December 25th, 2008



The rain fell most of the night. As I went to sleep, just before dawn, I heard a few drops hit the pile of mulberry leaves outside my window. Moments later, I was awakened by a furious downpour and the roar of wind. A flash of light was followed almost immediately by a loud thunderclap. The brief stormlet lasted only three or four minutes, and ended with a second lightning flash and peal of thunder, and the wind ceased and the rain tapered off, leaving only the trickle of water from the downspout. But a thunderstorm in December! Such a thing is almost unheard of here!

After such excitement it took me an hour to get back to sleep. It must have been the tail end of the storm, as I woke briefly about noon to bright sunlight, but it was too early to rise so I turned away from the window and went back to sleep. The next thing I knew, I woke to a gray evening. It was after four o'clock, and another storm had apparently rolled in. I think the gray cat was quite put out that his afternoon snack had been so long delayed. He was napping on the step just outside my back door. But then that was probably the only dry spot he could find out there.

The chance of rain for the next few days has been reduced to 20%. I might get to see some of the sunlight I missed today. The ground might dry off. We might rid the front yard of that huge pile of soggy mulberry leaves. It would be nice to start the new year with a clean yard, and no more raking to anticipate.

If I recall correctly, Eartha Kitt was the very first (or one of the first) guests Conan O'Brien interviewed after taking over Letterman's old late night slot on NBC. It was classic television. Conan's jejune interview technique was cringe-worthy in those days, and Eartha Kitt cut him no slack at all. I don't think she understood his strange attempts at humor, and at moments it looked as though she was about to slap him, or at least reduce him to tears. She was, after all, the woman who had (reportedly) made Lady Bird Johnson cry at a White House luncheon. I thought Conan's career was going to end right then and there— another victim of Catwoman. But Conan survived, though I don't think Eartha ever did his show again.

Eartha Kitt was very popular when I was a kid. During those early days of her career she was best known for songs with such heavy innuendo that even a ten year old knew they were about sex, and for romantic ballads in foreign languages. But her style and repertoire, suited to cabarets and showrooms, failed to sell records after a few years, and with the end of the 1950s she dropped off the charts, returning only briefly in the 1980s when she recorded a couple of disco songs. From the 1960s on, she spent most of her career doing television, movies, and a couple of Broadway shows, and performing in night clubs. And every Christmas, radio stations would dust off her early novelty hit, "Santa Baby", to be part of their holiday lineup. It always made me sad to hear it.

There are loads of Eartha Kitt clips on YouTube, many of them from her early career when she cultivated her "sex kitten" persona, and quite a few clips of her appearances on various television shows. Help yourself.

Eartha Kitt