Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back in Black.

I'm going to try to get back on this blog machine and blog about some stuff. I started it awhile back when I was unemployed and freelancing, to keep me writing words. I've been at a full-time writing gig for the past year and half now and I'm getting a little lazy. What should I write about? I just told a guy that I work with that watched this movie on Netflix stream that I won't tell the other guys that he likes chick flicks. Does that make me a bully? Have you ever thought you might be a bully in sheep's clothing? Ok. Well, that's it for now. See?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer is flying by.

Recently, spending the long Fourth of July holiday weekend on the lake in Michigan I couldn't help being acutely aware of how beautiful the water and sandy beaches were. Cooling off in the lake, wading, floating, going all the way under...I relished in the cool, crisp, clean liquid. I felt nostalgic for an innocent childhood of my sisters and I shampooing our hair off the dock or taking a bar of soap out for a chilly end-of-long-summer-day bathing dip, on family vacation or friend's cottages at various northern Michigan lakes. Early childhood summers were spent at a little resort by the name of Ernie's Cottages in East Tawas on Lake Huron. Teenage summers were kicked off by a week with my family each year on Lake Michigan (the beaches often compared to the Gulf Coast) at a quaint family resort called Sleepy Hollow in South Haven. Yes, legend has it Ichabod Crane's ghost still resides here. It was a little like the Dirty Dancing resort sans Patrick Swayzee, and Johnny Depp for that matter. But the stand-ins were just as exciting to us.

I went back to this lakeside resort many years later with my husband to try to rekindle that fun, free, relaxing feeling, as well as the spark in the marriage. None of which occured and the old resort was weathered and desolate in the off-season, much like our relationship had become. I wanted to be that teenage girl again, though shy, she was confident, smart, imaginative, and knew what she wanted. I wanted to be with my best friend again, getting into trouble or putting on makeshift talent shows. It didn't feel like the same place anymore. I felt sad and disappointed. Then, there were bonfires on the beach, first crushes, first drunk, so many dreams, usually along with a friend I was allowed to bring. We all did, my sisters brought friends too. We took tanning very seriously in those days. Somehow we didn't get sunburns, not that I remember. If we did, it was the cute Coppertone-girl-with-the-puppy-kind and we were brown as berries by week's end.

Later, my parents bought the cottage in Port Austin, on Lake Huron, at the tip of the thumb as we say, and that's where most of the summer lake visits have taken place since. The old cottage on the trail is now gone though and they live in a condominium subdivision up there, embracing their golden years with other seniors, retirees, golfers, and the close-knit farming community at large. Actually, I haven't spent much time up there in the last few years and came to snub visits there as not real 'up north' vacations. Since my dad's cancer came back this year and the chemotherapy isn't working anymore, I decided I was going to spend more time up there with my parents this summer and I have. I realized this weekend that I've really been missing out on the beauty of this area. I even enjoyed the long cornfield stretches of the drive in a new way that felt like I was visiting for the first time.

But seeing the horrible images on tv of the Gulf oil disaster, a new appreciation was born for our clean, beautiful lakes and beaches in Michigan. I prayed we don't destroy them as I thought, remember this moment in time, the peace it brought, the smell of the clean water and the feeling of the warm sand. I felt my childhood come back to me and I felt happy. I went home from the beach and had ice cream with my dad, knowing I'm able to appreciate what I have now. I feel so sad for the humans and wildlife in the Gulf Coast and the only way I know how to honor the pain they are enduring is to learn this lesson and do my part to protect the environment and appreciate life. We really are lucky to have these lakes, lets keep them this way. Our dads will be proud.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Since you already have your checkbook out...

I wrote this post about a month or so ago and decided not to publish it then. I felt is was a long soapbox rant that people tired of hearing from the bleeding hearts but this morning I changed my mind. Yesterday, I attended a Homeless Action Network of Detroit benefit called Unheard Voices at the University of Detroit Mercy. It is a theatrical production of actor's monologues in the words of real Detroit homeless stories. Today, I’m writing large income-tax checks to the federal and state governments and am feeling the need to share my thoughts. Maybe this is just a memo to self not to gripe when paying my taxes.

Recently, a friend complained in one of those annoying Facebook copy-and-paste posts that “America is the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations.” I agree, partially. I think more in terms of humanity than country but I do think it starts in our own communities first and ongoing. This is why I vote for a government that I am willing to give more of my money to so they will spread it out to those in need, beginning with the sick and homeless here.

It's easier for many to text a nominal donation or write a check in reaction to disturbing images and celebrity-induced emotional adrenaline than to accept the idea of paying more on a regular basis to aid those they feel have chosen their plight. They see a natural disaster like the earthquake in Haiti as more deserving of their help because these people didn’t get themselves into this situation. It was beyond their control.

We’ve been barraged with heartbreaking images of injury, death, despair, hunger, fright, sickness, helplessness, and homelessness. I’ve sat sobbing watching these news stories myself. It has been shocking to many to see this. They haven’t seen it before. If they haven’t seen similar images in their own inner cities or communities, they’ve turned a blind eye to humanity. These are not earthquake victims we look through but the unfortunate. They are the sick, the drug-addicted, the scared, the unemployed, the underemployed, the mentally ill, the homeless, the dying. Many of them know no other way. They are fighting for survival with little more than faith.

I applaud Americans and all of the other nations that have come together to aid the people of Haiti in their greatest time of need, I’m proud to be one of many that have. I only hope that the rewarding experience of compassionately helping strangers that are suffering helps them see how collectively small amounts add up to billions of life-saving relief. Survival of the fittest means a humanity that takes care of the weak ones. That’s what makes us stronger, not ignoring or disposing of them.

I hear so often the rebuttal that many welfare or unemployment insurance recipients are lazy, drug and alcohol addicted criminals working the system. Maybe some are, definitely not all or even most, especially the children. These programs are set up for the people who need them. It is not my place to judge those more or less deserving of this aid. A home, education, food, clothing, a job - things that most of us have never gone without - if you know someone that has, you don’t blame, you help.

Please give what you can and please keep giving, there and here. Whether it’s paying taxes that may go toward social services that help these people in our communities or donating additional money, items, your time, skills, and compassion. The piece you contribute, no matter how small, counts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

500 Days of Winter in Detroit.

Ms. Memo's Movie Madness Marathon.

Recently, I opened my wallet and a peering, young store clerk remarked “Blockbuster card, they still have those stores?” I admit it, I still go to Blockbuster. I tried Netflix last year for a few months and I just wasn’t feeling it. I know the kids are downloading movies for free online and others are using On Demand from their cable networks. I like to leave the house sometimes, even in cold, dead January in Michigan. And besides, they have M&M’s there. There are not many reasons to go out in the winter when you’re a freelancer working from home. Movies are one. These are the ones that got me out last week.

Brought to you by the creators of "Office Space" attempting to fit it into the same formula with similar characters. Jason Bateman carried this movie and I liked the dynamic between his and Ben Affleck’s character, though cliché, was funny, if you like Spicolli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and who didn’t love Sean Penn in that iconic ‘80’s movie? They tried to rehash the “mmm…yeah, I’m going to need you to go ahead and come in this weekend…” line. It doesn’t work anymore. It’s been over-killed by popular culture. There wasn’t a single funny thing about the stereotyped factory-worker characters; the stupid tattoo-punk, the non-English-speaking immigrant, the busy-bee hag in the cat t-shirt, the…hot, scheming temp…And, as much as I love SNL’s Kristin Wiig, her suburban-wife character came across dull. I guess they were all just the backdrop to Jason Bateman’s role of mid-life crisis. It’s good for a laugh or two and will resonate some old “Clerks”-like humor but it doesn't break much ground or make people want to run out and quit their office job on Monday.

500 Days of Summer
Get ready for the adorableness. This movie is so damn cute it made me want to pull out my Smith’s CD (yeah, I still listen to CD’s too…) and tell that cute guy that I have a crush on how much he makes me want to sing Karaoke, write poetry, and buy an Ikea sofa. You will want to run out and hold hands with the next messenger-bag- wearing guy on the bus (there aren’t any of these in Detroit by the way) pull out his iPod earpieces and plant a big kiss on him. As we know, these crush relationships can’t last forever though and in my own recent case, exactly 10 days. But this movie gives me hope that the next guy in line at Blockbuster could be the one and how am I going to meet him if I don’t leave the house to get my movies? I loved this movie because I’m a romantic and relate to bliss, obsession, and angst and it made me forget for 90 minutes that I was just dumped by my crush. Who wouldn’t love a movie that made them feel like a teenager again?

Nine (not even an eight)
Don’t bother. The women are gorgeous and the period costumes are beautifully sexy ala "Moulin Rouge" meets "Breakfast at Tiffanys" but really, hasn’t this been done a million times? The story of Daniel Day Lewis’s character was an excellent reminder of why I never, ever, ever, ever want to be in a relationship with a film director again. Ever. Let this movie be a warning, there is a certain breed of director that is so self-absorbed, egocentric, self-proclaiming and behaving, tortured, creative genius that they are boring with themselves and nobody will stick around forever waiting for them to get their act together. They need to stay on their manic-depression meds and stop trying to make movies and create drama in the lives around them. Whoa, where did that come from?

Notable mentions:

The Road
Frightening, depressing, and touching with unthinkable and realistic potential. It is about love, death, and acceptance. I wouldn’t go see this if you have a terminal disease but otherwise, I found it human and questioning. I’m still thinking about it. You always wonder how you would handle yourself in a disaster, world’s-end scenario. This movie will change your mind about your will to survive.

I did see Up in the Air, but so did everyone else. It stars George Clooney at his finest, which is pretty damn fine. It’s very watchable, with well thought-out direction. I liked how they gave some of the scenes an indie feel and made is much less predictable than it could have been. For a big movie, it felt small, which goes a long way for this story. Just get it over with and see it if you haven’t yet. If you're unemployed and living in Detroit, you might want to ask your college-age son to download it for free from the internet.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Polish Food for the Winter-Weary Soul.

Who knew the place to be in Detroit on Christmas eve-eve is Hamtramck’s Polish Village Café for a festive midday meal? I do now. We were lined up out the door, along the sidewalk of this pseudo-thriving, old-world, working-class neighborhood. Of course, being caught up in the holiday hustle of the ‘Still have to do in the next 24 hrs.’ mode, and already wearing the winter-weighted look of the carb-laden, sugar-cookie coated Midwesterner, I was less than enthusiastic to get a last minute invite from mom and dad for a Polish lunch. Dad is a real meat-and-potatoes, salt-of-the-earth, solid, Irish-stock of a man. Now weak, tired and thin from the return of cancer, he had a hankering for some pork chops. So I slapped on my bolshevik (faux) fur hat and hopped in the backseat for the 15 minute jaunt down I75 from Royal Oak to the familiar Caniff exit leading onto Joseph Compeau Avenue and into another realm.

The streets were bustling (ok, maybe stirring) with activity and Christmas decorations. Among the closed and boarded-up businesses were some Open signs and people, like women and children and elderly couples, crisscrossing the narrow, district streets, having friendly conversations, smiling, stopping, waving, shopping. I felt a stir of hope for this city. A glimmer. But this human presence was not the big surprise. That came when we pulled into the public parking lot. It was packed. Odd. Walking up to the Polish Village Café building, smack-dab in the middle of the brick, duplex, residential neighborhood, we realized there were people waiting to get in. It was 1p.m. and the lunch hour was going strong. More were coming, they were taking names, and my frail father was waiting too, begrudgingly, but working hard to rustle up a little patience. If I wasn’t there, they would’ve left. But I was and I was thrilled to be part of this. I felt so connected to my Detroit history and reassured with my decision to move back here a few years ago and stick it out, no matter what. It’s what Polish families, many of whom came from this neighborhood and still live there, waiting in line for pork chops and mashed potatoes, do. There were sticking it out. That’s what they do. That’s what we do.

It was a festive, colorful, steamy affair of glittering tinsel and heaping plates of hot, delicious, carb and gravy-laden delights; Pierogi, sauerkraut, cheese, kielbasa, potato pancakes, cucumbers, bread, applesauce and yes, pork chops. Sure, the average customer weight is over, way over, but the spirit is healthy, nourishing and filling. If this isn’t comfort food, I don’t know what is. So, Christmas eve-eve is past but the winter lingers and though my snowbird parents won’t be making that annual pilgrimmage to Florida this year due to Dad’s health, we know where to go to get a little more of those loving helpings of warmth and hope. The Irish stick it out too and we’d like to thank the Polish for their potato pancakes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Fiesta Round-up.

OK, Did you see that new Tresor Parfum spot with Kate Winslet? The whole piece is so quasi mocku-drama. I know they are trying to do the Chanel thing with the grainy, movie-style romantic story but it just doesn’t work with Kate and a foggy bridge. They should’ve had Marion Cotillard or one of the other cast members from Nine doing a broadway, backstage-flowers-with-a-note piece. Then they could’ve partnered with the film release. Maybe Chanel will pull through for us before the holiday. Though, on second thought, Mariah Carey’s Forever fragrance spot made it look like a Cannes Festival winner. Love you Mariah. Really.

Aside from that brief rant and in the spirit of the giving season, Ms. Memo has decided not to criticize any more commercials this week. This is partly due to the fact that she has been so busy shopping that she hasn’t clocked enough TV hours to see the annoying ones just enough times to whine about them. This is also partly due to the huge pay increase she received from her recent film gig which has transformed her into Little Miss Santa.

Admittedly, Ms. Memo is typically a bit of scrooge around the holidays with a cynical view of the whole mainstream mass-marketing, drive-your-credit-card-to the-hilt-through-guilt, extravaganza that it has become. She gets this from her father, the original scrooge. Somehow though, her mother’s influence has taken over this year and Ms. Memo is a downright shopping fool. The two big purchases so far were a Flip Video Camera for a niece and tickets to Jersey Boys at the Detroit Fisher Theater for mom. She is also making a substantial dent in the quest to keep her hometown shopping district in business. Royal Oak's Funky 7 is super rad for cool stuff for teenagers and twenty-somethings like vintage band T’s and lots of Made in Detroit wear.
But not to be put on a pedestal, Ms. Memo has made plenty of personal purchases and several wardrobe enhancements in the process. This is just part of the Universal Law of Nature: The more you give, the more you receive. Ms. Memo is living proof. Mostly what she’s received though is a warm spot in her heart for the beauty and charity all around her during this strange tradition of mass consumerism. It is more fun to join ‘em than beat ‘em.

Ms. Memo would like to give a shout out for her favorite holiday commercial for Garmin® seen here. Sure it’s funny, entertaining, attention-grabbing and memorable but the real hero from this spot is the copywriter, coming up with all of those lyrics to the song. The ones that are intelligible are very hilarious. I can just watch that one over and over.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I thought I may very well never eat again after watching the film exposé, Food, Inc. Mostly though, I’d like to flog someone, but who? The FDA? The Purdue Chicken guy? The McDonald’s brothers? One thing is for sure, I’m glad I stopped eating meat seven months ago. It started as an experiment to see how long I could go without, still eating fish, but no beef, poultry or pork. Yes, I did see Fast Food Nation a few years ago and that stuck with me – those images of the beef slaughter houses were difficult to suppress. And it wasn’t just that, I’d been hearing a lot about hormone injections in chickens, chemically altered foods and pesticides that cause cancer. Having two friends in their 40’s diagnosed with breast cancer this year, I couldn’t keep turning a deaf ear to the rumors.

I really didn’t think my meat-less stint would last this long and admittedly, I relapsed on Thanksgiving turkey and a certain Jet's pepperoni pizza that was calling my name at a party recently. But now, this film has brought my consciousness to a whole new level. It disturbingly shows not only how meat and produce get to our grocery stores and restaurants, but what's in those packaged goods. It uncovers why there is such a rise of E.Coli and Salmonella in meat and dairy foods, as well as green, leafy vegetables like spinach. The investigation also begins to shine a light on the issue of poverty and the high price of healthy food - why does a fast food value meal cost less than a head of lettuce? We begin to understand the correlation of obesity and diabetes to low-income Americans.

I’d recommend seeing the movie, even if you plan on carrying your carnivorous ways to the grave. It raises awareness and hopefully brings attention to the ways we can make small changes in our food-buying habits for healthier eating. Utilizing farmer's markets more for organic and locally-grown produce is an excellent start to improve ours and future generation’s health and possible big changes in the food and farming industries. I know, we’re all already sick of the global-warming talks which seem so ominous and powerless but this is something we can do now to make a difference for world hunger and disease. And, if nothing else, you might lose a few pounds from consuming just one less serving of high-fructose corn syrup. What red-blooded American couldn’t stand that? Watch the trailer or film and share your thoughts.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.
-Upton Sinclair