Coronavirus Days 57 – Mothers

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.


Love ya!


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!

Happy Mother’s Day Maree! Love Ya!

Coronsvirus Days 49 – 52 – Tractors and Trains


We heard a loud crash outside the house about 3AM Friday morning.

Trapped

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.

Thanks Terry


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.

Ex Birch Tree


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.

Murder Afoot

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.

Red Hook


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.

Fascists of the Road

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.

Got Scissors?


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.

Hands Free Ball Handling


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.

Wifey Tries Relaxing for a bit.
YOU WENT OUTSIDE THE LINE!

Coronavirus Days 47 & 48 – Country Living


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.

Two legs good. Four legs evil.


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!

Of Mice & Men

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.

Man Caving


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.

Big Lou the Neighbor Dropped By.
A man outstanding in his field.


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.

Green Acres is the place for me.

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.

Needs a pruning

Coronavirus Days 44 – 45 – 46 – Netflix


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.

The Fab Five


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.

I was so bored Monday I drove Wifey 20 miles to a Fax.


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.

In the Closet


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


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.

Abbie & Cathal take their Social Distancing Seriously


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.

Golf Saturday under New Order


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.

Abbie is so bored she ran off and joined the circus

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.

My Wonderful Friend Fizza and her Beautiful Baby Boy Isaac are doing great in Sweden. See you somewhere soon!

Coronsvirus Days 41 – 42 – 43 – Desks

You know life has changed when you consider a planned trip to get your car inspected a grand day out.

Office Space Home


Tired of working on a card table, I ordered a proper desk last week. We’ve been talking about setting up an office area in my man cave for years . It took a pandemic to get it done. Sebastian and Juan, the delivery guys, couldn’t have been nicer. They impressively reversed their large truck up my long hilly driveway. I have problems driving it facing forward. Being the socially distancing fool I now am, I improvised on my tipping and stuck cash in my garage door. I yelled instructions to the crew from high on my front porch, safe at thirty feet.

Tipping in a Social Distancing World


I’m very pleased with my new set up.

WTF


Those that have visited my office in Manhattan know that I like to keep my Libery Plaza space interesting. It’s more Karl’s Kuriousity Shop than Korporate. When I took my two month sabbatical in 2018, I made a point of collecting key chains from every stop I made. That was the start of my office wall pin board collection. My friends now bring me key rings from their travels and I buy them when available at concerts. Throw in an assortment of movie & tv memorabilia and dozens of Funkos and you’ve got my unprofessional den . My favorite dork item may be the Breaking Bad snow globe encasing the BB RUV with blue crystal meth for snow flakes. The one item worth swiping is my original Blade Runner poster. Come visit sometime.

Office Space – Office

I found a computer manual in my desk once, but it belonged to Socrates.


I took a vacation day and completed another little project that couldn’t be put off anymore – our car inspections. The Escalade is months overdue . I took care of my little Mercedes today, which is only a few weeks late. Job done for $25 bargain – no problems. It’s strange times when the muffler lounge in Northeast looks more like an assortment of people from a hospital waiting room.

Your Mercedes is doing fine Sir, but I’m afraid you’re wife’s Escalade might not pull through.


They had HGTV on in the lounge . I thought if I heard one more mention of fucking crown molding; opening up the room to more light; hardwood floors; high fucking ceilings; soothing spaces; cracked sconces; I’m leaving Northeast and driving to the Salisbury Muffler Queen. What is this mysterious curb appeal everyone speaks of? In these stressful times may I no longer get annoyed at having to wait for service? Can I no longer indulge in such pettiness as getting pissed off at public waiting room TV channels? I’m still a fucking New Yorker. I said nothing , per Coronavirus rules of civility.

WTF


My buddy Socrates suggested desk related movies as a theme, including Glengarry, Glen Ross.


Glengarry, Glen Ross is the feel bad movie to beat, and I mean that as a huge compliment. The David Mamet movie adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize winning play centers around two days in the office lives of four toxic real estate agents, vying for sales to keep their jobs. This movie possibly has the power cast of the past 30 years; Pacino, Lemmon, Spacey, Harris. These guys swear like I do so Glengarry has got endlessly quotable dialogue, for me. Alec Baldwin is featured in one poisonously demoralizing scene, but it’s hands down his best acting ever.

All The President’s Men


Socrates suggestec 9 to 5 in there but it’s too nice a film for me and I’m also not a fan of Office Space.


The gold standard newsroom film is unarguably All The Presidents Men. Starring Redford and Hoffman as journalists Bernstein and Woodward, the movie covers the back story of The Washington Post investigation into Watergate. William Goldman, the screenwriter’s screenwriter, won an Oscar for his screenplay. It’s a masterclass . The film makers recreated the Washington Post press room down to the smallest detail and this dynamic retelling makes you feel like you are right in there at their desks fighting against deadlines. A whip smart rewatchable .

Bottoms Up – The Recovery Begins


William Goldman also wrote what’s considered the greatest book on Hollywood and screenplay writing. Adventures in The Screen Trade is a must read for anyone that loves film. Goldman had a love/hate relationship with the movie industry and his instructional tell all is gossipy, smart and bitchy fun.


Goldman won anothef Oscar for his original Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid screenplay. Now there’s a ray of sunshine for a rainy day. It’s a pleasure to watch the two mega stars, Newman & Redford, shine in the easy going Western classic.

Vania the Muffler Queen


Then watch both actors together again as a pair of con artists in best picture winner, The Sting . This co-stars the always excellent Robert Shaw as the prohibition era gangster villain, the man Redford and Newman want to take down. This one twists and turns until the end and you will be humming The Entertainer for days afterwards.

I’ve often been asked “Karl, do you have any idea where Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West died?”
“Why yes,” I typically respond. “Right here in the Noble Horizons retirement home in Salisbury.”
When I’m bored I look for places to drive on Atlas Obscura. Today I was bored.


For an office based novel I’m going with The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. This novel from 2010 hovers around the private lives of the people working the desks in an English language newspaper run out of Rome. This read was a pleasant surprise.


La Bonnes, taking it to the next level, scanning customers temperature on the way in to the store. They now allow a maximum 20 customers in the supermarket and you cannot bring in your reusable bags . Go Matt on the temperature gun.

The Office, the supreme original English series ran for only 12 episodes and a couple of Christmas specials. The fly on the wall mocumentary follows clueless branch manager David Brent’s life as he struggles and fails in his middle management role, running a Slough based paper factory. The Brits got it right, knowing when to stop. I’ve never watched the American version.


Note to self: invent a face mask that doesn’t make eyeglasses fog up.
Sebastian & Jose & Desk & Two Days Early!

Coronavirus Days 39 & 40 – Stylin’

The facial recognition on my iPhone stopped recognizing me. This growth was starting to itch. I looked older. I didn’t look as fabulous as usual. Time for the whiskers to go.

Before


Here are my recommendations for some great movies featuting terrible hairstyles.


Taxi Driver – you talking to me? It was correctly pointed out that I missed this 70s masterpiece from my list of greatest New York movies. There are few movie characters as iconic and influential culturally as the delusional, insomniac cab driver Travis Bickle. Travis has the seventies most recognizable haircut in Martin Scorsese’s tale of isolation in the big city. Yes – it’s better than Goodfellas .


The Road Warrior – this post apocalyptic road trip is now considered one of the most influential movies of the 80’s . This Australian set actioner has leather clad driver Mad Max reluctantly help a group of survivors escape across the Australian desert from marauding punks. Max’s hair is fine, but check out the cuts on the villains. The extended truck chase across the plains is one of cinemas greatest finales.

This film was reimagined as Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015 by original director George Miller. This time around with a feminist slant. Fury Road was selected by Britain’s Empire magazine as the top film of the century so far in 2020.


In No Country for Old Men – Chigurh, the souless assassin, who decides fate with the flip of a coin, sports one of the most ridiculous hair styles in film history. And he is terrifying. That awful styling helped win Javier Bardem an Oscar, friendo. This modern western is my best film of the past quarter century and won best picture in 2007. The Cormac McCarthy book that No Country is the based on practically reads like a screenplay. It’s a solid read. Unless you want to really feel down, do not read McCarthy’s Post Apocalyptic Pulitzer Prize Winner , The Road. It’s on my rxcelkrnt riveting books but not for right now list.


First Blood – this is the movie that launched the Rambo franchise and unlike the rest of them it’s a well drawn drama with believability. John Rambo drifts into small town Washington looking for a fellow Vietnam veteran. Things go south when he’s harassed by the local law, led by Sheriff Brian Dennehy (who just passed last week). Rambo’s hair starts off badly enough but then comes the bandana. This is an excellent 80’s thriller that spawned awful, if entertaining offspring. I just watched Rambo: Last Blood.

After

I had the realization tonight that this is the first time in the entirety of my existence that I’m experiencing domestic bliss.

I’m at my home, in an actual house, not an apartment, for an extended period. I’m getting to spend all day in the same space as Wifey. I get to prepare and cook three meals a day . I also get to clean. Sometimes I get to run out and pick up groceries. I’m allowed vacuum on weekends.

I had the realization tonight that this is the first time in the entirety of my existence that I’m experiencing domestic life.

F1: Drive to Survive

I finished F1 Season 2 (Netflix) on the elliptical yesterday. It makes me want to sprint. I’m recommending it again. I found it a real tonic for theses claustrophobic days. The 21 locations for the F1 races have an international glamor and the races knuckle biting exciting. Part of the real strength of the series is the individual and varied drama each episode brings, beyond the intensity of the races themselves. Try it! I was reluctant to start too and got hooked.

I set up a make shift chipping area to the side of the house. I figure if I keep the head down, concentrate and chip 100 balls a day, by the end of all this I should still be a below average golfer.
Abbie and Cathal (or maybe somebody else) continue to amuse themselves back in Galway, with a little help from Mark.
My little friend Harper with her little friend Froggy. Mom, Lauren, just watched Jaws for the first time ever. Yes!

Coronavirus Days 37 & 38 – Palace & Prisons

Sunday Night at the Movies – Galway

We took a fortnightly grocery run today. The supermarket was fully stocked except for the old TP. There were some boxes of tissues available for the first time in a while (one per customer). Possible light at the end of the toilet bowl.


‘‘Twas a spectacular Sunday so we took a long walk up Skyline road after our shopping, It starts at the bottom of our driveway and runs uphill for a couple of miles. It was quite the a change weather wise from yesterday’s snow.

We’re Shopping


Since we are all feeling pretty confined these days, my binge recommendations tonight are all prison related.


I could write a whole blog on Michael Mann films. In The Jericho Mile (1979), Peter Strauss, hot off the international TV success of Rich Man, Poor Man, plays loner Murphy, a lifer in Folsom. He’s down on a conviction for murder. When Murphy’s fast mile is noticed, running the facilities’ track, the prison officials try to qualify him for the Olympics. Sympathy for the Devil has never been better utilized than in the opening sequence on the yard. This made for TV movie was so good it got released in international cinemas. That’s how I got to see it in the Claddagh Palace, Galway.

Sunday Stroll – Ancramdale


Speaking of the Claddagh Palace – back in the day they left the sliding letters for the marquee sign outside, hidden on top of the overhang. My brother Mark (again) and his friends would sometimes climb up there late night and get inventive with movie titles on the banner. His proudest work was arranging Riddle of the Sands into Piddle in the Hand. Pretty apt, as it was a piss poor film. Mark, much like his older brother, is easily amused.


I’m not sure if this was Mark’s work. I like to think it was.I’d guess it started as Crocodile Dundee II. The Claddagh Palace got a lot of our drunk foot traffic after a night in the Salthill clubs. Mark swears the Nun sign was not on him.

A Popular Screening at The Claddagh Palace


The Claddagh Palace was where I spent a lot of my Sunday nights growing up. You’d get there early with the girlfriend so you’d get one of the double seats on the balcony. It didn’t matter what was showing, I went every Sunday. Not much film viewing was done from those sofas of love. Just lots of hidden fumblings going on under wet duffel coats – the devil’s work. I was glad I never got to see what those seats looked like with the lights up. The Claddagh Palace smelled of damp teenagers, Tayto and cigarette smoke. Remember those ash trays in the backs of movie theatre seats?


I did learn at a midnight Saturday screening of Dirty Harry that fools and drunks are indeed protected by some higher power. There was an almighty thump and the whole row of seats I was in shook. Some middle aged stew bum had fallen off the balcony 15 feet above. My seat was directly below. It was the part where Harry Callahan stabs his switchblade into the serial killers leg. I didn’t want to be distracted. The drunk struggled up from the floor after a few minutes and staggered out of the theatre, much like the serial killer hobbling wounded from Mount Davidson Park in the film. Excellent parallel drawn there I thought.

I’m not a Doctor but I’ll take a look if you like.


Dirty Harry is an iconic 70s five star classic. It’s the rogue cop movie that defined them all. The plot is loosely based around the Zodiac killings. The third in the Dirty Harry series, The Enforcer, has its climax set in Alcatraz, to keep slightly in step with my prison theme. Dirty Harry is not a film that will pass the snowflake sniff test. Harry Callahan was not PC, before PC was a term.


The Shawshank Redemption was a commercial failure on release but has risen to the top of many favorite film lists over the years. Passive Andy Dufrense is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in 1947 Maine , for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy befriends lifer Red and utilizes his big brain and intellect to survive incarceration. This is another film based on a non horror Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

And I think I’m sooooooo smart.
Stacey is sometimes right. I’ve been putting laundry detergent in the dishwasher for the past five weeks. That may explain the bubbles that have been leaking out.


Oz was groundbreaking when it first started airing on HBO in 1997. For 6 seasons 56 episodes I was on lockdown with the inmates and wardens of Oswald Maximum Security aka Emerald City. 0z was an R-Rated hyper realistic soap opera, where going to soap up could be your last living act. This was HBO’s first one hour drama and it launched a lot of careers, including Edie Falco’s. Oz is grueling but addictive and definitely NOT for Shelley.

The 1969 memoir Papillon tells the tale of falsely accused murderer Henri Charriere’s 1931 incarceration on Devils Island , the hardline French Colonial Prison. Neither movie adaptations are particularly great, the book still is.

Saturday – Ancramdale


A movie adaptation that did justice to the the original source is King Rat, adapted from the novel by James Clavell. Peter Marlowe, one of three main characters in the novel, is based on Clavell himself, who was imprisoned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during WWII. The 400 page novel from 1962 is Clavell’s first and by far his shortest. I never thought of rice balls the same way after this book.


My nephew Ryan attempted his own Peaky Blinders hair cut. He got the blind part down.


King Rat is part of what’s referred to as Clavell’s Asia saga, loosely linked books that span centuries. My well read friend Amy Kingswell recently completed Shogun on my recommendation. I think she had a love/hate reaction.

I streamed The Killers today. They performed as part of the One World Together at Home – Global Citizen fund raiser. Dozens of performers from around the world contributed this weekend.

The Killers


I did see The Killers at the Barclay Center January 2018 with Jeanine, my most frequent concert company. I went with zero expectations not knowing their music beyond some singles. We were blown away by their live performance – it was high energy and Las Vegas in the best of ways. Check out their single The Man. Those Mormons rock!

The Killers

And speaking of great bands, my bestie Lauren Fry’s brother’s band Worriers is shooting up the charts. Congrats Frank – very cool! For those that don’t know, Lauren , one of my concert buddies, is quite the singer herself.
Sunday – Ancramdale

Coronavirus Days 34 & 35 & 36 – Flashbacks

Stacey found the breaded pork chops I cooked tonight a little dry. She did agree she might have one for lunch tomorrow. We all have sacrifices to make these days.


Stacey had a new printer delivered to the house. Since technically I’m a manager in an IT department and computers are my livelihood, I let Stacey install it herself. She’s very handy. I cooked and did a bit of cleaning in the kitchen while she took to the task. All I’ll say is that my plan with the printer did not go so well. We are talking again now, a day later.


I’d never be accused of being a glass half full guy. But I will say that another of the upsides recently is hearing from some good friends I hadn’t heard from in years. I even called a couple back. I heard from Dave Mulry, our neighbor back in Galway, this week too. Dave rooted out some Polaroid moments from his time here. Here we are in 1994 with the hungover horrors top of the World Trade Center. I was terrified of heights.

1994 Dave, Darren, Myself – Top of the World Trade Center


It was around that time my brother Mark gave New York a shot too. Having a Manhattan address for thirty years I’ve accommodated a lot of strays at one time or another . One of my many fond memories of that time is losing Mark from a late night binge at the Dublin House Pub on the Upper West Side. My brother does like to wander. Mark arrived back at my 76th and Columbus brownstone apartment early that Sunday morning drenched, covered in mud and weeds. He’d rolled off a log he’d fallen asleep on in Central Park and woken up in the boating pond. It was probably the only touristy thing Mark did on his trip.

Mark & Myself Lost 2019


Mark tried employment here. He got fired from his Cauldwell deli job because he couldn’t master the ham slicing. Those NJ residents like their meat handled properly. Mark decided NYC was not for him after a few short summer weeks and headed home to Ireland.

I’m getting very used to this WFH. I have not gone out past our house and garden now in 9 days. I’m reminded how fortunate I am here with my elaborate man cave. I installed a 10 ‘ screen and projection system a decade back in my leather furnished sanctuary. I decided on brown leather because I do find leather wears in, not out. Alongside my thousands of movies I have a full size pool table and a full bar, neither used by myself in years but they get mileage. This all looking out across the Catskills and the sunset.

Dry


My good buddy Jen Brancato commented on my recent bathroom product trauma and reminded me of my special hair gel.

It was not too many years ago I visited SF for my sister in law Kir’s wedding (my favorite of Stacey’s sisters). I behaved like an adult that trip for a change and stayed sober. While bathroom prepping for the wedding ceremony that Friday I noticed my hair product felt a bit off. I discovered then that my oft used travel container of gel was actually a dispenser of vaginal lube. I had used this container on many short trips away in the past. It did give my hair a lovely silky sheen but not a lot of hold. With no other option I used it for the wedding anyway. I couldn’t help but run my fingers between my wavy lockes through out that day.

This lube tube is for dramatic representation only. It’s actually for my elliptical. I’ve never used it in any part of my body.


I have kept that lube in my bathroom cabinet as a reminder of why I should never drink again and hey, you never know when it might come in handy.

My very good friend of a dozen years from film class, Mary Hanlon, gets a great kick out of my childhood photograph perched here in our Ancramdale living room. She asked if I’d forward her a copy. It’s a summer filled beach snapshot of myself and my brother Mark from our early life back in Galway. Mary wanted to share it with her parents.

Sand Gets In Your Eyes

The photograph is a reminder of one of my happiest childhood moments. Mummy and Daddy took my brother and myself to Grattan Road beach. They buried the two of us up to our necks in the sand and left us to the approaching tide. He was two, I was three. Mark was not at all perturbed. I was older and wiser and recognized that our watery doom was incoming. I watched helplessly as crabs and sand fleas gathered to observe our briny demise as the waves drew closer. Dear old Daddy, snuck around to capture some wonderful Kodak memories while Mummy held on to the towels , buckets and egg salad sandwiches. The happy moment was eventually getting dug out by our parents.


I haven’t been right since.

April Showers?


Binge Remembering!


Memento – Christopher Nolan’s second movie is told in reverse in 15 minute increments. That is the duration our main character, Leonard, can remember any details for. His condition is due to traumatic memory loss – it’s a movie run with it. Leonard is trying to figure who raped and murdered his wife. The less Leonard knows, the more you know. This ones a wild trip.


The other Christopher Nolan exercise in recall is Inception. DiCaprio plays a high end thief who steals information from the subconscious of his targets. Inception is a big movie with a big cast and big ideas. The innovative, world upside down, special effects are meaningful , not just sensational. And it has a climax that’s an obvious homage to Bond (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). I got to hear Hans Zimmer perform the closing piece Time in Radio City a couple of years back, a memento moment for my memory bank.

An original . A generous birthday gift from my friend and colleague Lee Chu.


In The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje , four characters lives intersect around the hospital holding a severely burnt and dying English msn with no recollection of his name. The story takes place in a villa during the last days of the Italian campaign in WWII. Man, have I oversimplified the plot on this one. The book won the 1992 Booker Award, the movie won the 1997 Oscar for Best Picture.

Installation Successful


I know you didn’t like it when we watched it in on Lazerdisk Maria, but I still think it’s great. You might say it’s a slow burn. Number 55 on the BFI list,


There was a time that Geena Davis was destined to be a giant star. The Long Kiss Goodnight was supposed to be a launch. Some bad guys turn up to kill small town mother and school teacher Davis and she makes mince meat of them. Realizing she has no recollection of her past, she hires a detective, Samuel Jackson, to track her past. It bombed in its day but is a thoroughly entertaining big budget watch.

Knives Out


I expect you’ve all seen The Bourne Identity. This is the movie that redefined action movies in the 2000’s – took them back to good old fashioned stunts and choreography. The first in raged is a masterpiece, the others are all worth watching, if not as tight. The original Robert Ludlum novel is a dated fun read .

We watched Knives Out tonight. It’s a light, easy going throwback to those star filled who dunnits from the 70’s. It’s a grand unimposing way to pass a couple of hours. Daniel Craig, very non Bond, leads a superb ensemble.

My fucking pool is open and there are three inches of snow tonight.

Coronavirus Days 33 & 33 – Chores

I did not get time to blog yesterday. Stacey wrote up a list of chores for me to take care of around the house. Immediately.

Chores


A tooth brush needed to be applied to the bathroom tile grouting. Staceys white gloves run across the tops of the cabinets revealed dust. I pulled out my retractable ostrich duster. Soft eggs needed to be hard boiled. Coffee needed to be brewed. Is that spotlight out up there top right corner ? Fix it. What’s this toilet brush doing in the bathroom garbage can? Rinse it and Rack it. Nature abhors an errant brush! Are those shower curtains open? That causes black mold instantly you know. Close them tight. If you don’t eat your meat you can’t eat your pudding! How can you eat your pudding if you don’t eat your meat?


My deodorant is now definitely put somewhere safe. I can’t find it. Probably close by my gel, moisturizer and lens spray. All stored somewhere in their proper place – hidden. I never really liked it where I kept it.

Cowmand Center


My old office space got commandeered. I’m relegated to the basement, working off a foldout card table. I do enjoy the view down here. So much so I decided to make it a more permanent work space and ordered a proper desk. Expected delivery in 10 days. I watched a great storm across the Catskills from down here yesterday.

Great View


Stacey and myself lead very separate lives. Stacey works like a crazy woman and spends what little time she has free with the horses. I have a job and fooster around. She is s self described Type-A. I’m described by many other letters; F’s and C’s are popular, with the occasional W. I have a short attention span and I’m easily distracted. Stacey is heads down driven and diligent. Stacey has always been an athlete. I was number 19 on the soccer team. Stacey is a successful anti trust litigator. I do something with a computer.


Bottom line, we have never in our 25 plus years of partnership spent a lot of consecutive time together. I think maybe two weeks together on Honeymoon. I believe that was 2001. This should be an interesting Ancram lockdown adventure.

Me nerves.

Office Space


Which brings me to tonight’s binging recommendations:


The Staircase (NetFlix) in one of the first docu-series. A smarmy novelist is accused of murdering his wife. He claims she fell down the staircase. Let’s just say she made a long journey of a short stairwell. The story, covered in three seasons through to 2018, is fact stranger than fiction. As we say in the old country, it’s a long road that has no turns.

The Pierre 2019


Body Heat is a steamy loose remake of Double Indemnity. A shyster lawyer gets involved with a married woman and they scheme to murder her husband for that big insurance payout. Kathleen Turner, at her Eighties hottest, let’s William Hurts’ little head do his thinking. As Kathleen says , “You’re not too smart, are you? I like that in a man.”


Body Heat has a glorious symphonic John Barry Score. I’m now listening to his greatest hits on Sonos. This is the first album I played obsessively on cassette as a kid and the one that taught me to love music. It never gets old. I was an odd child.

Bulb Change

Jagged Edge – Lawyer (Glenn Close) defends publisher (Jeff Bridges) accused of murdering his wife in one of the best neo-noir mysteries of the 1980s. Robert Loggia in support was Oscar nominated and has the best last line. This one keeps you on a jagged edge (nice word play there) until the last scene.

The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover – In this bizarre movie a foul mouthed gangster ( (the thief) finds out his wife is having an affair. Things get very ugly. Stick around for the last meal from cook and try the ……


Michael Gannon excels as the Thief, one of cinemas vilest villains. Most of you know him as Professor Albus Dumbledore. To watch some of his best acting, before his excellent wand work, check out the 1986 Musical Noir from BBC – The Singing Detective!

Doodles


Finally, Blood Simple – the Coen Brothers first, and one of their finest. An unhappy wife tries to leave her husband in small town Texas. The husband contracts her murder. Nothing goes well for anyone involved. This is a rewatchable indie masterpiece and you’ll have that theme music tinkling in you head long after the lights are up.

Blood Simple

Gone Girl – the book that launched a thousand imitations with the word Gone or Girl in the title, is as good as its hype. Set in nowhere Missouri, a drag ass husband Nick is suspected of foul play when his wife Amy disappears. David Fincher got the tone right with the film, but Chris Pine should have played Nick.


One of the few positive sides to all the lunacy is that I’m spending very little money. April halved Marches expenditure and that spending was mostly in stocking up the fridge with meat and the bathroom with black market toilet paper. I order in every night when we eat in Manhattan. I cook every meal here. I drank three Blue Bottle cappuccinos daily in NYC and picked up for whoever felt like one, now I make my own coffee. Dollars saved. I do miss those caps and the leek and rosemary scones though.

Curtains
George Delaney inspired me with his home office set up. I’m confident that cooler is filled with Gatorade and Ballyhgowan Mineral Water.

Coronavirus Days 31 – Happy Easter

As long as I live I will always remember Stacey’s first words on seeing me after five weeks.


“I need to pee like ten men.”


Awwwwwww.

Stacey made record time driving back from Florida. She stopped last night at a Hamptons Inn somewhere in Virginia. The roads were deserted, she reported, Washington D.C. a ghost town.


Is nice to have her home . It’s nice to have my car home too. Stacey did miss my coffee and cooking.

Wellington Cuisine


Kieran O’ Mahony tasked me with an excellent question on the phone yesterday. I’d like to share it with you other readers.

“I’m at a loss Karl. What’s your recommended approach to grooming Forsythia?”


Well Kieran, excellent question and indeed you’re not the first person faced with this dilemma. It really boils down to When and How much? I’ve taken the 20% in late Autumn approach – one favored by many gardening professionals. That is, you trim your plant back by a full fifth late October. As you can see from my lavish foliage it really works. Don’t be afraid of those clippers my friend. The forsythia is a resilient bugger.

20% Rule


Keep those questions coming Kieran. As an aside, this might be a good time to remove and store your Spring bulbs. Store in a cool corner of your shed or garage. A dry cardboard box is fine. Just make sure they’re not touching.


Kieran. thanks again for sharing the photos of your tulips , looks like you had a vibrant spring showing. Looking forward to seeing how your hydrangeas prosper.

Because it’s Easter I’m binging movies that feature rabbits. My kind of bunnies.

Happy Easter


Fatal Attraction – Michael Douglas has a brief fling with an unhinged Glenn Close. Things get ugly very quickly with the spurned lover. Michael’s child has a lovely pet rabbit. If you’ve seen the film, you know how that works out. This controversial hit was the biggest grossing movie globally in 1987. New York looks great in it.


Sexy Beast – Gal Dove, a British gangster, comfortably retired in Spain, is needed back in London for one last job. Donny Logan, a psychotic Ben Kingsley, is sent to bring him back. Kingsley, who won an Oscar playing Gandhi, was also nominated for this. I get a certain twisted satisfaction hearing Gandhi swear in a cockney accent. There are a couple of bunnies make appearances in Sexy Beast. This movie gets my highest rating – I bought the original poster. One of my Rewatchables.

Sexy Beast. Poster on left.


JoJo Rabbit – the 2019 winner for adapted screenplay follows a very young Hitler youth and his imaginary friend Hitler during the final days of WWII. One of the years best and not what you’d expect from the trailer.


Donnie Darko – in 1998 a sleepwalking teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) is told by Frank, a giant demonic rabbit, that the end of the world is 28 days away. The film tracks those 28 days. This was a critical darling , box office failure and now a cult classic, having become a giant rental hit. It will keep you thinking. The trailer featured a crashing plane and was released October 2001, exceptionally bad timing.

Donnie Darko


Local Hero – I’ve recommended this previously but it must be included on the rabbit movie list. “It was a pet, not an animal. It had a name, you don’t eat things with names, this is horrific!” Enough said.


The bunny book to beat them all is Watership Down. This 1973 classic is the survival story of a group of rabbits forced to escape the destruction of their Warren for a new home. This is not a children’s novel.

Jeanine by her apartment today, downtown on the West Side. She got the t-shirt free with an oil change. Score!


Dad joke: What do you call a man with a rabbit stuck up his arse? Warren. (Thanks to Mark O ‘ Toole).


I have used 1.37 toilet rolls while here solo at the house, over almost five weeks now. I will continue to monitor and report.

My Wagon is Home