Oscar Night, Movies and Me

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It is my favorite night when the Academy Awards are distributed to the deserving and those who are favorites but undeserving. Historically, I have spent the night with someone who loves watching the ladies and gents of the screen sashay down the red carpet in slithering gowns or tuxes while my friend and I spend the night going off our diets to indulge in forbiden delights such as twinkles, devil dogs and other overly sweet culinary memories of our youth. This year, I am with my daughter who I molded to enjoy watching the Oscars as much as I do but our indulgences are with champagne and caviar.

Unable to predict who might win this year, I instead will reveal some of my Oscar-worthy picks. While there are movies from this era that I could have selected, I decided to limit the choices to classic films of earlier days.

Movies I hated but couldn’t stay away from: Midnight Cowboy and Clockwork Orange

I saw both movies in the theatre on a first date. You wonder why a guy would think this subject matter was a good one to take a girl out for the first time. So did I. At this juncture,  I can appreciate both movies for their art but find the subject matter difficult to enjoy but watch them every time they are on. As for the dates, they were the first and only.

Movies about women with magical powers over men: Casablanca and On The Waterfront

Both are examples of a fine young woman falling in love with a bad ass boy who through her love and understanding transforms him to be a honorable and forth right citizen.  In can only happen in the movies. In real life, never but after all that is why we go to the movies.

PpMovies whose heroine recited a line I always wanted to say: All About Eve and A Lion In Winter

Betty Davis in All About Eve when on the night of her birthday party, her jealousy of Eve gets the better of her- “Fasten your seat belts”, she says while holding the first of many martinis. “You’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Katherine Hepburn in Lion in Winter who, when her vulturous sons realize that their mother is against their plot to overthrow their father King Henry II snidely states, “my, my whatever shall we do with mother”. I just like being snide.

Movies that are revered in their art but I hated: Citizen Kane (so the camera showed the ceiling of the room for the first time, big deal),  that stupid movie with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek (I’m convinced it was made so that Sheen can parade around without his shirt on showing off his pecs) and Apocolypse Now. Aside from Sheen being shirtless again, the only memorable scene was Duval proclaiming “I love the smell of napon in the morning”.

Finally, there are movies that I like for a reason that may only make sense to me: Godfather 3 because Michael had to pay for wacking his brother and anything by Scorcesse in spite of it not being good (Casino) because his Read More

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Changes

Inevitably, as a senior, one not only think of where they are but how they got there. Senior years do not make you smarter or better. It is just an accumulation of what you have been through. In most cases that makes for a better person. In other, it just makes you a wealth of experience that usually does not influence those who patiently listen.

In the life we live there are segments that feature prominently in one’s memory. The places you lived, the work you did and the romantic experiences you had or wish you had. Lately, maybe because winter seems so long and restrictive, staying in the compound urges a trip to the past. I have driven through the old neighborhood that I shared with my parents and brother feeling that it still seemed unimproved if not gotten worse. Driven by corrupt government officials that cared less about their constituents and more about their personal gain, the block seemed old and tired. It deserves more but someone had to care and they didn’t.

I recently found myself drawn to my last workplace. Unfortunately, it is a morgue consisting of an empty building with a blockade in the parking lot meant to stop the curious from recalling what they once felt part of but is now locked out of. It is just a building. The farm across the street where I went for my weekly fruit and vegetables has been leveled making way for a new super store.

Maybe it is best. The building I worked in was slowly deteriorating from age. Facilities maintenance is not one of the things a corporation wants to spend its money on. It doesn’t add to its sales, but rather takes away from its bottom line. Its like who wants to spend money to repair a tire when you would rather use it to buy a nice dress or dinner out.

Things change and in most cases, it is for the better. It is the experiences I had and the people I am still in touch with that make it real. I live for that and through that. As far as the romantic experiences unless they are with the love of your life (which happily they are), they seem so inconsequential except to say “what was I thinking”. As far as they are concerned, they are better left to distant memories.

 

On a Cold Winter’s Day

Child_cookbook   I am a good cook – maybe a very good cook. I enjoy it and love having people over to cook for. Alongside my favorite cookbooks, I have a worn out, 3-ring black binder with recipes collected from magazines, newspapers and from people who’s meals I have enjoyed and are willing to share the formula of their creation. Having said that, I cannot remember if I have ever followed a recipe where I did not alter it to accommodate the likes or dislike of an ingredient or one that was unattainable or to use up something that was in the fridge too long. Even the “great one”, the heroine of comfort food, Julia Child, has fallen to my editing of her recipes.

As the  minus-below zero temperatures fell this weekend, it was the perfect time to make the staple dish of my winter season, Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon. There was, however some tweaking for either economic reasons (3 cups of good wine – really?) or inaccessibility (bacon rind – not even sure what that is) .

Here’s my suggested revisions. The recipe calls for 3 cups of very good red wine and 2 – 3 cups beef stock.

  • a) My frugal personality cannot pour more than a half bottle of good wine into a sauce when I could be pouring it down my throat. Three cups of red wine adds a sharp taste to the sauce that can be unpleasant. Two cups is plenty and I have used one of those 1 1/2 liter wines that cost $9.99 with success.
  • b) While it is an effort, make the beef stock yourself. I find the store bought version either salty or tasteless. The results are worth it.

One more tip, forget about the small white onions. The effort to peel and cook them result in them being pushed aside on everyone’s plate. But if you must, buy a bag of frozen ones.

There are cookbooks meant to cook and others meant to teach. Julia’s cookbook is meant to teach. As stated in her forward, “Our primary purpose in this book is to teach you how to cook, so that you will understand the fundamental techniques and gradually be able to divorce yourself from a dependence on recipes”. Conclusion, buy the cookbook and make quality meals to be enjoyed with your taste in  mind and then get a divorce.

WHY WARWICK

It should be no surprise that I would wind up retiring in New York. The surprise is that it wasn’t New York City. I was well known for my commitment to the city that I worked in for over 30 years and loved, at times, in spite of itself. My days of being able to safely walk down 42nd Street were prefaced with many colorful years of dodging the denizens of the not so desirable community of thieves, hustlers and druggies. I take pride in saying I came through it unscathed except for being overly suspicious to this day of my surroundings no matter where I am.

My first and only family vacation was at an upstate New York resort. I use the term resort in a very abstract way. Actually, it was the Armenian version of the Borscht Belt hotel in Dirty Dancing. It had a main dining room, a pool and a nightclub but lacked much for a 12-year-old kid to do.

Later as a young adult, long weekends were often in the Catskill Mountains where I would sleep at the home of friends and often on the floor (no wonder I have neck issues). At times, it would mean camping out. I must not have been such a princess then but I did like being around the serenity of the mountain vistas, a welcome reprise from the noisy streets of Manhattan.

On our vacations, Tony and I would consider where we were as our permanent retirement home. There was California (his idea), Colorado (mine) and after a day of wine tours, Tuscany. We seriously looked at Bucks County, Pennsylvania thinking the country roads were just right for us. We put the kibosh on that idea when determined we would be too far from the kids and no one will visit. Trips to various parts of Florida, and the Carolinas were warmer and beautiful. Then I realized, what am I going to do in an all-warm climate. I can’t swim and can barely ride a bike.

So, its back to New York we went and amongst the mountains, farms and wineries, found our perfect home. This is where we belong and will stay. I should have known it would be New York. It always was.