Archive for May, 2016

Families and Movies

May 31, 2016


I love the movies. My sister does too. So did my dad. When he was growing up in New York City he went to the movies every Saturday. We moved to the New Jersey suburbs when I was a toddler. When my dad was in his forties he went back to get his masters and doctorate degrees from Columbia in New York City. He would go to the movies before or after classes.

I’m fine to go to movie theaters by myself, but I don’t often do so as many of my friends also love the movies. I usually go once a week during the seven months I live in Scottsdale. I live a mile from the Harkins Camelview and not too far from the Shea 14. These happen to be the places that show independent and foreign films, which I love. I no longer enjoy the action films I once did. And I don’t see depressing films unless shamed into it by Susan, a movie buff friend who insists I can’t miss a masterpiece.

I am dismayed at the lack of variety at the Flagstaff Harkins theatre. The fare is mostly superhero, insipid comedies and children’s movies. Soon after I moved up to Munds Park for the summer months (May through October is you live in a place as hot as Scottsdale,) I joined the Sedona Film Festival. They used to show films a few times a week at the Sedona Harkins but they now have their own theater and show two to four movies a week.

Last week I noticed that The Family Fang was playing, starring Jason Bateman and Nicole Kiddman. I had read the book and laughed out loud. No one I knew was interested in going, so I bought a ticket for myself. I had to return something at the Oak Creek Outlet Mall so I made a stop there. (I love Famous Footwear because they carry shoes that fit my size 12 feet.)

I endured the ten roundabouts to get to the theater. Sedona didn’t want traffic lights so the roundabouts were installed. I knew and hated these things from New Jersey and I don’t like them any better in Arizona.

I went to the Szechuan Chinese restaurant on Coffee Pot and Highway 89A. I love their special sauce fried noodles! Having fortified myself, I drove the few miles to the Mary D. Fisher theater.

The film was not as funny as the book, but it was dramatic in a good way. The Family Fang (fiction by the way,) is so dysfunctional it makes any family seem normal. The parents were performance artists and used the children to pull off their “art.” You learn that the father did not want children but saw their usefulness.

I never doubted that my parents wanted and loved me. I always marvel that I didn’t know about dysfunctional families until I went to college and learned about other people’s experiences and reading about them in books. I always knew my family was eccentric: we played college bowl at the dinner table, my father read us Shakespeare for bedtime stories, and my parents engaged in civil disobedience for the Civil Rights Movement.

And even though I’ve been divorced twice, I don’t think any of my family iterations were dysfunctional.

Sharon came up for the weekend. We wanted to go to the movies but none of the offerings in Flagstaff appealed to either of us. She used her mobile app to find that Love and Friendship, a film highly recommended, was playing at the Harkins in Sedona. (New information! That theater showed a wider selection than the one in Flagstaff.) I had read the rave reviews but they said that it was another variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Another one?

We started out with plenty of time because we were going to stop at wet Beaver Creek and meditate. Unfortunately, I forgot that the exit is the Maguireville one, not the Sedona one. I was bowled over by the traffic from the I-17 into Sedona. Those roundabouts are annoying on a weekday but traffic crawlers on a big weekend. It took an hour to go the fifteen miles to the theater.

It was well worth the hassle. Kate Beckinsale is one the most manipulative mothers ever invented. The film wasn’t based on Pride and Prejudice. I misread the reviews. The basis is Lady Susan, an epistolary novel by Austen. Although my parents had wished I do something more extraordinary than be a school librarian and principal, they never directed my life. And I sure hope I didn’t do that to my kids.

Most movies (and books) make me feel better about my own situation. Maybe that’s why I love them so much.




A Great Day in Flagstaff

May 16, 2016

IMG_2160           I drove up to my cabin on Sunday for a short visit. On the ride up I spoke to Tall Harry from Montana, someone who found me on the Plenty of Fish dating site. I’ve never met him but we’ve spoken a few times on the phone. He’s moving to the valley in October and coming down in June to look for a place to live. He’s already making future plans with me, which is ridiculous as we’ve never met. I have a date with him in June and I’m taking a wait and see attitude.

I stopped off at the cabin and then picked up Donna. She has the part of the cat in my new ten-minute play, Pet Peeves, which was having a reading that afternoon at the NAU Play Workshop. Donna was very nervous once I told her that the rehearsal and the performance were the same day. She brought with her a headband with cat ears. She’d gone over to her daughter’s home and studied the movements of the cats for an hour. Method acting. Unfortunately, this was a reading, but acting, event and she had a hard time getting over that.

We went to brunch at the Downtown Diner in Flag and read through the play. She could hardly eat she was so nervous. I was anxious too. How would my play be received? I hadn’t met the two men who were playing the male parts. Would they perform it as I wanted it to be read?

We met Tony Sutera and Scott Ballou outside the theater. Joan, who was also in the play, was just moving up from the valley so she wouldn’t be joining us for the one and only rehearsal.

The rehearsal went well. Both men read amazingly well, interpreting the words just as I’d wanted without direction!

There was still an hour before the workshop so Donna and I hung around Heritage Square and did some window shopping to calm our nerves.

When we got back to the playhouse, Joan was there. She was a bit frazzled from her move, but in good spirits.

About twenty people attended the workshop: all the actors, playwrights and the two leaders Angele Anderfuren and Seth Muller. We watched and listened as the plays were read on the stage. First the actors gave positive feedback, then the audience. The suggestions for improvement followed. The critiques were insightful.

My play was performed second. The audience laughed in the right places! The actors performed perfectly! My heart brimmed over with happiness. The positive feedback fed my confidence. The suggestions were thoughtful. Most of them had to do with cutting out a character since I had four in my play and the maximum is three for the NAU contest and Showcase. I don’t know if I’m going to do that. I do hope the play will be performed at the September Readers’ Theater in Munds Park.

I put the written feedback away to be read at a later time. I think all authors have deep doubts about their competence and this was a fantastic writer ego booster.

Although I knew I should have stayed around afterward, schmoozing and making connections, I’m very uncomfortable doing that kind of thing.

Donna and I headed out for the Southside Tavern. I received emails all winter long about where The Mother Road Trio was performing in Flagstaff but this was the first time I could be there to enjoy their music. We reconnoitered with Rick, a fellow Donna had met at The Pinewood Bar. He was a jolly soul and we had a great time listening to the eclectic selections of the trio. I do have a crush on Sam, the harmonica player in the group, but he’s married.

Annie and Sam.jpg

It was a great day in Flagstaff.





Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dogs

May 2, 2016


           Sparky, my Shih Tzu-poodle, is fourteen and a half years old. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He ages faster than me, so I had a harbinger of things to come. He was quite frisky as a pup and remained so until he was about six.

He lived with my other dogs and always had companions to play with. They were partners in crime. He would get the cupboard door to the garbage can open a bit so that Melvin, my golden retriever, could pull it out. They both would feast and create mayhem. And Sparky would jump up on the kitchen counters and knock food off that both dogs would relish. After Melvin died, it was just Sparky and Oreo the cat. He was still up to teasing her and vice versa. At age six he became an only pet because I gave the cat to a friend. (Oreo did not make a good transition to living in a condo.)

I nicknamed Sparky “Houdini” because he could escape the house if the front door opened an inch. When he stayed with Elissa in Sun City during the ten weeks I was in China in 2007, the Sheriff’s posse knew his name and where he lived.


In 2010 I rescued Louie, a Bichon-poodle, when he was approximately seven years old. Louie’s temperament is quite different from Sparky’s. I nicknamed him Louie the Lump because he slept a lot and liked to lie on my lap or next to me.

Sparky starting slowing down with age. I no longer had to keep all food off the counter because he couldn’t jump up anymore. Two years ago he stopped being able to jump on the furniture or my bed. As I get less achier, I hark back to Sparky’s loss of agility.

Sparky’s developed lots of cysts, skin tags, and warts. Now I called him Bumpy Lumpy. It reminds me of the brown spots and skin tags I’m acquiring.

His physique has changed, too. He used to carry his weight in his chest, like a proud muscle man. Although he hasn’t gained any weight, he carries his weight in his belly.

He started to develop cataracts around age eight. I also developed cataracts but I was lucky enough to be a person and got them removed and corrective lens implanted so that I see better.

He is going deaf but somehow he can hear the crinkle of a potato chip bag or the unzipping of a dog treat container. And I don’t think I’ll ever lose my sweet tooth. My mother didn’t. She enjoyed chocolate milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes to the end of her life.

Louie and Sparky used to play with toys. One would pick up a toy and the other would snatch the other end. They loved playing tug of war. And they would chase each other around the house. When we have a dog staying with us, Louie will play like he used to with Sparky. Every once in a while Sparky will join in.

I’m still spry and full of energy, but I can see, through my dogs, that I will slow down and sleep more. I hope I remain as easy-going and good tempered as they are.