Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The Castro Theater is having their 'Blonde Bombshell' film festival this week, and on Saturday night, I saw a newly restored Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. There's a certain sweetness to this movie that I just love. It was really fun seeing it at the Castro because the audience was so into it! Cheering, clapping, laughing. It felt like we were all watching it for the first time but you could tell mostly everyone was well-versed in this romp.

It is such a romp. The story is silly, as it should be, because this movie doesn't ride on narrative tension or character development! That's not what's it's meant for. It's about glamor, friendship and fun. There's a campy element to it -- just watch the musical numbers. They are totally over the top.

The key ingredient that turns this flick into a gem is the humor which Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell carry out til the end with perfection. Marilyn's naive Lorelei gets most of the laughs because, while she plays it ditsy, underneath it all there is sharp, comedic timing that is pure Marilyn, pure Monroe. I still get the chills when Marilyn sings "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

She's just such an icon. You can't help but feel what everyone must have felt when she hit the scene in Hollywood - who is this mysterious charmer? If you've never seen a Marilyn movie, start with this one. In fact, watch the amazing trailer here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Can Words Do?

There is so much to say about the Sun Valley Writers' Conference. Appropriate, considering that it is a writers' conference - a gathering of intellectuals, all invited to Idaho for one weekend to discuss a certain theme, this year's being 'What Words Can Do.' Naturally, there's a lot to say.

I can start with words of thanks, to Margo who brought the conference into our lives in the first place. Margo has a home in Gimlet, a woodsy region not far from the lodge where the writers convene. The perfect hostess, Margo makes us feel at home in her home. Her house is the cozy type where everywhere you look is a place to curl up with a blanket, with tea and a muffin, to read your book. Appropriate, considering that after listening to talks and discussing them afterward, all you really want to do, is read.

And hike. Margo knows Sun Valley like the back of her hand, so while we weren't cuddled up at her house or doing conference-y things, she led us to some of the more scenic hiking trails I have ever seen. Switching back and forth on the path, I was engulfed by the angles, slopes and trees that make up this new paradise to me.

When we weren't soaking in the great outdoors, in between conference events we talked about anything and everything we've heard, every harrowing challenge or inspirational incite. The conversation between Paul Holdengräber and British psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips on topics ranging from resourcefulness to television, from balance to tickling. The heated Q&A with Aayan Hirsi Ali where she presented her fierce advocacy for the human rights of Muslim women. Supreme Court Justice Breyer speaking about years of patience. All of these ideas and concepts provided for endless conversation. The experience is one where we listen, but it's also an opportunity to open our eyes so we can see.

What can words do? Um, everything. Before heading to Idaho, I perused the "line-up" and saw that poet and memoir writer Mary Karr would be in attendance. Conveniently, I was in need of a good book to read. I bought Lit and, unable to put it down, finished it on the airplane just as we made our final descent into Sun Valley. I'm always embarrassed to cry on an airplane, but I just went with it. I can't help what words can do.

I'll tell you one thing words can't do is even try to describe what it was like to hear Mary Karr speak about the process of writing Lit, as well as her take on how to enjoy a good poem. Obviously, meeting her was the highlight of the weekend, but listening to her speak was the real treat. Ms. Karr gave two outstanding presentations.

The first, to a larger crowd, was about memoir and truth. The second, to a much more intimate gathering, was about poetry and why we don't always understand the poems we read. In an even more intimate conversation (see above) she told me that when it comes to my own writing I need to trust myself. If ever there was a writer to prove that where there is truth there is poetry, Mary Karr fills that position. She signed my copy of her poetry collection and wrote, "Good luck with your words."

What can words do? Begin...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Touch Down

Back from beautiful Idaho, with so much to say and share. We're having a heat wave in San Francisco so instead of working on my epic, inevitable Sun Valley Writers' Conference post this morning, I took advantage of the weather and woke up early, watching the sun rise over the Berkeley Hills from my cozy peak in Noe Valley. It's a rushed day already, so for now, all I can do is tide us all over with a few glimpses from my weekend, a few hints to make it last.

Mornings spent in the green, green valley...

...the rest of the day in awe listening and talking to writers of all kinds.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fully Lit

My current inspiration: Mary Karr. I'm almost done with her memoir, Lit, and plan to finish it this weekend - probably tonight. 80 pages left to the finish, I'm now eager to read her earlier books The Liars' Club and Cherry. What would be really amazing, though, would be to hear Ms. Karr speak about writing - specifically what words can do, the transformation of truth into reality and why poetry makes us feel the way we feel. I wonder if that's in my future...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dear to be Born

Before Eat, Pray, Love I had a city day. After all those glorious weekends away to the coast, to the mountains, I figured I could use some polluted air, some tall buildings and some car horn honking. Just kidding - I'd never opt for that, but sometimes the metropolis calls. San Francisco's the perfect city for me during this time in my life because I can have access to the big city pleasures (culture and dining) while also accessible to me is an escape (biking, hiking, parks). It's a green city, both in lifestyle, attitude and scenery.

Sarah and I planned for an early dinner at Farina (recently featured on GOOP), located in the heart of the Mission on 18th between Valencia and Guerrero. With Delfina just a few doors down, I often ignored this Italian restaurant, thinking of it as simply a layover on the way to the real thing. But dining al fresco was on our agenda, so Farina's outdoor seating spoke to us and we listened.

Also in faint murmur was the Dearborn Community Garden, nestled on one of those one-way Mission side streets that narrows and curves into a European sensibility. While slowly making our way to Farina, we were charmed and taken by colorful apartments and pink roses peering over fences. Then, we discovered the rose of them all - a garden with its gate wide open.

Wandering in, it occurred to me that in order to be surprised in life you have to be curious and you have to brave. You have to accept that you might stumble, fall or lose your way. When these things happen you don't get hurt - you slip out of fear and into discovery. Who's worrying about where and how to be once you've stuck your nose in the flower and the 5 senses turn to one.

Needless to say, before dinner we were full. Full of life and the promise of natural goodness, having gobbled up this patch of blooming earth before us in the big, exciting city.

And so it goes, we were still hungry

hungry for delicious Italian fare

so eat, pray, love we did.

p.s. Speaking of green - that's award winning pesto on that plate. It put Farina on my culinary map, no longer as a pit stop but as a destination.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love (unconditionally)

It's uncommon for me to love a movie these days, but on the rare occasion that it happens, it usually goes something like this: the trailer or an interesting article about it appeals to me, I'll see the movie in the theater, and then, I love it - surprise! Bright Star is a good example. I even had a ticket for another movie in my hand when I stumbled into that one - so it was completely unexpected. Then, there is Eat, Pray, Love. In that case, the order is reversed and some items removed. I love it, no questions asked, even before I buy my ticket online or see the trailer. I see it, smile plastered on my face, and with teary eyes. The film ends, the lights go on, I drive home and feel - oh, I don't know - meh.

Why so quick to offer up your heart only to be let down? you might ask.

This unconditional love can be easily attributed to the following: my love and gratitude for Elizabeth Gilbert's book and my new-found appreciation of Julia Roberts. Also, I wasn't really let down nor did I "let go" as the marketing campaign asked me to. No matter how much I love it, I won't do so blindly - if that makes any sense. I only had hoped for more of a spiritual awakening in our leading lady. She has a guru, she unrolls a dusty yoga mat, she goes to an ashram, she sits in full lotus - but I didn't really see the transformation. To the credit of everyone involved, I can imagine it was quite a challenge to depict depression, acceptance, and healing on screen the way it's so eloquently arranged in words on the page. After much careful consideration (and numerous drafts of this blog), I realized something: there's no need and it is quite unrealistic for the movie to soothe me the way that the book did. Cinema. Literature. Different.

Don't get me wrong - I loved Eat, Pray, Love. I love J. Rob in her cozy-New Mexico-mama phase. I love the costumes, the locations, the music. More importantly, though, I love a Hollywood movie that shows a woman on a spiritual journey, rather than on a quest for a husband. In that way the movie is poignant, and better than most of the stuff out there. There will be a second viewing, probably a third and, hey, it was definitely worthy of a blog post (the stills from the film are beautiful and inspirational in their calm serenity). I just didn't think my post-movie blog-post would start with my bringing up Bright Star. I guess bright love just shines above the rest.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Big Sur Spirit

Comfortably you can fit a lot into a day trip to Big Sur. If you leave SF at 7 and need to be at Rainbow grocery to buy goodies for a BBQ by 5, you can fit about 3 items onto the agenda that can be enjoyed in a leisurely fashion. Make it to Deetjens by 10 for a hearty breakfast, hike to the waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park after that, and, on your way out, hit up the Big Sur Bakery because you've never been and you've been dying to go. You also need a sweet snack.

Peering out over bluffs, taking in the view, there's the chance you might get hungry. Or deliciously happy and glad with your life. The state of your well being bears the flag of 'Big Sur.' There's even the chance you'll forget the time - not the time you're having, but the time we, too often, watch as it either drags or passes us by. Did I mention that squeezed into these majestic activities there's even room for some peaceful contemplation and excessive picture taking - by creeks and inside giant trees?

*** frightened photos courtesy of Jess' camera ***

How had I never been to the Big Sur Bakery, you may ask? California girl, sweet tooth, cultural artifact seeker - and still no B.S.B?

There's a chance I did go, once, maybe years ago but for some reason I don't remember the occasion. Hard to imagine, I know, so I'm sticking with the story that I'd never been until a few Saturdays ago's tasty visit. It was the walnut cinnamon roll that did me in. Goodbye world, I'm baked. And while enjoying this sticky sweetness, I wandered into another place I'd never been: the spirit garden.

I'm hoooooommmmmme.

Love that: 'life is a dance.' Great way to approach your being.


don't simply appear

after the rain

comes rattling down.

Been there or not, it's daylight fit for dreams.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Deetjen's Big Sur Inn

It's amazing how far away the coast can take you. I partly mean distance - whether heading north or south, highway one, with its curving roads and dramatic scenery, captivates to the point of passivity. Yes, I will drive five hours round trip for that breakfast. Yes, I'll get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning because I know what's on the other end of that alarm clock. It's likely that I'd go on any day trip so long as there are promises of views and peaks, bird watching and quiet walks, waterfalls and homemade baked goods. Who wouldn't want to wind and dine. Then there is the other far away. The "away" away. A different world away. That's where you will often find yourself when where you are and how you got there doesn't even matter. It's that being there feels right.

Now I'm speaking from a place of much travel over the past few weekends. I've been to Sonoma, I've been to Santa Cruz, I've been to Big Sur, I've been to Carmel. For weeks upon weeks, I've been lucky enough to spend time among astonishing landscape and with wonderful people. I have so much to share that I'll have to split my "far away" posts into two or three segments. Hope no one minds some California love.

Last Saturday, Jess and Sarah and I went to Big Sur for the day for multiple celebrations of various kinds. Our breakfast at Deetjen's was overwhelmingly special. Aside from our oats and eggs and toast, we had pancakes for the table. All to the tune of a crackling hearth. Food's good nutrition and all, but in terms of survival - I could probably live off the smell of a wood burning fire. In fact, I could probably live at Deetjen's.

We peaked into a few open cottages, restraining ourselves from getting into these beds. We didn't want to get kicked out, mostly so not to sacrifice our chances of coming back. So we stayed back, but not too far back...

It's hard to imagine doing anything wrong at Deetjen's. When you're there you find that everything's in its right place. From the kitten on the rocking chair to the door inscribed 'Grandpa's Room.'

Only moving to adjust mid nap, Deetjen's cat lives the good life!

Cozy corner one...

Cozy corner two...

Cozy corner three...

...but this place is anything but square.