Monthly Archives: April 2010

Nom de Guerre

The upper branches of my family tree are just chock full of lovelies. There’s scandal, suicide, possible spies or war profiteers, black people having to pass as white, white people fleeing various countries one step ahead of the law, and somebody who could potentially qualify me for membership in the DAR if we were sure he wasn’t a mercenary.

But the thing I like best is the names.

Sure, you’ve got your Abrahams and Hortenses. You never meet a Hortense anymore… Horaces abound. There’s a Thaddeus, whom we do not talk about. But my absolute favorite name of all time from my family tree is: Anastasia Murphy.

I know nothing about her. Her name makes her sound like she ought to have been a Vaudeville showgirl in 1918, but I’m guessing not. Our distaff side does not seem to have had that much fun.

It’s possible that somebody was a fan of late-medieval manuscript borders & decided to tip their hat to an illuminator by that name who Christine de Pizan lauds in her proto-feminist opus, The_Book_of_the_City_of_Ladies.

Knowing my people, probably not. And since I think she was around quite a while before the Russian revolution, Anastasia was likely just born near Christmas time, when the feast of St. Anastasia is held – or was, back in the day.

The point here? Is that if I ever join a rock band I have the perfect stage name at the ready. Just a wee change to the first part of her monniker & I could be: Anesthesia Murphy, drummer for the Grrl Group, The Peppermint Westies. First single: When Plaid Goes Bad.

Not that I know how to play drums. But I feel that this is only a minor setback.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dave Barry’s proclivity for extracting band names from everyday occurrences & it’s become a habit to do so myself. He’s got a new book out this month that you might want to peruse: I\’ll Mature When I\’m Dead, or watch the man himself:   If the Westies don’t go big, I’m thinking maybe we could form a They Might Be Giants tribute group. The Mesopotamians would be an awesome name for a band..

(Thanks for your link, Inveterate Optimist!)

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Veni Mani Pedi

Today I trimmed the dog’s nails. The dog is 90 pounds, and he does not like having his nails cut. With frequent breaks for treats and chase-the-ball (not to be confused with fetch – the rules of chase-the-ball specify that the person throw or kick the ball for the dog to chase. When the dog has chased it, he looks up from where the ball has come to rest in order to let the person know that it is time to come over and throw or kick the ball again), I tried to win the dog over to the idea that nail-trimming is not fatal. Though he liked the treats and the games, he remains unconvinced.

What? They look fine to me.

You would think that 90 pounds of dog would somehow wear down his own nails during the normal course of his digging, romping and walks. Walking on pavement does something for the back paws, but because of the way most dogs pick up their feet, the front, left unchecked, would grow to resemble those of your weirder old-time Asian emperor.

I have thought of buying a metric ton of emery boards and hiding a dog treat underneath them.

There we were in the back yard, me shuffling around on my knees trying to grab a paw in one hand while I scratched an ear with another. It’s a beautiful sunny day and being able to be in the backyard with the dog is wonderful. I found myself singing along to our little project. Blondie’s Greatest Hits. Specifically, “Someday/I’m gonna’ clip nails/I’m gonna’ clip them/I’m gonna clip ‘em, clip ‘em, clip ‘em, clip ‘em…”

 Yeah. I’m really very glad that I work most weekends. This means my day-off activities tend to fall on a Monday, when the neighbors are at their jobs and won’t bust a gut laughing at me.

 Of course, Blondie only led to worser things:

Don’t sleep in the subway, Darling,

Don’t something-or-other else…

Which makes me recall that the 70’s were distinguished by a kind of crime-wave in New York. I have been known to sleep on the subway, on occasion. I even know people with the uncanny ability to wake up just as the train pulls into their stop, sort of like waking up the instant before your alarm clock goes off in the morning.

Eventually, I got the last nail by straddling the dog and picking up his paw the way you pick up a horse’s hoof. He’s got to go to the vet tomorrow for a limp, so I really wanted to clip as many as I could with him lying down.

So, to recap my day –

Dog nails: trimmed.

Neighbors: (ones that are home) now secure in the knowledge that I have a vast array of disco tunes in my repertoire.

Dog treats: entirely depleted.

My work is done.

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The benefits of being nearsighted

This morning on my way to work, I spotted two preppy, sporty-looking ladies walking with a golden retriever. This immediately prejudiced me in their favor because, you know –  goldens are maybe not quite as cute as those paragons of dogdom, the mutt or rescued pittie, but they are pretty nice.

But the really distinguishing feature of this threesome was the women’s headgear. I peered at them down the road, thinking: shower caps? Those little scrub-things that surgeons wear?

And then it came to me: Gumby Hats! A la Monte Python! Two blond-bobbed suburbanites in $200 sneakers were sporting the knotted-hankie toppers that launched to fame the phrase, \”My Brain Hurts!\” 

The classic Gumby

 The dog was sensibly hatless.

 So there I was, nearly in tears, about to drive off on to the opposite sidewalk in my glee, when I discovered, no: they’re wearing baseball caps.

 Such a disappointment.

 And I suppose I should be concerned at the apparently imminent need for new glasses that this reveals, but I can’t help being tickled. It kind of made my day.

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A Classical Education

Today years of labor on the part of dozens of educators bent on enriching young minds and keeping the great knowledge of ages past alive paid off.

To the tune of approximately 34 cents.

Yes! The trivia question of the day (which, in case you do not visit the fine beverage emporium known as Caribou Coffee, is always written up on the blackboard behind the counter and entitles a patron with the correct answer to 10% off their order), was:

Martha Graham as Clytemnestra. She'd have made an awesome ninja...

Who killed Agamemnon?

Easy. Peasy.

Sometimes there are sports questions, or questions having to do with musical entertainment or reality TV, and then I must pony up full price. But today I Win.

Why was this particular question so delightfully simple, while others remain baffling? Two reasons: 1) I have actor friends. 2) I live under a rock.

So, while I was attending a nifty little liberal arts mill out in Ohio, where they tried their best to fling a few seeds of wisdom, discernment and wonder into the largely fallow, yet heavily irrigated (with grain alcohol and cool-aide) fields of youthful intellect, my two best friends were at drama conservatories.

One went to Carnegie Mellon, where, during her stint, they produced the entire Oresteia. She played Clytemnestra. The other went to Adler at NYU, and had the great misfortune of participating in something called The Cassandra Project (not to be confused with the current Cassandra Project going on in and around that institution. The new one seems to be about online communities and sharing and draws on drama, art and dance in a more peripheral way). The one I am talking about took place in 1992 (or maybe ’91 or ’93 – I’m fuzzy on this. See grain alcohol, above.).

I recall only two things about The Cassandra Project from the performance I was privileged to view:

1)      It smelled like a sweat sock. They covered the performance space in sand and finding it dusty, watered it. This is not a good idea for the indoors.

2)      A substantial person had, at one point, to perch above the stage (and much of the seating – it was stadium style) on what resembled an abbreviated diving board, rend her clothing, and declaim in what used to be called a Brooklyn accent before Brooklyn got all trendy: “I bear my breasts to thee, Apollo!”

 But of course these things are meant to be learning experiences.

And learning experiences they were, since, fortified with a sketchy but vivid knowledge of Greek drama, I could cry, “Clytemnestra!” and keep my thirty cents.

 The classics never die.

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