Monday, November 19, 2012


I don't know why it is that setting your teeth into a well-browned hunk of hog makes you feel good, but it works for me. For Thanksgiving and Christmas I want meat, and I don't mean a measley, puny, stunted portion, either. I want big, maddeningly fragrant mounds of steer, hog or bird, or maybe all three, drenched with gravy.

Holiday meats should be baked until all you have to do is gently nudge some critical joint, and the whole thing sweetly falls apart into neat little sheaves. This meat is not burned, it is charmed, and you can eat right through its coral bones.

I wonder what spiritual eunuch first banned "cooking odors" from the home? I want to smell that heavy hunters-and-gatherers food baking. Morning of the banquet day you put the standing rib roast or the big boss bird in the oven. If it's a turkey, you might dip a length of cheesecloth into a pound of melted butter and snugly wrap up that tom. He's now your big gilded turkey baby. In the next hour, ragingly delicious smells will expand in golden waves from the kitchen.

Then the best of times comes. You sit down with those you love to eat the food you love. A glass or two of crystal white wine or potent red goes well with this--wines that are the soul of grape and sun-drenched vineyards, so that they seem to kiss you back when you smack them.

At the end, there are berry pies nestled in buttery crusts. In our family, there's also a hundred-year tradition of serving candied nuts in the same gorgeous china bowl. I'm sure you know there are saints' bones that are handled with less reverence than we lavish on that bowl. Then everyone alternates sipping his or her dark, fine coffee and nibbling the brown-sugar-crusted nuts of the field. We look around the table and see  these faces we love, and every single one of us (and we are very spiritually diverse) thanks someone in his heart: Lord Jesus or sacred oak tree, Blessed Virgin or earth goddess, corn maiden or Krishna.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Actors fight, dance, leap from great heights. They creep with style, shimmy and even walk better than you or I do. They may be privately shining with sweat from the effort of making these moves, but up on the screen they're dusted with stars. Here I'm going to concentrate on four famous ways of covering ground.

JOHN TRAVOLTA  owns one of the best walks in modern movies. He shows it all in his street-strut through the credits in SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. He steps out in his 70's regalia,  pointy-toed red shoes which match his flare-collared red silk shirt. The infatuated camera admires him from the ground up, lingering on the billowing cuffs of his black polyester slacks and the magnificent aggressiveness of his proudly popped collar. I love this scene a lot more than the later ones in which he gets up to his ice-cream-suited, dancy-dance nonsense.

Travolta also delivers a satisfying moment when he climbs stairs in a busy fern restaurant to vent justice. In GET SHORTY he's been insulted by a gangster standing on a landing. Wrong move, goon! Travolta heads up the stairs with that brisk can-do set of his shoulders. He's unhurried, with a confidence so serene he doesn't even look cross. He collects the nasty guy like a bad debt and heaves him down the stairs like manure off a pitchfork, all without missing stride. Travolta is the Walk King of his

In my opinion, RICHARD GERE is never convincing in Good Guy roles. Maybe it's too much of a stretch for him, who knows? But he did surprisingly well in INTERNAL AFFAIRS as a cheating, lying, betraying, wife-seducing bad guy. He was also very effective as a shameless sleazebag of a celebrity lawyer in PRIMAL FEAR. Which brings us to his walk. Maybe it's not his fault. After all, babies learn to walk around a year of age. But Richard Gere walks like a drag queen. He walks as if he's thinking about his hips a lot more than men usually do. There's a seductive little hitch in his get-along, to put it mildly. This fits with his dark and ambiguous roles, but is one of the reasons we can't believe him in the saintly ones.

JOHN WAYNE walks with his whole bulky body, something like a sasquatch would do, as if he were holding the sky up on his big shoulders and the earth down with his feet. He plows ahead no matter what the plague or disaster. In THE SEARCHERS, for five long years he never ceases to search for his kidnapped niece, by sunlight, moonlight, firelight, through storms and floods, under attack and threat of death. He searches mainly by horseback, but also in large part by the almost demented concentration and forward impetus of his walk. We never doubt that walk will find her, and it does.

For me, the most endearing walk is that of ROBERTO BENIGNI in the Italian movie THE MONSTER. Through his usual series of disastrous misunderstandings, Roberto's gentle character Loris is suspected of being a mass murderer. Nicoletta Braschi is the tough-minded undercover detective assigned to his case. She shadows Loris constantly, and gradually becomes fascinated by the wildly eccentric little man. Now, as for his walk: in an early scene, with typical Roberto reasoning, Loris has decided he'll avoid the notice of his landlord, to whom he owes money, if he crouches down and walks like a duck below the man's line of vision. He does this more or less successfully, but rather sadly. There is something very lonely about a man walking like a duck all by himself. But Nicoletta sees this ruse of his. By this time she's realized that, contrary to the evidence, he's an innocent at heart. She gently crouches down beside him, and as they duck-walk away together, his face lights up with a shy man's happiness.