Category Archives: Delights

Anthony Hopkins Plays Baal

Aerobic exorciseWe went to see the new Anthony Hopkins film The Rite this evening. When we got home we were pretty hungry. Sure, we had bought the large tub of popcorn, but only because it’s easier to carry than the paper bags, and has a stable base so you can set it on the seat next to you with no fears of an avalanche. No way were we going to eat more than 7% of the contents, nor did we, and so, upon returning to our little bungalow on Mulholland Drive, the first stop was the fridge.

Lo and behold! What did we see but the second half of the “Kung Pao Chicken Salad” we’d bought earlier at Gelson’s Deli. Did we make short work of it? And how!

You know what got us most about the salad? The bean sprouts. Yup: bean sprouts! The funny thing is, we don’t normally go for bean sprouts in a big way. They seem a little too health-foody, if you know what we mean. Like hay for cows. But tonight they seemed, instead, fresh and crunchy. Just the thing after seeing a movie about exorcism set in Rome, “the Eternal City,” and starring Anthony Hopkins, a Welsh actor. It was swell to see the great Irish actor, Ciarán Hinds, in a small role as a lecturer on demonic possession. There were many Roman cats in the movie. You’d like them.

After we had polished off the Kung Pao Chicken, we were mighty tempted to nom down on a couple of Eggo toaster waffles spread with lemon curd, but the late hour forbade.

Like Thornton, but Wilder

Your NiceWork movie reviewer parked his car in the mall lot and walked to the movie theater. That much he remembers.

He bought some treats at the treat stand. A Coke Zero™ and a medium popcorn.

They look scary here in the red light, but they were not really very scary.

They were good. He found a seat up there near the projector. It was quite a climb because the theater had “stadium seating.”

They look scary in the red light, but they really were red velvet, and not at all scary.

The movie involved nuns — or guys who look like nuns — who rob banks in Boston. They all live in Charlestown. One of the robbers falls in love with a beautiful girl bank manager that he had kidnapped for a few minutes during a bank robbery at the beginning of the story. His best friend is one of his crew and is very violent. He hits people with guns and disarms Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). He has a “Fightin’ Irish” tattoo on the back of his neck. This is important to the story. Rebecca Hall plays the beautiful girl bank manager.

That’s all your NiceWork reviewer can remember. As the end credits rolled, he carefully descended the stadium stairs, deposited his drink cup and popcorn bag in an appropriate receptacle, and left the theater. He soon found his car and drove home. There was a container of tuna salad in the fridge!

The crew robs Fenway Park. That he remembers.

I Left My Heart in a Bowl of Rice-A-Roni™

Much more fun than cable TV.The onrushing cable car above hints at where we’ve been.

We spent a couple of carefree days strolling up and down (way up and down) the City by the Bay. Hadn’t climbed those  quadricep-challenging hills in years. We feared we might have to relearn that Awful Truth “What youth deemed crystal, age finds out was dew,” but San Francisco is one of the few places in this disappointing world that is exactly as nice as you remember it.

Even nicer in some ways. This giant hand, one of six, wasn’t there last time we passed through:

Three Heads Six Arms, 2008, by Zhang HuanNor, for that matter, was the present home of the Asian Art Museum where we spent about five times the amount of time we’d budgeted. After all, you can’t just rush by items like this seated Buddha from the 4th century:

There's a date inscribed on the back corresponding to 338 AD.It happens to be the “most published” item in their entire collection. Every book on Buddhist sculpture includes it, says the helpful placard nearby.

Then there’s this stern soldier — a “haniwa,” or Japanese funerary figure in terra cotta, made in the 3rd millenium BC  — who won’t let you pass until you pay your respects:

The entire figure is maybe three feet tall.And what would a sojourn in the Bolshiest city on the Bolshy left coast be without an hour browsing for lewd and seditious literature in City Lights Bookstore? This is the indy bookshop from which, in 1957, extruded Allen Ginsberg’s epic Howl. Signs in the upper story windows exhort passersby to “keep an open mind” and also to “turn left.” But can a passerby do both at once?

The best minds of MY generation were destroyed by Cocoa Puffs.We patriotically held out the palm and sneered “nyet!” to all the Bolshy blandishments, but before we could launch into our chant of “Sarah Barracuda” the Red Youth Brigade (now rather aged) spotted our red, white and blue hearts and ejected us into Kerouac Alley…

On the Road, In the Alley.… into which poor drunken Mr Kerouac had been tossed more than half a century ago from Vesuvio, a bar in which he had been demonstrating once again that the Beat Culture was more acceptable on paper than in the flesh.

But if you have to become so inebriated that crawling along the sidewalk becomes a reasonable mode of transportation, and street signs loom too far in the distance above your lolling head to help guide you to your SRO in the Tenderloin, don’t worry. San Francisco helpfully molds the street names into the concrete at every intersection:

Chewing gum splotches were Photoshopped out to protect your refined sensibilities.Next Post: A visit to San Francisco’s De Young Museum of All Kinds of Art.

Cold Case File

In one of the books, not this one, there are two detectives named Champaign and Urbanik.

If you are snuffling around for a new mystery series, and the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is new to you, and you happen to like the same stuff I do, I have a recommendation for you: the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

There’s the cover [see above] of the fourth book in the series, or what I think would be the cover if the book does indeed exist in the real world and not only on my Android phone. And there’s the cover [see below] of the fifth one, which I am in the middle of.

Take my advice and read them in order.The first book in the series is called A Cold Day in Paradise. It sets the scene: a one stoplight town called Paradise situated on the icy southern shore of Lake Superior in the U.P.. You also get the cast pretty much assembled, most notably Alex McKnight, a Detroit cop retired on full disability — with one of the disabling bullets still lodged near his heart — who mopes around in the snow, chops wood for the snowmobilers who rent his cabins, drinks gallons of Molson’s Canadian, and solves crimes. Many crimes. It turns out murderers swarm on the shores of Lake Superior even more than they do in the vast empty deserts of Tony Hillerman’s New Mexico, which is saying a lot.

So many murders it takes a SEVEN McKnight mysteries even to begin to describe them. Start with the first one, Cold Day, continue with Winter of the Wolf Moon, proceed to The Hunting Wind, then the two pictured above and finish up with two more after that whose names I don’t know.

If you are anything like me, after kicking through the six foot snow drifts for a volume or two, you will phone the author and say, “Author Hamilton, you have done well. Very well indeed, sir. I applaud you.” If you are unlike me, I cannot predict how you will react. Perhaps you will weep. Perhaps you will warble like a nightingale. If you are exactly like me, you will have read the books already and are even now writing an identical post.

Oh! The humanity!

You have been looking a little blue lately. At first I thought, hypothermia. But your condition has gone on too long to be that, and besides, your core temperature is normal. Further observation strongly suggests that the cause of your cyanosis is clinical depression. You need emergency cheering up.

My first thought was to buy you a happy mylar balloon. Always does the trick. I faced a problem though. Namely, how would I get it to you? There was no way. At least not physically. Neither of us exist. But, despite that obstacle, perhaps there was a way…

The Plan: find a cheerful balloon at the flower display in Ralph’s Fine Foods, take a photo of it and post the picture here, right here on the Web.

I am a man of action. With me, to think is to do. I sprinted right over to the nearest Ralph’s and spotted a really nice monkey balloon. LOOK!

The goat-footed balloon man whistled far and wee.Ah. I can tell by your merry whistling that your mood has improved. It’s tuneless and annoying, but better than the baying like a hound with which you’ve disturbed the sleep of your neighbors these many days past. If it slips into a minor key, or stops altogether, I will post another, more potent seratonin reuptake inhibitor: a photo of a mylar Spongebob.

You May Sit Here… Free

Take a load off. Set a spell.The ritzy, hoity-toity stretch of Mulholland Drive that wiggles along the ridge between Bel Air and Sherman Oaks may have its Lenos and Sheens and even its David Lynch car crashes, but our humble little offshoot here on the wrong side of the mountain has charms all its own. For one thing, there is a couch on which you may sit absolutely free.

Rest ye awhile.But if that sort of public display disgusts you, you are under no obligation to stay. Leave. Please. Just go. Continue west/northwest and hang a left onto the 101. Head westward until you reach the Moorpark exit where you will do just that, then motor north for half a mile and park at Mimi’s Cafe. Inside you will find mumbling waitresses, coffee poured into your tea, food better left to itself, and, there on the wall, a mural by none other than Syd Hoff (1912—2004) whom you may best remember as the author/illustrator of Danny and the Dinosaur.

Drummer Hoff Fired it Off

Old Mission Santa Barbara, an Old Mission in Santa Barbara

Today we left L.A. behind and drove 71 miles up Highway 101 with a single purpose: to see a famous old mission founded by the Franciscans back in 1786. Old Mission Santa Barbara is still a going concern. Monks study there, retreatants are put up, Mass is said in the church, and the grounds are maintained and art restored for tourists like us.

The Stairway to Hell had vending machines!

Our first stop on the self-guided tour of the monastery was the famous STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN. We ached to climb those timeworn stairs, but we hung back, daunted by the legend according to which those with stained souls would only find cactuses on every step. Somewhat shamefacedly we gave the Stairway the go-by and headed for the centuries old GRAVEYARD.

Not audio-animitronic.There, too, we met resistance. The SKULL-HAID DOOR challenges all comers with three riddles, one from each skull-haid. Answer correctly and you may pass safely through the portal. Answer wrong and you may still pass, but the skull-haids smirk and make you feel uncomfortable.

Tries to do like St Francis and get the birds to sit still for a sermon, but so far no dice.On the way out, as we wrapped up our self-guided tour and a visit to the (excellent) Gift Shop, we met BROTHER CAT who blessed us and let us rub his belly.