04 August, 2010

...and Whiskers on Kittens...

Tamara de Lempicka
1. Art Deco and the 1930's
Art Deco affected all areas of design throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including architecture and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as painting, the graphic arts and film. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, glamorous, functional and modern. There is something about this world of design (mirrored by the psychological culture of the time period) between the two world wars that highlights a certain sense and vision of progress, of hope, efficiency, cleanliness and simplicity. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the distinctive style of Art Deco was shaped by 'all the nervous energy stored up and expended in the War.'

2. The Magical, Mystical, incredibly sexy ©Slurpee.
It is cold. Slush-like-but-not-a-©Slushy. Like shaved ice but not ©Shaved Ice. A ©Slurpee is the best of every world of frozen confection-- sweet, cold, colorful and simple. Like snow. With flavor. (In fact, who didn't do that as a kid? Run out to the freshly fallen snow, collect it in a cup and pour juice over it? ... no one...? Just me...? Well for all of you who weren't frozen refreshment obsessed, or are from the warmer climes, I am telling you this trick was magic.) When I was in still at Groves High School in Metro-Detroit (before my Interlochen sojourn), my friends and I (specifically Bill Bradley, Justin Bodary and Katie Battersby) thought that driving to the 7-11 for a giant ©Slurpee was the ultimate in "killing-time-and-aimlessly-hanging-out-which-means-driving-around-the-suburbs-because-we-can-do-that-but-cannot-yet-drink" activities. The pure dietary joys of the DIET PEPSI Slurpee. Not to mention the Crystal Light Slurpee. (Hellllls yeah). As I grew up? The alcoholic ©Slurpee became my favorite cocktail. What is that you ask? Why that would be the MOJITO. Sí. And why do I love it? Um. Because it is an alcoholic ©Slurpee...? Nuff said there.

3.   Carnivals
They are dark magic and I love them. I love the Tilt-A-Whirl. I love skee ball. I love the cotton candy. But mostly I adore the darkly magical atmosphere— the aesthetic ache, the ever-so-slightly twisted beauty of it all. I love it all. I love to share it with one other person. But mostly I love to go alone.

4. Naming things.
Inanimate objects. Toys. Animals. I love names and their meanings in general (Incidentally: Alexandra? (Greek: Αλεξάνδρᾱ) is the feminine form of the given name Alexander, which is a romanization of the Greek name Αλέξανδρος (Alexandros). Etymologically, the name is a compound of the Greek verb ἀλέξειν (alexein) "to defend" and the noun ἀνδρός (andros), genitive of ἀνήρ (anēr) "man". Thus it may be roughly translated as "protector and defender of mankind." Amazing.) I used to own a lot of Baby Naming books as a child, not imagining my own children someday mind you (because I am just notthatgirl), but instead, pouring over the etymology of the names within the pages. It ignited my imagination! Who IS Simon? Isabella? Nicholas? Anders? Ilona? What do they do? Where do they come from? Naming is science, psychology, sociology and anthropology in one. And nothing captures a person place or things better, than the perfect name.


My dog [that I do not yet own, but might someday]: Kevin. A deeply normal, deeply human name without the slightest trace of whimsy. 'Rover' and 'Spike' be damned! 'Ginger' or 'Blondie'? I say 'pah!' 'Bob' or 'Jack' even are so normal and human that they point at themselves-- NO. Kevin is a lovely sounding, but right-in-the-middle-of-normalcy name that when you think of it, just does not belong to a dog. But it will...

My cat [again, fictional cat]: Dr. Rosenbloom. Because.... well, just because. Because the thought of a cat not having a name but a title delights me. Satirical (but only satirical) whimsy with cats is allowed. Picture it at the vet: "The doctor will see you now," the nurse will say. And I will say, "Dr. Rosenbloom will see YOU now..."

5. Trains
Watching them, listening to them, taking them places. It is a throwback to the Golden Age of Travel (if there ever was such a thing... I might have just made that up... but I think it should exist...), it is green, and relaxing and no-fuss, and far and away my transportation of choice. Perhaps, (politics aside--everybody just caaaaalm down) this is due to my unutterable love of the literary character Dagny Taggart. Perhaps it is due to Scottish dramatist David Greig's beautiful play Europe. I don't know. I think a great deal of nature, and always look for ways to protect our planet and let it flourish. But, I also believe in the equally moving and terribly important to recognise the great, often mammoth accomplishments of mankind. Man is capable of both great destruction, yes, and we so often hear of that. But of creation too: long stretches of steel that disappear into the infinite horizons, train cars that move at seemingly impossible speeds, tracks capable of connecting vast continents? It makes me think of everything I believe in. "It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live."

Thus far in my lifetime my favorite train rides have been The Red Arrow overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the beautiful commute from London Euston to Sheffield (no laughing, that is for real-- travel by day and check out that countryside), and the Amtrak service from New York to Washington DC. Pure. Class.

6. Talking to strangers on all forms of transportation (planes, trains or automobiles... I can't stop myself...) My parents, in one of those classic and unbelievable love stories, met on an airplane. My father let my mother out of the aisle exiting from a flight in Madrid from Barcelona during the bicentennial summer of 1976. Mom is one of those people that likes to wait for everyone to get off the plane so she can take her time exiting. She read a book to pass the time while the anxious and angry Europeans fought their way off. Dad, saw her sitting by the window waiting, and, stunned by her beauty (though he was quite the looker himself), was so speechless all he could do was gesture lamely with his hand for her to exit, blocking a tidal wave of angry Europeans behind him.

And once on the Piccadilly line I saw a young student sitting beside a large, stuffed dog in the vein of a carnival prize. The dog was the size of a human, bright blue and taking up a seat of his very own. "May I?" I asked the student and he moved the dog and placed it on his lap.
There was a pause.
"So..." I said, "what's his name?"
The student looked at me through his glasses with a slight, good-humored surprise. "He does not have one."
"Do you want to name him?"
HELL YES I DID. After all-- I LOVE NAMING THINGS. But then I totally blanked. Nothing was coming. So I blurted out the most obvious choice I could think of-- "Alexander!"

"Alexander? That is a Greek name! I am Greek!"
"Yes, George, nice to meet you."
"Greek George-- as in Jorges?"
"Yes! That is good."
"I worked in a Greek restaurant as a teenager,"  I am sort of proud.
"What is your name?"
I hung my head in shame slightly... "Alexandra."
"Ah I see!"

George told me he was a student studying Economics at one of the London Universities. Then he asked what I did and I pointed to a Carousel poster and said-- "uhh...that's me." AND THEN GEORGE TOOK THE TIME TO COME TO THE SHOW! He is (and was) terribly nice and I hope he an Alexander are doing well.

7. Addressing points in numerical order.
I would assume this one is self-explanatory.

8. Amber
(or, technically, resinite) is fossilized tree resin (not sap), which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. (It has been appreciated by me since 1983 minimum). Found primarily in Scandinavia and elsewhere around the Baltic Sea (it is generally accepted that the amber from the Baltic region is the world’s finest, although the word "amber" itself is derived from the old Arabic word "anbar"); and because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes includes animal and plant material as inclusions. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents. (Bwahaha I know stuff about amber because I like it so much).

Amber is used to symbolize power, command and authority. It indicates that rewards come through the productive intellect and the harvest of creative faculties. Wearing amber, either as a stone or as a string of beads, brings victory despite competition and opposition. It counteracts the dangers of loss through law. Looks. Function. Depth. Amber: What's not to like?

9. All things Muppet
Someone once asked me which Muppet I would be and I said this was a very difficult question because there was a pronounced difference between the Muppet we wish to be and the Muppet we are.

I suppose this is same with almost any “if you could be any XX what would it be?” question but therein lies the crux— the operative word here is the “if you could” versus the “if you were.” (I'm not certain if it is clear, but semantics are sort of delightful and important to me. But I digress...)

So. If I could be any Muppet? Tough. Kermit and Grover is as close as I can narrow it down without an extended essay.

But if I were any Muppet? I'm afraid the truth is that I am most likely a combination of Snuffalupagus, Bert, and Statler & Waldorf (They are two ornery, disagreeable old men who first appeared in the The Muppet Show heckling the rest of the cast from their balcony seats?)


10. Venice
It is at the beginning of Chapter Six in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities that Kublai Khan confronts Marco Polo about the subject of Venice.
“There is still one of which you never speak.”
Marco Polo bowed his head.
“Venice,” the Khan said.
Marco smiled. “What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?”
The emperor did not turn a hair. “And yet I have never heard you mention that name.”
And Polo said: “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
Marco Polo eventually admits that all his described cities are one and the same city: Venice, his Home. His point of origin. The Khan marvels at this.

So do I. Because it is not merely Calvino's artistry and vision that articulates this fine point upon everyone's individual relationship with their Home, but he defines as best he can the evocative nature of Venice itself in a literal sense. Venice is a stirring place-- sexy, dangerous, elegant, nurturing, beautiful, not at all unlike the many facets of a living woman. And it is as if the spirit of this woman has cast a spell over every one that has ever known her, changed them, then altered them eternally. Then suddenly, and without warning, she disappeared-- and we are all left in the wake of our memories, searching for the way she made us feel, the way she made us think, see, live.. or perhaps just simply to be with her, again. And in traveling to Venice you will not encounter the woman. No. Rather you will encounter all of those who lived within her birthplace. They are stunned; haunted by their lost love. They see her in every flicker of light upon the ornate glass figures. They smell her scent around every narrow cobbled alleyway. Her image is reflected in every canal. Her face behind every Carnivale mask.  

“Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little...”
"Subterranean Blues" - ©Nick Bantock


  1. oh, this entry is a delight.

    i am totally with you on

    4: i too used to own baby name books as a child because i wanted to know what they all meant! and your hypothetical dog and cat names and explanations made me laugh out loud.

    6: loooove this, and love the stories, and love that your parents met on a plane in spain.

    9: YES. i often wish that muppets (elmo in particular) were real. i think i am a combination of the animal and beaker.

    delightful, al.

  2. correction: the animal and dr. bunsen honeydew.

    i love #7 as well.

  3. Wow, you have great taste!

    We also give our cats titles such as "Mister" and "Monsignor".

  4. Oh slurpees and Al! How I miss you....might be a good day for a Slurpee today actually! :)

  5. I am so so so proud of you for working so hard to continue your writing. It takes such discipline and I really admire that. You are so gifted and so well loved. I wish you were in my pocket and I'd take you out of it right now and sit you on my kitchen table and give you a little baby kiss (which would be a GIANT kiss because you're pocket sized) and then I'd sit you down on a blueberry and we could chat all night and I could dust you with flour like it was snowing and let you jump on some flumps like a mini bouncy castle.

    Pocket sized Al that sounds just lovely. I'll have to find some gummy bear juice to drink that will make ME pocket sized so that I can be sent in an envelope to NY to come and say hi.

    I love you as always your sister, Franny xx



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