“Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles:
At this stage in my life, I can’t recall a moment when I wasn’t madly in love with Harry Styles. It had to have happened at some time, I am older than him after all. I can’t even recall when that charming young man first entered my consciousness. I have a vague recollection of seeing something on X Factor, but that meant nothing to me. When the schoolchildren became gripped by One Direction fervor, I resisted, but then I fell head over heels for the group. And Zayn. I admit that I was not a Harry girl at first. I have since, clearly, changed, and Zayn means nothing to me but a bitter taste in my mouth. (How dare he?) Harry became everything and all things and a wonder of the world and the celebrity I most needed to befriend. I have now seen him on four separate occasions, but we haven’t yet lunched together on kale salads and fruity cocktails.
One of these days it’ll happen. I have the strangest ability to make things reality. So, I’ve followed Harry’s career with great interest. And I feel almost like a proud father at the success of his new single. Yes, Harry is solo and is soon to conquer the world of music. In fifty years, reader, and mark my words, he is going to be one of the most legendary entertainers of this time period. He and Beyoncé will be the Michael Jackson and Madonna of their moment. But it’s time to discuss the song, which you will have surely already heard a couple of hundred times by now. And if you haven’t, please remove yourself from my website. JK! Listen to it here:
Are you alive still? I’m not. I died on my first listen. His voice is immensely perfect in ways that I knew it would be, and yet I couldn’t begin to expect. It’s so smooth, so flawless, so stunning. Harry needs to do an album of liturgical music for me to listen to when I’m doing household chores. (Look, I have a weird fondness for hearing monks chanting melodically) And beyond the sensational quality of his voice, I am swept away by the lyrics. They are poignant, eloquent, lovely, meaningful, and most of all timely. One of the great qualities of this rock opera revival, is that it can be applied to almost any scenario. Some people might hear a song about lovers, about friends, about families, about an inanimate object. I hear something about the state of the world — which judging by the name of the song, might be a bit too obvious — and the lyrics about getting away make so much sense to me. So many of us want to get away from Trump’s America. I do. It’s infuriating. I love this song. I love Harry. I think he should sing at the next Democratic National Convention. I think he should sing at the Super Bowl. I think he should sing at the Grammy’s. I think he should sing in commercials and arenas and small venues and in my house.
Jessica and I are always on the hunt for what we call, or rather, what I called one time, “the place.” I long to find a restaurant that is perfection, that we can return to every week, where we can become regulars, where the menu regularly thrills and tantalizes. In Paris, we have Iolanda. In Des Moines, we have the Olive Garden. Slightly different locales, but remarkably similar meals. In Ames, a city we visit regularly, we have looked and looked and always been left with discontent. Old Chicago is good, Fiji sushi is lovely but not right for us, Vesuvius is okay, the Hickory Park is not my scene, +39 was meh, and eventually we settled on Noodles and Company. That’s a delightful ad delicious restaurant, but it’s hardly the height of gastronomy. This week we ventured to another part of town to try The Cafe. It’s got nothing but the best reviews, and BuzzFeed claims it’s the best bakery in Iowa. I take umbrage with that, of course, since my best friend runs a bakery in Iowa that is the very best. But I’m willing to try something new, so off Jessica and I went in my brand new Mitsubishi Mirage ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). The restaurant was rambling, but we finally found the hostess stand, and were immediately sat down by the nicest woman who reminded me of Twyla in Schitt’s Creek. (If you haven’t been watching that show yet, you are a fool, and you’re missing out on one of the greatest shows currently airing.) The menu was slim, which boded well. Few things are more arousing than a limited, well-edited menu for me. The cocktail menu was also sensational, and from the moment I saw “Basil Gin Smash,” I knew I had found “the place.” Reader, that drink was sensational. And so was the salad I had. I had an addition of tofu to it, and I was amazed at how flavorful and good the tofu was. So many restaurants do it wrong. The Cafe did it absolutely right. The salad was fabulous. The bread was great for coming out of the middle of Iowa. It wasn’t a good Parisian baguette, but annoyingly, I wasn’t in Paris. I’m always annoyed about that. The pot de crème I had for dessert was stunning. It was fabulous. Everything was fabulous. Jessica had a macaroni and cheese that was basically a religious experience. I’m going to order that the next time. I see us coming here a million times more. The staff was great, the ambiance was lovely, the country music playing was unexpected but fun, and I had the TIME OF MY LIFE. I can’t wait to get back!
The Play That Goes Wrong:
As you’ve read in the past when I mention my most recent trip to New York City, I lived and breathed theatre. I went to three shows, three nights in a row, and it was decadent. There were few things finer than being in the audience, seeing a show in previews, cackling at the jokes, weeping at the tragedy, and being filled with artistic fervor when a star took the stage. The last play that I went to was called The Play That Goes Wrong. I first heard of it when I saw a little snippet in the Playbill of War Paint. The information for the show was printed upside down, which caught my attention immediately and brought a smirk to my lips. My last night in New York, I had to see a show, so I launched the TodayTix app and found a ticket to this play. I again bought the most inexpensive ticket, and I really didn’t regret that ever. My seat was high in the sky and there was no row behind me. One of the ushers actually looked confused at the seat letter. I didn’t mind one bit. The people beside me were insufferable and they did mind several bits and the usher allowed them to move forward to a group of empty seats. I didn’t go, I liked my perch, staring down on the stage, and I really enjoyed having a row all my own. The show is delightful because it never really starts. The cast is in the audience and on stage repairing the scenery, looking for dogs, asking for assistance, crying for help. It’s delightful. The idea is that this is a small village theatre show that was accidentally booked on Broadway. The entire cast is incredulous that they are there, and they are determined to give it their all to give the audience a great show. Bless their comedic hearts, they do try. The plot is a standard murder mystery, but if there is anything that can go wrong, it most certainly does. The set falls apart, lines are forgotten, people might actually be dead, props go missing, lines are flubbed, and more and more and more. It’s delightful.
After I leapt to my feet at the end, I immediately wrote on Facebook that it was a slapstick masterpiece. I have never seen such perfect physical comedy. My body ached after cackling for two hours. Such a divine show. See it, reader.
The politics surrounding the repatriation and reparation of antiquities and art has always held immense interest for me. I always wonder about the items in museums and think about if they’re where they should be. Great and grand museums like the British Museum are loaded to the brim with antiquities, but a large number — like the Elgin Marbles — are topics of controversy. Many believe that these gorgeous reliefs should be back in Athens at the Acropolis Museum. And perhaps they should. I have a great many opinions on this, so I won’t get too deep into my personal beliefs right now. Let’s just say it’s a major interest of mine. Art theft during the Second World War was vast and worrisome. Films like The Monuments Men and The Woman in Gold are all about this subject. I was particularly drawn to The Woman in Gold because it focuses on the portrait of Adele Bloch-Blauer, which I’ve always found tremendously beautiful. A year ago, when I was aimlessly wondering down Fifth Avenue, I found myself at the entrance of the Neue Galerie. I fell madly in love with the museum and it became one of my favorite hidden treasures in the city. I am obsessed with Weimer Republic art and photography. I think of it often. The portrait of Adele was there, surrounded by 1930s opulence, and it was all extravagant. There is a restaurant off the entrance called the Cafe Sabarsky, and I made sure I visited this time on my most recent trip to New York. After a short wait, I was ushered to a marble topped table with a beautiful view of the wood-panelled room. It was intensely beautiful and looked like many elegant places I’ve found myself in Europe. The dark wood, huge mirrors, and elegant floor all spoke to me. I ordered a lovely glass of Riesling — turns out they aren’t all sweet — and some odd combination of potatoes, spinach, and eggs. It sounded all right, and wonderfully, it became one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. On a base of steamed and pureed spinach that was silky smooth, sat a small heap of perfectly roast fingerling potatoes. Then atop this were two impeccable soft-boiled eggs. Dill sprigs served as garnish, and I tucked heartily in to this satisfying combination. Then I sopped up every remaining crumb with the breads that were served. Reader, it was such an epicurean delight! The lemon cake was divine. The coffee was superb. The staff were fabulous. I felt like a rich socialite lady out to lunch in 1934. Fabulous. Utterly fabulous. This will be my new haunt in New York City whenever I’m in town. Go there, reader. Treat yourself.
Dame Edna Lazarus or Edina Monsoon or Ed:
Sadly, sometimes it takes a bit of a tragedy to realize just how much you adore and worship something. My cat, Edwin, which is one of his dozen names, is lazy and sleepy. He rarely gets up when I do, and I don’t know where he sleeps half of the time. I’ll have to step over him sometimes to make my way downstairs. The other morning he wasn’t around, but this wasn’t entirely unusual. It was peculiar when he didn’t get up for breakfast for my father, who feeds him far too much food and pampers him like his own grandchild. I was concerned by this tremendously, so I went home quick to take a look for him. He wasn’t anywhere. It was unsettling. I looked under furniture, behind massive picture frames holding prints from World War I, I roamed all three levels, I even looked outside, but I was sure he wasn’t out there. Poor Edwin wouldn’t know what to do outside. He’s been living indoors since he was a kitten and I thought he was dead — you surely know that story, though. I began to get pretty worried, so I got out my flashlight and looked all over the house again assuming he moved someplace. I shined the light under the couch, and then to my immense joy, two glowing eyes looked back at me. Relief flooded through me, but it was still peculiar that he was there and not moving. He was alive, though. I looked over at the couch and he slid his little head out (I mean big head, really, he’s an absurdly large cat) and looked at me pitifully before drawing his head back under. This concerned me immensely. I warily stood up to go get him. He has rare spells where he loses his shit and howls and growls and spits. If he was hurt, I worried that this would shortly happen. It didn’t, but he wouldn’t move. I grabbed him and pulled him out and soon realized the problem. He had a plastic grocery bag wrapped around his neck, and the bag had wrapped itself absurdly around something on the couch. He had been trapped there for hours, struggling and scared. The poor thing. I strongly and firmly believe that if I had not rushed home, breaking several speeding laws, he would not have been alive when I returned in the afternoon. Finally freed from his plastic hell, Edwin was limp as a wet noodle, but there was such a look of appreciation on his face. I took him to a little room so that I could brush his fur, tell him how beautiful he was, and how beloved he was to me. I realized how often I take my pets for granted. I adore them, obviously, I worship their existence, but I realized that I’m not always consciously thankful for their presence in my life. That changed yesterday when I realized Eddie might be no more. I love that behemoth of a moody feline. He’s an angel and he’s already used up three of his nine lives. I don’t ever want the last one to come. Until it does, I will love him with all my heart.