Thursday, January 26, 2006

Movie Theaters Yesterday and Today

Just when one thinks movie houses are suffocating from the competition of downloaded movies on all sorts of electronics, my humble city is about to open its arms to a fancy new theater. The local headlines in a recent edition of our newspaper declared, "Movie night is going upscale."

Opening February 17 is "a $14 million movie house with stadium seating, state-of-the-art digital sound, expanded concessions, an arcade, party rooms and internet cafe." Ticket holders will enter into an "Italian-style lobby, complete with fountain" in an atmosphere of a five-star-hotel! One side of the lobby will have tables surrounding a fireplace for snacking while up to 3300 folks will watch on 10 screens holding 100-150 people each. The best part of this theatre is that not just major releases will be shown, but a fair share of art and foreign films will be available.

This sounds great for one who still loves the big screen, but will I have to put on formal wear? Well, the Madison city officials are talking about a dress code! Tickets will range from $6 to $8 and no telling how easily the cost of popcorn and sodas will drain our pockets.

I remember the first time a "state-of-the-art" theater opened in Jackson. I was in the tenth grade and The Lamar Theater was supposed to upgrade the old Paramount Theater. Ahh, lush carpets (homes still sported hardwood floors) cushioned our feet. Beautiful lighting, comfortable seats, handsome rest rooms. Dressing up for a date to the movies was natural for us then.

A year ago an old school chum wrote to remind me that our first date was the opening of the Lamar. I dared not tell him I didn't remember. But I recall going to the Lamar with the guy who is now my husband. Saturday nights at the movie house was THE BIG DATE for us bebopping kids.

Two years ago in the local laundrette in Narrowsburg,NY I met a little lady who was waiting for her clothes to wash and dry. We struck up a conversation because I asked her if her Florida tag on her parked car outside indicated she was a true Southerner or a transplanted New Yorker. She was the latter. In our conversation she told me she used to be a dancer at the famed New York City Roxie Theater. She had begun there as a sixteen year old and later transferred to a more sumptious theater in Berlin. For the next two months while our clothes swirled and tumbled, I listened to my new friend's adventures on stage from the late 1920's to early 1930's. I researched online the Roxie so I could ask her questions. The Roxy had been a premier palace of its time.

Built in 1927 it was dubbed by its creator the "Cathedral of the Motion Picture". Cavernous it was. 5,290 patrons purchased tickets, walked through a huge lobby with a foyer rotunda five stories high, a massive chandelier hanging above them. The main theater had three balconies as well as the main floor. Abundant statues and carved pillers adorned the walls, and before the movie began a full orchestra played or a carillion chimed as patrons took their seats.

Between movies were the matinees, with clowns and jugglers sharing stage with dancers who tapped and toed through routines in magnificent, colorful costumes. My friend Terey said she and her fellow dancers learned to stand on huge balls and do gymnastics as part of their dancing. Triple stage elevators topped with a turntable allowed the entertainers to be shown in full cyclorama. The four-track sound system boomed as patrons looked at the movie on the gigantic screen. For interesting photos of this theater, cut and paste this address:

Several years later as I sat in the Lamar Theatre in Jackson with my cardboard 3D glasses perched on my nose, the Roxy was reaching its decline. Fortunately, its magnificence has been duplicated in Sydney Australia, at the State Theatre Sydney, which has many of the magnificent features of the Roxy: foyer rotunda, art galleries, marble lights and statues. It's still active and is a main attraction there.

I'm readying to experience the excitement of the opening of the Lamar and a bit of the magnificence of the Roxy when the new theatre in Madison opens next month.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Love Libraries

My visits to the local library nowadays are brief. Sometimes I spend a quarter of an hour if I know exactly what I want; othertimes, I'll remain a full half hour. There were years when I was younger that I'd spend an entire afternoon sequestered between aisles of thousands of stories waiting for me to explore.

My first introduction to the city library occurred when I was 12 years old. My teacher, noting my interest in reading, suggested that I try the downtown library where I could find more book choices. The following Saturday morning I walked three blocks from our duplex and boarded a bus for a 15 minute ride into the heart of the city. Finding the library presented only one hitch. I didn't know what kind of building to expect. With written directions in hand I found myself before a set of wide, curving steps facing the corner of the block across from the New Capitol. I remember how stately the building was.

When I entered through the sturdy wood door, I was struck by all the rows of books on shelves higher than my house (or so it seemed to me). The ceiling above the librarian's desk had a deep indention, which today I'd recognize as a rotunda. And the smell--a rendolence of ink, crisp paper, aged bindings mixed with the heat of the sunshine streaming through the open windows only added to the mystery of the place. I remained for several hours, wandering the aisles, tracing my finger across every book, pulling out some to caress and reading authors' names. There were no book covers then, and most bindings were in colors of brown, black, red, and blue. Large fans murmuring a coolness in the summers and radiators clanking heat in the winters were the only noises made in the silence of this wonderland.

I enrolled and received my card with a warning not to lose it or face a charge. I treated that card as precious as the books I checked out. "You can have two books for one week." the librarian said. That was a happy announcement, proclaiming my new routine of weekly visitation. Being an absorbed reader, I could have easily read the two choices I'd selected while on the return bus home; instead, I examined the covers, the printing, the illustrations. I pronounced the authors' names. Sometime in the afternoon I'd find a special place to read these particular stories. The life of Sagajawea and her involvement with the Lewis and Clark expedition was one of the two books.

Through the years I've maintained my library card and followed the city library to its various new homes. When I moved to a nearby town as an adult, I helped found a Friends of the Library and a fledgling small-town collection grew over the 25+ years of my membership. My love affair with the library has deepened, begun that day when I opened the door of that stately building in Jackson, Mississippi.

Searching through Jackson, A Special Place by Carroll Brinson published in 1977 I found a photo of that beloved building that became a part of my life. Doesn't look like the libraries of today, does it?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chinese Buffet on a Budget

Today Sis and I ate at a new Chinese Buffet called "No. 1 Chinese Buffet." After entering the pleasantly-decorated restaurant, I agreed it had to be number one. Three aisles of hot and cold foods--a kaleidoscope of colors and tastes. Clean, organized,and such variety! Located in a new strip mall, the exterior can easily be seen by motorists making their way to and from the newest, busiest shopping center only a few miles south. This "all you can eat" place had dinner plates just a bit larger than a salad plate, so this fact encouraged me to finish a platter of shrimp and go after vegetables and meat on a second plate, followed by another plate of fruit and dessert. You can bet that the $7.95 cost for Sunday lunch included a variety of cakes, pudding, cookies and ice cream and unlimited drink! How can these folks make a living offering three dishes each of shrimp,chicken, pork; two choices of rice; five types of vegetables, those sweet rolls with a splatter of sugar on top; two kinds of soup; and those dessert for one price?? And their choice of fortune cookies even has updated fortunes. On the back side is one word or phrase given in Chinese and it's English counterpart. What a fun way to learn a few phrases!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Wrestling with Electronics

Confession: Following directions nowadays or operating new electronics is like hands in sticky biscuit dough. You have to flour your hands and start over again.

Recently I ordered an external DVD driver (with ability to burn CD's). I had this feeling that I'd be able to sit at my computer and watch movies and "how-to" DVD's with no more than a plug and play situation. With help from the Family Computer Guru, software installed, I sat down to watch "Songcatcher" about a musicologist who discovers early Scots-Irish ballads still sung in Applachia. The characters began to act strangely, almost robot like, and their words garbled five minutes into play.

On the phone with Dell. An electronic voice asks me questions and misunderstands my answers.I repeat them several times until "she" says "I understand you said 'yes', am I correct?Let me turn you over to someone who can help you". Finally a real voice answers and after a few questions, she puts me on hold. I give up after 20 minutes of recorded suggestions by Dell as to how to use the internet for technical problems. Several days of phoning results in same routine of waiting. I resort to Dell's NEW internet chat with a technical adviser. State my problem, given a solution, uninstall the software and boom! Microsoft says I have trouble. The computer now is frozen in "safe mode," something I know only as a security. But how to recover my material? In comes Family Guru with his magic touch plunks on keys and restores my machine to normal with a verbal warining: "Mom, never assume you can do anything with software without calling me." I argue that I want to act on my own. How else can I learn this inane area of computers? "You don't," he adds,"No one makes software easy for moms-turned-computer fiends to understand."

Now I have a DVD drive that's not performing. One more try and I'll exchange it for a Sony DVD Player! That'll show Dell!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

First Appointment

The waiting room was crowded like a coop full of baby chicks. How could my sister make her 10 a.m. appointment with this many souls ahead of her? I searched the room. Only a few wore hats or turbans. Did this mean the rest were not cancer patients? I spoke to my sister, "Pick out the covering for your head from the selections you see." We laughed and agreed that nothing could make our heads look entrancing to the public. We were never hat women. We only wore them in our young teen and college years when that was the fashion. Sis' hair stylist told her she had a perfect head and didn't need to cover it up. She also warned her she'd have six weeks before her hair fell out. An upper followed by a downer. We agreed only k.d.lang could go hatless and hairless at the same time.

Silence. I vowed to keep Sis company until she went into the chemical cubicle. We watched individuals go in for blood tests, tried to determine if they were CP's too. Sis' name was called; we thought this was IT. But the nurse wanted to put the needle into the port in her shoulder. Sis gets weak at the sight of a needle, except the sewing kind. Even if the injection doesn't hurt, once she's seen the needle, you can count on a fainting spell. She returned smiling, "Nothing to it." A few minutes later she bent over saying she didn't feel well. No fainting this time. Fifteen minutes passed and she announced she could sit and wait alone, for me to go home until she called to be picked up. I left with a lump in my chest. I mentally sent all the strength I could to her until she called to say she was finished and ready to return home. She was smiling big when I arrived outside the Cancer Unit. "Will it always be like this?" I asked. "I don't think so."she replied. "Today those chemicals went into a healthy body. In the next few sessions I won't have a healthy body, and then, watch out!" We have a long journey together before the six months are behind us.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

An Ordinary Jewelry Maker

Never having had a hobby using my hands, I began over 10 years ago taking jewelry classes. I became a so-so beader, an ok silversmithy, and now I'm into working with precious metal clay. The latter takes less time to complete a piece. Like a lump of clay there are tiny micrograms of silver flakes in a binder that you roll out and stamp an impression with collected items like a leaf, kitchen grater, seashell, button. Dried then placed in a kiln where the binder turns to ash, you have a brooch, pendant, or whatever your intention ready to polish. In less than a day you can make an array of items. PMC is going to be my medium for awhile. I've had two weekend courses to give me basics, and here's what I've done.

However, some years ago I made my sister a rosary--Episcopalian style of 28 small beads, 6 large beads and a cross. When I went to the local church gift shop to double check the bead design, I was told to bring in a sample...and my life as a beader began. In addition to the rosaries I've created finger rosaries--7 small beads, one large one and a cross-- and bracelets with same design for a few church customers. I call my smaller rosaries "Meditation Beads" so anyone of any faith can use them. An enclosed guide helps use the item.

Surprisingly, the meditation beads are quite popular. At one gift shop the rosaries are preferred by foreign tourists and local Americans buy the meditation beds. Why, do you ask? The med beads are very inexpensive and since foreign visitors have more money to spend, they want the rosaries. Now I can claim that my rosaries are used world-wide and the meditation beads used throughout the United States!

With a hobby like mine, there's never a profit. The money gained just buys me more materials, tools and pays for more courses. Recently I bought several beading videos to help me plan some eye-popping necklaces. You'll see the results soon.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Winter Buds

Last week we had enough warm, sunny days to imagine we were in Florida for the winter. Early buds were pushing out of the the ground and appearing on limbs of flowering shrubs after receiving mixed seasonal messages. Our pansies were having a difficult time remaining pert--until this morning when the temperature dropped to the 50 degree range. Today they are smiling, standing upright and proud to be able to share their beauty with everyone. Pansies are planted as profusely as the Bradford Pear trees that surround our little city of Madison.

Around the corner of our house are two camelia/japonica shrubs, now as tall as the house. They are blooming and giving life to that side. I'm disappointed that cut flowers from this tree don't last in a vase of water. There's nothing like fresh flowers inside this time of year.

Down the street is a tall pyracantra full of winter red berries, providing us with color when we pass. Otherwise, yards are brown, dull, bare. The excitement of spring is relished in this subdivision, as we have many avid gardners who have showcase yards throughout the long hot summer.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Grey Days, Sunny Days

Mississippi weather in winter goes from a few days of golden warmth to a few days of bitter cold--if you can call 40 degrees that! On days of overcast skies you have to get through them wearing the hat of blah-ness, hoping for something to pull you out of this lack of light. Behold! the sun shines the next day and energy renews.

In a sense I'm dealing with a lot of grey days since my sister was told she has cancer. Never has this disease struck so close. I've been surrounded by friends and other relatives with cancer. And try as I could, I couldn't empathize with them, only sympathize. From all my early reading I knew cancer patients have as their mantra a series of old adages: "Take it one day at at time;" "Keep humor in your life:" "Keep stress outside your door;" and many I could make up now. The only way I could connect with these patient-friends to tell them I cared for them and the changes in their lives was to send frequent emails with "I'm thinking of you, I love you." How much strength they receive from these messages, but the sentiments are the only gift I know how to give.

The door opens and I enter into their world. I'll learn what really happens as I overhear conversations in the waiting room; understand the effects of the chemo; realize the struggle to overcome the sickness that arrives afterwards. And, out of this I hope to be stronger, more patient, and minister better to those with whom I come in contact.

It isn't going to be easy to spend the next six months in and out of the clinic, cradling a depressed patient in my arms as she cries and wants to give up, all the time keeping up her spirits. But this is a choice I happily make.

There'll be grey days and sunny days.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Sweet Time

I heard a voice from above today, shouting "Thou shalt NOT eat any more sweets!" HE knows I've overindulged in folding my tongue over the pieces of sugary substance for the last two weeks. Before breakfast, during and after meals, late nights when the rest of the house is sleeping.

Fudge, glorious fudge, lying on the plate like a soft blanket. Spiked with chopped pecans. A ritual of Christmases past, forgotten as kids grew older. Now revived by son Jim declaring "It's time for fudge, Dad!" I dig around boxes of old recipes to find the spotted recipe written in pencil on aged card stock. Through trial and error Richard perfected his recipe from that on the cocoa box: evaporated milk, white sugar(which we rarely use nowadays), butter, Hershey's cocoa, and more pecans than needed. Snap, snap went the cameras as the liquid brown gold bubbled in the pan, Dad proudly posing with spoon in hand.

After years of abstinence, this fudge was perfect enough for the dogs of indulgence--us.

Two days later, just when the remaining family members had received their photos, a call came in: "Dad, I want fudge for my birthday." The kid who rarely ate sweets remembered the taste. And his birthday was a few days away.

Dad laid out the utensils, gathered the ingredients and went to work again. Once more the aroma of chocolate filled our senses. We chocoholics gathered around to watch the magic of milk and sugar turn into perfection. But the consistency didn't work this time. Ohhh, no one was disappointed--we weren't satiated yet.

Third time was a charm. A few days later two boxes of just-right fudge were on their way to New York and Maine.

I have gone two days without a crumb of fudge, drinking more than the normal amount of water, avoiding the weight scales, trying to ignore the nudge of my brain sending my mouth orders to salivate. Every thirty seconds my mind shoves all visions of fudge into a corner of my brain. I've pigged out.....until next Christmas.