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Category Archives: August Break

August Break Day 2 – Come Out to Play-ay…

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So I was a little worried about August 2nd’s prompt for the photo challenge (“gold”) because yesterday was a bit busy.  I was going to be going direct from work to a movie, and that didn’t afford much time for photo hunting (we will politely ignore the fact that I work in the bloody Diamond District and could have just snapped a shop window on my way to the subway, a fact which I didn’t remember until about 8:43 last night). But when I learned that the venue I was heading to had a fried chicken dinerette kind of setup in the lobby, it seemed like fate.

Because the movie I was seeing is a longtime favorite and I would not be stopped. It’s also something that will almost certainly not be showing up on my list for the Movie Crash Course – it’s the 1979 cult film The Warriors.

I hadn’t even heard of it until a few years back, when I was browsing through a breezy book about “movies inspired by real historic events”.  They went through some of the obvious ones – Silkwood, JFK, and the like – and included a couple of not-so-obvious choices (apparently The Hills Have Eyes was in part inspired by the account of a group of medieval Scottish cannibals). And apparently, this film – or, more accurately, the novel on which was based – was inspired by the ancient Greek text the Anabasis, a non-fiction account of how a team of mercenaries who had been part of a civil war in Persia ended up trapped there on the losing side, and had to fight their way back to Greece.  The Warriors, I read, moved the action to New York City, and involved a Brooklyn-based street gang getting framed for murder in the Bronx and having to make their way home.  It seemed unusually highbrow for a 70’s movie about street gangs, so I curiously looked it up.

And then during the opening scene, I saw how the movie dressed up some of these gangs.

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It was fantastically ridiculous and I was all in.

It’s a basic plot, that’s close to The Anabasis – an enigmatic gang leader named Cyrus, head of one of the most powerful groups, has invited all the gangs up to a neutral spot in the Bronx where he advocates the city’s gangs all uniting to overpower the NYPD and take the city over.  The Warriors are based in Coney Island but still travel the whole length of the city to see him.

But right when he’s won everyone over, a member of the Rogues – a chaos-loving group – shoots him and then frames The Warriors for it.

The rest of the movie follows The Warriors as they fight their way back to Coney Island, with all of the city’s other gangs and the police on their tail.

Okay, yes, this isn’t high art. But there are details I just love, like those outrageous costumes or some overwrought catchphrases. And there are even quiet and surprisigly human moments, like when the character Mercy – who starts out as a Token Woman who tags along with The Warriors out of curiosity – gives a surprisingly poignant defense when the lead Warrior, Swan, asks her why she has played her life so fast and loose.  There’s another wordless scene towards the end, when The Warriors are on a subway on the home stretch back to Coney Island; at one stop, two other teenage couples, clearly just come from their high school prom, get on and sit across from Swan and Mercy, all cuddles and giggles and hijinks.  They catch each other’s eye, and study each other; Mercy looking at the girls’ satins and silks and coiffed hair, the girls looking at Mercy’s dirty feet and torn skirt, and at Swan’s gang colors and cut cheek.  At the next stop, the couples quietly get up and move to a different car.  It’s only a couple minutes long, and there are no words spoken in it, but there are a surprising number of things said anyway.

The venue I went to knew the cult appeal of the film, and gave a local artist a chance to sell some of his original works inspired by the film; all cartoonish movie-poster-inspired things.  I also saw a guy dressed up like one of the Baseball Furies (the gangs with the ball uniforms and the Kiss makeup) posing for pictures.  But the audience watching with me was best of all.  Everyone was being quiet and respectful, if giddy, through most of the opening, maybe laughing at some of the ridiculous gang costumes.

But then we hit Cyrus’ rally speech.  About midway through, Cyrus tries to engage the crowd by shouting “Can you dig it!” at them three times.  The first time through, someone in the audience chimed in, then more people the second time – which gave license to all of us to round things off with the final Caaaaaaan yoooooooooooou DIG IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!  And that set us all off on quoting favorite lines along with the film, all the way through, cheering favorite moments, finishing with an estatic chorus at the end, chiming along with the head of the Rogues goding the Warriors into a fight – “Warriorrrrrrrrrrrrrs, come out to play-ayyyyyyyyyyyyyy…..”

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August Break Day 1 – Morning

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I think I started last August with a version of this picture as well – the lemon verbena on my bedroom windowsill, which is one of the first things I see when I wake up.

A year ago I had just gotten back from my second trip to Paris, and had romantic notions of using more herbs in cooking.  The French cookbooks I already had spoke of using lemon verbena in baking a lot, and I already knew I liked the scent; a sort of fresh, herbaceous lemon.  I picked this plant up last June while on a camping trip with a friend, when we’d stopped at a roadside stand for grillable vegetables. I saw it in a little cluster of 4-inch herb pots they were selling, and snapped it up.

Actually, let’s look back at how it looked a year ago today:

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Yeah.  It grows fast.  And what I didn’t know at the time is that all those baking recipes only use a couple leaves at a time, so I would be stuck making regular pruning and harvesting forays and trying to cope with the excess.  I’ve made sugar syrup, I’m going to try pesto and jelly this season; I tried candying the leaves once, but that really, really didn’t go well.

….Know any recipes with lemon verbena, actually?

August Break 2017

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I’ve only come upon a couple of blog challenges that I’ve wanted to do; this one I did last year was especially fun.

The blogger Susannah Conway started it as a “break” from trying to write blog posts every day; she decided she was just going to take pictures instead.  And people jumped on that like whoa.  Fast forward a few years – and I didn’t even know who Susannah Conway was, but this “August Break” thing sounded interesting and there I was.  The idea is simply that you take a picture every day and that’s it.

I actually did a lot more photography as a hobby some years back and have been wanting to get back into it; this would be the perfect excuse (along with my finally biting the bullet and signing up for Instagram).

August Break 31 – August was…

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Oh God look at this lemon verbena; it’s a hot mess.

It got way overgrown over August – the heat sending it spinning out of control, sprawling everywhere all shaggy and droopy.  Only just a month and a half ago this was about one-fifth the size, purchased at the side of the road somewhere upstate; but sitting in my bedroom window all summer made it grow completely wild.

And the latter end of August really kind of got out of control too; or at least I got lax. I let some of the entries in this slip, I made stupid mistakes at work, I did a lot of coming home from work and collapsing.  The heat was a big part of it – it’s hard to try to motivate yourself to exercise control when it’s actually a tropical climate during the day, when you’re not expecting it – but it can’t have been all about that.

I tend to wait way too long to prune my herbs, mostly because I always feel like I should have something in mind to do with the cuttings. I should be baking or cooking something, making something out of them.  But I can’t cook fast enough to use the backog I get mired in. But not exercising some kind of control just makes it look all sprawly and weird like this, and it’s also not that great or the plant.

I grew a lot this month too.  Doing the August Break got me writing in this blog way more, and that was a needed kick in the pants.  But coming home and collapsing for the last few days let that effort start fizzling, and I need to take some kind of control back and keep that end of things growing.

I’m finally about to head to Yosemite tomorrow (the same trip I packed for a couple weeks ago) and am looking forward to a solid week alone – doing exactly what I want, waking up when I choose, and for much of the week, seeing absolutely no other person.  I’ll have my computer and camera with me, and will try to keep up with blogging – to keep the momentum going, think about what new growth and new branches I want to keep growing, and think if there’s anything I need to cut away.

August Break (Catchup) 30 – Evening Light

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Okay, this is cheating because I’m interpreting “evening light” as “the bar up the street from me lit up for the evening.” But it lets me tell a story about why I swear allegiance to this place.

Not that I’m that much of a barfly, honestly.  I think the most “regular” I ever got was once a week, when I was recovering from a broken foot and I marked off the weeks until I was healed by hobbling there for a glass of wine during Happy Hour.  (I also broke my foot in here, but that was my fault – all I will say is, if you’re ever at a party and someone starts a kick line to the song  Come On Eileendon’t join in.)

But it’s only one block up the street from me, and has good food and a lively staff, and the owners known me and it is thus good for spontaneous jaunts out of the house and brunches.

And also for nasty shocks.

…So, like most people, I have an ex-boyfriend who is kind of “the one who got away”. We actually met in this neighborhood – at another bar nearby, which has since closed – and we were well and truly head over heels for each other. Most of the time.  But after nearly a year – for reasons only he will ever know for sure – he cut things off with me. Soon afterward he met someone else and moved out of state with her.

I tried to stay friends on Facebook with him, and it took me a few years to catch on to the fact that this probably wasn’t great for me. But after a couple years I was pretty much over him, so I thought it was okay and I could handle it.  It still came as a shock, though, when I got home from work after an utterly lousy day, got online to lose myself in mindless websurfing, and saw my ex’s Facebook status that he was in New York City – so he could get married, that day, in a courthouse in Queens.

I read that status a couple times, turned my computer off and grabbed my wallet and proceeded immediately to Putnam’s.

The bar was about half-full at that point, and I got a seat on one of the empty stools.  When the smiling bartender asked what I wanted, I told her everything, and then asked “what would you recommend for someone in my condition?”  She clucked in sympathy and made me a Manhattan, in a big glass.

I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, so I was sipping it slowly – slowly enough that the bar filled up more, and I was still there when a man came in after getting off work himself and taking the seat next to me.  We got to chatting – I threw myself into the chat more so than usual, trying to get my mind off things – and he was witty enough that I started having a good time. Good enough, in fact, that when I finished my drink and he’d finished his cider, we each ordered another round – another cider for him, and a cranberry juice and vodka for me.  We didn’t trade numbers after, though, and two drinks were enough for each of us.  But I was still happy that I’d cheered myself up, and that I wasn’t home pouting over my ex. Quietly proud of myself, I turned to the bartender and asked for my bill.

The bartender hesitated. “Okay, here’s the thing,” she said. “Your Manhattan was on the house, and I’m gonna make this guy pay for your second drink (you cool with that, dude? Good) because in my opinion, no one who got the news you got today should have to pay for their drinks.  So…you’re set.”

And that is one of the reasons I have nicknamed this place “the best bar in the world”.

August Break 24 and 29 – Three Favorite Mugs

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Okay, see, I don’t really have a single favorite mug. After ten years in theater, my only “favorite” requirement for a mug is that “it’s the one that is currently holding my coffee give it here NOW”.

But I do have three with some interesting backstories –

  • In the early 2000’s I worked on a play that had a bit of a rough go of things. The reviews were less than stellar, there was a temporary threat that we’d have our pay withheld, and there were personality conflicts. When I had rough shows, I’d try to make my own fun. There was one scene that was a triptych of three separate situations happening simultaneously, with the action jumping back and forth between them – a seduction scene, a woman interviewing her abusive mother on her deathbed, and a talk radio host reluctantly interviewing a woman whose hobby was making stuffed toy zebras and ponies. The director referred to it as “the triptych scene,” but I won the cast over by continuously referring to the scene as “Sex, Death, and Zebras”.

    Another thing I did to cheer up was to adopt some of the dishware we’d used during a breakfast scene elsewhere in the play.  The woman purchasing our props was a matronly volunteer who was really pleased with her choices, and made a point of showing them to me when she got them – a square plate in a rust color, “which I got because it was so different, you know!” and a mug with a cheerful little house painted on the side, alongside two trees that reminded me of cypresses.  I nodded, knowing full well that when the play folded that the director would offer the props to whoever wanted them, and deciding that I was going to claim them before anyone else did.  The plate broke a long time ago, but I still have the mug.

  • In 2000 I drove cross-country, staying in Moab, Utah at one point on the trip. I got up early the next morning, planning on an early breakfast at a local coffee shop followed by a bit of exploring Arches National Park. A little cafe named Eklecticafe was a couple blocks from the hotel, so I ventured there.

    I think there was a jug band on the porch when I got there, and I lingered a moment listening. And then I got inside and found big comfy chairs, fresh-baked pastries, a wall full of ceramic work for sale, and a tip jar jokingly labelled “Julie’s Therapy Fund”.  The barista warmly greeted everyone who stopped in, chatting extensively with all of the locals, and my muffin and latte were really fresh; and the ceramics were all locally-designed and beautifully decorated with patterns inspired by the petroglyphs on some of the rock faces near Moab.  When I ultimately went to purchase one, the barista praised my choice, noting that “mugs with some heft to them are the best, you know?”

    I ended up getting to Arches park about two hours later than I planned.

  • For about 16 years I had a tuxedo cat named Zach, and for a while people would buy me tuxedo-cat themed things.  This mug came from a roommate, and was one of the last tuxedo-cat gifts I got before Zach died at the distinguished age of 18.  I don’t use this much – it’s huge, so it’s more suited to lattes or mugs of soup than the morning brew – but every so often, I get to missing the little putz and I dig it out.

August Break “I Am” Epilogue

I am also late.  Yes, I know.

I came home from work yesterday and basically did a faceplant directly onto the couch, and today I am similarly low-energy.  I’m chalking it up to my having been on overdrive all last week, and I beg all of your leave to catch up over the next few days. I may combine some of the posts and prompts into one.

But they will come.  Sorry, y’all.