Saturday, June 07, 2008

Moving Day

Canned Laughter has moved.

The new url is:

One thing concerning moving day

Which does the most oppress me,

Is wond'ring whether friends of mine

Will know where to address me;

So lest the disappointment keen

Of your not coming should befall,

I'm sending here my new address

And hoping that you soon will call.

Canned Laughter has moved.

The new url is:

Please come visit me at my new home and be sure to change the address in your feed reader. I look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, June 02, 2008

But Don't Give Me The One That Makes Me Look 20 Years Younger

So the doctor says to me, "There are two medications you can take for this, but medication A can cause rapid weight loss".

My left eyebrow shot up and I gave him the same hard stare Mr. Spock always affected when dealing with a particularly stupid human.

"Um, so I'll just be writing the prescription for medication A".

For those of you wondering what is going on with my blog move, pesky real life keeps getting in the way of my bloggy obsessions. I promise when the move is done I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

But Wait! I Can Explain...

How I spent my three day weekend:

  1. Surprising my girlfriend's husband by showing up at their front door in my night clothes while his wife was away. (Leslie, you knew my scheduling goof would end up as blog fodder, didn't you?)

  2. Donning the daughter version of our matching mother/daughter dresses to head over to my parents for the big clan hoopla.

  3. Having tremendous fun teasing my mother about wearing our matching dresses to Early Bird Specials and on Grey Line bus tours.

  4. Worrying myself silly about middle sister when Mom said she'd been smoking a wild pig brother in law brought home. "Does she know it takes at least two days of smoking before those things are safe to eat?"

  5. Catching my mother's eye then laughing like a loon when my middle sister said she felt fine now but she'd been puking all day and "must have a stomach bug".

  6. Making my younger sister scream by threatening to lick her nose.

  7. Gobbling down steaks grilled to the consistency of shoe leather by the menfolk who are in their grilling glory.

  8. Giggling with relief upon discovering the very silly reason why brother-in-law stormed out in a rage. "Ha! More steak for us!"

  9. Leading the entire family in a game of "Name the alternate insult he could have heard" to the hilarity of all.

  10. Herding toddlers like a rodeo queen and telling younger sister "Having three boys in diapers isn't so tough" in my most superior voice, then saying a prayer of thanks back at home that they aren't mine.

  11. Collapsing in my newly re-arranged living room, glancing at the cat up on my good console table and telling him he's lucky he gets a pass tonight because I'm too pooped to care.

  12. Then wondering if everybody has as manic and evil a family as I do, because really? They are just too much fun.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Now You've Done It..

This is it my lovelies. I've had all I can stands and I can't stands no more from my current blogging platform. It's time to go self-hosted. Now I am soliciting advice from all you self hosted babes. Tell me about your web host. Who do you use? Which hosts do love/hate? The Thrifty Scot will have a fit when I actually start spending money on a server instead of just blathering away for free, so please tell me who you think has good value and who has an inflated opinion of their services. In the meantime, I'll be working on building a free site at They are a pill for graphic heavy blogs like mine, but in the words of the immortal Jake Blues, "It don't cost nothin'." Feel free to e-mail me at with your suggestions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Statler Hilton Hotel

In 1954 The Statler hotel family was facing an unwanted takeover bid. In response E.M. Statler's widow accepted an alternative offer from Conrad Hilton to keep the Statler properties with "hotel people". The $111,000,000.00 deal became the world's largest real estate transaction and made Hilton the largest hospitality chain in the world. It was decided that such a momentous achievement needed a symbol of success. That symbol would be built in Dallas.

Designed to be the flaghip hotel of the new Statler Hilton chain, The Statler Hilton Hotel in Dallas built in 1956 was unique. The hotel was designed by the renowned architect William Tabler, who introduced several new and exciting construction techniques and materials. Using a cantilevered reinforced flat slab system, Tabler was able to create a soaring building while significantly reducing the obstructions of regular support columns. Outside he opted for colorful porcelain enameled steel and glass, making the Statler Hilton Hotel the first glass sheathed hotel in the nation. When completed at a cost of $16 million, it was hailed as the most modern hotel in the world.

Built with a thousand rooms, convention facilities, showroom and 2000 seat ballroom, the hotel offered unheard of amenities for it's day including a helipad and televisions in every room so you would not have to miss a single episode of GE Playhouse, Ed Sullivan or The ALCOA Hour. Not into television? No problem! Enjoy the rooftop pool, the Empire Room showroom, or just sway to the music in one of the first elevators in the nation to have music piped in for your relaxation.

Opening Day was a glittering four day event with Hollywood stars and politicos
entertained by the dancing Hiltonettes sporting elaborate headdresses representing "the ingredients of Dallas" (Can't you just see a scantily clad woman in an oil derrick hat topped with an ostrich plume "gusher"?). Too fabulous.

Over the years, the Statler Hilton in Dallas hosted headliners like Elvis, Liberace (who had $25,000 worth of jewelry stolen from his room over Valentine's weekend 1974. The thief was caught.), and Robert Clary. Remember Robert Clary? You know, Lebeau from "Hogan's Heroes"? Well, before that he was a Broadway star and had an award winning nightclub act that was booked for a three week engagement in the Empire Room in November 1963.

On November 22, 1963 former Vice President Richard Nixon was attached to a law firm representing Pepsi Cola. He was attending a bottlers convention at the Statler Hilton in Dallas and was enjoying Robert Clary's show with Joan Crawford and her husband who was at that time Pepsi's CEO. I'm afraid any conspiracy rumors connected with JFK's assassination a few blocks away the next morning are nonsense. Or are they? I've always been suspicious of men in berets.

Of course the dems were well represented at the hotel in those early days, too. On March 11, 1962, Vice President Johnson and Lady Bird attended a brunch hosted by the Texas State Society in the Imperial Ballroom where the Cherry Blossom Princess for 1962- Miss Lynda Bird Johnson was presented.

Time marches on. The hotel was subjected to countless "refurbishments", "modernizations", and ill-conceived "re-modelings". The vibrant neighborhood around it decayed and business travellers began frequenting more suburban hotels. In 1988, Hilton Hotels sold the property to Hong Kong investors who re-named it the Dallas Grand. Under their ownership, it really was not so "grand". The hotel grew more seedy and in 2001 it was closed for good.

Enter downtown revitalization! In 2003, the parking garage was razed by the city in order to build the upcoming Main Street Gardens park. The main building was spared and optioned to a California developer who was interested in turning it in to pricey loft style condominiums.

Oops! Remember when I told you that the structure of the building featured "reinforced cantilevered slabs"? That means the ceilings must remain a mid-century modern standard 8 feet high. They can not be raised or cut away without tremendous expense and the risk of collapse. Fine with me, but not so fine to overpriced condo developers.

Ironically, it was the decay of it's neighborhood that caused it's fall and it is now the gorgeous revitalization of it's neighborhood that puts it in imminent danger by increasing the value of the property on which the hotel sits. It seems however, that Dallas doesn't want to give up on her yet. Offering up to $15 million dollars in tax credits and replacement of the razed garage with underground parking, the City Council is trying to get investors to look at the hotel's potential for moderate income housing. The University of North Texas is also in discussions to use a chunk of the building as Student Housing for their new downtown Law School (Having a husband who went to law school during our early years, I can attest their income can not be any more 'moderate').

Despite all these exciting ideas, the building is still very much in danger of demolition. For those of us with a soft spot for the old gal, great news came today. The National Trust for Historic Preservation officially designated it on their 2008 list of the country's most endangered historic places. While an NTHP designation can not guarantee the safety of any building, it is extremely rare when a designee is actually lost. If you would like to see some amazing photgraphs and learn more about this historic Dallas landmark, click here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

With Coffee In My Left Hand and a Book In My Right, I'm

Congratulations to Jess Riley of Riley's Ramblings and The Debutant Ball. Her debut novel, Driving Sideways was released for sale today! I have been panting expectantly for this book and am tapping my foot impatiently waiting for my copy. This excerpt that I totally lifted off her amazon page should get you panting too:


I am alone no longer.

It’s strange how much you can change in just one year. Twelve months ago, I’d have laughed in your face if you told me I’d be packing for a road trip this morning. Not rudely, of course, but because traveling anywhere remote was a remote possibility for me at that point. I’d have sooner believed you if you’d said, “One year from now, you will become a Scientologist, learn the pan flute, and join a Bay City Rollers tribute band.”
But I’ve had a change of heart. Well, kidney, really. I’m leaving for Los Angeles this morning, about to do some things long overdue. My Saturn is idling in the driveway, stuffed with suitcases I’ve never taken anywhere but to hospitals. I feel as if I’ve just discovered that the cure for cancer is dark chocolate followed by two orgasms. I think I’ve forgotten to pack my toothbrush, but I don’t care. I can buy one on the way. The thought thrills me.
“So you’re really doing this,” my brother, James, says from behind me, sending me out of my skin.
I jump, making a hair ballish–noise like aak, and spin around to face him. He crosses his arms and fixes me with his practiced stare: one part condescension, two parts disbelief. It’s the same look James gives the paperboy when the Fond du Lac Reporter misses the welcome mat on the front porch by an inch or more. I lean back into my car, pretending to check my cooler of snacks and bottled water while trying to regain my pretrip composure. As my surrogate parent for the last sixteen years, James has always been able to sneak up on me—catching me in an innocuous act like reading and still making me feel as if I’d been caught stealing from a quadriplegic. “Yes, I’m really going.”

“Does Kate know?” he snipes.

“She will,” I reply. I shut the cooler and turn to face James.
“Leigh, why do you even care? She’s such an asshole. She’s a footnote.”
“I just do, is all.” Kate is our mother, who developed the curious conviction when James and I were younger that she would one day become a great actress. The morning she left us for Hollywood, she crouched next to me and whispered absently, “Never settle. Take big risks.” Then she stepped into her Ford Pinto and lurched away from the curb, her silver bumper glinting in the sunlight, the scent of Charlie cologne mingling with exhaust in the air. I was five years old. I sat on the curb waiting for her until Sesame Street came on, after which I returned to the curb to wait for her return. Twenty-three years later, I’m still waiting.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” James walks around my car and stands directly in front of me. He looks spooky without having had his first cup of coffee, a little like a B-list actor with an emerging heroin addiction. Not that James has ever done heroin. James actually times his alcoholic beverages—one per hour—to ensure he never “loses control.” Eighty percent of my friends have had a crush on him at one point or another. Even the guys. They all want to be him, until they spend more than an hour in his presence. “When’s the last time you even talked to her?” he continues.
I ignore him and pretend to examine my kayak, which I’ve secured with bungee cords to the roof of my car. Exhaust forms a foggy pool around my ankles. I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell him Kate has no idea I’m dropping by. Or that the last time I talked to her was about seven years ago.“And how well did that conversation go?”I ignore him some more. If I ignore him long enough, James usually gives up.

“Leigh, be reasonable. You’re in no shape for some . . . road trip . . . that will just disappoint you.”

His tone makes my stomach contract into a fist. “I’m in fine shape. Dr. Jensen said so last week.” I adjust my kayak one last time. Why couldn’t I have just gotten up ten minutes earlier? I suddenly hate the snooze bar. I wish I could think of something clever to say, but the best I can do is, “Besides. I’ve been reasonable my whole life. That’s the problem.” James rolls his eyes: Give me a break. Even now, he knows exactly how to make me feel like a twelve-year-old who still can’t read a clock.
“People wait for years on kidney transplant lists. . . . You’re lucky enough to get one, and all of a sudden you’re Peter Fonda in Easy Rider?” He shakes his head, almost knocking me down with a sonic boom of disappointment. I think he’s more upset by the fact that I’m growing as a person—his little sister is changing from un- assuming, vanilla Leigh, with a spine like a warm Twizzler stick, to independent, empowered LEIGH, with a firm handshake and excellent posture. I once was lost, but now am found, thanks to a kind stranger named Larry Resnick.
But more on him later.
“James,” I say, “Peter Fonda had a motorcycle filled with drugs and money. I’ve got a Saturn with a kayak on the roof.” I also think of asking James if he would prefer I join a convent and sew my lips shut, but instead I say, “I’m tired of living vicariously through everyone else. I want my own life.” And really, that’s the meat of the matter. I want a life. I try to sound rational and convincing as I explain this to James, but I know if this conversation goes on much longer, my voice will grow higher and tighter until it sounds like I’m sucking helium. As the person who used to sign my report cards and once met with my ninth-grade principal to discuss the lewd cartoons I’d drawn in my math book to amuse friends, James has always had that power over me.
“What if you get sick again,” he says, challenging me. “Then what?”
“Then I find a hospital.” Simple logic, right? I think James is just afraid of change. Either that or being left behind with his wife, Marissa, who makes hot tuna casserole every Tuesday and leases a new beige Volvo every year. As if on cue, Marissa opens the back door. In a gauzy lilac robe, her hair in purple rollers, she looks like she’d be much more comfortable had she been named Mimi or Lady Bird.

“Everything alright?” she asks timidly.

James crosses his arms and glares at me. “Leigh still thinks she’s going to California.”
Marissa appears confused. “Oh?”

“I’m just taking a trip. People take them every day,” I say, trying to sound calm. Would James ever just let me breathe? I feel chest-deep in a vat of pudding and sinking fast.
“Leigh, you are not going alone.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m only going for two weeks,” I insist, but I don’t sound too convincing. I’m growing claustrophobic and sweaty, so I decide to just take action before I change my mind completely. “James,” I say with as much finality as I can muster, “I’ll call you from Sioux Falls.” With that, I slide into the driver’s seat, shift from park, and begin my journey. It’s one of those hyper, surreal moments where you might escape after all, where you think for a minute that you’ve actually convinced the Jehovah’s Witnesses peering through your front window that you’re not home, even though they clearly saw you streaking through the living room and diving behind the couch wearing nothing but a towel.
I leave James looking hurt and perplexed in the driveway, and suddenly I feel guilty. But not guilty enough to stay, and not guilty enough to quash my excitement.
I’m really doing it. Two left turns, a series of intersections, and one long graveyard on my right (which I drive past holding my breath, to add a day to my life), and I’m leaving Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Good-bye, Tucker’s Hamburgers, Gilles Frozen Custard, Lakeside Park, and the Miracle Mile, where a dozen people bought winning lottery tickets and thousands more bought losing ones. I wish I had a convertible, so I could wear Jackie O sunglasses and a scarf over my hair and carelessly toss something fluttery and symbolic into the wind—maybe a love letter from an old beau, or ancient to-do lists, or just bundles of money, because if I had a convertible and Jackie O sunglasses, it stands to reason that I’d have a much more exciting life involving a surplus of inherited or ill-gained money.

I turn my stereo up and Jefferson Starship assaults me: “We built this city . . . !” I rush to find something that won’t trigger my gag reflex. (Ah, yes: “London Calling,” by the Clash. For some, not just a band, but a way of life.) I suppress a delirious giggle. I’m really doing this. I begin to sing along and ease onto Highway 23. My MedicAlert bracelet glints in the sun, looking much more like a sterling silver Return to Tiffany™ heart tag bracelet than the old-school stainless steel plate the kid with diabetes wore around his wrist in fifth grade. Humming down the highway with the rising sun at my back, I snake a hand down my side to touch my scar. I can almost feel my new kidney jouncing around in me. It feels less like an alien jelly bean and more like an old pal. I decide to name it Larry. After its namesake. I am alone no longer.
Betcha after reading that, you're hooked too. When my pre-ordered copy arrives (glance at my wristwatch, tap my foot even more furiously), I will be sure to post a review and give away another new copy to one of my readers. With writing this good, I gotta share the love.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors

I loved my next door neighbors on the West side. They bought their home just after us and we were fairly close, sharing barbecues and card parties and gardening tasks. I even helped her plant a rose garden opposite to mine that is still lovely and thriving. Last fall they decided to build a home out in the country for their growing family and they sold their home to a retiree.

As much as I missed them, I wanted to give the new guy a chance. Today I've made an official decision on the matter. I hate my West Side Neighbor otherwise known as 'The Misanthrope" or "TM". While I was pruning the roses he came by to tell me he is going to tear out his garden, put gravel down and build a six foot privacy fence between our yards and by the way, you won't mind if I build on your property line, right?

If there was ever any doubt as to my Southern origins, it was put to rest as I smiled, and said "Won't that be nice?" while trying desperately to remember where the property line diagram is stored in our office so I can file an injunction. Now to be clear, it is not the idea of a fence that I am opposed to, it is the type of fence TM is proposing and the manner in which he approached me about it.

Item One:
We are not talking about a back yard fence. This fence would be visible from the street. A professionally installed iron fence would be attractive and blend well into an automated driveway gate like many of our neighbors have and be in keeping with the neighborhood. TM wants to install a wood privacy fence and driveway gate he builds himself "that will keep these nosy people on our street from looking in my yard". The ham fisted piece of junk he is describing to me will not only be an eyesore, but it will block all the sun to my beloved rose garden.

Item Two:
TM put the fur on my neck right up with his "nosy neighbor" comment. And who would these nosy neighbors be? The retirees and parents of well behaved young children that surround us? Who does he think would call the police for him, or bring him food or help him with his lawn if he were ill? I LOVE my nosy neighbors. I'm proud to be one of them.

Item Three:
He tells me that he is yanking out his roses (that I helped to plant) and putting down gravel in anticipation of the new fence. "What kind of moron puts bushes by a driveway?" Duuude. It is so ON.

For now I watch and wait and get my ducks in a row. Here's my plan of action:
  • First I'll wait to see if he really does go through with it.
  • Next I'll rely on my city's extremely strict building code for fences. I think it's a safe bet that he will try building without a permit. Being the good citizen that I am, I will of course need to report him.
  • If he actually does apply for a permit, I'm sure he will not be up to code. Uh-oh! Time to call the city again!
  • If all else fails, I'll just have to take him to court for property line infringement. Somehow he doesn't strike me as the type to go to court over a fence (even if he is a mean old misanthrope).
My Spouse's plan of action? I believe it will be something along the lines of refilling his scotch glass and turning up the volume on the tele to try and drown out my grumping. Men just can't recognize an imminent crisis unless it's brought to their attention. Repeatedly. Don't you agree?

Dinner With Friends

Last night we went to a nice couple's house for dinner. It was a very informal affair, just us in our summer play clothes on the patio. Our host grilled enough food for a small army and our hostess was charming as she gave me a tour of her new home while simultaneously keeping all our champagne glasses filled to the brim. Dinner was spectacular and I ate entirely too much. In fact, with the exception of our teeny tiny hostess, I would say that everyone over-indulged because the progression of fine wines and the rich food were so good.

The beautiful weather and my general comfort level had me a little perplexed when our host requested that we join him inside for dessert and espressos. What? You feed me heavy food and heady wine and then want me to lift my rump and move? Say it isn't so! Regretfully, I did indeed lift my self and tagged along into the house where we settled into the world's cushiest, comfiest, most snuggle wonderful chairs for our coffee.

There was some discussion about board games and then our host announced that it was time for television. I checked the clock on the mantle and saw it was too early to begin hemming and hawing about time to go. Spouse was still only halfway through his coffee and our hostess was very enthusiastic that we watch a particular video on their home theater extravaganza. Ah well, when in Rome...

So I settled in to the big cushy couch with my warm solid Spouse as our hostess dimmed the lights and I savored the hot delicious meal and the friendly comfortable conversation and the yummy plentiful wine and enjoyed the hum of the television and their companionable little dog breathing slowly in my lap and snnnnnxxxxx...

Well, OK I didn't really fall asleep, but I do have to admit to many stifled yawns before we made our way to the door with much hugging and promising to do this again soon. But next time? I'm having Spouse bring smelling salts, because if the evening were any more pleasant, that's what it would take to revive me.