Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Brooklyn Minute

I see her now, walking up from Avenue I; walking slowly, her purse swinging at her side.  She wears a pink, broadcloth suit with a black crepe de chine blouse.  She has on her black straw picture hat - the one with the pink rose pinned to the front of the brim.  There's even a black hanky fanning out of the breast pocket of her jacket.  And gloves.  She wears black kid gloves.  Her shoes are suede - black suede with ankle straps and low platforms and thick heels - "Cuban heels."  (the things we remember!)

Slowly.  Self-consciously. Not concerned that people will comment on her appearance - although there might actually be a touch of that.  But afraid that people will notice her awareness of her every breath, her sense that the next breath won't come, that gravity will snap and she will be hurtled into space.  Afraid that people will notice her fear.

I was sitting on the steps of our house waiting for her.  I always did that.  And I remember running to meet her, to walk the last piece of her trip with her.  She'd breathe easier and return to the security of communication.  "Lost in a corn field  --" that's how she described her recurring dream. Probably this recurring panic.  A kind of claustrophobia.

When they say we become our mothers - I somehow thought it meant our looks, our actions; the tangible.  I didn't look for her in my own unspeakable fear.  Two life-times ago.  At least.   Now in this room.  Dark already - a winter afternoon. Bundled in afghans against the cold.  No wonder I'm such a frigging claustrophobic.  No wonder I'm time traveling.  Ah - my faithful - flawless solution: I think I'll go to the movies!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Absence of Yesterday

Walking out in the heavy, cold rain this morning it suddenly occurred to me (?) that I haven't written or visited my blog in a long while.  So after shaking off the wet, I sat down to take a look at the last entry.  December 2013.  That's shameful.  Really.  I read that entry.  I wrote about people with whom I share history.  I wrote about my friend, Gerd, who would phone me every Christmas from Germany.  Not this year - not any more.  Gerd passed away in April.  Closer still - my once husband and friend of 58 years died in August.  My old buddy, Al, is no longer at any of the addresses or phone numbers I have for him.  No forwarding address.  My college friend, Pat, has disappeared herself from me and other college mates.  The list is getting sadly long.

One of my favorite films - American Dreamer - has a scene where Jo Beth Williams literally falls into her house, opens a telegram announcing her winning of an important contest and whispers - to the air - that she has won.  Pauline Collins - as Shirley Valentine - speaks her intimate thoughts to her kitchen wall.  And I become more and more familiar with this script.

The lesson being for me: reach out!  If I can say "Remember that??"  to someone who might actually share that memory - gotta do it now!

And you lovely person who's taken the time to read this - I'll bet we have a few remember that? moments to share.   While we're staying "in the moment," bringing an old friend into that moment - well, you know what I mean.

Have a very happy holiday season with people whom you love and remembering the joys of yesterdays.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31 2013

It is the last day of 2013.  A bright, cold morning.  The telephone rang at 7:30 a.m.  I don't usually answer it at that hour if I don't recognize the caller - I don't have a voice before coffee. 
But I did - somehow knowing the "unknown caller."   He's phoned me between Christmas and New Year's Day for 37 years.  Once a year.  He never forgets.  A phone call is so intimate - more so since texting and email and social networks.  His voice is honest and carries us across "the pond" and across the years.  It's strange - not only because we haven't seen each other for 37 years, but because we were only together for two weeks.  Really; one week in 1976 and one week in 1977.  Our conversation is inquiry:  how are you? what have you been doing? do you have snow this year? and so on. Five minutes - maybe six.  And when we hang up I pour my coffee and sit with my warming cup showing myself a movie in my mind.  

This is only my second posting this ending year.  I've no explanation for it - perhaps I've been lacking words.  The year did not lack happenings.  I attended three funerals and there were tears.  I attended my granddaughters' fabulous show in California and there was applause.  I searched for employment and there was disappointment.  I started a little on-line shop and there was promise.  My daughter was taken ill and spent seven weeks in hospital; my little granddaughter stayed with me.  Heartache and joy.  Children teach us so much.  My actor son was in the neighborhood performing - an autumn bonus for us all.  

It is time again to find the words. My words.  There are unfinished plays and screenplays.  There are empty days and absent friends.  And there isn't time for self-pity or self-denial or any such hindrance or distress.  Not at my age - or any age.  So I absorb the warmth of the voice on the phone and go forward.  I care about so many people with whom I share history.  Best way to put it - we "get" each other.  And our souls are eternally connected through love. 
Chances are - since you're reading this - you are one of those souls.  

A bright, cold day.  A fine day for renewal, reawakening, satori.  I wish you the happiest new year.   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some Things Don't Change

My eight year old granddaughter, Keira, experienced a lousy episode at a meeting of her Brownie Girl Scout Troop.  She arrived with her older sister, was ignored by the other girls, and one of the group - staring at her - remarked, "some people don't belong here."  Keira told her sister that she wanted to leave, that her tummy hurt.  (this is Keira's 'tell' when she needs to get out of Dodge.)  My older granddaughter took Keira home.  Uncharacteristically, she did not tell the offending kid off.  She rescued her sister.  Keira, of course, doesn't want to go back to the Girl Scouts.  Keira and her sister are biracial.  All of the others there are Caucasian.

Lots of old hurts rise to the surface when something like this happens.  Again.  I remembered my daughter's confrontations growing up in a white community (and a white family).  And I remembered when I experienced racial bigotry for the first time.  I was a sophomore theatre major in college in Pittsburgh, PA.  Half-way through the year I met a guy from another university close by.  Richard was charming, blond, and nice to look at.  We went out a few times; always in the company of his friends and their dates. Perry Jones was usually there, too, but alone.  His girlfriend was back home in Jamaica.  Perry was black.  

A while after Richard and I had stopped dating, Perry phoned me.  He wanted to go up to the Hill District to listen to jazz.  He invited me to join him - as a friend.  I'd been to the Hill the year before.  A friend and I had gone to see Billie Holiday.  No place better back then for great jazz than the Hill District.  So of course I said yes.  And because Perry was a terrific guy; very bright and witty and a real gentleman.  

He met me in the lobby of the girls' dormitory.  Everyone there stood around waiting to see whom this black man was waiting for.  When I emerged from the elevator, there was a universal gasp.  When we were on the street, I asked Perry what that was all about.  "Welcome to my world," he laughed.  We cabbed it to the club in the Hill District.  It was fairly early in the evening;  the club was far from busy.  The head waiter refused to seat us.  The scene was repeated in two more clubs.  These  were black clubs, you understand.  Our roles were reversed.  Neither of us had anticipated this kind of reception from the black community.  We were ready to give up.  It had begun to rain; so we agreed to duck into one more club.  We were being very brave; folks seemed to be getting more mean and nasty with each encounter.

I remember that there was a wide bar on the left as we entered the club.  The band was on top of the bar.  When we walked in, the band leader stopped playing his trumpet, bent down and smiled at us. "Welcome to our club - bet you kids love jazz," he said.  "Thanks,"   Perry replied.  "Do you think they'll seat us?  We've been barred from three clubs already."  The band leader looked a bit surprised - well, we were both dressed like college kids on a date in the fifties - pretty conservative. Then it registered.  He called the host over and told him "these young folks are my friends; you take good care of them."  So we got a table; we each had a drink.  We listened to the music for perhaps 45 minutes without conversation.  Then we left.  We both felt as though we'd been to war.  Perry hadn't encountered anything like this in the two years he'd been in Pittsburgh.  But he'd always been with the guys and never alone with a white girl.  We stopped to thank the trumpet player on the bar; he was Louis Armstrong.

The scene in the dormitory repeated itself.  By now I was pissed off; so I kissed Perry goodnight at the elevator.   Shocking!  The next day, the head of the drama department called me into his office to tell me he heard I'd been keeping bad company.  This was the ultimate disappointment and I told him so.  I'd heard about snotty New York restaurants not wanting to serve black Broadway stars.  But it wouldn't have occurred to me that people working in theatre or any of the arts would be racist.  

I went back to my dorm room and called my dad to tell him the entire saga.  His response - being a Jewish immigrant from Poland - was pretty close to "welcome to my world."  Perry phoned me that evening to say that he thought we'd better not attempt such an outing again.  He wasn't up for the fight.  I'm sure he had many others before and after our shared battle.  Over the years I fought along side my daughter.  I had hoped that the world would be a gentler place for my granddaughter.  Not so much has changed.  Keira will need to learn to be brave.  And to seek out the great human beings like Mr. Armstrong.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I was having tea by a lovely fire in Starbucks this afternoon, and reading a terrific book my friend Lloyd had recommended.  Music played; people chatted.  And I was oddly not reading but silently talking to myself.  The year is almost over.  A tough year.  Dark.  Every blessing a mixed blessing.  As in: I flew out to California at the end of December to be with Alex on January 2nd - his 50th birthday.  I got terribly ill the night after arriving and so did everyone else (except Isobel) within a day later.  Awful 'bug.' Wasn't able to drive out to see Lloyd.  Or visit San Francisco.  Gratefully, we were all almost whole by Alex's birthday - we went to a deli restaurant (gifted by Jamie) where we ate chicken soup.  And thus the year began.

It was not my favorite year.  Useless murders across the world.  Poverty - homelessness - disastrous storms.  I even include too much nastiness in the major election.  And many personal disappointments.  Was laid off from my job in the fall for no credible reason.  Friends appeared and friends disappeared.  My daughter's health a terrible worry.  And things of mine - mainly jewelry - disappeared with troubling regularity.  Nothing of any real monetary value, but stuff I cared about nonetheless.

As for my work - well, I directed a show in January/February at a public school in a North Shore town.  Came off well enough.  Didn't progress much with my writing.  We did have a wonderful though private reading of my play, YELLOW ROSES, in my son's apartment in Manhattan.  Two remarkable Broadway actors; confirmed what we already know: it's a damn good play.  sigh.

Not all terrible.  My eight year old granddaughter and I went to New York City for my birthday.
So amazing to see the world I grew up in through her eyes.  Alex, Patricia and their lovely family came in summer.  And, in the fall, Jamie came to Beverly to perform at North Shore Music Theatre.  No better company than my own kids.  Well, hardly kids; first-rate, brilliant folks in any case.

So that's the litany.  Many people of my generation that I know keep as busy as possible.  Clubs, 'meet-ups,' classes, travel, card parties, etc. etc.  Good for body and mind.  I am on my own more than not.  Maybe too much time to think.  I read my Buddhist books and cool my mind with Zen-like focus:  just being.  It is easier for me to achieve than I would have thought.   At this juncture, I am glad to 'be.'  Charles Aznavour sings a wipe-me-out song: I DIDN'T SEE THE TIME GO BY.  We never do.  Because it's a blink.  A shooting star.  When I'm off balance I begin to miss people long gone and people down the street;  I begin to regret and have to play Edith Piaf recordings.  I kick myself for what I did and didn't do.  So to work it out  I connect with my Zen lessons, and center myself.  If that doesn't do the trick, I pour a glass of Cote de Rhone and bake bread.

Happy New Year my dear friends!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ISH: Almost, Not Quite, Maybe, et al.

ISH has become an entity.  I don't know how the dictionary folks keep up with the idiomatic vocabulary we keep inventing.  However, I have begun to take -ISH personally.  Lots of years directing plays with good success; lots of years writing in a variety of genre with good reviews; lots of years.  So the only way I can explain directing a show that is a winner - with the audience, with the producers, with the actors, etc. - and then not be able to get another show with the same company -- ?!  (No - I do NOT have bad breath!)  To send written work out, to get positive feedback but also - "can't use at this time."  You get the picture.  Well, if that's not an ISH result, I don't know what is.  
My once husband used to say that we were "aliens."  A bit abstract, I think, but it was his interpretation that we thought differently; our values were different; our insight was different.  I simplify it I suppose, but I believe that we were either not good enough or too good.  We could be deceiving ourselves regarding the latter, but there have been enough applause over time, enough experience, enough humility and humble pie -- for us to know who we are and what we artistically achieve.   It's sort of the same as being "over qualified."  That's bunk, you know.  Unless you  hold a PHD and apply for a job cleaning black boards.  (of course if you're starving to death and that's the only available job - well, it may not be appropriate but one is certainly qualified.)  I applied for a directing job at a public school; I got the job and the end result was a terrific little show.  But the hiring team was suspicious when I applied; they wanted to know why I would want to work there with my "background."  I made an instant decision to not be ISH (or tell them I liked the money).  I told them instead not to sell themselves short; that in the dead of winter in a community that does not have an abundance of theatre opportunity, directing kids in a public school setting is a good fit for one who's directed a children's theater company.  Hopefully a politically correct response.
I tend to be "politically incorrect."  I don't mean that my behavior is pejorative.  The definition I found: "connotes language, ideas, and behavior unconstrained by a perceived  orthodoxy or by concerns about offending various groups of people for the sake of telling the truth."  Sometimes it is politically incorrect to offer information that a person in authority would rather not learn from you.  Sometimes it is politically incorrect to express an opinion, albeit informed, that a person in authority might interpret as a put-down.  Being right and letting the other guy know that you're right is sometimes the wrong thing to do.  Usually the wrong thing to do.  Knowing you're good and insisting with one's behavior that the other guy recognize it, too, -- well, if that alerts his/her inadequacies --you get the picture.  I do stuff like that.  A lot.
So I have obviously been thinking out loud here.  Have been speaking recently with other artists of various art forms; all of us have shared this kind of experience.  Some folks rise above it (or seem to) when they become big stars in their professions.  But often they are tripped up along the way by someone whose fear of being discovered as inadequate in his/her role over-rides the star's fame and talents. Or perhaps one loses one's edge by becoming old-ish or skit-ish.  The only way around this is to move on or to create a solo act that depends only upon ones self.  Giving up or giving in is not an option.  
That would be fool-ish!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Catch up!

Went to my wee garden this morning to give my family of song birds their peanut butter suet. They love the stuff. The yellow lilies that always bloomed first are gone. No trace at all. Peculiar at best. The forsythia is happy; but there seems to be lots of planting to do this season. I can do that. It seems a long, long time since the autumn. The mild winter not withstanding. And standing outside in the cold sunshine I remembered my blog and that I've neglected it for awhile. Longer than that it seems; my last blog was in September. Last year. So I put on a pot of coffee and asked myself the question: "What happened to stop me in my tracks?"

October was a fine month: apple picking; guests for brunch; a trial membership at Studio 13 with ballet classes (really!) and Pilate's and Zumba. Ah -- but that was when my work schedule was cut from 5 days to 3 -- because, I was told, I'd been so efficient there wasn't enough work for me to do. I was in essence invited to leave; I told my boss I couldn't afford to quit so he was welcome to fire me if he was of a mind to do that. He didn't. But somehow I think I must have fallen into a funk. That's actually in the dictionary -- funk. It's defined as depression, agitation, fear, etc. etc. I prefer the music genre - funk. Anyway -- while I lost interest in reading (a pile of books wait for me) and avoided writing because I didn't want to kvetch -- I kept on keeping on. I also developed a recurrence of PMR which comes out of nowhere, makes it painful and often impossible to be mobile. It's treated with prednisone. Bad stuff for good moods. And I promised NOT to kvetch! Well, I did what I do when I have a wall to scale: I took on a second job doing something I love to do: I directed a show in a public school. From January to March. And while it was not always much fun, the result was positive and I'm coming out of the dark corner.

Spring is still fighting with winter for dominance. It's that way every year -- spring always wins! I'm still here. We take that for granted -- being here! At all ages we think that's a given. It's not; just open a newspaper. And today the birds are fighting over their version of PBJ; the sun is out; I'm reaching out to my friends through my blog. Reach back! We're still here!!
(3 granddaughters skip into Spring -by Alex)