Musical Meanderings & Musicings #2

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PRESCRIPT: Pieces like this are often time sensitive and sending them out distanced is not always the best way to do it. My life is such now that I see a pen and paper off in the distance. There is a haze and a fog and obstacles preventing its reach that no swimming against the proverbial tide or crawling on hands and knees seems to get me there. Chores and kids and house and life are strewn about so that it becomes both exhausting and futile and necessary all at the same time. I am learning to push those things out of the way with a greater and greater force. This morning, I gave a fierce shove to my morning walk and Zumba workout to reach the pen and paper to finish this train of musical thought started weeks ago during one of my joyous musical weeks.

The funny little goose bumps and silly little shivers up and down my arms this morning in anticipation of the Coldplay concert I will see at the Rose Bowl this evening is as physiologically good as it gets. Induced and exacerbated by my friend Sandi telling me about her favorite CP song called Fix You. I watched it live in Paris some five years ago this morning.   I was pierced to the soul by this beautiful song and even more perfect rendition. Like a kid who sneaks down to the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve after Mom and Dad have left the presents and gone chasing the sugarplums in their head, my fingers ran to Setlist.com. I had to unwrap the present now and know the set list odds of hearing this song played tonight.  The odds are very good.

I have not been a huge Coldplay fan. I love Viva La Vida but took me years to stop calling it Living La Vida Loca. One of the things I have treasured over the past few years with my writing polisher and business partner, Michael, is our shared love of music, albeit as different musical taste as you can get.   I call him my business partner. He refers to himself as the hired help. He is an older CP fan, not by age but by album release. He turned me on to a few great songs by them that I had never heard before, Yellow for one, Trouble for two.

Sharing musical finds is a sacred pastime of mine. I have found very few in my life travels to do so with.   When I met my partner, I lobbed Bob and Bruce at him, the litmus test for me of anyone’s musical taste. He didn’t catch them right away, if at all.   He was reluctant, given my penchant for heavy lyric above all else music, to share much of his with me. A chance trip through Facebook and the find of a very prolific posting friend of his led me to so many different kinds of his type of music. I remember the day I played Gary Neumann’s What the Clock Said. His jaw dropped that I loved that song.   I like to think that over our past several years of American Bandstand like music sharing without the dance numbers, we have had a bit of influence on each other musically. He liked Dawes a lot and I fell in love with David Bowie posthumously because of his recommendations.   The one thing that I have found most fun in learning about and listening to all this new music from him is that I have to really listen in stereo. Because the music I am most drawn to is lyrically prominent, with the surrounding sound a pretty packaged compliment to the words, I listen with mono ears. Listening to Michael’s music requires listening to it with stereophonic ears. There seems to be this common theme in much of the songs wherein there is a steady repetitive beat but not just drums and/or bass alone. It’s almost an entire song with a steady repetition and so your ear is drawn to this. With that constant is then a flurry of music wrapped around it and over it and under it, sort of independent of the basic song and so you listen to that part with the other ear. It is quite a pleasing effect.   He has liked a lot of the music outside his realm that I played for him over the years as well. He actually watched the film Don’t Look Back by Bob a few months ago, a result of a video job that my friend April gave us to do. I won’t say Michael’s going to be strolling around humming Desolation Row anytime soon though. He still remains in the “ l like Dylan’s words and songs, I just wish someone else was singing them” camp.  Well problem solved, as he knows, having done enough audio copying for Andy, that he and his associate Renee, put on the best Dylanfest every May with fifty to sixty musicians all singing Bob’s songs. No better place to see Dylan not singing Dylan.

Andy, my musician friend and West Coast honorary little brother, is another person who I have constantly played, “hey listen to this” with for near 30 years. This is very different, though, in that our musical tastes are so alike that the chances of his liking something I find or he plays for me are about 99% easily. I was a Dylan fan when I met Andy, but with a much narrower selection of songs and albums.  You can get an honorary degree in Dylan by hanging out with Andy this many years. Hang out with April, though and you get a Dylan Doctorate. April is hands down the Dylan knowledge queen. She knows every lyric and every song like I have never seen before. A small digression.

I was driving and listening to KCSN one day, the best radio station from Cal State Northridge ever and my partner’s alma mater, and I heard Dawes do A Little Bit of Everything for the very first time. I was totally and completely blown away.   The first person I called to share it with was Andy. The gold standard of whether I really like a song sometimes is that the first thought that goes through my head is Andy should play it or Andy and Renee should play it, if I hear a female part prominently. That day I literally pulled over and texted Andy and said have you ever heard of this band? YES, was the enthusiastic as Andy can be reply. Come over tonight and so I did and over some 22 minutes in the freezer timed perfectly Sierras, Andy told me the story of discovering this band on a fieldtrip with his son a few years before.   They were the musical guests at the Grammy Museum that day. Taylor the leader of the band along with his brother Griffin are the sons of Lenny Goldsmith of Tower of Power and who now has his own band and Andy and he now share a bass player in Dave Batti: six degrees of musical non-separation.   Andy told me the story that Taylor told that day at the fieldtrip of being the opening act for Bob Dylan a few years before and actually waiting for Bob after the concert as their tour buses were parked side by side. A fist bump by Bob telling Taylor he thought his song A Little Bit of Everything Thing was great sent him straight to songwriter heaven am sure. Andy played me all his favorites and I was hooked and then some. They are without a doubt my favorite new band and the best singer/songwriters to come along in near forty years. It’s no wonder Bob liked them. It’s no wonder they love Bob.

The next one I ran Dawes by is my musical gal pal extraordinaire, Ms. Sandi Behar. She knew of them and loved their music. Well this much of a musical find requires an up close and personal look, does it not? So ticket mistress me, does what I do best and finds out where they are playing and organizes a musical field trip. What a great time we had with this one. First Dawes had a new album coming out in the fall. They were to play as an opening act in August, but executive decision by me- no way was this band opening band material. We either see a full concert by them or nothing. They are too damn good to go see for a 45 minute set. That’s music-interruptus at it’s worst. Rewarded we were by waiting, like all good virgins sometimes are, because by September they had a new album out. First Andy, his son Chase, Lorna (Andy’s girlfriend and my most ZEN BFF) and I saw them in a tiny record store in Long Beach where they played a beautiful semi-acoustic set and signed posters and CDs for the fans.   As I said to Taylor when he signed my poster, “Don’t believe any of these people, I AM your biggest fan”. Two nights later as luck and my ticket-enchanted life would have it; I had two tickets to see an entire show at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery with Sandi. It was one of the best, and I know she would agree, wonderfully magical experiences of our musical madness friendship.  When you meet kindred musical spirits you hold them close and treasure them, as they are rare in one’s life. This wonderful lady who I met through Andy is certainly one of my rare few.

The following spring, I organized a posse of Dawes fans that included Renee and husband Patrick, Andy, Chase and girlfriend Sam, Lorna and Sandi to see them at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. This is by far one of my absolute favorite venues. A little ticket trickery on my part, which I am not going to disclose, had balcony seats turned into first and sixth row front and center for what was a phenomenal Dawes show. Andy had only seen the short record store performance, so it was a pleasure watching him watching them at this full-blown concert.

It is only fitting that as I contemplated yesterday who I should take to see Coldplay tonight, as I had to let poor Sandi off the hook with her work schedule and our previous night’s musical Lukas magic, that I decided to see if my partner would go. I like going to shows with a fan and even better if they have never see them.  I set out to find my tickets and within a half hour I did. Great seats on the 50-yard line about 26 rows up from the floor. The man said he was selling at less than face value because he had to work. Perhaps, or perhaps the fear set in of concert crowds and mayhem from the prior week’s Las Vegas debacle.   I will never know and he will never say. I am sure there are many more who live by the news rather than by the numbers these days. So I’ll drag Michael kicking and beaming tonight thanks to a lovely man who couldn’t go.

The show was big. Very big. Stadium big with the coolest bracelets lighting up at different colors upon Coldplay’s commands. I was so upset they turned off after a few miles down the freeway. We could have kept them lit for good, couldn’t we? I am sure there is some terrible technical reason why not. Fireworks, twinkly lights and colorful balloons are enough to make me happy, but I missed the intimacy of music a bit more up close and personal. The last time I was at the Rose Bowl was for the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge tour decades ago. Thank you to my friend Trish for that musical reminder. Coldplay is a wonderful band, although as agreed, the sound is not the best here. The seats are tight but the night was just beautiful weather-wise and with a full moon. Speaking of Full Moon Risings, they did a great tribute to Tom Petty with Free Falling at the end joined by that James something guy from the carpool Karaoke and a great horn section. Really nice.   They are a great band and the musicianship top notch. They are true Guitar Heroes, playing their years old guitars for all their worth and that is not measured by the costly sheen.  One guitar looked like the first cast on a third grader’s broken leg, covered with colorful signatures and writing.   It is only the Guitar Zeroes that think they need to change out a shiny brand new $1000 instrument with every few notes, as if musical soul and talent and passion exude from a price tag.   We got lots of Coldplay favorites and even the Fix You song I love, albeit more the album version than the softer piano only one I saw on YouTube, but lovely just the same. My partner was happy with the choice of a song from their very first album entitled Don’t Panic. That album, Parachutes, has been a phenomenal find for me this week as well. Music is timeless and when one discovers it doesn’t matter really. Parachutes is as near a perfect album as it gets. Now on to part one of my musical week.

The Wednesday night before was one of the most magical of musical events. The Los Angeles Chapter of the Lukas Nelson fan club rides again, this time to the Fonda Theater in Hollywood. These old theaters we have around Los Angeles are such terrific venues to see music at. This one did not disappoint. Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son. I discovered him quite by accident several months back through one of my musical internet meanderings. He was doing an impromptu rendition in a lounge on a cruise ship with just a couple of old veteran musicians on the piano and trumpet of his Dad’s You Were on My Mind that simply took my breath away for about an hour.   Fast forward to June and a Facebook conversation with Sandi and a few others about their seeing Lukas and his band, the Promise of the Real, at the previous weekend’s Arroyo Grande musical festival in Pasadena. They were talking about how great he was. But didn’t I send you that YouTube of him months ago doing the song, I asked? They didn’t remember anything like that. Hmm. Well this certainly requires an up close and personal look by me, does it not? So while we were FB chatting I mentioned we should see him. I then looked up where his tour was and sadly no Los Angeles shows for the rest of the year. The closest show was Sacramento at the end of July. Well within the hour, I had the tickets, the itinerary and the agreement of Sandi, and two other fans and friends, Yoli and Christine- fans of Lukas, friends of ours- ready, willing and able for an overnight trip to Sacramento to see him.

Phenomenal night, phenomenal band.   We saw him at the Ace of Spades in downtown Sac, a great, intimate musical venue.   We then found out that he was adding a show in Los Angeles in October at the Fonda theater and that is how the Lukas Nelson Fan club plus a few more additions like Jacki, music photographer extraordinaire and Lorraine joined the club.  Vampire musical energy. It’s the only thing I could come up with to describe what Lukas has. I bought his CD at the Sacramento show. I listened to it, maybe once in my car. It does nothing for me. They are nice songs. He’s got a nice voice. That’s it. I have watched a few live performances with the band videos of him on YouTube. Ok, not bad, pretty good as rock country goes. But enter a room with him. See him and his band from a few feet away from the stage at a show you paid like 30 bucks for and every one of your senses becomes assaulted and engaged. He is pure, pure musical magic, albeit black magic I am starting to think, on that stage. Like a vampire whose selfie you never took or seen, his musical energy simply cannot be captured on any medium. It exists in live form only. You watch his soul and fire and charm and heart and all laid bare for you right on that stage to share and enjoy and it’s an experience one never forgets.   Everyone is better live than on a record some would say.  That’s not the same here. The usual course of events is that we develop a kinship and connection to the music first by listening to it on record or radio. . We then want to see it performed live and sometimes we are pleased and sometimes not, but we go back to listening to our favorite artists on the record or tape or MP3 and we are fine with that experience. What I am saying here is, I can’t listen to him on those mediums cause it kind of bores me. The songs run together in a way. There is nothing remarkable about listening to them in my car, but I can say with absolute conviction that there will never be a Lukas Nelson concert in Los Angeles and parts nearby that I won’t be at if humanly possible. Lukas travels a lot with his Dad playing on his tours and his band is also Neil Young’s touring band. All very nice, but this is another musician that I have no interest in seeing as an opening act or part of some long bill that gives them a 45 minute set.

As musically special weeks go, the first one of this October was a gift in so many ways and I treasure and thank all the people I got to share it with. And so I reached the pen and the paper this morning. Now it’s time to get back to the walk and the Zumba until the next piece beckons.

Delusion Springs Eternal… Sometimes

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A chance encounter during one of the myriad trips down Facebook lane, led me to post the question, “At what point does hope become delusion?” The answer given by my discourse partner was ‘”When denial is not just a place in Egypt”.  I replied, but what if denial was not present at all? What if there were two equally plausible roads to take, one that leads to hope and one to delusion, but you have no idea which is which really. A thorny question, she retorted. For her, she said, she chooses good and trustworthy counsel from people whose lives demonstrate the values she shares.  I examined that with the microscopic eye of a Sherlock in training. Demonstrates, she said, not the spouting of values in speak, but rather the demonstrative actions required to solidify the value of the values. It got me thinking. What more challenge is there to hope and delusion than unrequited love or unrequited anything for that matter? There must be an object for unrequited love. It cannot exist in a vacuum. It would disappear very quickly, like the fog on a morning mirror after a shower. The recipient very much requites, requires and receives the benefits of it or there would be no such thing.

This type of love requires hope and delusion to keep it going. If you try and pull away for good or if you truly see the delusion of your hope that the affection would be reciprocated, then the subject will simply dangle a dazzling new delusion before you, like whispering to you as the door is about to slam shut- I love you in my own weird way. And you, like an armless swimmer in mid sea, grasps this tightly within your teeth and holds on to that hope for dear life and you walk back through that door once more. But once you present to your object your delusion as hope, they quickly dodge and dash it with a plausible proclamation that they meant it merely as they love all their dear friends. But too late, the delusion has been firmly planted again, the hope uncomfortably restored so that it becomes easy to continue to provide them the very tangible benefits they reap from this particular unrequited love.

No matter that the values demonstrated are not the same as the values spoken. You swat that aside like so many gnats as not to annoy you into flight. You see actions both abroad and near wrapped in pretty bows of their own brand of common sense and then unwrap them only to see the ugliness of them assault your integrity and your values. But no matter, you are made to be the one who understands not, who should see the sky as green when clearly all you see is blue. And again the choice is kill the unrequited love for good, remove the target once and for all or wrap that delusion in another pretty bow of hope and continue on, because the heartache trumps the mind ache every time. And should the day come when you are successful in untangling all that blue, the hope will always remain that the affection is returned one day. Until then, the delusion must die for your soul and your senses and your stomach to survive.

Speak Loudly and Carry No Stick

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Speaking quietly to people who are supposed to be taking direction from you in some fashion is just plain stupid. The obvious people, of course, are your children.  I am Italian and my kids are half such, so yelling should not be so foreign to them. It’s in the DNA and New York and Italian just doubles that helix. I don’t just trot it out for sport because it is so much fun to pop a forehead vein every now and then or twist my vocal chords into spaghetti.

Why the heck then is it always MY fault when I yell and why are the offspring-me included back in the day- so horrified when it happens. As if they had absolutely no part in the eruption whatsoever. My two will act like someone who pulls the pin on a grenade and then looks on in astonishment and wonder as things go boom around them.

I don’t start out yelling any request. Not a one. The decibel level increases in direct proportion to the decibel decrease in their ears.   When they turn stone deaf to a request to do something after being asked 32 times in a normal voice well then I resort to busting through with every vocal chord I got. It’s not pretty. I know that. But can one really see no cause and effect to my screaming? Just effect? Please pick up your clothes. Please don’t leave 95 dishes on the counter filled with food every night so that the ant farm we now own thrives. Please stop having 42 kids sleep over for days with no parent, food or monetary contribution in sight. Please stop mouthing off to me. Please find a wife and get married and move out. Please get a driver’s license. You are 18 already after all. Please stop driving without a license. You are 15 after all. It never seems to end. Not one, not one task is ever done on my timeline with them. Not a one. If the house was burning and I asked them to call 911- wait that could never happen, they do not know how to speak in the device called a phone- they would text FIRE to 911. At that rate 911 could be the number for voting for contestant number 9 on American Idol and I am reasonably sure they wouldn’t stop singing to put out this fire. No, it would be whenever they so please, just one more video game, or text or Snappy Chatting. But actually get up and say ‘sure Mom’ no problem? Never have those words escaped their lips.

So I yell. That’s right. Ignore me long enough and I just get louder and louder and louder just like this big inflatable noise balloon. You want peace and quiet? Do as I ask once in a while. Do it when I need it done. Do it well. Leaving half the garbage in the house on garbage night is not quite a job well done.   Mowing the lawn when it begins to look like a Field of Nightmares is not a job done timely. Leaving your clean clothes out so long on your dresser or chair that they take on the appearance of worn clothing is just not efficient use of my detergent. You want serenity? Then change the things you can, like my yelling, by doing as I ask once in a while.

Now let’s examine the psychology of it all, shall we? Stop calling me bipolar. It is getting you nowhere. Just because I don’t spend all my life using a June Cleaver voice with you and have to switch to a screaming Mimi once in awhile does not make me bipolar. Want to know why? Because YOU caused the change, not me. Yes, you, with your sassy mouth and tuned out ears to anything I ask. So in effect, if you think I am bipolar because I am neither nice to you all the time nor screaming my head off all the time, so be it. You are a carrier. You want more evenness and more of that polite Canadian demeanor? No, that’s not right. Not possible for me ever. But you get the picture. So don’t you dare manipulate me by saying I am bipolar because I start out nicely asking you to do something or behave a certain way or prevent you from doing something you shouldn’t and then turn into the bride of Frankenstein when you ignore, refuse or disobey. Sorry, my kiddies, that one is on you. You control the Mom mouth more than you know. So start using your powers for good and not evil and peace will reign once more. I love you two and you know that. I hope my pen is mightier than your swords and that you get the message here that I can’t convey there.

Happy 16th My Max

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PRESCRIPT: Today is one of the two happiest days of my life.  Max wanted a car. His mother gave him a blog instead.  I am sure he will be thrilled.

At 11:51am on Wednesday October 11, 2001, my second and last son Max was born. Being the rabid All My Children Fan I was back then, I asked him to please hurry up being born so I don’t miss the episode coming on at noon. It was the last time the boy actually obeyed me unless he wanted to. Max will be 16 going on 36 today. He was born with his own compass, my Max was. He gave me a run for my money since he appeared. After eight miscarriages and the birth of my older son four years earlier, another miracle baby was hard to fathom. The previous year, I had a dermoid cyst wrapped around an ovary removed. I am known for my independence but this type of cyst is an egg that tries to become a person without the help of the male species. Two divorces later and I am thinking it wasn’t such a bad idea. I was 43 years old when I got pregnant with Max and 44 when I gave birth.   I never felt my older son would be an only child. I just had no idea how a sibling would be accomplished. I was not about to go the in vitro route. I didn’t think it would help, as conception was not the problem. My miscarriages occurred at about 8 weeks each time. There was very little any doctor could do about habitual miscarriages, a few DNA tests to check our chromosome compatibility and that was about it. Marco, my older son’s life debut was an emotional roller coaster ride and I was not going to buy another ticket on that ride. I thought about adoption first and foremost as I had after so many miscarriages before Marco. I’ll tell his story when he turns 21 next April. This story belongs to Max.

I tried the adoption route again before Max. I went online, as adopting babies overseas was now all the rage in 2001. I found the most beautiful little 2 year old girl named Ana in Guatemala. She looked like me when I was little. She was so darn cute with jet -black hair and a round little face.  I carried around her picture that February, fully expecting to make that call to see what adoption would entail. By early March I knew I was pregnant again. By late March I knew I was having another miscarriage. I remember the drive to the sonogram center at the local hospital so it could be done very quickly. I remember thinking on the ride over that it’s ok; don’t let your heart break again over this. Maybe we could all go to Hawaii instead. Yes, a trip to the islands, a sure fire easy trade for a baby. I remember the technician saying, “take a look at your baby, the heart’s beating fine”. I remember saying no, it isn’t. Don’t lie to me. I know what a miscarriage feels like. I am an expert. Well not this time, she said, you’re baby is fine. Fooling me is what Max has always done best. He thrives on pushing my buttons and telling me some outlandish story with the straightest face and I fall for it every time. It’s always something to get a loud rise out of me.   When he did it as a six year old, I used to try and tell him the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Max, however, is a natural born lawyer and always had some loophole or other thing the boy could have done to foil the wolf. Finally I gave up on this particular parable.

I had to go every few days as soon as I found out I was pregnant and have some blood work done to test if the necessary pregnancy hormones were duplicating correctly to sustain it.   Max managed to even fool the doctors because the numbers stopped multiplying at one point and yet no miscarriage. That was the reason for the sonogram visit. The numbers just didn’t make sense for a viable pregnancy. That’s Max, my march to his own drummer even in vitro.

I remember thinking he was a girl. I even had the name all picked out. Marlena, Marly for short. At 44 years old, I had to have amniocentesis. They told me he was a boy, I said no he is a girl. No they told me, it’s a boy. We know what one looks like. Now I was in shock. I really was. Boy did I luck out though. I am as far from a girl mom as you can get. My boys didn’t appreciate the farting and burping when their friends were over but their friends sure got a kick out of it.

Max has an independent streak a mile wide. Some say he got it from me. I suppose. I never worried about him growing up. The penchant for calling me Maddie and his Dad, Craig, since he’s been about eight was a little hard to take at first. I was horrified but nothing would make him stop. As I often have to with Max, I give up, shake my head and just say the kid is just unparentable.   Max always did things way ahead of his time. He took the training wheels off the bike at 4 and half years old. He was my motor kid. As long as it had wheels he was happy. Even in vitro, the minute the car started, he started kicking up a storm rather than being still.   I don’t think he ever slept through car rides either much.  So it stands to reason, he got his permit to drive at 15 and a half, the exact first second he was allowed. Max would take his friends all over the neighborhoods on those bikes of his. I never really even knew where he was half the time. Just so he came home by dark.   The day he called from the mall the first time he went to tell me they are pretty sure some guy stole his friend’s new NIKE socks as they were getting ice cream and they were getting a cop to go find the guy. Max was 10 at the time. Heart stopping, I drove over there. They found the guy, not the socks though. It was the same night that two 13 year olds were stabbed sitting on a bench at the mall. Max didn’t go again for a while.

Max loves people, especially the girls. And woe is me, they like him back. He was in second grade when he announced his first girlfriend.   Max is the mayor. He likes taking care of his friends and having them around. His peculiar penchant for having someone always sleep over every possible non-school night has been a bit much over the years but fun as well. Max works those sleep over guest lists like the night manager working the velvet rope at an ‘80s disco. He’s 16 today. It is difficult to see the baby grow up. He doesn’t play football anymore. Nine years of it was enough for him I guess, although I loved watching him play. As a quarterback he commanded that field. I miss my baby as you only can with the baby in the birth order, but I am also excited to see the young man he becomes. He’s got such a big heart and a great sense of humor. Max still does the “boy who cried wolf routine” with me, I still fall for it and always will I think. He keeps me on my toes and keeps me young, that’s for sure. So today I celebrate one of the two best days of my life. Happy Birthday my Max!  Love,  Maddie

Death Does Not Become You Until….

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PRESCRIPT: I hate editing as much as I hate cleaning. They are two tasks that never end and are never really finished, which is why I rarely do either and rather pay someone else to do it for me. This week as a lesson in patience, I kept this piece on my desk for four days and went back and rewrote it every day. It was not a pleasant experience at all for me. I hope the reading of it is more pleasant than the writing was.

The very public deaths in the last 24 hours coupled with a very private one for my younger son brings the subject first and foremost to my mind. Questions will be asked and poorly answered because we have become such a fear driven society that we cannot accept the uniqueness of the situation of the man who shot his way to infamy in a Las Vegas hotel this month, taking over 50 people with him to his death. We will wring our collective hands while listening to the talking heads delivering the daily dose of terror heaped on this nation for many decades now. We will examine every detail of this man’s life to see if we can find the one ingredient, which will keep us safe again. Is he the latest alphabet soup terrorist? Of course he must be. It is the go-to cup of terror served nice and hot with each news broadcast since 911. What did he say last week to family or friends? How did he behave when he walked his dog or bought a carton of milk? There must have been signs to show he was going to take some 30 odd guns to a hotel room and shoot the hell out of a concert going crowd. Because, of course, he could have been stopped had he just did the polite thing and told someone ahead of time or acted bizarrely so some random friend or family member could say, by Jove, I think Mr. So and So may be on his way to infamy via the death of a host of perfect strangers tomorrow.   And even if he did and they did, would anyone in authority really listen? We simply cannot accept the randomness of this. This is not so bad, but what is a shame is that we cannot accept the uniqueness of it. We cannot seem to comprehend the absolute rarity of an event like this happening to us in our lifetime because we are never given the statistics to make that case. Numbers do not lie. If only those morons who do these news reports would simply at the end of the broadcast provide the actual statistical possibility of this ever happening to someone, it would go far in eliminating the way people live in abject fear after these events.

There are voices in all our heads. We are ruled by a committee of those voices. They belong to our heart, our mind, our soul, our reason, our logic, our empathy, our fears, our self esteem, our past, our present and our future to name but a few. When the committee is like a jury of 12 Happy Men, decisions are easy. When there this conflict amongst the committee, the voice of intuition can sometimes break the logjam and sometimes not. We are not all equal in that power, nor should we be or we would have a very orderly, bland world indeed.   The very vast majority of us conduct our lives in relative harmony with each other and the world, but every now and then, there will be an individual who has this other voice. This voice in their head that doesn’t belong, that always lingers on the perimeter, never participating with the committee, just watching. The secular may call it evil, the cleric, the devil and the scientist a short in the wiring of the brain. Regardless of the label bestowed, it is not part of the normal sets of voices that exist in one’s head. This voice waits its turn. It waits for conditions to be ripe, whatever they may be. And then one moment, just like the best New Yorker working their way through a crowd on 7th Avenue, it pushes to the front of all the other voices, jumps on the stage and now commands the actions of its host. There is no more committee. The voices of reason, and logic and compassion and love and intelligence and empathy are silenced for good. In that instant is when the deeds of massacre and mayhem and murder occur.   So for pundits and persons to wring there hands and say what could have been done to stop this is ludicrous because that voice that can carry out these heinous crimes does not show itself until it is too late. If it did, then we would never know of its existence, as there would be no tragic trace of it. I am not disparaging the good a therapist or any other mental health professional can do for people who are disturbed. But you can only help someone who shows you they need it and acts like they want it. If that person shows you they need or want help, then the voice does not have quite the same conviction that I am talking about. The voice in one’s head needed to carry out the destruction of a 9-11 or a Columbine or a Mandalay Bay is devious enough never to let you see it but at the same time it is so very rare and this is what the media completely refuses to focus on. If when these situations occur they simply report it in small doses; efficiently, concisely and correctly along with the statistical probability of it happening to someone, I venture a guess we would not keep this culture of captivation and obsession with fear going very much longer.

Two encounters yesterday hammered home for me just how the fear machine rolls along. I was getting a CPAP machine. It is a nifty thing you use with a mask on your nose and mouth to sleep with when you have apnea so you, too, can look like Hannibal Lechter in a cute pajama. The technician teaching me how to use it was young man with young children. We were talking about the Vegas massacre and he told me he was at a volleyball event at USC with his kids on Sunday and it was out in the open and now he will think twice about going to that kind of stuff. Well I don’t think he expected the lecture I gave him. I asked him please don’t become one of those parents. Please understand the uniqueness and the odds of that happening to you is probably akin to being struck by lightening or winning Powerball. Please enjoy your kids and your life with them and don’t try to put them in a protective bubble. It will do more harm than good and in the long run get you nowhere other than continuing the concept of courageless living. Turn off the news or watch it in small doses. I turned it off over three years ago and I can attest to a better quality of life. People tell me what’s going on if I want to know and that is enough for me. I don’t want to be bombarded or glued to a TV for every crisis blown out of civilized proportion. I spent a lifetime doing that starting with the JFK Assassination when I was six.   I understood his fear.   I was one of those parents, at least to a certain degree. With my firstborn son, I never allowed any types of toy guns or weapons. I remember the first time a relative bought him a toy gun, I went ballistic and made them return it. How dare they buy such a thing for the son of a child of the 60’s, firmly planted in the flower power of peace and love, a rabid liberal, NRA hating mom?   A month ago I finally sold off the rest of the over 100 Nerf guns, rifles and bazookas collected by my younger son over the course of his childhood years. I am relatively certain that neither of my sons will climb a bell tower in a rage despite the very different exposure to weapons of couch destruction.  I no longer come down on firmly on either side of the gun issue in this country. I agree with the left that we should absolutely require a full background check before we allow someone to buy a gun. If I had to undergo background checks to push papers around on a desk for the federal government when I worked for them, then I want one done on someone carrying a gun next to me in the supermarket too.   I agree with the fact that assault rifles should be banned, but I don’t understand how it’s even possible to ban the sale if you don’t ban the actual manufacturing first. But I also agree with the right that believes it’s not guns that kill, it’s people. The issue is very complex and not as simple as each side thinks though and that is where the compromises and reason needs to stem from if we are ever to make real progress in this arena. We need to stop digging our heels in and throwing politically, ideological tantrums and get to the middle on this where I am sure everyone who doesn’t have a dominant stupid voice in their head is anyway.

The second brush with exaggeratedly, exacerbated fear came in an email reply from a man I know to a question about a specific concert a few of us are attending this week. He said, No thanks I won’t ever go to concerts again. This is a man with grown children, not a young parent.   That made me sad. This is a reasonably intelligent person, not one I would think to succumb to the propaganda of fear dished out on a daily basis but succumb he did or at least temporarily. I didn’t reply out of respect. I didn’t want to dismiss nor diminish his very real feelings nor try to change them. I know not if they are fleeting at all. Only time will tell for him. I am sure there are many people feeling this today and will in the weeks to come. It is a concrete action they are taking to keep themselves safe in light of the fact they do not have the statistical probability clearly explained or perhaps even if they did, will never believe the uniqueness of the act anyway. But even so, we should at least try and change people’s minds by changing the way we report this information to our citizens. Until we do that, we simply continue the status quo. And sadly that status quo will line some corporate crook’s pockets with change instead. I venture a guess that some lunacy will occur at some of the Vegas casinos in the form of metal detectors. What a shame to spend this money and put up symbols of fear for something that will most likely never occur again in the lifetime of most casino goers right now. Casinos are a fun place to visit. When I think of these metal detectors, if they come to be, I see the opening of the old movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang, where the workers are filing into the factory in such sadly depressing but perfect order. I hope logic prevails at these venues. I hope it doesn’t go the way of shoe removal aboard airplanes.   One idiot, one time lights up his shoe and the rest of us have to take ours off forever. I hope cooler heads prevail in Las Vegas, I really do. As for me, I have no intention of staying out of any concert arena any time soon. While I respect those who need to do that now, I will also be looking for their tickets starting with this Friday night to see Coldplay at the Rose Bowl. Hey I am doing them a favor. If anyone out there has good concert tickets that you are now too afraid to use, I am not, so call me. Simple as that. Someone needs to sit in those seats. I pass no judgment. I just rather live by the numbers than the news.

Right on the heels of the Sunday night’s massacre is a public death as far away from the Vegas one as one can get, but no less random. What do we say about musician Tom Petty’s sudden death at 66 years old? I liked a lot of his songs but I don’t consider myself a huge fan. His songs provided backdrop to my growing up at times with the hits on radio.   I have never seen him in concert. We have had our share of rock n roll deaths both decades ago with Jimi, Janis and Jim and in the past few years or so with the aging of our rock idols.   Tom has to be the most random of all. Doesn’t fit the drug overdose bill or the years of hard living resulting in liver failure or things like that. Even though heart disease can occur no matter what you look like, I think in our collective conscious we always think of the obese, hard drinking, bad eating, smoker as the poster child for a heart attack not a lean and still great looking for his age rock star.   If we take our view of death via massacre to be so remotely possible statistically because of the uniqueness then Petty’s death brings home the randomness and high probability of it in juxtapose. If it can happen to someone who does not fit the heart attack profile, well then is anyone safe? Of course not, but this simply underscores that leading a life in an overly fearful way, watching every thing you do and visiting the doctor more often than your relatives isn’t going to keep you alive forever either. This type of death is what leads to the million pithy platitudes posters to “just eat the cake” or “use the good silver everyday” or “dance like one is watching”.   Although my circle of friends has no problem with anyone seeing them dance, especially my friend Sandi and they do it regularly. That is much better way to go I think.

 

Death took a more personal turn on Monday. My 15 year old son’s best friend’s 48 years old step father died in his sleep. He and his sister had already lost their biological father years ago.   I went to the house as soon as I heard. I brought my son’s friend back home with me so they could spend time together and because no kid should have to witness the coroner at work. I hugged him and told him that I felt he would become an amazing adult because of his experience with loss and grief so young. I believe that. I believe to see death up close and personal at a young age defines your relationship with it. My mother took us to every funeral and wake she could when we were kids. Highlight of her social season we used to say. I credit her with my attitude and outlook on the subject as well as experiencing deaths of close relatives at a very young age. There is a patina I notice to people who have experienced it while young. It’s missing from those who haven’t. And that is as it should be. A cookie cutter world where all experience springs from the same well would be rather boring . I also told the young teen that I would like to tell him that what doesn’t kill him will make him stronger, but that’s nonsense I said, all it does is annoy you. He laughed, the best comfort I could give him I suspect.

The cause is not yet certain of this man’s death but the lifestyle is. I will leave it at that and not discuss too much further out of respect for the immediacy and the personal nature of this for my son. It brings to question our contribution to our demise. Does the level of control one can exert over the state of one’s health guarantee longevity? Or must it be done simply because there is no concrete way of knowing the impact of taking care of one’s body or not taking care of one’s body. Are we simply just hedging the bet here? And if we know there is no way to know, then we should take care of our bodies and minds simply because of the rewards that it gives us in living, not because it will prevent our demise or control when it occurs. It won’t. Nor will trying to apply logical reactions to the illogical actions of massacres or murders or mayhem prevent them.   Sometimes we just must leave reasons out of things. Sometimes we must just put our faith in the numbers instead; faith that there is no reason for things like massacres and murders and mayhem and faith that the statistics show the improbability of it happening to you. A songwriter friend of mine once wrote in his song Another Man’s War, “I get tired of looking for reasons. Reasons faith will never find”.  So go about your life in the best way possible for you because Death does not become you until Death becomes you.

Musical Meandering & Musings …

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PRESCRIPT: I seem to spend a lot of time trying to remember who I saw what concert with all those decades ago. This little piece is simply so in 2037 I don’t have to keep asking random people if they were there with me when we go again. And as life will have it, there may be even less to ask come then, so a memory snapshot of a great musical week is in order, I think.

Most moms spend the morning shopping at the grocery store. Me, I prefer to do my shopping on ITUNES or Ticketmaster. A great magical, musical weekend often results in finding new old music or old new music, just depends on where the old memory falls at any given time. Saturday night began as most weekends don’t with a Dine and Ride trip to the Dresden Restaurant and Lounge in Los Feliz and the Greek Theater to see Peter Townsend do Quadrophenia with a full on symphony orchestra. He had a little bit of singing help from Billy Idol and Alfie Boe of Les Miserables fame in theater productions in both London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. My concert peeps this trip were my friends Sandi, Lorna and a guest appearance by April from San Diego.

Dine and Ride is an awesome discovery I made when I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Greek a few months ago. I hadn’t been to the Greek in decades because one time taking three hours to find my car in some dirt patch and then trying to get out of the dirt patch was enough for me.   For a princely sum, you can choose to eat in one of four restaurants nearby and leave your car at their valet. They then take you by van to the front of the Greek and pick you up when the concert is over. Just like those senior communities where they drive you to the drug store and the bank. Am pretty sure when my friends and I select a retirement home, it’s going to have to have concert and theater bus service. The Dresden we saved for this trip.  The white leather banquets were so comfortable and Disney Princess pretty. They looked exactly like the new headboard I was trying to find. The food was great, even if the staff was the original one from when they opened decades ago.

Now for the music. Quadrophenia is not my favorite Who album. I am way more a Who’s Next kind of gal but Q does contain one of my all time favorite Who numbers.    I didn’t know how I would like a symphony doing anything, let alone Who songs. Just never had much interest in it cause in the old days all they did was like Beethoven and stuff right? I have to admit, this was pretty awesome. Les Miserables is my all time favorite play. Alfie Boe is one of the iconic Jean Val Jeans. Billy Idol just took me back to the disco days of the 80s.  Love Reign O Me, in my not so humble musical opinion, is one of the best Who or anyone else songs ever. I love the anthems and this has certainly reached epic anthem proportion. Sandi and I both agreed, though, a rock anthem needs an anthem rock voice and Roger’s heights of musical passion were missing. We know that because we saw him do it the year before at the Staples Center Who concert. It was an astounding performance.   A Broadway voice and a rock voice are simply not interchangeable but it was a great musical night nonetheless.

We ended the concert on a much longer line to get the Dine and Ride van back to our car at the Dresden than we did when I went to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a few months before. This is a clear indication of the socio-economic make up of the concert audience. Way more Who fans can afford the big Dine and Ride bucks than Nick Cave fans who were much younger and hence less disposably incomed, I imagine. Pay attention all you youngsters: get a good education and a good job so you can retire and attend great concerts in great comfort in your golden years. At the Cave concert with like four of us getting into the van, I just hopped right into the front seat. I have trapaphobia, which makes it impossible for me to sit in the back seat of most vehicles amongst other peculiar manifestations of the condition. By the time our turn at the van came, this man had settled himself in the front seat with the driver. Sandi, seeing me blanch, took it upon herself to move him before I could say a word. I watched her march right up to him and ask him to please move to the back as I had carsickness. That’s right, she managed to convince him to move or I puke all over the damn place. I didn’t bother to inform her that trapaphobia didn’t include that particular symptom.   This guy must have thought I was a five year old. As long as this poor man squeezed himself into the rear of the van pressed against the door and I had the front seat, I was just fine with her tactics. All in all, it was a beautifully musically perfect evening.

Sunday night we waltzed again with the Band, courtesy of Mr. Andy Hill, Ms. Renee Safier and the rest of their band, Hard Rain.  Joining them were some favorite musical guests:  Jamie Daniels aka Dylan Boy, that extraordinary keyboard player and Eric Burdon’s newest Animal, Davey Allen, and the always charming and ultra cool Dave Crossland to name but a few.   These musical folks are the best kept secret from any greedy, money grubbing, music killing, corporate crooked recording company there is in Los Angeles. At the wonderful Grand Annex Theater in San Pedro for the price of about an eighth of the cost of Pete’s ticket, we were treated to such a magical night of music from that great Winterland concert in San Francisco back on Thanksgiving 1976.  I saw the Band that year when I was 19 years old at the Westchester Premier Theater in New York. Legend has it now it was Mafia owned and people had to play there which explains all the great acts we saw in this little theater. These acts were also playing Madison Square Garden at the time.  Crime does pay sometimes.   The new old musical find this time is an over 50 year old Canadian standard done by Neil Young at the Last Waltz. It was written by Canadian Ian Tyson while hanging in the Village in the early 60s with Bob Dylan. It’s called Four Strong Winds, one of the most beautifully simple songs I have ever heard. That alone was worth the price of this admission.  A porch hang at my house for ice cream and beer at midnight with musicians Andy, Jamie, Davey, and gal pals April and Lorna capped off a great evening.

For most people you would think that would be enough, but not this gal. Monday night was Eric Clapton’s last night at the Forum and rumor had it perhaps his last night playing live anywhere. My friend Robin had a ticket for me the previous Wednesday that I passed on due to fiscal and parental prudence and the fact the seats were in the upper section. I don’t sit in the upper section anymore. Makes no sense if I am going to see an act for the second time in damn near 40 years. I might as well sit in a good seat. So I passed on Eric on Wednesday, but by the following Monday that was but a distant memory. It’s ERIC that little concert ticket crack dealer voice in my head kept saying. It’s ERIC for Heaven’s sake. You know, the member of that little band Cream that you have adored since you were 10 years old. The band whose album Disraeli Gears you melted in the hot Bronx sun when you and your best friend Patty played it over in over on a portable record player in her backyard in the summer of 68. And boy were we afraid cause it was her big sister’s album. Eric of Bell Bottom Blues and White Room and Layla fame. OK, OK well maybe we can just take a quick peek at available tickets. Doubt there’s anything good left. But who will you go with, me asked me. By yourself me answered me. Really? Yes. The Forum is only up the street. You need to do something in your new singleness by yourself. OK. As my ticket mistress luck would have it, I find a great ticket side of the stage, next to the last seat on the aisle. Do it, the voice says, just do it. And so I did with a lift there from my son and a lift home from a former PTA mom friend who lived nearby who I happened to find out was going.   Glad I did. Always listen to those voices in your head. They aren’t all crazy really. Well unless you are Son of Sam. Then don’t listen. I digress.

The sound at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood is spectacular. Better than any arena I have been in. So much better than the downtown Los Angeles Staple Center. The seats were great. Last row against the wall, so standing, bopping and swaying to the music without annoying the people glued in their seats easily happened. The opening band, which I rarely like, was amazing. Gary Clark Jr. did a blistering version of Come Together.   Eric was just Eric and didn’t disappoint at all. The opening chords to White Room still are the best ever and took me back decades to summer in the Bronx in the 60s! We didn’t get Sunshine or Badge or Bell Bottom Blues but we got other stuff. This entire glued to their seats audience finally got up with the opening notes of Cocaine. Not even going to speculate on that one. Eric was in great voice. His keyboard player Chris Stainton in particular, was just off the hook on that instrument.   Wonderful band, wonderful vocals and just wonderful that night! I missed my concert peeps of course, but I kind of liked my solo concert going debut too.

 

 

A Tree Trims in Torrance

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All I wanted was someone to trim my lemon and orange trees so my backyard doesn’t look like a jungle anymore. It should have been simple. I had already pissed off two nice Mexican gentlemen trimmers a few weeks before, one because he wanted like a thousand dollars and the second because I wanted him to come see the trees as soon as he hung up the phone with me. I ran out of those little business cards that only tree trimmers seam to leave on your doorstep and had to figure out a different way to find one.   A friend of mine told me about NextDoor, this new neighborhood kind of website where all sorts of things are recommended and advertised and they also let you know of every little crime that is committed so you can be even more scared. I happened to mention to the nice Yelp man who called me yesterday to sell me more junk advertising that NextDoor was going to put their sorry ass out of business and I hope soon. He had no clue what it was as he was just trying to convince me that ‘pay per click’ advertising was wonderful. No, I told him, what am I an idiot? Yelp is going to charge me a buck for every time someone clicks on my business page- not buys, not messages, not even tries to hack into it- but just for clicking on it. Then Yelp will go give some random guy in Lower Slobovia, an IPAD, some WIFI and a nickel a clickel and make 95 cents for each click all day long. Who are the people who actually pay for this? Nope, I told him, come back when you guys come up with a better idea to get money from me. Meantime, we better use NextDoor until Yelp comes along and buys it up and then we are back to capitalistic square one. But I digress.

So off to NextDoor I go last week to look for a tree trimmer and the best part about it there was only one listing- J something or other. So I call and he and his friend show up like immediately. They are rubbing their young, little millennium cheeks trying to figure out a price that won’t sound ridiculous. A hundred dollars they say. For both of you and for both trees, I ask. They see my jaw drop and try to cover with, “Well that’s our NextDoor price of course, if you were on Craigslist we would charge more”. Hmmm, interesting but I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. We weren’t really talking trimming here. Both my trees were hugely overgrown. More like major surgery. Tell you what, I say, I’ll give you a hundred and fifty if you both show up. So we make a plan that Friday morning at 7:30 they would show. When J called on Thursday morning to tell me they couldn’t make it that day, I showed the proper level of disappointment rather than snickering at their less than fully formed millennial brains. OK, how about Friday morning, I say. Great! We’re both available. Me too, I yell! What a wonderful coincidence.

I set my alarm for 7am. I get a call at 7:30am. I am going to be late, he tells me; I have to go get my tools. Hmm. I’ll be there at 8:30 he says. Not bad, I think, it gets me a little more sleep. Fully clothed and fully coffeed, but that’s OK, I’ll make it work. At about 8:45, organizational wizard boy strolls in by himself.   You are pretty damn late, I state as in the obvious.   If you expect to work in the real world you need to show up on time. I heard through the grapevine that they frown upon lateness in the real business world. If you want to be late for work for your entire life, then do what I did and work for the Federal Government. Just looking out for you, J. Where’s your friend, I ask. He couldn’t make it. He couldn’t make a job that he bid on two days ago? I don’t even want to know. Ok, I say, but then you are getting a hundred bucks and that’s it. He starts to whine, literally on the verge of tearful whining. You promised me $150! And you promised me two of you. Take it or leave it. Then just short of tears, he says, Ok, I’m sorry I just had such a bad night. Really? It’s life, Skippy. Suck it up. There’s going to be a lot more of them, trust me, and now trim the damn trees. He starts to apologize and apologize and apologize for being upset. Ok I see tough love isn’t going to work on this tree trimmer. What happened, I ask. Me and my girlfriend got into a big fight because I got drunk again and was talking to another girl. Well I certainly hope you shared some of that alcohol with the girl you were talking to, cause I’m at it for five minutes with you and I want to either open a Budweiser or a vein. How old are you? Twenty-seven, he says. Look, I tell him, you got two choices here, you can either figure out you’re an alcoholic now and stop drinking and save yourself the liver damage or you can get it under control and drink only to have fun on the weekends with your friends in moderation. Only two things in the world you can do with alcohol, my friend. He thanked me for saving him the other 11 steps.   How old is your girlfriend, I ask. Forty, he says. FORTY, FORTY are you kidding me? You are 27 years old, get rid of her. Don’t you want kids eventually and a life? Yeah, but I love her he tells me and she is starting to think she is getting too old for kids. At that point I could have taken him inside and showed him two kids whose mother was 40 and above when they were born, but why encourage him. You need to focus on your career and my tree trimming right now. You have plenty of time to settle down etc. Go out and have fun. But that’s how I got into a fight with her he tells me. Not the falling down drunk and puking kind of fun, I say. Mix it up a little. Go to a movie.

He says yeah I know I have to figure out my career, the EMT work (paramedic for the acronym-phobic among us) doesn’t pay much. Imagine now the biggest light bulb on top of someone’s head and that is what was above me. WHAT, I SAY! You are an EMT? I couldn’t find a damn EMT for one of my youth football fields last weekend. Can you work on Saturdays? Yeah, he says and so I drag him to my office, I email the companies we are working with this year with his information. He got a new job and my trees got trimmed and all this before 10am.

To E & K…

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Before I had my sons, I had six or more miscarriages in half the amount of years. I travelled a lot for work back then. I spent a lot of time observing babies on planes. They were a source of pain and wonder back then. At times I would look at them and the high tide of hope would have me think, “I wonder when, not if, I will be a mother”. Then the times when hope would go crashing out against the horizon, the thought “I will never be a mother” was enough to require the oxygen mask to drop before me and restore my breath. Today, I see a crying baby on a plane and I just want to put it in the overhead compartment and go back to the 43 channels of inflight entertainment I don’t watch. Had I known that those babies turned into TEEENAGERS, I could have saved myself some angst. Never tell your children they are miracle babies, they grow up believing it and one doesn’t need that even if it’s true. Disclaimer- I love my sons like crazy but I digress.

I find myself as I embark on singlehoodness again for the second time in my life, doing the same observation but of couples this time. I watch now in partnerless rather than childless wonder. I had an opportunity to observe the other evening at a concert we were at. Lost in reverie, I took notes as if I could prepare the menu for a next life partner. I will leave the names out. First, because the literary advice I received tells me I should and second, it gives me plausible denial should any of them be irked by my thoughts. What are the ingredients I thought, what makes it work for some and not for others? I watched a woman dancing with a man that I thought was her husband only to find he wasn’t. A case of mistaken identity by me, nothing sinister, but what a great time those two had dancing. Is that the trick then, to find someone with so much in common and sensibilities to match that instantaneous happiness prevails? Another couple I know and admire was there on a rare occasion together at this musical event, the reason none other than each has their own preference of social events. They navigate this well and for this dancing queen, the husband never fails to get up at the end of the evening to share a few last dances with her. This touches me every time. Is this what it takes, considerate compromises? For one of my favorite couples, distance makes the heart grow fonder for sure, as they actually live in different states.   Could separate dwellings be the key? Perhaps it’s just a lit bit of everything.

The odds are just as stacked against me as before, if not even more. When one leaves a marriage in their 20s or 30s, it is likely you will marry again. Whether it is happily ever after or sadly for a few, the odds are clearly in your favor either way. They were for me and it lasted a good many years.   But at 60 the reality is quite different. The odds are clearly stacked against the girls. We live longer and so the ratio is in not in our favor. But we each make the choice that best fits at the best time. We can do nothing more or nothing less.

The couple that for me was love at its best and simplest is no longer a couple now. She is a widow. He passed a few weeks ago. I am honored to be going to the memorial this weekend. I never get invited to those out here. I just don’t know enough people dying. It comes from not living as an adult in the same place you grew up. My sisters back East get to attend a lot more of them, weddings too.

They sat at their own little table at every gig of our mutual musical friends. I didn’t get to know them well unfortunately, but every time I saw them, my heart tugged a bit.   They emanated pure love for each other and the music I thought. They sat together, ate together, left together. Didn’t have a need to flit about the room as some do.   I cannot describe this aura around them well, but I saw it often.   The last few times I saw him he had oxygen with him, yet their ritual, their sharing of their love for the music, each other and the time spent together in music prevailed no matter what the physical dictated. To this observer it was the loveliest description of a marriage I ever saw. I believe I even may have the dubious distinction of being the last one shushed by him at a gig we were at for talking too loudly. If so, I am honored. May you rest in peace, dear man, a life lived in love and music is the most wondrous life lived of all.

A.I, A.I, O

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PRESCRIPT: My life right now requires as puffy a writing piece as I can conjure up. Emotional writing best left for the future. I am also in a bit of a comma crisis so bear with me.  It’s when they don’t look correct anywhere and look like they are missing everywhere.

I don’t like things talking to me. I don’t like things that have not been given birth by a real person talking to me. In fact, there are a lot of people who HAVE been given birth by a real person, that I don’t like talking to me either. My first encounter with talking machines was the original answering machine. The original answering machine voice was OK because it really didn’t think it had a brain. It simply did its job by telling you someone called. You missed it. Here, verbatim, is what you missed. The original answering machine guy was a guy. No girls were allowed to answer your phone for you. It was a man’s job damn it and no feminist revolution was going to change that. My next brush with artificial intelligence not given birth by a real person was OnStar. I honestly don’t know why we think AI is such a great invention. There have been people walking around with artificial intelligence, I am pretty sure, since the dawn of time. I digress and I will again before this piece is finished.

Do you remember OnStar? It was revolutionary back then. It was not a totally fake robot person thing. There were real people at OnStar. I never had OnStar of my own. It wasn’t offered with the 1990s Caddies I was buying in 2010. My one and only brush with OnStar was a loaner 2010 Cadillac that the dealer gave me so they could put $6000 dollars in parts and labor into the Caddie I paid $6000 for. I was driving along one day with my younger son Max and his friends to some football practice or game and needed to adjust the rearview mirror. Apparently, that is also where they stuck the OnStar lady. Next thing I know the mirror, like a scene from Sleeping Beauty, is talking back to me and asking me what my problem is instead of who the fairest of them all is.  After I caught my breath from damn near being scared to death, I meekly told her that all I want to do is adjust my rearview mirror. Needless to say, she was not happy. The boys, so much more tech savvy at eight than I was at 50 something, thought it was hilarious.

The next brush with robot destiny was when I purchased that nifty little speaker thingy that you stuck on your car’s sun visor so you could actually obey the new cell phone law and talk into the visor rather than the phone itself. That too came with a talking fake head, only this time you had the choice of who talked to you and in what language. Somehow in the programming of it I hit some random thing that I never found again and managed to change the nice lady talking to me in English to a lovely man guy talking to me in French.   I never did learn how to turn him back into an English broad, but I got a nice lesson in French for the few years I had it.   Useful French phrases that we all need when visiting Paris, like you are now connected or incoming call. Things like that in the event you wander around Paris helping people navigate their answering machines and what not.

None of these and I mean none of these encounters come anywhere near the absolute annoyance and busy body-ness of that Apple know it all Siri. I dislike Siri with a passion. I am by nature a non-violent person, but Siri makes me want to produce the sequel to Kill Bill and call it Kill Siri. You didn’t see that coming, did you?

I have managed to avoid her for years of owning an IPHONE as none of my cars ever had that GPS stuff or anything even remotely like that. See paragraph above on 1990s Caddies. My cars still sported a nice cassette deck in the middle of the dashboard and not much else. But we all cave in don’t we eventually to the song of that particular SIRIn. My brand new leased car comes with the in dash GPS, phone, message service and Laundromat and apparently doesn’t allow much to happen without her interference. This week she has crossed the line. She really did. I have been telling my sons since they were little that the ONLY place cursing like a drunken sailor on shore leave was allowed was while driving. Since they were like five when I told them that, I had no worries that they would ever curse as they had no driver’s licenses of their own at the time. So you can imagine how I jumped out of my damn skin the other day when I was nicely telling this driver who cut me off what a F*^&^*g asshole he was and Siri says- I kid you not. – “ You are making me blush”. This simply prompted another WTF from me. You scared the hell out of me first off and you have no cheeks, you unbelievably irritating thing. You need damn cheeks to blush and last time I checked YOU WERE NOT REAL. I know that. You know that. So stop acting like you are. Now who is the crazy one having a fight with a machine. Yes, I was in a Rage Against the Machine. Come on you had to see that one coming! Some things you need I guess even though you don’t want it or it pains you. So when I can’t show the proper restraint and wait until the car is stopped to read or respond to that text message, she helps me out. Of course the reply requires about five tries before we can even send it since I have one of those voices that is never recognized by any voice recognition technology. SIRI can be pretty funny sometimes as well. I was driving to a club called Fais Do Do a while ago. It’s pronounced fay-dough-dough but Siri gave directions all the way calling it face-doo-doo. Hilarious. Still, I found out I can change her into an Australian guy, so she gets to live and I get to be greeted by Crocodile Dundee every time I drive. It’s not my French guy but it will have to do for now.

 

 

25

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I’m not putting this on Facebook . Well it will end up there cause it’s the only place my internet writing can be shared. But that doesn’t matter cause it will still only be read by the few and fiercely loyal. I appreciate them and love them. Tomorrow AJ will turn 25. No, I cannot say would have. It doesn’t resonate nor feel right. There is something about this number. I can’t put my finger on it yet and hope I can by the last sentence.   Tears just keep flowing and so the words must as well. It should be over. That is the phrase that runs through my brain in a loop of not understanding. He is 25 now. He is no longer a child or an adolescent or a young adult. It is the age of male mental maturation. This I have been told by a few experts recently when so ready to pull my own hair out over the teenage/young adult angst and antics of my two sons ages 15 and 20. The magical number I am told. Just wait, boys brains are not fully matured until then. You will see such a difference. The magical male mental maturation age. Not fully understood by us females who are pretty done with our own mental maturation at 15 actually, give or take a year or two but no more.

And so it only feels right that his death should be ended as well. Time’s up. Time’s up for the pain and anguish his family and friends and I feel. Time’s up for the stoic and incredible strength and bravery and courage endured and displayed by his mother and father and sister. Time’s up. It should be.   Full blown adulthood begins. That should be enough to end it. But it can’t and it won’t and all the magical thinking in the world won’t change that. It doesn’t get better. It gets different. There are wounds that time will never heal. This is surely one of them.   I believe in the afterlife. I do. My computer geek of a boy has sent me a few signs along his journey in that afterlife. I believe it. I received one today. I won’t share it. Only with his mother. I believe he has reached his angel status in the afterlife now. Perhaps the equivalent of adult status in the here and now. It’s a nice thought and one I shall keep. That’s the beauty sometimes of things that require a leap of faith and not logic and facts. It comforts me to believe he is now a guardian. The two boys he grew up with need one more than ever right now. And so do I. Happy Angel Day, AJ!