Top15: 2017 Favorite TV Actresses

As always, remember the difference between “favorite” and “best.” This ain’t no Oscars or Emmys. . .

Katherine Heigl—Doubt
I don’t think anything can possibly happen that would change her from being my favorite actress. Too bad this show was so boring, and she was basically saddled with the same character she played on Grey’s.

Gillian Anderson—The X Files
Even though I’m not enjoying the reboot, I still love watching this amazing woman, and Scully will always be Scully. As much joy as she brought me during the original run, it’s her work in The Fall that is truly the highlight of her career.

Daniela Ruah—NCIS:LA
Due to the past decade or so this show has been on, I’ve run out of superlatives for this amazing actor. At first the show was more centered on her beauty and sex appeal, but since then she’s proven she has the chops to stick with the boys on this show.

Christina Valenzuela—Miraculous Ladybug
If you ever needed proof that voiceover acting can be just as compelling and amazing as on-screen work, look no further than this woman’s subtle work. From high-pitched giggles and squeals to menacing counter-threats at the show’s baddie. . . I want to say she’s so much fun to watch, but instead she’s so much fun to hear.

Melissa Benoist—Supergirl
It’s always seemed to me that playing a superhero isn’t all that hard, compared to playing the human counterpart. To put it simply, Melissa is simply better than most of the material she’s had thrown at her. Just watch her playing vulnerable human—or masquerading as human—and you’ll see what I mean.

Emily Wichersham—NCIS
I was never against Cote de Pablo, but her character got stale after a while. Emily brought a freshness and optimism that the show desperately needed, while not creating another Abby.

Kristen Bell—The Good Place
Veronica Mars was basically a good person underneath her tough façade, and always managed to do the right thing despite it. Eleanor is Veronica Mars had she grown up without that filter. Kristen makes her one of the most selfish people ever seen on TV—thankfully not all the time, she’s learning—and yet still completely loveable.

Halston Sage—The Orville
There’s a scene early on, the episode where Alara takes command, where she’s negotiating the release of the captain and first officer. Her opponent is a conceited jerk. Putting her ego aside, she lets someone else take over and, when prompted, gives the most hilarious deadpan line ever uttered. That’s all I needed to fall in love with this character, and actress.

Jaimie Alexander—Blindspot
This show had such an amazing premise but has unfortunately fallen into silly are-they-together-or-not drama that it didn’t need. But through it all Jaimie has been the bright spot, whether she’s being badass with her words or her stunts. She’s made this character almost as kickass as Lady Sif.

Abigail Spencer—Timeless
Another show that hasn’t really lived up to its premise, being too uneven in quality, but Lady Blah-Blah has been a constant rock amongst the sometimes eye-rolling writing. She had to wait a long time for this kind of leading role, but now she gets to show what she can do, and it’s a lot.

Alana De La Garza—Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
This amazing actor just can’t catch a break. With her acting potential, not to mention those cheekbones, she should be a star, on a show that lasts forever. . . no pun to her previous show. Yet in all those one-or-two year wonders she creates delicious characters that are always fondly remembered.

Kara Killmer—Chicago Fire
If this character was real I would marry her in an instant; that’s how great a job Kara has done here. Whether she’s calming down a recalcitrant patient or hiding from a friend who’s crushing on her, this innocent-looking blonde always makes me believe whatever little silly thing the writers throw at her.

Paget Brewster—Criminal Minds
Even though Prentiss is no longer the badass she was before her fake death, there’s still plenty of fire in the character, and making her the boss allows Paget to show a completely different side to her acting prowess. I like watching her be more subtle than usual, while still enjoying the vintage emotions that sometimes still come out.

AJ Cooke—Criminal Minds
Unlike her costar above, AJ—and JJ’s—journey has been the opposite. Whereas the blonde media coordinator started out meek compared to the others—sometimes it was easy to forget she was a trained FBI agent—she’s gotten to show her grit and kickass skills in taking down bad guys, even saving her family. AJ has shown JJ can be what Prentis was before.

Melissa Rauch—The Big Bang Theory
I still say she’s the best thing about this show, even with the comedic giants in the lead. Whereas she started out a bit mousy, the character has developed into the most snarky of them all, leaving Penny in the dust. This is one time when her height—or lack thereof—helps, because you don’t expect such cutting sarcasm from someone so tiny, and it’s so perfectly delivered that it’s funny rather than painful.



Top 15: 2017 Favorite TV Shows

For once I’m gonna be smart about it and not waste my time ranking them. Yeah, that’s the new way I roll. . .

Miraculous Ladybug
I’ve already blogged about how much I love this show, and now that it’s on TV—channel 5.3 in Los Angeles at 7:30AM—and not just Netflix, I can put it on this list. For those who missed it, two teens in Paris become the superheroes Ladybug and Cat Noir whenever someone—usually one of their classmates—gets evilized. (Yes, that’s one of the words they use for it.) In addition to that storyline, there’s the unrequited love between the two, though it’s made much more complicated because of their alter egos; it’s basically a love square between two people. There’s plenty of humor, and the 3-D animation is cutting edge. One of the shows I watch over and over and even sneak peeks at the second season over on YouTube.

Like it turned out for a lot of people, I wasn’t thrilled with the second season—one critic mentioned it should be renamed “Supergirl’s Boyfriend”—but it’s gotten back in the groove in its third year, not the least of it due to Odette Annable, one of my faves. For me the best parts are when Kara is all too human, especially sympathetic, rather than all the action sequences. The one thing that got me into this show, when I usually don’t care for superhero fare, was an early photo of Melissa in full Supergirl gear walking with a group of Girl Scouts while carrying a puppy, and sometimes they remember why that kind of thing works so well.

This show manages to do something that a lot try and almost all fail at: having a character who’s such an ass but also so charming you just can’t help but be on his side. And it’s the Devil!
You’d think there wouldn’t be any more “detective and x” combos left to try on TV, but I suppose eight years of Castle proves it’s still a viable formula. It helps that the detective is so darn likeable (and looks exactly like one of my favorite musicians!). There’s also a great supporting cast of celestial beings and all-too-humans that keep things light and dramatic in turn. A particular favorite is the psychiatrist who enjoys sex with angels. . . and the gorgeous demon who does just about everyone. . .

After all these years I’m still enjoying the adventures of Kensi and the nameless guys supporting her. (What? Nah, don’t believe you.) It helps that I’ve been on the set and got my photo taken with all of them. . .
In the last ten years or so dramas have become so serialized that I’m well over it, and this show has some of those arcs as well, but I prefer the individually plotted episodes. Still wish they’d do more undercover work like at the beginning, especially when they can be as good as Sam playing financial savant.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us
Basic premise: if you can perform a magic act, and Penn and Teller can’t tell how you did it, you get to open for their show in Vegas. (Suspiciously, there’s never more than one winner per episode.)
What’s better than magic? Funny magic. Some magicians excel at that, but none have hit it big with that formula like these two incredibly different guys. In later seasons they’ve taken to doing their own trick at the end of each show, but even better are all the different acts that have passed before them. While some of the magicians are so practiced it sounds like they’re reciting their patter, for the most part they’re so excited about performing on TV and in front of their idols that it gives a fresh enthusiasm lacking in so many shows today.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Still going strong after some thirty years, if you count the British era. As much as I love watching stand-up, this is so much better. There are some skits I’ve watched thousands of times, especially the ones with guest stars like Robin Williams, Richard Simmons, and Adelaide Kane. Even model Nina Agdal rocked it. But Colin, Ryan, Wayne, and rotating fourth seat are all comic geniuses, a joy to spend an hour with. Even Laura Hall, the pianist, is wonderful, even though I recently spent an evening listening to live music next to her without recognizing her!

Yup, this show is still on the air, and some might say better than ever. After a long time with Cote de Pablo in the female lead, the addition of Emily Wickersham has infused fresh blood, along with some other new faces to balance those who’ve been there the whole time. Gibbs isn’t nearly as much of a hardass anymore, no doubt due to his recent brush with death, and his scenes with Fornell show he does indeed have a sense of humor buried somewhere inside him. At this point the plots hardly matter; the fun is in the interactions of the team.

The Good Place
Where are we again?
Eleanor is Veronica Mars had she gone bad. She dies in the most ridiculous way possible and makes it to Heaven, where she obviously doesn’t belong. Now she has to deal with keeping her secret, spending time with the geekiest soulmate ever, and trying to figure out why Heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. . . and then it really gets weird.
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are both comic geniuses, and the supporting cast is definitely not bad either. But it’s the writing that makes this show amazing, superb in both comedy and twisty plots that no one sees coming, not even the other actors, as evidenced by a video Kristen uploaded recently of them reacting to the huge twist.

The Orville
The Space adventures of Alara and her crew. . . well, at least for one episode.
Who would have thought a funnier, slightly hipper version of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be so good? Not that it started out great, and definitely has huge possibility for growth if they can cut down on the sophomoric jokes. . . well, it is Seth McFarlane.
For me it’s the women who rule this show. Penny Johnson Jerald has always brought it, and must be having fun on this show after having to be so serious on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I’ve never been a fan of Adrianne Palicki until now, but it’s Halston Sage as Alara that is a revelation, the best new face of the season. (Even more fun is how totally different she looks in real life!)

After what started as one of the best premises of all time, the show has settled into a kind of holding pattern; even though the overall mission—and big bad—changes, it’s still about deciphering the tattoos to foil yet another plot. Jaimie Alexander is one of the most underrated actresses on TV, and even though I get bored with the goings-on sometimes, there’s still plenty to enjoy every week, including one of the funniest and most endearing techies on any show.

Death In Paradise
Now that it’s running on PBS rather than solely Netflix, I can include what might be my fave cop show. Sure, someone always dies, but at least they did it on a Caribbean island, amid a lot of humor. I will never forget Serious Cop screaming like a girl at the rubber snake, but that was years ago. Now there’s a third chief inspector, who is so understatedly funny it sometimes takes a moment, but provides a completely different yet thoroughly entertaining crime-solving technique. The other cops are fun too, and Danny John-Jules—The Cat on Red Dwarf—plays a character named Dwayne, but his last name is not Dibbly.

Big Bang Theory
Another show where there’s nothing much left to say after being on for so many years. On the other hand, it’s fun to watch the repeats and see how much has changed: two of the original four married—one of them with kids—the last guy you’d ever expect to find a girlfriend engaged. . . and then there’s Raj. At least he changed his hair. But in my admittedly biased opinion the show has gotten better and better since the addition of Melissa Rauch as Bernadette, who could easily be a star on a spin-off had she not had to carry Howard all these years.

Dancing With the Stars
I can’t believe I’m including this one, as I’ve never watched it before—and probably never will again—but my girl Lindsey Stirling was on so I had to tune in. . . and found I still remembered a lot of my own miniscule dance training. Even worse, I found I had many of the same thoughts that were then expounded by Grumpy Judge!
I wonder if Lindsey remembers the Meet-and-Greet where we posed in tango. . .

Time-travel change-the-future story, which I love. I don’t think there’s been anything like it on TV since Seven Days.
I’m not sure if the whole season was plotted out from the beginning, as too many things didn’t make sense, but counterfactuals are just so much fun. Doesn’t hurt that one of my unsung faves, Abigail Spencer, was the female lead. On the other hand, not nearly enough Matt Frewer!

Medical student gets bitten by zombie, then becomes a medical examiner so she can have access to brains. Finds out eating a dead person’s brains passes some of their memories to her, which she uses to fight crime. Remember what I wrote above about Lucifer? How many more variations of cop helper can there be? Doesn’t beat the Devil, but close.
This has to be a dream job for an actor: getting to play a different role, or at least a different version of their role, every week.

Why did these shows that I watch all the time not make the top 15? Mostly because I would otherwise not watch them if it wasn’t for an actress I like. . .

Criminal Minds
Paget Brewster’s back and they’re finally done with the debacle of Reid being in jail.

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
Perfect example. Alana de la Garza went right from Forever to the only Criminal Minds spinoff that made it past a season. If this show had one major problem, it was the writing, but who cares when I can spend an hour staring at those amazing cheekbones?

Chicago Fire
I’d never heard about this show until I saw a commercial featuring a wonderfully enticing innocent-looking braided blonde. That turned out to be Kara Killmer, and even though she’s amazing I actually like the show for its humor, rather than the people crazy enough to run towards fires. . .

Despite some good humor and prescient side stories, this was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill courtroom drama with horny lawyers. . . except this one had Katherine Heigl, and that’s that.

A great premise in a superhero world was basically wasted despite some great actors, particularly Danny Pudi (Go watch his movie The Tiger Hunter!). Vanessa Hudgens turned out to be surprisingly awesome as well, but how bad does the writing have to be when you turn an Alan Tudyk character into a huge disappointment?

Can’t include them:

Wynonna Earp
Because it’s on cable, and Netflix. Still, who would have thought Wynonna could become even snarkier and more awesome by being pregnant?

The X Files
How I wish I could put it on this list, but I am just as underwhelmed by this season as the previous one. The episode with the Mandala Effect was trippy, especially the Segway sound effects, but I’m hard pressed to remember any other worthwhile moment.


Book Reviews: Cruise, Como, FBI Actress

Federico Garcia Lorca

Holiday Cruise
Ever read those pick-your-own-adventure books as a kid? Where the chapter ends on a cliffhanger and you get to decide the outcome? Then it tells you which page to go to, depending on your decision.
This is such a story, but definitely not for kids. The main character, as is common for many women in fiction, is coming off a rough breakup, so her female friends and gay male friends take her on a short cruise. The first half has her choose between her first lesbian encounter and a spanking, while in the second she goes to have her photo taken and chooses either the guy who runs the business or the hunk who plays Santa.
There’s a lot of fun secondary characters here, but you won’t get the full measure unless you go back and read the other branch as soon as you’re finished with one. The sex scenes were rather pedestrian—the one with the first guy seemed a lot more hot and realistic than the Santa one—but the dialog flows beautifully and is the best part.

Fascinating Lake Como
Not so much a travel book as a promo tool, this tome tries to share the wonders of this famous region of Northern Italy. According to the info at the end the author moved to Italy, so English might be her first language, but some of the wording and phrases make it seem otherwise.
A lot of the sightseeing suggestions are churches, almost as many as scenic places. Plenty of travel stuff listings, including markets and internet cafés; there’s even some business card-like graphics for such things as auto repair. Even the selected photos do little to impart the grandeur of the area. Plenty of history, not much of it interesting. Perhaps because I’ve spent time in this area having a lot more fun than the book leads one to believe, I was not impressed.
A generous 3/5

Money, Family, Murder
In all honesty I almost gave up on this book after a few pages. I had trouble liking any of the characters, even the murder and frame victim, and the writing style, while not bad, was nothing to write home about. Problem was, I couldn’t really figure out why I wasn’t liking it, other than the characters. But I kept going and enjoyed it more as it went along, though I was never fully in happy mode with it. The general plot was okay, though there were some parts that were a little shaky, especially with the main character doing some pretty stupid moves that would have saved him a lot of trouble, especially in Dakota and Florida. There’s a good aside about how the internet reacts to scandal—not the TV show—that I thought was excellently written and is the highlight of the novel.
But for me the worst part came at the end. One of my pet peeves—I think it was Larry Niven who said it—“The reader is entitled to a chance to outwit the author.” This did not happen here, there being absolutely no clue as to whodoneit before the revelation. It’s one thing to know that the main character didn’t do it—therefore we root for him and want to see how he gets out of it—and of course there’s gonna be at least one red herring, but it’s only fair to weave in some touches which might seem incidental but eventually make the reader think, “Oh yeah, how’d I miss that?” That wasn’t done here.
2.5 upgraded to 3/5

Random Elements
Second in a series, this is a story of an actress in love with an FBI agent, who has to juggle strange relationships with her director/auteur/muse recipient, her co-stars, and most of all a stalker who goes from being poetic fanboy to all-out flasher in her house. Due to the fact in the first book—I imagine—she helped the FBI agent solve a crime, she’s going from action heroine to the real thing with the series cancelled. . . only to have it uncancelled, while her new boyfriend goes away on an undercover assignment.
Billed as a romance, but even though there’s the big relationship it feels like the romance took place in the previous book. So this one comes across as more of a mystery/thriller, which of course makes me happier. There haven’t been many times when I’ve enjoyed a book so much I want to instantly read the previous one, but the writing and characterization here is excellent; if I had to choose one thing I love more than anything else, it would be the sense of humor and humanity of the lead character. And like everyone who meets her (them?) I’m in love with both Annika (the TV character) and Nikki (the actress).
As a bonus you can go to the author’s website to view samples of what she thinks the TV show would be like; I imagine it’s on cable, for there’s a lot of cussing.


Mondays Really Are No Fun Days

Ever have one of those days where both good and bad things happened, and you can’t decide if overall it was a good day or not?
Yeah, it’s like that. . .
Usually after 40 minutes on a bus I get off at Union Station to take the subway, but I was feeling good enough–i.e. not needing to go to the restroom–to keep going the extra 20 minutes through downtown traffic to my first destination, the Yorkshire Grill, near the corner of 6th and Grand. I’ve been there enough times so that most of the waitresses remember me and know my order, especially Belinda, who as usual jokes about extra pickles. . . still not funny, babe.
From there I walked over to 7th and Metro to catch the Expo Line to Exposition Park, hoping to avoid walking anywhere near U$C this time on the way to the podiatrist. As it turns out the Rose Garden is closed till March, even though you can see plenty of blooms, so I drifted left to go around it, walking past the African-American museum and coming out near the Science Center. . . where I saw a Blackbird. By that I mean the awesome plane from the 60s, so I had to pause to photograph it. With that done I retraced my steps to exit the park through the gate, only to find it locked; how different my day would have been if it hadn’t been.

IMG_20150105_094932 IMG_20150105_095409
So I went back to the Blackbird and saw someone walking through the parking lot and out of the park, so I followed. Crossed the driveway toward the Coliseum, and got onto a gravelly sort of walk paralleling the sidewalk on Figueroa Blvd. Reaching back for my wattle bottle on the side of my camera backpack, I didn’t see the hole–I took a picture, you can’t see it anyway–and stepped right in, causing my ankle to planch forward and straining the ligaments, though I wasn’t aware of that at the time, falling onto my hands and knees, sending the water bottle, the backpack, and my MP3 player flying past me.
So yeah. . . I’m sitting there in major pain, and of course no one walking by asks if I’m okay. Perhaps my rueful grin discouraged them, but finally I manage to ouchie my way back up, brush off, settle things back in place–if my cameras are damaged I am so suing–and limp off to the corner and then into the podiatrist’s office. Some people find it ironic this happened on the way to the foot doctor, but it’s really just sad.

Can you see a hole? Neither could I.

Can you see a hole? Neither could I.

So she cleans up my cuts and checks my foot–the one I was going there for her to examine–but neglects to wrap my ankle. Leaving there I walk on the street until I’m well past the danger spot before turning back into the park, making it as far as the science center before needing to rest the injured forelock. The McDonald’s is being redone, but the science center has free wifi, so I’m there for a while before getting the energy to walk around the rose garden again–this time on the Museum of Natural History side–back to the train.
Feeling extremely sorry for myself, I transfer back to the subway and go to Union Station, where in the last month there are now shoeshines. My shoes were obviously a mess, and for 6 bucks I don’t care how many people stare at me as they pass. Once that was done it was back to the subway–good thing I got the day pass–and a quick trip to the bank, then off to the library for some more wifi until I got hungry and went back to Yorkshire for another bacon and egg on wheat. This time it was Tatiana who took my order, and she always forgets when I tell her to hold the pickle. After that I ordered yet another sandwich to go, so I could have all three meals with bacon and egg. Unfortunately I didn’t notice the smell of pickle coming from the bag until much later. . .
It was a hard uphill as I limped to the other side of the library to catch the Wilshire express, but at least that was a nonevent; I might have even fallen asleep, and I’m sure that girl with the Cal State LA backpack wasn’t eye-flirting with me. The walk up Westwood Blvd. to UCLA was even more painful, but I persevered, just like I spent a lot more time than I should have looking for just the right thing to gift myself with the 20% off alumni coupon at BruinWear. All the hoodies I liked I already had, but finally found a non-hoodie sweater with a very sleek look and settled for that, especially since it was cheaper.
After a quick trip to Jamba Juice I limped over to Pauley Pavilion, where the least said about the Women’s Basketball team’s performance, the better. Left before the end, putting on my new sweater, and did a quick walk to the bus stop, much faster and less painful than I expected; perhaps I’d be okay for the long walk from the opera on Friday. Easy 40 minute bus ride along Sunset, got to Hotel Cafe while the previous act was still on. James is back as doorman–haven’t seen him in ages–and managed to grab a seat toward the front, if on the side.
Took a while for things to happen between acts, but finally there’s Josh Kelley climbing toward the stage, only to be stopped by some old friends. I took the opportunity to ask him if it was okay to take photos, to which he responded, “Fuck yeah!” Had I waited about two seconds more I would have turned around and quite literally run into Katherine Heigl; as it was she was safe, though I couldn’t help smiling at her as I sat back down. A couple of years ago I met one of my other favorite actresses, Daniela Ruah, and I mentioned how amazed I was at how calm I acted around her. Take it up to 11 here; there I was sitting next to my all-time #1, and. . . nothing. Didn’t even say hi. Later on I spotted another actress I like, Paula Trickey, but didn’t bother her either.
So, on to the concert. Josh Kelley definitely entertained me despite–or because of–his potty mouth; his wife should really do something about that. Among the songs that he played that I liked: It’s Your Move–he mentioned it was new–You’re my Angel, Tidal Wave, and Mandolin Rain. I also enjoyed Georgia Clay a lot more here than the studio version. A couple of times he went into a plainly dorky dance as he tried to rap and/or scat, but it was all in good fun–I hope. He told a story about vampires that suck fat instead of blood, and did a parody of the Doobie Brothers had they worked at McDonald’s: What A Fool Would Eat. The best complement I can give him is that he reminds me of Joshua Kadison.
So as I left my ankle, which seems to have caught on to Josh’s word choice, was screaming “What the fuck, dude? Stop walking!” at me, but I had to go the three blocks to the subway and there was nothing the ankle could do about it but what it was meant to do. I’d never seen Hollywood so empty, so at least I didn’t have to fight through crowds. For once there was no trouble with transportation and I got home around 11, where I said to hell with all the usual goodnight stuff and simply conked out, which at least got the ankle to shut up. . .
As always, Hotel Cafe too dark for good photos; this was the best I could do. Basketball photos coming later.



Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dream, part 5

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was the only one in the world good enough to be compared to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which basically meant they only taught rich people and gave shows once in a while. With the place being next to the Palace, it didn’t take us long to walk there, even in her high heels, which she admitted she had to get used to walking in every time, let alone dancing in.
“But I’m fine now!” she giggled, and didn’t seem bothered when I didn’t say “Yes you are!”
Instead I went with, “Not after that last drink you’re not. And of course I did hear what that woman said to you, and more importantly what you said to her.”
I didn’t think she’d call me on that, for then I’d have to admit I was eavesdropping, but she simply blushed and hung her head, partly in shame and partly so I couldn’t see her grinning.
Stopping for a moment, I put my hand over her mouth; she fell obligingly silent, always being a good girl, as well as amused. “Wanna be a famous prima dona opera singer?” I whispered.
“Not especially,” she replied with a shrug.
“Do it anyway, all attitude. . . don’t say anything!”
Once there, I never broke stride as I gave the guard at the entrance a terse nod, holding the door open for her. She strode haughtily through it, pretending not to look at the suddenly-gasping guard. Enjoy it, baby, she thought, but immediately reverted to nice country girl and gave him a friendly “Buenas noches.”
“Good thing you wore those boots,” I muttered once we were inside, refusing to explain that, instead scolding, “I told you not to talk!”
She grinned, blushing. “Forgot. But why? What’s going on?”
“This is a show for special invited guests.” I put his arm around her shoulders and steered her, knowing she’d never remember which way to go. “Maybe we can get you off on mental incompetence.”
She chuckled and hugged me. “Afraid to admit it, but when I’m around horses, it’s usually true.”
“Don’t blame the horses.”
As I’d expected, soon enough someone challenged our right to be there, this one a bureaucratic jerk with a clipboard. “I do not know you.”
“You really need to get out more,” I smirked superiorly. “Everyone here recognizes the most famous actress in the world.”
“She is not on my list,” came the repeat monotone.
“Contact the people who actually know what’s going on,” I told the man sternly. “Then we’ll be more than happy to accept your apology.” I turned to her. “Let’s go, madame.”
She managed to hold the haughty this time until we were far away from the man– doing a damn good acting job, if I do say so myself!–before finally managing to look at me in something close to aghastment. “You need to give me acting lessons, mister!”
Making no reply to that other than a grin, I led her into the actual arena and found us some good seats. Reading from the flyer I’d been given, I translated, “A horseback procession celebrating the royal stud farm and the sixteenth century crossing of two Andalusian breeds, which gave rise to the superb horses of today.”
“Howz that different from what we saw at the fair?” she managed a good whine, wishing she could take the boots off for a few minutes.
“Top of the line horseflesh merchandise. Plus we get to sit.”
“Oh good!” She looked around and decided the people reminded her of those at Hollywood parties. “Not the actors, the behind the scenes movers and shakers. The money men and their trophy wives.” Then she grinned and waited for me to say something about her being perfect for that role.
Instead I went philosophical with, “Money can make men–and limber women–do strange things.”
“Limber, huh?” She had to keep herself from rushing into another fantasy, killed the thought with a Rush song. “Big money pulls a million strings.”
“Big money draws the flies.”
Grinning like a mean little kid, she continued the lyrics. “Big money leaves a mighty wake.”
“Big money leaves a bruise.”
“It’s the power and the glory.”
“It’s a war in paradise.”
“A Cinderella story.”
“On a tumble of the dice.”
She made a face. “We already did that part!”
The show started, and she thought of nothing else as she watched the horsies with a fascination that even took the self-proclaimed love of her life out of her brain. Luckily nothing happened to distract her from her happy place; she even gave what sounded like a sexual sigh of satisfaction when it was all over. Still clad in her tight green dress and honey-blonde hair up, plus the stilettos, she towered over most of the men in the post-show drinks room, either embarrassing or merely intimidating them.
Until she completely blew the mood–so to speak–by suddenly asking, “How do you say cucumber in Spanish?”
“Thank you.”
Not about to ask, I turned my attention, along with everyone else in the room, to a little stage in the corner, where two men dressed in centuries-old clothes began giving a fencing performance, unless it was a real duel over a girl or something.
As she watched the thrust and parry–and giggled to herself at the sexual connotations she couldn’t seem to stop thinking of–the younger of the guys was cut on the arm and immediately hustled away by his opponent, which basically told everyone the thing was indeed staged and dropped some of the enjoyment off the whole spectacle.
“Well, he’s dead,” Katarina announced cheerfully.
“Just a little scratch,” the woman next to her argued scornfully.
“A little poison on the sword and he’s done for.” She turned to glare at the woman. “Ever heard of Hamlet?”
Trying not to grin, I patted her ass gently. She, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide her smile. Now feeling completely relaxed, she started working the room, searching out any conversations in English. She’d never considered herself a brilliant conversationalist, but she knew herself to be a good listener, lively and quick to both sympathy and laughter, and with these qualities–added to her great beauty–no girl could go wrong.
So her mom told her, anyway. . .
Finally tired of meeting people she’d never meet again, she gave me a look that he interpreted quickly and easily. “I think it’s over here,” I smirked, and when she realized my cover for her escape was the old watercloset excuse, she clucked and scolded me like a maiden aunt, at least until we were out of earshot.
Instead I led her to a quiet balcony; she would not have been the least surprised if I’d either been here before or had scoped out the place while she was working the room. Wait, didn’t he say he always looks for the emergency exits? Glad he notices other things too!
Unable to stop herself, she looked over the railing and saw a gentle slope about ten feet down, an easy jump in a hurry, even in heels. “Ah,” she grinned. “You found this during your security explorations, didn’t you?”
“No idea what you mean, supposed-romantic lady.”
“Yeah, sure.”
I smirked evilly, as if to say, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Her only recourse was to douse me with a smile, showing every one of her perfect teeth.
But then she looked out past her little green escape hill, at the sight of the barns/ warehouses/whatever they were, and instinctively wrinkled her nose. “This place is butt-ugly!”
“You’ve never seen your butt, have ya?”
She winked. “Waiting for you to develop the photos.”
“Well, trust me, it’s as beautiful as the rest of ya.”
“Golly golly gosh!”
“Mmmm, I love your innocent character.”
“Knew ya would,” came the un-innocent smirk. “Plan on ravaging me?”
“Not that first time, no, but if you want to play that one day, don’t use your lousy German accent.”
Ignoring all the connotations that didn’t have to do with her acting, she huffed, “I can do a great German accent!”
“That was Russian.”
“Damn! It’s harder than I thought. Show me.”
“Why not?” That wasn’t whiny at all, right?
“I can’t be an actor,” he sighed. “Too exhausting.”
She looked smug, for some reason. “As true as that is, I have faith in you. Show me you agree by kissing me.”
“Not here.”
“So people see us, so what?”
“That would embarrass me.”
She snuggled closer. “I love it! Big man shy about kissing in public! You blush every time, it’s so cute! You’re blushing right now! It makes you appealing, you know.”
I thought about saying “I know,” instead growled at her, a mock carnivore rumble, and she squealed and hid her face in my chest. After a moment she pulled back and propped herself up with her chin on my shoulder to look at me, tracing the line of my nose, then my lips, with one finger. She obviously wasn’t the least bit embarrassed about anyone seeing us
“See how simple it is?” she whispered.
“That’s because you’ve done it so often in movies you can’t tell this is reality.”
“This isn’t reality,” she sighed. “This is paradise. . .”
On the other side of the corridor from the balcony we could look down at the ballroom, if that was indeed what it was called here. Smiling, I pointed to a man in a green tuxedo, whom she had seen and avoided like a plague. In fact, she shuddered as she asked, “Ever heard of a song called Marche funèbre d’une marionette? Classical composers were just as weird as today’s, if they wrote a funeral march for a puppet.”
“Ever see the Hitchcock TV show?”
“Remember the theme? That’s it.”
“That weird little march? Very cool! Really set the tone for the weirdness it preceded.”
For some reason she leaned over and kissed me tenderly on the cheek. . . only to be startled out of her mood at the shout of “Bella Americana!” from what sounded like more than one love starved/drunk guy. And indeed it was a crowd of them, scaring her. But at least they sound fun-loving rather than dangerous.
She did her best to be Hollywood-gracious, even signing autographs, until finally someone noticed how uncomfortable she looked under her façade of cheeriness. “You are indeed a special lady. Any time you need help. . . anything,” the guy added with a last glance at me.
She grinned and remarked, “All I ask is that you treat me no differently than you would the Queen.”
Which seems like the perfect place to end it. . .


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 4

Because I’ll be out all day tomorah, you get Travel Thursday a day early. Easy on the champagne, you have to work tomorrow. . .

Being a relatively small town, we’d left the car at the horse show and walked downtown, finding it pleasant because everyone seemed to be out with the horsies. According to her–she’d read the tourist stuff at the hotel–the town dated back to Moorish times and “possessed a charming old town with beautiful palm lined squares.”
“You know what kind of feeling I get here?” she mused as she held my arm during the walk. “Aristocratic is the word. Maybe it’s the horse show, but I don’t feel at all like this place appreciates the common man.”
“And you haven’t even seen the liquor places. I think it’s the wide streets and overabundance of squares.”
Thrilled to find me agreeing with her, she added, “Plus all these rows of jacaranda trees.”
“Is that what they are? Thought you said you were only into flowers.”
“Read it in the brochure,” she quickly tried. “What liquor places?”
“Place is famous for sherry, and brandy too, I guess. You can go in and sample them and most likely buy some expensive bottles.”
“Not me! I’ve saving all my money for the horsies!”
“How many you gonna buy?”
“Depends,” came her usual impish tone; she even twirled around in a not-bad dance move before falling back into my arms, but after the customary fake sigh she as usual switched emotions like gears. “Hey, where are we, anyway? I like this fountain.”
“Looks like Plaza Simon Bolivar.”
Bending to sniff a flower, she queried, “Who was he?”
“The George Washington of South America.”
“What country?”
“A bunch of them, From Panama in the north to Bolivia in the south.”
“Holy cow! That’s what I call being influential!”
“Yeah, I’m surprised they gave him a statue here.”
“Hmmm?” She was taking a photo of the statue with her own tiny digital.
“Who do you think he was fighting to get independence for all those countries?”
“The Spanish, of course! Still, there’s a statue of George Washington or Benjamin Franklin in London, so why not this?”
“True, but that Mediterranean blood holds grudges a lot longer.”
“Don’t generalize, dear. Now tell me, what does it mean when the statue has a hoof raised like that?”
“That’s an urban legend,” I grinned. “It’s supposed to be that if the statue guy died in battle, the horse has two legs up. If the horse has a leg up, so to speak, then he was wounded and died later.”
“And if the horse is well-grounded?” she prompted, not that I needed it.
“Died of natural causes. But it’s not true. Depends on what the people commissioning the statue wanted, or else they left it to the sculptor to do whatever he wanted.”
“What about our buddy Simon here?” Of course she pronounced it Americanishly.
“Died of tuberculosis.”
“There goes that theory!” she frowned at the offending foreleg. “Well, that’s not really a natural cause, is it?”
“It’s not dying in battle or of battle wounds either.”
“Well, what else can the poor horsie do? Jump in the air?”
“The horsie might, but not the statue.”
“Right!” she laughed, tapping her blonde head. “But when we get levitation technology invented–”
“You’ll get the first one.”
“That’s all I ask. Okay, nuff of that. Flower time!”
For the next few minutes I shot about an equal amount of flowers and blonde, and of course some shots of both. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before she switched gears again. “Can we go back to the hotel? I’m pretty tired.”
“Gotta walk back to the car. . .”
“You can do that,” she yawned yet again; nap time, no doubt. “I’ll wait here and you can pick me up.”
“And who’s gonna protect you from all those rich assholes who come on to you?”
“I’ve been doing it since I was fourteen!” she grumbled, but saw my point. “Okay, I’ll walk back with you, but you gotta make it interesting. Different route, different sights. Make me forget my weariness.”
“Tall order.”
“You’re a tall guy.”
“Not that tall. But you’re definitely a tall gal.”
“I could use a tall glass of water.”
“How ‘bout a fat one instead?” I pulled her pink canteen from her bag, which made her laugh and gave her a little more energy to start the walk back.
Which was ultimately fine, since Jerez was a nice little town to wander in, full of monuments and museums and such. She was too tired to show off the moves she’d learned that night in Granada when we walked by the Centro de Flamenco, which advertised itself as a library that housed pretty much every document, song and video ever made about the dance. “Something I would usually be all over,” she moaned. “Why am I so tired?”
“Couldn’t be all the sex.”
That made her laugh. “Trust me, baby, that wouldn’t make ME tired! You’ll find out one day.”
“Looking forward to it.” But I put just enough doubt in my tone to bring on her giggles. While she wasn’t paying attention, I ushered her into a nearby shop and quickly ordered in Spanish, simply telling her I knew exactly what would perk her up right now.
In only a couple of minutes a smiling man brought us a huge platter on which sat a giant coil of what at first she thought was a cinnamon roll, but the brown doughy surface sparkled instead of glistened with frosting.
“Okay, what is this?” she muttered, also staring at the cups of thick brown semi-liquid placed in front of us.
“You forgot already? You did seem to like the churros in Granada.”
“These are churros? How come they’re not in long broken sticks?”
“Guess they figured you’d have enough energy to break them yourself.”
She made a face at that, then a worst one at the cup. “And this?”
“Boy, your memory sure requires a lot of energy to work! Chocolate! You dip the churro in it!”
“Right!” But then her eyes fell on the giant pizza-sized coil again. “Do they seriously think we’ll finish all this?”
“If you don’t, I will. Think of it this way: the sugar rush will get ya to the car.”
She made a “yeah, okay” bob of the head and dug in, holding her own in the mutual demolishment of dough, sugar and chocolate. She didn’t even kid me about my supposed distaste for the sweet stuff.
Unable to stop herself, she looked up at the menu on the chalkboard behind the counter, but could only recognize one item, which led her to screech, “I hate beans!”
“Really?” Grin. “Coffee and chocolate come from beans.”
“Shit,” she mourned, then stopped dunking her churro, in fact stopped eating altogether. And it didn’t help that I was giving her the patented, “It’s your own fault” grin. . .
The chocolate churro had indeed given her the energy to make it to the car, but from there she’d struggled to keep her eyes open long enough to get to the hotel, and I’d practically carried her to their room. She managed to grope her way to the bathroom, at times irritated with the heretofore loving-them! jodhpurs, but finally managed to completely denude herself in a way she knew no man would pay to see before running out with a last burst of energy and throwing herself on the bed.


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 3

Finally, when she seemed to be almost lifelike again, I asked if she minded wandering around the horsies alone. “Gotta develop these shots and make a poster for this guy, otherwise I might have to buy the horse.”
“Would that be so bad?” she teased, but waved me away imperiously. Just for that, I grumbled to myself, I wouldn’t bring her any chocolate.
To her surprise, she found herself glad to be without me for a while, so she said later, if only guys would stop hitting on her. Luckily she had other thoughts and sights to deal with, like Hey, a miniature appaloosa! Squeal! I want one!

She might have told me what she did for those couple of hours, but I was too bored to care, since I was still enjoying her freakout when I’d come back and told her, “Hey lady, wanna buy a burro?”
Gasping in surprise at the voice coming seemingly from inside her ear, she turned right into my grinning face. “What are you doing here?” came her rather pathetic yelp.
“Anything I want.”
“But you’re back so quick!”
“I came as quickly as I. . . felt I had to.”
She snorted on that, but chuckled too. “Did they really develop them that fast?”
Shrug. “Took me the whole time just to find a place.” Smiling, I bent my neck so the side of my head would just touch hers. Feeling it, she leaned against me to reciprocate, without banging skulls. . . too hard. Maybe it’ll become our signature move, she chortled internally.
“Did you know there’s a musical group called Palomino Duck?”
She giggled prettily, the way she would when she wanted something given to her as a gift. “I’d pay to see one of those waddle by right now.”
Luckily I didn’t have anything to give her at the moment, but it was good to know she had that setting, and I could recognize it. “You are some crazy chick.”
“That’s why you love me,” she yawned.
“Wow, I’m pathetic.”
Laughing heartily, she hugged me from behind, then suddenly chortled, “All that glitters is not gold.”
“Nor iron bars a cage!. . . sorry, wrong one.”
“That’s okay,” she laughed, “as long as it was poetry and not a song lyric.”
“When you can fall for chains of silver, you can fall for chains of gold.”
“Now that’s a song! And I totally agree with it, since I’ve never fallen for it.”
“Not yet, anyway. . .”
She ignored that, instead asking, “Hungry yet?”
“Nope,” came my automatic response, but I still reached into his backpack. “Emergency rations,” I explained as I pulled out the pack of gummies.
“There are a bunch of snack places, you know.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, “but that’s clear over there–” She pointed. “–and I’d rather stick with the horsies for now.”

As always, she allowed herself to be led by my whim, and now had to concentrate as we took a small flight of steps into what. . . oh lord, is this a bullring?
As usual, I was able to read her thoughts. “It’s all horses this weekend.”
She squeezed my hand, knowing she should have trusted me, but glad she hadn’t said anything aloud.
Another parade was going on, though this was more than just horsies walking down the boulevard. Some did tricks, others the fancy dancing more commonly known as dressage, and other figured they were just beautiful enough to be admired for their looks. . . or rather their owners did.
I didn’t care that much about equine ego, but there was an amazing young Andalucían I couldn’t take my eyes off. . . more specifically, the horse’s ass. It was young enough to still be rather gray all over, but its tail had been braided into a delicious white braid that reminded me of a certain gorgeous softball player I’d shot many times. And the woman riding it was draped in a red and white flamenco dress, the tail of which framed the braid so perfectly. . .
I glanced over; she was watching the horse with wide-eyed absorption, so I decided not to say anything. She’d see the pictures soon enough anyway.
To my surprise, but also my delight, I found myself enjoying her reactions as much as the show. While I had a long lens on the camera to catch every tiny nuance of a passing horsie, I also had a tiny digital similar to hers, useful for capturing her delight as she cheered and gasped next to me. She watched the show with avid fascination, squinting in the dark of the shadows and clapping at all the right moments, appreciative of every flower and every horse, playing the perfect tourist and amateur horsewoman.
“Nice mules,” she even said once, but the highlight, or one of them, had to be when the most beautiful stallion–and this horse knew it, ego-wise–pranced across the dirt, quickly followed by an almost-identical mare.
“They’re probably brother and sister,” she murmured, “but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were a couple?”
I watched the color rise in her face, giving her red spots on her cheeks that stood out against the whiteness of her flesh. She was breathing quickly, nostrils flaring, chest heaving, and I thought I hadn’t seen anything as lovely in a long time.
“Lovely,” I said aloud, involuntarily.
“Yes she is, isn’t she?”
“Prime filly,” I sighed, causing her to grin and wonder if I was talking about her.
After that we kept quiet and watched the show, she trying to memorize certain horses to draw later, then realizing I was getting a ton of photos, so she could work off of that. Neither of us spoke until I suddenly murmured “Nice capriole” near the end of the performances.
She couldn’t help the sigh that escaped her, but that was due more to her acting instinct that anything else. “Stop showing off, you louse. What’s it mean?”
“Upward leap with no forward motion.”
“In that case, yes, very nice.”
Then came the other highlight, when I was really getting involved in the show she was putting on just for me, though there was probably more than a few men in the audience who had their eyes riveted to her rather than the horsies. But on hearing the gasps of the crowd, including hers, and seeing some tiny tears welling up in her eyes, I brought my attention back to the ring, and saw what all the fuss was about. Instantly my camera was against my eye.
For her part, she could not take her eyes away from the tiny colt clip-clopping obediently beside its mother, somehow managing to impart to its audience that it was both curious and yet happy to be here, or to be alive, for that matter. This baby, she instantly decided, had not struggled to stand up when it had been born, like a newborn giraffe, though that was cute in itself; no, this guy had been born graceful, fully prancing just minutes into its life. She couldn’t stop looking any more than she could stop breathing.
“I wonder if the owner of that little guy would like a walk-on role on an American TV series, or if he’d want something more to feel good about giving me that adorable little pony.”
“Gift horse?” I smirked, making her struggle not to giggle and ruin the show, but luckily the little guy had been designed to end things. Smart of them, I thought.

A few minutes later we were back amongst the stalls, with her cooing to each horse she came across. Eventually, as we reached the end of the stalls and she was realizing she was tired, we found ourselves looking at a beautiful palomino who, unfortunately, couldn’t hold a candle of attention to its owner or seller, whoever the ridiculous-looking guy was.
For once when there was a horse around, she could not keep her eyes off the pitchman. She thought that, the way he looked, he belonged in Hollywood–the town, not the state of mind that went with the movie industry. He was only about five-five, with a shock of yellow hair that stood out from his head in random spikes surrounding his round tanned face.
“He looks like a black-eyed Susan,” she whispered, once again showing off her botanical expertise, making me laugh and lose my way in the translation.
Noticing I was too quiet as we moved along, but not about to let me off easy, she made sure there was accusation in her voice as she asked, “What are you thinking of?”
“Trying to remember if any of the Susans I know have black eyes. Do you mean the actual eyes being black, or the punch-in-the-face type?”
“I didn’t name the plant,” she demurred. “And remember what I told you about thinking of other girls. . .”
“That it shows I’m not a stalker?”
“No, after that.”
“Um. You’re no fun.”
“I am too!”
“Show me.”
“Someday,” she chortled, “when there ain’t a Susan in sight!”
And I had to leave it at that. Knowing she would ask again, I thought of something else to be pretending to think about, and had just come up with a doozy when she quickly got sidetracked by, of all things, a clothing store. But of course it had to be horse-related, and once I realized what that meant, I hurried in after her.
But she was already in a makeshift dressing room, next to racks and racks of the tightest jodhpurs I’d ever seen. Just when I got to wondering how secure the place was, and was about to look for tiny security cameras, she came out and, seeing me, preened with a few spins. It was too dark to shoot in there, so I quickly paid for the garment and grabbed the jeans she’d taken off so she’d have to walk in her new oh-so-tight pants.
She caught on to my game, but only smiled and walked out, as well as she could, all things–or thighs–considered. Once out in the sunlight, I let her walk ahead a little, getting plenty of shots of the skin-tightness of the material against her ass. Though I did pause to wonder how she managed not to show any panty lines under. . .
Duh, I laughed to myself. No underwear, of course.
She knew what I was up to, of course; it was exactly what she’d planned when she’d spotted the jodhpurs, a way to reward me. Poor camera’s gonna burn out. . .
Hey, I just realized. . . he grabbed my jeans, but not my undies! Sure, he didn’t know I’d taken them off in the dressing room, but still. . . should I go back and get them? Hopefully they’re not being sniffed by some perv–or on eBay!–already!
Suddenly a very unusual Suthin’ accent–unusual for Spain, anyway–asked her, “Has anyone ever told ya you have a really pretty mouth. . .?”
“Yeah,” I immediately answered, next to her in a second, “but he was a lot prettier than you.”
And that’s why I love him, sigh. . . “Your camera having fun with my new look?”
“If cameras could have erections. . .”
“Ha! Bring out the long lens!”
I almost told her about the shot of me resting at halftime of a soccer game, the 500mm dangling between his legs, but I figured she’d see it soon enough.
“You really like my new pants?” She brought her shoulders closer together, dropping her chin, totally going for the eight-year-old urchin look, really incongruous with her body and the way she was showing it off.
“The only thing tighter than jodhpurs is WET jodhpurs.”
She tried a baleful look, but much to her chagrin she found herself picturing it, wondering when we were gonna shoot at the beach. . .
Stepping around a corner, she found herself in the midst of what looked to be a medieval costume drama, akin to those Renaissance Fairs she’d attended as a kid. There were tents, glowing brightly like they were lit from inside despite the harsh sun, and plenty of cooking pots filling the air with exotic spicy scents, making her mouth water.
“Just your kind of thing, huh?” I laughed as I saw her face.
“I’m so glad we’re here!” she yelped, throwing her arms around me.
Grinning because I knew what was on her mind, even if she’d never admit it, I asked, “Time to grab some lunch?”
She looked genuinely startled. “I’d completely forgotten!”
“Probably how you keep your girlish figure.”
She grinned as she led the way to a more substantial restaurant than what the booths offered. Figuring we’d be back here tomorrow, where she could sample the food to her heart’s content, right now she had to make sure she found a place my picky stomach could tolerate, and she’d spotted one earlier.
Less than five minutes later we were seated, the girl at the door giving her a look of askance at the jodhpurs, then realize only rich women dressed like that. She took our drink orders and handed us menus and then felt somewhat relieved not to have to deal with the odd couple any more, or maybe just the beautiful woman who made her feel like a lesser species of female.