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Showing posts from 2018

Popsicle Toes

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Growing up in Niagara Falls, there were Decembers so cold, winter not only iced the ground with two feet of white frosting, the falls actually froze. Along with the usual snowy wonderland of pearlescent trees dripping icicles, a frigid front emanating from the northernmost corners of the Great White North delivered some painful cases of popsicle toes. Hobbling in from the cold, I’d stand next to the radiator, tiny knives stabbing at my toes, tears pricking at my eyes while my mother unbuckled my snow boots to rub my feet back to life. It’s been decades since we moved from Canada to California—via a year in tropical Puerto Rico—and while I don’t miss the frozen feet, December days can still find me longing to transform winter in mild-mannered Los Angeles into the frosty fantasy of my youth. Decembers, when the memory of the arctic chill seeping into my bones has been forgotten in favor of half-remembered mugs of hot apple cider making my glasses fog up, a pile of Christmas, pres

Dreaming of France: By the bay, barely [memoir]

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Baie des Anges, Raoul Dufy/1928 The trouble with going topless on the beach in France is that while the French may not bat an eye, the prudish hybrid of British, Canadian, and American that I am—go ahead, call me a BritCanIcan if you can —isn ’t quite so nonchalant. Even though I was thirty something when my friend Mindy and I visited Nice, I still had reservations about taking my top off on the famous pebble beach.   The only time I’d ever gone topless before was with a couple of friends at a nude beach here in Southern California, a “secret” place where Topanga Canyon meets the Pacific Coast Highway. An unmarked path leads down around the cliff, you have to tread carefully to make sure you don’t trip and fall. An old, deeply tanned bare-chested man cruising around with a camera had made the whole thing feel creepy, and we’d left quickly, feeling dirty.  But I had that old man, leering with his camera, asking could he take our pictures, in my head as Mindy and I made our wa

Preston, North of England Way

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My dad could always make us kids laugh when he put on a Liverpudlian accent, pretending to be one of the Beatles. While Liverpool was only forty odd miles to the south of his hometown of Preston, Lancs, the Liverpool dialect was  slightly  different from the way he grew up speaking. These days they know Liverpudlian as 'scouse', a dialect influenced by the Scandinavian as well as an Irish and Scots influx of workers via the Liverpool seaport. My dad didn't have that terminology; he just called it 'thick'. Thick it is, almost like you've got a cold or something nasty stuck in your throat.  He had left home at seventeen, left England even, escaped to Egypt. Time and distance, and a bit of a determined effort on his part to sound more cosmopolitan had softened the way he spoke, erased his broad north country accent, replaced it with something more elegantly BBC-ish British.  Now, our dad warned in a long-distance phone call, when my sister and I, at

London Blues #FlashbackFriday

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Waxing nostalgic on Facebook this morning, thinking about the package of Christmas prezzies we used to get in the mail from our British grandmother, this old post about a trip to Grandma's house in the 70's came to mind. And that's why call it FlashbackFriday. I was waiting for my sister to come and join me in London, as if, instead of being on vacation, I was being held hostage, waiting for someone to rescue me while the yellow ribbons tied around the old oak tree faded and turned to tatters and the days disappeared. As though my grandmother and uncle had kept me locked in a squalid room, or hidden me under the stairs like I was Harry Potter. The reality was that I'd been spending a few weeks at their absolutely lovely house in Chorleywood on the outskirts of London and I was miserable. I'd come down with a simple case of old-fashioned homesickness, made worse by a touch of social anxiety. I felt so lonely I wanted to die but I wasn't dying. I was perfect

A funny thing happened on the way to the laundry room

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I'm heading back to my apartment, carrying my plastic laundry basket, heavy with 2 loads of freshly washed whites. The basket itself is pale green, only because I couldn't find turquoise. I am absolutely crazy about turquoise. So there I am, walking down the path, when I'm startled by a glimpse of turquoise at the top of a neighbor's stairs.  My eyes dial in and I see it's a girl, a girl with bright aqua-colored hair, the very same Katy Perry blue I yearn to dye my own hair . The girl, talking to her boyfriend (my assumption from how close to each other they stand) catches my eye, we smile. "I love your hair," I call out as I pass. "Oh, to be young again, I'd love to have hair that color." At which point she peels away from her boyfriend and heads down the stairs. "You should!" she says. "And I'm not that young, I'm thirty."  "Ha! You're a baby!"  But  I'm glad I haven't called h

Cruisin’ It : Meeting Tom Cruise

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Updated 6/22/2017 Originally published 9/8/16  I've just read an excerpt from actor Curtis Armstrong's new autobiography. Armstrong is probably best remembered for his work on Moonlighting but he also worked with Tom Cruise on Risky Business. The chapter "My Summer with Tom Cruise" is fun reading if you like reading about stars before they were stars. It reminded me I have a Tom Cruise story to tell, albeit a tiny one, but since it's #ThrowbackThursday, I'm indulging myself.   Call me crazy but I'm a Tom Cruise fan. I'm not cuckoo about him, I don't have a fan page or anything so extreme but I tend to like his movies. He's got charisma, a ton of onscreen charm; I loved the first Jack Reacher adaptation and I'm actually excited about the next one coming out at the end of October. I gave his movie The Edge of Tomorrow a glowing review on my book-to-movie site.  He is after all, despite—or some might say, because of — his association

Dreaming of France: Finding My Faux French Fix

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Image via thestudiotour.com One of the perks of working as a tour guide at Universal Studios was being able to tool around the backlot, getting up close and personal with the facades, mostly mere  painted pieces of plywood, nothing more than shells supported from behind by some 2 by 4’s. Sometimes the buildings were decorated with slabs of foam molded in the shape of bricks. On camera it works. Up close, the faux brick is slightly spongy to the touch. Just a bit of fakery.  While New York Street probably got the most use as a filming location, it was Little Europe that fired my imagination. Walking along the cobblestone road, passing the charming shopfronts, it’s easy to imagine French cafes and patisseries come to life.  The last time I saw Paris—and the Universal backlot—was in the mid to late eighties. These days I can conjure the same feeling of being transported to another time and place on my daily walks around my own neighborhood.  Built in 1931 in this  ‘Chateau

We'll Always Have Nobu : Robert De Niro

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Reposting on the occasion of Robert De Niro’s 75th birthday. I guess you know you're old when all your crushes have turned into old men! Anyway ... here’s the one about the time ... I put down the phone, hoping no one could see my hand was literally shaking. Bob's assistant, Elena, was calling from New York, wanting to see if I could organize some lunch for her boss. Her boss Bob. Bob as in Bob De Niro. Oh, that Bob. The actor was going to be in LA and planned on squeezing in a quick meeting with Rowdy Herrington, the director shooting the next episode of Tales from the Crypt . As the APOC at Tales, it fell to me to take on the task.  An APOC—Assistant Production Office Coordinator to the uninitiated—is nothing more than an overworked secretary to about 150 people. Twelve hour days minimum. No overtime. My job meant inputting every single one of those names, phone numbers and addresses into the Crew List data base and keeping it updated. I generated the cast list wh

Storming the Bastille ... it was the summer of '89

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The Bicentennial Parade, Paris. July 14, 1989 [Photo by Rene Burri] Mindy and I tried to crash course our French historical knowledge but budgeting just a week in Paris that July of '89, we were mostly interested in hitting the Left Bank, the major museums, the cafes. She was a shopper, I wanted to see where the expat gliterati hung out, drinking absinthe, back in the day. We hit the Gallerie Lafayette, Les Deux Magots, Shakespeare & Co. We  climbed Notre Dame , took a boat ride along the Seine, saw the Eiffel Tower. We went to a bar where we bought our own drinks. I had a $9 beer; almost half of what I planned to spend on my hotel room. We took the metro to a famous Paris flea market where Mindy bought nothing but I spent $90 on a killer pair of black leather cowboy boots. I must have been out of my mind, I had to schlep those boots in my backpack all across Europe. As our week in Paris progressed, it was clear this Bastille Day celebration was a very big thing and we w

There's No Place Like Home [memoir]

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For six years in the nineties we lived in a little house on a hill on the west side of Los Angeles.  We always bragged that while the house might be small,  we had a million dollar view. O n a clear day we could see the Hollywood sign from our backyard.  The house was something of a gift. We inherited the place when the current tenants, our good friends Mike and Judy, found a house they wanted to buy and recommended us to the landlord. When they moved out, we moved in. We signed  the lease that dropped us within the boundary lines for our school of choice, just days before the deadline to register for a coveted kindergarden spot in the fall. Our son spent his entire elementary school life in that little old house, going from kindergarden through fifth grade in the same house, going to the same school, with the same friends. I call it a little house because it was. Just 1050 square feet. Two bedrooms, one matchbox sized bathroom, a kitchen so tiny that there was little more to it