Monday, February 02, 2015

The Groundhog's Shadow

I awoke to pouring rain. The snow I mentioned in the last entry changed to rain not long after I finished writing. Almost every bit of last night's snow was gone. There wasn't even any slush, like there was on my trip to Market Place a few weeks ago. It was just gloomy and wet.

Celebrated Groundhog's Day with the Rankin-Bass special Jack Frost. Jack normally loves being able to make winter storms and create frost. He starts to question his immortality when he meets the pretty Elisia and saves her life. He falls in love with her and begs Father Winter to make him human and win her heart. He's not her only suitor, though. The nasty Cossack King and a handsome knight are also in pursuit of her. The Cossack King tries to kidnap her, but Jack gives up his humanity and calls on a huge blizzard to bury his castle. The castle won't stay buried for long if Father Winter gets a certain signal from a certain little groundhog named Pardon-Me-Pete. Jack is determined that Pete will see a shadow and that he'll save the town, whether he can get his girl or not.

(Incidentally, Phil saw his shadow in real-life as well. Considering it's supposed to be cold off-and-on for the rest of the week, I'll believe that six more weeks of winter.)

I went online briefly after the special ended. The rain finally slowed down by 12:30 long enough for me to pack up my huge laundry load and head for the laundromat. It wasn't bad when I arrived and was clearing out when I left, but it did get a little busy around 1. I thankfully had no problems grabbing a washer and a dryer.

When I got in, I put everything away, then went right back out. The rain had stopped completely by this point. It wasn't even that cold, probably in the mid-to-upper 30s. I had a quick lunch at Phillies Phatties next-door to Studio LuLoo's on West Clinton. They were so quiet, the TV wasn't on when I arrived. I'd just finished my mushroom and cheese pizza slices when the kids started coming home from school. One little girl in cozy-looking blue fur and suede boots waited for her parents. Another younger girl seemed to be staying with her brother at the store. He put on the Disney Channel for her. I watched the second half of a hilarious short that had Mickey chasing after Goofy, who was somehow sleepwalking his practice for a marathon, with her before heading out.

I headed across Newton River Park to the library after lunch. Thanks to the gray weather, the park was totally empty except for one man going for a stroll. I didn't even see any bird flocks. The park has an austere beauty in the winter, with its bare trees and crackly tan grass a striking contrast to the white frozen lake.

The Haddon Township Library was very busy with kids coming from school when I finally arrived. I had a lot to do and plenty to shelve. The kids' DVD's still wouldn't all fit where they belonged (those darn Scooby titles...), but I got all but two adult W titles in. There were two huge piles of books-on-CD's to put away. I guess everyone really wanted to listen to books during last week's weather. (And the books-on-CD section is a mess. A quarter of the boxes were in totally the wrong places. I may see if I can give that a closer look next week.)

I did end up taking out some movies this week. They got the newest Care Bears set, Belly Badge Rock, in. I finally have the time for the very long The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. (Might as well catch up with that before the next parts start showing up in the libraries.) Also grabbed American Hustle and one more Esther Williams vehicle, Neptune's Daughter.

By the time I finally made it out of the library, the clouds were breaking up, but the wind was howling and it was far colder. It was almost 5 and starting to get dark, too. I was originally going to run a few more errands in Westmont, but I finally decided cards and a bottle of canola oil weren't worth braving the weather. I rode straight home the same way I came, across the park. That did allow me some glimpses of a lovely orange-and-magenta sunset between the slate-blue clouds.

As soon as I got in, I hit the kitchen. I love chocolate and I love mint, and I still have mint chocolate chips leftover from Christmas. I turned Hershey's low-fat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe into Dark Chocolate Mint Cookies with the addition of the chips and Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, and replacing the vanilla extract with mint extract. (I use no other kind.) Oooh, other than I probably should have added more cocoa, they came out amazing, smooth and chocolaty, with bursts of mint.

Ran Neptune's Daughter while I made the cookies, and later while having leftovers for dinner. This time, they actually found a fairly reasonable excuse for Williams to be in the water - she's a swimwear designer and former swimming champion. Betty Garrett is her sister, who chases a different guy every month. The guy who's caught her eye at the moment is a handsome South American polo player, Jose O'Rourke (Ricardo Montalban.) Betty goes after  him at the stables, where she encounters the team's masseur Jack Sprat (Red Skelton) and, despite his ridiculous attempt at a Spanish accent, thinks he's Jose. This doesn't amuse Williams one bit. She goes on a date with Jose to get him to drop her sister. He genuinely likes her, though, and keeps dating her despite the suspicion of her partner (Keenan Wynn), who thinks he's just another playboy. It all finally winds up with Jack accidentally taking Jose's place on the polo field when he's kidnapped by gangsters and the girls' discovery that, cold or hot, there's a lot more to love and life than making bathing suits.

This is now my favorite Esther Williams vehicle. The gangster subplot is more exciting than her straight-up romantic comedies, and the musical numbers are fun and well-staged in and out of the water. It's probably best-known today for introducing the Oscar-winning, innuendo-laden hit "Baby It's Cold Outside." Montalban has more to do than in On an Island With You and looks wonderfully relaxed in the water with Williams in the finale. Skelton and Garrett are hilarious together; Garrett gets a cute number with Xavier Cugat's orchestra. (Other than one amazing tropical-themed instrumental dance number, Cugat is barely seen.) Also look for Mel Blanc (with what would later become his Speedy Gonzoles voice) as a stable hand buddy of Skelton and Montalban.

If you want to learn what Williams was all about, this is a good place to start. The cast is good, the Frank Loesser score is fun, and there's a lot more going on than just Williams being chased by guys and jumping in the pool. Highly recommended.

Oh, and all that snow we didn't get went north. Lauren got up to a foot from this storm in Pittsfield. She was off work today and, according to her, spent a lot of the evening shoveling snow with her dad.

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