Monday, June 7, 2010

Part I: Barbie's New York Summer

One of my favorite books as a child was Barbie's New York Summer, a relic published in 1962 and inherited from my mother.  A chapter book based on the "real" life of Barbie Millicent Roberts, the story tells us about Barbie's luck in winning a magazine contest and leaving her midwest hometown (and boyfriend Ken, of course) for the glamourous and exotic city of New York.

 She spends the summer living in a high rise apartment and interning for a fashion magazine.  She learns the ins and outs of the magazine, including the hard work of "fit modeling" and scissors-and-paste editing, both very different jobs in 1962 than today.

But a few things really seemed significant when I read the book again.

1.  This book was written decades ago, but in our recent television era of The Hills, The City, Kell on Earth, and more, there's nothing more current than snagging a job as a fashion intern in a big city!

2.  The unwitting innocence - Barbie meets a mysterious Latin jet-setter named Pablo and falls hard for him, but there's not a hint of any fraternization beyond kisses and a holding hands in Central Park.  This isn't even a matter of the author keeping things PG for young readers.  In 1962, nice small town girls like Barbie really didn't do anything more than kissing and hand holding!  Compared to our modern YA literature of lusty vampires and rainbow parties, that's kind of nice, isn't it?

3.  Barbie's peach linen pumps - Barbie sits at soda fountain bemoaning the scuffs on her new summer shoes.  When I saw these retro peach pumps at TJ Maxx, I knew it was time to ante up and get out of my own small town for a while.

If Barbie can do it, can't we all?

The silent half of the Vagabond Literati

Time and the way we describe it are funny things.  It was "only" three months ago that we were so rudely crowded out of our beloved B&N and started this blog; yet it was three "whole" months ago that I actually contributed to it.  I didn't intend to become the silent partner but I'm back now and reading with a vengeance, and I'll summarize for you the sequence of events that have been occupying these three "mere" months!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Not to Buy Your Sister-In-Law

On Friday night my boyfriend and I went to the Waterfront to eat at Bravo and visit some of the stores.  His original idea was to see Iron Man 2, but I refused.  The evening was enjoyable, and we both learned a lesson about makeup.

Matthew wanted to buy something in Ulta because his future sister-in-law, Heather, just had a birthday.  He thought it would be a good idea to pick out some cosmetics to send to her in Florida.  I was excited because it would allow me to shop around but not be tempted to buy anything for myself.  Lately I have been spending too much money on blush and eyeshadow.  About halfway through our trip we made it into Ulta.  I looked at some of my favorite brands and then realized that I really don't much about Heather.  Matt's brother has only been dating her for about a year, and they live in Florida.  I have only seen her twice, both at family events, so I never got the chance to say much besides, "Hello." 

As I was looking, I was wondering how I could pick out a cosmetic for someone I barely know.  Also, how could I pick out colors for someone with a permanent tan?  I was about to tell Matthew that I just couldn't do it when he spoke up.  He wondered if Heather would be offended by receiving makeup and skincare products.  I told him yes and we both realized how strange it was to be shopping for makeup for someone esle.  I suggested we look at body lotions, which are much more neutral gifts. 

The day after our shopping adventure I spent a few moments with Matthew's mother at a family party.  I explained to her how Matthew and I realized that it's weird to buy cosmetics for other people unless you know exactly what they want.  She said she wouldn't know, she never wore makeup....thus, I must be Matthew's makeup muse.  Sorry, Heather.  I hope body lotion is okay! 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sad, Sad Song of the South

Last summer I spent one weekend sorting through cardboard boxes that were filled with my family's books.  My brother and dad gave me full rein over their collections, saying I could decide what to keep and what to sell to Half Price Books.  My mom decided she wanted to go through her own books so that I would not get rid of any of her LaVyrle Spencers or Nora Roberts.  It was a fun task which allowed me to organize the books into "To Read" and "To Save" crates. 

One of the books that I placed in a "To Save" crate was Uncle Remus' collection of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox stories.  I did this reluctantly because I remembered hating the book as a child.  It was such a beautiful book, though:  yellow hardcover with the dust jacket still on it and a colorful painting of Brer Fox sitting on a porch.  Thus, my saving it was more for looks than the content of the book.  I did not even look through the pages.  The question was lingering in the back of my mind, "Why do I have such bad memories of this book?" 

The answer came to me this week as I sat down with The Bedside Book of Famous American Stories, edited by Angus Burrell and Bennett A. Cerf.  I've been reading this book ever work day during my lunch breaks.  Usually I can finish one story during my hour-long break.  So, on Monday I sat down and turned the page to discover the next story I would be reading:  "Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and the Tar Baby" by Joel Chandler Harris.  It sounded like a pleasant story about animals, so I was temporarily excited.  Then I realized that Brer Fox was the character painted on the front of that beautiful book that I hadn't really wanted to save.  As I started reading, I immediately learned why I hated the book as a child.

"'Bimeby, one day, arter Brer Fox bin doin' all dat he could fer ter ketch Brer Rabbit, en Brer Rabbit bin doin' all he could fer to keep 'im fum it, Brer Fox say to hisse'f dat he'd put up a game on Brer Rabbit, en he ain't mo'n got de wuds out'n his mouf twel Brer Rabbit come a lopin' up de big road, lookin' des ez plump, en ez fat, en ez sassy ez a Moggin hoss in a barley-patch.'"  (Copyright, 1936, by the Modern Library, Inc.)

That book had to have been the most frustrating thing I laid my eyes on as a young reader.  I probably struggled through it wondering if I was losing all of my reading abilities.  I'm sure I did not say anything to my parents about my difficulties because I did not want them to think there was something wrong with me.  After all, Uncle Remus stories are for children; I should have no trouble reading simple tales about Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit.  My parents must have never opened the book when they bought it for me.  They too were attracted by the delightful cover.  No wonder I placed that book in a "To Save" crate so reluctantly. 

Even though I decided to save the book, I will never give it away to a child.  If I ever meet a person who studies dialects, I will be happy to give the book to them.  They can take the insides; I'll keep the binding! 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turner Classic Movies and Technicolor

Turner Classic Movies is airing some good movies today.  Right now I'm watching Road to Singapore with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.  Later I'll see The Best Years of Our Lives and Singing in the Rain.

Singing in the Rain is not my favorite Gene Kelly musical.  I actually like the title song better when I hear it in A Clockwork Orange.  But, Gene Kelly has quickly become my favorite singer/dancer.  I used to be a Fred Astaire fan until my boyfriend pointed out that he looks like a scrawny alien.  Then I realized that his dance routines are not nearly as exciting or athletic as Kelly's.  I also considered the fact that Kelly grew up in East Liberty.  Now I'm Kelly Krazy for life. 

My favorite movie of his is Anchors Aweigh.  I own it as part of a DVD 3-pack of movies that star Kelly and Frank Sinatra.  All three movies (the other two being Take Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town) have basically the same plots and the same characters, but different settings.  Still, I'm in love with any movie that has singing and dancing and was shot in Technicolor. 

This week I watched a great movie that fits that description.  Turner Classic Movies showed The Red Shoes, a movie about a ballerina that is forced to choose between love or dance.  I'm not a fan of ballet, but the vivid colors and the characters made it worth watching.  It was a pleasant two hours and fifteen minutes.

I spent about that much time watching 8 1/2 at the Oaks Theater last Wednesday evening.  This is "a Fellini," which I'm sure the ten or so other patrons, draped in scarves and shawls, were excited to tell their friends about.  Also, I'm sure they were annoyed by my friends and I who were eating Sno-Caps, Sour Patch Kids and popcorn during the film.  Those crinkling cellophane sounds are an expected part of the movie-going experience, right? 

Well, as I settle in tonight for my mini TCM marathon, I probably won't be enjoying any of those candies.  Those are strictly movie theater fare.  I will, however, enjoy some great singing, dancing, and color.  Thank you, Technicolor! 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away--Go to Mars Instead!

Rain, rain, rain.  There has been a lot of it this week, both in the real world and on Mars (the Mars presented in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles).  Here on Earth I was surprised to look out the windows of my office and see McDonald's bags and goals/nets from the practice fields flying past.  I thought I would end up in Oz, but the wind wasn't strong enough to send the window frame into the back of my head.  The 86 mph winds were followed by a short but powerful downpour.  The rain wasn't needed or wanted, at least by me.  The planet Mars, on the other hand, needed a drink. 

The rain on Mars was badly needed and prayed for by a man who wants to populate the red planet with lush, beautiful green trees.  Benjamin Driscoll is a self-proclaimed Johnny Appleseed--except he isn't planting just apple trees.  He wants all kinds of trees to grow on Mars.  Because breathing is just a bit difficult on Mars, he hopes that the trees will give him and other Americans coming to the planet more fresh air.  After riding around on his motorcycle and spreading some seeds, Driscoll experienced an ecstatic rainfall.  The trees grew and prospered.  Mars must have wanted them just as much as Driscoll.

I don't know how long these trees will last.  Will they still be verdant when I pick up my book tonight?  Will they still be standing by the last page (pg. 182, that is)?  I hope so.  Mars could use some greenery.  Come on Bradbury, you haven't disappointed me yet! 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flamingoes, Flowers, and Friendship

My Easter vacation this year was two days off from work.  I celebrated by reading two Stephanie (of Full House) books and watching The Baby-Sitters Club movie twice. 

The Full House books were a lot of fun because I remember reading them when they were first released.  I can't remember if I related to the books on a personal level or was just entertained by them.  It was probably just entertainment; I never wrote for the school newspaper or was pursued by a group of popular girls.  The Flamingoes, the popular group in the Stephanie books, was like a sorority.  The members wore at least one pink item everyday and they all had one fingernail that was painted pink.  It sounds like the Pink Ladies to me.  If I was the leader of a pack of giggling girls, I would make them wear floral prints and wear floral-scented perfume.  I just love flowers. 

The Baby-Sitters Club movie is also about friendship (and flowers!), but on a much deeper level.  The friendships in the movie are more authentic and sweet than those in the Stephanie books.  I cry everytime I watch the movie, even when I watch it twice in the same day.  I cry when the club performs the brain rap for Claudia so she won't fail her science test.  I cry again when they celebrate Kristy's birthday in Mallory's parents' cabin.  And finally, I cry at the end of the movie when they present the greenhouse to Mrs. Haberman.  I should mention that this is one of only two movies that always make me cry--the other is William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  In real life I could never handle the relationships presented in those movies. 

So, friendship has been the theme this week.  I wonder what it would have been like to belong to a group like the Flamingoes or the Baby-Sitters Club.  I wonder what they are doing now?!