gillis and her big mouth

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Month: April, 2012

My Awfully Strong Affection for Alan Rickman

A tweet referring to Alan Rickman a few minutes ago got my quasi-obsession with him bubbling. It was Truly, Madly, Deeply, the movie with the rats and the ghosts, that first introduced me to Alan Rickman. I adored that film where he is the wonderful, but decidedly deceased, husband of the woman played by Juliet Stevens. He hovers, lingers, continues to court her after death so that she doesn’t move on with her life. Who the hell could blame her? She could either go about her crap, everyday existence without him and let him move on, or she could continue to spend time with ALAN RICKMAN. Alone with him in her home. That voice. Those eyes. Sure, it’s a melancholy film, but if you’ve never seen it, you should. It has Alan Rickman. Speaking in low tones for a long time. His voice- and the things he says- really lovely. My gawd I think I need to watch it again this weekend.

From there I watched many of his other films, even slogging through the hideous Die Hard, but the next movie of his that I loved was An Awfully Big Adventure. It’s a bit of tough movie in the end, but he is once again a beautiful presence on the film, which is inhabited by some unsavory sorts. When he discovers he is unwittingly the most unsavory of the lot, well he atones for this in a very Oedipal/Shakespearean manner. Have the tissues ready kids.

While I love the Harry Potter books and films, I don’t really count Rickman’s work as Snape among his performances that I love for their Rickmanesqueness. Snape is such a cartoonish character that I can’t see past the hair and cloak to recognize the Rickman in there. Except that his fabulous voice resonates with each wave of the wand.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Love, Actually where Alan Rickman’s character is not as noble or virtuous as I’d like him to be. Even with this, his nuanced, complicated rendering of a husband whose gaze is swayed by a shiny young thing doesn’t evoke total hatred for him. But really, stepping out on Emma Thompson? Not cool.

I think I would thoroughly enjoy listening to Alan Rickman read the local police blotter out loud. Or even the back of the hemorrhoid ointment package. Especially if he were reading it only to me, looking at me intently with those eyes.  Just keep the rats away…


Call me Gillis – Following Melville’s Footsteps

Today I hiked up Monument Mountain with some of my fifth grade students. Monument Mountain sits across the street from my school and its claim to fame is that Hawthorne and Melville hiked it together and Melville came away from the experience inspired to write Moby Dick.(here’s a link if you want to learn more – ). While I enjoyed the gothic, nutty, and weirdly misogynistic Hawthorne short stories (I speak here of The Birthmark and Rappacini’s Daughter- both of which are forever burned into my psyche) in high school, I really hated Moby Dick. I’ve read the novel, I’ve read the graphic novel, I’ve cruised the Cliff Notes (youngsters, Cliff Notes were precursors to your Spark Notes. At least I can say my generation didn’t pretend there was any “spark” in our cheating), and I have even seen a theatrical production of Moby Dick. Thankfully it was not a musical (“Call me Ishmael, Call me Ish for short, call me anything you want, but -don’t -call -me -late -for -the -white— whale—-” sung to the tune of “Rain on My Parade”) but it was still quite quite painful. I think perhaps Moby Dick – and I know I’m stepping in it here – may resonate more strongly with the folks with the Y chromosomes. Not that many (any?) fellas will end up reading this post to corroborate my theory, but when I discuss seminal literary experiences with women, this book never comes up. It does, however, come up frequently with men. Especially men who write. I just don’t get it.

I have hiked Monument Mountain before and I have marveled at the beautiful views and the sweet air that I find there each time. It occurs to me that I have never found myself inspired to write an epic novel set at sea from this landlocked location. I decided this morning that I would spend some time thinking about how this experience may have set the wheels in motion for Melville to create this monstrosity, errr, I mean, masterpiece after this hike. As I traveled up the rugged terrain I noticed ferns, moss and a variety of lichen growing at various altitudes, I listened to several species of birds singing, and I felt a everything from a gentle breeze to a strong, biting wind pulling across my face. When I reached the summit, I scanned the horizon for any sign of something that might make me feel I needed to document my struggle with nature or even my own hubris in the face of nature’s glory. Nothing. So I opened my pack and ate my trail mix.

Then I began the descent. It was during the decline that I started to understand how one might choose to write about an epic struggle. With each step I felt gravity grinding on my knees and even into my right hip. By the end of the walk, my ankles were singing an ancient sea chanty of their own and I cursed my extra weight. Up until that point, I had been able to ignore the constant negative comments of two students hiking nearest me (I was, of course, The Sweep) who were complaining incessantly about this horrible outdoor experience we were forcing them to endure. They were relentless as I validated, praised, and cajoled them up that mountain. But on the way down as my knees began to scream at me, I had nothing left to give them. I began to understand how Ahab was willing to sacrifice his life and those of  most of his sailors to silence his inner white whale. I was contemplating a couple of sacrifices to the waterfall we passed just to silence my tormentors. Then I realized the pain was not coming from them, it was coming from within, so I popped a few three four ibuprofen into my mouth and swallowed them down with some lukewarm water. If only Ahab, and perhaps Melville himself, had access to modern analgesics things might have been different…





Batteries not Included

A-p-p-l-e says apple droned

the electronic toy voice

A is for apple

a-p-p-l-e says apple-

This gift, this Trojan horse

given with love in the hope

that it would impart the mysteries of the world

letter by letter, sound by sound

has made a sonic poison

for my ears.

With each press of a button

I grow weaker while

you grow stronger.

Why Tuesday is the Jan Brady character in our work week

Tuesday is the day that we become resigned

to another work week.

That nagging cough never did

materialize into an illness worthy of bedrest.

The weather is fine,

there will be no storms to block the roads.

So off we go with our bags

and something close to acceptance.

No one expects much of a Tuesday.

If there’s leftover birthday cake in the staff room,

we feel a small lift, until

we see that it’s stale, and the frosting

is mostly shortening.

For the rest of the day,

Tuesday is coated with a grainy,

sweetish film.

And we’ve left our toothbrush

at home.

Saturdays at the Plough and Stars

We sat at the bar while Danny

checked IDs at the door

and Barry poured the

Perfect Guiness.

The Bagboys and their

ragtag hangers on (including

mostly always us) let the warmth

of a Saturday and

the golden sounds melt

all around us.

The bass thumped and we sang

along. Belligerently

if need be.

Quenching our

thirst for one another’s


Driving into Middle Age

Learning to  drive

when you’re middle aged

is terrifying



I wouldn’t recommend it.

Unless somehow

you’re trapped

in the country


a friend to call your own.

Then you better get your shit together

and figure out which is the gas

and which is the brake

and get moving because

there’s no subway.