Pride Goeth Before Falls…Or After In My Case

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Prescript: Simply indulgent to keep me from going stir crazy while my ankle heals.

I am not sure how many people actually are the proud owners of their own set of crutches. I wonder even more so if they do own a set are they as worn out as mine? I have packing tape holding one of the rubber handles securely in place and the top rubber piece that goes under the arm flies off every two minutes. Bending over to put your crutches back together is not necessarily the best activity when one is on the damn things to begin with.   I have never broken a bone in my 60 years of pratfalls and pitfalls- knocking on every wood surface here. Spraining is my specialty. I seem to have acquired quite a knack for tripping and falling through my life. And let me just say that the drinking always occurred after the falls not before.

It started when I was 12 and slipped on the ice a few blocks away from school. I managed not only to pull the ligaments in my knee but also tear a 4-inch gap in my ring finger by grabbing on to the spikes of a cyclone fence on my way down. The bitter winter Bronx cold acted as an anesthetic and so I never noticed the trail of blood until the horrified teacher mentioned it as I was on my way to my desk. Interesting that it never hurt until she pointed it out and then my brain agreed and I damn need swooned waiting for my mother. This singular act I totally attribute to the fact that I have an irrational fear of anything that allows me to slide or glide. I never roller-skated or ice-skated or skied or slid down anything ever. And that includes a highly polished wooden floor in my socks too. The fear of sliding installed by the ice on Van Nest Avenue that day in the Bronx has stayed with me a lifetime.

Not long after in the summer of 1973, I managed to sprain my toe very badly falling into a hole in the ocean at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. You would think that would be a difficult thing to accomplish in water where you can actually float and sand is pretty soft in like two feet of water. But no, I managed to smash my toe just walking along in the water minding my own business. The damage was such that I had to be transported on the back of a golf cart used by the security people at the beach in those days. I believe that is where I first learned the parade wave.

Falling was not only a domestic event; I even took it international one year. It was 1982, I had just arrived that day in my hometown in the Dolomite chain of the Italian Alps. It was about 9pm and I went to say hello to my godchild and his cousin parents of mine. These buildings are old with concrete cobblestones making up the foyer area in a cave like setting before you enter the home. Well down I went like the proverbial ton of bricks as I knocked on the door.   No matter though, I visited with a few shots of something to drink for the pain. Wine and Jagermeister my poison of choice back then. Look at that, no pain!! Great! Should we go dancing cousins and friends asked next? Of course I can dance on this foot no problem and so we went for several hours. The next morning, my foot reminded me of the fall courtesy of an ankle the size of a bowling ball. I was staying at our ancestral home with my Mom and Dad who had to whisk me to the Italian emergency room. Now this is medicine as it should be practiced. No waiting for hours. My ankle was so badly sprained that they decided to put me in a cast. It is Italy folks, if anyone can do wonders with cement, we can.   They built this cast that looked exactly like a shoe with a heel and everything and just my toes open at the top. It went midway up my calf. They said after two days of complete drying I could then walk on it. It was amazing to be able to walk around normally on a cast built with a full platform.   I spent the next three weeks going about my fun Italy vacation business until it was time to go home. Apparently the cast had to come with me. I could not extend my stay for another week or so until it was time for it to come off, nor could they take it off earlier.   Home I went, cast and all only to hit the solid brick bureaucratic wall of medicine in the US. Apparently since the cast was not put on by any American doctor, there was no American doctor who would take the perceived liability to remove it. Not my own personal doctor, not an emergency room, not even the shyster clinics that sprout up in the poorest of neighborhoods.   No matter how I pleaded and promised that the day was at hand that the Italian doctors wanted it off, they would not do it. What now? A bathtub full of water and a bread knife, that’s what. After about five hours of cutting and soaking, my then husband and I got the damn thing off. Medical mission accomplished.

I managed to stay fairly upright for the next decade, which was my 30s. Even my 40s only contained one major mishap in the jet way at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. In my rush to make my connecting flight back to Los Angeles, I went flying literally up the jet way only to have my foot catch on the metal bar that connected two pieces of the floor. With paperwork that poured out of my briefcase scattered about me, I laid there until a wheelchair could scoop me up and take me away. I was adamant I was not going to any emergency room. I know a sprained ankle when I see one, damn it. Just get me on the next flight home and so they did after an hour or so of me being wheeled in and out of the airport with an ankle twice the size of what it should be. I smoked back then and so the main task of the nice attendant they assigned to me was to wheel me in and out of the building for a cigarette. Nicotine fits are not pretty. She knew this. My son was three at the time and for this one I rented a wheelchair at home and if not mistaken it was the fall that got me my very own pair of crutches.

My not so graceful falls took the form of trilogies in my 50s though. Yes these were the years when I managed to fall the same way or during the same event three times in a row! The first group was the Paradise Point Panther football weekend trips- literally. Every December my sons’ football teams from Torrance would take up residence at Paradise Point in San Diego in December for our annual bowl games. It was a blast from Friday to Sunday for kids and parents alike. We did this from 2009 to 2015. One of those years, I took my injury with me rather than acquire it there, as the two subsequent ones would be. I slipped down the step of my shower the day before we were to leave for the event and went with a sprained knee this time. I ‘ll leave out the details on this one for obvious reasons and not horrify anyone. So for this one I spent the weekend there already on the crutches. When we stayed at Paradise Point we had the bungalows on the bay with the beach right out our door but first there was grassy areas and a concrete sidewalk before the sand began. We spent a lot of fun nights out on the beach with bonfires and BBQs and kids playing football. The next year, I managed to miss the fact that the sand ended in a spot and so rather than lift my foot onto the cement sidewalk; I just slammed into it with my toe and went sprawling. There goes the knees and ankle I believe that year. Good thing we had burly big football coaches and parents to help me up, as I weighed about 60 pounds more than I do today. A year I believe later, I managed to hit that very same spot again and fall the exact same way. I don’t even know what to say about that one. All I know is I was there hobbling for so many of these events, one particular Dad named me Tiny Tim from then on.

Those were the early years of my fifth decade.   For the latter years, I managed to replicate the time of the year and event rather than the actual place of the fall. First came the time I was at a house concert in Monrovia where they had this nice flagstone patio that sort of didn’t really tell you that it stepped down. It was like a damn optical illusion. A few people I saw throughout the day do the little stumble step where you almost but then don’t really fall. I myself fell for it a few times that afternoon until the last time when I just said the hell with it, why stumble falsely when I could go down for real and so I did. I watched the concert with an ankle and two badly bruised knees. The show must go on after all. Out came those crutches again. The following year in August on the day that I was at a high school doing the usual Pop Warner football weighing of the players to certify them to play that season, I walked across the track on a huge area of sand that was covered with pieces of track held together with metal strips. Almost like a pool cover. But of course my feet see a metal strip and my mind immediately says DO NOT LIFT YOUR FOOT, just plow right into it with your toes. And so I did and up I came with two huge knees. They were still not healed from the concert fall and this did some major damage. I stayed and finished my certification with ice and all. The following August on the morning of the day I was supposed to go to the high school to do the same task, I was out on my daily walk. There was nothing wrong with the sidewalk. There was no metal bars or uneven surfaces. It was simply the sidewalk near the 7-11. I felt a strange push from the back and turned to see but nothing was there and down I went again. My knees smashed concrete with a slight back twist as I was turning when I toppled. Off I went with my bruised knees and some ice to do that day’s weighs of the football players. So ended the fifth decade of falls and what I hoped would be the end please. But I guess not.

Yesterday in San Diego- what is it about that city that immediately makes me want to fall down- I was having a perfectly lovely time watching a band play outdoors in the grass near a hole I saw the entire day as I was sitting there. But of course, the minute I get up to walk, the hole mysteriously disappears until my foot is in it sideways and my ankle goes again. I am happy though it was not my knees yesterday, as they have never recovered from those years of bruising. I have lost the ability to kneel altogether for any length of time. My sister, not so astutely pointed out, what’s the difference, it’s not like your spending a lot of time in church. Well, I’ll leave that one alone. So I sit here now with an ankle aced bandaged and softly splinted and hope against hope I can learn to walk properly by the time I am 70.

 

 

 

 

Balm Desert

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Can we go to Palms Springs for Memorial Day, my 15 year old younger son asked a few weeks ago? I truly did not know the answer to that question. Frankly it frightened me. We had not gone for two years now. Not since his father’s 65th birthday.   It marked both a milestone and an end to the one place we pretended to be an actual family for years. Or at least I did. Why now I wondered, did my son want to go again when he knew his father would not accompany us? He knows that even though his father still resides with us, the documents to end his parents as a unit are freshly filed. I wondered how it would be emotionally for him to go. At first I myself surely didn’t want to have to face those ghosts so early in their demise. But then I thought, why not? Why not go differently. Did my son need some revisiting of the place in a different way perhaps? Did he need the balm this childhood memory would provide to his unsure and unsteady heart these days? And so we went. We took his Uncle, who had accompanied us all those times for all those years. That part must remain in tact for my sons. He was a surrogate father through the worst of medical times, grandfather, friend and uncle all rolled into one in the best of times. They cherish him.

Can I bring a friend he said? I thought of the times when that was asked a few years ago and how my stock answer was always no. There were precious few moments of forging a bond as a family in the lives of these children that I never wanted any straying from that singular moment when it baked well for us in the desert. This time it was different and only right that he bring a friend at the age when a boy or girl’s friends matter the most.   I think on those days as the connections I make and break occur so frequently these days. I think on the days when your friends meant the world to you and your world did revolve around them. The days before boyfriends and wives and kids and chaos interjected. And so of course I said yes. His selection of who to bring took longer than it should have I thought. My younger son has many, many friends but I wonder at his ability to truly keep them sometimes. I wonder if the years spent watching me in silent unknowing rage, which severed most connections outside the immediate and necessary familial ones will harm his attachments as he grows into adulthood. An incident with a little girl in middle school a few years ago brought home to me my own struggles in this area. It was discovered she was taking her own money and some of her father’s as well and bringing it to school and bestowing it on all the boys and girls she wanted to be her friend. My son apparently was at the top of the monetary list. I was horrified and more than I should be because it was like looking into a long ago mirror of me. I explained to my son how wrong this was to give people money to be your friend or lover or wife or husband or anything else. He said, why? It works. I am her best friend now. No you most certainly aren’t. Although we did tease my son’s friend who got like ten bucks mercilessly about how he needs to up his game I called the parents to return the money and asked if I could speak to their daughter privately. And they agreed and I did. I hope I did some good. Not sure I will ever know but I needed to tell her and consequently my very young self some things. I was that little girl many years ago and I wonder if sometimes I still am given the wrong set of circumstances. I had a best friend growing up since I was 4 years old on the block. When I was 9 and she was 10, a new girl moved on the block and as girls often do with their need for paring up rather than group sport like boys, they became instant friends to the exclusion of yours truly. It was 1966 and the Monkees were all the rage and was our favorite group after the Beatles of course, and the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits and, and. Multiple digressions!! I like it. Back to the story. I had my mother take me to the Catholic Rosary bead and mass card store and buy the brand new Monkees album. I then came home and put the album cover right in the front window of my room which faced the street. This way my best friend could see what I had and would instantly like me better than the new girl who was sans the new Monkee album. Did it work? Who knows? We all did become good friends again and my friend and I are still friends today although on separate coasts. The new girl? Not a clue really where she is. I don’t think I ever told anyone this story until last year. My friend said why don’t you write about that instead of just crazy concert capers? Because I prefer not to open a vein every time I put pen to paper, I answered. So there it is and sometimes I still ask myself in a situation if I am putting a Monkee album in the window on this one.

My older son now 20, chose not to come with us for the very reason that his friendships run much smaller and deeper than either I or his brother are capable of. A best friend since childhood was returning from school in Oregon to celebrate his 21st birthday and so it was fitting that he not come to Palm Desert with us, although I appreciated the fact he considered it at all.

I drove the new car I did not need or want at this moment in time but circumstances made it necessary to take. I called our Mr. Nello, the wonderful golf pro I discovered years ago along with the awesome British lady who we rented homes from when we went. The first time we rented a house from Mr. Nello, the winds blew lots of palms and pods into the pool. I went looking for a non-existent skimmer that Mr. Nello swore was there. I looked up the closest pool supply store and bought him one, compliments of his new tenants. Ever since that day, we get terrific rental deals. Kindness born of necessity sometimes reaps its own rewards. Kindness born with no thought to rewards reaps the best rewards of all.

This place he gave us at the last minute was a wonderful condo on a beautiful golf course. We were used to having houses to ourselves so this was a departure first looked upon with suspicion by my son as a private pool is what they liked when it became obvious years ago that renting a house was cheaper than several hotel rooms and much more efficient.   I made it a short visit this time, Saturday to Monday since when one visits ghosts you never know how welcoming they will be. No roomy ride in their father’s van this time, where I was always able to walk around in it if needed to attend my little boys on long trips. No Moe Moe our dog along. No arguing over the way to go or disagreements over things of little or massive importance. I continued to look around the halls of my sons’ most precious memories. The year we stayed in our first non-hotel condo at Desert Princess in Cathedral City before we met the British lady (who none of us can remember her name at the moment) or Mr. Nello. The ducks that constantly pooped in the pool and walked up to greet us each morning.   Then the houses and the fireworks. There were years we spent every summer holiday there beginning with the birthday of their father at Memorial Day and ending with the birthday of their Uncle on Labor Day with 4th of July thrown in for good measure and company for several years. The Palm Springs zoo when very young. The arcades when older. The dinners, the midnight swims, the laughter, the water footballs bought each year for running and catching in the pool. They all floated past for two days at random times like a marquee announcing the passage of our family’s days in the desert and anywhere else.   The houses we liked best and the pools we liked worst; we were fortunate to have many of the former and only one or two of the latter. My sons being thrown up in the air by their uncle or father. Me holding them before me as they floated or their tiny arms wrapped around my neck as I floated with them. I cannot in good conscience and reporting say they made me sad, a little wistful perhaps but not sad at all. These were great memories for our kids. This is where we were able to put aside the silence and the fits of anger that sometimes broke that silence. It was a welcome respite for our family during their years of growing up. It enabled us to give them brief bouts of normalcy and love and fun that most children get on a more frequent basis when their parents are united properly. So I do not regret those memories. On the contrary. They give me hope that more but different ones can still be made within the context of the new parental framework that we are struggling to build right now. I say often that my younger son is the one that often leads the way for me and not vice versa. I think the desert balm he sought this weekend was just what we needed actually.

 

WHO LUVS YA..revisited

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PRE-SCRIPT: A year ago tonight we were at the Staples Center seeing the Who, me for the first time in 40 years since Keith Moon’s last tour.  What a great concert they gave and what a fun night with my friends Sandi, Patty and Ron.  So I am repeating this blog. Don’t usually do that but such a fun time even getting to the concert.  The Who will be playing Caesar’s Palace in August. It’s all I can do to keep from buying those tickets… stayed tuned.

My reasons for going to see the Who last night and going to see Bob next month are as different as the music itself. I saw the Who in 76 the last tour by Keith before he died. I thought about it a bit last month. In chance conversation, a friend asked do you really want to see them now? You can only be disappointed. I agreed. I think. Then it starts like an itch as most good things do. A tiny, shiny thought in the corner of the eye. You try your best to ignore it but you also know it won’t go away. The Who are playing this Wednesday aren’t they? I think of Tracker Russell telling me what an amazing show he saw last month in New York. What does he know? The last time I saw the Who, as I like to remind him, I would have taken you to the show but you were too busy being born.

A Sunday night Anaheim concert Facebook video and post by Chase, Andy’s son, of the iconic Daltry Won’t Get Fooled Again scream with the the caption, “Remember Roger Daltry’s 71” irritated that itch. This kind of musical endorsement from a 14 year old? Granted he’s got mad musical genes, but even that’s not enough to cause a teenager today to be blown away by one of the old guys! The itch spreads a bit. I talked to Andy on Monday and texted Tracker Dave too. Yeah, the show was phenomenal. Well that’s a unanimous great musical taste poll if ever there was one.

The itch now has to go. I got tickets for Bruce Saturday night on that Saturday morning. I have two days this time. How hard could it be to find people and tickets and not the damn Staples nose bleed seats either. But who?? I tend to like to select my concert mates from two categories. I like to use fanships rather than friendships but virgins are always the most fun. Some can be huge fans that have never been; too young maybe or they don’t need to be fans at all but have just enough curiosity that you know you can introduce them to something memorable.

A chance encounter on another topic with the musically magnificent Sandi Behar and I say, the Who? Wednesday night? You in? Of course she says. I start with my security buddy DF. His allowed ticket purchase gone but that man comes through again with t shirts and his crew badge for me at the end of the night, now sitting proudly next to my Bruce backstage crew badge. A few known corporate Skybox holders, too late or no answer.

And so I turn to the place I know best and most people like the least: Craigslist. Bingo. Four tickets in the loge for $95 bucks. Doesn’t make sense scalpers are getting a couple of hundred. I text, he answers. Are they hard tickets, will you sell only two? Yes and yes and a trip to Santa Monica Monday night. Sorry Bernie but Who tickets trumps a presidential candidate rally. Sandi and I agree if I don’t get killed or sold into white slavery we are on for Wednesday. Although I know she is thinking that if I did get sold into white slavery, they would give me back pretty quickly.

I honestly don’t get it. I have been using CL for years, to buy to sell etc. It is a great system. I hate the bad rap it’s gotten because people don’t take the right precautions and because you hear of the one or two really bad things happening amongst the 90 bazillion good transactions. It’s like saying you will never walk in the rain again ever because one guy one day got hit by lightening. Ok there’s my one digression.

I get these tickets from a 20 something kid who looks so much like the son of the big burly guy I got the Bruce tickets from it’s scary. He was adorable. Had me go to his house, I wait outside. (There’s a CL lesson for you right there). He tells me he wasn’t sure about going at all. He’s never seen them but he feels he really better cause you never know. He says they aren’t calling it a retirement tour or anything, but look what happened to the Eagles. Good point kid! As I leave I check the tickets for face value, I paid $90 but they are complimentary tickets free that say $1 Teen Cancer America. I don’t understand. What the hell? Did he just sell us like “Make a Wish Tickets” or something? Ok we’ll go anyway- I’m not giving up that seat in hell anytime soon apparently. I’m sure the money will go to a good cause and he’s not just some kid with cancer whose real wish is a pile of money and not a performance of Pinball Wizard. And just in case they are bogus as hell, Sandi’s Boy lawyer am sure can rescue us. The story could end there. Me and Sandi could go to the concert have an amazing time and this blog would end. But no, there was more itch left to scratch. Two tickets to the Who left over? Surely I can find more people who have to go. I send my go to partner in last minute crime Patty a message. Do you want to see the Who Wednesday night? YESSSSS! She has seen them before and is a fan. Then a random text from that friend who said maybe I shouldn’t go again asking me how the show was that night. I didn’t go yet I say the show is Wednesday night. O I am so envious of your ticket he says now (big light bulb over his head). It’s the WHO!! Have you ever seen them, I ask? He’s 40 something and a fan. No he says. Well if you give me $90 bucks you can on Wednesday and so we have our WHO concert virgin. I call Teddy Bear Carlos the next morning to get the last two tickets. He’s very happy. I ask him again how do you have these. They are industry tickets don’t worry about it. Just have fun! Works for me.

Wednesday comes and we meet at LA Live for dinner. Sandi finds a 16 year old boy next to us celebrating his birthday with his Dad waiting to go to the concert as well. She gives him a big birthday hug (I have no idea why- he’s a perfect stranger) and the next thing we know we are all eating Truffle fries out of the Dad’s dish. A starchy mess I often don’t see but very good. We leave Ron at the table for a few minutes while we girls use the powder room only to find him staring like a deer in the headlights at some lovely but random stranger girl talking to him in earnest. Great, I think he needs to meet a nice girl and go on a date. Well apparently the date was with Jesus and she was there to tell him Jesus highlighted him or something to her. Those yellow markers sure come in handy for all sorts of things huh. I imagine it’s easy to be highlighted though when you have hair like 1982 Blackie Lawless. Patty and I at least were well behaved during dinner.

We sit through the annoying opening band. That is really no reflection on the talent of the act itself at all. I just HATE opening bands at concerts. No matter how good they are I am irritated that the main act hasn’t started yet. It’s a time efficiency thing with me.

Finally! The setlist was great. Pictures of Lily is a song I probably haven’t even thought about in decades but have always loved. Suffice it to say they played all my favorites which was pretty much the entire setlist. “ O that’s my favorite Who song”! I must have said like all night long. But Baba and Blue Eyes and Reign still remain the top three .

Were they different than 40 years ago? Well unless I was transported to the concert by Dr. Who himself how could they NOT be? Do they sing the songs slower now, yes of course. Is that age or no more speed? We’ll never know will we. Am I talking about them or the audience? You’ll never know will you. But here’s the thing. Do we really want to go to a Who concert and see them singing anyone else’s songs? Hell NO! Do we want anyone else singing their songs? Hell NO!! And that for me is the difference and the expectation between seeing the Who and Bob (see previous blog in the event of total confusion).

Roger looked and sounded amazing in the context of his life. Hell he can even wear the fringe vest with nothing underneath and no lady in the audience would have minded a bit last night! Hilarious though was his yelling at the audience to stop smoking the damn pot cause he is so severely allergic he can’t sing if they continue. Then Pete gives them the suggestion that if they stick the pot up their ass it gets you higher quicker. Pete was just well Pete. Brilliant and funny and cool and guitar perfect.

The whole night was amazing with a rendition of …Reign.. that took your breath away. Magically perfect in every note. The entire show was a beautiful retrospective of their 50 years. The visuals and the reminiscing were beautifully done. But most of all you didn’t care and you didn’t need to compare them to their former selves in any way. No caricature here, thank you very much!! They paid great tribute throughout the night to Keith and John and John and a great many other events and people and things of the past half a century. Surely those two band members are sorely missed but you have to give baby Ringo credit he did a great job and his Dad in the audience am sure was pretty proud of him last night.

I am reasonably certain that our virgin friend enjoyed the evening immensely and that it mattered not in the continuum of this band where one falls or fell in terms of seeing them live. I loved the show last night. I was more excited than I even imagined I would be to go. Sandi at five times seeing them and with the most exposure for comparison adored it as evinced by the pure rapture on her face at times. Patty too seeing them before also was very thrilled to say the least.

I think Tracker Dave said it best “ It’s just right for 70 year old rockers”.. And that I think is a testament to the longevity, the talent, but most of all the life these songs have lived for all these years. Their songs are in your face anthems and not just one or two of them either. Whole damn albums of them that have stood the test of time and aging with perfection.

Who’s next? No literally. Who have I not wanted to see perhaps because of my phobia of seeing bands with dead members, which I am pretty sure I cured last night. It’s Paul. It keeps coming back to Paul McCartney. I have not been a post Beatle Paul fan but seeing him play Maybe I’m Amazed live is something to make the trek for . And here’s the thing, I don’t want to see him just because he was a Beatle for God’s sake. I want to see him because he is PAUL. He is still the same one with the most gorgeous face and voice beyond compare we all fell in love with the most. I also think Paul is another one who is getting it perfect as a 70 something year old rocker. To hear that voice live is surely a dream come true I think. We change and so do our heroes if we are lucky enough to see them into old age. This is a tricky time I imagine for the baby boomer heroes of our musical youth in terms of what they can or can’t offer. And I for one don’t want to miss anything good that’s being offered. It’s that simple for me. So what if there are a lot of Beatles fans in the audience. I read the set list from this tour and I was astonished to see how many Beatles songs he does. Seriously, am I to miss him perform And I Love Her, one of my favorite all time Beatle songs ever live just because I don’t know every song on Red Rose Speedway (although if he did Get On the Right Thing, I wouldn’t mind a bit). I don’t think so!! Seems to me Paul doesn’t mind one bit how many old Beatles fans are in the audience. He is not doing a concert this year strictly of solo material with a smattering of Beatles thrown in with Yesterday. No, to me it seems he is embracing those of us who parted company with him all those years ago as well as his legion of post Beatle fans. And that’s why I’m on a mission to make him next. He’s PAUL for God’s sakes! So I want to be a Paul virgin this year. It goes without saying his show will be great and he may never pass this way again.

And so another magical musical night comes to an end. The tickets were good. The seats were great. We didn’t get arrested. Teen Cancer America is Roger’s charity he started because of his daughter. They were the sponsors of the show last night. And just in case I’ll be making a donation to them this week. Heard from Teddy Bear Carlos the ticket boy this morning and he loved the show as well. Thanks for being this concert’s ticket fairy godmother, Carlos. And to those marvelous musical mavens Sandi, Patty and Ron who said yes with like 24 hours notice thanks for joining me. WHO luvs ya?WHO

ACT 3

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As the curtain comes down on my second Act, I take a brief intermission today before it rises on Act 3 tomorrow. I seem to live my life in increments of 30 years. I am not one to run to the fortunetellers on a regular basis, but I have gone at least once every near 30 years. I don’t go more often because I take to heart what they have to say. If they told me something bad, I would crawl up in a ball and never move again. If they told me something great every time, I may be tempted to skip into oncoming traffic with my eyes closed. But since one of their predictions hasn’t waivered in 30 odd years, I’ll go with it until proven otherwise. If three gypsy queens and an Ethiopian Sacramento cab driver are correct, then this third act of mine shall be the approximate length of the other two. That makes me happy actually and today I wonder what I will do with it. One thing for certain is that I no longer will do what I should. I much rather do what I would.

The change I made in my life 30 years ago at the end of Act 1 was very drastic. An Italian Bronx girl very rarely moves 3000 miles away without knowing a soul, let alone having any family members around. It was a time of true shedding of so many relationships. I had been divorced for about a year and the move removed any further personal engagements with him. I left scads of family and friends and coworkers. Some still remain today. Some are gone for good. Change will do that. We never know what will fall to our new ground, when we throw our lives into the air like so many pieces of a letter torn by a scorned lover.

It is a bit like that today for me. Another marriage has ended, soon officially, but unlike the time before there are relationships that can never end. My children of course. And what a time in one’s life to be the parent of a teenager! In talking with a friend the other day, I made mention of how fortunate he was to be spending time with a married 30 something daughter while I continue the duels at dawn in Teen Age Wasteland. He laughed and said that it is s a good thing couples wanting children are not made to babysit a teenager first. It would be a very lonely planet indeed. I love my two sons, that’s for sure and I think I will admire the adults they turn out to be. Of course that admiration will be so much more felt if I can admire them in their own apartments one day.

The morning of the final day of ACT 2 was spent not in combat with the teen but rather in customer service hell. Posit this, a simple question like what size memory card does one need to film about four hours of video in a particular mode for my new Nikon camera took hours to resolve.   One would think a call to Nikon would elicit an answer. No, instead I got to spend time with a lovely customer service lady explaining exactly how they could improve their owner’s manual.   She sent me to the nice people at SanDisk who actually make the memory cards and were about as confused as the Nikon people. A few times placed on hold, while I am sure she went to ask Mr. SanDisk himself and I got the answer finally. The irony however was that it takes an Algebra problem to figure it out and as I like to have said up until today: I never took Algebra and haven’t missed it for damn near 60 years. Well time’s up on that one. In my search I then came across a lovely book by the name of Nikon for Dummies. Apparently there is an entire book that you have to buy to get any real information on how to operate the camera because the manuals are written by complete morons sitting in a room who I am sure were born operating the cameras.   I just don’t get it. Why not make the ‘xxx” for Dummies books the actual operating manuals that come with the various products. Wouldn’t that be extremely helpful to everyone? But I got my answer. I hope. We shall see on Tuesday when we take it for a test drive for an amazing new project my partner and I have been lucky enough to get. We are videotaping the life stories of a wonderful 93 year old man and his 90 year old wife for their posterity. How fortunate to be doing this as I reflect on the past present and future stories of my own life. The mother of all digressions here.

What will Act 3 look like for me? Will my writing finally become first and foremost in my life and will I pursue it in earnest this time? Will I stop allowing the fear of both success and failure to prevent me from following my writerly heart this time? Perhaps a bit of progress has been made since 30 years ago as I would never have showed anyone the little bit of writing I did back then.  I wish that I could tell my 30 year old self to do it, just go for it. Don’t be afraid. But that is not in my cards and I don’t think it should have been. We embark on the journey of our expression and our art not when we decide it but when that art is ready to be shared. Some have the pleasure and the pain I imagine to share it early in life. For some, like my favorite musical play author, Victor Hugo of Les Miserables fame, it takes a near lifetime to share his masterpiece. Yes, I secretly aspire to be a modern day author on Mr. Hugo’s timeline not talent, as Les Mis was published when he was 60 years old. Well since I just wrote it, it is not so secret anymore is it? My goal is four books and a blog.

Some artists attain just enough of the sharing of their artistic soul as needed throughout their lives.   This is not measured by the number of bodies for whom their artistic bell tolls. It can toll only for a select few. The secret I think is the artistic satisfaction that comes with knowing your painting or poetry or music or writing has touched someone.   If one’s work can make someone laugh or cry or feel joy or even sadness then that is reward in and of itself.   One’s artistic expression, in all its foibles and glory, is meant to be shared. I don’t think I understood this fully until I actually tried it with the posting of my very first Internet writing piece. It was an astounding feeling to have someone like something I wrote. Even when at first it was only a few people I knew. More extraordinary was the first time a perfect stranger told me they liked a piece. Now that was heady stuff. It felt a bit creepy at the same time, though, like someone peeping through your window. I suppose it is that in a way as they are peeking into your artistic soul.

All I can do now is try to become the best writer I can in the limited way that my art will express itself at this time in my life. I can do no more or no less now. I love the story. I love when I chase it and I love when it chases me. Telling you about it will become the focus, the fun and the passion of my Act 3.

OPEN MIC….. AGAIN

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It’s Dylanfest season in Torrance. Uncle Al Diesan of Sardinia, Italy graced us again this year with his presence and performance along with his lovely bride, Maria. At fifty something she managed to look not a day over thirty-five. I liked her anyway. Especially when she took my hands in hers and said at rehearsal on Saturday that she feels like she has known me all her life. First I thought she said she knew me in a past life, which would also have been fine with me.

For those who may remember my less than stellar behavior at Kulak’s Open Mic last year, it is with incredible courage that Uncle Al asked me to take them to another one Saturday night in parts south this time to a place called the Fox Cafe.   What could go wrong? I picked them up at Andy’s after Dylanfest rehearsal. As we are driving there I ask Al what he will be playing tonight. No fool he. Rather than suffer the disdain I displayed the year before when he told me he was playing Blind Willie McTell (which somehow managed to morph into Mr. Tambourine Man by the time he hit the Kulak floor) his response this year was ‘what would you like to hear’. Please play Not Dark Yet. I regaled him with the tale of how it is a brand new Dylan song for me having only discovered it a few months ago thanks to “not in outer space” radio extraordinaire KCSN. Al did a major great job on it the week before at his Suzie’s in Hermosa Beach gig.   Do you know what my absolutely favorite Dylan song is, I asked him.  He looked at me with his wordless communication gaze which translated and not in Italian either to “not a clue but I am sure you’ll tell me”. Desolation Row, I said. That is my absolutely all time favorite Dylan song AND could be my favorite song of all time. Just haven’t given it much thought yet. I probably should make a decision on that soon.

Meanwhile, from the back seat Maria said she never heard Desolation Row. I thought to myself, it was probably because Al doesn’t know it well enough to play. Let’s play it for her, I say and hand him my phone to find it. And so we are merrily driving down the freeway to Long Beach with me showing off how I know the words to the ENTIRE song and that is a lot of words and Al is not singing one word. O, I thought, as I suspected, he doesn’t know this song at all but that stands to reason. Not too many Dylan cover boys are going to perform this very wordy 11 plus minute song.

We get to the place and I like it. I really do. There is something so sweet about this place. The front half is café with gluten free this and that and the requisite coffee house coffee but no bottled water. I liked that. They simply put out a big pitcher on a table and you can help yourself. I didn’t even bother looking for the alcohol this time. I remembered that there is a law against combining Open Mic nights and heavy drinking. This is not the place one wants to see people’s inhibitions turned way down for obvious reasons as I not so elegantly proved last year at Kulaks. For those now thoroughly annoyed with the Kulak reference and no explanation by me to the current reading audience at all, please go read OPEN MIC blog from last May. Thank you. I digress-what’s new.

The inner room is set up with a long, wooden, old picnic table down the middle and some chairs around it. Against the walls are a few more small tables and chairs. At the back are two ornate, comfy old chairs that I make a beeline for. Sitting at the big table are a few, shall we say, older guys listening to one of the saddest looking people I have ever seen on stage singing Sonny. I haven’t heard that song in ages and I kind of enjoyed it, I must admit. Seems I’m getting the hang of these Open Mic performers or else I was even sadder than he was. He followed this up with a not so rousing rendition of Light My Fire for which he forgot a word or two.   I got some cappuccino and sat back down. There appeared to be some kind of age demarcation line to the place. In the café part sat kids in their 20s I think. In the performance part sat us older folks, but there was no full wall or anything so you could see no matter where you sat. The place was tiny but very musically cozy and run by a big burly Irishman named Sean Gallagher. He reminded me of one of the people in Whoville but in such a good way. Sean kept the whole thing going; introduced the acts, worked the sound, hawked the baked goods.

First up tonight after Sad Sonny finished was a young Hawaiian lad named Ishmael. It seems that he got the ‘headliner’ spot meaning he gets to perform for 55 minutes at a three song Open Mic night. Now, no matter how good someone may be, this IS an Open Mic night with a leaning towards the more musical start ups among us. Giving any act that much time is equivalent to musically waterboarding the audience.   Ishmael was cute as a button, a bit off key and word forgetful while playing Imagine, but hey what do you expect for having to perform for 55 darn minutes.   Ishmael told a great story of how he got to the Fox Café. Apparently he and his absent tonight singing partner went to a Christian Rock Open Mic night and performed Imagine. The nice Christians threw them out for saying things like ‘imagine there’s no heaven” and then “and no religion too”. I shook my head wondering how exactly Ishmael may have learned the song without hearing the lyrics to it, but as I said, I was on my best behavior and just glad we got the pleasure of his being ousted right here. Next up were a few more kids and then an older gent who went really, really acoustic with that guitar of his. Not a wire was to be found on the guitar or him. They simply stuck a mic on a stool in front of the guitar. We are talking old school stool here I’m sure.

Finally it was Uncle Al’s turn. I really did not say the words “There is a musical God” out loud. He gets up there, opens his mouth, strums his guitar and out comes THEY’RE SELLING POST CARDS OF THE HANGING… my mouth dropped open in unison. Remember that Desolation Row song I told you about a few paragraphs ago that I was sure he didn’t know the words to? Well there he is belting it out and grinning at me at the same time. My shock was not only that he knew it, but rather that he was now going to do an 11 minute song at a three song and done Open Mic night! But pro that he is, he actually did a great scaled down version of it or I was right all along and only Bob, me and my friend Sandi Behar know all the words to it; minus a preposition for her of course.  Well that surely capped a great night at an Open Mic where I never had to touch my denim jacket at all or put it over my head.

On a serious note, though, I salute people like Sean Gallagher. This place here is not making a fortune or anywhere near it.  He does it out of his own love for music and to give aspiring musicians with stars in their eyes a chance to be heard as well as provide a place for the bucket listers who want one last chance at musical glory. It’s a noble thing Sean does and I, for one, was glad to support it that night.

HEALTH…HUMOR…HAPPINESS…A Tiny Taste

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PRE-SCRIPT: Here’s a small thing I wrote to include in my work in progress book called Health…Humor…Happiness: Weight Loss Tips, Tools and Tales. I have not much yet in this category but a few encounters along the way this month spurred this piece to be included.

Another encounter a week ago with a mother gone mad with the grief of a lost son. Or so one would think. Instead out she came to give her eulogy for her 16 year old. Her message, after she discarded her previously written thoughts, was something that she said came to her that morning. She chooses to honor her lost boy by choosing happiness rather than assuming the fetal position for the next decade or so. She simply chooses to honor him by living and by being happy. Another mother mad or should be with grief, is my dear friend over the loss of her lost boy 15 months ago. I texted her recently as I often do, to simply check in and let her know I am here. I do not find it necessary for me to intrude upon their grief right now, but I find it means a lot to me and hopefully to them to know I am here in the event of any necessity. I ask the customary “how are you doing”. She responded that morning with I am trying to be positive. That is all I can do really. Another one who chooses to go on and who chooses a form of altered happiness but chooses it nonetheless. It got me thinking, something I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time doing. If these women, if these mothers who have suffered the most lethal of blows to a mother’s heart can choose happiness and being positive then what excuse, what possible occurrence or happenstance could justify any other choice but that by anyone in any situation? I know not.   I do know that all you can do is dance between the deaths.

 

Sadness will come as it does to all but it should take the fleeting form of a cloud in a clear blue morning sky or a shooting star in the navy blue night sky. Happiness must always remain the blue and the constant. If the sadness seeps from it’s fleeting form into permanence in the heart and mind then it becomes impossible to eradicate. Eventually happiness gets pushed further and further away until it seems so unattainable that one no longer tries for it. That is the quintessential danger of sadness and the danger of depression in its simplest form.

 

Happiness is not a destination. It must be a choice and a choice one makes willingly even in times where it appears to be the toughest one to make. If not, we spend a lifetime waiting for something that will never come in any form. That happens in obesity as it does in a host of other “wait for tomorrow” magical thinking situations. The world of ‘”IF ONLY”.   If only I were rich I could be happy. If only I got this job I could be happy. If only I had the love of that boy or girl, I could be happy. You can spend a lifetime of waiting for happiness rather than choosing it every day in a host of different ways.   Why are we so afraid to be happy? It seems that at times it irritates even the people closest to us who should be the biggest champions of it. Perhaps it is because it is the emotion or state most coveted.

 

I like happiness. I don’t like sadness or depression. If sadness does come I embrace it for a bit, check its source and find a way to move it along. I do it by choosing to be happy for whatever the moment brings. The source is different for everyone. For me it is music first and foremost in all its glorious manifestations in my life. Driving along and listening to my favorite radio station KCSN out of Cal State Northridge and hearing a song I never heard before and liking it a lot. Then hitting the Shazam app on my phone to find out who sings it and the title. This is so much safer than the old days last year when I would stop, pull over, try to remember snippets of the lyrics and then feed them to AZ Lyric to return the result. Then comes the fun of discovering other songs by the same artist that you like as much. This is pure joy for me. Concerts are another arena of happiness for me; from the large and longstanding icons of the 60s and 70s to the small venues of a new band discovered, a night of this keeps me happy for days in the reveling and recounting of the experience. Local musician friends’ gigs are another musical must for me.   They don’t cost a fortune and often nothing at all. You can see so much amazing music and be uplifted and happy in the support of your friends’ passions. Plays and theater are another source of my joyful living. Again you don’t have to spend fortunes to do this either. I see many plays for the cost of practically a movie ticket and some popcorn. I adore live theater and a night of that can keep me in good spirits for quite some time or at least until the next one. The infectiousness of this state, one hopes, will sprinkle on those around us, particular our children.

 

We never truly know what springs off us onto our offspring do we. A dinner with my youngest son and touching upon the death of that aforementioned 16 year old that my son played football with when he was 8 brought this observation. He said, I know what you are going to say and yes I know it is sad what happened to him but I am kid who likes to be happy so we don’t need to talk about it a lot really. I know it was sad. I did stop talking then and listened instead, a feat surely difficult for any parent. In that instant I heard a lesson taught to my young son that will serve him well I think. Choose to be happy. It takes no more effort to do that than the alternative and the rewards you will reap are immeasurable. Art, sports, helping others, spending time with your children, your grandchildren, your family immediate, distant or discovered, travel, dancing, singing. Wherever the fount of your purest happiness lies, drink from it often and without abandon.

 

JOBS and Not the Good Steve Kind

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It is no secret that I didn’t want the Donald as president, but not necessarily for the same reasons that most others didn’t. As a fellow New Yorker and the mother of a teenage boy, well let’s just say there are times that the lyrics in the songs my kid listens to would make the Donald blush. Many wanted him because he is a businessman and not a politician.   I didn’t want him as president precisely because he IS a private industry businessman.  I wanted a career bureaucratic to be president.  I wanted someone with many years of government experience to govern, hence the name of the organization that person would lead.  Has no one told the Donald to take a coffee break? To go to the break room now free of all that smoke since the 90s and just sit and have a soda and a bag of Cheetos and talk about last night’s episode of (fill in the blank) with fellow White House workers?  I have no idea what people are watching today on TV and saying Seinfeld is just too cliché.

The breakneck or private industry or just plain New York speed with which he is working is just not good for him or us.  We cannot maintain this level of incredulity or downright irritation for much longer.  He barks out orders all day and night without a thought to what the heck he is even saying.  I worked for the Feds for 38 years and was a manager for most of them.  Maybe I can give him some advice here.  Relax, Don, take five or ten or the rest of your term. What the heck happened to that nice Camp David? Why don’t we have pictures of you laying poolside with a Mai Tai?  Have you already turned Camp David into an AirBnB? Let’s hope not.  And no, working in the White House in your robe and slippers, as the recent reports from Crazy Land have posited doesn’t count. When that Friday whistle blows, Donald, we want you grabbing that lunch pail and those golf clubs and heading out.  That alone could keep the weekend safe for air travel for everyone and go a damn long way to making America great again.

You know we have a non-government employee as president when he is able to incense Federal government workers to the point of starting their own rogue Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and websites.  He has crossed a line of no return there.  These very same people who can barely get their official pages to function now have taken on extra, unpaid work.  That is an accomplishment of sorts I guess.  And what about the way too many hours he is spending at that desk.  A government work schedule is not nor should it be the same as private sector.  For example, when I worked, my schedule was 6am to 1pm at one point in time.  Strolling in around 7:30am was just fine and ensured I wasn’t crabby and sleep deprived on the job.  Imagine how we could all breath a sigh of relief if the Donald was late for work a few days a week?  It would be a downright public service.  You can see by his not so sound governing judgment these past few weeks, why I did not want a private sector, overachieving businessman running our Federal government. I wanted someone who would look at a problem for maybe a few years, then ask a few questions, then send it out to some random committee no one will hear from for a few more months. Then get the report back and have no one like it in the inner sanctum because the president didn’t put him or her on the committee. Then having to figure out whether the committee findings were based on merit, research and careful consideration or the feet stomping jealousy of an insecure three year old.  That’s the kind of calm and composed process we need to decide what to do about our collective social and legislative problems. Not the private industry hit the ground running, need that done by yesterday decision making way.  The Donald and his cohorts should relax. The issues will be there tomorrow and the next day and most likely even the next decade.

So jobs and not the great Steve Jobs kind are on my mind this week as I head out on a job interview for the first time in 43 years.  That traumatic episode with the crossing guard position doesn’t count. I’ll tell you about it another time. It’s been almost five years since I retired from the US Custom Service and it’s time for me to be institutionalized again.  I have tried my hand at my own business and I do like that a lot but I’m not making a fortune there.  I’m not even making a pittance.   I seem to have way too much time on my hands these days and so off I go to apply for a job with the city now.  I am pretty sure they will be my kind of bureaucracy.  So when they ask me about my, say, typing skills, I will be asking them if I can have March 17 off to go to that St Patrick’s Day gig of my musical friends Andy and Renee in Huntington Beach. Things like that. The important stuff like how much vacation time will I get.  Things the Donald should be asking about and then taking as much as he can of during his time as a Federal employee.

I sure hope this interview goes as well as my last one in 1974 with Customs did.  It was April of my senior year in High School and my Dad said I could go to Italy for the summer if I had a job when I got back.  My interview at Customs consisted of me asking if they could possibly let me start in September and my new boss saying, sure take the summer off, you are an overstaff anyway.  It was love at first sight, both with the job and my boss!  It worked though cause when I finally did show up for work I stayed for the next 38 years.

Now we certainly don’t want the Donald staying that long.  In fact 38 days would be fine at this point, but if he is going to do a stint as a Federal employee then let’s hope he takes the appropriate amount of sick and annual leave like George W. did.  Now that will make America great again or at least less nervous.

MISSIVE FROM THE MIDDLE #3- O GOD!

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GOD, the infinite question and the quarrel of the masses for all the ages and still is apparently judging by the headlines. I don’t understand it and I never will. A caveat: I am not here to sell you on my God or to debate your God or anyone else’s. In fact, just the opposite. I have no interest in sharing my God with you, nor do I really have any interest in hearing about your God beliefs. My God doesn’t really go in for group sports, other than football of course, hence my 14 years of volunteering in that area. I am sure I will get a great seat on the heaven 50 yard line.

He- Yes, He -get over it, I am fine with ‘He”- doesn’t require me to go out and get a lot of converts. On the contrary, my beliefs are private and not shared with anyone actually. Think about this, I love to win arguments. I will argue and debate to the death till I am victorious. Why on earth would I have a debate with you on an issue that has no possible winner?   No one has clue one what God is. Not the Catholics, not the Jews, not the Muslins and not even those nice Unitarians. I say that because I have yet to see a holy war started by that group.   The only way to know God is to die and sorry the $40 bucks an hour mediums drumming up dear departed Uncle Tonoose, don’t have the answer either. For all we know God could be Dave from Wendys and the answer is a square hamburger. There has been and is, so much hatred and bloodshed and discord and disaster over a concept that has no one answer. Astounding it is to me.

I was lucky in that I had a Catholic Holy Roller mother and a Golden rule touting father who disliked organized religion of any type, especially the Catholics. He was fond of saying, ‘ if you want to see thieves, liars and sinners, go into a church.” This was the best of both worlds regarding religious exposure. I grew up making up my own mind and while I love the golden rule, I do still take a bit of dogma from my 11 years of Catholic school.  You never know and that is precisely the point. Why, why would anyone try and get anyone else to believe exactly as they do. I don’t get it. I truly do not. I have no interest in your God and so please stay out of mine. I had both my sons baptized and that is as far as I went with the Catholic sacraments simply because I wanted to hedge my bet. As I say, I don’t pretend to know everything about the God I believe in and I chose to not mess around with the purgatory thing, that and the fact that Italians give great Christening gifts. It was simply a “what if” situation? What if purgatory was a real deal? I was not going to take the chance of my kids ending up there. Now it is ironic that I saved them from purgatory only to have them put me through hell as teenagers. But I digress.

Imagine. Yes imagine for just a minute or two if everyone kept their religious beliefs in their heart and head and soul where they belong and didn’t try to force them on others. There would be no arguments over abortion, immigration, gay rights, women’s rights or human rights. The basis of the discord and strife in all these areas are people trying to impose their God beliefs on others. Sounds simplistic I know but it is that simple. Why can we not fathom a world where you can congregate of course if that is what you need with people of like minded God beliefs and go no further than within those confines. You don’t have to engage with people of different beliefs IF those beliefs impinge on their overall personality and values and traits. I mean there are siblings who have very different beliefs and as long as those beliefs remain private and there is not a tug of war in trying to get each on the other side, you can co-exist peacefully. Nations can do the same. Remove religion from all decisions or at least as best you can and I think you begin to do a lot of things for the common good and not self-service to a particular group’s GOD. In those relationships that are chosen by you not fostered on you by birth, you choose according to those who best suit your temperament. Even very different God beliefs can possibly be overcome in a friend or acquaintance relationship depending on the degree to which those beliefs affect a person’s all over personality traits. I don’t believe they can be overcome though in a spousal relationship. Way too difficult. It would be a constant tug of war with no winners that will spill into other areas inevitably. This is an important area to choose wisely in and a lesson that if learned very early in life can save a lot of heartache. I have on occasion throughout my life discussed my own GOD experience with a very few others who I felt would be receptive to the discourse. Not for any reason of getting them to think like me but just to share a bit about myself to them in that arena. My GOD is a busy guy. I don’t bother him much unless it’s really important and he has come through when I have. That’s all I can say on the subject, other than the congregating I do for exceptional and wonderful music or theater is my equivalent of ‘church’.  Now that is my GOD in action, especially at a Bruce concert.

I hope against hope that we can obliterate these kinds of arguments and politicizing in the future. The hope rests with the youth of this country really. I get a sense that their world will look very different than ours has in the past century. A few recent encounters with a few amazing girls in that generation has certainly left me with a lot of hope, a commodity we MUST hold onto in these fractious days ahead. Another post for another day.   Thank you for reading. As always- to the right, have a blessed day, to the left, peace out and to the middle- thinker’s mercies.

POST SCRIPT: If you are wondering, and I am sure one of you eight who show up to read faithfully are, where Missive 1 and 2 are? They were originally only on Facebook but I’ll copy here in the event I actually get a new reader!!

MISSIVE FROM THE MIDDLE #2. Out on my very long walk this morning, I came across a headline in a newspaper in one of those amazing little boxes that LA has on street corners, which allow you to put in a buck or so and take a newspaper. This has fascinated me ever since I moved here from NY almost 30 years ago. The fact that we sell newspapers on the honor system and are sure that people will take just one is amazing to me. We never had these in NY ever as surely we would be putting in a buck, taking 10 copies and reselling them down the street. It’s a joke, relax. Humor hasn’t been outlawed yet. Anyway, blaring headline I saw that said: Trump to Build Wall Along the Southern Border. Right up there with the morning news that he just authorized the hiring of 5000 new southern border patrol officers. Well I guess instead of issuing guns and badges this time to the new hires, they will get picks and shovels and thigh high rubber boots and a nice bag of cement. Let’s hope they get it done in time to keep the last three Mexicans who actually want to come to the US contained. I hear they changed their minds and joined a drug cartel instead. A lot safer. Yep, no time to be quiet folks . Time to spotlight as much as crazy as we can. It’s a win win for me actually, this administration. Gives me so much writing to do and keeps those pesky but cute cat pictures off Facebook So to the right –have a blessed day. To the left- peace out. To the middle: thinker’s mercies. Not a clue. Just words that sound great together!

MISSIVE FROM THE MIDDLE-#1 Dear People, we only have so much irritation to expend over the next four years, so my suggestion is that we spend it wisely. The treatment by the Donald of his wife should be of no concern to us whatsoever at this point in time. What are we going to do? Sick the polite police on him? He has a trophy wife and as such they are in a business like deal with its own constructs. He gets to sleep with someone who wouldn’t give him the time of day at a 4am last call at Paddy O’Douls and she gets to never have to put her 10th grade education to use and lives in the lap of luxury with all expenses paid for the rest of her life. As I sit and peer at this pile of bills in front of me, O how I wish I could be anyone’s trophy wife. Unfortunately, they would have to be going for a last place trophy. So please stop getting all worked up over the Donald walking head of his wife for example. I have had two husbands who have never let me walk ahead of them without me actually pushing them out of the way first. If they did, I would have had them drug tested believe me. Ok bad analogy. In any event the big issue and biggest issue is what is going to be done with health care, specifically, the elimination of the 26 year old and under on the health insurance policy and the pre-existing conditions. Now because I don’t have a lot of time or patience today, can someone with some real facts and legislative knowledge explain to me like I am 2 year old whether those can be changed only through Congressional voting or can he change them via a stroke of pen in an Executive Order. It makes a real difference here. Thalia Commins you were our legislation guru in PTA, how about you be mine in real life? This is a huge difference and one place for now where our irritation should be exercised. Sorry if I offended anyone, sorry if I didn’t. There.

 

Now What or Babies and Bathwater or I TOLD YOU SO

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PRE-SCRIPT: I wrote this piece on June 8, 2016 after the California Democratic Primaries. It bears repeating only because I love dispensing from my big bag of I TOLD YOU SOs.  My favorite thing to do after writing of course.. And plays… And concerts..  Enjoy..or not.. all 8 of you who read me.

Have we thrown out the baby with the bath water with the results of our Democratic primaries yesterday in California and other states? Are we now clamoring so vehemently for a woman to lead us and not another white male that perhaps we have lost the opportunity to have a chance at being lead by a very different white male, one not steeped in traditional patriarchal chest thumping, testosterone brain washing , Bushesque style leadership. I voted for Bernie and changed my mind at the last minute about Hilary. Hilary has been for all intents and purposes ‘president’ before in a collaborative way. I have worked under eight presidents in my near 38 year tenure as a manager for the Federal Government so my perspective is from the ‘inside’ if you will. There is no question, and the GAO statistical office will support it, that the Clinton administration did more for this country economically and socially than many will ever know and many more will never acknowledge. This was not Bill alone. This was very much a collaborative effort with his wife and his Vice President. What Al Gore alone did to revitalize and fix the federal bureaucracy was nothing short of a miracle. What Hilary did to provide benefits for mothers, children and families will never be matched.

Here’s the thing. During the financial and real estate crises of the early 2000’s, I heard only two voices of reason amongst the shrill chest beating and hand wringing of politicians and pundits who truly didn’t have a clue how we got into the mess we were in. Those two voices were Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They understood the problems better than most and more importantly they had solutions to the problems. I imagine without doing a lot of research that will hurt my head today, the country and the politicians took some of the advice and left the rest. Not sure they left the worst though. We could be quietly headed back in that direction very easily with expiring mandates in the financial and real estate sectors coming around soon, but that’s another topic for another day. Requires me to research and my head and heart hurts too much for that today.

Have we perhaps rejected the notion of another “boys will be boys” white male led presidency in favor of the matriarchal shift of power we have so wanted? Is that why perhaps we didn’t vote Bernie in, despite the fact that on the surface he provided much more of the radical changes a matriarchal starved populace desires?

Have we painted him unconsciously with the same brush as Trump, the poster child for the worst a patriarchal society has to offer simply because he is another white male? I don’t know the answer to this. I do know that I wish fervently that Hilary and Bernie would be the first to show the world that politics is NOT about egos and manufactured ideological differences and factions and that she would make him Vice President and that he would accept. Is this not truly the way to unite the party if we are to continue the system?  Although, as far as I’m concerned the party system in electing our officials should be eliminated all together and parties should be saved for only when you are serving delicious appetizers and good alcohol.   But I digress. What is the point of a divided Democratic party? How are we then any better than the Republicans and their ego fueled maniacs?   It is patently absurd to me that if these two people are truly what they say they are: altruistic potential potentates who care only for the good of this country then why on earth would they not form the partnership needed to realize their goals. They are NOT far apart at all on what they want for this country and how great would it be to get that meshing of ideas.    If the rabid supporters for each side would just look at their positions on the important stuff and stop acting like a bunch of jilted lovers who can’t let go of Hillary’s past they would see how great a collaboration this could be for the country. It will sadden me if she doesn’t ask Bernie to be VP because then no matter how they spin it the bottom line is it is still about egos and winning and all that good stuff we dislike about the other party and patriarchal societies in general. We won’t truly get the matriarchal change we need. That we had to even select between the two just annoyed me yesterday to no end. It was an incredible waste of our time and resources. They could have already been out there campaigning for the November election. I don’t get it. They pride themselves on being so different and yet the same ridiculous childishness of “ I have to be in charge’ and “now I won so you can’t play anymore” is just appalling to me. I am not offended by anyone reading this who will call me ‘childish and naive’ and not understanding of the “real” issues as to why they can’t become a ticket. So be it. I’d rather keep my idealistic common sense, thank you very much.

When are we truly going to get adults in charge that can put their egos aside for the good of this country? Maybe never or maybe this time they will surprise us and as we say in New York, DO THE RIGHT THING!

POST SCRIPT:  SIGH!!!! If only!

O Tannenbaum or Not…

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The Christmas tree. My most favorite thing of Christmas. So why the procrastination this year? Why did it take me until mid December to do the thing I often did right after the turkey carcass was discarded? Is it because of the transitional blanket this holiday is wrapped in? Is it because of the lethargy that has settled in? I saw a post of a friend with her two little boys going to the Christmas tree lot, picking the tree and then the fun and exasperation that comes from decorating with a two year old. It took me back to all those Christmases when my two sons were small and the wonder of Christmas and its rituals was still bright in their eyes. A sharp contrast it is to this year when I asked my 15 year old if he cared if I put up a fake tree. I thought for sure he would be appalled and drive us both illegally to that Christmas tree lot. I don’t care, he said. The apathy and lethargy clearly settled in his heart and mind. Fine, I say, we do not need a real tree. We do not need my most favorite symbol of this holiday and your childhoods. We can let it go this year, as we must with many other traditions gone, some through grief and some through growing.

I have a fake tree not growing in my attic I am reluctant to admit. I bought it 17 years ago when my older son was two. We shared our Christmases back then between my family in the Bronx and my in laws in Sacramento. Christmas 1999 was to be spent in New York and because of the new millennium New Year we were to spend a few weeks rather than a few days. We shared our home with our friend and house partner Andy still that year. He was not the paragon of “on the ballness” he is today, never losing keys or never meeting a door he liked to close. I decided on a fake tree that year, as I was afraid a real tree would combust and burn the house down while we were gone. I was sharing this story with my sister the other day who scratched her head and said, what did you think he was going to do, throw lit matches at it while you were gone? Well of course not I said, but if he forgot to water it I thought it would catch fire. Such is the thought process of the new mother. There are paranoid schizophrenics with more lucid and logic thoughts. Remember that new mothers are the only people on the planet to actually have seen an eye poked out by running with scissors in one’s hand. And so I brooded and brained for a few days before I summoned the fake tree from it’s dusty corner. It will be fine I reminded myself. It’s only five feet but on a table it will look much taller. I am sure it will be fine. Of course it has to be fine. What other choice do I have? My sons won’t go anymore to the Christmas tree lot. I have never gone alone to a Christmas tree lot since they were born. It will be fine, just like we will. Eventually. After all, we survived the first year of a fake tree in my youth. Or did we?

I was about 13 or 14 maybe. We always had a real tree as kids. O not some big, tall, full and beautifully decorated fir, but one of those ‘you can see through to the back wall’ kind of sparsely branched ones. My mother decided the time had come to get with the times and get a fake tree. It was all the rage back then. I had seen a few at various people’s homes. Many were those silver trees with the poles you could see and the branches stuck neatly into the hole on the pole. They were shiny and pretty for sure. I was sent by my mother to buy the tree. My best friend and I walked to the Macys in Parkchester in the Bronx, the only walking distance shopping district we had with department stores. You did not get a lift to pick up a Christmas tree by your parents back then. My mother didn’t drive. My father, well, we told him about the tree after it was up. I remember lugging this seven foot fake tree, one of us on each end of the box, and trudging home with it for a mile or two I guess. Some of us at home were excited about getting a fake tree; some of us were not. When a lot of people live in a house you tend to get a lot of differing opinions. And so I began the process of putting it up. Reading the directions would have slowed down said process. I began unraveling the green tape-like stuff that kept the branches attached to the pole. I think we got to about a foot or two up in the tree before we realized there were no holes to this pole. This new fangled model required you only to bend the branches down away from the pole.   To our credit and with surgical precision, we managed to painstakingly reattach every branch. That tree lasted for many, many years. Back to the present from this digression.

Our five foot fake tree made its way down from the attic and into our living room and just as husband was about to begin bending the branches down to it’s not so full glory I shouted STOP! No, not because he was unraveling green tape-he is very mechanically adept and knew how to work the tree- but rather because it was just awful. Scrawny, not as tall as I thought, not as full or even close as I remembered.   What passed muster for a new mom with pyromanic paranoia could no way pass muster after years of fabulous very real trees. Trust me, even Charlie Brown would have thrown this tree back. What to do? Well the only thing I can do at two in the afternoon by myself with tree trimming time turning thin. I went to the Christmas tree lot all by myself. Thankfully it didn’t take the hours it did on Christmas pasts or the five minutes it took on Christmas special. It took just the right amount of time for me to pick one out without the longing to see my little boys chasing each other amongst the trees setting in. Tree selection times in the past often mirrored and reflected the year gone by. Some took hours, crippled by sadness and indecision. As if the selection of a tree could right all the trials and tribulations that passed for life that year. The year my mother died in early December though stands as still the best Christmas tree ever. We got to the lot in mid December that year after being in New York for the funeral. We walked into the lot, my boys were nine and five at the time, and right before us was this spectacularly beautiful full and perfect tree. I kept walking around it in wonder and thinking it’s not possible to do this so quickly. And then a thought rang through so crisp and clear, thank you Mommy for this tree. I still call it Nonna Alda’s Christmas tree. Nonna is Grandma in Italian and Alda was my mother’s name. In and out in literally five minutes flat.  And so this tree of ours this year shall also take its place in future memories. A tiny bridge was crossed it seems. A bit of cloud was lifted long enough for me to get some decorations down as well for the house besides the tree. The decorating of my house for Christmas only has always been such a ritual for me as well. I adore Christmas decorations. I created many of my decorations two decades ago. My themes of burgundy and gold for the dining/living room and silver and red for the family room have stood so well our test of time. I rarely deviated from the placement of each bead and bow and candle. Even years when I had a hard time remembering where certain things must go, my son or an old photograph would be there to remind me. Not this year. The lone trip to the lot gave me the courage and the fresh air to lighten the Christmas load as it were. I opened each box and chose what would come out this year and what would not. I liked the elimination of the hard line traditions. I liked the lifting of the sadness veil, which kept me from repeating rotes of Christmas past.   I like the straddling of this New Year with one foot lifting its boot from the quicksand of the past and the other stepping carefully on the new mowed lawn of the future.

Our Christmas tree this year stands testimony to that transition. Yes, for all my son’s blusterous “I don’t care if we don’t get a real tree”, his joy at having a real one back is there, even if he chooses not to show me. Our mantel sans some time worn greenery and lights is pretty even still.   There are bright, velvet and gold red bows here instead of there this year. There is a bit of darkness where there used to be lights, but that’s to be expected, I suppose. The bittersweet memories of Christmas past and a glimpse into Christmas future nearly hindered me from stepping into Christmas present this year. I am certainly glad I did though- for both my sons and me. Always treasure your Christmas pasts, peek in wonder at your Christmas futures, but give your complete heart, soul and attention to your Christmas presents. A happy and joy filled holiday to all and to 2016 a good night!

PostScript:  Thank you to those who have been kind enough to read my internet writing this year. I truly appreciated it..

POST POSTSCRIPT: It’s May now and in case you are wondering, that 5 ft tree was given to an inner city Pop Warner football fundraising effort a few weeks ago.  And this piece will be shared now by a lovely 17 year old with 124000 followers to his blog.. Extraordinary accomplishment I would say. And so it begins…. I hope.