Thursday 13: Coasting

Seaside Heights Roller Coaster After Sandy by Brian Thompson

I don’t know the name of the roller coaster at Seaside Heights, NJ that was washed to sea by Hurricane Sandy last week, but Brian Thompson’s image of the scene – framed by the storm-tossed timbers from the boardwalk itself – has been permanently etched onto my brain. I’ve spent a lot of time at boardwalk amusement parks and piers over the years, so, as a tribute to Seaside Heights, Asbury Park, Keansburg, and boardwalks elsewhere, my first Thursday 13 in months is a list of my favorites:

  1. The Galaxy, Asbury Park, NJ: The first coaster I ever encountered, long since dismantled, but living on in my memory.
  2. The Giant Dipper, Santa Cruz, CA: One of the last remaining wooden roller coasters still in operation. The front gives the best view of the water, the back gives the joltiest ride.
  3. The Wildcat, Keansburg, NJ: Modern-ish, with corkscrews and such, but amazing night lighting.
  4. The Giant Dipper, Belmont Park (San Diego), CA: Another version of the coaster at Santa Cruz, further down the coast. Built in 1925 and recently restored.
  5. The Hurricane, Santa Cruz, CA: This coaster was the scarier of the two at Santa Cruz’s boardwalk, but 2012 was it’s last year in operation. It’s being replaced in 2013 by a spinning coaster called the Undertow.
  6. The Great White, Wildwood, NJ: Another wooden coaster, though technically it’s wood and steel. Classic coaster.
  7. The Cyclone, Luna Park, Coney Island, NY: Probably the most iconic boardwalk roller coaster in American history.
  8. Galaxi Coaster, Palace Playland, Portland, ME: Italian made steel coaster with a minimum height requirement of 42 inches even if you’re riding with a parent.
  9. Boardwalk Bullet, Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston, TX: A classic wooden coaster in a warm-weather locale. Everything really is bigger in Texas.
  10. Rolling Thunder, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ: Okay, technically, this isn’t a boardwalk coaster, but it’s in New Jersey, so I’m counting it because it was the first BIG coaster I ever rode.
  11. The Swamp Fox, Family Kingdom, Myrtle Beach, SC: Another classic wooden coaster (you find these a lot at boardwalks). I’ve not been on this one; it’s on my list.
  12. Looping Star, Ocean City, MD: Another on my list of must-do’s, this one’s in Maryland, and looks awesome.
  13. The West Coaster, Pacific Park, Santa Monica, CA: This is the only seaside coaster in LA, and it’s as iconic as the coasters in Asbury Park and Coney Island to folks from the left coast. If you remember the opening of Three’s Company you know this coaster.

Thursday 13 – Ac-SCENT-tchu-ate the Positive

As a child, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of perfume because my mother is highly allergic to such things. I mean, she used to wear Norell from time to time, and my grandmother had a special fondness for L’aire du Temps, but other than that, my only memory of perfume was Aunt Molly’s Taboo, which smells like rice pudding in my brain, because my association between her and the family diner where rice pudding was served is so strong.

Over the last several years, though, I’ve developed a special fondness for perfumes, so even though this offering for Thursday 13 is coming in very late (it’s been an odd day) I hope you enjoy my list of 13 perfumes I really love (in no particular order).

  1. Clinique Happy: I received a sample of this when it first came out, and fell in love instantly. It’s a sunny floral, young, but not too young, and I really love it. Sadly, my bottle is now empty.
  2. Benefit So Hooked on Carmella: This is one of the Benefit “Crescent Row” scents, and it’s a bit foodie, but not too much so. It’s a good casual scent.
  3. Jennifer Aniston: While I’m not a particular fan of Jennifer Aniston as an actor, her namesake perfume, which comes in a whale-tail inspired bottle, is delightful. I bought it when I ran out of something else, and walked into ULTA and said, “I like florals and aquatics, but nothing cloying, and nothing too young, because I have young energy but I’m not twenty.” The saleswoman introduced me to this, and I really like it. It’s a little overpowering wet, but on dry-down it’s salty and sweet and pretty subtle.
  4. Vera Wang Princess: I confess, I fell in love with the box, and I was amused that the bottle is a cut-glass heart with pink glass hearts in the crown-shaped top. The scent is a crisp but sweet floral.
  5. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Intrigue: This is a foody scent with figs and smoke among the main notes. It’s a good winter scent, and I like to combine it with my burgundy stiletto ankle boots and a forest green fedora (and other clothes, of course) and pretend (in my inner monologue only) that I’m a modern-day Mata Hari.
  6. Possets Silver Carnations: It’s a clove-y carnation scent but there’s something slinky and silvery about it. It reminds me of violets, in that once you get a whiff of it, you stop smelling it until suddenly, you catch the scent again.
  7. Escada Moon Sparkle: Fruity and sparkly, this scent is one that my husband particularly responds to. I wear it often when he’s just come home from a business trip.
  8. Possets Frou-Frou: Anyone who knows me will hardly be surprised that I am a fan of a perfume called ‘frou-frou.’ It’s got some figgy notes, but it’s also playful, and for a long time it was my signature scent.
  9. Bulgari Mon Jasmin Noir: I just got a sample of this in the September Birchbox, and I’m already really hooked on it – which is amazing, because I don’t really like jasmine most of the time.
  10. Christian Dior Miss Dior: This is another Birchbox sample, from a couple of months ago. It’s a little young, but it’s also classic.
  11. Benefit Lookin’ to Rock Rita: Another “Crescent Row” scent, clean, fresh, fun, and a little bit edgy.
  12. Juicy Coutour Viva la Juicy La Fleur: This is such a happy, playful scent, I can’t not love it. Really.
  13. Black Phoenix Jester: A great scent for summer, this has strawberries and currants, but still manages not to be horrifyingly sweet. This is Fuzzy’s favorite perfume of mine, but I’ve run out of it. Twice.

perfume bottles on glass shelf from istockphoto

Thursday 13: At the Ballet

I don’t like the room to be quiet when I’m writing, but there are only certain types of non-quiet that don’t distract me. For example, when I’m writing for work, or just reviewing and approving websites for a coppelia_bolshoi11-300x200 directory I help maintain, I can play DVDs of familiar TV shows or movies – generally those that have snappy dialogue (Pretty much anything Aaron Sorkin ever wrote, Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, and a good portion of Joss Whedon’s creations.)

When I’m writing something that requires actual thought, however, I prefer to have music playing, but there I run into trouble, because if the music has lyrics I want to get up and sing instead of staying in my chair and writing. At times, if I’m writing something that fits with it, I can listen to French pop-jazz – artists like Sanseverino. Often I listen to jazz and blues, but that can make me moody, and even without lyrics, there’s enough story in that type of music that I can’t just have it on as background music.

As the final days of summer spiral away, and my mailbox begins to fill with ticket offers for various Christmas concerts and performances of The Nutcracker, however, I find myself listening to the soundtracks – scores, really – of various ballets. I like the old classical ones because they’re full symphonies and generally pretty long, with enough variation that I don’t get bored but a unity of tone that gives just enough story to keep writing, but no so much that I want to go watch every single dance film on Netflix.

The practical upshot of all this? My Thursday 13 this week is a list of the ballets I particularly love:

  1. The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky): Yes, it’s a Christmas story, but the music is so familiar and infectious I can’t not love it, and it really brings E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales to life. Also? Duke Ellington’s album Three Suites features jazzed up versions of many of the more familiar elements of The Nutcracker. I’ve seen it live in San Francisco and Denver, and never miss the ABT (American Ballet Theater) version from the 70s (Baryshnikov/Kirkland) when it’s aired on PBS every December.
  2. Cinderella (Prokofiev): I worked props for the Fresno Ballet production of Cinderella all through high school, and grew to love the music. To this day, when I hear certain phrases, I can see the prancing ponies in my head.
  3. Giselle (Adam): How can you not love a ballet that was partly inspired by Victor Hugo’s novels, and partly inspired by St. Vitus’ dance. It’s haunting and creepy and completely wonderful. Incidentally, the title role in Giselle is probably the most coveted in all of ballet. The movie Dancers from sometime in the 80s (I think) starring Baryshnikov, was about a dance company doing a touring production of Giselle. The plot was absurd, but the dancing was breathtaking.
  4. Coppelia (Delibes): Like The Nutcracker, Coppelia was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s stories, particularly “Der Sandmann” (“The Sandman”), but it’s also special because it marked the first use of automatons and marionettes in ballet. Because it is a fairly light story, this ballet is often used to introduce children to the art form.
  5. Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev) Yes, it’s the ballet version of Shakespeare’s play. Yes, it’s an iconic ballet. The modern version still retains much of the mood and story from the version Prokofiev composed for the Kirov Ballet in 1936.
  6. Sleeping Beauty (Tchaikovsky): There were actually several other ballets based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty (which, itself, has a dual source of Perrault and the Brothers Grimm), but Tchaikovsky’s has become the standard. It premiered in 1890 in St. Petersburg, Russia, but a later production served to introduce ballet fans worldwide to Rudolph Nureyev. A very young George Balanchine made his own ballet debut in a production of Sleeping Beauty.
  7. Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky) This was the composer’s first ballet, and its initial reception was actually not that great, but today it’s probably the first ballet most people think of. My first introduction to it was via a music box I was given as a child, and I met it again as a slightly older child when my ballet teacher in Georgetown, CO, (David something. He had amazing thighs.) taught us all the “swan curtsey.” If your first introduction to Swan Lake was through the movie The Black Swan, you have my sympathy. Please wash your eyes and brain out with a double feature of The Turning Point (which was made in the 1970s and featured a recently-defected Mikhail Baryshnikov) and The Company, starring Neve Campbell (who actually had some real dance experience) and members of the Joffrey Ballet.
  8. Don Quixote (Minkus): This is one of those great ballets that came out of the Bolshoi in the late 1800’s, and has gone through many incarnations. Yes, it’s based on the same novel by Cervantes that inspired the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, and both are fantastic in their own ways, but the ballet is something truly special, especially when you have really strong male dancers.
  9. La Sylphide (Løvenskiold): There are actually several versions of this ballet about a Scottish farmer who falls in love with a Sylph, and the original, staged by Taglioni, even used different music, but it’s the Løvenskiold music that I’m most familiar with (and, in fact, am listening to as I write this). Btw, there’s another ballet called Les Sylphides that also involves a man falling in love with a forest spirit, but it’s got completely different music and choreography, and is staged as a short ballet.
  10. The Firebird (Stravinsky): Like many ballets this is based on fairy tale, but this time it involves thirteen princesses (making it appropriate for a T-13 inclusion, yes?), forbidden love, and a stolen egg. Jerome Robbins choreographed the best-known version of this ballet when he was at NYCB (New York City Ballet).
  11. The Red Shoes (Easdale): Okay, technically, The Red Shoes is a movie about a ballet called The Red Shoes, which ballet was created just for the movie. But, honestly, does anyone watch this for the plot? Of course not, we watch it for the dancing (and more than one ballet company has staged the ballet itself, since the movie came out in 1948). By the way, the ballet within the movie was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story entitled – you guessed it – “The Red Shoes.”
  12. Fancy Free (Bernstein): This is another Jerome Robbins piece, set to music by Leonard Bernstein, and it’s a ballet about three American sailors on leave in New York City. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the musical On the Town was actually inspired by the ballet. If you’re like me, you saw the movie version of On the Town (starring Gene Kelley, Frank Sinatra, et al) first, and thought the movie inspired the ballet. (I was fourteen when I asked my dance teacher, who was staging it at his ballet company, for the real story.)
  13. The Hard Nut (Tchaikovsky): If you begin a list with The Nutcracker, it only makes sense to end it with The Hard Nut, the sexy, dark, irreverent version of the same story (one that’s actually more in line with Hoffmann’s original tale). Yes, the music is the same, but this time it’s set in the 50’s, and the toy soldiers are actually an army of G. I. Joe dolls. This version was choreographed by Mark Morris, and features men en pointe as well as some subtle homosexual themes.

Thursday 13: Things my Mother Taught Me

I have to confess: I was working on a completely different Thursday 13 list for today, but it’s still in draft form, and not quite ready, and this morning at the dentist, while reading political posts on Facebook and HuffPo and Jezebel, I was thinking about my mother.


Last month, she wrote a birthday letter to me in her blog, and it made me cry, but over the years she’s also been a source of sage advice, and I thought I’d share some.

  1. Stand up for yourself, and for the things you believe in. If you don’t, who will?
  2. It’s okay – and even healthy – to think of yourself first from time to time.
  3. Never underestimate the simple pleasure of a bubble bath.
  4. Thank-you notes and good hygiene never go out of style.
  5. Happy feet = a happy heart.
  6. Trust your body, and trust your instincts about your body.
  7. Every woman – indeed, every person – should live on their own for at least a year before getting married.
  8. They should also travel.
  9. And have at least one truly-tragic love affair.
  10. You do not have to marry the first person you sleep with.
  11. Pretty underwear can lift your mood. If it matches your outfit, even better.
  12. When moving house, unpack the kitchen first, and get it set up completely.
  13. Coffee, chocolate, and a good book can save your sanity.

Thursday 13: Cocktail Hour

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!

  1. 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.
  2. Mojito: Rum, Mint, Lime and a simple sugar syrup. Light and sort of tropical. Goes well with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights on DVD.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.)
  11. 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.
  12. Champagne Cocktail: Sugar, Angostura bitters, and champagne, garnished with a maraschino cherry. Elegant. Delicate. Addictive.
  13. 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

Thursday 13: RED

I’m in a thematic mood today, and the color red is speaking to me, so for my last Thursday 13 of 2010, and my first in months, I’m celebrating that color.

  1. The cloth cover, long since unprotected by any dust jacket, of my copy of Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne. I’ve had it since forever.
  2. The pair of Keds sneakers I had when I was five or six, and ran around the yard twirling and singing the theme song from ZOOM.
  3. The tea kettle that sits on my stove, and whistles at me. It’s overall shape is reminiscent of the FTD logo, but that’s okay, because I love flowers.
  4. My crock pot that I typically use for heating cider or making chicken soup. Pot roasts, on the other hand, I make in the oven.
  5. My favorite cardigan sweater, especially when worn over a red, black, grey, and white striped shirt.
  6. My much-mourned-for favorite bra: demi-cups, rhinestones tracing the contour, and it gave me the perfect ‘lift.’ I had to toss it after the plastic tube it had instead of under-wire snapped in two.
  7. Cranberry juice, my juice of choice, because I love the sweet-tart taste as much as I love the color.
  8. The holiday cups at Starbucks. Once they appear, you know the magic months have begun.
  9. Maximus’s collar and EZ-Walk harness. He’s a black and white (really a blue merle) Pointer/Boxer mix, and he looks so handsome when decked for walkies.
  10. The ink in one of my favorite Sarasi pens, given to me by a friend who said that if I used it to write, my writing would be better and more authentic. Also, it just makes me happy.
  11. Classic Coca-Cola cans: who says you can’t bottle joy?
  12. My Dell Studio laptop and my Dell Studio Hybrid desktop. I compose at the keyboard. Using red computers is almost as potent as using red ink, right?
  13. Bonny Doon Syrah, my favorite every-day wine. It’s difficult to find in Texas, but you can order it from their website.

The irony? As I write this, I’m dressed in black and Slytherin green.

Like this meme? Play along at the Thursday 13 website.