This weekend the US celebrates Labor Day, and Fuzzy and I are hosting a joint birthday bash/pool party (I turned 42 on 8/17 and he turns 40 on 9/7) so I thought I’d celebrate with a cocktail-inspired Thursday 13. The fact that this is one more way for me to be not-writing my novel or not-writing my collection of short stories is mere coincidence. Cheers!
Cosmopolitan: My version is classic: cranberry juice, vodka, Cointreau, and lime. Yes, I got hooked on them because of Sex and the City, but they’re perfect in summer even years after the series has ended.
Mojito: Rum, Mint, Lime and a simple sugar syrup. Light and sort of tropical. Goes well with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights on DVD.
Cuba Libre: It’s really just rum and Coke with a hint of lime, but calling it Cuba Libre makes it sound so much more exotic, don’t you think?
Mint Julep: I was actually disappointed when I learned that this was basically just bourbon, mint, and sugar. I always envisioned something more like a parfait…or something frighteningly green.
Cape Codder: I’m a big fan of cranberry juice, but I’m also a fan of simple recipes. Cranberry juice. Vodka. Twist of lime. Ice. This was my first cocktail, and it’s still a favorite.
Jameson & Ginger: Four years ago I was at a writing workshop/conference/thing in San Francisco, and the host of the workshop asked a couple of us to join him at dinner. There, he introduced us to his favorite drink: Jameson & Ginger. Technically, I suppose you could make this with any Irish whiskey since all it is is whiskey and ginger ale, but J&G is such a pretty phrase. Mad Men fans might have heard of it.
Tequlia Sunrise: The trick with these is to use really good Tequila, not cheap Cuervo. The recipe is simple: tequila, orange juice, a splash of cranberry juice. They’re great by the pool, but not out of place at brunch.
Bloody Mary: If the Cape Codder is my cocktail, this one is the one I associate with my mother, although I’ve been drinking them on and off this summer as well. Ingredients are vodka, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, lemon, and celery, but you can simplify that by using V8 and peppered vodka. (To make these really lethal, let the celery stand in a glass of peppered vodka for several hours before serving.
Margarita: A classic margarita is actually pretty simple: Tequila, cointreau, lime, and simple syrup. I like mine on the rocks, but feel free to blend yours. The salt on the rim of the glass is optional, but the contrast of sweet, tart, and salty is really pretty nifty.
Martini: The classic version is my fave: Gin. Vermouth. An olive. And unlike James Bond (who apparently liked his drinks weak), I prefer my martinis to be stirred. You’re actually supposed to do the stirring in a mixing glass, then strain the drink into a chilled cocktail class and add the olive. (Why is a shaken martini weak? Because when you shake it, the ice chips and water melts into the drink. Proper stirring, on the other hand, requires a special spoon designed so the ice does NOT chip.)
Death in the Afternoon: Like the book that goes with it, this is a creation of Ernest Hemingway. It’s a mixture of absinthe and chilled champagne, and if you drink enough of them, using REAL absinthe, they could make you wish for death. In the USA, however, real absinthe (which contains wormwood) is illegal.
Champagne Cocktail: Sugar, Angostura bitters, and champagne, garnished with a maraschino cherry. Elegant. Delicate. Addictive.
Sex on the Beach: This one has cranberry juice (which I love) but also has one of the best names, ever. In addition to the cranberry juice, it has orange juice, peach schnapps, and vodka.
“Writing a novel is not method acting and I find it easy to step out of it at cocktail hour.”
~Bret Easton Ellis
I’m not generally a fan of Philip Glass. I mean, I like his music better than I like, say, the music of John Cage, but when it comes to orchestra and quartet music, minimalism is just not my style.
However, earlier this evening I was poking around YouTube because after a friend introduced me to “chambersoul” musician Shana Tucker’s awesome fusion of classical, jazz, soul and folk forms – and did I mention she’s a cellist? – I found that my interest in my own cello was renewed. It’s been sitting in the closet for over a year, partly because I haven’t been in the mood to play, and partly because my hands hurt from so much typing, and partly because the C-string needs to be replaced and I’m terrified the string will hit me in the eye during the process.
But I digress.
So I was poking around iTunes, because I’m all about instant gratification, and I found a song by CelloFourte (aka Tate Olsen) that I quite like, even though his band (Skillet) is largely unknown to me. (I’m even less of a Christian music/Christian rock fan than I am a Glass or Cage fan, because while I believe everyone is entitled to self expression, I think praise music is a bit smarmy. To me, it always comes across as insincere. (I think they doth PRAISE too much.))
But browsing for music is all about finding the unexpected, and so I was surprised to come across a Kronos Quartet album called Dracula. Now, the Kronos Quartet has been in business almost as long as I’ve been alive and their repertoire includes a healthy blend of contemporary, classical and contemporary classical (no, that is NOT an oxymoron – it refers to modern music composed in a classical style). Even though they seem to be partial to Glass, I generally like their albums.
But Dracula? Really?? Could it be that one of my favorite quartets had celebrated one of my favorite stories?
As it turns out, it could. The album isn’t at all recent, but is the recording of Kronos Quartet’s performance of Philip Glass’s Dracula quartet, which is basically a modern, alternative score to the original 1931 movie which starred Bela Lugosi. In fact, KQ has played the piece live, under the movie, more than once.
The music alone is amazing – it really feels scary, mysterious, creepy, cautious, hopeful, and triumphant at various stages. As I have a DVD of the movie, I’m considering playing the two together some dark October evening (it begs for a dark October evening. Dracula doesn’t work in the late summer twilight. Trust me on this).
Meanwhile, I found a YouTube clip, of the music and the film, which I’ve shared below.
I’ve never been particularly good at sleeping, and when Fuzzy is away for business my sleep patterns get even more skewed from the usual, fairly nocturnal schedule we generally keep. Why? Because in addition to being a reluctant sleeper, I also have a vivid imagination. Even when Fuzzy is home I’m often caught in dreams that are strange, disturbing, or just plain scary, but when he’s away the phantoms come out to play.
To be honest, I’ve always been easily spooked at night. I’m not afraid of the dark – I actually prefer a room to be as cool and dark as possible when I’m trying to sleep, but that state of mind that comes just as I’m falling asleep leaves me stuck in a sort of personal Twilight Zone, albeit one without Rod Serling’s narration.
The thing is, it’s not every night, and it doesn’t seem to have a trigger. Instead, I have a kind of…eerie mood…and when it strikes I know I’ll be lying awake, quietly freaking out over every little sound. As a teenager, I would combat these moods either by reading until the sun was up or I literally fell asleep with the book in my hands (whichever came first), or by turning on the radio. Many nights were spent listening to the Larry King Show on AM radio, and I still remember some of the interviews. (That’s also the show that introduced me to the song “Talkin’ Baseball,” which remains a favorite even today.)
Larry King hasn’t been on the radio in decades, so on those nights when Fuzzy is away and the eerie mood descends upon my brain, I turn on NPR, which usually means that I go to bed hearing the BBC overnight service and wake up to Morning Edition. Except, I’m not really hearing any of it, because I keep the volume just at the edge of being able to discern individual words.
I’m not sure why the radio works for me, or why it has to be talk radio, specifically. I mean, music wires me, so I know why that doesn’t work but… Anyway, my current theory is that hearing live radio reminds me that there is a living world outside my head, and therefore the mental ghosts don’t have real power.
Of course, sleeping with three dogs in my room (at least two of which are usually in the bed with me) is helpful, as well. If I wake in the night, convinced that I heard a sound, I watch the dogs. If they don’t react, I know there’s no threat outside of my imagination.
The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows. ~Gaston Bachelard
The mid-issue update of All Things Girl went live this morning. My column can be found in the Everything Girl section.
It’s called, Leo Rising: Thoughts on August Birthdays and Turning 42, and here’s an excerpt:
By the time I was married, I had grown to love my late-summer birthday so much that I declared August to be my month. Oh, I’ll be gracious and share a few days with others who have the luck to be born in August, too, but as I said, those people form a select few. Even better, like me, most of those rare, special people with August birthdays are also Leos. I mean, I’m in good company: Lucille Ball, Madonna, Martha Stewart, Linda Ellerbee, and Julia Child are all August Leo Women, and the Men of August include Steve Martin, Garrison Keillor, Matthew Perry, and my junior-high crush, Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Leos then, and especially August Leos, really are born to roar.
As much as I complain about the summer weather in Texas, there are certain parts of summer I love. As a kid, my summers were spent at the Jersey Shore; now I pretty much live in my pool from mid-May through mid-September. In any case, I haven’t done a Thursday-13 in ages, and since I’ve refreshed the blog, it seems appropriate to visit favorite memes.
Here, then, are 13 Things I Love About Summer (Then and Now):
Sand: In my hair, between my toes, and stuck in the folds of damp bathing suits. I was with my Mother in Mexico in June, and my beach bag still has traces of sand in it.
Sea & Ski: I’m pretty sure they don’t make it any more, but those funky green and brown bottles were ubiquitous when I was little. Not only did that sunscreen stay on in water, but it had this indefinable “beachy” smell that I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to recapture with aquatic perfumes for decades.
Noxema: Yes, in previous incarnations of this blog I’ve written whole posts about Noxema, but I love it. I still use it.
Tan Lines: Okay, look, I know you’re not supposed to sun-bathe, and I don’t, I swear. I even remember to use sunscreen (most of the time) but the tan lines I get are from swimming for a couple of hours every day, not from lying around imitating broiling meat.
White Cotton T-shirts: While these are hardly restricted to summer, there’s something about a simple white t-shirt that is instantly soothing. They’re soft enough for sun-burned skin, make tan skin look tanner, and go with shorts, skirts, jeans, or just over a bathing suit. As a kid, my favorite summer “pajamas” were my grandfather’s cast-off t-shirts.
Natural Highlights: Okay, we all know this mermaid hasn’t seen her natural hair color for more than 1/4 of an inch at a time since she was fifteen, but the blonde color being sported this summer is naturally enhanced by the sun. (And I had strawberry blonde/golden brown hair when I was young, I swear!)
Swimming: I am my most creative self when I get to splash around in water every day. I love having my own pool, and in summer, I’m in it for hours every day. On heavy writing days, I do my own version of “interval training” where I write for thirty minutes and swim for thirty minutes all day.
Going Bare: Bare feet and bare faced, that is. I love shoes, but I love being barefoot even more, and this summer, I’m so sun-kissed that I haven’t worn make-up since mid-June, except for a little gloss and mascara. (I do, however, moisturize. Religiously.)
Beach Reading: I don’t generally read at beaches, but I love reading beachy books. Anne Rivers Siddons, Dorothy Benton Frank, Wendy Wax, Nancy Thayer, Elin Hilderbrand – these authors (and others) keep me entertained all summer, in between the books I read for review.
Shark Week: This year is the 25th edition of The Discovery Channel’s salute to all things sharky, and while I have never, ever missed a year, I’m giddy with delight that Shark Week spans my birthday this year.
Summer Produce: Last month, I wrote about watermelon over at All Things Girl but I also love peaches and plums and avocados and fresh tomatoes and berries of every ilk.
Late Sunsets: While I believe Daylight Saving Time has outlived it’s usefulness now that we live in a 24/7 society, I still enjoy long summer evenings. There’s nothing like floating on your back in the pool and watching the first stars come out. (I could do without the mosquitoes, though.)
My Birthday: As a kid, I hated that my birthday was in August – August 17th, to be specific – because my friends were all off on last vacations with their families before school started. Now, though, I revel in my August birthday, because there’s NO COMPETITION. No holidays (well, sometimes Ramadan, but that doesn’t affect very many of my friends), not many other birthdays (September, however, is glutted with them) – it’s MY MONTH. (I share with others, but…only a select few). You’d think that since I’m turning 42 next week, I’d be upset about my birthday, but that’s not true at all. I love celebrations. I love having a cake with my name on it. I take the day off work and celebrate myself. Birthdays are AWESOME!
So that’s my list…what are your favorite things about summer? I really want to know!
All during the month of June, there was a wasp – I’m pretty sure it was the same one – that would linger in one corner of the swimming pool. I would shoo it away, and it would come right back. It drove me crazy, because it would buzz my head every time I came up for air, even though if I was under water it was happy enough to linger on its favorite blue tile.
Wasps don’t have a terribly long life-span; by the first week of July it had disappeared.
Last week, wasps began turning up in my bathroom, which is perplexing since the only window in that room doesn’t open. Since then, there have been three wasps in the bedroom, and about one a day in the kitchen, though on Friday, when Chris (who is not afraid of wasps and spiders) was away there were THREE on the back door.
Two of them, I eventually convinced to leave the house, through the back door that I slid open, inch by inch. The third was demolished, and then devoured, by Miss Minnie the Pocket Pointer.
I do love a dog who eats bugs.
We haven’t been able to find a nest, but I know there has to be one, and when we find it, those little bits of buzzing annoyance are dead.
I haven’t participated in Unconscious Mutterings for months, or possibly years, but I have been a participant (on and off) since the project began. Today seems as good a day as any to play word games. (Though, is it ever a BAD day to play word games?)