Mrs Morrison's Hotel

The 100% personal official blog for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, author, Celtic priestess, retired rock critic, wife of Jim

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I was, wait, sorry, that's "David Copperfield". Anyway, I was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, went to school in upstate NY and came straight back to Manhattan to live. Never lived anywhere else. Never wanted to. Got a job as a rock journalist, in the course of which I met and married a rock star (yeah, yeah, conflict of interest, who cares). Became a priestess in a Celtic Pagan tradition, and (based on sheer longevity) one of the most senior Witches around. Began writing my Keltiad series. Wrote a memoir of my time with my beloved consort (Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison). See Favorite Books below for a big announcement...The Rennie Stride Mysteries. "There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing that which you do not possess in yourself." ---Walt Whitman (Also @ and

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Angels and Ministers of Grace...

Find your Celestial Choir

How true, how very very true...especially that "Wrath" part...

Lost In A Roamin' Wilderness...

Well, this is the first Wednesday without my best-beloved and yet also INCREDIBLY personally annoying "Lost"...withdrawal symptoms much?

I won't spill any big-time spoilers for those of you who might read this and might NOT be fans just yet and MAY be fans in future...but there will be a few, so be warned.

My GOODNESS but it was a fine season closer! Absolutely CRAMMED with incident...

I'm not sure if I'm pleased that the show has become such a superhit. Certainly it's waaaaay better than having it cancelled, but it seems that the writers are putting both themselves and us through some major and perhaps unnecessary hoops. I mean, a giant seaside stone statue of a leg below the knee---with ONLY FOUR TOES? Can we say "Ozymandias", boys and girls? Yes, I think we can. Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair!

And what gives with all the Odysseus imagery? Wandering Desmond, beaching his tempest-tossed craft on the magic island of voices (or Sirens); faithful Penelope at home, refusing all suitors; Cyclops = Pearl Hatch, giant one-eyed watching just goes on and on.

Which is fine by me. I love crazy literary subtexts, and this show is FULL of them, from the philosopher-named characters (Locke, Hume) to "Our Mutual Friend" to "Watership Down" (but Sawyer as Bigwig I'm just not buying...). Plus the writers "seem" to lose interest in things (where's Lostzilla the Monster?) from time to time, just wandering off the way Windows 2000 sometimes does.
But for the most part they're on the money, and they can still surprise the heck out of me. So I'll be watching repeats all summer long...and maybe I'll just have to buy TWO seasons worth of DVDs come the fall...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

This Girl in Her Summer Dresses

I finally gave in to spring over the weekend. Which means caving in to summer as well. In what manner did I so cave? I put away the winter clothes and got out the Other Clothes.

I am not a fan of warm weather, and I have the Celtic genetics behind me to back it up: pale skin, auburn hair, five thousand years of ancestors living in cool northern mists. I hate summer. It’s too hot, it’s too bright, it’s too sticky. It's just...TOO.
But although spring can be lovely here in NYC—and this year we had an exceptional one, protracted (unusual: as a rule it goes from lovely freezing snowy winter to furnace-blast August all within several days in May) and cool—spring inevitably means summer. And summer requires summer clothes.

I HATE summer, did I mention that, and I hate the clothes you have to wear to get through it. I LOVE being swathed in layers of warm, soft fuzziness. Chenille, furs of various sorts, velvet, wool, brocade, heavy woven raw silk. You can’t do that in 98-degree one-million-per-cent humidity weather. So I am forced to resort to cotton. Oh, I still do layers—shirt-coat-y things over t-shirts and kung-fu pants—but it’s just not the same.

In my youth in the 60’s, I wore considerably fewer clothes, because that was what one did then if one was a chick in her early 20’s. Miniskirts, of course. Or even shorter: my sister and I had a rule that if the skirt hit below your wrist when you stood with your arm at your side, the skirt was too damn long. (She also claims I was sent home from high school one time, earlier in that decade, because I’d rolled my skirt waistband so that the hem cleared my knees—the rule was the hem must touch the floor when you were kneeling, and they’d make you kneel just so they could check, the bastards—but I do not recall this. She insists it happened, and says she was soooo proud of me because I was such a nerd otherwise. Uh-HUH.)

When I first started working and supporting myself, I couldn’t afford to really lash out on clothes (though it’s surprising now that I look back and see how MANY nice things I had living on a starting salary of $65 a week, going up to $200 when I was editing Jazz & Pop), so if I wanted the rich-hippie clobber I coveted, I had to make it myself—oh yes, I can sew! To fetching effect, if I do say so, and of course it was soooo cool to be able to modestly and yet boastfully murmur, when some rock god or goddess admiringly asked, “Oh, THIS little thing? Why, I made it myself!” Thus earning big points for style, hipness AND sweet old-fashioned womanly virtues, though it wasn’t quite on a par with Pioneer Woman out there on the prairies weaving her own food. I even made suede shoulderbags with beaded fringe that went down to the floor (carried one in Miami, when I was there with Jim for his trial, and when I was with him subsequently in L.A.).

For my Fillmore East debut as a working rock journalist, I made an ensemble in chocolate-brown velvet (brown is perhaps my favorite color, for its sense of richness and elegance): a long-sleeved cossack hip-length tunic with lovely gold and velvet braid from the trimmings store on First Avenue—there were dozens of them then, all run by ancient Eastern European couples who were all either adorable or mean—to give the cossack effect on collar and front tab, and a tiny, TINY waistband-less microskirt to match, I don’t think it was more than a foot long and only about four inches actually showed from under the tunic.

Inspired by Janis Joplin, I whipped up a long tunic and bellbottom pants out of two lace tablecloths, with design medallions strategically placed so that I didn’t have to wear more with it than lace bikini panties. And lots and lots of beads, of course.
Inspired by Grace Slick (on the jacket of "Surrealistic Pillow"), I fashioned a brown paisley pantsuit with button loops on the Mao jacket and skin-tight bells. I had other bellbottoms that flared alarmingly below the knee, so that they often got tangled up amongst themselves and tripped me off my Olofdaughters clogs or platform cork soles.

In even more California moments, I went in for leather: a gold buckskin jacket/shirt, made by me, with silver conchos and buckskin thongs for fasteners, weighed a TON, a pair of gray suede gaucho pants, a long brown leather midiskirt when midiskirts first hit, culottes in soft brown leather with bronze studs and waist buckles. Worn with Pilgrim-looking square-toed shoes with two-inch heels or knee-high cocoa suede boots or Capezio patent-leather ribbon-tied tap shoes or thigh-high black leather pirate boots. And, as I said, all this on a tiny salary—clothes were a lot less costly then.

But shortshortshort and bralessbralessbraless were the mantras of the day. I look back on this now and wonder that we weren’t all either arrested for exposure or assaulted on the street, but no. Maybe because it was a more innocent time and the tiny skirts and abbreviated dresses and see-through cotton pirate shirts didn’t seem especially sexy. We wore them with no pantyhose or stockings and often with no underwear, and with no conscious sexy intent. It was just what we wore.

And it was all so PRETTY. I had minidresses from Betsey Johnson (one was heavy red cotton with a plunging neckline and tiny white dots all over; Jim ripped it off me one very memorable night—thanks, Betsey! Good job, girlfriend!) and Biba (medieval-style velour or flowy jewel-toned rayon with big leg-o’-mutton sleeves buttoned to the elbow).
To a Doors concert at Madison Square Garden, I wore a black rayon minidress with a bare laceup back probably eight inches wide, except I wore it back to front. Without a bra. When I took my embroidered sheepskin Afghan coat off at my seat, actual silence fell for about twenty feet around. Very pleasing, and yes, that was one of the few occasions I dressed with calculated intent.
To a Doors after-concert party at the New York Hilton, I wore a cream leather two-piece pantsuit that I’d made myself: scoop-neck sleeveless top that buttoned at the bust with one ornamental frog fastener, all the rest open over skin-tight hiphugger bellbottoms, the hems on both pieces left as the natural edges of the leather. (Jim just seemed to bring out the cleavage-flaunter, hmm, wonder why...)

But New York chicks back then dressed more like London dollybirds than like California girls (either North or South). I bought Biba, of course, and Ossie Clark (one of my favorite dresses from this period is a long black crepe princess-styled dress, with alternating panels of matte and shiny, from his partner Alice Pollock); Annacat (long red hobble-skirted dress of tiny-flower-printed wool so fine it feels and looks like cotton, with big puffy sleeves at the shoulder and then tight down to the wrist; a generic Mary Quant knockoff one-piece with that deep pointed white collar and tiny knife-pleated skirt depending off a hipbelt, all in brown with teensy white dots (I’m wearing it in the one picture I have of myself with Jim—I was far too proud to maybe have him think I was just interested in getting my picture taken with him, though now of course I’d KILL to have more).

Young Edwardian, very London in style, was a favorite domestic brand: I recall a floaty A-line Empire-waisted dress of thin, thin pearl-gray cotton voile, with ruffles at the deep V-neck and at the wrists, couple more. And I still had some of my hipper clothes from college: a green corduroy smock with embroidery; a one-piece dress with a cream- and blue-printed top and matching blue Empire skirt, buttoning up with wooden keg buttons; a self-sewn medieval-looking top in green wool that I modeled after one that Peter O'Toole wore as King Henry II in "Becket", open neck laced with a leather cord, usually worn with suede boots and a soft, soft, wide-wale gray corduroy skirt; couple of capes and cloaks; a nice cocoa suede jacket. But the sorority-girl madras dresses and reversible wrap skirts and Peter-Pan-collared blouses and penny loafers were definitely tossed.

In the handmade corner of the closet, I had a white-on-black Liberty flower print babydoll minidress with wide borders of eyelet lace at wrists and hem, a floor-length straight skirt in red cut velvet that I wore with a rather medieval-looking leather vest, drapey tops, numerous miniskirts (well, they were easy and cheap to make—I could whip one up from a yard of fabric in half an hour, from cutting out the pattern to putting it on and walking out the door).

I wore all of this stuff to work on a daily basis. We hippie chicks were all surprisingly formal in our dress codes: nice pants and tops and dresses; we didn’t schlub around in jeans and sweats; a tour t-shirt and artfully frayed jeans was about as casual as it ever got.

Later, when I had more money to spend on clothes, I got into Gina Fratini, an English designer of pure romance: gorgeous long dresses—I’m wearing my favorite one on the cover of “Strange Days.” I have three or four more of her gowns, including a medieval square-necked number in self-patterned brown rayon with open trailing sleeves that are just two long ovals, reaching the floor (I actually saw the same dress on TV back then in an episode of “Banacek”, or maybe "McLeod," worn by a well-known actress whose name currently escapes me). I’m STILL kicking myself I didn’t buy another Gina Fratini I saw at Harrods in ombré chiffon, shades of brown from cream to toast to chocolate, just fabulous. Oh, and the black and ruby trapunto-fronted Zandra Rhodes gown I passed on at Lord & Taylor’s, again still kicking.

Another Brit favorite was Annabelinda, a designer with a charming shop in Oxford, from whom I purchased two of the loveliest dresses I have, a short one in handpainted cream and russet silk with a fabulous trapunto sunburst beaded bodice and the other a floor-length summer garden party confection in a blue and white tiny print with a blue silk quilted and buttoned bodice, low and bare both front and back, and open sleeves that tie with narrow blue silk cording at the wrists.
In the 70's, when I worked at CBS Records, I would wear dresses like this to the office, because you could. I’d also often wear Arab robes. On a trip to London I found a fantastic boutique in Belgravia called Arabesque, and I bought several abayahs which I still have. Laura Ashley was another favorite, but not the foofy flowery stuff, and Monsoon—ethnic was the thing.

I was thinking I’d eventually donate all these pieces to the Museum of Costume in Bath, England. I don’t wear them anymore, my nieces aren’t interested, and the clothes, which are all in excellent condition, make a nice portrait of their time. Sometimes I just take them out of the trunk and look at them, remembering (Oh yeah, wore that to the private Cream party after their Hunter College gig, right, wore that one to see the Stones at the Garden, Thanksgiving ’69...).

But not today. Anyway, I still have to pick up all the summer clothes off the floor where they’re currently reposing (as a result of my newfound big-wave surfwatching trip, I’m getting a bit more colorful, dare I say Hawaiian, in my recent wardrobe purchases—prints! sandals! coral shirts! turquoise pants! It’s, I don’t know, WEIRD! The Apocalypse is clearly imminent!) and stuff the winter gear away at last and take the furs to storage (it’s like sending your kids off to camp...except they never write).

And dream, of course, of fall.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Finale Problem

This seems to be the time of bloated two-hour season finales (or series finales) for a whole bunch of TV shows, including some I actually watch and like.

I'll discuss "Lost" next week, when its actual closer has aired, but in the meantime there's "The West Wing" and "Will & Grace" to talk about.

Both these shows frequently annoyed the hell out of me, and yet I continued to watch, because they were so darn good and so darn funny and so well-written and well-acted. But once MDFs Mary and Steve's friend Jeff Greenstein, executive producer on "W&G", left the show for the second time, I too left. It was excruciating without his hand on the wheel: caricatures to begin with, albeit screamingly funny and endearing ones so that's not a bad thing at ALL, the characters quickly descended into Stereotype Hell, which WAS a bad thing, to a circle so deep that for me even the kinda soppy series closer last night didn't do much to make me sorry the show was over.

At one point some years back, Jeff, having established Leo's (Grace's boyfriend/husband/ex-husband/remarried husband, played by Harry Connick, Jr.) membership in The Operating Room Doors, a Doors "tribute" band (Leo, a resident at some hospital, was the drummer, a not entirely unlikely John Densmore knockoff), was going to spin one episode's B-plot around the band and how Grace thought Leo should be the lead singer, not the drummer. But the Doors management wouldn't give permission, which I must say was humorless and tiresome and typical.

Especially annoying because Jeff (a lovely, lovely man, and a very TALL man, whom I've met at several of Mary and Steve's annual Oscar parties) was going to try to get me a job as an extra, wearing my "I SLEPT WITH JIM MORRISON" t-shirt somewhere in the background. Failing that, at least he was going to have me on the set for taping. But it did not come to pass, though I did get to one taping with Mary and met Sean Hayes and I had just the BEST time. Having seen how movies work from the inside, it was interesting to see how half-hour taped-live sitcoms are assembled, and how incredibly hard everyone works and how focused they are. A lot more so, in a different way, than people on movie sets, who have the luxury of more time.

Anyway. The series closer was pretty maudlin and kinda weird and more than a little contrived. I enjoyed it, which means I wasn't multitasking as I watched, but it felt as though it had all happened long ago and far away.

"The West Wing" finale was actually touching, though I could have wished a lot of things had been handled differently. I even teared up a time or two. Martin Sheen, the late John Spencer, Allison Janney, Brad Whitford, Stockard Channing...we shall not see their like again in anything the like of this. But I'm down with President Jimmy Smits...sorry we won't be seeing HIS West Wing...

And Happy Birthday today to MDF Jared, a warrior and a poet, who rejoices in a Klingon heart and a Keltic soul! Beannacht and Qa'Pla!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cross as Two Sticks

From today's NY Daily News letters to the editor:

Church and state

Manhattan: How dare they put a Christian religious symbol in the WTC memorial? The victims hailed from almost all the world's religions. If they include a cross, they should include symbols for Jews and Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs. They should even include a bowl of marijuana for Rastafarians. What was the miracle this cross represented, anyway? It was one of hundreds of crossbeams used to build the towers. After it "miraculously" appeared, were people suddenly rescued from the rubble? Was Osama suddenly caught? It has been there for more than four years; have the toxins disappeared from the Deutsche Bank? The people who venerate the cross as a miracle are weak-minded, and the people who acquiesced to religious threats and pressure are even weaker.

Steven Davies

How absolutely correct, and props to Mr. Davies for mentioning it. My only quibble with his sentiment is that he didn't include Witches and Pagans, as we know that some of us, too, died at the Trade Center.

Contray to popular belief, this is NOT a Christian country (it was founded by Deists, boys and girls...go look it up if you don't know what that means). It is also a country that is home to freedom of religion, a multiplicity of beliefs of equal weight and grace, though I'm beginning to think not so much lately, with the fundie shift doing such damage. (May I remind you all that the root word of "fundamentalism", means, in the original Latin, roughly "ass." Not the braying kind---well, yes, they DO bray, true enough---but the kind you sit yourself down on. Or are.

I get so sick of this sort of thing: it's on a par with people seeing Jesus on a grilled-cheese sandwich or the Virgin Mary in a detergent smear on a newly washed window. I'm all for faith and miracles, but I also believe such things can happily co-exist with common sense and some degree of intelligence and sophistication. Instead, we get credulous hayseeds seeing all sorts of things in common household objects and memorial planners imposing their narrow view of Deity on us all.

Maybe I'll start seeing Thor in a plate of Swedish meatballs, just so I don't feel left out and unreligious...but, you know, I wouldn't want to so insult a god.

Le nabe d'antan

Walking around my East Village neighborhood last weekend, doing chores, I was struck by how many empty storefronts there suddenly are.

Used to be that every single place had a, well, place in it. Now the missing in combat include my beloved Second Avenue Deli (bastard landlord raised the rent from $25,000 per month to $33,000...that's a heck of a lot of kosher hot dogs they'd have to sell to meet that nut. Their big mistake, sadly, was not buying their building years ago, as so many other proprietors did, it can't have cost that much...), a health-food store called Prana, a teashop that was succeeded by a pizza place that only lasted a couple of months (owned by the same bastard landlord that evicted the Deli), Tel Aviv car service (now operating out of Queens under the name DIAL-7, and my car service of choice to the airport), the wonderful fishmarket right next door to it (which reinvented itself as a sushi bar with fresh fish sold in the rear of the store; now we have no fishmarket AT ALL, thank you SO much, you sleazeballs, and must trek up to Whole Foods on 14th Street and pay inflated prices), La Focacceria, a hundred-year-old Italian place I absolutely loved, replaced by a Middle-Eastern-run "gourmet shop" that has itself already closed after like three months, no centenarian it. And a bunch more.

Even in the Plague Years of the late 70's and early 80's, I didn't notice as many empty stores. Somehow they all hung on. There was a lot of gentrification-fueled turnover: old-time places like the wonderful Italian-Ukrainian restaurant Orchidia forced out of business and replaced by Steve's Ice Cream (who?? Then there was a rather good restaurant in that space called In Padella, forced out likewise, and the space is now another damn Starbucks).

All my fave stores from when I first moved in are gone, pretty much. Except for Veniero's, great Italian pastry palace, and the two butchers I patronize, and De Robertis, another great old Italian pastry and ice store, and Five Roses, my local quick pizza/meatball sandwich house of choice.
But that's more or less normal over the course of forty years. This new plague of rent-raise evictions is a very different and much more nasty thing.

The replacements were all short-lived, because the neighborhood voted with its wallets and refused to go inside. But now supergentrification has apparently set in, and greedy soulless landlords, unfettered by nonexistent commercial rent controls, push their demands to the point where the shopowners can't keep up and have to close.

Good, I say! Not good that my old favorites are gone, but good that the storefronts stand vacant, in mute tombstone-like testimony to carpetbagging slimebuckets who come in to rape the neighborhood. Let the blank windows stand blank forever, let the doors be forever shut, let the venal pigdogs lose money hand over fist! THAT'll teach 'em! Even if they find new tenants I will boycott them, as a matter of honor and principle. And so should everyone else. (Well, except if the new tenant is a Trader Joe's, who are righteous. Principle is one thing, practicality is quite another.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Alien Nation

Illegal aliens. I describe myself as a political moderate, a centrist, and I’m even a flaming bleeding-heart liberal on a lot of issues, but I hafta say, this absolutely isn’t one of them.

I sympathize with their plight, I really do. But the fact remains, they’re ALIENS. And they’re ILLEGAL. That means they broke the LAW. They SHOULDN’T BE HERE.
And if they ARE here, I really don’t believe they have any right to claim they HAVE rights and should get to stay and become citizens.

Not in front of millions of other people who patiently and law-abidingly have been waiting their turn. I’m not a fan of queue-jumpers, whether it’s in supermarkets or across the border, and I don’t think they should be rewarded for calculated illegal behavior. (And I’m including all illegal immigrants here, not just the Latino ones. Yes, Irish ones too.)

It’s just one more reason why this country, best in the world though it certainly is for so many reasons why else is everybody wanting so much to come here, so often annoys the hell out of me. Or should I say its politicians annoy the hell out of me—yes, Democratic ones too—for allowing this to so get out of hand.

It seems that there are a few basics that can be empirically agreed on and not just because the conservatives claim it is so. The incomers have committed a crime by sneaking in here under the radar. With or without fraudulent documents. For the most part, they do not pay taxes on what they earn here, since they have no documentation and must therefore be paid in cash, and if they do have documents the docs are faked or stolen because they’re, like, you know, ILLEGAL aliens and they don’t have legit ones.

Many people BORN in this country complain that illegals get better health care and more consideration and perks than THEY do, and I think they’re quite right to feel angry about it. If this country doesn’t adequately provide for its own people, which it most emphatically does NOT, why should it provide for endless numbers of the illegal and the unskilled? Or are votes in states with lots of illegals (yes, even illegals vote, however fraudulently) at the bottom of that little can of chads? Right down there with snickering corporations who have built their huge profits on the backs of these pathetic people.

I have read in various places that half the illegal alien population is visa overstayers—people who entered the country legally on a time-limited visa, but decided to stay on when the visa expired, and thus became illegal. Once they’re here, there is little chance they’ll be detected and virtually no chance they’ll be deported.
How about some program that will actually be enforced, ensuring that people who enter illegally or overstay their visas will be barred from employment, public assistance, public education, public housing or any other taxpayer-funded benefit? If they are aware up front that they’re not going to get anything out of our system, they might think twice before sneaking in uninvited.

I’m not even convinced that they really want to even BECOME Americans. It sometimes seems to me that they just want to BE IN AMERICA, which is a very different thing. They live in their own enclaves, among their own people, speaking their own languages, reading their own newspapers, watching their own TV shows. They even get to have their own languages on the ballots they (may or may not fraudulently) vote with. Not exactly being part of the great American melting pot, adding to our beautiful mosaic, are they?

What angers me more than anything, I think, is the fact that they refuse to learn English, and expect, nay, demand to be catered to in their own languages. Coupled with the fact that we politically correctly cave in and cater.
Hey! Immigrants! YOU came HERE! Everybody else who comes here learns to speak English the way the rest of us do, so why shouldn’t you? It used to be a point of honor among immigrants that the old tongues got left behind and English was eagerly aspired to. (Which isn’t entirely a good thing: why couldn’t it be both ways, and we could all be fluent in the languages of our immigrant forebears?) Until there's some good-faith movement on this, I don't think they deserve consideration for citizenship.
And I would LOVE to see an English-as-official-US-language bill, and I'd vote for any pol who pushed one. Even if I have to avert my eyes and hold my nose. But then I've been doing that for YEARS in the voting booth (exceptions: Gore, Kerry, Schumer, Clinton), so I'm sure I could manage to choke down my rising gorge one more time.

I honestly don’t know if I believe the assertion that these people are here doing jobs Americans don’t want. Even if that’s so, isn’t it exploitation on a mass scale, and aren’t the Yuppie couples who employ an undocumented nanny or gardener on the cheap responsible for it just as much as the vile big corporations? Or is it all just a great big sly wink at the expense of poor desperate people, which is utterly reprehensible?

Oh hey, and what about terrorists? How easy is it for THEM to waltz in? I don’t think anyone with two brain cells to rub together and make a thought actually believes enough has been done in that direction, though probably it would never be enough to be proof against a determined jihadist.

I really don’t know what the right thing to do is. The aliens ARE illegal. It’s very sad, what they go through. But I don’t want them to become legal with full rights ahead of people who played by the rules, and I don’t want to make them felons, either, or let them die in alleys, or deport them to their apparently horrible and hated and poverty-stricken homelands.

To require them to declare their intent to become citizens, to pay back taxes and a fine FOR BREAKING THE LAW, to take a simple English competency exam—that doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it? And I still think they should be somehow punished...yes, that’s right, punished, how illiberal a position is THAT, get over it...for jumping the queue.

Still, they just seem to want to live here, not to be a part of here. Witness all the national flags displayed in those protest marches, until some of the more media-savvy among them suggested that if you want to be AMERICANS, it might be a better idea to wave AMERICAN flags in Americans’ faces.

It’s a tough one. But it’s not the age of Emma Lazarus anymore. Maybe we can no longer afford to be sentimental about the huddled masses and the wretched refuse of other countries’ teeming shores. Even my own much-admired-by-me Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is now in favor of building a wall along the porous-as-papier-maché Mexican border—a wall that should have gone up decades ago, except that pols kept it down for expediency’s sake. And maybe we can't trust Canadian border integrity either...

And I don’t care one little bit that this makes me sound like some pigdog no-neck lard-brained on-the-take Republican congressman from South Dogsquat, Redstate, USA. I feel that I have amassed sufficient Democratic liberal credentials down the years, yea verily since the time of JFK, before I could even freakin' VOTE, to offset this to the side of centrism, and I don't have a problem with it. That’s all.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Food Fight

I’m not an adventurous eater. No one who knows me would ever dream of describing me as open to new things where ethnic, trendy or otherwise “fashionable” food is concerned. Unlike MDFs Mary and Steve, who I don't believe have EVER met food they didn't like, I like ONLY what I like, usually plain, uncomplicated fare, and I like burgers and hot dogs as much as I like pâté or rack of lamb. Maybe more. (Well, Steve and Mary do too, but they are indeed far more adventurous and daring than I, foodwise, and I salute them for it. But I wouldn't often join them at table.)

I do know my way AROUND a table, though. I can wrangle a place setting with five glasses and twelve pieces of flatware and a finger bowl without so much as a tremor. I know that one should leave one’s soup spoon IN THE SOUP PLATE when finished, even though it kills me every time (well, at least Miss Manners says you should, and that's good enough for me. But only when dining formally; at informal meals, when eating soup from a bowl, it's okay to put the spoon on the plate the bowl came on). I can eat a pear off a dessert plate with a fruit knife and fork and I know what food is finger food at a picnic or a formal luncheon and I know that the thing the Brits do at four o’clock is correctly called TEA or AFTERNOON TEA, not “high tea” as food illiterates with delusions of elegance so often describe it. (High tea is a rather low meal, eaten around five o’clock, sort of a one-course working-class supper and quite often substantial and delicious—you won’t be getting watercress sandwiches and scones at high tea, more likely a breaded pork chop and a potato...)

But what has, uh, cheesed me off of late has been the increasingly condescending, patronizing, smug attitude evinced by the food-service industry towards its own customers, at least in places like New York.
When did this arrogance amongst food-preparers get so out of hand? Has it ever been thus, and I just never noticed before? They may call themselves chefs, but they’re really just cooks, you know, so what’s with the ’tude?
I'm a simple, humble diner, but I’ve eaten in a pretty fair amount of acclaimed and majorly starred hash-houses (ooooh, burn!), so it’s not as if I’m some food Philistine who thinks Olive Garden is a temple of haute cuisine (no slam on OG, it's fine for what it does), or a mannerless clod who drinks tea with her pinky raised (get that finger down before I break it for you!) and eats her peas with her knife. (Actually, I don’t eat peas at all, hating veggies with the fierceness of a five-year-old, but that’s another story...)

What set me off was reading a blog account by a food critic that “Chef” (just “Chef”, no humble “the” or lowercase “c”) of an upscale restaurant had forbidden the critic’s party from ordering so much as an appetizer before all members of the party had arrived. Now, this wasn’t some fancypants tasting-menu place or anything; there was no legitimate reason Chef couldn’t have slung a salad or some shrimp their way to stave off hunger pangs. But they couldn’t even ORDER before their party was complete.
Just another piece of arbitrary kitchen tyranny by a jumped-up frycook hungry only for power over his captive audience. (And believe me, I’ll happily take a good frycook over a preening, dictatorial fusspot who calls himself “Chef” as if it’s his proper name any day.)

I’ve had a few restaurant incidents myself. I once requested no mashed potatoes (hate ’em, unless they’re so laden with gravy that I need a spoon to eat them) at a meal at an upper West Side eatery. I was informed that “Oh, Chef won’t allow that.” I tell ya, Chef was lucky he didn’t get my scraped-off (by me, onto the bread plate, I didn’t care if the whole darn restaurant saw me being unmannerly, and I'm sure Chef heard all about it...) tubers in his arrogant face.

And the problems are by no means just with “Chef”. There was a well-loved Indonesian-rijstaffel midtown restaurant that my office mates and I used to dine at regularly many years ago—best satay in the city, lovely sliced bananas in coconut milk. At one memorable lunch, when I very politely pointed out to the server that my fork was filthy (and I wasn't the one who had made it so), he proceeded to wipe it off with a corner of the tablecloth and replace it beside my plate. Whereupon I proceeded to fling it after his retreating form, scoring a direct hit. I was only sorry I didn’t skewer him like the satay.

Which is what made my recent restaurant adventures in Olean, New York so pleasant by comparison. Servers who were helpful, friendly and polite...and open to meal directives (“No green stuff, please” chiefest among them). Food produced by excellent plain cooks, food that wasn’t cloaked in layers of bizarreness and pretentiousness and didn’t need it, either—just simple steaks, chops, chicken, stuff that you could actually recognize and taste. No attitude except “We hope you enjoy your meal.” With a subtext of “And we’ll do whatever you want or need to make it happen.”
And so, of course, we did.

I mostly read newspaper restaurant reviews for laughs these days. If people actually like to EAT this affected and preposterous stuff, fine and dandy, but to me it reads more like the Emperor’s New Food. The more elaborate and exotic Chef gets, the more ecstatic Reviewer gets. Sort of a culinary circle-jerk, and if you don’t like it, you’re obviously unworthy to partake.
Fine with me! Faced with such a choice, I’ll gladly and gratefully eat burgers.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

O Come Let Us Abhor Them...

I see where the Catholic Church is getting its ecclesiastical knickers in a bunch about “The Da Vinci Code.” Far as I’m concerned, couldn’t happen to a more deserving organization, and it gives me joy to behold.

Hark unto their cries of outrage and pain:

"Ooooh, it’s blasphemous!" (Only if you’re a Christian, my friends...and maybe not even then. Do not Christians make a big fat deal about Jesus being both god AND man? So why wouldn’t he, a MAN, wed and have a child with a woman whom he considered his equal? Hey, Zeus did it all the time!)

"Ooooh, it’ll give the world a bad impression about the Catholic Church!" (This with a straight face from the people who brought you the Inquisition, the Vatican bank scandal and child molestation on an almost institutional scale. Not to mention the lying and cover-ups that went on about that last. Jesus must be SO proud...)

Dig this (from a New York Times article): “In Rome recently, Archbishop Angelo Amato, the No. 2 official in the Vatican's doctrinal office, told Catholic communications officials: ‘If such slanders, offenses and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust, they would have justly provoked a world uprising. Instead, directed at the Church and Christians, they remain unpunished. I hope you will all boycott the movie.’

“Cardinal Francis Arinze, a prominent Vatican official from Nigeria, said in a recently released documentary made by a Catholic film agency that Christians should take 'legal means' against 'The Da Vinci Code,' though he did not explain how."

Oh HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’ll just BET he didn’t!, really, AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Do these people actually HEAR themselves? These are the same soul fascists who tried to force Brother Mel Gibson and his “Passion of the Christ” down our collective throats as the Gospel According to St. Mel when it was really based on sheer invention (hey, FICTION! JUST LIKE “DA VINCI CODE”!) and the ravings of a nutty eighteenth-century female German “mystic” who wanted Jesus to be her imaginary boyfriend. Okay, then!

So Angie da Bish is basically saying, ‘Yeah, we too have ample cause to riot like Islamofascists, only we’re far too holy and godly to do that.’
Uh-HUUUH. Note his use of the word "unpunished." Now there's a nice live-and-let-live attitude for us all to learn from! Sounds just like a sour old mullah getting ready to push out another fatwa. You can tell he thinks it’s a damn crying shame the year is 2006 and not 1406. Back then, hoo ponies!, churchmen had REAL power! Could rip out your fingernails and clamp your privates and char-broil you nicely at the stake just for THINKING unChristian thoughts! How sad that those days of torture and punishment in Jesus' name are behind us, he thinks, Archbishop Doctrino, the voce not at all sotto...

Before people get the wrong idea, I must interject here that I have NO problem with Jesus. Maybe man, maybe god, certainly glorious avatar of the Supreme—doesn’t really matter. My personal faith lies elsewhere, and my beef is purely with the hierarchy. There are plenty of good, wise, holy people who describe themselves as Catholics and Christians, and who are a grace and blessing to any god's service; I honor and admire them, and they're not what I'm complaining of here.

Anyway, Jesus and the Church that professes him as King and Lord have very little to do with each other these days. Jesus, or at least his holy ghostwriters, had some superlatively good and righteous things to say about love and peace and Do unto others. They’re good things no matter WHOSE god said them. But the Church? Should be called Paulism, not Christianity.

Oh, and Jesus is the first, last, and ONLY friend women have ever had in the power structure, sorry, church that bears his name. Seven sacraments for men and only six for women, my sistren! Physicality and sexuality, the glorious gift of God, turned into something dirty and impure! Nuns being little more than the servants of spoiled priests who live high off the hog...Waterford crystal, bone china, custom-made carpets with the episcopal seal woven in...while sisters live hand to mouth in apartments over garages, begging for food and clothing like it’s still the time of St. Francis and St. Clare. (Looking at YOU, Bishop of Rockville Centre! You who forced a whole conventful of nuns out so you could take over their digs and make a McMansion for yourself, even though you already had a palatial establishment! Try living humbly in a stable, like the one your Lord and God was born in!) I can document it all, boys! Much of it personally! So don’t even get me STARTED, because I’ll never, ever stop...

For many centuries now, the Catholic Church hierarchy has been nothing but a vast financial and temporal power cynically passing itself off as a pure spiritual entity. And the Christian fundies, with their Cadillac-driving “ministers” and big giant Jesuslands and plastic California cathedrals, are just as bad.

Not “Feed my sheep” but “Fleece those lambs.” If I were they, I’d be a LOT more careful with their free-and-easy talk of what Jesus would like and do and think of them. If Jesus came back, as they’re always bleating he will, they’d crucify him all over again, because he’d be plenty pissed off with their self-serving worldly agendas. Well, maybe he’d whip them out of their temples (and Porsches) first. Hopefully. Rapture, take them away NOW, please, so the rest of us don’t have to put up with their idiocy any longer than we already have.

I have watched this Circus Hypocriticus go down for years and years, and it absolutely CRIPPLES me with laughter to hear them all speaking ex cathedra from their fundaments now. I say gods bless Dan Brown, and may a thousand more like him arise in the land to speak fictional truth to bloated and corrupt and self-important “spiritual” power.
Get over it, cassock boys! (And the operative word is indeed “boys”...) Your He-Man Woman Haters Club is a dinosaur on its last legs. You’ve been spiritually bankrupt for centuries. All you’ve got left is some very beautiful artwork and architecture. Karma’s a bitch, man...

You know, I have no idea if the premise of DVC is true or not. I’d love to believe it is, and perhaps I even do. It almost doesn’t matter at this point. The Catholic hierarchy, for its own twisted misogynistic reasons, painted Mary of Magdala as a whore when there was absolutely NO BIBLICAL SUPPORT for such a charge, and indeed much evidence to the contrary—contemporary evidence that she was the “disciple Christ loved.”

No, it suited them to smear her, in their man-piggy little ways, and they could get away with it, so they did. THEY’RE the whores, not Mary. Whether she was Mrs. Christ or just a close personal friend, she deserved a lot better from the guys than she’s gotten. I can relate...I think most women can.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The 'Pod and I

I never thought I'd ever want an iPod. I don't usually lust after technotoys (iPods, BlackBerries, Razrs, etc.), mostly because if I ever bought whatever it might be I'd have to actually learn how to USE it. And the learning curve for me, the Luddiest Luddite Who Ever Ludded, is too darn steep these days. Life is short and time is fleeting, and I just can't be bothered even to do something as basic as program numbers into my cordless phone. (I haven't yielded to the siren song of cellphones yet. The line in the sand MUST be drawn somewhere...)

So naturally I was given an iPod Mini for a solstice gift by My Dear Friends Lisa and her husband Lee. (Lee being Lee Arenberg, actor extraordinaire, whom we will be seeing again this summer as pirate Pintel in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". To refresh your memory, he's the " 'Ello, poppet!" one...don't forget to see it when it opens in July! Go Opening Weekend to pump up the figures! Go twice! And go buy the DVD of his fantastically funny series "Action!", where he plays the meanest---and best-endowed---man in Hollywood.)

Anyway. I was grateful and thrilled, though a bit daunted at first...ooooh, technology!...but I summoned up all the techno brain cells I possess---not exactly a flotilla, though I can and did wire up my stereo system, and not one of the easy comes-in-a-package newfangled ones either but one that I personally assembled piece by piece from fancy separate components, big old KLH studio-style wood-cased speakers and JVC amp and preamp and decks and Dual turntable, what a Twenty-first Century Technofox! ([tm] my dear friend Mary)---and commanded them into action, to master this tiny new device. It's not that I really hate all new techstuff, it's just that my classical-humanist-trained brain doesn't work like that: techspeak makes me feel stupid, and I have issues with the English and punctuation in the operating manuals, and then I get panicky and scared.

But this time I got hooked.

I have possibly spent almost as much money on downloading from iTunes as the mini cost to begin with. I have it about three-quarters full now, mostly from CDs I own or borrowed, and I am beginning to have lustful thoughts about the 30-gig one with 7,500 or 15,000-tune and TV-show ("Lost" on the road! "TAR" while I travel! "House" away from home!) capacity.

I have downloaded songs I haven't heard since I was a sulking child in my parents' car on Sunday afternoon going to Grandma and Grandpa's for dinner ("Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing," the Ames Brothers; "Round and Round," Perry Como). Songs I go-go danced to in Triple Cities roadhouses ("Lady Godiva," Peter and Gordon; "Valleri", the Monkees). Songs I broke up with old boyfriends to ("Don't Talk to Strangers," the Beau Brummels). Songs I fell in love with new boyfriends to (I think we all know what some of THOSE were...and who the boyfriend was). (Most girls just have "our song" with their guys; MY guy actually wrote and sang them.)

So, TONS of Doors, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, CSN/CSNY, Byrds, Beatles, Creedence, Janis (with Big Brother, not so much on her own), Buffalo Springfield, Quicksilver Messenger Service. Equal tons of Renaissance brass and dance music and morris/folkdance music (give it up for "Sellenger's Round"!). John Lennon and John Tavener. The Everly Brothers and The Brothers Four. Kinks, Keith and Kansas. Loreena McKennitt and Lisa Gerrard. Tom Petty and Tommy Roe. Grateful Dead and Dead Can Dance. Steppenwolf and Steeleye Span (MDFs...My Dear Friends...whom I first met in, omigod, 1972). It's amazing.

The iPod is just so darn...convenient. For the gym, airplanes, bus rides through upstate New York, under the hairdryer at home and at the hairdresser. I don't use it walking down the street, because in Manhattan it's always wise to be well aware of one's surroundings (the blaring horn and squealing brakes as the taxi/bus/bicycling Chinese food delivery person bears lethally down on one's blithely jaywalking self). Also there have been a bunch of grab-and-run iPod thefts on the street and in the subway where I almost never venture. (Oh right, the Ventures! "Wipe-out" and "Pipeline" and "Apache" and "Walk Don't Run"! Groovy!).

But the most unexpected use I have found is to let it sing me to sleep. Nothing too wild, obviously. Even Bach is sometimes too rambunctious. But it's surprisingly pleasant to be listening to something nice, head on the pillow, and just let it carry me away to dreamland, hopefully not before I slip into unconscious-ness and it stays on until the battery runs down.

Oh, and now I've started buying things FOR the iPod. A lovely cream-colored leather case with a long cord that I can knot to the handles of the recumbent bike at the gym. A gold metallic case for dressy occasions. Its next present will be one of those cool alarm-clock dock thingies...but perhaps I'll save up for the Big 'Pod first. The 30-gig one. With the 15,000, or 8 gazillion, songs.

I don't really KNOW 15,000 songs, much less LIKE that many. But I'm willing to give it a shot.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fourth Estate, Tenth Rate

After my talk at Bonaventure a fortnight ago, the local “newspaper”, the Olean Times Herald, pride of Cattaraugus County, cooked up a “story” (without the “reporter” asking me ONE SINGLE QUESTION, much for journalistic integrity and technique) about me and my Jim history, in which, yes, once again, I get quotation marks around the w-word. And I don’t mean the witch one.

After all this time, you would think it wouldn’t bother me, but, you know, it SO does.

Here is a true story: Some years ago, a Hindu man wished to be declared never married to his wife, to whom he had indeed been married in a religious ceremony by a clergyperson of their faith who was not authorized by the State of New York to perform marriages (no big deal: getting authorized as such is just a matter of going down to the Hall of Records and signing yourself into a book; Witches and other Pagans can do this now, though of course not back then). Also they had not gotten a marriage license.

Hmm. Sounds familiar. (Though the Presbyterian minister who married Jim and me was indeed state-authorized to do so, we didn’t have a license either.) (Bear with me, boys and girls.)

Anyway, the man’s contention was that the marriage had been invalid, since there was no license and the officiant wasn’t in the book. The court said Nuh-uh, not so fast, you were married validly and lawfully, before witnesses, in a proper religious ceremony, by a clergyman, good and solid, and if you want out you will need to get a divorce. This is long-standing case law in the State of New York, and I venture to say deeply relevant to my own situation.

So imagine my hurt and annoyance when I—myself and my honey having been married not hugely dissimilarly to the above individuals—once again get the quotes around the words relating to my marriage and wifely/widowed status. After thirty years, I STILL have to prove myself to people who have bought into the other side’s inventions. (Hey, and here I thought I was the one who wrote fiction...)

If they really didn’t want to use the w-words, they didn’t have to. The rag could have skirted the issue any number of ways—spouse, consort, Pagan wedding, etc.—without resorting to the sniffy practice of putting relevant words in quotes and making me look like a delusional idiot.

The “reporter” could have actually ASKED me about it, what a concept!, and I would have patiently elaborated, in little small words such as even an upstate New York supermarket-handout stringer could have understood. But he didn’t.

If it had been a gay married couple they were doing the story on, I bet they would have found all MANNER of respectful words to employ. (Or, well, maybe not...)

So let’s just see here: lack of basic reportorial technique, poor journalistic ethics, sloppy and boring and uninformed writing, nonexistent research, religious prejudice, gratuitous cruelty...OH yeah. That Pulitzer is in the bag.

I did email the “editor” to complain of the shabby treatment, of course, and got back a self-serving, misinformed, weasely screed parroting the erroneous yet widely disseminated party line. I elucidated in a second email, hopefully clearing up some of his apparently cherished misconceptions, but I doubt anything will change. Sigh. Big BIG sigh.

Hey! The New York Daily News (not the New York Post, as the Times Herald piece would mistakenly have it—I just LOVE your "accurate research", people! Are there no websites? Are there no fact-checkers?) had NO problem describing me as Jim’s wife, in the story that set all this up.

And, correct me if I’m wrong, but...the News IS a greatest-city-on-earth REAL newspaper? Like, MILLIONS more readers than the Olean Times Herald, newspaper of record for red-state-mentality upstate yokels and goat feed the day after? (Oh, ohhhKAAY, they’re probably not ALL red-state-heads...) Famous columnist and author from a family of REAL writers doing the story on me?

Right. I thought so.

Oh, and Jim used the w-word of me too. In writing. Without quotes. And he should know.

A True Citizen of Blogovia!

My goodness! Dig THIS...

“…[I]f I should take it into my head to insult you, and you could not answer in kind, I would be obliged to pay you a blush-fine — in proportion to your honor-price, of course, which is also set by law….”

“Such a law must be hard on your satirists.”

“Oh, they are exempt.” They both laughed, and Ríonach added, “But for the sake of that exemption, they can claim insult from no one….”

Under such a law, the President could lay it back on Mr. Colbert with no fear. (Of couse, Ríonach added to that, “Still, it doesn’t seem to blunt their tongues….”)>>>

That's a blogger quoting from my first novel, "The Copper Crown"! It delights me to see it employed in such a case (the blogger is commenting on the Steve Colbert/White House comedy routine the other day), and I appreciate the shout-out so much I left a comment on his site.

A serendipitously happy moment for the day. Thank you, Harperbruce!

The blog is worth reading...

A Modest Betrothal

A lovely day in the neighborhood, and it was just as lovely 36 years ago today when Jim proposed to me in Central Park, ring, knee and all.

White blossoms and new green leaves on the trees in the park, lilacs and peonies in vases at home, Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East and roast duck at three in the morning. What a day.

And also it is the 50th birthday of MDF Michael Rosenthal, he of the quick wit and ready quip and Buddha-like calm, a captain of the Grammar Patrol with medals for valor in the field. Cinco de Michael! Hola!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy Beltane to All, And To All A Good Light!

La fheile Bealtinne sona dhibh! May the summer peace of the Goddess be with you this day and all days...

I don't really do Beltane so much, because it means Sumer is a-cumin in Lhude sing more furs, no more hot chocolate, no lovely warm fuzzy flannel sheets and chenille sweaters and velvet shirts.

But I like to show respect to Herself, so I went out and bought Hyacinths to Feed the Soul, also hydrangeas, lilacs and ashes-of-roses parrot tulips. And Godiva raspberry chocolate bars. And lobster salad and two-bite cupcakes at Whole Foods. It all seemed somehow appropriate...

And not forgetting that Beltane 1970 was the last time I ever saw the Doors in concert, in Philadelphia...and a great show it was.

So there we are. Can't wait for Samhain!