Thursday, December 6, 2007

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.....

Ooooh see that girl, watch that scene....

Can you sing the next few lyrics?

If you can - and there's a strong chance of it - then you know the song that's been playing in my head for the last couple of days.

Okay, some history.

My childhood and teenage years revolved around a small Catholic girls' school in Singapore, graduating about 80 or so girls each year. Many of us in were in the very same class from ages 4 to 16. As Plato noted, "you can learn more about a [person] in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation." And so it was with us - besides classroom learning, we played sports, embroidered, sang in choirs, said rosaries, played pranks, and experienced our first kitchen disasters together. (Oh, all right - the kitchen disasters were MINE.) Together we went to camp, to woodwork and metalwork, acted in plays, debated, told jokes and conspired on April Fool's practical jokes. Yes, we got to know another very well indeed.

During my last couple of years there at Marymount, we all loved the songs of ABBA. At any opportunity you'd hear someone breaking out in one of those catchy tunes, only to be joined in a moment by a spontaneous a capella backup group. We all loved those songs! I remember one teacher, otherwise immune to the charms of the Swedish sensation, saying dryly: "Well, at least they know how to enunciate PROPERLY." There you go - ABBA had something for everyone! (Though I'm fairly certain this teacher's halting approval came before ABBA released Gimme Gimme Gimme!)

On field trips we'd entertain ourselves merrily singing these hits. It seemed we never tired of songs such as these:

I'd say the girl who knew the songs best was Christina, she with the encyclopedic knowledge of music in general, and an astounding memory for melodies and lyrics.

On Monday I flew to Las Vegas to meet up with her for the first time in over fourteen years.

Delays kept me from arriving until 6 that evening. When I got to the hotel, there was a message for me: "Be at the Mandalay by 7 - I have tickets to Mamma Mia!!!"

So I turned on my heels, marched out of the hotel and down the Strip, up one escalator and down another, weaving my way on foot and by city bus till I got to the Mandalay. More walking within that enormous complex before I found the theater. Searching the crowd, I spotted Christina and called out to her - and we ran to each other, squealing in the delighted way that two old friends would after a long time apart. (Okay, women friends - I doubt men would squeal!)

We know each other so well that right away we were chatting and laughing as if no time at all had passed.

In a moment we were in the theater.

As you probably know, Mamma Mia is the hit musical based on ABBA's hit songs. So here we were, us old friends, listening to the very songs that were the soundtrack of our teenage years. Not only that - one of the early scenes features old friends reuniting after a long absence.

We couldn't have choreographed a better setting for our reunion!!

Clearly, we were not the only people in that huge theater to lift our voices. Christina's formidable mental database of ABBA lyrics has not diminished in the least. It was the ultimate sing-a-long event.

The plot: On the eve of her wedding, a daughter tries to discover the identity of her father by inviting her mother's three old flames to the Greek island where they shared friendships - and obviously, somewhat more - some 20 years earlier.

It was nice to hear those songs again with fresh ears, and in some cases, different contexts and interpretations. Also nice to hear the lyrics now as as a fortysomething: The Winner Takes it All was surprisingly affecting. Lyrics of "Does Your Mother Know" were revised to give the song a totally new, post-Demi-Moore-Ashton-Kutcher face.

"Mamma Mia" was much like ABBA's music - by turns lively, sentimental, driving, introspective, corny, wistful - but always tuneful and FUN. Oh yes, it was wonderfully bawdy at times. And who doesn't love a musical that ends in a wedding?

I'm going to get myself some ABBA CDs. Good to remember the days of being a "dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen" - even if that particular ship of mine has longggggg sailed - and the port decommissioned, I might add.

Thank goodness one's friends and memories keep us young at heart.

Oh, by the way - the film version of Mamma Mia is due out in summer 2008, starring Meryl Streep. As we know from the film version of A Prairie Home Companion, she has considerable singing talent.

Meantime, to help you dance and jive and feel the beat of the tambourine, are two videos. The first is the original ABBA, the second features the cast of Mamma Mia on Good Morning America. enjoy!


How to Clean Up After a Flood

I was out of town when the devastating storms hit Western Washington last week and submerged parts of Lewis County. Walking through the Seattle airport, I stopped dead in my tracks in front of the newspaper vending machines, with front page pictures of I-5 under 10 feet of water.

Why did the national media give so little attention to such devastation? The main artery between Portland and Seattle was closed for days. Hundreds of homes were seriously damaged. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports in King County ALONE:

" of Friday afternoon, the county has received 192 reports from residents, totaling $4.25 million in uninsured damage or loss to primary residences. The county has also received 16 reports of damaged businesses for a total of $524,000." (More)

Some homeowners will find that their insurance does not cover flood damage; they have to hope for federal aid, and charity. Others could find themselves mired in battles with their insurance companies for weeks, maybe months, before they see any cash. And what will they do in the meantime?

Speaking from experience, they will be doing a lot of hard physical work.

From the pictures, it looks like many homes were filled mainly with water. Others were filled with mud, or even worse, raw sewage.

All will have to get rid of the water, mud or sewage, then haul their belongings out of the homes and try to salvage whatever they can. Face masks should be worn to prevent possible respiratory problems. They will have to get discard all carpets and padding, mattresses, and drywall, as well as upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings and most paper products. If their fridges and freezers were out of power for days, they'll have to get rid of all the contents. Some will find that even five washings will not get the mud out of their laundry. Then, time to wash things clean.

A pressure washer is so helpful at this point.

Once they have a bare, stripped-down space, they can commence with disinfecting, most likely with bleach or other antimicrobial products. Then comes the drying out and mold prevention.

It will takes gallons and gallons of bleach to wash down every surface and every washable item in the house. Now comes the drying-out phase.

Humidity is very low here on the Palouse, yet drying took a couple of weeks. Once I got clearance to switch on the power, I left fans running continuously for at least two weeks (I learned that dehumidifiers have limited efficacy in such situations.) This was not just in the basement: areas upstairs also needed serious ventilation, for even though they escaped flooding, the moisture percolated upwards, creating a cold damp that seeped into everything, smelling damp and dank.

I wonder, in the wet and humid west side, how much longer it will take to get completely dry?

After numerous trips to the dumpster or transfer station, it will be time to rebuild. New drywall, insulation, carpet, possibly wiring and plumbing, paint, maybe doors, appliances, bedding, food, clothing.

How can you help?

From Northwest Cable News:

The American Red Cross says financial donations are the most efficient way to assist families. The Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund allows the agency to provide relief to victims of disaster each year by providing water, food, shelter and mental health counseling. To designate your donation to a specific disaster, do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS.

You can make a donation at any US Bank branch in Washington. Be sure to tell the bank your donation is for Northwest Response.

In Lewis County, the United Way is the key contact point for donations of supplies, financial aid and volunteer time. Call (360) 748-8100 to help.

Items that are needed include:

  • Flat or snow shovels

  • Floor squeegees

  • Tarps

  • Cleaning supplies

  • Clothing

  • Food

  • Financial assistance

  • Face masks (cloth dust masks)

And what about the livestock in the affected areas?

Pasado's Safe Haven is responding to animals in need in Lewis and Mason counties. The public can help by calling in a donation to Monroe Farm & Feed (360-794-4663), donating a Costco or PetSmart gift card or making an online donation. Donations will support animal rescuers, who need to pay for hotel stays, gas and food. In addition, you can drop off dog and cat food and supplies at Barrier Motors, 1533 120th Avenue N.E., Bellevue, WA, 98005.

The Towns-End Cattle Co. is accepting donations to support flood victims. The business is delivering hay to Lewis County livestock.

The Washington Farm Bureau has created a Flood Relief Fund to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers impacted by flooding. To make a donation, call 1-800-331-3276.

In any event, flood victims should try not feel bad about accepting the help of others. It is much harder to receive than it is to give, but a lesson well worth learning.