Waiting for Ionesco…


An important part of my studies in French was the famous playwright, Ionesco. The Theatre of the Absurd is certainly something to behold and although it seemingly makes no sense, it does make sense. While I taught French, I often ended up reading the famous French play by Ionesco, “Rhinocéros.” In it, people going through the routine of their daily lives are struck down by a strange disease in which they begin turning green and developing horns before turning into an actual rhinoceros. When reading or seeing the play, one is impressed to think that perhaps it might be talking about a situation where even though one might know better, one falls victim to a charismatic individual and philosophy and gets caught up in a movement (like that of the Nazis). Ionesco, a transplant in France from Romania, does this all so well.

Life after all is extremely absurd, more often than not nothing seems to make any sense and rules are broken, things change, odd things happen. What is it due to, God? What if you do not believe in God? If there is a God, why is he/she allowing so many bad things to occur?

On Friday evening, MK and I went with CC and Tony to the Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier for a special event, the “Ionesco Suite,” a compilation of various parts of Ionesco Theatre put together by a French Troupe and accompanied by the English Translations (albeit, sometimes with a mistake here or there or a nuance I did not expect) in projection form. I have not yet figured out how not to watch such things even though I understood what was going on. Understood? Maybe not totally possibly with the Theatre of the Absurd!

The entire evening proceeded well. We picked up CC and took Sheridan Road to Lake Shore Drive (which I like to do at that hour of the day, finding it less stressful and with less traffic than the highway) and managed to get to Navy Pier in a reasonable time, about an hour. We did the Riva Restaurant Valet, giving us a $14 fee for parking (amazing!) and had a wonderful dinner overlooking the Chicago skyline with its autumn clouds and gloomy Lake Michigan. Barbara Gaines, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre was even having dinner with her family at the adjacent table.

I was really wondering what to expect. I know enough about Ionesco to be aware of what was coming but I was wondering how the actors were going to be able to ‘pull it off.’ As it turned out, they did an amazing job. Yes, it often made no sense at all. At times there was major word play as they played with language. At times there were strange reactions on the part of one actor to another and the costuming was odd. One of the actors with an extremely dark ‘five o’clock shadow’ was dressed up as a girl and wearing a blonde wig. There were antics that recalled a Carol Burnett or a Lucille Ball type scenario.

Tony put it really well as he said that he was not really sure where it was going (who was?) but the longer it went on, the more he was liking it. Add into all this that there was some sort of fracas in the upper area of the intimate theatre (not the usual one for the Shakespeare venue, but on the 6th floor), which we were not sure was a part of the play or something odd happening. The latter is apparently the true story as someone started talking to an actor and pretty much refused to quiet down and was apparently escorted out.

Mary Kay just mentioned that at the end of the play she had a very neutral reaction but later on it all got pieced together in her mind. She felt as if what she had witnessed was like what is often going on in our minds where thoughts and visuals occur haphazardly and without being instigated. The French actors were amazing in just being French, in periodically speaking with an American accent in French and throwing in just a bit of gallic-accented English. To look at the troupe, they looked decidedly French in both physical appearance and gestures.

It was an amazing event, very unusual, a one act (without intermission) play that brought out all sorts of audience reaction, I am so glad to have been a spectator.

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Les Bigoudis revisited with Kelsey



A couple of weeks ago, Kelsey and I were playing in the family room. I decided to take this moment to do a little inventory and re-organization of the toy situation. In doing so, I came across the beloved “bigoudis,” the curlers my mother had and which we had brought from Cleveland when she moved to the Chicago area in 2003. The bigoudis are in a strange container, something obviously picked up by my mother at a craft fair or something.

My mom used to have her hair washed and set every two weeks whether needing it or not. Seriously, she was a family butt of jokes because she only needed hair washing once ever two weeks. It never looked greasy or dirty but no one could figure out how she could possibly last that long. Why we brought the curlers to Illinois is beyond me, as she never used them once living in our area.

Her hairstyle was one adopted sometime in the sixties and she never wavered in the look. It was a high and inflated hairdo, required ‘ratting,’ that sixties technique which seemed to give hair more volume by lightly ‘knotting’ it up. Lacquer was the other component, lot of hairspray, ‘Aqua Net,’ actually. Back in the day, she used to even wear strange silky headgear or even roll toilet paper around her head to maintain her coiffure. Again, we never figured out how she could lacquer up that hair and wear it for two weeks without cooties, but she did.

I pulled them out (les bigoudis) for Samantha and she loved to play with them. We wondered if that might just be a fluke but apparently not as Kelsey is also in love with them. She spent an entire afternoon playing with them, putting them into things, taking them out of things, and even allowing us to put them in her hair. She continues to enjoy them whenever we pull them out for her.

Too strange, it is. Why she would like them is beyond us but they make a great toy!

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Children’s Car Seats


I kind of think it is amusing that a 60 something might be blogging about infant and children’s car seats, but since I am sometimes involved in transporting one of the younger set around town, it is on my mind.

Back in the day, we had car seats and they were painful as all get out. We had one of the earlier varieties given to us at a shower and it was not only difficult, it had to be quickly retired when one of the boys managed to get proudly out of it while MK was on the highway.

We currently have three different sizes of car seats with which to deal. There is one for the infant from birth to just over one year old and the transition seat from that to the one Samantha currently uses, which is nothing more than a platform supposedly making the back seat belt situation more secure.

The smallest one is one in which the baby is firmly strapped in a seat which is able to be placed on a two belt hooked secured base in the back seat area of the car. That can be a pain as unless you use them often, you forget how to unlatch them when moving the baby out of the car. The other issue is that it seems every year they change and although we have two bases, the new grandchild’s seat does not fit it.

The transition seat is really annoying as it is hard to get its seat belting mechanism to easily work. It also is secured by belt and hooks to the rear car seats.

Samantha’s seat is the easiest and can pretty easily be taken out and put in another car. In this era of more than one car to a family syndrome, that is something to think about.

Add into all of this, MK heard some disturbing news about the safety of all of them. It makes you wonder although we certainly will not stop using them. Hard to believe that seat belts were not required until the 60s!

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Not that I like milk, I actually do not even like the taste of it. My mother always told me that my distaste for milk started young. I had to drown the milk taste in a chocolate syrup like ‘Bosco,’ or some strawberry syrup (which happened less often) in order to drink the stuff. I remember in elementary school when we would have milk delivered and I would have to have the chocolate variety. I remember loving it, but also remember that I would drink it and have a feeling of queasiness that I think of as being the French feeling of ‘mal au foie.’

Milk is an important thing in our lives. I may not like to drink it out of a glass but I do often use it in coffee and I certainly use it in cooking. The reason I mention it is because today we pay a great deal of money to drink organic milk since we are so frightened of what the milk producers have done to the simple product.

We are afraid, what with little granddaughters in our midst, what the hormones and antibiotics present in American milk are going to do in terms of their lives. It is a good idea to eat and drink the most natural products, ones with as little tampering as possible.

It seems crazy to think that we have to think so much when buying a simple product such as milk and makes me think all the more that we all need to be pro-active and think about all the ingredients in everything you purchase. And then, there is the GMO issue…

Posted in Consumerism, Cuisine and Food, Health | Leave a comment

The Status of French


Yesterday, as the day wound down, I was thinking of French. Thinking of French because it is the language that I use when I speak to my granddaughters. It is a routine started on the request of my son and his wife when our first granddaughter was born. I have remained faithful to the quest, an interesting language experiment of sorts.

We had the three girls at our house yesterday, all together, for the first time in granddaughter daycare mode. For some reason, I thought about my now over five-year experiment as I communicated with the girls. Sometimes I have to explain things to Samantha as she either feigns misunderstanding or actually does not. Sometimes, it is just the lack of total focus of a five year old that is the reason for the lack of understanding.

Samantha speaks to me in English as I speak to her in French and from what I have read, that is standard. That is fine with me. Not that I would not like her to speak to me in French but I think it is much more than I should expect.

I am very curious as to where my experiment is going now that there are two other girls in the mix. As they grow older, I am curious as to whether they will all do as Samantha or if there is a certain competition that may cause one or more of them to actually start talking in French.

Samantha has shown more interest of late. She is proud of the fact that my language with her is French and tells people about it. She has been asking more questions and venturing more into the spoken language arena. She has often told me that she will start speaking when she is ready to do so. As much as I would like her to, there is no pressure.

Kelsey has already show her bilingual side as I can say the same thing Mary Kay says to her in English and she will totally get it. I find it fascinating, it is nothing more than reality to Kelsey, she is not even aware that my language is different from that of everyone else.

No matter what, the skills imparted will remain in the brain and these girls should, even if they do not end up speaking fluent French (which I hope they do), they will have skills that will always be of use to them. Meanwhile, I have a perfect excuse to practice something I love and can share.

Posted in Bilingual, Education, Family, Language, Life in general | Leave a comment