the song. “Season of the Witch” by Donovan is being used to sell something on TV right now (dunno what it is); instead of the commercial, please to enjoy this video of clips from the 1921 film “Haxan Witchcraft Through the Ages,” with Donovan’s mystic song floating overhead. There – now, instead of thinking of some product you don’t need when you hear this song, you can think of crazy people with strange hands, flexing their muscles, wild-eyed, and running through forests. You’re welcome… (Update: the link to the song isn’t working, but it’s a very good video, so you should find it on YouTube, seriously.)

One of my favorite ’80s movies, and one you don’t see on TV too often, is “Weird Science” – where to begin?  Oingo Boingo, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton, Kelly LeBrock, and a baby Robert Downey, Jr.! Check out the ’80s hair and fashion on Iron Man:

(Loved RDJ then, and more so now – ’80s version of Pauly D.’s hair? Just wondering.)

Speaking of parties, we did it up ourselves last night, friends:

Have a gruesome Halloween, creatures of the night.

Halloween at the Long Beach Drive-in

I remember going to see the movie “Halloween” at the drive-in with my friend Jim on Halloween when it first came out in 1978; I thought it was one of the scariest movies I had ever seen (The Exorcist probably takes the top spot – scared the beejeebies out of me in junior high, and the book scared me all over again when I read it).  I grew up going to the drive-in and watching truly awful movies like “Phantasm” (a shiny round orb that would hurtle through the air, attach its sharp thingie into a person’s skull and suck out the brains, or at least, that’s how I remember it), “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” ( so bad it’s now on the best of the worst lists everywhere, and isn’t George Clooney in that one?  You may Google the film if you must know right now; it’s OK, I’ll wait), and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (when the girl is sitting at the kitchen table with all the mutants, screaming at the top of her lungs, and they are having the time of their lives, I knew this was a crazy way to spend an evening).

I loved going to the drive-in, didn’t you?  In the Long Beach area, we were lucky enough to have an abundance of drive-ins to choose from:  The Long Beach Drive-In, where the 710 and the 405 freeways meet, The Lakewood Drive-In , at the corner of Carson Boulevard and Cherry Avenue, The Circle Drive-In, at the corner of Ximeno and Pacific Coast Highway, and the mother of all drive-ins in the area, the Los Altos Drive-In, on Bellflower Boulevard. I think the Los Altos Drive-In had four screens, which was cool, because if the movie you were watching was boring, you could kind of see what was on some of the other screens, even though you couldn’t hear anything.  I used to go with a bunch of friends, and we would bring a blanket and chairs, and if it wasn’t crowded, we would be able to take over the space next to the car and watch the movie under the stars.  Or if we had a truck, we just parked it backwards, opened the back, and hung our feet off the end of the truck bed.

Yes, the sound was horrible, and the picture quality was marginal at times, but that wasn’t the point of going to the drive-in.  If you wanted to watch a movie for the dialogue and the deep meaning behind the silences, or marvel at the cinematography, you didn’t go to the drive-in with a bunch of rowdy friends, you went to a walk-in theater (funny, that phrase is obsolete, is it?) to lose yourself in the experience.  The bad sound, as well as disruptions by your friends and by people in other cars all were expected during the evening.  It was inevitable, and always hilarious, that someone would forget to put the speaker back into its stand on the pole, start driving away with the speaker still in the car, and have to stop because the speaker pole would bend, but not break off , thereby preventing them from leaving.

I did see some good movies at drive-ins; “Arthur,” “Airplane,” “The Jerk” at Los Altos, and “St. Elmo’s Fire” (can’t remember which drive-in), “Back to the Future” and “Grease” (probably Los Altos), and one of the more memorable drive-in events, seeing “Animal House” in 1978 while on a double date when it first came out.  We had no idea that it would become part of classic movie comedy history; we liked reading National Lampoon magazine (like Mad Magazine, only more so), and we loved John Belushi, so it seemed like a good bet – and the first time I ever saw “Grease” was on the night of my last day of high school, with Terry Warner, who bought a ring for me; I turned him down because I didn’t want to be married at 18.  I believe he’s married with children (probably a grandfather by now), and living somewhere in the Midwest. “Arthur” was a girl’s night out, and what I remember most about the evening is that it got foggy, and we could barely see the screen, but stayed anyway.  And how could I forget “The Shining” with “Here’s Jack!” Nicholson? Definitely belongs in my top five scariest movies, and a great movie to see at the drive-in.

Drive-ins were really more about socializing than the movie; the film was usually background accompaniment to what was going on in the car, or on the blanket, or sometimes on the hood of the car – I would sometimes throw a blanket over my ’70 Nova, and we would sit on the hood and watch the movie in the open air. A good drive-in movie was either a comedy, horror movie, or action film; it had to get your attention, but not tax your intelligence or attention span. I don’t see as many horror movies as I used to when drive-ins were around; as I get older, real life gets scary enough, and I don’t have to pay $12.00 for the privilege.

If you are interested, visit drive-ins.com for more excellent drive-in photos and information; and if you’ve never been to a drive-in, Time Warp Memories is an outstanding web site, with a virtual drive-in, complete with car speakers and a great list of drive-in ready movies.  Not quite the same as sitting in a cold car, listening to scratchy dialogue from a speaker attached to a pole and hooked inside your car window, while your friends won’t shut up about the bad pizza, but won’t give you any, and the fog starts rolling in…but you  get the idea.

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Exciting news! I just discovered a drive-in fairly close to where I live – it’s the Vineland Drive-In in the city of Industry; four screens, and the sound comes through your car radio.  Let’s go!

Parental advisory

I don’t know if it’s the heat, or that my dog Paco just got out of the hospital this morning and I’m worried about him, but I can’t seem to get involved in anything specific today.  Just a tip – do not let your dog eat anything with xylitol, or he could die.  Paco got into sugarless gum yesterday morning, and I had to rush him to the hospital.  Fortunately, all of his tests came back normal, and we were able to bring him home this morning. I said this once today, but it’s amazing how such a little dog can take up so much space in the house, and the heart.

The work on the roof is going to start tomorrow; I took the day off from work, so I can see how Paco reacts to the noise and people.  It’s probably good that I did, since I’m going to worry about him anyway.  I might take Tuesday as well, just to be sure – it’s a good thing I didn’t have children, or I would have smothered them, I know it now. I admire my friends who are parents; I was not courageous enough to have children, along with not ever meeting anyone who wanted to have children with me (kind of an important part of the equation) and now…now I don’t think I regret it, but once in a while I think about it, and what it might have been like.  I had a good friend say to me once, when I was talking about making choices other than the ones I’ve made that didn’t turn out the way that I thought, “What if those choices had turned out badly, or worse?”

I had never considered the idea that if given a second chance, I might have felt even more regret that I didn’t stick with my first choice.  I don’t have a lot of regret, though; I believe that everything that I’ve done or not done in my life has brought me to the present, and made me this person who is potentially boring the socks off of you while the world melts outside.  I love my  friends’ kids, and I am in awe of how they are able to do what they do as parents.  Being the eccentric family friend who always has gum (not for the dog) will do – toodles for now;  I’m off to shop for a Halloween costume.  With this heat, I may wind up with something like this:

Bonus points if you can guess which movie this is from (no glory in Googling!).  Stay cool, babies.