Rest in the Light Of Eternal Youth, Magic Boy…


, , , ,

How are you doing, Magic Boy? I often began my morning or end of night check in with this salutation. It was about a year or so ago during a rough patch in Brian’s life. A mutual friend suggested I talk to him as he liked me and perhaps I could lift his spirits some. I did both I like to think.

Yesterday he died, suddenly, unexpectedly, the ultimate disappearing act for this masterful magician. Today the online eulogies, memories, tributes, near and far in time and place and connection abound. We covet the dead, or at least the great ones. We want to touch the shiny fabric of that coffin and say we were a part of that greatness, no matter how big or small or close or far.   It is the silence of the service performed to miserly memories of mourners that dictates a life not well lived.   Not the case with Brian. He was mentor, friend, lover to more than a few in his time. His art was magic and magical was his art. I called him friend and here is but my tiny presence in his large life so very well lived.

I saw Brian for the first time at a house concert at Andy’s in 2005. I was with my two small boys at the time. I have no idea what I was doing there as I was not one to go to many of Andy and Renee’s gigs back then, being secluded in my motherhood and motherly duties of PTA and football. But for the special occasions I did venture out. Brian and his mentalist partner Sisuephan did their act. I remember nothing of it other than the fire-breathing wallet. I talked to Brian a bit afterwards asking him to do the wallet for my boys again and he said, “I hate kids”. I was taken aback and thought what a jerk! Took me awhile to see he never meant that at all.   He especially showed me in June of 2015 when he played my son’s Grad night for North High for a fraction of his worth as a performer as a favor to me.  The kids loved it and he must have, too, as he stayed way past the allotted time.  But no matter what magic he did, it was always the wallet that never failed to amaze me.  Over the years we would run into Brian at a restaurant gig of Andy’s occasionally and I never failed to go over to him and say, do the wallet, please? Usually my boys were with me and they would just love it.

Fast forward to late December 2014.   I had come to know Brian a bit better since now attending a lot of Andy and Renee gigs on my own in my re-entry to the musical world I loved so much pre-parenthood. Enough that I could ask for a night at the Magic Castle for my friend Val and I. Brian was playing the ‘big room’ as I call it as I could not keep all those rooms straight. It meant to me he was the star and the show was all him. We stopped at quite a few of the Magic Castle bars that night before the show began, sampling Prosecco along the way.   The venue was really crowded and we had standing room only against the wall when a person in the very first row got up for some reason and I took the seat while Val stayed at the wall.   A woman next to me started talking to me and I have no idea what we talked about but I started talking and she couldn’t stop laughing at what I was saying and then a few more joined in. Brian comes out, the show sort of starts but this lady next to me is still talking to me and laughing and I am answering her but trying not to. I know I am in trouble cause Brian knew me by now from various events we were at together and told me I had better behave at the show. I promised, sort of. Next thing I know, Brian stops the show and says, “Let me know when you are finished with your show, Maddie and I’ll do mine” and looks right at me. I was amused and horrified at the same time and needless to say I shut up for the rest of the show. Afterwards we met Brian in the bar for a drink and I just kept apologizing like crazy. I said, what can I do to make it up to you? Well, he said, there is a magician’s code that when you ruin his act you have to buy him a drink whenever you see him for the rest of his life!! Done, I said, done, just forgive me!   He laughed and ordered a Pinot Noir with a glass of ice on the side. A short time later, we were at the first Title Tracker show in Silverlake and Brian was there. I went right over and asked what are you drinking? I brought him his Pinot Noir- a few of them and we had a good laugh over it. It got to be that no matter where we were the minute I saw him I would say, “I know I know I’m going to get your drink.” And I did every time. Yesterday we shared a good laugh over this, as I said to Lorna and Andy, we should go get a bottle of Pinot Noir tonight and toast Brian and they both said, why, his favorite wine was Merlot. No, not possible I said. I have been buying him drinks at restaurants and clubs for three years now and he ALWAYS ordered Pinot. That’s cause it was more expensive and you were paying, Lorna said. Well played, Brian!!

For the dinners he attended at my house he usually got a bottle and I got my magic wallet fire every time and often a great impromptu magic show for the dinner guests. This fire breathing Aries LOVED that wallet. I never tired of seeing it and to me it was brand new each and every time he pulled it out.   I’ll never forget that night in Silverlake sitting next to him and having him do these magic tricks that would send me screaming during the Title Tracker concert. The one with the spider crossing my hand under the cellphone in particular made me jump out of my chair. I think he reveled in the idea of me ruining someone else’s show with my screeches.

Time marched on and we became what I like to think of as good friends. We were age appropriate, Brian and I. We talked a lot over these past three years about life and love and relationships and mostly aging in all those things. He hit a rough patch a little while back in his personal life and I would text or call every morning to check on him and then at night to see how his day went. I was honored to be invited to the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary done on his life and that of three other magicians at the Vista Movie theater. It was a kick to sit with him and watch his reaction to himself on the big screen. What a magical night that was as we then got to go to the Castle see him and his longtime partner Sisuepahn perform.

I brought friends to the Castle over the past several years a few times. He was always gracious and always made room for us. I never ever wanted to go there though unless he was playing the big room and doing his full act. I did go once when he was in the WC Fields Bar downstairs, but it wasn’t the same for me. That night I took my friends Case and Chuck. They went off to see the shows in the main parlors but I preferred to just stay down there with Brian. We ate and drank in between his time at the bar. Yes, of course, the Pinot Noir was on me. When Brian went back behind the bar, I entertained myself by clearing glasses from the tables. The Castle for some weird reason always felt so familiar and home like to me. I used to think I had to have been there in some previous life.   I didn’t go see too many other magicians. They bored me compared to Brian’s show. I preferred to just roam around taking pictures where I wasn’t supposed to like in the fun phone booth with the ghost or sitting by Irma the piano and watching her play herself.

I was supposed to go the Castle a few weeks ago. My sister was coming to town again. It was a wonder that Brian was even going to let us go since her less than stellar performance at a dinner at my house the year before, but he was so gracious. I called and said I wanted to go on maybe Monday the 25th of June.  I asked if he was playing the big room that night. He said he wasn’t but he would come down anyway if he could because of surgery he was scheduled for on June 18. I said OK, but I’m not going unless you are there. What the heck is the surgery for, I asked. Heart, he said. What the hell? But he didn’t answer that text. The following week, I texted him and asked how the surgery went. He said it’s next Monday. I was confused and thought they just postponed the same thing. Well then are you coming to the house concert on Saturday, I asked. No, I can’t, I am so weak I can’t move, he said. What exactly are you having done? Triple bypass he said and a valve repair. What the fuck?? I went into my Brian “what you need, whenever you need it” mode. What time, where, do you have lift there, do you need anything? He said, no he’s fine. Sisuepahn is driving him to Torrance Memorial at 7:30am. OK I’ll call and come see you as soon as I can and left it at that.    Monday came and I thought about him all day. I asked Andy in the afternoon if he had heard anything. He got word the surgery went well. I knew my way around an ICU having spent three weeks there 11 years ago during my husband’s liver transplant. I also knew it was difficult getting in if you weren’t family but I also knew I could do it. But it was late and I was leaving for Palm Desert on Wednesday and knew how out of it he would be anyway. On Tuesday morning, I figured I’ll just call the ICU and see how he’s doing but the ICU nurse put me through. Hey, I just wanted to call to make sure you ain’t dead, I said. He said No, but I am in a lot of pain. I can’t really talk. OK, get better, love you. I’ll come see you soon. He didn’t and I didn’t. A call with a crack in her voice from Lorna at 4pm and I knew it before she got the words out of her mouth. For a week now I could not let go of the thought of where he would convalesce. My mind kept going over logical places. Would Sisuepahn take him in? Would Craig his manager/caretaker have a place for him? Should I offer my house if needed as I am close to the hospital and doctors? Where would his beloved dog go? These thoughts would go round and round but I never saw him in recovery anywhere. I kept thinking how strange that was that while I was fretting about where he would go another part of my brain would say it doesn’t matter at all it’s not relevant.

We got to let our proverbial aging hair down at times, but none so much as that night at Avenue A in early April of this year. I was on my way there when I got a text from Brian saying, where are you, I’m at Avenue A, come down. On my way, I said. We shared a few secrets that night. We would compare some notes on things that made us laugh sometimes and sometimes made us sad. We were age appropriate friends despite the everlasting search for the fountain of youth. We talked that night about a lot of things. He shared quite a few stories with me. At one point, I was about to respond to a text on my phone. He said, put that down, I can’t believe you are going to text during the most important part of my story! OK, OK. I said, but don’t think I am going to buy you food now for the rest of your life just because I interrupted a story of yours. Not the same as a magic show. He laughed. I put the phone down and listened. The conversation ended for good yesterday with Brian. It feels interrupted. The thing I wanted to talk about most with him next was the healing of the heart in all its manifestations, a subject near and dear to my heart right now. It will have to be one-sided now or perhaps this very last act of his speaks volumes to the subject at hand for me.

We don’t get to choose the impact people have on our lives or our connection to them or what they mean to us. I am a firm believer that all sorts of people come into your life for all sorts of things. Impact or connection is not measured in time. It’s measured in space. It’s measured in what occupies the space you share in the time you share it. This was just my own little time and shared space with Brian Gillis, the best magician ever and Johnny Carson’s and my favorite one, too!



, , , , , , ,

U2 has never been very high up on my current concert dream-wish list, dislike the word bucket list- reminds me of barfing. I thought about seeing them last year at the Rose Bowl but I avoid stadium concerts if at all possible. ColdPlay was the Rose Bowl exception and it was very good. I got in on the presale for Ticketmaster verifieds and I got the code, but did not get the tickets when they went on sale for the two May Los Angeles Forum dates. No matter, I told my partner in concert crime Sandi, we are going to go if we want to. I was ambivalent about not getting the tickets. I don’t consider myself a U2 fan. I like all the hits and that to me is really not high on fandom status. I respect the man and all he’s done, but honestly, after Tracker Dave took over as Bono with the Title Tracker shows, he’s now become Bono to me. The Title Trackers is a group that writes songs for albums that have no title tracks and then performs them in the artist’s character. In the hands of lesser musical genius this would be a mess, but it is handled with such dynamic dignity by the three Trackers: Andy, Dave and Russell whose brainchild this is. They are truly the best songs never written. I digress. Go see a Tracker show and you’ll know what I mean.

A week ago I began the search in earnest for U2 Tickets at the Forum on Tuesday. I just had to see this show. There wasn’t any ambivalence left this week. The feeling that we MUST see this show got stronger and stronger, to the point where I even settled for upper level seats. I just don’t do bad seats at a concert. I am too old to settle for less. These, however, dropped into our collective laps. I was on the text with a man who was selling his seats, three rows up and one section over for $250. He paid $325 and Ticketmaster would not let him re-sell them for less so he went to my favorite ticket place, Craigslist. Let’s hope the morality cops don’t shut down the ticket scalping portion of this website. While I was on text with him negotiating, I was also on Ticketmaster and found two aisle seats, one section over and 4 rows down from him for considerably less than his tickets. He was not happy when I told him it was a “no” and why.

So we went last night, Sandi and I, Ubered by our offspring. Her daughter dropped her off and my son dropped me a few blocks away. The walk was well worth the no parking fees and no parking lot gridlock at the end. The first thing we see upon entering the arena is this humongous two sided screen that ran the entire length down the middle with a huge stage at one end and a smaller one at the other and a long walkway in between just below the screen. What on earth could that be, we wondered? Well it provided the most amazing visual effects ever to be seen on a stage, at least by me. They played in the screen while on the walkway. It was astounding.   When he turned it into the street where he lived and had it move as if you were looking at it out of the window of a car was just breathtaking. He walked along, as it moved and sometimes stayed still and in between the houses were relics of his past. Homage to David Bowie for one thing and so much more. It was just indescribable gorgeous.

I expected Bono preachiness, as is the stuff of legends, but what we got instead was Bono teachiness and the baring of his familial heart. He did a mean intro of Sympathy for the Devil , intertwining words of current American events like Charlottesville coming from a horrific Devil’s mask special effect on him as he spoke on this gigantic screen. Politically potent was when he showed footage of the KKK racists and white supremacists demonstrations today and then followed them with the civil rights marches of yesteryear.   A powerful reminder of the backslide we see today in those areas. And when he was done, U2 raised the American Flag behind the main stage to cover the entire side of the arena. It was just perfect.

The most poignant part of the entire evening was the homage that Bono played not only to the women in his life, but also to the women of the world. He thanked his wife for being his other half. He thanked his daughters for what sounded like keeping him on his toes. They then displayed a lone woman in a black combat helmet and a sleeveless black dress, so pretty with the hash tag or number sign to me, with the word WomenOfTheWorldTakeOver and PovertyIsSexist   I don’t know that I quite believe that in its entirety.  I think we need people not genders taking over who are intelligent and honest and have integrity and that just plain care about the world we live in enough to make a difference and let nothing stand in their way to do so. But the most special of all tributes he paid this evening to the women in his life was to his mother. What a beautiful and loving and painful tribute it was beginning with the song Iris- her name- whilst they showed her wedding clip and then an old home movie of her running in the sand.   It ended with the house and a light on in only one window and a light bulb that swung towards this window and turned into a noose right before it. Sandi and I, too busy enjoying the show to bother with actual facts, came to the conclusion that his mother committed suicide. Glad to say this morning, Sandi googled it clear in that his mother died when he was 14 years old of a brain aneurism. Not a whole lot better but still. To have him open that pain up right on stage for all of us to share with him was just so moving.   Interesting the artistic greatness that ensues from the depths of despair of losing a mother so young as we have seen with other artists like John Lennon.

Musically it was perfect for me. As I wasn’t a huge fan, I had no great set list desire or expectations. I started listening a few days before the concert to the new album “Songs of Experience.”   I love, love, love the album. It’s got this feel of going back to 60s and 70s groove music at times mixed in with such beautifully written love songs. So getting to hear most of this live now was just great for me. Yes, I loved Bloody Sunday and One and In the Name of Love of course. Who doesn’t? For me, though, it was great to see these new songs played sometimes the same as the album, sometimes different. Moving from the large stage to the intimate small one at the other end of the huge runway for various songs was spectacular and so well done. The visual effects on that screen during every song were spellbinding. The one thing I loved the most was no monitors anywhere. When it was just them and no big screen special effects, then that is what you looked it and nothing else and it was so much better than the distraction of all those screens.

Bruce, the very top of my concert list, takes you to church when you see him perform. You are in a local parish church in a little Jersey town or a Baptist church in the Deep South. You come in jeans or a summer dress and you collectively throw your hands in the air and shout and shout as the Spirit of the Night grabs hold of your heart and soul and takes them on a ride you’ll never experience again. Bono takes you to a cathedral like Notre Dame in Paris or 5th Avenue’s St Patrick’s, where you come in your best dressed and it is your mind and your senses that are captured and set to wander and wonder at the majesty of the edifice with its stained glass and sculptures and all that amazing architecture. That’s the ride U2 takes you on, musical magnificence. There was so much more but sensory overload makes it difficult for me to describe it in any great detail that would do it justice. It was an experience in song we will never forget.



Thoughts on Dylanfest 28


, , , , ,

I was apprehensive about attending this year’s Dylanfest. The ghosts of Dylan parties and other things past floated heavily about my mind that morning.   It was the first big party we threw in a brand now house by a fairly new newlywed all those years ago. Fast or not so fast forward 25 years later and I attend this year’s festivities as a fairly new divorcee. So many gone but a few still remain from those long ago days.   So many new and wonderful faces now and even a few brand new shiny pennies at this year’s event for the first time, like the wonderful friend of Renee, Patrick and Andy’s, Chris from all the way across the pond and my bass playing business partner, Michael who had the good fortune of both first time attendance and a first musical debut with Al Diesen, the Italian Dylan and the Title Trackers.

Still, I didn’t want to go. I thought back to how many of these new and improved out of the backyard Dylan events I had been to. In my mind, I always think I’ve only been to one of these and yet this will be the fifth one in a row for me. That surprised me. A few more years and it overtakes the number of backyard parties, which as one of the logistical hosts all those years ago, takes on a quite different patina both in heart and head of those days gone by.

But go I did and miss I did the surprise rendition of Desolation Row. Not only my favorite Bob song but my favorite song ever. I was stunned at first as I was given so many reasons why a song like that could not be done at Dylanfest by Andy, one of the co-hosts. I guess it was the Sierras talking that night or as good seeds often do when planted well, they grew into a fine conclusion. No matter. That song belongs to just Bob and me. Always will. I can hear lots of folks do lots of Dylan but Desolation Row is just different for me. I discovered and loved it sometime in my late teens. I don’t remember quite the circumstances and they truly do not matter. It is not a song brought to me a by a beau or a concert or a trip to Italy. It just WAS one day and there it has always stayed and always will.

It was such a beautifully buoyant event this year. Perhaps that’s just the mind playing tricks when juxtaposed against the stormy finale of last year’s downpour but I don’t think so. A bout with a fascist foot and lots of heel pain kept me in my chair for most of the day. I saved the dancing for only the choicest of songs. I didn’t spend the day doing a marathon of running around fueled by caffeine and booze and missing most of the music as I always do. I sat my chair outside the musician’s tent and had the most enjoyable of conversations with some long time folks there 25 years ago in the backyard like Karen and Bobby and some brand new ones, one kind or crazy enough to share his fine mix of wine and ginger ale with me.   The absolute hilarity of watching Dave do his sign language for the deaf and demented during the Mr. Tambourine Man finale was nothing short of brilliant and brought to mind how much fun that boy was all those years ago and can still be.   It did my heart so good to see my long time neighbors and friends who hosted the 1997 Dylan party the year my son was born, shed their sorrow for awhile to come out and get a shot of musical joy so much needed in their lives today. The power of music to heal unbearable wounds and to join humanity in a communion of camaraderie is no better evident than at these events.   It is a nod to the passion and the power of Bob’s words and to those who truly hear those words, like our hosts Andy and Renee and the other 400 some odd attendees this year.

I did walk about a bit certainly, but the restful and calming effect of just listening to the music undisturbed by the blurred passing of hundreds of people in my frenetic pace to see and say hello to all was bliss.  Movement in our lives is inevitable if we choose to lead a life of wonder and interest. In a recent talk by Maria Shriver I attended, she said she told her children that she did not want to see their 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 year old selves as the same person. She wanted to meet someone different each time.   A thought well put. If we stay stagnant and in the same shoes cemented to the same ideas and thoughts year after year, decade after decade, we will miss the joys and excitement and enlightenment unique to each period of one’s life. It is not necessary to abandon our old selves completely, but rather to bring with us the best of what we were and weave our newfound wonders around it. If I had succumbed, as unfortunately many do, to the sadness or the anxiety that enveloped me that morning, I would have missed the joy of one of the best Dylanfests I have ever attended. If I had not chosen stillness over painful prancing yesterday, I might have missed a lot of nice conversation and certainly a lot of great musical moments. There is a time in life to move and a time to sit quite still, the trick is doing both well and at the necessary intervals.

Birthday Blue/Don’t Let Them Eat Cake


, , , ,

As birthdays go, this 61 was pretty much a bust. My first one as a not so gay divorcee was well unremarkable, literally. And please look up the actual way that term was coined decades ago. It had nothing to do with being a lesbian.

Even a pissed off soon to be ex husband will get you a card and some flowers on your birthday and force the kids to sign the card, even if they do fail to find a card that is actually for someone’s mother on a few occasions. This year my two were left to their own devices. My younger son got me a nice and thoughtful Mom card. Even though he has more money stashed away than some adults I know, it didn’t come with a gift. My older son gave new meaning to “it’s the thought that counts,” cause that is about all he did do. He thought about a card. He never did actually translate it into action. I mentioned that the inheritance scales were tipping and not in his favor either. He then proclaimed that he was anti-greetings cards. Something about how they are not something he can subscribe too in good conscience. I didn’t know you could be a conscientious objector to greeting cards. Is there some province of Canada set aside for kids fleeing the States where it’s a Hallmark free zone? Scales still tipping. Still not in his favor.

I looked at my card clothesline and it was like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, a bit bare this year. It is a string that I have had hanging in my house since I had my first kid 21 years ago. It is above our heads and spans the length of our dining room/den and it is where we hung the greeting cards all year long. We began with Valentine’s Day as I used to get and give cards before it became a hostile holiday in our house. Then we moved to Easter and always there were cards from my mother and mother in law. These women knew the value and the love and the touch that went into the sending of greeting cards. These Hallmark moms never missed a holiday for their offspring and grand offspring. Our family birthday greeting card barrages began in earnest in April with my older son’s birthday, followed six days later by mine. Those cards came down at Mother’s Day and then husband’s birthday at end of May followed close behind. We took that set down in June after the Father’s Day cards arrived. Yes, they always were Dad cards and no, I never bought a to whom it may concern card for him, much as I may have liked to at times.

We took the summer off with a bare string hanging for July, August and September. The string, like our home, came to life again in October for the birthday of our younger son. Those cards we admired until the few Hallmark Moms’ Thanksgiving cards arrived followed by the biggest card windfall of all, Christmas!! The string was filled all through December and some of January and as was our home with joy for many years back then.

This year my string was not very filled. My older son turned 21 so there are a few for him hanging but my birthday left a little to be desired. No more daughter-in-law-card of course because I am no longer one. No daughter card because it would have to come from across the grave. I did receive two very special ones from my two dear friends and for that I thank them. I loved my friend Sandi’s card about us being ‘twins’ and musical soul sisters as she said we are. My friend Patty’s card touched my heart because it was not a birthday card but rather a thank you card for my energy and my event planning.   I hate the fact that Facebook has robbed Hallmark of their card business. I looked at my string and wondered how it would look if the 126 people who posted a happy birthday comment on my page would have sent a card. I know, in this day and age, we are all too busy to take the time to read and write and ponder a sentiment. But busy doing what is the real question, I suspect.

The birthday cake- the one we did not let them eat this year. I didn’t do one for me despite my superstition that everyone in our family HAD to have a cake ON the actual date of their birthday regardless of what else was being done, party wise. I didn’t do it this year. Too busy I guess doing who knows what. I spent the day wandering about. No dinner out. Even my business partner in town for a paint job apologized for ignoring my birthday. My brother in law who is the biggest part of the family apologized two days later for forgetting it altogether as his phone lost its birthday calendar.   Are you enjoying my birthday pity party yet? I wandered down for an hour to Ports of Call Restaurant to see my favorite musicians play.   Even the staff at that restaurant failed to bring out the cupcake that the California Cupcake (Renee, the singer’s nickname) ordered so they could sing to me at the end of the night. But sing they did anyway and it was so appreciated of course. It’s hilarious this lack of birthday this year. Now don’t get me wrong, I was never one to celebrate my birthdays much at all but the firsts of everything in the grief process are the worsts and the irony is not lost in this worst of my first divorced birthdays. I did end the evening though with my Curb Crew, where the Larry David fans converge once a week. That always cheers me up!!

Unfortunately, though, my cake superstition may have something to it. I awoke the day after my birthday with the worst unexplained vertigo. So what do I do now? Should I bake a cake today to ward off the evil cakeless spirits? Will that count if it’s like three days after my birthday? I don’t know. But I did mention this all to my sister when I went to New York a few days later. She had the waiter at Captains Pizzeria in the Bronx bring me out a lovely tiramisu with a candle in it and she and my two friends and the rest of the restaurant lunch crowd actually sang Happy Birthday again! I hope this cake counts!! New things must replace the old and the eternal optimist in me thinks it will be just fine anyway.   I love my kids and my friends and I do appreciate the time all those people took to write me a Facebook birthday post. I just wish I could hang them on my string.

I’ve Been Overthinking


, , , , , ,

Whether you laugh or not at this is of no consequence so that takes the pressure off both of us. My friend and hairdresser, Debbie, put a bug in my ear a month ago that because people around her at the house concert I threw last month were laughing so hard as I was barking orders from the stage that I should give stand up a try. Not much of a stretch, I know. I thought about it, but I am not really a ‘stand up’. All I do is tell stories of my crazy life. Stand up requires timing and practice and more practice and that is just not me. I will hardly even edit this piece if I can get away with it.   The idea, though, did intrigue me. Her show with her partner, Patti O, in this little art gallery in San Pedro was on the night of my 61st birthday. Why not, I thought, it could be fun. So we agreed I would just come out during their break and tell a story or two.   I changed my mind since that conversation. I was in her chair the day before my birthday. I told her I just didn’t think I could do it.   The disappointment was clear, especially since she told me she told most of the 50 people who were coming about me. What, I said, you didn’t!! I figured if I went, there would be like maybe 20 people in the audience. So I said I would at least think about it. And as it turns out both Maria Shriver and I apparently have been thinking.

Patty, one of my dearest and longest California friends, asked me at the last moment if I would go see some panel that Maria Shriver was putting on along with these two other folks, Tracy Gordon and John Kornfeld, on compassion. Compassion? Really? No thanks.   Way too much work.   As Patty has been my rock in taking so many tickets to events at the last minute for me, I really could not refuse her. The tickets were 20 bucks and at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills and up to $100 if you bought Maria’s book. So I said yes, but was going to see if we can get in for free. How, you don’t ask? Well a few years back when I had to weigh kids for football in the program out in Agoura Hills, the owner of the Canyon Club, Saban and now the Rose Theater in Pasadena was the head coach of one of the teams. He let me use the Canyon Club on a Sunday morning to weigh over a hundred kids to see if they were not too fat to play football. I get there and the whole place is carpeted. You can’t use a scale properly on carpet so he set me up in the foyer of the ladies’ restroom where there was tile. Fun times. Then he got irritated with me cause some of his kids, including his own son, were too fat to pass that day. These are the kinds of connections I treasure. Ever since then, all I need to do is call the current president of that football organization and he calls the guy and gets me put on the guest list for shows for free. Oddly enough, I never went to the first two that I asked for, but yesterday I asked for the Maria Shriver thing and I got the green light anyway. We knew people weren’t beating down the door to get in, as there were tons of tickets left that afternoon. I got a text from the president, telling me my name is at the door and if anyone asks, Mr. G ( I’ll leave his name out in case I need to use him again and in case some of you out there are tempted to try this yourselves) put you on the list. Ok, I’ll go then if it’s free.

We get there and of course the lady at the table has no idea who I am, no name on the list that matches mine. I tell her, well that’s too bad, Mr. G said we can come in and you have to let us or he will get really mad at you. She got that look in her eye that people usually get when I ask for something, I better say yes so she goes away. I have no problem with this at all. Ok she says and she writes my name down on some list that pretty much means nothing. She doesn’t give us a wrist band though as those were for the VIPs  who shelled out a $100 bucks to be here and buy a $20 book when they could have bought the general admission ticket for $20 bucks and the book for another $20 being sold at like 15 tables in the lobby.

Patty wants to sit right up front, but there’s a kindly older lady with a rope across the first five rows for the VIPs. Where is your wristband to sit down here, she says. We don’t have one because Mr. G put us on the VIP list (no idea actually) but the event screwed up and didn’t have our names, so we had to write our names on the list and if you are a VIP that had to write your name rather than finding your name on the list of VIPs like should have happened had the staff done what Mr. G told them to and put our name on the list then we would have had a bracelet, so I guess we just sit here without one, right? Same look. Speechless, she pushed aside the velvet rope and we got a nice seat on the aisle in the third row.

The theater was absolutely gorgeous in that Rocco style, as my friend called it. I didn’t have the heart to point out it wasn’t done in the style of some Italian guy from Brooklyn. We got some wine and popcorn and settled in.   I have always liked Maria Shriver, as a huge Kennedy fan, she is most likely my favorite of the offspring and the living Kennedys.  The other two folks she had with on her panel I never heard of and was pretty sure they would annoy me. First was this great plastic surgeried woman named Tracy Gordon who is so into relaxing that there are embalmers jealous of her. The man on the panel was another meditation guru named John Kornfield. I just kept wanting to put a straw hat and some suspenders on him and stick him in a real corn field. Maria wrote this book apparently called, “I’ve Been Thinking”.   Sure, I do this all day long and am constantly told to stop. Maybe I’ll call my book, I’ve Been Overthinking.   We are in Beverly Hills and the audience is filled with mostly women with a lot of time on their hands to be compassionate, a few sleeping husbands who I am sure are here under a court order and a couple of gay guys behind me.

Well it starts off with the usual mumbo jumbo of turn off your electronics and you can be happy except if we did, Ms. Shriver as a TV journalist wouldn’t be able to sell too many books anymore. People that tell me the key to life is relaxing just make me nervous as  hell.   Relaxing as far as I’m concerned is for when you are dead. I hate relaxing.   That’s all they wanted to talk about, that and gratitude.  I believe in gratitude and expressing it at the moment you are grateful for something. But having to sit there and come up with something every damn morning that you are grateful for is so nerve wracking, which explains the need for all that relaxing they followed it up with. Well talking about relaxing and liking people wasn’t enough apparently.   Tracy, who I am pretty sure now her name is really Trudy, but I am too darn tired to look it up, is now going to lead us in one of her love and something exercises to Nirvana or some such thing. We had to close our eyes. That part was good cause I was already falling asleep. Then after a few more minutes of relaxing we had to do this love or something thing where we had to look at the person next to us and say something like “ you are so damn wonderful in your being and thank you for existing’ or some such thing. I looked at my friend Patty and whispered “don’t you dare.” What the heck? Are we in the Catholic Church again where we had to shake random strangers’ hands that you had no idea where they had been and yell “peace be with you”. I am not doing that. Next thing I know, these three perfectly coiffed women turned around in unison and say “ You are wonderful in your being and I appreciate you” All three at the same time like some demented Greek chorus. No, I’m not, I say. Really, I’m not. I’m bad. Turn around. You have no idea. After the shock wears off, it’s all I could do to not burst out laughing. Which by the way it was then revealed by Ms. Gordon that the Dalai Lama laughs a lot and ‘ drum roll here”, it’s really good for you to laugh. Well then she did her job as far as I’m concerned cause I really can’t stop at this point. Imagine that! Joy and happiness being good for you!! And for this people have shelled out $20 bucks to hear it. I am so in the wrong business.

Now it was Maria’s turn. I love all things Maria: Westside Story I just met a girl Maria, Sound of Music Maria. In fact, Maria is my Confirmation name. If you are not Catholic please look it up or this will get too long. Anyway, her big thing in her book is, another drum roll please, the PAUSE. Yes folks, in a room full of women who are doing nothing but pausing- meno, pre and post- she’s telling us to do more pausing. What the hell for?   But pausing isn’t enough. The key to life apparently is also doing a lot of yippee moments. I guess the old Oprah Ah-ha ones weren’t good enough. Really, Maria Shriver, a Kennedy, more money than God, TV job most would kill for, maids, mansions, needs to search for something to yell yippee about every day? And yes there was of course the requisite veiled reference to the Terminator’s termination from her life because of his dalliance with the maid was it? I would have divorced him just because he’s annoying.

Well back to Mr. Kornfield and his lecture on how you can wear sackcloth and ashes but make sure you have a little fun doing it. Not too much though. That’s right. He explained carefully how when you volunteer or do things philanthropically make sure you incorporate a bit of fun into it.   Why I am not giving lectures on having fun, I’ll never know.   At this point I needed alcohol,  but how to get out and get it.   Patty is also bugging me now to find an exit strategy. We waited and watched and then a couple across the aisle got up and there was our chance. We followed them out as if they were mom and pop and we kids had to go along with them. The duck and cover up the long aisle to the exit.

While it was funny at points, I also have to be a little serious now because I did take away something from this panel nonetheless. One of the things Maria talked about is surrounding yourself with people in your life who lift you up, who truly want to be with you and who you want to be with. And shed those relationships that don’t provide this. I think many of us fall into the trap of not wanting to be part of any club that will have us or chase the relationships we know are not really good for us, whether they are romantic or platonic. We got a wonderful example of this from the other two panel members. Ms. Gordon and Mr. Kornfield were actually now husband and wife and I loved the story they told of how that came to be in terms of this. They knew each other as colleagues for over 40 years. They both had gone through some very painful divorces. He sought her out after that as someone whom he wanted to spend more time with as she added that uplift to his life and through this time of closer friendship they fell in love and got married.   In these days of instantaneous swiping left, right and off center, what a wonderful way to find true love. All in all, I am glad I went to this. You never know where you’ll pick up a bit of wisdom along with some laughter. And yes we did go and have the most delicious prosciutto and arugula flatbreads I have ever tasted along with Prosecco at a place called Flats next door. We shouted ‘yippee’ through the entire meal!! To circle back, I never did go and do my story telling at my friend’s show the next night, but there’s always next time perhaps. One never knows where the winds of chance will take us.


March 28… Adult Swim


, , , , ,

A thousand words before I sleep. That’s the plan to keep this writerly muscle exercised, as my flipping fascist foot is not allowing any other type of exercise these days. I refuse to take one sixth of me to Italy this summer. I just am not but without the requisite daily movement in the way of a walk each morning, it is so difficult to lose it. Until such time as this heel pain heals, I am now going to give a daily adult swim a shot at the local YMCA. I hate public pools or any public water for that matter. My entire swimming career has been spent in my friend’s pool next door.   But since I cannot walk, Zumba, hop, skip or jump right now, the Y is the only wet game in town. First though, I had to find one of those cute swim caps so my very expensive dyed hair doesn’t turn a lovely shade of Trump-orange. I stopped just short of the pink, yellow and orange flowered one.   It is a public pool after all.

What I do to get from one end of this very long pool to the other can only loosely be called swimming. I never learned how to properly nor do I want to, frankly. I move my arms and legs in some fashion that seems to propel me just fine from end to end. I don’t understand the concept of putting your face in the water when you are swimming on top of the water. That to me is then just the same as diving way down into the water. I never took swim lessons. My mother barely let us near the water as kids, and I managed to do the same to my kids. We are just not ocean people. A pool where you can get out when you want irrespective of any moon-tide relationship and no sharks is good enough for this type of swimming. My kids never wanted swim lessons. Self taught they are in said pool next door. I have to remind them of their lack of formal training whenever they tell me they are going to the beach. Don’t go in the water, I caution, you really can’t swim. Never took a lesson, remember.   Not a clue if they listen when they actually get there.

The other time consuming thing about public pools I now need to address on a daily basis is things floating in the pool that don’t belong there. Now it is more likely that young children make these deposits rather than the two old gentlemen and water Zumba gold crowd I encounter each day, but still the thought crosses my mind.   I don’t like to go late in the day. I prefer very first thing in the morning so as to reduce the chances of pool pee accidents by my pool peers.   But I will persevere damn it! No other way to exercise for now.   This morning was interesting. As I was flailing from one end of the pool to the other some fire alarm sounding thing went off. I looked at the guy next to me and figured we don’t need to go anywhere. Best place to be in case of a fire, right? He agreed. Off I doggie paddled to contemplate how bad this chlorine is going to be for me on a daily basis.

I am also so not a ‘gym’ person. All my exercise was done at home. The first day I bring my towel, car key and hit the locker room only to stare at the locker for a few minutes and wonder what the odds are of me putting my stuff in here with no lock and someone coming along to try and use the very same locker. I figure 50-50. Ok I know there aren’t only two lockers in there but I still calculated it as very high.  So I just took my towel and sweatshirt and pants and threw them all on the bleacher bench near the pool and hoped the nice lifeguard wouldn’t yell at me for making a mess or  leaving my flip flops right near the edge of the pool.  I can’t stand walking barefoot and I could only imagine what kind of foot disease you could get from walking around a public pool.   So that’s what I was doing with my clothes and then today I notice all these nice hooks at the other end of the pool and that people hung their bags on them. That was interesting. I could pack my stuff in a bag, carry it in, put my clothes in it while I swim. Then take them out and then and then… I was exhausted just thinking about it, so no bag. I’ll just keep throwing my clothes and keys on the bleacher and hope no one trips over the flip flops.

It’s quiet. I hate the sound of quiet. I know most people love it; so relaxing, so peaceful, so dead. Sons are gone up north to visit their father and even the dog has gone with them. The two Japanese students must live on a farm in Tokoyama cause I have never seen kids go to bed that early.  I get jetlag but wow. They barely make it through dinner at 6, then a shower then in bed by 7. It’s a great hosting job. So the house is completely silent right now.   I suppose there are those that enjoy this. Not me. It is spooky. That’s what it is. You don’t hear the sounds of a creaking floor or the refrigerator hum or the house breathe when it is filled with talking. It’s like a constant pulsating effect all around you. I don’t like it much. Perhaps because it is so foreign to me as I have not lived alone, well ever really. I see no point in starting now, especially with a flipping fascist foot that will render me incapable of fending off any monsters under the bed or in the closet.

The oddest thing about this week is not having a soul to tell my comings and goings to. Even if it was just the dog at home, I would tell him to behave that I was going out for a while.   I find myself thinking I have to get back soon so I can- then stop myself and realize I don’t have to get back to do anything for anyone actually. Nor do I have to tell anyone where I am going. But then what happens if I don’t return. There is no one with ground zero information for where to start looking.   See this is what happens when it’s this quiet. The mind wanders and you go creeping quietly behind it on tiptoe with a flashlight and a prayer.   No, give me noise or give me death. Pretty much how it will end up.   My sons will come home and five minutes later I will be looking for this quiet. I don’t really want to find it but look for it I will again am sure.   Well that was 1187 words, so I suppose it is time for sleep as long as the quiet doesn’t keep me awake.  It has been known to happen.  When I moved to California from the Bronx, I drove cross country with a friend of mine.   One night we had to stop in a motel in some town outside Lincoln Nebraska because of a big basketball game or something that made it impossible to get a hotel room in the city.   It was late at night, the innkeeper answered the door in a robe and curlers and gave us a room.   It was the quietest I had ever heard in my life and it scared me silly.  I made my friend push the dresser in front of the door as I was sure we could be killed in the middle of the night in this quiet and out in the middle of nowhere.   The Bronx with the sirens going all night was no problem of course to sleep through.  And sleep now I must and to all a good night.

March 26…..Shin and Hiro Here


, , , ,

Amidst the backdrop or rather backyard filled with 60 odd baby boomers still rockin’ it, came my two new Japanese students, Shin and Hiro. Not a clue what the real names are, I understand even less Japanese after doing this last Christmas. They are cute kids, 11 and 12 and these two are friends from Tokoyama. This is my second foray into the international student host arena. Lucky for them I only do the short, one week stints. The plan was for my brother-in-law to pick them up and sneak them in the front of the house so they would not be alarmed to find scores of people out back drinking, dancing, and dining. I explained to the head of the host company that I was hosting a house concert and therefore perhaps I shouldn’t host the students this time as they would be arriving just about the time the first note was struck. She had a host of reasons why I should have them anyway!! Such immersion in the American culture, she says, what a great experience for them! Yes, because all American backyards turn their porch into a stage, replete with dandy new burgundy curtain and invite some 60, fifty and sixty somethings to a paid show in their yard.   I acquiesced, especially since the money is so good. What, you think all the host families do it for altruistic reasons? Of course we do, but paramount is that potential extra income earning bedroom that is collecting dust.

So in they came and Uncle went out and got them some of the pasta and meatballs we served and got them fed and squared away. Japanese jetlag had them bleary eyed by 7pm. They showered and said good night and off to bed they went. Sometime after the party around 10pm or so, I saw the light still on and knocked to check on them as I hadn’t been able to really spend time with them. Lo and behold, there is Shin on his twin bed under the covers snug as the proverbial bug, when who do you suppose is lying next to him with about an inch before he crashes to the ground with a thud? That’s right the Hiro of our story. I eyed his suitcase sprawled open on the other twin bed where he was supposed to be sleeping and with lots of what I believe are fine Japanese hand waving translations, I asked, “What the heck are doing sleeping there?” Get over on your own bed! Now with even more limited English potential than my previous charge, he starts waving his hands about to let me know that Uncle told him to open his suitcases on the bed and so that is what he did, literally. Open the suitcases and left them on the bed filled with clothes, and hence no room for him to sleep!! SLAP, that’s the sound of my hand against my forehead. Take the suitcase off the bed and you get in the bed. That’s how it works here in America.

This morning was my first attempt at taking them to the new English class location this company is using this time. I missed it like three times, but first breakfast. My last guests in December wanted nothing but a couple of waffles, a banana and some water all week. I tried offering eggs, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, steak, you name it for breakfast, but nothing doing. Could syrupy lightening strike twice? Could I be so lucky as to get two more Japanese boys whose eyes positively bulge at the sight of an EGGO box? I was going to find out the first morning that’s for sure. How about some waffles, boys? BINGO!! They wanted nothing else. What is it about Japanese boys and waffles? Don’t know, but what an easy breakfast week this will be. Now on to dinner. They had pasta the night before, so I threw a pot of meatballs in the crock and thought well I’ll make them some rice. Might as well make them feel a bit at home along with some broccoli, more to assuage my conscience that I was feeding them healthy food. I offered them a meatball sandwich, which they loved but then when given the choice of the white rice I made or the pasta, they opted to go Italian again!! I love these boys, especially since there is like a mountain of pasta left from the house concert/birthday party the night before.   They ate and then gave me the gifts they brought me which I was too busy and impolite to stop and receive last night due to the aforementioned sixty odd people in my backyard. I love getting these things. So imaginative really. I got four, not one, but four sushi key chains. No, you can’t eat them actually. I got a stack of handkerchiefs of various sizes, origami and Ninja stationary which has to be my favorite of the lot. There are scads of Kabuki masks. Painted wet stuff you stick on your face. Not sure I am brave enough for that. But the best gift of all was from Shi: a small photo album with pictures in it of his life with his family, friends, events and parades and the things he does. That was as sweet as it gets.

This is my second time doing this. I am fascinated by the fact that in any group of two kids, they will not be alike. Last time, one boy made his bed every day, the other didn’t the entire time he was here. One boy was an eater, the other more slight and more picky. And with these two new ones, the theory holds true. One boy was more adventurous and ate twice the amount of the other one, the slighter one less so. One had his bed nicely made this morning, the other a valiant attempt. It reminds that we shouldn’t use a cookie cutter approach to our own children. They are unique and different and we should not expect perhaps the same sensibilities or the same approach to how they will tackle life. We need to not compare or despair but rather let them find the way to their very own best self.   Does it matter in the grand scheme of things if one of these Japanese kids makes his bed and the other doesn’t ? No, they are both still just as nice and polite. Making a bed is only something to judge an outward appearance by, not a litmus test of the fabric inside. It’s a lesson I need right now with my own two sons, who are very different and will always approach life in their own fashion. I may have more of an affinity with one type of approach than the other, but I also need to learn that there is NO one approach to life. Only judgmental, narrow minded people who allow nothing in think like that. I’m sure before the week is out we’ll have some more adventures in Japanese-American hand waving and I just hope they enjoy their stay with us as much as we enjoy opening our homes and our crazy to them.

Trust Me… Or Not


Trust, what is it? What does it feel like? What does it look like? What does it taste like? What does a life look like with it and without it? Mr. Rogers of that lovely neighborhood where now I wish I had lodged my sons as babies, testified before the Senate in 1969 to ask that they continue funding for shows on PBS. He began his testimony with the comment that the first thing a child learns in a healthy home is trust. But what if the lesson is not learned properly or in a manner that instills a life long unease with the notion? Can a person who lacks the foundation of the most basic and necessary builder of trust regain it later in life or is the possibility gone for good? I don’t trust. I can’t seem to. And the irony of it is that I am generally trusted by most people: as a mother with kids by the mothers of other kids, by my work peers and overlords, by myriad ventures and partners in volunteerism doing their finances or leading their organization. Trust. How could someone who has so little of it to give, be a person who gets so much of it from others?

My lack of trust in others, especially those closest to me, has done damage to some relationships that I can no longer repair. All I can do now is try and get to the bottom of it. Why does it happen? What are the ingredients that go into the decision to trust or not to trust? Fear, I think is the number one factor; fear of being hurt, fear of being betrayed, fear of physical harm. It’s much better not to take a chance and a leap of faith than suffer the painful consequences if wrong. A life led that way makes for a lot of missed opportunities and misunderstandings.

There are all kinds of trust: the kind between a husband and wife or any other variation of that contract, the kind between friends and relatives, the kind between parent and child.   My ex husband has accused me time and again of not trusting him. This has been a real issue in our failed marriage. He contends that I never trusted him with our kids or my feelings or a myriad other things. And he is right in a sense, but he also fails to acknowledge that the source of this mistrust was concrete at times. I didn’t trust him to take my sons on solo trips when he was drinking, for example.   I feared for their safety. We shall never agree on that nor on the effect it had on my kids. I also did not trust him to make the right decisions in child rearing and I did exclude him from those discussions many times. In that sense, my lack of trust did cause pain and damage that could have been avoided perhaps. It is too late to know that though at this point.

The one area though that I never mistrusted him about was fidelity. It just never would have crossed my mind. Just not in his character but that’s not only it. I felt no sense of unworthiness with him. I never thought him out of my league in looks or intelligence or charm and so while he had to deal with my mistrust in the area of our kids and life in general, he never had to deal with the tantrums of a jealous partner steeped in the mistrust born when you feel you are not good enough for someone. It’s the kind of mistrust that makes you see boogey men or tantalizing women around every corner and in every engagement your partner has with the opposite sex. It is a madness that comes from the mistrust that ensues when given two plausible explanations for a thing.   Lack of trust will always select the worst one. But how much of this type of mistrust comes from your character rather than your previous life experiences? Can this type of mistrust ever truly be reconciled? If not, then is the vicious cycle of selecting a partner with qualities you don’t necessarily want in exchange for the very tangible benefit of being able to trust their fidelity, easily destined to be repeated again and again? Would one then run screaming from a potential partner who they saw as their ideal simply because their sense of unworthiness of it renders them incapable of trusting that such a person could be loyal to them? Perhaps it all goes back to the beginning. Perhaps Mr. Rogers is right and if there is some issue in our early development where the trust needed is not there for whatever reason, then our entire life’s approach to trust or lack thereof is predetermined. My father left when I was a baby for several years right after I was born. My mother had an extremely difficult time of it living with her in laws that she did not get along with until he returned. My world was changed when I was three and had to leave my homeland and move to America. I still remembered all my life my maternal grandmother and the screaming I did when I had to leave her. Was this a memory I truly had or just repeated to me by my mother? I’ll never know but it stays with me nonetheless. Was all this enough to obliterate the early foundation of trust in a home that a child first needs to experience for me? Is this the source of my lack of trust? Or is it other avenues of trust formation like the outcome of one’s first love? Do those fortunate enough to have their very first encounter with true love go well and get to live happily ever after never have the foundation of their ability to trust obliterated? And for those of us who it goes woefully wrong for, are we left wondering and wandering forever? I don’t know frankly.

I am of the opinion that we do not let our childhood dictate our adulthood. I believe that firmly. I think we need to see our upbringing for what it is with its limitations and faults and recognize that our parents did the best they could under their very own unique situations. I believe, however, that we can examine the effects of these things upon ourselves and then make a conscious choice of how we let them affect us. If not, we become crippled by our childhood and will need the crutches of addiction throughout adulthood. But all this is easier said than done. To truly trust requires the ability to forgive, I think. To truly trust requires taking a breath and a leap of faith sometimes. This is most difficult for those of us with analytical brains to the point of overthinking just about everything. Ironically this skill, which serves one so well in the world of business and organization, is the death knell for most successful personal relationships. My sons at a very young age have constantly asked me to stop thinking so much and that I need to let things be. Is lack of the ability to trust forever intertwined with the penchant to over analyze and think? Perhaps. A study I came across a few years back suggested that the higher the intelligence, the harder it is to trust. Is it true or just another rationalized excuse to assuage a character flaw? My jury is still out on this one. I am a work in progress in this arena with a long, long way to go unfortunately.

While lack of trust in a marriage or other significant relationship like that is exhausting and tiresome, lack of trust between child and parent is so much more painful. It usually rears itself during the teenage and young adult years which are so difficult in and of themselves to deal with but throw in a lack of trust and it’s a witch’s brew of strife, uncertainty and sadness. What happens when that trust is broken by an offspring trying things like drugs or alcohol or sex or lying or a myriad of other things you really prefer them not to be doing. How do you know when it’s just a rite of passage that some need to experiment with versus something that will suck your child down a rabbit hole they may never crawl their way back to the top from? How do you stay vigilant while allowing them to try and earn your trust back. For some parents I imagine this is easy, for me not so much. It gets back to forgiveness for me and a sense of inflexibility when it comes to forgiveness in that I see it as, “if you did it once that’s enough to make you want to do it again”. I know people learn from their mistakes, but there some types which are never learned from because it is the very character of the person that caused it in the first place. Does this way of thinking prevent a parent like me, from seeing that trust can be restored? Or will I constantly be looking over my sons’ shoulders for evidence? It’s a tiresome way to live for both them and me. A parent has to continue to take that leap of faith and trust their offspring again. If not, the relationship severs for good. With each time I trust and am disappointed though, it becomes harder and harder like an uphill climb. I don’t want the door closed permanently like that, but how to keep it open when there are so may obstacles in the way is heartbreaking.

The issue of trust and the effect of the lack therefore are at the eye of the storm of my life right now. The assault is on several different of these relationship fronts that require trust. I am no closer to solving my inability to trust but hope I have the chance to keep trying in some of these arenas. There is no easy answer and the angst it causes is not much fun to live with. To truly suspend all the protective measures we have built up over a lifetime to guard our heart and mind and soul from pain, real or imagined, is a tough thing to do, especially at my age, but do it I must if I don’t want to repeat some mistakes again. I trust and I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.



March 19, 2018 Happy St. Joseph’s Day


, , , ,

Dear Readers, all eight of you.   My writing mentor, the Duck, says I have to write every day. He says no one goes to the Olympics by skating one day a month. He says write what you had for breakfast if you have to. Ok, Kefir and berries with stevia and flaxseed. Everyday. Yes I don’t think that my daily food intake will provide quite the scintillating writing topic though. Write every day I must from now on. But where to write? Do I buy another nifty new journal and put pen to paper and do it long hand? Do I just random people emails all day? No. I decided I will simply put another category to my page here and call it the Daily Booze.   So here I go. Dateline today.  This one’s for you, Duck.

My playroom is coming along fine or the studio or whatever it will be called in its next manifestation. I go into the room and I am thrilled to see the new colors and then I cry to see the new colors. There is such history to this 25 year room in my life and for those no longer living here. It began as a studio for Andy, our musician house partner to me and Craig, 25 years ago on March 25, the same day as Andy’s birthday.   Seven years later, when Andy moved out, it morphed into the playroom for my Marco who was three at the time and then also his brother Max when he came along a year later. The ghosts of Grandma Anita having tea parties with Max and Marco in there resonate with every stroke of the brush of the newly mixed paint. A lovely color that Michael, my business partner, turned friend, turned handyman, came up with by mixing the remnants of gallons of left over paint from Craig who could never part with a can of paint, good or bad.   It’s a fitting symbol for mixing of the lives that lived in this room for all those years. Some gone for good like my ex and Andy. Some on hiatus I hope like my older son Marco living with his dad.   What shall this room become in its new manifestation. I don’t know. I truly don’t. I sat in there today so peacefully while Michael painted his ‘holiday’ spots as he calls them for what seems like the umpteenth time to me. But perfectionism is good in work so I can’t complain. Just glad he’s not getting paid by the hour. It’s exciting too, not all sad, to see what that room becomes. My Max is left, thank goodness.

This weekend, practicing my empty nest routine, just underscored that I don’t want one ever. .I like the sound of noise and people and laughter and chatter. I have no interest at this late date to learn to live alone. If I have to nab a few homeless folks from under the freeway, I will gosh darn it. If not this place will really become Grey Gardens and I’ll have to buy a bunch of turbans.

A play filled weekend though it was. And that brings the joy these days in a life in transition. Friday night’s Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family, with my long time best friend, the ever Zen like Pat McKane was hilarious in it’s spoof of theater music against the back drop of a small Minnesota town. The irony of the fast talking New Yorker and his wife dropping in to cause commotion was not lost on this New Yorker who married a Minnesota boy for 27 years. St. Patty’s day the next night was a hop between friends with the cheer moms at Keegans for an early celebration. Then a trip to Andy and Renee and Avenue A to meet Ms. Robin and her new beau who is as sweet as can be amidst the backdrop of so much green and glitter courtesy of Miss Marilee and Miss Lisa Matthews.

Sunday and plays reigned once again, as Sandi one of my most steadfast playgirls, and I went to the Echo to see a wonderful play called The Undivided Heart. What a poignantly orchestrated piece of theater set to the scandal of a pedophile priest and a younger priest looking to publish the story and his Zen toting brother and his Buddha and a town poisoned and dying from tainted water. In the hands of a lessor playwright and director this could have been a mess. But it wasn’t. The director, adorable, asking us at intermission if we liked it. Yes, yes, stop being so needy, we love it..   At the restroom door we chatted with this lovely lady who when I asked who she was there for, as is often the case in theaters with 40 people in the audience, said she worked the lights on the play. Why was I here she asked. We are professional playgoers I replied. And it’s true. For less than the price of what most people pay for a movie and surely a lot less that the most addicted television viewer pays for TV, we go to play after play and play. I sit a lot and wonder what should I be doing in these retired years. And a little voice always answers: you don’t need to do ANYTHING anymore but go to plays and concerts.

Holiday Presence


, , , , ,

The Title Tracker holiday party and mini show hosted by Tracker Russell and his lovely life mate Mika is as wonderful as it gets. This is their fourth one in a row and the third I have attended. The intimacy and elegance of this one lent itself to the Trackers being able to let their proverbial hair down and enjoy it as much as their guests. And that is truly what we were last night, guests not attendees. This year, unlike last, it was a smaller intimate group which ranged from a friend since kindergarten to an adorable 23 year old transplant from the Bronx who was meeting them for the first time as the guest of the Blitzstein Art Gallery manager.  It was duly noted how she managed to lose her Bronx accent in three months while I have held onto mine for 30 years.

It was good to watch them in conversations at length about all sorts of things like songwriting and the process one Tracker goes through with people they don’t often get to share this with or discussing music with the imitable Georgia B. who runs the Midnight Mission on Skid Row.   Her passion for music and the homeless has led her to create an intersection for feeding their stomachs and their souls with the music and art programs she brings to them each week. Georgia is a shining light in this very dark problem.

We forget what our local musical heroes go through when putting on a full blown gig for us. We don’t often think about the stress technically and musically and what it takes to keep scores of fans coming back for more. They must balance the myriad details of getting it all set up and ready to go with the glad handing that must be done so that every fan who comes is rewarded with a word or two, a hug or a kiss. It’s a contract of sorts that any good artist who wants to keep doing this must enter into. It can’t always easy for them to balance this. So to be able to do this event once a year, where they can mix a beautifully simple presentation of a few old Title Track favorites done by Jim, Bono and John with a preview of a new lost Title Track or two in a truly jovial, relaxed atmosphere is well pretty good actually.
The heartbeat of the event was our hostess, Mika, a quadruple threat of talent if there ever was one. She is an amazing photographer and videographer to start, but then she simply whipped off that apron after making the most delicious Hanukkah food for us and literally never missed a beat playing the cello with the Trackers last night. Why she doesn’t open a restaurant I don’t know. My favorite part of this evening and of many of the past Tracker gigs is the good night Tracker huddle. I somehow always manage to catch it at a distance. These three embrace for a few moments privately at the end of their events. I adore this gesture by this brotherhood of blended talent that gives us those terrific lost title tracks that we love so much. I imagine they are once again sharing the joy of another job well done. Either that or they are thanking one of the trackers for not spilling his beer all night. And so I thank them all for a lovely, lovely evening and for reminding us that the best holiday presents are often simply to be in the presence of some great people for the holidays.