Tuesday, February 3, 2009

WC: Jane Fonda's Blog

Jane Fonda is keeping a rather interesting blog about being in 33 Variations, due to open on Broadway shortly. I particularly enjoyed this:

But here’s the thing: Looking at these more realistic, unadorned photos of myself, I had to take a deep breath, and with humor and acceptance, allow myself to acknowledge, I mean really allow the truth in– I am old. I am matronly. I asked one of my co-stars, “How come bags under Vanessa Redgrave’s eyes look noble and under mine they look like crap?” “Because she’s British,” he replied.

HC: Another Winter in a Summer Town

Cape May, New Jersey, in February.

Cape May is the southern most tip of New Jersey. If you go any further, you are in the Atlantic Ocean. The entire town of Cape May is a national historic landmark because of its second largest collection of Victorian houses. San Francisco has the first.

Driving the four hours from Nyack, New York, south on the Garden State Parkway, excitement builds. First you pass the exits for Asbury Park--of course I think of Debra and her love of Bruce Springsteen--then the exits for Atlantic City, with its numerous casinos, boardwalk and, as my friend Robin who recently visited there put it, "a bunch of really weird people, including a huge percentage of large-breasted women with push-up bras and low-cut shirts."

After the AC exits, you drive another hour and finally see signs for Cape May. Normally, in a summer month, I'd love driving forever on the Garden State Parkway. It's nice to see the lush trees, the green landscape, proof that there are still wide open spaces and fresh air in our crowded world. Driving in February the view is stark, desolate, lonely, so seeing "Cape May" signs is a connection with humanity and life. After the signs, you still have to drive what seems like hours to get to that life, represented at first by restaurants with signs with lobsters on them, and whale and dolphin watch invitations. Still you drive, now more slowly, on a one-lane south, one-lane north road, past the occasional Victorian house intermingled with normal, everyday kinda places. The Victorians stick out because of their ornateness, the gingerbread, the multi-colors standing next to stucco or brick or aluminium sided houses. Many of the Victorians even on the outskirts of Cape May are bed and breakfasts, and very inviting, although a 10-minute drive from the coveted beach.

My husband and I are headed closer to the beach, so we keep driving. At Ocean Street we make a left. Up way ahead, I can see a strip of blue that is the ocean. We are almost there. We stop for a red light at Washington Street. To the right is a pedestrians-only outdoor mall of shops. There are no people. It looks like everything is closed...wait! A person!! The light seems to take forever, especially without anyone crossing the street. In August, hundreds of people will be crossing to get to the shops on THAT side of the street, hence the very long red. Finally, the light is green, and we drive just a little longer. What we now see is truly remarkable. Every house is Victorian; most with wraparound porches. Colorful, large, intricate. I feel as if I'd better hang on to my slender thread of reality or I will be transported back over one hundred years...and in my jeans, cotton top, and puffy winter coat I'm not dressed for it. To the right is The Queen Victoria, the main house owned by the same people who own the house we'll be staying in, The Queen's Cottage. Their other two houses are The House of Royals and The Prince Albert Hall.

There are just not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to describe these houses. I hope it's enough to just write, WOW. To know that architects and builders used to care so much, to be so detailed, to create such beauty, and to know that single families used to live in these houses, which are now all multi-roomed bed and breakfasts, is staggering. So much room, such opulence, such riches. Were they happy families, like the Smiths in Meet Me in St. Louis, or dark, tortured families like the Tyrones in Long Day's Journey Into Night (actually, that house was a stick/eastlake Queen Anne, thank you Wikipedia).

The houses have all been renovated, with each room meticulously designed to be as true to the period as possible, but also light and inviting. The Victorian Era was famous for its darkness, heavy fabrics, burgundys, browns, etc. These rooms now have a lot of gold and yellow and sage, the windows are not enclosed in velvet curtains, but light lace to let the sun, if there is any, shine in.

As a guest of The Queen Victoria, we also are welcome to enter and browse through the ground floors of the other buildings. I sample the sherry in each of the parlors, and also look through the 30 or so DVDs in each parlor. Yes, it's funny to see an antique writing desk holding up Intolerable Cruelty and My Cousin Vinny, but that doesn't stop me from taking Dave for possible viewing tonight.

The second part of the B&B is the breakfast, and what a breakfast it was. Served in the Prince Albert Hall dining room, seating 10, the buffet consisted of a hash brown potato bake with scallions, eggs, and cheese, which was fabulous. Cherry tomatoes in a light sauce with parmesan cheese. Cereals, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit salad. Blueberry muffins, bran muffins, and three kinds of sweet breads, with pumpkin, cranberry, apple, and I forget what else. Oh, and of course normal bagels and bread for toasting. All with flowing coffee or tea. Let's just say I'm glad my Weight Watchers sponsors weren't looking. We chat with complete strangers from the four corners of the world, if the world is the northeast. They are from Asbury Park, he's from New Jersey, the three of them are from New York. Kinda funny. The woman sitting next to me talked of her twin sons. The young couple across from me were very lovely. He's recovering from a basketball injury. She's a teacher of the deaf, fluent in sign language, and with adorably curly hair. We swap hair care product tips.

At 4 there is an afternoon tea. Again, bottomless cups of two varieties of brewed tea, oatmeal cranberry cookies, brownies, and a red pepper dip for crackers. When we got back to our inn after dinner, the left over cookies were there wrapped in plastic wrap for us to enjoy. The Queen's Cottage, which consists of two rooms with shared pantry/living area, is where the owners of the inns live, upstairs. The other room on our floor is unoccupied, so we have the coffee/tea maker all to ourselves, as well as this incredibly comfortable leather couch. Sorry, you former animal, you.

I've enjoyed every cup of tea, coffee, cookie, meal. There's more to Cape May than food, though...at least I think. We went for a walk on the boardwalk at sunset. Passing only four other couples and a few kids on scooters in the mile walk, it's a lonely, deserted beachside resort in February. I spotted three surfers! Just how warm are wet suits?

Right now we are sitting on the comfy couch. It's peaceful, quiet, and the snow is gently falling. We are going to go for a walk past all the Victorians. I've been to Cape May in nicer weather at least four other times (I miss you, Kathy! Yes, the stitching shop is still here). Although I miss the sunshine, the smell of sunscreen, the hustle and bustle of vacationers--bicycles zooming past, a steady stream of people heading toward the beach, cars!--there's something subdued and magical about a town that's more than half closed. When we drove to a restaurant last night, we passed about a hundred houses closed up for the summer, without a single light shining from inside. Dead houses they seemed, but really more just hybernating until their owners come back to turn on the porch lights, plant flowers, fire up the grill.

There's a bittersweetness to wintering in a summer town. I don't know that I could live here, but it's very nice to visit.