alexandra alger


Archive for the month “April, 2015”



Nope. I didn’t see the Down Unders.


Or Tyson. He’s sure looking good (he’s 44 now! How did that happen?).

I also didn’t gamble.

Before you think I’m utterly lame, listen to what I did do, on a girls’ weekend with three college friends:

—Got tattoos: an arm band and a dragon tramp stamp. Okay, not real: decals. But it’s the idea that counts.

—Saw David Copperfield. Yes, he’s still alive and performing two shows a day–and three times on Saturdays–at the MGM Grand. He can be dazzling–he made a vintage Cadillac appear out of nowhere! And a massive mechanical T-rex!–and so cheesy you can’t believe it. One of his acts involved a tiny blue “Martian” that needed the audience to help him get back to his home planet. A six-year-old might’ve liked this act, maybe, but Copperfield’s audience has more sixty year olds than six year olds (not to mention lots of tourists with a tenuous grasp of English; they must’ve been wishing DC would just get back to making things disappear).

—Checked out the Venetian’s fake canal, with warbling gondoliers, its fake cerulean sky overhead, and people eating in an “outside” Italian tratteria; the Luxor’s soaring pyramid and fabulous Sphinx (see selfie below); and the Bellagio, which was not so impressive. Maybe that’s because we didn’t get to see the Picasso paintings for which Bellagio is renowned. Oddly, they’re hung in a restaurant, which wasn’t open during the day (weird, surely?).


What was glorious–and eventually exhausting–about Vegas were the voluminous crowds. Where is everyone? They’re in Vegas! There were moments when I thought that the broadest diversity of humanity anywhere in the world had to be right there with us on this five-mile strip. All kinds of people, young and old, from all walks of life. Even toddlers. Yes, we saw families with toddlers, strolling through the slot machines–the air stinking of cigarettes and booze–as if they were in a beautiful park somewhere. And untold numbers of young women on bachelorette weekends in stilettos and skin-tight barely crouching covering outfits. Every bride-to-be had an identifying sash or hat. One group was wearing T-shirts that said, “Look like Jackie, act like Audrey, party like Gatsby.” Only the last reference makes any sense in the context of Vegas.

I’d been meaning to try a slot machine, at least. I could not figure out how to work the damn things! There’s a slot for a credit card, I guess, but no way to know how much money you’re putting in, and then what in earth to do to play the game. But all these old people are playing away, losing their money–how hard can it be? Finally, I got my chance. At the airport, where the lame slot machines go (there was about dogs, for instance). I asked the young woman what the deal was. She showed me a dollar machine and said, “It really isn’t that hard. It’s just a question of how much money you want to spend. The more you spend, the better your odds are.” She must’ve thought I was the dumbest person on the face of the earth to ask that question.

I slipped a dollar into a dollar machine called Triple Diamond. The machine coughed and spat my dollar out. I tried again. Same thing happened. Well, then. I slipped my dollar back into my wallet.

Clearly, I wasn’t meant to gamble in Vegas. Not this time, anyway.

Revisiting Anne of Green Gables


I didn’t pay attention the first time I saw news about the death of Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe in CBC’s 1985 TV adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Yesterday, though, I found a posting on Facebook of a New Yorker article called “Why We Loved Gilbert Blythe.”

Well. I had to read that.

It turns out teenage girls all over fell in love with Crombie as Gilbert in this mini-series. “Crombie gave Gilbert caring, intelligence, and dreaminess: qualities that enchant seventh-grade girls,” Sarah Larson writes. I missed Crombie and all his dreaminess. I was in my early 20s in 1985, just out of college and living in San Francisco. I don’t think I had a television in those days. I feel sure I would’ve been tempted to watch, having been an avid reader of the whole Anne series. But I can’t feel too sorry that I missed it. Crombie sounds a bit too milktoasty for my taste. Larson prefers Crombie to the Gilbert of the books. She finds him “kinder,” with “lively” instead of “roguish” eyes, and without the mouth “twisted into a teasing smile,” as author L.M. Montgomery describes him.

Of course Gilbert is roguish! He has to be. Only a mischievous boy would call Anne “carrots” to try to get her attention, and kept trying, even after she breaks her slate over his head and refuses to accept his apology. A kinder boy wouldn’t have dared the “carrots” jibe, and there would’ve been no Anne and Gilbert, which is unthinkable.

I’ll admit Crombie looks the part. He’s got the build and coloring you’d expect, and that’s huge. And if intelligence and caring come across—well, I imagine I could fall under his spell, given the chance.

The production didn’t quite get Anne right—at least in the looks department. I looked up the photos of Megan Follows, cast as Anne, and she’s pretty and fresh-faced in a way that Anne isn’t. She was also a seventeen-year-old playing an eleven-year-old. But I can see how it would be practically impossible to find a young actor who fits Montgomery’s description: “Her face was small, white and thin, also much freckled; her mouth was large and so were her eyes, which looked green in some lights and moods and gray in others.”

I read to the point where Marilla tells Mrs. Blewett that she and Matthew haven’t entirely decided against keeping Anne, and Anne suddenly understands she might have a home, after all. A tear welled up in my eye. It’s that kind of book.

Of Chocolate Eggs and Boiled Eggs

For our family, as for many unobservant Christians we know, Easter is all about hunting for colored eggs and inhaling vast quantities of egg- or bunny-shaped candy. Eggs and bunnies are symbols of spring and fertility from ancient times, various internet sources tell me—and of course, have nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ. (In a 2012 article, The Huff Post says Easter eggs were made out of chocolate starting in the 19th century.) And neither does the serving of ham at Easter lunch, which harkens back to a time when pork was an abundant source of meat in early spring.

I love an occasion to gorge on jelly beans and chocolate eggs. I certainly do. But now that the kids are older, and we’re not having Easter-egg hunts anymore, and I’m buying jelly beans and chocolate eggs mainly for MOI—whose aging body really could do without them—I’m starting to feel envious of my Jewish friends. Passover is a holiday with rituals that are meaningful for the observant and non-observant alike. Years ago, a work friend invited me to a women’s Seder she hosted at her place. It was a revelation to have a meal imbued with such meaning. I now have to admit I don’t remember much. But wait—a memory of hard-boiled eggs is coming back. Jews don’t color the eggs and display them, they actually eat them! The eating of a hard-boiled egg (dipped in salt water and consumed at the beginning of the holiday meal) represents a traditional offering brought to the Holy Temple in ancient times, and is also a symbol of mourning over the loss of the destruction of the temple—or two temples, depending on which website you consult. (I’ve resorted to the internet because my most learned Jewish friends, my best source of information on Jewish traditions, are in Tel Aviv. If anyone reading this can correct me, please do!)

Our Easter will be a family event, a small one. I’m having my mother over for lunch. We’re having fish. I’m going to bake a few whole sea breams. I’ve never done it before, cooked a whole fish. I figure I can’t really mess up—as far as my mother is concerned, there’s no such thing as fish that’s been overcooked. We will not be celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but we will welcome spring—which really might at last have arrived—and all the possibilities of change and growth that spring promises.

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