Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sa-a-a-ad Movies, Always Make Me Cry-y-y...

Drive-in movies were extremely popular during the 60's and before.

I recently read a mini biography about Richard Hollingshead who was the inventor of the drive-in movie. Through various trial and error attempts, he was able to project a film from the hood of his car onto a screen and use a radio for sound. Eventually, he perfected his technique to create the open air drive-in experience. The first drive-in movie theatre was opened in New Jersey in 1933.

We lived near two such theatres during my teen years, the Odeon Bay Ridges and the Te-Pee Drive-In. The former was on land near the current site of a large shopping mall, Pickering Town Centre. The latter, has been replaced by a Supercentre and a Japanese restaurant. I believe the Odeon was open year round and provided heaters which fit onto the car window along with the speakers. I'm not certain how popular this was during the winter season although I know the lot held nearly one thousand vehicles.

I was so excited to attend my first drive-in movie with a friend, her dad and brother. We drove up to the long narrow building with a teepee shaped structure on top, and paid the admission. After carefully selecting a prime location in the lot, next to a post with a speaker attached, we eagerly waited as the sky darkened. The speaker hung inside the driver's side of the car and the window was rolled up as far as possible. Since the hook which secured the speaker onto the glass was enormous and metallic, just enough of an opening remained to allow infestations of buzzing mosquitoes to enter and eventually feast on their captive audience.

I remember my first movie vividly. It had scenes of bloodshed, bank closures, poverty, missing children, homelessness, sadness, humour and fantasy. The credits rolled over colourful scenes and  blaring music caused the window reverberate. Finally, it began. Julie Andrews was perched on a cloud, and descended to earth. Yes, it was "Mary Poppins" on the giant screen.

In 1966 my parents tried to smuggle me into a restricted movie. By today's standards the movie would have been classified PG-13. My parents were raised in Europe where there was not really a legal age for much. Parents were expected to use common sense and good judgment when raising children. Dad thought they'd let me in to see the film since I was with my parents. I'm not certain whether he was prepared for the question that came from the ticket seller.

"What's the year of her birth?" She pointed to the back seat.

Startled, he quickly responded with "1939".

"Her? Her in the back?" was the question that came back at him.

My mother, unfazed, came to the rescue, explaining that he was confusing my birthdate with his sister's, that they were my parents, and that I was old enough to see the movie.

I believe I fell asleep part way through a slow moving British flick entitled, "Georgy Girl".

I know that even now, almost fifty years later, there are still drive-in movies in existence around the province. In fact, there has been a small revival of this type of theatre. I checked a website found some twenty three in Ontario. Most are in far outlying areas where the cost of land is not akin to the value of the contents of Fort Knox.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to this town, drove up a nearby road, "Theatre Road" and found a functioning drive-in. So once again, now in my "later life" I am living close to a drive-in theatre. I'm not sure when, if ever, I'll be attending a show there, but perhaps the experience will become another story to tell.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gnome Man's Land

I used to think garden ornaments were tacky. That was back in the day when people had faded pink flamingos and wooden animals with spinning legs on their lawns. Clearly, I had not yet developed a sense of humour and, I admit it, I was a snob. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the finer points of gardening and lawn decor.

When there are empty spaces in a yard, it makes sense to fill up gaps with gazing balls, Chinese lanterns, birdbaths, rocks, wheelbarrows, monuments, windmills, old fence rails, wagon wheels and the like. My personal preference happens to be gnomes.

I used to have two gnomes, only two, that rested on a miniature park bench. One sat and one was semi reclined. Cute eh? Hubby recently confessed that one of my gnomes "accidentally" got broken. I was sad. Friendly looking gnomes, gnomes that speak to us, are just like people. They aren't always easy to find. In fact, more often than not, they are scary and creepy.

While hubby was on a recent trip, I made it my mission to replace my gnomes. It was a challenge. I  discovered that there was a gnome shortage in our town.

I first found two small ones. They were not of the size and quality I wanted for my bench, however, they were cute enough to sit amongst the impatiens which I had just planted. Since I discovered them at a dollar store, the price was certainly right.

Then I assembled my entrance planter. Good thing I happened to locate this little guy to put in the arrangement to add some interest to the flower cart.

Of course, no home would be complete without a gnome holding a "welcome" sign and awaiting guests near the front of the house. What a lucky find he was!

 During my continued scouring of the local stores and garden shops in search of bench gnomes, I came across a cute little elf holding a large flower. Actually, I found two such ornaments and couldn't decide which one would look better, so I took both home and tried them to see.

Yes, the one with the yellow flower and green hat definitely looked better seated on the bench. Oh, I also purchased the other little guy with the striped hat. He will have to do until I can find a replacement reclining gnome at which time he'll be moved to the garden area.

I once had two gnomes. Now I have seven gnomes. Hubby was soooooo pleased when he came home, saw all the beautiful flowers and the new gnome collection. As always, he was happiest of all to see this little reddish brown garden ornament.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Lovely Tribute

I was an auxiliary police officer for ten years. During that time, the thought of potential danger didn't cross my mind. I expect that regular officers don't think about it too often either, that is until something happens and a comrade is either hurt or worse, killed. Then the outpouring of sympathy, the gathering of officers from all over the continent and the massive funeral make it all too real.

We often associate news of injured and slain police with larger cities...robberies gone wrong, domestic disputes, hostage situations, a mentally unbalanced individual with a stolen snowplow or terrorist activities such as 9/11.

Sometimes, there are tragic tales from smaller, unlikely locales. Such is the story that happened here eight years ago, prior to our arrival in town.

On May 15, 2004, there was shocking news. Constable Chris Garrett had responded to a fake robbery call and had his throat slashed by a disturbed teenager who was looking to kill an officer. Despite his injuries, Garrett was able to fire shots at the youth hitting him in the leg prior to his own death. This action prevented the young man from carrying out a plot which could have resulted in a massacre. It was discovered that he had plans to bomb the police station and kill as many other officers as possible.

After 3 years, a petition, public outcries, letters to the governor general and political intervention, Officer Garrett was finally recognized for bravery and his family received the Star of Courage.

Eight years after Constable Garrett's death, May 15, 2012, the town paid him a beautiful tribute. They dedicated a lasting memorial in the form of a park bearing his name. Today, I visited the site.

Entrance to park

Lovely walkway which leads to benches, sculpture and pond

A pond with wildlife
All paths in the park lead to a sculpture of 24 birds. The creator is Gerald Gladstone and the work is entitled "Hero's Flight". The number of birds in the piece represent the day of Constable Garrett's death (numbers in the date totalled).

The town plans to celebrate and remember Constable Garrett's life at this location on the anniversary of his death every year. That way, his memory and his sacrifice will live on.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Weed By Any Other Name...

The definition of a weed is "any troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted." I have always known that. I have taught that.

In the last few days, I have spent a large amount of my time ridding the yard of what I perceive to be weeds. Just to clarify, I am no gardener. It's not something I particularly enjoy. I like to plant flowers, make the space look attractive every spring, and that's all. Weeding is right up there on my yuck list along with toilet cleaning and window washing. 

When we first planned the back garden of the house, we decided on a tree or two, a couple of shrubs, a few perennials and some annuals as fillers. I love annuals. They're gorgeous and vivid and dense and fresh and you can change your accent colour every year. They're especially perfect for people who like variety or want to keep their yard trendy in the latest fashionable hues.

I really didn't ever understand the concept of "perennial" except that I knew that they were a costlier type of plant. My idea of gardening was to shove a few geraniums, impatiens and petunias in whatever empty spaces I had.

Once our trees and shrubs were in place, off I went to find some aesthetically pleasing perennials. I left, armed with no information, so I asked one of the puzzled looking sales people for the "perennial section". I made my selections based on colours, height and interesting scientific names. This, as it turned out, was an error.

I have now spent a considerable amount of time removing some of the perennials from the lawn. They have not only spread across the flower beds, but have most likely infested the neighbours' yards, just as their raspberries have sprouted all through ours. And don't even get me started on the 1996 plant of the year. Why are people obsessed with the hosta? It takes more than Jack in the beanstalk's axe to remove one of those. Can you say, "dynamite"?  So, again, perennials cost more why? 

I have no idea what this thing is in my photo. It looks like the molten lava of perennials. It should probably be in a rock garden. I have pulled it out in clumps. It grows wherever it drops. I remember liking the shade of yellowy green when I originally purchased the very small plant. Despite my aggressive efforts, it has now crept across two flower beds and onto the lawn.

This is an attractive enough flower, but again, it has spread beyond acceptable boundaries. It shouldn't be up to me to tell it to exercise some self control and quit being so prolific.

I like plants that grow from bulbs. I guess they too are considered perennials, although I find that the bulbs are more easily contained and the flowers are often prettier. I love the first signs of spring...crocus, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and allium. I also really like whatever this is.

So I suppose, as the expression goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I, however, still maintain that a weed by any other name is... a perennial.

This is my "annual" colour of the year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

She's Not Getting Older, She's Getting...

Iris Apfel is my hero. For those of you who don't know who she is, this is Iris.

Photo by Martha Camarillo taken in the 70's

Iris Apfel is a 91 year old New Yorker and long time interior designer. Her wardrobe is so eccentric, flamboyant and memorable that parts of it have been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum. During recent years, I have been impressed by interviews with this very vibrant and intelligent woman. I am also awed by her daring style. She has become so well known in her later life that she refers to herself as a "geriatric starlet." Her best fashion hint for anyone is to "accessorize". She clearly doesn't believe that "less is more", but rather, the bigger, bolder and brighter, the better. 
I suppose what appeals to me most about Iris is her zest for life. I'm reminded of a quote by Loretta Laroche, "life is short, wear your party pants." Iris always seems to wear her party pants. She lives life more fully than some people half her age.  

"In The Gloss", January 2012, quoted Iris as saying, "Getting older ain’t for sissies...You have to push yourself when you’re older, because it’s very easy to fall into the trap....I think doing things and being active is very important. When your mind is busy, you don’t hurt so much."

Words to live by.

So now, Iris is "pushing herself" with lines of cosmetics and eyeglasses, by lecturing at a university and by selling jewellery on a home shopping channel. Way to go Iris!

Some time after retirement, I disposed of my thematic shirts, socks and jewellery. The style I once had could best be described as "early primary teacher" and was now no longer appropriate. Gone are the penguin socks, the scarecrow shirt, the carrot earrings, the duck necklace....well, maybe not the duck necklace. I noticed that my former fun and playful clothing items were being replaced by somewhat dismall looking dark and dreary clothing. Short of running out to the dollar store, buying a red boa and tossing it over whatever I wore, (something on my bucket "to do" list), I began to consider. How could I become more trendy, if not vivid? How could I better present myself in a way that matched what's inside my head?

I looked around at some young people in the hopes of finding direction. The droopy drawer pants style wasn't for me. Neither was I interested in becoming ***" The Illustrated Man" or in this case, woman, despite the overabundance of local tattoo parlors. Spikey moussed blue hair was a possibility, but why push it? It'll be that colour soon enough. Piercings? I have some those and I'm not good with unnecessary pain. Besides, these are fads which masses of people follow, all the while claiming that they are trying to express their individuality. As Iris says, "If you don't dress like everyone else, you don't have to think like everyone else."

Finally, I made a decision. I will make over my wardrobe one piece at a time. I will adopt the Iris Apfel "rules"...do not go sleeveless when you're older, mix, match or mismatch everything, add texture. Cheap clothes are just fine BUT you MUST accessorize!

Thanks Iris. I believe I have found a new me. What do you think?

Hilde Von Apfelkroft

***a book by science fiction author Ray Bradbury, penned sometime around my birth year

Friday, May 11, 2012

Duck, Duck, Goose?

I found out recently that there was some added activity at our local hospital. A mother duck had laid her eggs in the central courtyard. She was a very optimistic and fertile duck, clearly of above average intelligence. She selected a tranquil and undisturbed enclosed area to become a mother of 13. Mom and her new brood were then safely transported 2 km south to the lake.

Hospital experiences unusual multiple birth - Northumberland Today - Ontario, CA

Upon hearing this, I made it my quest to seek out the mom and babies. I thought they should be easy to locate near the duck and goose hang out, away from the boats and west of the lighthouse. It was a lovely day, so I braved the gnats and ventured along the sandy spit where my feathered friends usually greet me. No ducks. I saw a few geese and then something huge and white way off in the distance. I wandered toward it.

I remembered the olden days, camping with my parents. Sites were not as sophisticated as they are now, so we often "bathed" in the lake. With this flashback in mind, my brain processed the object as one of the local seniors washing himself in the water. I saw his arm reaching toward his back. I hesitated to get much closer. Wait, that's ridiculous I realized. My logical self decided that not even the hardiest of northern Europeans could be doing such a thing at this time of the year, so I kept walking.

The image became clearer. I felt foolish when I was finally able to focus on it. Here's what was washing itself in the water.

"I'm watching you!"
 It seemed none too impressed that I was encroaching on its
territory and observing the bathing ritual.

"GO AWAY! A little privacy please."

At the risk of either being attacked from behind or possibly having a photo taken of me with a lighthouse sticking out of my head, I decided that this was a moment I wanted to remember. Fortunately, it did not become my swan song.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reality Check

Have you ever had one of those weeks where life, truth and reality smack you in the face? I believe I had that this week. I looked in the mirror and I saw my grandma staring back at me. Not that there's anything wrong with that, she was a vibrant, intelligent and attractive enough "older" woman. There's the thing I guess. I have come to realize that I am in fact...gulp...old.

I should consider myself fortunate I suppose. I have already outlived my mom by six years. In fact, I've outlived a lot of people. I hate to admit this, but from time to time, I find myself looking at the death notices in the newspaper. I check birth years to see how many people around my age have died while I'm still here. It's almost like winning a lottery...almost, not quite.

On Thursday, I went to a local chain drug store hoping it was Seniors' Day. It was. I could tell instantly by the offensive and excessively loud blaring music. "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to..." 1963...Yuck. Did anyone really enjoy that fifty years ago? Was this some store manager's brilliant idea to make seniors feel more comfortable when shopping? The "music" was distracting and annoying.

I selected my items quickly and as I checked out, I asked the cashier, who was about my daughter's age, how she could stand listening to that. "Isn't it horrible?" she asked.

"Yes," I responded. "I must admit, I really like all the modern stuff...Train, Flo Rida, Pitbull, Fun,Wanted, LMFAO". I thought my list might impress her and make her think I was "hip" or whatever the 2012 equivalent of that word is.

"Wow, " she said, then gave me a further response that I could have lived without. "You're just like myyyyyyyyyyy grandma. She likes all those too." I picked up my senior's discounted shopping and left.

Last week, my hairdresser was unavailable and I was therefore rejected for a desperately needed hair appointment. I sent a "Help" email message that explained how my current coiff can only be described as the look that would occur if Clay Aiken and Phyllis Diller had a baby together. I then decided that my sylist is not old enough to know who Phyllis Diller is, so I went on to confess that I had resorted to nail scissors and had trimmed my own bangs. She really shouldn't always leave them so long that they grow down to my upper lip before my next scheduled appointment. Wait, perhaps those aren't my bangs. On the other hand, the bangs do cover up my runaway eyebrows. Why do my formerly non existent eyebrows feel the need to grow and be so unruly all of a sudden?

Anyhow, I suggested that if she couldn't fit me in for an appointment next Friday, I'd have to use one of my free samples of  mystery colour hair foam to disguise the current state of my "mature hair". Humph, mature hair. Who am I kidding? It's gray. Gray around the gills as the expression goes. Perhaps I should go "au naturel". Maybe I should get one of those cuts and perms. Then I'd have short, curly gray hair like other old women. Five minutes later, I received a phone call. Friday morning 11 a.m. it is. Okay, I won't go for the senior look just yet.

While I was shopping with a friend, I shared some information with her. I said that someone I haven't seen for a number of years thought I "had work done".  When the laughter subsided, my friend asked, "What was her first clue, your sagging neck, your jowl or that giant wrinkly line that runs down your face? I hear they always leave some things like that to make plastic surgery look more authentic." She chuckled again.

Yep, that was it. Reality check. That was the moment. Isn't it great when you have friends that tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Same Old, Same Old

A few years ago, I learned that there are thirty six basic basic dramatic situations for all literature. They were outlined in a book by Georges Polti. Some purists would argue that there are even fewer. In fact, Heather Mallick wrote an article in the  "Toronto Star" on Sept. 23, 2011, saying there are seven themes for everything. The exact number is irrelevant to me.

I have read novels with plots which seemed all too familiar...the same basic characters, similar scenarios and an outcome with only a minor change, usually in the setting. In fact, I have often picked up a book and found myself wondering whether I had read it before.

Similarly, I believe that this is happening more and more in television programming. I enjoy watching some sports, some comedies, some reality tv, and some dramas. I say "some", not all. Although hubby and tiny dog might dispute this, I am a discriminating viewer. What I appreciate most, is a scripted programme where one of the thirty six dramatic situations is used in a unique way.

Last year, I began watching a new show, "Harry's Law", starring Kathy Bates, a fantastic actor, written by David E. Kelley, a gifted writer. It was about a lawyer...nothing new. She became frustrated with the corporate world and quit her job. After a series of bizarre and humourous mishaps, she opened a small office in a poor area of Cincinnati. At age 62, she began a practice in criminal law in a space which formerly housed a shoe store and still contained much of the inventory. She hired a law associate and an assistant who ran the shoe store to help pay the bills. Her shingle read "Harry's Law and Fine Shoes"...a unique twist on an old premise. As the season progressed, Harry (Bates) helped needy people, gang members and other unusual neighbourhood characters with their legal issues. I was excited for the arrival of the second season.

The second season is here. I no longer look forward to the show. I have no idea what happened or what I missed. Suddenly, a clever little programme turned into a copy of every other legal show ever written. In fact, it is almost a clone of one of Kelley's former series, "Boston Legal". At some point, the small shoe store office became a large firm with noise, clatter, ringing phones and people wandering everywhere. Many characters are identical to the aforementioned show. In fact, a few of the actors are even the same.

What started out as a little office in a shoe store with lawyers who were interested in helping the community, has made a three hundred and sixty degree turn. Poor and needy begone. Perhaps it's just not good t.v., or so is the perception. Maybe it's true. Could it be that the stories were too real? Is it that we don't want to see pain and suffering when we sit down in front of the tube for our evening of relaxation? On the other hand, how does this explain the popularity of all the police dramas and doctor shows?

I think that this particular programme had merit, with just the right amount of absurdity and comedic relief to garner great ratings. It provided the audience with thought provoking issues, while at the same time being entertaining.

So now, I am left wondering. Why is it that some writers resort to a format which is essentially a clone of previous work? Is it because they start running out of ideas? Why do they need to add sex,  violence, greed and shocking events or cliff hangers to get an audience? How much longer will this show last? I suppose it will be on air until the viewers get tired of seeing yet another rehashing of one of the same old plots.

Tonight, they are re-airing the very first episode of "Harry's Law". I think I'll watch. I'll probably enjoy the memory of what the show was and could have been.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oh Buoy!

Sometimes, it can be the simple things that give us joy. An unusual activity which we haven't witnessed before can entertain and amuse us if we stop, take a moment and appreciate it.

I have been curious about how the boats got back into the water at the marina. When we took the dog for a walk several days ago, I noted that the boats were already aligned on the pier all the way to the lighthouse. In fact, they were set up two abreast and extremely close to one another. I must say that I'm now left wondering how that was done.

I guessed that this would be my last opportunity of the season to take a photo of the empty spits and the glassy mirror-like water before the area once again became rife with boat and summer tourist activity.

The morning of April 29th came. It was the day of the scheduled boat launch. As sure as the robins return in the springtime, the crane made its appearance.

One by one, it hoisted the boats into the air and placed them gingerly into the water. Now, the owners were left in charge of getting the motors started and returning their vessel to the appropriate "parking spot".

Finally, as the last boat was deposited into the water, many of the marina spits were occupied and the pier was empty once again.

As I walked in the opposite direction of the marina, I viewed the shore of the lake. The sand was piled high ready to be spread. The trailer park was still empty. I wondered when and how those enormous trailors return to the beach. Perhaps I'll be fortunate enough to be there when they do.

Rows and rows of huge trailers with foundations are parked here every summer. The sites are indicated with white posts and there are several more "streets" behind where I was standing for this photo.