Friday, November 03, 2017

Families Through the Years

Since I got up a bit earlier than usual today, I kicked off the morning after breakfast with some cleaning. Did a short session in the kitchen, then made the bed and dressed my Cabbage Patch Dolls Carrie and Dulcie in fall clothes. The top of the printer in my bedroom was piled high with magazines, old bank statements, and coloring books. I put the statements and magazines away and shoved the coloring books in the shelf under the printer with the file folders. Looks much better now, though there's still a few things I need to figure out what to do with.

Put on Meet Me In St. Louis while I worked. This is another movie that involves Halloween and Christmas and is perfect for this time of the year, when we're feeling a bit of both. This 1944 musical chronicles six months in the lives of the Smith family, who live in a big house in the title town in 1903. Oldest daughter Rose (Lucille Bremer) is hoping to court a boy back east, if she can ever get him on that newfangled phone. Esther (Judy Garland) has her sights set on John Truitt, the boy next door (Tom Drake). Youngest child Tootie (Margaret O'Brian) shows a macabre streak with her obsession with burying her dolls so she can give them nice funerals. On Halloween, their dad (Leon Ames) announces that he's moving the family to New York. This is received well by nobody, especially since the World's Fair is coming to town in the spring. It's an upset Tootie who finally convinces everyone that home is best, especially when it's about to become the center of attention.

This is one of my favorite musicals. It reminds me so much of growing up in my family, especially when Rose and I were teenagers in the 90's. Anny had the same dark streak as Tootie around age five, and told some of the same wild stories at the dinner table. Phone calls were never heard by less than two or three people, even after cell phones became more common. Dad and Keefe were always a little more baffled by this than us women. The Halloween sequence with Tootie and her neighbor scared Keefe so much, it was years before he'd watch it again.

Fun if you've got women in the family who may have gone through a lot of what happens here; many men may be as confused as my father and brother were.

Finally headed out for the first errand run of the day around noon after delivering my rent next-door. Or tried to. The road work had sprouted up again, this time at the corner of Goff and Manor. The dead end segment of Manor Avenue that terminates at the park was completely cut off. No one could get in or a car. No wonder Charlie sounded like he was in such a bad mood this morning. He was stuck. I finally walked my bike around it on the sidewalk, taking the long way down West Clinton and back up Kendall.

The weather wasn't bad at this point. It was sunny and breezy, still a little too warm and humid for the time of year, but not unbearable. I took advantage of the nice day with lunch at Sonic. Had a burger, tater tots, and a Cherry Ice Cream Slush. The burger was ok, better than the dry chicken sandwich I had a while back. The cherry slush was fairly tasty, though all the cherry pieces ended up on the bottom. The only other people eating on the patio were a group of young men in button-down shirts, possibly from offices on the White Horse Pike, enjoying their lunch hour.

The Acme was a little busy, but far from overwhelming. I got lucky and ran into a few more big sales - sugar that was 99 cents this weekend, coupons on and offline for light mayo and Grainberry Cereal, a bag of clementines for a decent price. Also restocked yogurt (for lunch and for baking), packs of salmon fillets, blue corn chips, the Nature Valley nut butter sandwich cookies, soup, canned black beans, oatmeal, and skim milk. Also grabbed two larger mouse traps that I hoped would be more effective than the useless ones Charlie gave me.

Got my schedule while I was there, since I'm off tomorrow. I'm even less happy with this week's. I have no idea why I have Veteran's Day and the day after off. They're major holidays, the days you'd think they'd want me to work. Not to mention, with all the libraries closed, I won't be able to get to at least Haddon Township next week. Might be able to pull off the Oaklyn Library early in the week.

Dodged the road work again on the way home. As soon as I finished putting the groceries away, I went right back out. If nothing else, I had to return the DVDs and Blood Red. Newton Lake Park was fairly quiet at 2:30, right before the kids let out of school. I made my way around a few joggers and admired the brilliant-colored trees that were finally coming in.

The Haddon Township Library was even less busy than the Acme. There were a big stack of audio books and CDs to shelve. Did some children's DVDs, too. (Someone else was doing the adult titles.) Didn't take anything out. I won't be able to bring them back next week.

Took the short way home down Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike. Thankfully by this point, the repairs on Manor had ended for the day. Even so, I stuck to the sidewalk on that part of the road going home.

Spent the next few hours working on my story. The horned toad king kindly offers the music room to Kaydel and the garden to Rey. Jessika is already in love with the stables. The boys intend to show them around. Leia wants him to come to the library with her, but the Horned Toad King doesn't think he'll make a good companion for her. He's stupid and dull. She points out that he's smart enough to admit it...and that a kind heart makes up for a lot of things.

Broke at 6:30 for dinner. I tried a sample of a new Uncle Ben's rice flavor at work. I loved the rich, creamy flavor and the inclusion of mushrooms, onions, and broccoli. Instead of buying it, since I had all the vegetables, I thought I'd try it at home. My version wasn't as creamy - I used brown rice instead of white and chicken stock instead of cream of butter - but it was almost as tasty. Put in one of the salmon fillets, simply cooked in a pan.

Did two Rick Steves' Europe episodes for more story inspiration. Rick hits the Alps in these shows, taking us to Italy, France, Austria, and Switzerland. While I enjoyed seeing Innsbruck and Chamoix, ski resorts that have hosted Winter Olympic Games, my favorite travels took us into small towns and mountainside hostels in Switzerland that look like something out of Heidi or my fairy tale books.

Hit the shower after dinner, then finished the night with the 1936 Show Boat. Magnolia Hawks (Irene Dunne) gets her chance to perform on her father Captain Andy's (Charles Winninger) floating theater when Julie, the original leading lady (Helen Morgan) turns out to be black and has to leave with her white husband. Joining her is Gaylord Ravenal (Allan Jones), a handsome gambler who saw Magnolia and fell instantly in love. They're the talk of the river, to the shock of Magnolia's strict mother Parthy (Helen Westley) and the amusement of black servants Queenie (Hattie McDaniel) and Joe (Paul Robeson). Things don't go as well once they're married. Gaylord gambles away their money, forcing Magnolia to sing in a caberet for her bread. A sensational performance of "After the Ball" (once again replacing Julie) leads to a long career as an international star. She and Gaylord do finally have one last meeting together, right as their daughter Kim is appearing in her first show.

While Dunne does well with her songs (she and Jones sound ravishing on "Make Believe") and Winninger's one-man interpretation of a show boat melodrama has to be seen to be believed, the real winners here are Robeson and McDaniel. They're so natural and funny in their scenes together, you really wish they were in more of the movie. They also get my favorite of the additional songs written for the film, the hilarious "Ah Still Suits Me." Once they vanish in the second half, the melodrama comes to the fore, and everything is a lot less fun. And while Dunne's blackface number "Gallavantin' Around," may be historically accurate for the time period, it's wince-inducing today.

"Gallavantin' Around" aside, this remains the definitive version of Show Boat on film. Highly recommended for fans of romantic melodrama or who want to see a 30's musical that didn't involve Busby Berkley.

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