M Wood Pen

have pen, will travel

“Someone’s having a party!” says the chummy, rosy-cheeked check out lady in a pivotal scene in Nancy Meyer’s beloved (at least in our house, we watch it on a monthly basis) holiday rom-com, “The Holiday”. If you haven’t seen it, put it on your list, as it’s a magic-making, house-hopping, true-love finding lark with Jack Black, Kate …

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god bless all who perishedi’ve altered today’s scheduled programme, something that had to do with springtime, birds, and some aggressive work, instead to take a moment to consider all the souls who perished in the titanic.

100 years ago today.

my mom is a bit of a ‘swami’, as in, sort of intuitive, clairvoyant, and anything along those lines. which means that i grew up in a sort of unorthodox, spiritually-aware household.  throw in a firm catholic foundation for good measure, well, at least until my parents had us all storm out of a mothers day sermon where the doddering old priest condemned all single mothers to hell.

i guess like a good baker, you temper life with a bit of this and a bit of that.  i sort of believe in everything, and have had very little reason to abandon any of my hodgepodge potpourri spiritual basket.

so, here we are, a childhood where i would ‘send my mom a message’ while she shopped at the jewel, which, robot-like, found her inexplicably pushing her cart over to the candy aisle (trust me, a rare indulgence in those days), reaching for a bag of chocolate covered raisons.

as the bags were unpacked, to her sounding cry of, “au secour!”, sure enough, out came a bag of just what i had “asked” her to buy for me.


winding through life, i’ve had many reasons to keep one foot on either side of the world: the real, human, blood-forging physical world, and that filmy, floaty unseen bit that i know is out there.

i spent decades firmly believing i died in the titanic.  as a little girl, i was unable to ever look at photos of sinking ships.  our summers spent on the idyllic st. lawrence seaway were partially spent in little terror as huge freighters, proudly flying flags from all over the world, lurched by.  no, i’m no fan of those big creatures that bellow smoke and threaten to leak and plummet to the depths of the unknown seas and deep, chilly rivers.

so, when that james cameron man came out with his ‘kind of the world’ film starring that boyish leo (i’m not a fan) and that darling kate (where do i get her autograph?), i had absolutely no intention of seeing it.

who cares if it costs 100 million dollars to make and was sure to be an oscar favorite?  what on earth would convince me to sit in bloody holy terror for a few hours, just to relive my earlier doom?

as i find a challenge a worthy adversary, and am trying my best to not be a big old chicken, i was eventually peer-pressured into seeing the movie.  the only agreement i made to myself, as i chomped soothingly on popcorn, was that now, as a mother of three children, i indeed was brave and would face my fears head on.  heart thumping, romance established, that silly plot that killed time as we all enjoyed the sumptuous hug of that beautifully appointed ship, i waited for the final night and that damn iceberg to thrust itself into the peaceful gaiety.

i kept my eyes open the entire time.

years later, on a trip to nyc with my daughters, we followed my tradition of staying always at a different part of the city.  finding a macabre pull towards this most scary subject, i booked a ‘captain’s room’ at “the jane hotel”….face my fears once again!

this cool hotel, renovated and decorated in a sea-faring, circa 1912 style, was originally built as a small-roomed berth sort of hotel to accommodate the crew members of in and outgoing behemoth vessels of the atlantic.  ahoy matey and all that, the bell caps wore those darling “telegram”-delivering lad looking vestments and jaunty round caps; the room keys were affixed to large brass fobs and tucked into those old wooden cubby cabinets; the decor of our room was early 20th century; the view was the hudson river and the proud, welcoming statue of liberty.

but what really pulled me into choosing this hotel over all others?

it was the hotel where the survivors of the titanic were brought to stay during their arrival in new york, and where they stayed during the investigation.  on top of that, a memorial service for all those lost was held in the hotel ballroom.

who could resist this chilling, historical and spooky vignette?

sure enough, it was fabulous, and sadly, my gals and i weren’t visited by any ghostly apparitions. call it a quirky part of my unconventional childhood, but i was really hoping, though biting my nails in apprehension, to see or at least feel, something otherworldly during out stay.  call me crazy but i do believe in all of that stuff.

no such luck.

but, it did churn up a wonderful visit that paid homage, in some small way, to that terrible, horrible disaster.  as a member of the club of the living and a big, big fan of history, i savored the six-degrees of separation factor of our time at “the jane”.

so, here we are, 100 years later.  i’m still afraid of ocean liners, but as a designer and illustrator, i can’t get enough of their style, engineering and formidable existence.  today is a day to take a moment to pause for all who suffered from this great and horrific tragedy and cherish the breath that comes still to us, here and now.  and if any of the titanic starring cast is floating around, either in england, over that dreaded part of the ocean, or paranormally sipping a glass of port at “the jane”, then, here’s to you.


don't ride public transportation: contagion!

last friday, my movie opened, so i went to see it. now, i’d never actually been behind the scenes and felt a connection to a major motion picture before, so this warranted a big bucks movie theatre, urged my movie-mania hollywood-follower doppelganger, susie.  sure, why not? off we went, tickets reserved, enjoying bloody marys at the bar before we were shown to our seats. (i meant it when i said it was the fancy kind of theatre…knowing what i now know, i’d rethink those bloodies).  reclining in plush orange barcaloungers, we ordered an outrageously large plate of home made chips slathered in blue cheese, a tray of organic beef, medium rare sliders to share, and of course, the movie must have, diet coke. the previews wrapping up by the time our smorgasbord arrived, we dove hungrily into our feast as the credits rolled and the movie began. so exciting! my day on the set with matt damon last winter rewarded me with not only free breakfast and $66.00, but the totally cool feeling of being connected to one of these blockbuster hits that i’ve basically given my heart to for my entire life.  i really dig movies. susie and i were riveted to the screen: things get kicking right away with poor gwyneth getting a sick greenish color, and then things go downhill pretty much from there.  did i mention that, while gwyneth was turning green (i won’t be a spoiler, so just see the movie. and if you have, i’ll bet you’re laughing right around now..), susie and i were digging into that mound of chunky blue cheese, greedily chomping down on those juicy burgers….when all of a sudden… o m g, i mean….o m g. later, when our muffled screams and hysterical laughing subsided, susie quietly leaned over to me and said, “that last slider has your name on it” as the big screen ahead showed more and more of the surprising and graphic symptoms of a mass virus wiping out the earth’s population, one person at a time.  no spoilers, again: but do not eat anything during this movie: or do so at your own risk! later, while looking over the cozy lap blankets that the fancy theatre supplied, we both had the same thought: this blanket and it’s subsequent hidden germs could kill us.  where was hand sanitizer when you needed it! yes, it’s contagion and it’s my movie. so, last november, when i didn’t have anything better to do, i tricked my friend eileen into signing up at a casting call in chicago.  it was kind of mean of me, i know, but she had fun and she’s a great sport, thank goodness.  the drive to a huge warehouse with a line of shady looking people snaking around back did slow down her stride, prompting her to comment, “i thought we were going out for lunch and shopping?” not when you’re hanging around with me, i said! she got the giggles, really, a banker, a high roller in the world of the staid financial world, filling out an application amongst a pool of eager thespians on a cold november chicago morning.  “am i a member of sag?  what’s sag?  of course i sag, i’m nearly 50”  “do you think jude is inside waiting to hand pick us for this role?”  “i think we’re going to get the role.” and then i got the giggles, these impossibly odd and totally off the mark questions bouncing out of her and off of me: i could barely keep up.  and people were starting to stare.  and not in a good way. our excitement built as we got closer to the big warehouse doors, impressed with the efficiency of these hollywood people.  turning the corner finally to step inside, we were met by a fascinating sight.  piles and piles and piles of bodies were stacked along every available aisle.  bodies in blue bags, mannequins missing hands, bald plastic forms haphazardly strewn atop one another. suddenly, our hopes that this matt, gwyneth, jude and kate movie was light & lovely rom-com lark were thrown out of the window.  clearly, people are going to die. for a fleeting moment, dark worry met our gazes as we sized up the dead, spotting a few army trucks rounding out the rest of the props on display for us.  this is scary! then, we were back onto the lucy and ethel-like train of fun, totally ignoring the sign that read, “do not touch the props”, and touched the props.  we even gave our camera to another thespian and while pulling one of the corpses up to pose for a candid shot, sort of got in trouble. okay, on to the table, turned in our forms, had to get a head shot taken (that’s hollywood folks, always the cameras blinking and flashing), and then would be free to go.  what?  no interview? no q&a from the casting agent?  no casting couch?  seeing our chance for top billing slipping through our fingers, i decided to chat up the totally cute casting man…this tactic worked in college, and i’ll just betcha it’ll work in a cold warehouse too. eileen looked incredulously at me, just shaking her head, as the casting man and i exchanged our business cards, nearly hugging goodbye. yes! so, thinking that this was it, that we really didn’t have a chance of getting “the part”, we left feeling silly and satisfied with the hilarity of our day of “auditioning” (translation: waiting in line and turning in a form).  besides, the day of the chicago “shoot” wasn’t going to work with our important schedule: we had already booked a really great getaway. little did we know that stardom was just a phone call away….. to be continued (i have to meet my niece w/custom designed french themed notes as she leaves for paris in the morning….will continue this post later)

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