Jennie Orvino’s Blog: Piece of Mind
Covid-19 has only hit one member of my family, a cousin who lives in the Midwest. He is finally, blessedly, on the mend after being hospitalized and in the ICU for many weeks. At the Spring equinox, I get my first vaccine jab, and the second appointment is already set. I am grateful for all this and for my continued good health as a woman who has been eligible for grocery store senior discount day for nearly a decade.
This post is a shout-out to another of my Illinois first cousins, Kym Frankovelgia. A cabaret singer in the style of Streisand, Kym has spent much of her recent career working at elder communities. During the pandemic shutdown, she offered to create virtual mini-concerts for families who could not visit their loved ones in quarantine. I dare you not to get a lump in your throat listening to a daughter’s misty-eyed introduction to the birthday gift of “happy songs” performed by Kym.
In mid-March, Kym had her first in-person gig in a year, singing at Belmont Village Senior Living. There was one way that this appearance differed from the past. In addition to the pizazz, joy and affection that Kym always bestows upon her audiences, she brought along her canine-rescue sidekick, Roxy, to boost the star power.
Kym travelled by car from Illinois to Utah to pick up her “Roxy Star”— a five-year-old Cockerpoo—who had some health issues but whose profile, like the perfect date, checked off all the boxes. That was in December 2020; they have been a duo ever since.
PHOTOS: In the midst of a spell of sub-zero weather, and with the advice and consent of a vet and hip dog groomers, Kym did a bit of color and styling for herself and Roxy.
I remember when Kym, now 66, performed with her sisters in family talent shows before she was even in school. Her mother, my dear Auntie Ange, had been a dancer and teacher who infused wit and big fun into everything she did. Kym inherited her mom’s talent, and more, developed those childhood entertainments into a successful singing career.
Although her website describes her as an “internationally unknown recording artist,” Kym has five professional albums and a history that includes working in night clubs and on cruise ships with the likes of The Ink Spots, The Four Lads, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Glen Miller Band, and many years’ worth of performing at private and public events. She typically does 500 gigs per year!
And while I am bragging on my family… What I have found the most inspiring and useful of Kym’s pandemic ventures is her Uncensored Food website and YouTube channel.What else was an Italian woman from a big family to do “when the music got taken away”?
I think her kitchen bits rival those of the Italian Grandma. I adore Kym’s casual sense of humor and spontaneous salty language when things go a bit amiss. And her cooking attire is a bit flashier than grandma’s, with nary an apron worn. Recipes for “Marry Me Chicken”and “Crispy Brown Butter Pasta” are her YouTube’s latest.
Please enjoy these photos, Kym’s music, and video recipes. Get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible and keep wearing your mask as an act of love. If everyone does their part, we will soon be together again, eating yummy food, hearing great music, and maybe even spreading good vibes in the company of a fashionable doggie.
I’ve been waiting too long to write commentary of my own, thus my blog languished. I’m determined to be better, even though this is my first entry in 2021. I’ve used a lot of my energy not lapsing into loneliness and frustration, but I’ll save feeling sorry for myself for another post.
Here I want to share an op ed by Leonard Pitts, Jr. a columnist for the Miami Herald whom I admire. This dovetails with watching last night, a Frontline documentary “A Thousand Cuts” about how democracy is being eroded in the Philippines under the Trump-like Rodrigo Duterte. That crude, murderous president has succeeded where his counterpart in the USA did not (barely). You can see the film online here. Then also check out “Truth Matters: The State of Democracy and Press Freedom” a web event that was live early this morning with Maria Ressa and the mostly female Rappler reporters.
With that introduction, here is “When facts don’t matter, consequences won’t either” by Leonard Pitts Jr.
“My brother-in-law died of hogwash.
“Another brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, two daughters-in-law, two cousins and several grandchildren are all recovering from hogwash. My wife spent a week in the hospital with hogwash. I tested positive for hogwash, but had few symptoms.
” ‘Hogwash,’ you may recall, was the word a grocery-store owner in Naples, Florida, used last month in dismissing the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. This, after a viral video showing his patrons and employees going about their business without facial coverings, as if they had time-traveled here from 2019.
” ‘I know that the masks don’t work,’ Alfie Oakes told NBC News with the serene confidence of the profoundly ignorant.
“As we observe our first — and, Lord willing, our last — anniversary of life in a pandemic, many of us are taking stock of the various ways we have been affected. The most obvious, of course, is the human toll: One American in every 11 has tested positive, one in every 628 has died. But even those who’ve escaped that fate haven’t escaped the virus’s touch. It has transformed virtually every field of endeavor: sports, education, entertainment, the environment, the economy, eldercare, worship, justice, journalism, protest and politics, to name a few.
“Its effects have also been felt in an arena you may not have considered, though here it has not so much changed something as revealed it. Meaning: it has shown us the high cost of living in a facts-optional — indeed, an anti-fact — society.
“Actually, two events have done that. One was the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a zealot army drunk on conspiracy theories as laughable as they were deadly. The other is this pandemic, which, though it has killed 525,000 Americans, is still regarded by some as “hogwash.” That apparently includes the governors of Texas and Mississippi, who just lifted mask mandates.
“Because of them, people will die. But when facts cease to matter, consequences do too. Troublingly, the power of anti-fact will soon increase exponentially as more so-called deepfakes come online: seamless, utterly convincing videos that show people doing things they never did and saying things they never said.
“Think about it: If some of us are willing to throw out our masks in defiance of stern warnings from respected epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, what happens when a false video seems to show Fauci himself ripping off his mask and declaring it time to party? Now extrapolate that beyond the current crisis. The picture that emerges is terrifying.
“When everybody has their own truth and no two truths look alike, we will become — as we are becoming — a society unable to effectively mobilize itself even to save its own life. If we are to avoid that fate, journalists must disenthrall themselves from false equivalence and stop signal-boosting entertaining liars, voters must extract a penalty at the ballot box from politicians who embrace the anti-fact ethos, social media must be more aggressive in denying platforms to anti-fact superspreaders and educators must make a priority of teaching critical thinking, civics and media literacy.
“Or else be ready for more of this: more than half a million Americans dead. ‘Hogwash,’ the man says.
“The pandemic has changed many things. But it has also given us a harsh gift, showing us what it means to live in an anti-fact nation. Let’s hope we absorb the lesson. Because in the absence of common truths, our future is chaos. Believe it or not.” (Published March 11, 2021)
Like, perhaps, many of you in the past week or so, I’ve been able to finally turn away from the antics of the totally unhinged occupant of the White House and his reality-denying enablers in the Republican establishment. (Except for reading headlines about his countless courtroom defeats).
With rains now tamping down our local fire season, attention might be turned to, what, new coronavirus shutdown, and the largest number of cases in the USA to date? What’s a person to do… besides take refuge in that novel sitting for weeks on the table beside the bed, or enjoy a chuckle from tuning in to the late-night comedians Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers? [I learned that at least for Colbert, the majority of his clever writers are women.]
I’ve been only half hearing how P-elect Biden is retreading the Obama administration personnel for cabinet posts (ignoring Bernie and Elizabeth to his peril). I don’t see the merit of “diversity” via skin color only in the cabinet; what about diversity of ideas?
What about choosing (maybe younger) people with progressive policy plans, rather than “back to the future” tip toeing when boldness is required? And when that is exactly what the majority (yes, majority!) of our country’s people demand? George Bush chose Condoleezza Rice and the now-ashamed Colin Powell as his secretaries of state. How did that work out?
There may be a place, however, for those who exhibit good old-fashioned decency and a desperately needed sense of public service. Here’s an idea that cheered me up when I opened my daily Press Democrat to the Letters and Op Ed pages (often the first place I look after the weather). Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. makes the case for Merrick Garland as the next attorney general.
It would be the one “revenge” the Democrats could take in the face of Mitch McConnell’s shameful and disgusting scuttling of even a hearing for Judge Garland, President Obama’s most diplomatic choice for the Supreme Court.
I remember at the time that I was dumfounded when the lily-livered Democrats didn’t raise a big stink. I guess those clueless corporatists had so much confidence in Hillary Clinton’s ascendance to the presidency that they didn’t want to make a fuss. I suppose I could say the same about the Brett Cavanaugh hearings, but by that time, the Dems were already pretty weak and still afraid to fight dirty. Young women had to verbally (and tearfully) upbraid their representatives in Capitol Hill elevators not to let another Supreme Court outrage happen…to no avail.
It was the first of many outrages in the Trump years to follow, and somehow the decrepit Mitch was involved in all of them (except when it was William Barr undermining the Justice Department). McConnell knew that if Garland had a hearing, he would surely be confirmed. Many Republicans had spoken of Garland as a wise choice; it would be hard to make a case against him on his record.
From the article: “…one of Biden’s essential tasks in the wake of President Trump’s self-aggrandizing, self-referential presidency is to make clear that the Justice Department works for every American. It should never be reduced to being a mere tool of a president’s will.”
I urge you to read Dionne’s argument for Garland as the next A.G, maybe even write to the president elect and suggest it. I wonder if Biden and his team read the Washington Post?
One month to the day after the forever-awaited presidential election, ****p is still gaslighting the American people and declaring himself the winner. (Credit goes Stephen Colbert’s Late Show for the typographical depiction of the soon-to-be-former POTUS).
As the coronavirus rages in the USA with more daily cases ever and the highest death toll in the world, and while food bank lines of cars stretch for miles, he spends the time he isn’t golfing inciting his followers with conspiracy theories and abject denial of reality.
Bill Clinton was impeached (and acquitted) not for his sexual relationship with a White House intern 27 years his junior, but for lying and obstruction of justice. That pales beside the four-year onslaught of untruths numbering past 20,000 by the current occupant of the White House.
And now ****p is gathering mounds of cash to pay his campaign debt by continuing to fund-raise for his bogus legal fights. You may or may not believe that the erstwhile presidential lawyer and co-liar is being paid $20K per day to prolong this losing battle (perhaps to bank some cash for his possible prosecution?)
I think it is important to note that in order to pardon someone, the president has to admit within the pardon document that the person has committed a crime. Considering yesterday’s report of possible pre-emptive pardons, (dubbed by Brian Edwards-Tiekert of KPFA “pardonpalooza”), will ****p say what crimes Rudy Guiliani has committed, or what crimes his children and son-in-law should be pardoned for?
President Obama did many things I did not condone (the drone kill program, letting Wall Street execs go scott-free for their role in the 2008 financial crisis, his role as “deporter in chief”) but at least his first lady cared, and did much more than walk down staircases clutching his arm (or vise-versa). Obama’s daughters were not sued by the New York Attorney General for abusing funds from their charitable foundation.
Even Republican officials are past the breaking point — at least a year too late (I’m counting from the impeachment trial in far-away January 2020.) On December 2, Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling pleaded with the ****p camp to stop stoking election fraud claims which have brought intimidation and death threats to poll workers. “Someone is going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed and it’s not right.”
And not only poll workers. There have been death threats to the employees of Dominion Voting Sytems, one of whom had to go into hiding after his address was published. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he had been the target of multiple death threats. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs released a statement on Wednesday reacting to “ongoing and escalating threats of violence directed at her family and her office.”
Come on people! Are we a third world country? How can we allow a tin-pot dictator wannabe to keep this up for an entire month?
I had a miserable day Tuesday, with frustrating computer issues, brain fog from several sleepless nights in a row and the stress everyone is experiencing from isolation, fear for our health, and the daily struggle to just go on with our lives in light of economic challenges.
I’m writing this to get it out of my head, and to bless the help and comfort I received from friends and family which helped me get almost a full 8 hours of rest last night. When I woke up, I felt the fire to get back to my blog.
Immense credit must go to my 12-year-old grandson for his “Joke of the Day” videos; he has sent me 18 so far, “because I love you so much, Gramma.” Not sure how to link videos sent to my phone here (if you know, tell me). Theo shares baseball jokes because playing catch and doing batting practice are fave things we do together.
Q. What happens when you cross a tree with a famous baseball player?
A. Babe Root
Q. What do you call a haunted baseball stadium?
A. Field of Screams.
Q. Did you know Chewbacca played baseball?
A. He won “Wookie of the Year.”
There, now don’t you feel better?
Yesterday afternoon about 6 p.m. the light was otherworldly orange; this morning, at 9 a.m. the sky is otherworldly orange but also oddly dark, like a storm coming, definitely not as it should be. I admit, I feel extremely uneasy. Writing helps.
What came to mind was the phrase I learned in the 80s: “nuclear winter,” which was hypothesized as the result of widespread firestorms following a nuclear war. The soot injected into the stratosphere would block sunlight, resulting in darkness and cooling that would cause, among other things, crop failure and famine. That’s what the air/sky looks like. Our California Governor Newsom is saying he has no patience with people who deny global climate change now…Well, yes, for decades we have been warned. Unfortunately, the Gov is still awarding a tremendous number of oil and gas leases, keeping the fossil fuel industry thriving in our state.
It’s official; the William Barr Justice Department has become Donald J. Trump’s personal law firm. In addition to misrepresenting the Mueller Report, reversing Roger Stone’s jail sentence, and firing prosecutors unfriendly to “the orange man” (I took note that in a speech, following his son’s being shot in the back by police seven times at point blank range, Jacob Blake’s father referred to Trump as “orange man” casually, as if that were his name), now the Justice Department wants to make us, American citizens, pay if a lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll succeeds.
Yes, the woman who accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a swank department store 20 years ago has a defamation suit in process. This maneuver by the Justice Department wants to move the case to federal court, which would make the U.S. government, rather than Trump himself, the defendant in the case. (See article in the Washington Post). As if we are not already paying in lives and treasure for the crimes of this – I’m running out of adjectives for the mendacious, vile, cruel, misogynistic—man, here’s yet another example.
Well, enough on that. On the side of comic relief, but also insight, let me recommend once again Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert, who are using their platforms of late night comedy to educate citizens about democracy…and history. On a recent show, Noah did a terrific comparison of the current pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic. And still they make us laugh through our tears.
Finally, let me recommend Roy Zimmerman
If you have never heard this wonderful singer/songwriter/political satirist, you are in for a treat, and again, a much-needed chuckle. I heard him perform in Occidental a couple of years ago and last night scrolling through Facebook at bedtime, I came upon his “Live from the Left Coast.” I urge you to check him out and contribute for the music. He said he’s doing a new Facebook Live mini concert every Tuesday. Right on his home page you can click and hear “Vote Him Away (the Liar Tweets Tonight).” I’ll admit he had me singing along, right there from my pillow.By the way, the address for his Metaphor Records is in Lakeport, CA.
In the middle of a holiday weekend with weather setting records in triple digit high temperatures, I took advantage of the caesura between writing assignments published and new articles assigned, to lounge about and re-read Jonah Raskin’s noir mystery: Dark Past, Dark Future. In this, I resemble the author (full disclosure—he is also my friend) who took advantage of the isolation offered by the coronavirus pandemic to finish this third book in his Tioga Vignetta murder mystery trilogy.
Inspired by actual events and real people, Dark Past, Dark Future continues the adventures—and misadventures—of a female private investigator who manages to strap a shoulder holster under the slinkiest of outfits. The first book, Dark Land, Dark Mirror, which deals with crimes against the environment, and the second, Dark Day, Dark Night, which unfolds in the world of marijuana, are set in fictional locales that will be familiar to residents north of the Golden Gate. The names are changed but the geography and the personalities draw the reader in like juicy bits of family gossip.
This novel begins with a helpful list of 28 characters, identified in a few words like the cast in a playbill. From the start, we see that politics, wine, and porn will be included in the plot. The intro pages also include a Note to the Reader, containing information on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. I’ll admit that a warning to expect some kind of domestic battery or assault in the pages to follow had me a little on edge while reading.
The climactic scene’s sexual violence, while brutal, appeared 20 pages before the end of the tale, and had been somewhat balanced out, at least emotionally for me, by Tioga’s mastery of other aspects of her life. We are all complex beings, full of flaws and misjudgments as well as confidence and triumphs. Many a first husband (I say from experience) has been an attractive outlaw. Although when the bad boy crosses over into criminality, the attraction turns to disgust or dread.
Fortunately, the principal character, our beret-wearing, latte-drinking, heat-packing P.I., has allies created in previous books who serve her well in her time of vulnerability. She also has a love/lust interest which gives Raskin the opportunity to show his skill in managing sex scenes that seem equitable between the partners; some are fully in the woman’s control.
I give the author credit for indicating the developing intimacy between Tioga and Alejandro while maintaining descriptive language in the noir style. In other words, the love-making scenes are frank and down-to-earth with none of the “camera cut to the wind blowing the curtains” type of evasion. But while not poetic, the several sex scenes were not smutty either. They showed growing trust and closeness between the partners, right down to the Manhattan cocktails delivered to Tioga in hospital as she recovered from her injuries. I say bravo to that.
I expect the reason for trilogies is that there is so much to cover and so many complicated interactions that you can’t fit everything into the attention span of a beach blanket reader or late night insomniac. However, Dark Past, Dark Future, manages to fit in a good deal of content, both overt and implied, just through the portrayal of the more “minor” of those individuals listed in the cast of characters. I especially enjoyed the winemaker and Jack London buff, Louis Marchetti, the observant artist, Rhonda Hope, and the newspaper editor, Jeremiah Langley, each of whom were sharply drawn in a single, plot-advancing scene.
I give Dark Past, Dark Future 4 stars.
(c) 2020 by Jonah Raskin McCaa Books, Santa Rosa, CA
Two of my subscribers wrote, “Well if you didn’t like 365 Days as an erotic flick, what do you like?” I promised I would make a list of films that had both cinematic quality and at least one memorable erotic scene. I’m still working on that list because I had to go pretty far back into my files. That will be a future post.
But, let me share why I found two films I watched in the past week compelling and romantic (by definition, “dealing with a love affair, being heroic or mysterious, idealistic or adventurous”). Both films are French, bien sûre! And helmed by female writer/directors.
The first, released in 2019, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) is a sensual drama set in the 18th century directed by Céline Sciamma, starring Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel. It won the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay at Cannes, but I didn’t know that before I watched it.
I was taken by this feature from an initial scene where an artist, Marianne, is riding in a small boat on very rough waves off the coast of Brittany. (The camera work put me in a seasick state.) Her bulky box of paints and canvas flips overboard and she dives in—shoes, long dress and all—to retrieve it. You know from the outset that this is a strong and determined woman. She arrives, saltwater soaked, at the remote estate where she has been commissioned to paint the portrait of Héloise, daughter of the house, who is to be married off to a Milanese nobleman.
Males appear in this film only as the dim sailors who deposit Marianne on the rocky shore. The servant, the mother, and the two young women carry the evolving story, riding on a stunning script. Steadily-evolving relationships among all the women surprise and move the viewer. A particularly stunning scene elevates the aftermath of an abortion into a visual akin to a religious fresco on a cathedral wall. I’ll say no more about Portrait of a Lady on Fire so you can fully enjoy it. If you can get a DVD, the extras provided are insightful.
After a few filmic duds, I chose to watch Queen to Play, (Joueuse), for the second time since I knew I would be satisfied. Directed by Caroline Bottaro, it turned out to be a good pairing with Portrait because of its focus on the character played by the extraordinary actress Sandrine Bonnaire.
Hélène, is a maid at a boutique hotel perched on an ocean-view cliff on the isle of Corsica. While making up a guest couple’s bed, she witnesses them playing chess on the balcony. Their interaction, seen through gauzy curtains, looks all the world like sexual foreplay.
A brief conversation with the female guest (who leaves behind a satin nightgown that Hélène appropriates for herself in a failed attempt to attract her husband’s nighttime attention) incites Hélène’s curiosity about chess. She becomes obsessed with learning, and “mastering” the game. “The queen is the most powerful piece.”
The 2009 film (streaming and on disc in 2011) had originally come up in my Netflix queue because I watched another story about chess and because was I was engaged in a string of Kevin Kline movie nights. Kline, speaking French throughout, plays a reclusive widower for whom Hélène cleans house. He becomes a mentor for the aspiring Joueuse d’echec and their growing relationship comprised most of the thrill for me in Queen to Play.
A late scene I have played play over and over is packed with erotic charge but involves not a touch. It is all about intercourse involving the greatest of our sex organs, the brain.
The film, 365 Days, directed by Barbara Białowąs, has been moving in and out of the number one spot on Netflix since it debuted on June 10. I first heard about it from a male friend who said, “It’s supposed to be sexy.”
Buzzfeed senior cultural reporter Scaachi Koul wrote a brilliantly hilarious and right-on review (which I recommend) of this Polish film (which I do not recommend). And neither did she, exactly. One of the article’s pull quotes: “It’s effectively a rape fantasy that clearly hates its woman protagonist, but good god, it fucks.”
On a sun-drenched yacht, the couple engages in sexual intercourse in a variety of positions in a variety of places—on deck, below deck, fore and aft, medium shots, shots from a drone’s eye view. These scenes, when the camera zooms in, are nicely photographed; and the music is appropriately rhythmic and intense.
But to get to that fucking, you have to wait for an hour into the movie. Before that, you must endure Sicilian crime family business, human trafficking, kidnapping, and the rather silly premise that a person who is holding you captive (albeit providing a whatever-you-want high-fashion shopping spree) declares that he is giving you a year to fall in love with him…
The guy, Massimo, is swarthy, tattooed and fashionably unshaven with full lips that curl easily into cruelty, or at least the disdain of the privileged. This is most disturbing at the beginning of the film where he, I would say, forces, a cabin attendant on his private plane to give him oral sex; he holds her by the hair and takes his pleasure. The look on his face, though, is not even pleasure, it is, as I said, violent, like he’s mad about something that has nothing to do with this woman kneeling in front of him. She is a receptacle. If I didn’t know the boat scene was coming up, I probably would have turned the thing off right then. But, I was researching, after all.
The awaited sequence on the yacht is basically soft core porn, a little more explicit than the sex in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy (Yes, I’ve seen all those movies and read the books they were based on). You see the mafia scion’s butt and pecs, but never a glimpse of his “manhood.” For Ana (I think that is the character’s name; it was rarely spoken), it’s just T & A, with not a pubic hair revealed. In some foreign films, you may see a penis now and again, but not in an excited state. THAT, to me, is, forgive the pun, hard core, and it would not be OK on Netflix.
There is also another scene, (actually I had just viewed something similar in episode 10, season five of Outlander) where the man forces a captive heroine to watch him have sex with another woman brought in to be used (in this case, the female prop is wearing kink chains and leather). Our leading man says to his captive woman, who is handcuffed to the bed here, “I want you to see what you’re missing.”
(Both Massimo and the Bonnet character in Outlander recited the same line.)
And what is it she is missing??? In the case of 365, what she is missing is not a man making love to her in the way she desires, driving her wild with pleasure. Pleasure does not seem to be in the equation at all, at least the prop woman does not seem to be enjoying the exhibition. Massimo is saying, in effect, to his kidnapped obsession, “You’re missing the opportunity for me to come in your mouth.”
Yeah, right, I can’t wait.
OK, I’m not judging that particular act, but jeez, context is everything.
A scene I did appreciate—after the energetic and apparently consensual frolicking at sea had relaxed me a bit—took place at a masked ball the same night. Massimo invites Ana to dance. “Oh, you’re asking for a change?” she says. Then they perform a passionate tango. OK, OK, that eight-minute stretch from boat to ball was very entertaining.
I would say if you want to spend time with 365 Days and put up with its characters without motivation and plot without sense, that’s up to you. Unlike with good old DVDs, streaming does not allow you to pick the “chapter” you want and go straight to the hot stuff. You have to fast forward to 1:07.
On this week’s agenda, a film I found well worth my time, even though I’d seen it before (but not for many years), was Body Heat. This 1981 noir thriller, Lawrence Kasdan’s first effort as a director, stars Kathleen Turner and William Hurt, who were then young, “fresh faces” in Hollywood.
Memorable erotic scenes in Body Heat include sweat-slicked nudity, sure, but Turner in a clinging white silk dress swinging her magnificent legs out of a car to crush out her cigarette with her high heeled pump, is a standout. Hurt, teased to his maximum and unable to retreat from her gaze through the leaded glass of her locked front door, uses a porch chair to smash through a side panel’s glass and meet her waiting embrace. There’s something about how he pulls up her red fitted red skirt to reveal sweet white panties—the symbol of the character Matty’s seeming innocence. It belies what the character Ned would later describe this way, “She was relentless. That was her special gift.”
And the film is wrapped John Barry’s sensual jazz score, a torrid yet plaintive alto sax constantly reminding us of sex and danger.
If you can still get Body Heat on DVD, you’ll be rewarded with excellent interviews with the director and actors, and a very fine “making of” documentary. And look up Larry Kasdan, who by that time in his career had written the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back, and would subsequently write, produce and direct winning and popular films like The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, Grand Canyon and more in the Star Wars series, among others.
Last light I watched Kasdan’s 1985 western Silverado, a classic take on the genre which made an adorable 30-year-old Kevin Costner a star, and included Kevin Kline, Danny Glover and Scott Glenn as the kind of gunslingers you’d like to have on your side.
At the height of the HIV epidemic, singles learned how to have a “safer sex talk” with a potential partner. If precautions were taken, we were basically in the clear for sexually-transmitted infections. What to do, though, if a deadly, super contagious virus lives not only in our coughs and sneezes but in our very conversations, our intimate whisperings?
Sexting has always been a thing, pandemic or no. Ditto Zoom flirtations or Skype sex. What I have been considering during the time of COVID-19 are things consenting adults can do, at the recommended six-foot separation, when they’ve gone past the initial dating stage. As restrictions ease and space opens for sensual interactions in person, what are some creative solutions for lovers who don’t live together but were already at some level of intimacy before shelter-in-place?
One of my female friends calls the suggested “Creative Things You Can Do from Six Feet Apart” a “Cosmo-like list.” (I praise all women’s magazine for their grains of truth and usefulness). My sources are my own experience, personal growth workshops I have attended over the course of twenty years, conversations with a sex educator, advice from my physician, and input from peers and poets.
But first, some caveats.
My suggestions are meant to be progressive and have no time frame; there are more than an evening’s worth. Pick and choose. Use these prompts to stimulate your own imagination.
My intention here is to be gender neutral, but I am a female, and currently my sexual interests are men. Some activities I offer might be construed by a guy as c**k-teasing. If he’s in the same room with a person he likes who is doing such provocative things, it might be quite a challenge to keep his distance. Not that he will do anything criminally aggressive, but he might cajole or pressure his lover to relax their boundaries. Another possibility is that he will get sad or mopey or even angry from only looking and not touching. And then you have a lovers’ spat!
For me, as a vital, mature women, there is tension as well. I care for my partner (or potential partner) and want them to be happy. I also need relationship intimacy and desire satisfaction—in fact my health depends on it. So I rationalize, weigh risks and benefits. It’s a dilemma that has very few answers and precious little guidance.
If couples who do not live together decide to have contact sex, whether oral or intercourse, they should take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. How to do that is a “Cosmo List” for another time.
What I am attempting here is to initiate a compendium of sexual-pleasure-from-a-distance that stretches the imagination and pushes the envelope. I welcome and encourage your additions!
Fetch your carpenter’s tape and mark off your room in six-foot intervals—from easy chair to couch, doorway to doorway, prop box to video screen. If you can find a private space outdoors, so much the safer, but still maintain your distance.
I’ve read reports of asymptomatic people who’ve attended choir practice and expelled virus droplets from enthusiastic singing that infected those nearby. Might the same be said for the heavy breathing or vocalizing that occurs during sex play? Distance is probably not enough protection if the partners become so deeply engaged. Then masks are a necessity rather than just a costume accessory.
I’ve newly discovered, through a referral from poet Bill Noble, a respectful source of real sexual experiences, with world-wide reach but originating in Australia. Beautiful Agony is a paid-subscription erotic website featuring head shots of user-submitted videos showing the participants having orgasms, without providing any visual description of what technique is being used or revealing anything below the neck and upper chest.
Men, women and non-binary people are featured on the site. Many of the video clips are lovely and compelling, almost meditative. And utterly appropriate to social distancing. You can watch Beautiful Agony’s Show Reel to get a sense of what it would be like to subscribe and contribute content.
My book, Poetry, Politics and Passion, contains the essay “A Face of Ecstasy” in which I describe my experience participating in the documentary film “Orgasm: The Faces of Ecstasy,” a 2004 project by now-defunct Libido Films and produced by the late Joani Blank, author, sex educator and founder, in 1977, of Good Vibrations—the second feminist sex toy business in the United States.
Posted on my website is a video of me reading that essay intercut with sections from the Libido/Blank film. Probably not many of my clients or employers have delved that far into the audio-visual section of Piece of Mind Creative. It is an obscure portion of my obscure website, but it is there for the clicking if you are curious. In my view, Joani Blank is the mother, or grandmother, of the Beautiful Agony cohort.
A few years ago, my friend who works as a mail carrier clued me in to the fact that the postal service was not supported by taxpayers, but by stamps and mailing services. Yet it is the most trusted of federal agencies, especially by rural residents. If you read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, you know that she sent supplies for her journey to small post offices all along the route of her now-famous trek.
I grew up living above a store in the business district of our town. The mail came through a slot in the door, so when I spent the humid Illinois summers at my grandmother’s house on the Fox River, “getting the mail” was a new and anticipated ritual. I was an avid letter writer, so putting up the flag on the gray metal box with our address numbers on it was something I did often from June to Labor Day. Today, in the time of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, my trip to my mail box—a black metal box with red signal flag mounted on a post across the street—is something pleasant that breaks up the day.
Even before the flood of “Save the Postal Service” petitions started to arrive in my email, the importance of this service had been on my mind. It began with an article published in The Bohemian back in 2013 by commentator, author and former Texas commissioner of agriculture Jim Hightower, and another by actor Danny Glover, “My parents proudly worked for the US Postal Service. Don’t destroy it.”
Glover’s point is that his family, and many families of color, had a path to the middle class through this institution. He wrote “African Americans have the most to lose from Postal Service cuts and the most to gain from innovative reforms that help the poor, like postal banking.”
The Trump administration’s intent is to sell off the postal service to for-profit corporations (to say nothing of Trump wanting to undermine Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s relationship with the USPS, totally out of political revenge for Bezos-owned Washington Post’s criticism of the orange-faced man himself). A presidential task force plan to move in that direction calls for privatizing parts of the service, reducing delivery days, closing post offices, and jacking up prices on most package and mail deliveries.
You can read about the reasons the postal service is in trouble in two segments on Democracy Now in an interview with American Postal Workers Union president Mark Dimondstein. Also hear or read why there is such an outcry to prevent the post office’s demise, which, without an infusion of money, is predicted to be bankrupt by this summer. Prominent congress people are demanding support for the Postal Service in the next piece of rescue legislation. (Email cannot deliver our prescriptions!)
Aside from the benefit to our nation’s “haves” to privatize everything from health care to education to water, they have another reason to wish for post office closures: disruption of democracy. During this pandemic, it is bad enough that meat processing employees (who cannot telecommute) now have to choose between money for their families and risking COVID-19. Should people be forced to choose between voting in person and risking the disease, as they did in the recent Wisconsin primary (thanks to the Supreme Court)?
There is no reason not to be making extensive preparations to vote by mail in November. Voting machines are more easily hacked than paper ballots, and there is no end to the lies tRump is spewing about the dangers of mail voting. Here’s an opinion piece on that from The Hill, “Let’s put the vote by mail “fraud” myth to rest.”
Read up, sign petitions, call your representatives, and use the post office when you can. I like to quote the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who said that this is a time of “we” not “me.” Maybe you haven’t bought a stamp in years and get all your bills online and paychecks via direct deposit. But this is not the case for many of the “have nots” in America.
History will measure our greatness by the word WE not ME.