Tuesday, January 05, 2010


If you were expecting photos of the U.S. Bank time-and-temperature sign registering lows that have ranged from zero to minus-14 in this cold new year, think again. It’s too cold for me and for the delicate innards of the digital camera.

I don’t remember a longer stretch of snow and intense cold in southern Iowa, although up north it’s nothing too unusual --- so I’m trying not to whine about it. The house is warm and there’s plenty of food, after all. So far the only inconvenience has been the garage door opener, which declines to open the door fully unless I stand inside with my thumb on the switch. The trick here for someone accustomed to coming and going through the garage is to remember that I won’t be able to get back into the house unless I leave a storm door unlocked or am prepared to slide on my stomach through a narrow opening to reach the switch inside.

Delivering food collected at church to the ministries council food bank yesterday morning reminded me of others not so fortunate. Heating bills are soaring and that will be a challenge for many, too. Like many other churches, we have a modest discretionary fund intended to offer kindness to strangers who fall through financial cracks. As the cold deepens, the recession continues and sources of government funds dry up, it’s coming under increasing pressure.

I’ve been thinking about the challenges of caring for livestock in weather like this, too. Friends who raise horses have 14 stabled, but a few times that number outside --- and neither they nor those who care for them are happy campers right now.

We are anticipating more snow from late Wednesday into Thursday and a day of even colder temperatures before a weekend warmup finally begins. Whew!

I’ve made two new year resolutions I should be able to keep --- get a haircut (I’ve been using the cold as an excuse to put that off, however) and have breakfast, dinner or supper at the new Honey Creek Resort, a half hour to 45 minutes away. The food there, as well as all the other amenities, are getting good reviews and I really don’t have a good excuse, other than perhaps it’s too close to home, for not getting there more often.


it’s been so far a good year for escapism. I’ve been re-reading John Berendt’s “The City of Falling Angels,” a book that followed by several years his “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” That book was about Savannah; this one, about Venice. Both places are quite a bit warmer than Iowa right now.

The centerpiece of Berendt’s newer book is a great fire that destroyed the Fenice, Venice’s opera house, but there are many other skillfully written and gossipy side trips down other Venetian canals involved. Berendt is a masterful storyteller, and this is a wonderfully entertaining read even through it has no deep redeeming social value --- but who needs redeeming social value when it’s this cold.

Evenings, I’ve taken to the sofa to watch (finally) all 13-plus hours of the 25th anniversary “collector’s edition” of “Brideshead Revisited.” I bought this a couple of years ago, but have never taken the time to see it through from beginning to end.

Anyone else remember this ground-breaking “mini-series” that premiered in the early 1980s, based the best-known novel by Evelyn Waugh --- a thoroughly nasty little man who could write like an angel?

This was ground-breaking for several reason including its extreme attention to detail (13 hours, after all), the fact much of it was shot on location (Castle Howard, above, in North Yorkshire depicting Brideshead Castle, Oxford, London, Venice, Morocco and more) and its superb cast and performances.

It’s a pleasure to watch Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder, whose narration unites the film; Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte, his doomed friend and lover; and Diana Quick as Julia Flyte, Sebastian’s sister, and equally doomed although somewhat less decisively so friend and lover of Charles.

The show-stealers, however, are John Gielgud as Edward Ryder, Charles’s delightfully twisted father; Lawrence Olivier as Lord Marchmain, father of Sebastian and Julia; and Claire Bloom as Lady Marchmain, their mother.

I remember the difficulties involved in trying to watch all of the many episodes when this first was broadcast in the 1980s --- millions of others in both the U.S. and U.K. were equally mesmerized (and mildly frustrated) during that initial broadcast. So it’s lots of fun just to drift through it at leisure, enjoying every frame.


I’ve also watched again in recent days “Brokeback Mountain,” inspired by the fact my neighbor, who acquires vintage vehicles now and then, currently has parked in his front yard a 1950s pickup that is the twin (other than the fact its gray and rust in color rather than black) of the pickup Jack Twist was driving as Ang Lee’s production opened.

It’s always a pleasure to watch this beautifully done film and interesting to notice how much more evident the skills of the director and actors, as well as the universality of the story, are once you’ve gotten used to the ground-breaking depiction of love uniting two ranch hands.

And then “Milk,” featuring Sean Penn’s award-winning portrayal of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, something of a patron saint for those of us who are LGBT, assassinated in 1978 with Mayor George Moscone by ex-Supervisor Dan White.

It’s somewhat refreshing to think as 2010 dawns how much has changed in the last 30 years --- that even good Christians have for the most part stopped suggesting we should be imprisoned or killed and are preoccupied now with debating whether or not our right to marry in Iowa (who would have thunk it?) should be continued.

1 comment:

Ed said...

My garage door opener on the outside gives up the ghost anytime we get below freezing so I've taken to carrying a key just in case the one in my car fails to open it someday.

I do remember a similar cold stretch that we had here in southern Iowa but I think it was in the mid 90's because we had hogs at the time. I'd have to look in my father's journals to say for sure but I remember an entire week where the high was below zero and it took me several hours every morning just to thaw out the "freeze proof" hog waterer's that we had.