“I love the smell of goat shit in the morning. Smells like…… Salisbury, Connecticut” – Bill Kilgore (Local).
The aromatic ram farm is a centerpiece to the picturesque New England town of Salisbury.
“Its fun to watch,” continued Bill the retired Vietnam veteran. “Visitors collect their garbage through out the week and come here over the weekends and feed those stinking goats. One man travels all the way from upstate New York near Albany with the grandkids. He says they like eatin’ leftover chicken in black bean sauce best, which I find odd. That’s not like a sheep.”
Salisbury has that Wonder Bread vibe. As my bestie Kevin said when we went there for pie, it felt like a set for the Stepford Wives.
I continue to do my shopping in Connecticut. Le Bonne’s is an attractive, locally owned supermarket that I enjoy for its personality. You do pay for that personality. I had to hit up my Christmas Club account to purchase Filet Mignon.
Sweet Williams, on the main drag, is the regional go-to spot for pastries. They bake the best asiago and bacon scones I’ve had. And of course pie. This is where Kevin and myself had our Cheese Danish. The coffee is decent, not great. Get there early – product sells out. A must for Christmas & Thanksgiving orders. Their Black & White Cake is magnificent.
Should it now be The Stepford Partners? I just completed additional compliance and diversity training and I’m confused. It didn’t help that my sound didn’t work for the online session and I winged the answers. I hope it was not a checklist.
New Thing I’ve Done Because of The Pandemic #3: Got the Peloton. I’m a big fan.
Movie Stuff – Taxi Driver
Sally did an excellent job introducing and running the microphone. It was her first viewing, selected on a dice roll. She appreciated Taxi Driver thankfully.
Despite spotty reviews from the group it got a reluctant 100% Thumbs up.
Opinions were split between the older viewers (myself included) who consider it a timeless 70s masterpiece and those who found the first hour boring. They felt it would have benefited from an Avengers style climax to open.
On what was probably my 20th viewing I had a new thought. If saving Iris was Plan B is there anything at all heroic about Travis? Did he simply buy a hammer and look for any nail?
Kevin – I took photos of the handwriting – it’s different. Travis did not write the parent letter to himself.
Next week my book reading buddy Asha is presenting Uncut Gems. It was one of my movies of the year in 2019. Adam Sandler is usually like a cheese grater to the knuckles for me. Sometimes I enjoy a good cheese grating.
Strays from far and near who have forgotten the basics of crossing a road now gather mid-town on weekends and wander into traffic like deer on the Taconic. A recent NYT article would indicate that picturesque Millerton, before The Great Panic, was populated by pitchfork carrying rubes who would possibly eat your dog raw and needed out of town citiots (like myself) to motor in and save the place from itself.
I watched today as an out of towner reversed blind from the Diner car park into a passing white Ford Bronco. It looked like lots of body shop work in some local’s angry future and possibly some body work needed by one weekender sooner. I moved along as the fireworks began.
My go to spot for the past 20 years of Millerton weekends is the Oakhurst Diner (the owners have changed over the years). I take my usual stool at the counter, overlooking Main Street, and have my usual healthy bacon egg and cheese on ciabatta (it’s organic) and multiple coffees. Theirs is the best in-house coffee in town and the friendliest most welcoming of staff. The outdoor seating gets a bit tricky – bee problems in the sun.
Irving Coffee have their roastery close by and runs a popular shop in town. Their bean variety is excellent – I get my grinder stock there (the coffee type). Irving has a decent limited breakfast and lunch menu and has a relaxed hang around and work on your laptop comfort. I’m not that douchy. They get a nice little gas fire going in the winter.
Harney Tea is worth dropping by if you’re one of those chamomile drinking hippies, or just like tea. I don’t.
As the ultimate consumer I’ve replaced all my favorite films on Blu-Ray over time. The local Library benefited. I recently dropped off a couple of hundred duplicate DVDs to add to their limited town collection. Masked at the time I laid on the accent double thick. What’s the point of being charitable if no one recognizes you and thinks you’re marvelous afterwards? Begorrah.
The local towns have done a spectacular job cleaning up and extending the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. The converted walking and cycling pathway now extends from Millerton to Wassaic, on one end, and Bash Bish Falls in the Massachusetts direction.
The trail kicks off in Millerton right by Tarot’s Italian Restaurant. Unlike Ohioan pizza Tarot’s crust is very good. They do still have a ridiculous cash only policy so attach a tender filled fanny pack to those show it all bicycle shorts if you’re feeling peckish after your trail spin.
Charlotte Taylor is still the best spot in the County when you need to pick up an impressive little gift. I’ve gotten pressies there ranging from handmade cloth toys to colorful cheese knives. All big hits.
I’m still spending vast fortunes in Oblong book. But whenever Uncle Karl plans a visit to the Westchester clan, I also get to splash out in their toy store. Oblong has an eye-popping dazzle of stocking stuffers and a welcoming sit down and read children’s book section. It’s a beautiful location to browse and always fun to talk to the well versed bookstore staff.
The Millerton Saturday market, located in the church yard, hosts a scrappy selection of local merchants flogging their home scorched wares. Lots of organic. I got apple strudels the size of Rhode Island there recently. Meh. It’s still more scrappy than selection and usually features a local off-key musician selling self-labeled CDs. Harken to Ramblin’ Rita’s acoustic rendition of Nights in White Satin for the full fair experience. Or some dude with a banjo.
Millerton packs quite the variety into a quarter mile Main Street.
Movie Stuff: The Many Saints of Newark
When you try to serve two masters you end up with two unhappy bosses – or mob bosses in this case. The Many Saints of Newark attempts to appease long time Soprano fans/fanatics (like myself) and viewers coming in blind. It lets down both groups.
Where The Sopranos told the big stories from the limitations of a small screen Saints aims big, sprays blanks in all directions, and shits a hospital load of beds. It starts as an Oedipus story and ends as a pinky shake Michelangelo, taking in the Newark riots and a smattering of Frank Lucas with little reason. Even without the Sopranos link this film would be a weak, stereotypical, convoluted let down.
The casting is dreadful – particularly the clown playing Silvio. All the uniqueness and intelligence of The Sopranos is lost. Any one of the plots in Saints (and there are lots) could be dropped, and the movie would only improve. That includes losing young Tony Soprano and demented Livia. No trope is left untroped, no family eating event left overfed, no great gangster film left un-borrowed from. The use of Liotta & Liotta is irritating and just plain silly.
Many Saints split the room 50/50 (telling that even the thumbs up found the Newark riot inclusion pandering and unnecessary).
But man, my shackles stood up when the Alabama 3 theme song kicked in.
On the upside I’ve finally found a name for my new band – Venus Di Milos Douchebag. I’m giving this film a big rinse.
I’m psyched for next week’s movie. My Good buddy and multiple time host Sally Regan will be presenting Taxi Driver.
Stacey’s horse-habit brought us to Sunbury, Ohio last year. You turn left at the middle of nowhere and there it is plugged in a cornfield.
It’s a one horse town where the horse seems to have passed. We dined nightly on take out from the local Pizzeria; Goodfellas or Godfathers or Cousin Vinny’s or Mamma Mia’s – one of those names as I recall. Maybe Luigi’s? You haven’t lived until you’ve tried Ohioan Thin Crust Corn Pizza.
The owner of our Airbnb fancied themselves as an artist/decorator (translation – weird shit all over the house). I’m not sure if the plaster heads in multi-colored swim caps perched overlooking the sofas from a walnut cabinet or the female bust with the toxic red wig mounted on the wire sprung piano or the lost era sepia photographs of wide eyed infants creeped me out most. There was a locked basement door, at the bottom of too many freshly painted white steps, we were told never to open. That didn’t help the atmosphere. And I’m guessing there were children in that there corn.
I was glad I didn’t drink anymore.
We did take a tour around then plague desolated Columbus. I had been reliably informed that Ohio State sold Johnny Utah QB shirts at the campus bookstore. This Point Break fan was all in. I got dead-eyed stares at the register when I mentioned Johnny Utah. I left with a Buckeye Keychain, which looks like an elongated turd with a pink face. Never trust reliable sources.
There were a number of farm cats that we actively had to keep out of the rental house – any briefly opened door and they were in. Some hours after departure from Sunbury, on my way back to New York, I found one asleep in the back seat of the Mercedes curled on my canvas travel bag. I dumped it out somewhere by a river in Belleville. The same reliable source told me that cats have similar homing skills to pigeons so I’m sure Fluffy was fine.
I did completely upgrade my wardrobe from the expansive Tanger Outlets, during the Ohio jaunt. The Plague has changed me to a relaxed sweatpants wearing redneck from the uptight French cuff wearing downtown douche I once was. One shopping year later – I’m still finding sweatpants with the tags on.
If I ever go back to Ohio, it will be for sweats.
Movie Stuff etc.
I’m a heathen where it comes to the stage. I prefer any mediocre movie over the best of plays. I hate musicals. No matter how many of you or how often you tell me how magnificent it is, I am never going to see Hamilton. I saw all I needed of it on Curb Your Enthusiasm. I would be Larry and fall asleep in the audience.
This weeks Club Movie was Glengarry Glen Ross, adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning Mamet play. I’m hot and cold on Mamet. I tend to lean towards his adaptations of other people’s work, his collaborations, and his original screenplays over his plays. I’m going with The Verdict (Paul Newman’s greatest performance) as my favorite of Mamet’s work with Ronin and The Untouchables as two runners up. The Untouchables was the first movie I saw in the Cinema, at Whiteplains NY, when I moved to the USA, so I’ve a soft spot. Again, Connery doesn’t even attempt to hide the Scottish accent playing Irish cop Malone – got him an Oscar though.
I also took in Wag the Dog this week; the political satire is more relevant today that on it’s 1997 release. The Oscar nominated screenplay is sharp and hilarious. But the real revelation this week was Salesman, the superb 1967 documentary that follows a team of Bible salesman as they ply their trade, working from Catholic Church provided leads. See it. You’ll like whatever job you have way better afterwards.
The Movie group was 80% Thumbs Up for Glengarry Glen Ross, largely driven by the magnificent performances and the dialogue. One nay-sayer found the found language un-necessary and excessive, the same viewer thought Reservoir Dogs excellent. Help – I’m easily confused.
Where I completely enjoy GGR, and use the film’s most offensive quotes when ever possible, its not a film that completely takes the stage out of the play on screen. It does have the greatest cast of any movie in the past 30 years – six Oscars between four winners – all the remaining cast are nominees.
Next week the Movie Team is being lead on an experimental voyage by XO-Brienne Bannister. We are taking a dive into Many Saints of Newark, sight unseen.
You know things have gotten tough when New Jersey becomes a vacation destination.
Stacey was competing on the horses in August, so I booked for a few nights with her in Princeton. It was my first time there. As preparation for my trip to The Garden State I listened to a lot of The Boss and re-binged all six seasons of The Sopranos. I also studied up on some of the vernacular (Hoagie; Shoobie; Mutz; MAC) so I could talk comfortably with the locals. Stacey’s family resided in Teaneck all her life. I’d never ventured much beyond that 20 minute sprint out of Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel, past a scrappy green zone, for holiday events at her old homestead. It looked safe enough and there seemed to be lots of Diners. I love Diners.
Princeton is a picturesque walk-around town with the beautiful Ivy League Campus as a center piece. The University was established in 1746 so you’ve got all that history to enjoy. This is what I was expecting in Michigan – sorry Ann Arbor!
I had gotten some excellent recommendations in advance from some of my Jerseyite friends.
We stayed in The Peacock Inn; an 18TH Century Colonial converted into a boutique hotel off the main drag in Princeton. The service was excellent and the ambience superb; they host daily afternoon tea events. They looked dressy and lovely. I didn’t attend – do I look English to you?
The Peacock is great for a shorter stay – as a converted manor the rooms do run smaller. Great shower though and the heated bathroom floor made Stacey very happy. Whatever it takes.
The garden was closed one evening for a cocktail party/art exhibit. The paintings were goth awful, and the event had the feel of a party that rich daddy had sponsored for his little princess. Princeton feels like that kinda town. I did not buy a piece.
Our best dining experience was at Elements. The five course pre-fixe is pricey but worth every penny – it was our combined birthday/anniversary night out. Primarily fish dishes the accumulated food volume creeps up on you. We did not leave hungry. Elements provided some of the best service we have ever had and we have always been very nice to ourselves.
I put on my shoobie shoes and shorts one evening and took a spin over to Avon by the Sea, to see my good buddy Kerry and husband (as of the Summer) Jake. Congrats again friends! They treated me to dinner at The Columns, a beautifully converted Victorian Mansion with a fun ocean front buzz – hopping with live music on a Thursday evening. It was a real pleasure to meet Jake, Brendan & Caitlyn and I will go back to Avon given the opportunity.
Back in Princeton, I tried to buy a t-shirt in the iconic Princeton Record Exchange. All they had was Kelly Green. I may not look English but I’m not that Irish. I left empty handed. I did overstock at the excellent Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street, however.
No scones, but Small World Coffee had some of the best house coffee I’ve tasted and was a great space for taking a break from all the walking. It became my stop off spot during the few days there.
I did need to pick up a gift while I was in Princeton and scored with a bottle of Game of Thrones Scotch. They had individual distillers represent each of the GOT clans. Of course, I had to add a bottle to my bar – the incestuous Lannister’s were always my favorite. I had picked Cersei for the throne in the GOT Dead or Alive pool I ran, and I’m still devastated by the result.
Things I learned to do during The Plague #3: How to Pickle Stuff. Combine two cups water; two cups white vinegar; 1 spoon of pickling salt; 1 spoon celery salt; boil it all together; chop up the fresh product; throw all the shit together in a jar. BAM!
I have had a very successful two years with Banana Peppers. It’s the closest I come to eating a vegetable.
Of course, I produced way too much so guess what you’re getting for Christmas!
Wifey and myself did get to spend a few days driving around Michigan in June. Though I had briefly dropped by to add to my visited State count during my sabbatical I’d never visited properly.
I’d heard so much about the magical land of Ann Arbor it was of course a critical stop. Stacey booked us into The Bell Tower Hotel which is right beside a big Bell Tower. This was the hotel she never expected she would be able to afford to stay in back in her ramen-noodle eating days as a student in the University of Michigan.
Stacey gave me an extended walking tour of the campus and town and of course The Big House.
“Go Blue Go! Go Wolverines!”.
I don’t know a lot about the college system in this country but this one does seem to produce herds of fanatical lifelong football fans and friends.
I got to see some weird, spray-painted rock and a cube thing that twists in a circle when you push it. We also took in her old fraternity sister lodgings. I wouldn’t live there.
Someday I hope to give Stacey a tour of Galway’s second-best college and my alma mater, The Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. On a clear day you can see all the way down the Dublin road to the traffic lights near the hospital from some of the classrooms.
“Go Beige Go! Go Brown Trout!”.
As always, I tracked down the best bookstore in town – Literati. This well stocked independent store won the award as 2019 Publishers Weekly Bookstore of the Year. So of course I bought ridiculous amounts I didn’t need. I hadn’t been out of the house in months!
The highlight of the trip was three days spent on Mackinac Island. Situated on Lake Huron between the Upper & Lower Peninsulas the Island has maintained its old school charm and other timey vibe. You can only get there by ferry and no cars are permitted. All transportation is in horse drawn carriages. The place looks magnificent but smells like horse shit – a small price to pay for beauty and the roses grow great.
The island is small, just over 12 miles in circumference and is homeplace to the second national park established in the country; the forestry takes up most of the Island. A centerpiece of the town is fully intact Forth Mackinac, the oldest building in Michigan (1780). The compound boasts the cleanest public toilets I’ve ever seen – well worth spending a penny.
My favorite Island Moment was watching a local cop, hidden behind a tree, LIDAR horses for speeding on the road to our hotel.
The Grand Hotel, where we lodged, is probably the most beautiful hotel we’ve stayed in. Boasting the World’s Longest Porch, the wraparound overlooks the Straits of Mackinac from a height. The hotel is old school to the extent that men must wear jacket and tie after 6:00PM and ladies are discouraged from wearing trousers.
There was an extensive clutter of old dears flocking around the main dining room the night we sat for dinner at The Grand. They were dressed head to toe in purple with large floppy hats, flapping around like a Mardi-Gras funeral procession. I tried softening them with my bottomless Irish charm to milk some back story, but they showed little interest in me. They seemed very interested in Stacey and presented her with a secret purple business card she refused to share with me.
We would definitely return to Mackinac.
Of the seventy movies viewed by my company’s movie club few had 100% Thumbs Up: Sunset Boulevard (1950); District 9 (2009); The Hunt for the Wilder People (2016) & King of Comedy (1982). Today Crimson Tide (1995) joined the One Hundred Percent Club. These films were a complete popular success where The Godfather (1972) had dissenters and Blade Runner (1982), my favorite, split the room. What do I know?
As is my way, in preparation I did some Submarine binging (as did XO-Bannister), with mixed results.
Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) – this WWII standard pitting new kid on the block (Burt Lancaster) against old master (Clark Gable) still holds up. It succeeds in large part because they commandeered a real submarine for filming and had a grand old time hunting the high seas.
The Hunt For Red October (1990) – the most successful submarine film ever hasn’t aged so well. Alec Baldwin was never destined for lead man status, mainly because he can’t act (except one excellent scene in Glengarry Glen Ross). It never gets old listening to Connery burr away, not even trying for a Russian accent …. “Today we shaaaail into hsssstory”. Ahaar Sean!
The Bedford Incident (1965) – seemed to be a film thrown together for the sake of a cynical ending. Its a pretty great ending.
As a partner for the Nuclear Apocalypse Crimson Tide theme, I re-watched Failsafe (1964). It still terrifies and still ranks as one the greatest anti-war films made. Henry Fonda is at his best playing one of the great movie presidents, orchestrating a bleak ending that’s never been bettered.
And finally, the mac-daddy of all submarine movies, Das Boot (1981) – the German made U-Boat classic. Its a grimy, claustrophobic, realistic masterpiece. At 208 minutes the Director’s Cut is a long dive, but absolutely worth the plunge.
Today’s viewing crew found Crimson Tide to be the rare big budget film that managed to be entertaining and intelligent; a war movie with limited blood and violence that opened a broad discussion on duty versus morality.
It was suggested that Crimson Tide would be an excellent brand name for a line of tampons. Steadier heads explained that the title refers to the University of Alabama football team. The things I learn.
Crimson Tide was the first and best collaboration in a five-movie run between Denzel Washington and Director Tony Scott. The best Tony Scott features a different Alabama – the Tarantino scripted True Romance (1993).
Crimson Tide is not the best submarine film, that’s Das Boot. Crimson Tide is the most enjoyable.
Next Week: Movie #72 – the toxic Mouthy Mamet Masterpiece – Glengarry Glen Ross.
So, I’ve been counting Country Time in haircuts. I’ve had two in 22 months.
I thought it might be fun to start posting a bit again. Partly because I want to be sure it all still works; partly because I’m hoping to take in a couple of previously untraveled Southern States next month; partly to get back in contact with some more of you; largely because I believe I’m fascinating and you’re all clenched in your knickers waiting to hear about my life since my last blog on Mother’s Day 2020.
What new did everyone get up to during Covid days?
New Thing #1 I did because of the Pandemic: I bought a Peloton and started those online classes in June. I look amazing.
I have also started cartooning a bit again. Bored – me?
I did try and see as many of you as possible, within driving distance. Some photos included.
As a living-in-the-sticks aside, I arrived home early one Spring evening from Lowes (buying manly tool stuff) to find two black bears ransacking my garden shed. They did a runner with my garbage bags in tow. Next day investigation and cleanup in the woods revealed black bag evidence it was not their first visit. I got a handy man to put a new lock on the shed. I’m not that manly.
I have not been a complete hermit. Some traveling was done in the past months. I got to visit my good buddy Hannah in her beautiful new Knoxville home. Congrats friend! Already my fourth visit to Tennessee it’s a state I’ve grown to enjoy a lot.
Hannah introduced me to McKay’s on my latest jaunt there. It’s a warehouse sized dealership full of used books and all formats of music and movies. My friend enjoys blowing money on products she doesn’t need almost as much as I do. I left with a dozen used Blu-rays and as many books. Hannah also introduced me to Cracker Barrel. Their breakfasts with cheesy potato sides are delicious and healthy. They don’t serve scones or fruit.
New Thing #2 I did because of the Pandemic: From my standpoint, the most satisfying and fun thing I’ve done since the onset of The Plague was start up a Movie Club in my company. Basically, a movie is selected every week, all participants watch it (or not) and we run a video discussion each Wednesday afternoon.
Year One was a bit of a dictatorship – my good self being the dictator. My goal was to try and cover as many decades and genres as possible. We did – 52 movies in 52 weeks that spanned a century of film. Year Two we select from a pool of 300 movies with a dice roll.
The main purpose of the group was to form a community and keep people in contact during the dark, dull, can’t move about days. We succeeded. Lots of new friendships were formed, lots of old friendships strengthened and lots of colleagues became something more. We’ve celebrated weddings; birthdays; promotions; new hires; anniversaries; departures and retirements across the globe together on camera. Most impressively we’ve had multiple participants take the microphone and present their favorite films to the group; not something most had planned on their life calendar. Lemonade from Lemons!
Truthfully, the main purpose of the group was to give me the opportunity to show off my vast knowledge of film and shove my taste down people’s throats.
Besides the fun aspect the group has engaged openly on plenty of big themes . The topics have ranged from Porn to Diversity to Eighties Teen Cover Bands in Dublin to Race to The Troubles to Scottish Heroin Addicts to Baseball to Pandemics to The Costa-Del-Crime to John Malkovich’s Brain Portal to Ben Affleck’s Perfect Batman Chin to ….
I’m attaching a separate movie discussion page and the list of films watched to date. I’ll post future screenings each week so you can follow along.
If after reviewing the list there is a movie you would like to suggest the group watches – don’t. Start your own film club.
From a personal growth standpoint, I learned how to listen and be patient when other film viewer’s opinions are contradictory to mine, even though they are completely wrong.
This week’s movie marks our 71st selection – Crimson Tide (1995). Denzel; Hackman; Mutiny; Submarines; Aragorn & Armageddon; Tony Soprano; Tarantino; Honor & Duty – plenty to discuss.
The most popular move Year One was Sunset Boulevard; the most despised was Risky Business (what?) and the one that proved us to be two continents separated by a single movie Trainspotting.
Last week’s selection Sexy Beast (2000) got a 90% Thumbs Up. Yes – I’m confused.
Big Thanks to Brienne for being XO on The Rewatchables Weekly Voyage and all who’ve participated and presented.
Stacey commandeered my downstairs screening room as her home office, so I bought a ridiculously large 85” Flat Screen with a sound bar for the Living Room. Stacey has grown to love it.
On an extremely sad note, our very good friend Kevin Senecal passed away earlier this year. Kevin and wife Shelley are Stacey’s best friends from back in their University of Michigan days. Kevin’s brother Dan hosted a wonderful celebration of Kevin’s life in his St. Joseph’s, Michigan home over the Summer. I was grateful and touched that I got to attend and witness all the shared love and warmth for Kevin. Both Shelley and Kevin have included and welcomed me as a friend in their lives since my day one with Stacey.
If I could take one recent incident to define my family, and our off kilter sense of humor, it’s the fact that my Mother is coloring in the “Piss Flaps” page of the adult coloring book I sent to Ireland as part of an Amazon gift box. There were real books in the package too. This activity as Maree, my Mother, is preparing for surgery in that region at the Galway Regional Hospital on Monday. She will be in for a week.
Maree (our Mother) raised five of us, alongside our Granny, Nonie. I’m the oldest child and grandchild and by far the best of on every front.
From the time I was eleven, back in the 1970’s, Maree worked full time as the secretary for St. Patrick’s Primary school. Between that, and an Uncle teaching in The Bish, our secondary school, it was full access to the Patrician Brothers that ran the schools. Every report travelled home to Lower Canal Road. We four brothers (Karl, Mark, Robert and Darren) got away with nothing. Ana was at the Presentation Convent getting separately indoctrinated into Christianity by the nuns. We remain excellent Christians to this day.
Maree, or Mrs. O’Toole as she was known to the thousands of young lads who passed through the school gates, worked as the secretary in St. Patrick’s. She supported all us mini Tooles until we all eventually left the Canal. I was 22 when I got out. Maree worked at the school for over forty years. She retired well into her seventies. Everyone that studied in St. Pats classrooms loved Mrs. O’Toole , hidden away in her secretary’s office, left by the stone stairs, down the staff room corridor.
As well as the five kids and our parents, we shared the small semi detached house, on Lower Canal Road, with the Granny and Grandad. Nine of us in a three bedroom house with one bathroom. Our semi detached house was glamorously named Persian Sun. Eleven Lower Canal Road was branded after the winning horse my grandparents won a share on in the Irish Sweepstakes. They bought our waterside home with the prize money. We consider a canal waterside where I come from.
I still marvel at how my mother raised and fed us with the little income that was coming in. Ireland in the 60s and 70s was not a rich country. There were two car owners on our street of twenty houses then, and only a couple had phones. We had an overhead electrical meter you put ten penny coins into. We did have a trick with a butter knife where you could reuse the same coin.
Maree dragged us all up well and we turned out just grand. None of us ended up in prison atleast. Well, that’s if you don’t count the one night in lockup for piddling against the railings of the police station just down the road on Mill Street. Guess which brother! It was just a drunk sleep over and they let him out in the morning.
We didn’t have two pennies to rub together back in the day, but every penny spent, and effort made by Maree was for her five kids. We always got new matching jumpers, machine knit, every Christmas. We looked adorable in our identical outfits, seated in decreasing size order at Sunday mass at the Cathedral. Lined up like little porcelain ducks on a sitting room wall. Maree now extends that generosity and love to her 10 grandchildren. Or is it twelve? They all love their Granny back.
It’s mostly from Maree I inherited my obsession with books and film. To this day my Mother’s never without a book in her hand. It’s usually not a coloring book.
From day one with the Mahoney family, Stacey’s mother treated me like one of her own. Even when I didn’t necessarily deserve it. Day one was the first Christmas Eve I turned up shit faced at the Mahoney household, in Teaneck New Jersey, two plus decades ago. I’d arrived with a bag of unwrapped gifts. Thanks again for wrapping those Kir! Christmas was always a marvelous over the top event with the Mahoney’s , a tree surrounded five foot deep, and just as high, with gifts.
Barbara Ann was a big supporter of mine when she was still around – more friend than mother in law. How many married men can say that? Barbara Ann was another constant reader. I became her book purveyor at Christmas, Birthdays and Mother’s Day over the years. And that was always something fun to share with her. She’s missed.
Then there’s my wonderful sister Ana with her infectious (probably a bad description these days) dirty laugh. Ana was 11 when I left Ireland so I’ve become friends with her , long distance, over the years. Ana’s another fantastic mother to her two lads – I think Kyle and Randall . I had them all over to New York last year for a couple of fun summer weeks.
Then there are my four fabulous sisters in law: Angela in Galway; Loretta and Siobhan in Headford and Kir in San Francisco. All tough, smart , loving , no nonsense Moms.
I’d better throw Stacey in here. She Mothers me all the time whether I need it or not. I don’t.
Happy Mother’s Day to All!
So here are some recommendations for Mothers I enjoyed in film .
Philomena – Fifty years after she was forced to give up her child, by the Irish church, a mother goes on a journey with a British journalist to find her lost child. This true story was a multi award winner and will bring a tear to your eye – definitely. Fantastic performances and I love any film that sticks it to the Irish Catholic Church.
Psycho – the story of a young man, Norman Bates, and his heartfelt love for his mother (kinda). Hitchcock’s masterpiece was slammed by the critics on release. You may not have seen it but you definitely know it.
Bates Motel ran for five seasons and tells the back story of young Norman Bates and his mother as they move and settle into their new Motel operating life in White Pine Bay, Oregon. My buddy Jennifer Brancato can attest to the binger it is. She watched 4 seasons in one weekend. Vera Farmiga should have won every award as Norma Bates. This is not just a fun series, it was a critical darling.
I did try to find crash pads named Bates Motel on my cross country sabbatical. Google the reviews. You’ll see why I didn’t stay in any.
Mother – another film from the Parasite Director. An old widow’s mentally challenged son is accused of murder in a small Korean town. She struggles to prove his innocence. This is my kind of Mother’s Day entertainment, probably not yours.
Where’s Poppa? – Ruth Gordon did crazy old lady like no one else. A sad sack lawyer (George Segal) has no life outside his job and maintaining his senile mother. When he finds the woman of his dreams he plots to get rid of Momma – one way or another. It’s a jet black comedy with a big cult following.
On the book side, I’m recommending The Nix. A son rediscovers his mother after she is charged for assaulting a public figure. She had abandoned him years ago. This story spans decades and despite what sounds like a downer plot, it is fun and upbeat. This was on lots of best if lists in 2016.
I’m gone from Ireland 33 years but I still get back at least once a year. And with all this craziness going on I’ve finally got better at calling my mother!
We heard a loud crash outside the house about 3AM Friday morning.
Now we know what it was. This beautiful sixty foot birch arched over the top of our driveway. Until yesterday that is. The tree perfectly blocked any passage. We were trapped!
So crack of dawn, I slipped on my overalls and work boots, walked urgently to my garden shed, primed my WORX 20 inch chainsaw, sharpened my Fiskars axe, and got to work.
So mid morning, I called my neighbor Linda and asked if her brother Terry could help us. He has a contracting business.
So mid morning I called Jeff the pool guy and got his team over with all the tools.
I made myself some coffee.
Once again we are so very lucky with neighbors. Terry Boyles came by with his backhoe within half an hour. He shifted the fallen birch off my driveway in minutes.
Pool Guy Jeff and Bobby the Chainsaw (and Son Little Bobby the Axe) came by soon after and cut my deceased birch into usable logs for my outside fire. I will never need firewood again.
All done. I’m exhausted.
Well, that’s my excitement for Covid week 8.
I was so bored today I friended a bunch of people I don’t like on Facebook, then unfriended them later on after they accepted.
I watched another classic Noir tonight, The Narrow Margin. I do like a good train movie.
So for peril on trains viewing.
Train to Busan – a father and young daughter are trying to reach Busan, South Korea by Train. The train is infested with Zombies. I know, I know – you are not into Zombie movies. Neither am I, but this is killer emotional train trip. A best movie of 2017.
Snowpiercer – in a future decimated by sub zero freezing a mega train must keep moving in perpetual motion around the globes or the hundreds of passengers will perish. The have nots, prisoners in back of the train, fight to take control of the engine, up front, from the elite. Every carriage traveled through brings another surprise. This is an earlier English language entry from Parasite Director Bong Joon-Ho and far more fun.
The Taking of Pelham 123 – in one of the 1970s best movies a gang of criminals take a group of commuters hostage on the New York subway system. This Manhattan set classic was remade in 2009 starring Denzel and Travolta by primo action Director Tony Scott.
Scott also directed Denzel, with co-star Chris Pine, in another great train movie – Unstoppable. A runaway train carrying a cargo of nasty chemicals is out of control and heading towards a heavily populated Pennsylvanian town. Tarantino picked Unstoppable as a favorite movie of the century.
Murder on the Orient Express – in the ultimate Agatha Christie mystery Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of a nasty millionaire on this lavish train journey. The fun 1970s version was cast with many big movie names of the time , including best Bond Sean Connery. This film is an obvious influence on the recent and equally entertaining Knives Out.
And speaking of Bond, enough of From Russia with Love is set on the Orient Express that I qualify it as a train movie. This, the second Bond film and the most literal adaptation of any Fleming book, co-stars Robert Shaw. He’s also the baddie in Pelham 1-2-3. Threads!
The Wrong Trousers – my favorite mini movie climaxes with the ultimate claymation train chase, featuring a dog, a gun and a nasty penguin.
Runaway Train – two lifers escape a maximum security prison in Alaska. The unfortunate inmates take refuge on a train that’s also a runaway and also carrying dangerous chemicals. They have no way to the engine car to stop the locomotive . The first third of the film is also one of the most realistic and intense prison life representations in American cinema. Great performances from John Voight and Eric Roberts earned both Oscar nominations.
The First Great Train Robbery (Sean Connery again) should have been a good movie but it’s not. Written and directed by Michael Crichton, it had pedigree. It’s fun to watch if only for its mistakes. Observe all those electrical and phone lines zip by overhead across the Irish countryside locations. All that would be fine if it wasn’t set in Victorian England.
On the train set book front , I’d highly recommend Girl on the Train. This best selling murder mystery so reminded me of my daily train journey to the city when I lived in London. I found the busy body loser heroine fascinating. She reminded me of some one I work with and can’t stand.
The downside to good weather is it brings out the bicycles, and not everyone that owns one qualifies as a cyclist. Saturday there were lots of unfit idiots out pedaling, tethering in the center of Route 82. As my friend Kevin would describe them, fascists of the road. Quite a number of these struggling non athletes were moving slower on wheels than I walk. Switch gears asshead.
Saturday I was Mikhail’s guest at Red Hook golf club, along with Trey. Sunday was the first factor 30 day of the year out on Columbia Golf – 75 degrees and not a cloud. New York State is loosening the rules. Social distancing is still the order of the day but most courses are now open.
I did drop by Agway today to pick up grass seed. There was some obese specimen operating mask and glove free behind the cash register. He waddled repeatedly from the store floor to the back counter, his man titties jiggling, poking his fat thumb in the eye of the masked world. He’s likely one of those know-it-all’s who tells anyone who’ll listen that he never gets sick and that he was once an athlete. This mouth breather was a solid reminder that there are still plenty of selfish idiots out there that think they know better. Give granny a kiss for me! Most of the other staff wore masks.
So we had a new invention introduced on the the Golf Course this week. Taking full advantage of the Covid situation, here we have the Hands Free Remove the Ball from Hole Device Omatic from Kraftwerks. Retails at only $19.99 for one, Or $150 for a set of 18. Color options include Silver; green and Corona Black & Yellow. Someone’s cleaning up.
I’ve been hearing the scratchy sound of little footsteps running around the dropped ceiling in my man cave. Mice again. I thought about maybe capturing it and sharing the furry cutie as my cuddly new pet on the recently launched company animal chat page.
But fuck that. I killed the little prick. It was shitting little black pellets everywhere. My best friends have two legs.
Last thing I need is to have my speaker cable eaten by another country rodent. I know they like gnawing on German rubber, from my Mercedes eating debacle. That cost me $3,000 in repairs. I wasn’t taking the risk they’d like the British speaker cable on my B&Ws.
I took the humane approach. I poisoned the four legged vermin with one of those soylent green cubes rather than clubbing it with a hammer. I threw them above the ceiling tiles. Seems to have worked. I had a quiet, scratch free, Film Noir viewing tonight. An important lesson for those looking to poison mice – they go back to their nests to croak. No smell! Score!
I was always full of shit when it came to talking film. I’d seen and remembered enough movies over my life that I felt all my opinions were right. A number of years back I decided I’d become a little more educated on the topic and put some scope around my scrappy film knowledge. I started taking evening classes in the New School, beginning with a class in Film Noir.
An unexpected bonus to taking classes has been the number of good friends I made. Manhattan’s New School classes are a varied blend of full time scholars and mature students. It makes for a broad age range and diverse opinions. Back in the day I’d drag everyone to the bars on University for post screening booze and bonding. I used to do a lot of bonding.
I’ve long contended to my single friends that if you want to meet others in the big city, take an evening class. You start out in a group of people with a common interest and worst case scenario, even if you don’t make friends, at least you’ve learned a little something. These classes also helped me get over a lot of my shyness issues.
So I’ve taken full advantage of these recent quiet evenings here in the countryside with my ten foot movie screen. Im working back through the dozens of Film Noir DVDs and Blu-Rays I own. There’s a real cinema feel watching those old B&W shadows on the wall downstairs. I decided at the start of the current goings on not to watch regular or cable TV. I’m eight weeks here and it’s been movies and binging only and that’s been a wise choice. I cherry pick the online news I want to read. I don’t feel I’m missing anything.
So Film Noir, a world where no good deed goes unpunished. A world filled with dames, guns and hard men who cannot get out of their own way.
Here are a few of my favorite Noirs. I have a lot. Theres no point my trying to explain any of the plots, so just trust me and watch.
Chinatown – that rare Noir set in glaring L.A. sunlight, rather than night and shadows. The water commissioner is murdered in the middle of a drought. Jake Gittes (a note perfect Jack Nicholson) is on the job, hired by the murder victims wife. Chinatowns complex screenplay is perfevt, there’s not a wasted scene in one of AFIs top 100 films. And my favorite.
Out of the Past – My jack daddy of B&W noirs. Jeff (played by King of Noirs, Robert Mitchum) is working a small town gas station, when his past comes to collect. When they talk about beautiful black and white, this is what they mean. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that any Noir with Robert Mitchum is worth a peek. The man exuded movie star, he was build for a fedora and trench coat.
Ace in the Hole – cynical journalist Kirk Douglas manipulates events and the news to fit his ends. Now here’s a scorching Media movie before it’s time. Billy Wilder directed two other Noir Classics , Sunset Boulevard and Double indemnity. But nothing beats the heartlessness of Ace in the Hole for this dark soul.
I previously recommended the New York classic The Sweet Smell of Success. I’m recommending it again.
The Long Goodbye – Robert Altman’s 70’s slant on a Philip Marlowe classic stars an unlikely Elliot Gould as a seemingly hapless sleuth. This has a low end California beach bum vibe. Watch out for Arnie, before he was Arnie. Warning: You may get the terrible theme song stuck in your head.
In a Lonely Place – Bogart plays screenwriter Dixon, a man who’s temper and temperament make him suspect in an ex’s death. Humphrey has never been better than in this not seen by enough of you, often listed as the ultimate Noir devastator. I’m watching it tomorrow.
You’ve binged enough Netflix rubbish, team. Try something different.
My transition to country living is complete. I’m now getting Amazon deliveries in Ancramdale! What else is needed?I will miss the city doormen and I did get bigger deliveries to my door in the Manhattan apartment, but I will suffer through. It’s unlikely I will ever need dry cleaning picked up in Ancramdale, so no loss there. The food here is better – I’ve an excellent chef. The view is certainly better. The weather is getting better. The air is better. I’m getting to see my garden grow day by day for the first time. I love being able to step outside and have a coffee in the middle of the night.
I will pick up some dungarees when the General Store reopens. I have a couple of plaid Ralph Lauren shirts and some wranglers. Maybe I’ll buy a shot gun and learn to skin things. I can grow a beard if required. I just googled, wild turkey season soon. I see Agway is taking orders for chicks – my own free range eggs. I’m buying a tractor. Thank God – I’m a country boy.
I was so bored today I reorganized a closet. You are so bored you are reading about it.
My golf club did reopen , strict social distancing and limited to groups of three. Saturday was spectacular on the course and full credit to my club for having the greens and fairways in such wonderful condition with their hands tied.
Sitting around here, slightly bored and very distracted. this rainy sleety snowy Sunday, I listed a number of lesser known recent movies that I really enjoyed. These are films currently available on Netflix that you might not have seen.
If you cannot find something from my list to enjoy you have terrible taste in film.
Locke – For 86 minutes you travel alone in a car with construction site manager Locke (best actor of his generation – Tom Hardy) Along the road he deals with a number of crises, both business and personsl, from the phone. This solo drive to London is riveting.
Green Room – the members of a punk band are trapped in the back room of a remote Oregon club/roadhouse after witnessing a murder. The skinheads they were there to entertain want to wipe out all witnesses. Captain Picard as a white supremacist, trying to make it so. It’s a nail biter.
Mississippi Grind – a two time loser and compulsive gambler( Ben Mendelson) is fronted on a high stakes trip by a newfound friend (Ryan Reynolds) who thinks he’s his lucky charm. A superior gambling film.
Good Time – After a failed robbery, lowlife Robert Pattinson races against the clock to raise bail money for his mentally challenged brother. An intense sprint.
The Gift – An uncomfortable loser from their past (Joel Edgerton) inserts himself into the lives of a power couple (Jason Bateman/Rebecca Hall). This psychological thriller was my movie of 2015 with the ultimate love it or hate it ending. Either way, it will leave you thinking.
Ex Machina – a programmer ( Domhnall Gleason) is invited to a remote location, by his CEO, to conduct the Turing test on a female humanoid. This film won the 2016 Academy Award for its unique visual effects. Thought provoking sci-fi with hot robots.
The Crying Game – a failed IRA man (Stephen Rea) is hiding out from everyone in London. He falls in love with the lover of the British Soldier who died under his watch in captivity. This film is a mixture of thriller, love story, race, gender and national politics. And the Boy George cover of the title song is kinda perfect.
Searching for Sugarman – in this documentary the filmmaker sets out to find the real story of the deceased 70s South African cult musician , Rodriguez. Surprising and Inspiring.
The King’s Speech – this 2019 best picture winner tells the tale of future King George (Oscar winner Colin Firth) as he battles his debilitating stammer under the tutelage of an Australian therapist (previous Oscar Winner Geoffrey Rush). Warm & Uplifting.
Sling blade – the movie that launched Billy Bob Thornton’s career also won him an Oscar for his screenplay. Billy Bob plays a mentally challenged adult released from an institute, where he has spent most of his life for murdering his mother and her lover. He starts a protective friendship with a young boy. What could possibly go wrong? Not a comedy.
Mud – two young Arkansas boys happen on Mud (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on an Island in the Mississippi. The boys try to help him reunite with his lost love (Reese Witherspoon) as he hides out from bounty hunters, tracking him on a murder rap. It’s got a Modern Huck & Finn vibe.
Hell or High Water – in this contemporary western , two Texan brothers (Chris Pine/Ben Foster) rob local banks to try and save their family ranch. Sheriff Jeff Bridges is on their trail. Thrilling and smart.
The Death of Stalin – Stalin pops his clogs in 1953 and his power hungry cronies (including Steve Buscemi) make their play for the big chair. This darkest of dark comedies is based on the actual historical events.
The Death of Stalin was written by Armando Ianucci, creator of Veep. It’s based on his mile a minute British political series The Thick of It.
Veep, followed the trail of presidential hopeful Selena Meyers for seven cut throat seasons on HBO. It’s my best comedy ever. It earned Julia Louis Dreyfus the most Emmys in a comedy ever, for a reason.