The Movie Disease


‘More and more beautiful as you reach The End’

Some people say Fall is here when you spy your first red leaf. I say it’s when I need to whip out the grill light to cook my dinner. The Best Sister on The Planet gave me this gizmo a couple of years ago, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it as summer winds down.

My handy dandy grill light. I can’t show it to you on my actual grill, since Hurricane Irma or Jose or Maria or Whomever is out there whipping up a wet mess

A couple of nights ago, as I was out there sizzling up a weenie or two and engaging in a bit of grill-light-assisted reverie, I got to thinking yet again about Summer Turning Into Fall. Which I know I’ve written about more than once, but, darn it, I do find the topic fascinating. Bittersweet and sometimes even outright sad, but fascinating all the same.

Oh. Here’s that Sign O Fall of which I spoke. Thanks MJS!

I’ve compared the shortness of summer to the fleetingness of childhood. I’ve likened August to Sunday night, and September to Monday morning. And now I’m going to tell you how Fall is like the Movie Disease.

The Movie Disease was invented by a fabulously funny publication called Mad Magazine back in 1970, when ‘Love Story’ came out.

‘Love Story‘ was a movie based on a best-selling weeper by Erich Segal about a mismatched young couple (He’s rich and preppie; she’s working-class and still manages to look pretty darned preppie in cute short pleated skirts and tasseled hats) who fall in love (duh) and get married against family wishes. Then she gets sick and dies — gorgeously.

It was, according to Mad, a very bad case of Movie Disease: the sicker she gets, the more beautiful she becomes. Until she is just too stunning to live another second. So, bye-bye Ali. She never gets to see Paris (“Screw Paris”, she death-bed-whispers to devastated Ryan O.) And then, when Ollie (Ryan’s character, whom Al Gore famously said was modeled on him) says he’s sorry she’ll never get to see Said Paris, she says, even more famously, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

Ryan (‘Ollie’) and Ali (‘Jenny’), before she gets Movie Sick. You can tell she’s healthy because her teeth are still crooked

I don’t want to even get started with that silly phrase. Instead, here’s another Mad Love Story sendup zinger: “It won’t be long now.” the doctor says, “Look, her teeth are getting straighter.”

According to Mad, the Movie Disease has its roots in old Hollywood films, where characters ”used to die beautiful glamorous deaths.” So true. Just the other night I was re-watching ‘Wuthering Heights’, which, in my opinion, with its Merle Oberon and its Laurence Oliver, dances Movie Disease rings around ‘Love Story’.

Merle (Doomed Cathy) literally glows (see pix at the top of this story for proof) until Larry (Equally-Doomed Heathcliff) scoops her in his arms and stands her at the window where she gets to stunningly wilt into oblivion as they gaze together at the moors for the very last time. Sigh.

Another beautiful Movie Disease Victim: Greta Garbo in Camille

And remember Garbo as Camille? She even coughs gorgeously as she gloriously wastes away. But before I get carried away with examples (and not by Larry or the Movie Disease) I bet you can see already how Fall is like the Movie Disease.

Everything gets more and more beautiful: the leaves glow feverishly red and gold, the sky shines with an otherworldly blue, and the nights swoon with harvest moons and sparkling stars.

From another fabulous fall, when the year was fading fast

It’s not just that summer is over. It’s that the whole year is reaching The End.

Just like, goshdarnit, this post.

Amagansett, New York. September 2017

Happy Birthday to my Selfie


‘Reflections on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone.’

Honest Injun. I was going to write a piece about iPhones and ringtones anyway. But as I was reading the Times (er, procrastinating) with my zillionth cup of coffee, I happened upon the news that the iPhone came out ten years ago today.

My my my. It seems like just yesterday that I was sharing a (very tiny, so it’s a good thing we got along) freelance office with an art director I dubbed Svenska Boy, who was the very first person of my acquaintance who had an iPhone. He waited hours in line outside the Apple Store in Midtown Manhattan to get it. Sigh. Technological memories are so bittersweet.

Take that early selfie at the top of this post. Please (!) It’s not only fuzzy, it’s taken in a mirror. Because the phones back then didn’t have that reverse camera. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized it was there. Oh well.

Selfies before iPhones. I take a picture of my reflection with a thing called a camera. Actually it was a Flip Video Camera. Remember those?

But back to the reason I was going to write about phones in the first place. It has to do with sounds. I was at the Amagansett IGA a few days ago, stocking up for my umpteenth wave of weekend house guests, when I spied a woman who used to date one of The Dude’s cousins. (Hey, I’m alone all week. When I run into someone I know, even vaguely, they simply must be prepared for a bit of social interaction.)

I approach this woman, gaily waving, when I realize she doesn’t know me from Adam. But when I hail her by name, she responds “Oh! It’s you!” And then she calls me by my name (which is not actually ‘Lutheranliar’) and says “Of course it’s you. I’d know that voice anywhere.

Hmmmm. Two things are a tad disconcerting here. 1. Has my physical appearance changed that much in thirty years? And 2. Has my Midwestern accent not changed that much in thirty years?

Well, Sally (not her real name) and I engaged in some awkward conversational byplay, bid each other adieu, and I went on home to whip up bean salad, put out fresh beach towels and make myself a stiff G&T. I forgot all about this whole matter of ID-ing people by sound until my house filled up the next day with people and phones.

For surely you, and not just the Apple People, must realize that no one goes anywhere these days without his or her phone. (Just try sitting pingless or beepless or itsy-bitsy-lights-going-off-less through play or movie or concert.) So several guests meant several phones, all emitting (mostly) different ringtones. So Cousin A could say “No, that’s not mine” if a ‘marimba band’ started marimba-ing. And Cousin B could go “that’s probably my daughter” when we heard a ‘doorbell’. (Things did get a bit cacophonously complicated when one cousin’s daughter’s baby monitor started bleeping and her dad tried to answer it.)

A gaggle of cousins admires The Dude’s (very large, very up-to-date) phone

Like a lot of Apple fans, I not only have a basic ringtone I recognize as ‘mine’ (‘Old Phone’), I’ve assigned tones to all my near and dear. I don’t even have to glance at my screen to know it’s Mom calling (‘Classic’, because that’s what she is). Or my Favorite Sister (‘Bark’, because she loved her dachshund).

No technological grass growing on my Mom. She can phone and text and emoji, all while petting a cat

And of course I know when The Dude is on the phone. Because his ring is ‘Motorcycle’. Which is sort of a dumb joke, because his motorcycle actually makes no sound at all.

The Dude on his Zero. Which is an electric motorcycle. It has a really really long cord (kidding) and makes no sound (not kidding)

Which brings me to a tone-related story. When The Dude isn’t riding his soundless motorcycle, he likes to ride his equally quiet bicycle. He goes on long rides — I mean really long. His ‘usual’ Sunday ride can be anywhere from 30 to 60 miles. And last year he and The Child participated in a ‘century’, which is (of course) a 100-miler.

If it quacks like a duck, it’s The Child, ring-tone-dubbed thusly because she sounded just like one when she was little. Here she is, with The Dude, after last fall’s Century

These rides can last for hours and of course Things Can Happen. Like flat tires and spinouts and spills due to cracks in the pavement and whatnot. (A cat was once the ‘whatnot’, but I am so not going there today.) I am often called to the rescue when these things happen. I hop in the hatchback and go gather up the injured, whether it’s a bike or its rider, or both.

One fall day I got back from a non-phone-accompanied walk and see that I have a message. It’s The Dude, saying “I got a flat on my way back from Montauk. Can you pick me up? Call me so I know you got this message.” I call, get no answer, and leave him a message: “I’m on my way!” (I think it’s a little weird that he’s not answering, seeing as how he told me to call when I was on my way, so I keep trying every few minutes or so. Still no answer.)

Well. I finally spot him, anxiously pacing by the roadside. He’s so mad there’s practically smoke coming out his ears. “Why didn’t you call me? I told you to call me!”

“I did call you. A bunch of times. You didn’t answer! I left you tons of messages. Check your phone and you’ll see!”

“Oh.” He looks at me, suddenly sheepish. “I kept hearing crickets. And I thought it was just, um, crickets.”

Needless to say, he changed my ringtone. I’m no longer ‘Crickets’, but I haven’t had the nerve to ask what my new tone is. Maybe ‘Boing’?

Amagansett, New York. September 2017


Crime ‘n Stuff


‘Waves of summer mayhem out East Hampton Way’

Well. No turkeys-storming-the-birdfeeder excuses today. I’m late because Labor Day Weekend brought me a full complement of competent Twenty-Somethings to liven things up here around The Compound. And after they left I had to immediately erase all traces of their occupancy (change the sheets; wash the towels; wipe up the avocado-toast crumbs) — or feel super sad.

These turkeys are welcome at my ‘feeder’ any ole time. I miss ’em already

So now that I can walk around the house without feeling assaulted by reminders of a rollicking good weekend (oops, somebody left her wineglass out by the pool; er, that would be me), let me get down to the actual topic of the piece. Which is crime.

Now this is a crime: floaterless pool floats

Yes, crime. Out here on the Eastern End of Long Island, otherwise known as The Hamptons, we do have our share of crime. In the summertime much of it has to do with road rage, which is understandable when you consider that the local population explodes from around 20,000 to upwards of 60,000. Some sources say 100,000, even. All I know is that they all have cars and that all summer long it’s impossible to leave my driveway without doing that queen-wave-with-a-smile gesture that means “You’d better let me out now, if you know what’s good for you and that shiny finish on your passenger door!”

Why, just the other day I watched in wonder as a Range-Rover-wielding Botox Fan backed out of Brent’s Deli (home of the Best Fried Chicken on the Planet) right into a hapless Camry waiting at the red light. I hope she at least bought him a bucket. With sides.

I’ll have to check this week to see if this little fracas made it into the pages of the East Hampton Star. Which is the local award-winning super-terrific especially-to-a-former-journalism-student newspaper. (I know a thing or two about small-town weeklies, having worked at one in my own much smaller home town during many a summer vaca.) 

Incidents involving road rage — and red-light-running and fender-bending and drunk-driving — go into a (very looooooong in the summertime) traffic report. They don’t make it into the Crime Log, which is where all the really interesting crimes get listed. Well, at least all the non-front-page-type interesting crimes. Here’s a taste of what I mean:

Where do you report an incident involving a cab driver and “a large fish”? Why, it goes in the Crime Log of course

Sometimes the report is of a crime that’s a tad more serious, but still pretty darned interesting. Here’s one featuring, um, Hard Drugs.

Even crime of a more serious nature gets a rather droll spin in the Crime Log

There was another one recently where a woman “complained to police that a deer had been trapped inside her fenced yard for several days. Police suggested she open her gate.” And this dandy: “Police received an anonymous call reporting a person dressed as a clown standing in the middle of Main Street. An officer was dispatched, reporting back that the clown was gone on arrival.” Gotta love this stuff. Well, I do anyway.

One of my very favorite Crime Log reports was from a Star of so long ago that I don’t have a visual record. Which means you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that someone called the police to report “four rowdy youths in front of the movie theatre”. When the police arrived, they found “no rowdy youths, just four quiet young men sitting on a bench”.

One time, when reporting my own crime (some other time I’ll tell you all about it, but probably not) I asked the police officer — a  guy very keep-the-community-safe in size and very don’t-mess-with-the-law in demeanor — who it was who wrote the Crime Log. “Why, we do, Ma’am,” he answered, with a sweet little aw-shucks smile.

I text photos of the Crime Log to The Child regularly, along with articles from the Times like ‘How to Take Care of Your Clothes’ and, a couple of weeks ago, How to Watch the Eclipse. And, of course, any article about The Company Where She Works or about Working Out Too Much. She claims to be annoyed at my over-texting over-doing, but I like to think she’d miss it if I stopped.

Speaking of The Child, I’d like to end this post with a delightful Labor Day anecdote involving her and traffic. (Not crime, thank the maternal gods.)

The Dude and I were chatting with a friendly fellow at a Labor Day party (a party to which we’d dragged The Child and her friends, but it turned out they had a swell time because the party was chockablock with terrific hors d’oeuvres and even more terrific Boldfaced Names.

Anyway. We mentioned to this friendly fellow that our daughter lived in Boston and he said “Why, so do I” and offered to give her a ride home. (It wasn’t what you think; his wife was with him.) We graciously accepted on her behalf, thus saving us a drive to the Montauk ferry and saving her an hours-long ferry-plus-train-plus-Uber trek home.

He says, “Just have her at East Hampton Airport by 4:30”. Yup. He gave her a ride home — in his plane.

She was home before I made it back from the airport.

Child’s view out the window on her way back to Boston Monday night

My view out the window on my way back to Amagansett Monday night

Amagansett, New York. September 2017


“I’ll take a hot foot sandwich, please.”


‘It’s August. Grab those beachy memories while you can.’

Somebody wise once said that August is like the Sunday of Summer. (I think it was me, actually, but it’s the kind of thing that more than one wise person certainly could have come up with.)

Now I’ve written about this bittersweet end-of-summer stuff before, in ‘Yup. Even Slackers Get the Labor Day Blues’ and ‘The Days Are Long, But the Season is Short’. But, hey, it’s my blog and I’m feeling, well, a tad ‘Augusty’.

How many times did I get out the boogie boards this summer? Do you have to ask?

I’m pretty sure you know what I mean. It’s like you’ve just dusted off your white bucks on Memorial Day and then you realize Labor Day is coming up and you’ll just have to put them away again without having worn them even once. Or like you told yourself you’d have plenty of time to go through all the photos from that birding trip to Africa and make a book out of them already. And, speaking of books, please don’t get me started on yes, this summer I’ll get my act together and find an agent and/or a publisher to turn my stories into a real pages-and-ink book.

Stories? You bet I have stories. Some didn’t have such a happy ending. Just ask that Belgian guy in the back

But enough whining. Speaking of summers and beaches, here’s a joke that’s a favorite of my mom’s. She tells it best, but I’ll give it a shot. Continue reading

“I wouldn’t say no to a piece of pie”


‘What to do when you’re stuck in traffic’

So The Dude and I driving back to The City last night, and of course there is horrible traffic, it being the height of summer and all. The Dude is working Google Earth to discover a back road to the Back Roads, which these days are as clogged as the Montauk Highway since Jerry Della Femina’s daughter saw fit to publish a back-roads map a couple of years ago, earning her the wrath of every Local from Southhampton to Montauk. Oh well. One Percent Problem, I know.

The scenery in the Hamptons is gorgeous. That is, if you’re into gazing at the backs of cars

But the one promising lead — a teensy dirt road invisible on Apple Maps — turns out to dead-end at a golf course. In our quest, we happened to pass over and under the railroad tracks several times, which got The Dude to thinking about how he really really needs more railroad ties for our driveway. (Someone, ages ago, probably The Dude’s Dad, lined our driveway with railroad ties. But they’re really old, and crumbling, and they never did go all the way down the drive anyway. Somebody got a hernia putting them there, no doubt.) Continue reading

Those were Banner days indeed


‘An ode to my first job that did not involve cleaning up. At least not cleaning up after other people’s children’

Again, apologies for being a slacker. I seem to be getting later and later with my Tuesday posts. And I don’t even have the turkey to blame this week.

‘Curses, foiled again!’ said Mr. Turkey upon spying this clever foil

Hey, at least we didn’t use a slingshot, an idea suggested by a relative at that Fab Family Reunion I recently attended.

But I wasn’t always a slacker. I was a hard worker, even at a very early age. For one thing, my parents were firm believers in Kids Doing Chores. (I remember we got docked a nickel each day we didn’t make our beds; since our weekly allowance was only 25 cents, there were weeks when my brothers owed my Mom). I won’t go into a whole long list of these chores, but suffice it to say that I got my fill of ironing. And my brothers don’t often volunteer to clean out basements or dog pens. Continue reading

Looks like we got ourselves a HooHah!


‘The Family Reunion, taken to a whole new (Henry) level’

Well, no one who appeared in one of my commercials died this week. (Are you still out there, Betty White?) Or not that I know of, anyway. So “HooHah” story it is.

Now let me be clear. The Henrys did not invent the “Family Reunion.” Family reunions have been around, oh, I’d say probably since the invention of Large Extended Families. No doubt some of you readers can recall sticky gatherings of seldom-seen aunts, uncles, and cousins featuring picnic tables laden with summer dishes like jello salads (urk) and glorified rice (yum). Games like Corn Hole (a real “thing”, I kid you not) and wiffle ball and sometimes even croquet would be played (though our “croquet” was decidedly non-Downton-Abbey-esque, involving lots of violent “sending” of opponents’, i.e. younger cousins’, balls, resulting in much wailing).

Gathering of the Henry Clan featuring sweaty, crying cousins (I’m down in front next to the boy sucking his thumb)

The other side of my family, the Petersons, had Family Reunions too. They even gave theirs an idiosyncratic name. I dimly recall attending something called the PAL Reunion in Belvidere Park. (This was in Belvidere, Illinois, the closest metropolitan area/gathering place for my farm-residing relations.) The “PAL” stood for, I believe, Peterson, Anderson, and Lindstrom. Yup, these were the Swedes.  Continue reading