There really is nothing like a collection of King novellas. They’re almost always amazing, and we have a winner with this one. Ever since the COVID 19 quarantine started in April of this year, I’ve shied away and/or procrastinated reading current titles or physical copies of books. It’s been the reading version of eating mac & cheese inside a burrito – absolute comfort. Apart from a few exceptions, I’ve either been re-reading Stephen King stories or at least thinking about re-reading them. If It Bleeds was VERY WELCOME. Let’s break it down by story:
1. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone – classic Stephen King. Creepy and nostalgic.
2. The Life of Chuck – a bit strange and kooky. I enjoyed the first segment more than the second but appreciated the actual Chuck and his motivation.
3. If It Bleeds – this was my favorite of the four. I barely remember Holly Gibney from Mr. Mercedes and haven’t read The Outsider yet, but the television version of the character, brilliantly played by Cynthia Erivo, immediately made her one of my favorite characters. A solo story for her was excellent. Bravo, Uncle Stevie!
4. Rat – Well, despite the title, that came out of nowhere and I loved it. You’d think my favorite author would write another tale about a struggling author and it would be lame and predictable. You’d be incorrect.
Well, we’re really in it, aren’t we? The wackiest, saddest, scariest, most isolating summer ever. I hope you’re staying safe, being smart, and doing what you can to keep this pandemic from getting worse than it already is. Which is PRETTY. DAMN. BAD. If you’re from the USA, I hope you’re registered to vote, and that you are going to be a defender of democracy and NOT vote for Stupid Hitler. Or any Republican enabler. Ok, let’s take a deep breath and shake it out.
I wanted to share the cutest thing to help me through this bonkers few months (besides HAMILTON ON DISNEY + DUH), and that is a squirrel named Toast. Not sure if it’s a boy or girl (you’d think it would be easy to determine but they don’t exactly let you lift that tail), but for some reason, this brave thing decided to be my friend. Peanuts have majorly contributed, believe me. We have tons of birds and squirrels in our back yard, but Toast has taken charge of being special. It remains chill, loves to look me right in the eyes, and has no problem posing for the camera. I even attempted to make him TikTok famous:
“Time heals all. But what if time itself is the disease?”
That’s the quandary for Oona Lockhart, the title character of Margarita Montimore’s second novel. She’s not the average time traveler; on her 19th birthday, she begins leaping from year to year, not knowing if she’ll wake up as her 50-year-old self or her 25-year-old self. Oona must learn to enjoy life to its fullest and accept the ups and downs. Easier said than done, of course, and it’s quite a ride going through the leaps with her. I wanted more! Especially after the ending. No spoilers here. I do think this novel would be great as a series, and I would totally watch a television version! Not to take away from the book, however. I love Margarita’s writing style, her love of pop culture, and the way she peppers aspects of herself in her main characters (you need to read Asleep From Day, her debut!). I suppose I should say that I’ve known Margarita as an online friend since 2001. We’ve sadly never met in person (yet!), but let’s just say I’ve been a fan of her as a human (and fellow fangirl), and it’s been such fun reading her books and watching her dreams come true.
The only thing that bothered me about the story itself is WHY AND HOW DID THIS HAPPEN TO HER?! Part of my brain understands that this is supposed to be a fictional event and getting into the technical bits are not the point whatsoever, but being a pop culture nerd, the other part of my brain is dying to figure out if Oona is a Time Lord or if she is some sort of “chosen one” with the power to save the world (like Bill & Ted). Who knows, perhaps these questions will be answered in the future. Or past?
Oh boy, I was starving for a good fantasy escape, with amazing world-building, interesting characters, and most importantly, a solid story. Thankfully this delivered. Zélie is a badass heroine from the get-go. Her journey isn’t unique in this genre (think Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen), but the way the author incorporates themes from the Black Lives Matter movement and African mythology give it an emotional, weighty punch. She aids the fugitive princess who escapes evil King Saran, and thanks to a mysterious scroll, Zélie unlocks her magical powers. This leads to a mission to return magic to the world and restore her oppressed fellow diviners to the Maji they were born to be. Really good stuff. The novel ends on a cliffhanger too, so I shall be diving into the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, very very soon.
P.S. The inhabitants of Orïsha ride big cats. BIG CATS!!!!
I woke up 30 minutes ago, from the wildest dream. I’ll probably be thinking about it throughout the day. This has been happening frequently since the Coronavirus has forced me into a homebound lady, and I’m not the only one. I’m getting the greatest hits from my staple of recurring dream themes, with all kinds of extra bizarreness thrown in. As I sat down with my cup of coffee today, I thought I’d list some of those motifs that have been reappearing in my dreams for as long as I can remember…..
Yelling at family members or past/present partner. I’ll find myself in a helpless situation, unable to convince anyone to listen to me or show concern for my plight. No matter how loud I scream, throw things, or shove them, I’m completely ignored. Last night’s dream had elements of this; I was so maddened by my mother not defending me from a bunch of bullies throwing my suitcases, I was hollering in her face like a drill sergeant. Suitcases. This brings me to another theme…
Being late for a flight. I know there’s an urgent trip to the airport in my near future, but moving quickly, getting everything packed, gassing the car, gathering my travel companions, or putting clothes on is impossible. It’s all in slow motion. I know I’m going to be late and it’s driving me insane. I’m getting irritated right now, thinking about it.
Gross or kooky bathrooms. Lordy, this one shows up A LOT. Often in conjunction with being late for the flight. The toilet is filthy and I have to find a way to squat over it. The bathroom is nightmarishly shaped and I can’t seem to fit myself into the shower. I have no space to put my toiletries/clothes, except for a slimy floor. YUCK.
Spiders. Enough said.
Going back to my receptionist job at the veterinarian clinic. Ugh, this one’s never fun. The office never looks the same, and the coworkers are always different, but this dream never fails to feature my awful boss standing over me. Sometimes I have to speak to her, but mostly she’s just THERE. I usually have to go back to the clinic area too. It’s consistently maze-like and unfamiliar, and I’m tasked to find a pet for a client. There’s a line of other clients waiting in the receptionist area on top of being stuck in a The Shining style maze of dog kennels and exam tables. With the awful boss THERE.
Working retail and not knowing how to use the cash register. Like the previous theme, there’s usually a long line of customers, getting angrier by the minute. Regardless of what button I push, I am incapable of entering a price or dollar amount.
It would be sweet if I had dreams of vacationing with Tom Hiddleston pop up in my brain on the regular, but sadly, I am not so fortunate. Dreams riddled with anxiety, fear, and frustration are for me! How about you? What do you dream about persistently? Have your dreamscapes been super vivid lately? Leave me some comments!
Here’s the plot of After Life, courtesy of IMDB: “After Tony’s (Ricky Gervais’) wife dies unexpectedly, his nice-guy persona is altered into an impulsive, devil-may-care attitude taking his old world by storm.”
This particular synopsis is hilarious to me because “devil-may-care” is a pretty understated description of Tony’s mindset when the series starts. Plus, his wife had cancer. Not an unexpected thing. ANYWAY. Your favorite atheist, animal-loving, Twitter trolling actor/comedian/film-maker, Ricky Gervais, gives us another series, and it is a gorgeous roller coaster of emotions.
“Hell is other people” is the tagline for the show, and I get it. Tony has lost his wife. He works at a newspaper that’s distributed for free in his locale (not Pulitzer material). He’s grumpy by nature, but his horrific loss only magnifies the grump factor. Tony feels like it’s only a matter of time before he cashes it in, so why not just throw away all the fucks and say everything you feel deep down to the humans you’re forced to live on Earth with? It’s a premise that really appeals to me. We’ve all desired that instinct at some point, right? Tony does some reckless stuff in these six episodes because of the utter despair he feels, but there’s someone who seems to pull him from the brink every time: Brandy, the dog. Eventually, the coworkers at the paper, the sex worker he hires, his cemetery pal, the weirdo who keeps trying to get local fame in print, and his dementia suffering dad join Brandy in keeping Tony around and on the path to a new outlook.
I loved this show because laughing at the awful state of 90% of our humanity is one of the few things that keep me interested. I love stories that punch you in the gut while making you laugh at phrases like “I fingered Jackie Collins”. I love that there are so many Game of Thrones actors in it. The dog is adorable. Penelope Wilton makes anything she’s in a million times better. More importantly, Ricky Gervais shows he’s one of the best television creators ever. He keeps getting better and emotionally layered. I can’t wait for the second season.
Documentary Now!One of the zillion television shows I’ve wanted to watch. I finally got started last week, since we saw Fred Armisen’s show the other night (more on that later). Documentaries rule. Parodies rule. A series consisting of documentary parodies = genius. Great cast & expertly executed, regardless if it’s Bill Hader & Armisen taking the main roles, or if it’s the current star studded lineup. Favorites currently are “Sandy Passage”, “Gentle and Soft”, “Final Transmission”, and “Batshit Valley”. Have some champagne filled coconuts:
Grant, by Ron Chernow From the guy who brought you the book that inspired the musical Hamilton! Yep, our favorite Pulitzer winning author is back with another biography, and this time it’s Civil War general/Don Henley look alike Ulysses S. Grant! I’m not very far into the book, but so far it is a gripping tale of a very smart, awkward, prone to drinking man who is a surprisingly good military leader. Who also is really really bummed that he can’t be with his beloved lady Julia, because he keeps getting sent to far off places. And working with many fellows who’ll end up his enemies. I’m really enjoying this biography, because most knowledge I have of Grant was during the Civil War and told to me in Shelby Foote’s voice. I know close to nothing about his later days as a President.
John Mulaney This man is a comedy treasure. He hosted SNL last night, he’s been doing shows with sometimes-troubled Pete Davidson, appears on the aforementioned Documentary Now!, loves his wife and his dog, Petunia, and is a pleasure to have in the pop culture universe. Feast your eyes upon Bodega Bathroom:
I’m still on that Lady Gaga stanning. Nope, I can’t get over the fact that Gaga won an Oscar last weekend, and THAT SHALLOW PERFORMANCE. I watch it to remind me that I am a human being with stupid feelings.
Also, feel free to do your dishes or laundry, or get in your car and have fun with this playlist I made:
U2’s third studio album, War, was released on this day in 1983. It was the start of international path to being the BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD. It took the #1 spot on the UK charts from Michael Jackson’s Thriller! How bonkers is that? Songs from this album gave me my first exposure to the band, although, I must admit: I wasn’t impressed. My nine year old MTV addicted self much preferred Michael Jackson videos to four depressed looking dudes singing in the snow and awkwardly riding horses.
Fortunately, my music taste broadened a few years later and I realized this band would be MY band.
War is a pretty raucous record, which is apt considering the title and theme. The singles absolute classics (“New Year’s Day”, “Two Hearts Beat As One”, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”), but my favorite track is “Like A Song”.
This track not only features some beautifully raw vocals from Bono, but it ROCKS. And the lyrics are applicable……
And we love to wear a badge, a uniform,
And we love to fly a flag.
But I won’t let others live in hell,
As we divide against each other,
And we fight amongst ourselves.
We stayed at The Wellington Hotel again. 10 years ago, we booked a room there; don’t remember why exactly. I assume there was a good deal, and it’s located near all the cool stuff. After that trip, we discovered Borat stayed there in his movie. Nice!
We saw no reason to try another hotel on this trip, since it’s very much what I love about staying in the city: Confined spaces, cramped in a tall building. The shower almost boiled me alive, our Saturday night neighbors were partying hard, and I swear there was a rat colony building Barad-dur in our heater. What I mean to say is it was wonderful.
Our first meal happened on our way to “Middle-earth”. Fortunately, it was right next to Rockefeller Center, my favorite NYC locale. Always nice to gaze upon the source of all that NBC/SNL history.
The restaurant in question was By Chloe. And holy moly, it was MOBBED. So unusual for us non-big city vegans to experience! We both got the Pesto Meatball sandwich and split some french fries. If we weren’t planning on a big fancy dinner later, we would have pigged out more here (their menu is chock full of tasty looking treats!), but our choice was delicious. The mix of veggies/mushrooms in the meatballs was perfect, and the condiments had heavenly flavor.
We managed to snag a table in the packed dining area and enjoyed people watching as we nommed. Bliss. I hope we go back soon because I need to try their brunch menu.
Time to start our expected journey to the Morgan Library and Museum! I was delirious with excitement to see the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibit. To be in the same room as The Professor’s massive collection of poems, maps, photos, artwork, doodles, and memorabilia – I wanted to move in there.
Tolkien’s hand drawn maps were so precise and detailed. Marvelous. His handwriting was too perfect to believe, no matter which language he was writing in. There were intricate shapes and symbols drawn on top of newspapers he was reading at the time. Stunning to look upon. Honestly, words fail to communicate what it felt like seeing such an assemblage of genius. If you appreciate J.R.R. Tolkien’s material like I do, be sure to check this out.
Dinner time! There were so many vegan places we wanted to experience in New York, but we decided to make Blossom our fancy meal destination. It’s in a cute townhouse, with a cozy atmosphere. The diners on both sides of us were very friendly; we ended up admiring and influencing each other’s meal choices! Our first course was the Chef’s Tasting Plate. OH. MY. GOODNESS. Quinoa sushi, deviled tofu (I didn’t know you could devil tofu! Brilliant!), fig bruschetta, seitan empanadas, and seaweed caviar canapes. Everything tasted so magical, I wanted to devour it quickly, but I made sure to take my time and savor the tastes.
The nice woman to my right had the lasagna for an entreè so that’s what I had too, as it looked gorgeous. It didn’t disappoint. It’s intriguing how us humans (it also helps if you’re a gourmet chef) can create scrumptious dishes without a bit of animal flesh.
The next day was Cursed Child day! First time seeing a show ON BROADWAY! And it’s HARRY POTTER! I was filled with excitement for sure. We had some time to kill before heading to the theater, so we took a stroll around Central Park. There were SO MANY GOOD DOGGOS, most of them wearing snazzy coats. Because it was FREEZING. Well, to us anyway, due to not bringing the warmest of winter clothing. No doggos were photographed, but here are some pics of us and other things (mostly Strawberry Fields).
Our next quest was FOOD. Sadly the restaurant we walked to was closed, but I did come across a hair salon named in my honor. I’m grateful, but please don’t ask me to do your hair.
We ended up at Peacefood Cafe, which couldn’t have been more LOVELY. A nice and warm orange apple cider made all chilly perception vanish. I wolfed down the tofu scramble (best I’ve ever had no lie), greens, and potatoes. We also ordered some baked goods to snack on later. Fantastic.
Feeling full and toasty back at the hotel, it was time to get fancy for Potter. Dress courtesy of Redbubble:
It would have been silly to take a cab to the theater since it was a 15 minute walk, so yep, back out into the cold for us. My giddiness canceled out the wind chill, however. That and the Times Square sights (Fake Elmos and all – even the Naked Cowboy was doing his thing STILL). Oh snap, there’s the Lyric!
Because the play itself is so special, I’m not going to say much about it. The only thing that does it justice is the experience, so GO. The story, music, acting, effects, choreography, production, costumes…. Just overwhelmingly breathtaking. So there’s that. I will share some stuff unrelated to the play that made the day so fun. First, we got to pose for photos with our house flags. Slytherin, represent! Oh, and Ravenclaw too.
There was an usher who had the only job of herding ladies into a single file line for the bathroom during intermissions. He was both militant and fabulous. “Are you with someone? They need to be either in front of you or behind you.” Priceless.
I had a “frozè” in a Cursed Child souvenir cup. That’s frozen rosè, people. A wine slurpee. What a world.
What a world, indeed. But to be more precise, what a city. New York, you are so fantastical and magical on your own, but you’re so adept at surrounding me with the fictional environments I adore so much. I went to Middle-earth and Hogwarts along with Manhattan and Queens, and cherished every single second of it.
Back in May, my friend Jennie tagged me in a Facebook meme. It went like this:
“I was nominated by So & So: Day whatever of 10. In no particular order- your 10 all time favorite albums which really made an impact and are still in your rotation, even if only now and then. Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same. Today I nominate So & So.”
Check out Part 1 if you feel like it; not needed, but go for it.
So yikes, the next album I’m picking is a doozy: Revolver by The Beatles.
Oy, how do you write about the freaking BEATLES? It’s all been written, photographed, opined, screamed at, etc. etc. etc. *holds nose and dives in*
Released August 5th, 1966. Right after Rubber Soul, right before Sgt. Pepper. The guys had enough of touring, and discovered the studio was a playground for creativity (of course George Martin and some acid helped, right?). The greatest band in the world was evolving into…. Ummm…. the SUPER GREATEST BEST GENIUS ROCK AND ROLL BAND IN THE WORLD.? Seriously, it’s very difficult to put into words how much I love them. ANYWAY. Why did I pick Revolver? It only features one of my favorite songs of theirs (Tomorrow Never Knows, although Rain was recorded during these sessions). I guess for two reasons: 1. It’s a lovely collection of songs that reflect each member in an individual way, songwriting wise; a pretty decent premonition of things to come. 2. I have been fortunate to experience four of the 14 songs live!
It’s weird to say this, but I’ve seen Paul McCartney twice. Once as a 16 year old in Washington, D.C., and again a few years ago in Charlottesville, VA. At both concerts, he performed Got To Get You Into My Life and Eleanor Rigby (GOOSE BUMPS), and bonus Good Day Sunshine in 1990.
Last year I was fortunate enough to see Richard Starkey himself, in Norfolk, VA. His All Starr Band was so fun; members of Toto, Mr. Mister, Todd Rundgren, among other awesome dudes. Naturally, Ringo performed Yellow Submarine, which was quite incredible. He may have pointed me out in the crowd and said something like “hello lady in red” that night too, but hey, no big deal.
Above, me, my dude, and my cute mom (who saw The Beatles in Boston Garden, in 1964) prior to Ringo shouting me out.
I consider myself EXTREMELY LUCKY to have seen two of the Beatles. Paul & Ringo are in their 70s, for shit’s sake, and they are still able to express the beauty and happiness their songs have given the world for the past (I’m not saying how many) years. I miss John and George desperately. Part of me is grateful they’re not around to witness the awful things happening in the world today, but a selfish part of me wishes they were here, since they’d obviously be making great music and helping us all cope.
What are your favorite Beatles albums/songs/members/movies/eras/solo stuff/WHATEVER? Comment away! I’d love to find out your Beatle faves!