Friday, June 29, 2012

On The Road, Again

I'm on my way to Chicago for Little Cuter's bridal shower.  My-friends-who-love-her are putting it on; all we have to do is show up and smile.  I have a new dress.  It's one part of the wedding planning over which I don't have to stress.  Collecting the addresses for the invitations was onerous enough.  

We are under the 100-days-til-it-happens mark, and there's a greater sense of urgency to the planning.  There are more vegetables to be tasted and desserts to be considered and I have a few tricks up my sleeve that require some attention.  It's hard to keep smiling when the bride is hundreds of miles away.  

We are rectifying that situation this weekend.  

I didn't even check the weather in Chicago.  I packed 4 sun dresses in addition to my fancy-schmancy outfit and a pair of shorts and a top or two. Somehow, what should have fit into a cloth bag which hung off my shoulder morphed into a roller bag.... albeit one without the expansion zippers unfurled.  Shoes and toiletries seem to take up more and more space as I age.  Of course, my usual summer footwear would be flipflops.  My damaged self won't allow that as an option; sneakers are much bulkier.

I've gotten over feeling foolish wearing my Chucks with my dresses.  I just mutter to myself that I make these things look good as I admire my reflection in the mirror.  Little Cuter will smile and repeat my favorite saying: Mom, the world needs more people like you!  I don't know how my brain accepted the change, but it has.

Still, leaving my cute white heels on the shelf in the closet tugged just a bit at my heartstrings.

My cell phone has but one bar left and the charger is sitting at home.  So is the USB cord which would allow me to illustrate this post with the pictures I began to take before I realized my gaffe.  I wanted to show you the workstation that Southwest Airlines has installed right by my gate, the restrooms, the bar and the coffee shop.  Nellie the Netbook is plugged in and charging as I type this to you; would that I could do the same with my phone.

I didn't bring any written materials with me.  I brought the Kindle.  I have a book or two downloaded onto it already, and when I'm finished with you I'll be exploring some more to download.  I am peeved that I'll have to turn it off during takeoff and landing, but I'll be eating my chicken leftovers and trying to distract myself with profound thoughts on the ACA.... will it ever be anything but ObamaCare?.... and wouldn't FDR love it if Social Security were called RooseveltSecurity?

We encountered every slow and stupid driver in the metropolitan Tucson area as TBG drove me down to the airport.  We stopped at UMC to pick up my last x-ray so that the physiatrist at RIC can see my insides as well as my outsides. I still arrived at my gate 1 hour and 53 minutes before take-off.

Plenty of time to type this post, to fill my water bottle, and to contemplate a beer before flying.  

I'll have midwestern details for you on Monday. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

LeBron, Growing Up, and Hometown Loyalties

He has been a media sensation since junior high.  He went straight from high school to the NBA.  He's big and he's talented and he's a lightning rod for whatever you think about professional sports.

Upset about college players who are "one and done"?  How about a kid who's barely old enough to vote knocking bodies with grown men twice his age?  On the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, bigger and stronger than anyone anywhere with the talent to back it up, he stayed at home and played for his Cleveland Cavaliers, under the tutelage of Mike Brown, coach and mentor.
LeBron's wingspan was on a giant mural gracing downtown Cleveland, visible from the highway as you drove to town from the airport.  Cleveland was in love with their home town hero and he seemed to return the favor. 

The city was no longer the mistake by the lake.  It was the home of King James.

He had trouble finishing what he started.  He was never the clutch player the team required to become champions.  He learned and he grew but he never won.  Then, his contract up for negotiation, he made the only and the biggest mistake of his career.  Dragging the decision out ad nauseum, his televised special announcing that he was ditching Lake Erie for the Atlantic Ocean and Miami was a disaster of epic proportions.

He humiliated his home town.  He turned his back on the most loyal of loyal fans.  He made Cleveland feel second tier once again.  I know this is true because we have family there, and their outrage was everywhere - in emails, on Facebook, on Twitter and in real life.

They were really really bummed about it.  It reminded me of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn.  Some wounds will never heal.

The Heat created a dream team around their new super hero, a team that went almost nowhere really fast.  And then, over the summer, the kid grew up.  I listened to TBG over the course of the NBA playoffs, and the rest of this post is the distillation of his impressions.  I can't take credit for originality here, but I think you'll be interested in his thoughts.

LeBron has grown up right before our eyes.  He was ashamed of how he played last year.  He was ashamed of how he handled his failures, which is more important.  He blamed everyone else - his teammates, his coaches, the media - until he woke up one day and realized that there is no progress unless you own your mistakes.

That's a hard lesson for anyone to learn, and an even more difficult one for a man in the spotlight.  Taking responsibility in public is a rare trait in an athlete; LeBron has said over and over this year that he did not do enough, that he was not focused enough, that he was responsible for his team's lack of success.  It was refreshing.  It was a fabulous object lesson for young players.  Telling the world that you didn't try hard enough, that your almost-best wasn't good enough, that's a story to tell and retell as you coach youngsters.

LeBron's never been in trouble with the law.  He's not been accused of domestic violence.  He made one very bad mistake in mis-treating Cleveland but, aside from that, he's not been the subject of late breaking news and the hoopla that goes with it. 

He doesn't have a fat head, and he deserves to have one.  There is no one playing basketball today with the size, strength and agility that he brings to the court.  Combined with his talent and skill, he's unstoppable, as the Thunder learned. 

In a funny way, TBG is proud of him.  It's a paternalistic feeling.  The kid keeps learning and growing.  He's open minded and willing to listen and change.  He's a real role model. 

That's a nice sentence to type.
There's a lot of hype and hyperbole and nonsense in professional sports.  There are also rare moments of class and style.

Scott Brooks, coach of the OKC Thunder, gave this speech to his team 2 minutes before the buzzer sounded on their resounding loss to LeBron's Miami Heat in the NBA championship series.  It's honest, it's thoughtful, it's focused and it's kind. 

Listen and see if you don't agree that this is a man you'd love to have coach your kids.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How Do You Learn History?

Big Cuter gave me a short course on the history of the world over lunch at a deli in San Francisco.

David McCullough introduced me to the founding fathers and mothers and Jay Winik took me through April, 1865. 

Anne Perry  brought me up to the brink and Dorothy Leigh Sayers explained the period after the Great War, the war to end all wars, the war that brought globalization to a new extreme.

I tried to read Gore Vidal's Burr one summer when I was young; the adults were so brazen and their behavior so outlandish that I never got past the second chapter.

I don't remember any of the history I was taught in high school. I never took a history course in college.

It took me until my 30's before I read the ancients.  Herodotus invented history, they say, and it was presented to me as such - an invention.  Were the strange and wonderful animals he describes real or were they added to make the text more accessible?  Did the events he recounts happen just that way or was his story influenced by those who were his sponsors?

"History is written by the winners," I was told, but it took Big Cuter's intersection with Howard Zinn for that phrase to have real meaning for me.  Poor kid, he went into ninth grade thinking that the USofA was absolutely wonderful; Zinn introduced him to a country of slave holders and land grabbers, robber barons and those they oppressed.  It turned him into a thoughtful young man whose politics were somewhere to the right of Atilla the Hun, where he rested, unflinchingly, until he moved to San Francisco and watched as the economic policies he'd espoused caused wrack and ruin.

As he told his father, "I changed my mind when I realized that everything I believed turned out to monumentally, disastrously wrong."

And perhaps that is the best way to learn history..... by living it.

G'ma was appalled that I didn't know where Patton fought.  "My brother fought with him in Italy!  That's not history - that is my life!"  

Living in Washington, D.C. during the Watergate hearings, when every move by Sam Ervin or any of the special prosecutors was front page news, the process became a part of me as if through osmosis.  In graduate school two years later, I was shocked that my classmates in Law and Social Work didn't know the order of events the way they knew their phone numbers.  It had been all consuming for four months; in Chicago, it was an after thought. 

I was part of an event which will be in the history books.  Errors already exist, in newspapers as prestigious as The New York Times, and, without correction, they will be incorporated into the reality of the event as it is perceived in the future.  This is vaguely disconcerting.

Then, again, as TBG has been saying of late, the only thing we know for certain about what happened is that every person there has a specific version that is true and real.  Whether there is any consistency between any two of them is another matter entirely.

So, I wonder, how do you learn history?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Aaron Sorkin is back and he's better than ever.  In fact, I think my new favorite four words might be written by Aaron Sorkin.  Did we like the first episode of his new HBO series, The Newsroom?  We watched it twice last night.

Aaron Sorkin is a true American patriot, and his rants on the topic are the stuff of legend, at least in this household.  Democracy isn't easy is the backdrop as I listen to opposing viewpoints.... or try to listen to opposing viewpoints even though all I am offered is screeching on the news and the talk shows. 

In The Newsroom, Sam Waterston, outraged, but with a twinkle in his eye, plays the boss who shares my sentiments, exactly.  He creates a show that he would want to watch, a program that is tough and fair-minded and answers the questions he was asking himself, the questions TBG and I ask one another as, once again, the evening news devolves into fluff and nonsense. 

Walking into the newsroom on April 20, 2010, watching as the staff puts together the first reporting on the BP Deep Water Horizon explosion, Waterston's character leans against the doorframe as he exclaims to no one in particular, "This is beautiful!" 

Sorkin's values are laid out on the table clearly, early and vibrantly in this and every other piece he's written, from A Few Good Men to The American President to The West Wing and Sports Night.  His work is dense and requires active participation; there's no doing a crossword puzzle at the same time.  That's why we watched it twice; the dialogue is so rich and textured.... okay, they talk over one another just like you do in real life and it's sometimes hard to follow all the different strands. 

That's annoying to some and I respect that.  I, being happy to view the episode more than once, am not as bothered.  I've learned to let it wash over me the first time and then pay closer attention the second time around.  There's so much in there, like a Hieronymous Bosch painting, that I'm not bored when I revisit. 

There was a time when we aspired to intelligence, when it didn't frighten us....... I am tired of stupid.
We have always thought that Sorkin lived inside our heads, but my post yesterday and his words that night were really too similar to be coincidence.  Perhaps we were separated at birth?  This isn't relaxing television; it challenges you to keep up with the pace. 

There are the usual Sorkin memes - loving sisters;  pre-show preparation; ambition and career vs loyalty.  Out of a universe of names from which to choose, Margaret is the one that is forgotten over and over and over again both here and in The West Wing.  I'm wondering about the back story there.  The story lines are familiar, too.  An old flame resurfacing, a feisty young woman, a young and sarcastic second banana, overseen by a benevolent and strong father figure.

HBO promoted the show as the tale of an anchor's meltdown and the surrounding debacle.  In reality, that occupies but a small fragment of the beginning of the piece, and, as many characters tell us, is not the reason for the show at all.  It's politically driven, with an agenda and a purpose.  It is unabashedly pretentious.  It is well acted and surprisingly informative.

I love it.  I hope you do, too. 
If you want to watch it on-line, click here

Monday, June 25, 2012


Hate is a pretty strong word for me, but I have to admit that I agree with TBG's pronouncement the other night: "I just hate stupid.  It's bad for business.  It hurts you emotionally.  It makes everything more difficult.  I really hate stupid."

I'm not talking about a lack of knowledge or a paucity of information.  I'm not talking about disabilities or unavoidable circumstances or situations where nothing you bring to the table equips you for the job at hand.  I'm talking about stupid.

Stupid makes the recovery time twice as long, because first you have to get over the hurt.  You get to rant and rave and feel justified in your fury because all it would have taken was..... and stupid made it not be so.  I end up in the same place, eventually, it is true.  But the aggravation would be lessened if stupid weren't around.
I rode a chartered bus to Phoenix on Saturday night, wearing my Cubs shirt and accompanied by 20 members and affiliates of The Happy Ladies Club.  We parked outside Gate J at Chase Field and walked up a short ramp to our seats. 

There were hot dogs and burritos and ice cream and beer stands, the same offerings over and over again as far around the outer concourse as the eye could see.  There were little kids dancing on the jumbotron, and fly balls and stray bats carroming into the stands.
A year ago, 9 hours of sitting and unknown distances for walking would have been enouh to keep me at home.  Progress reveals itself in the strangest ways, it seems.
This is a between-time for sportscasters here in the USofA.  Unless you're following the international football matches (soccer, here, of course) and the track and field Olympic qualifying,  there's really not much to get excited about beyond baseball.  UofA is in the College World Series, and that's exciting enough, but it's played in Omaha and I'm here melting in the desert. 

Here comes Title IX to the rescue.  Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the legislation that demanded parity, and proof thereof, between men's and women's athletics seems to be filling the gap.  It is legislation that truly changed the landscape of growing up.  There were options all over the place, not just on the cheerleading squad or gymnastics team.  My life would have been very different if all the girls around me played sports.... if I had role models who were every bit as cool as the ones the boys had. 

It's the kind of change that you have to live through to recognize, as Little Cuter pointed out to me at the Women's World Cup final when she was 14.  We were broiling in the heat in the Rose Bowl, surrounded by 90,185 fans, most of them females drinking lemonade, while watching the USofA hold China to a scoreless tie.  It was nothing I could have imagined when I was 14, and apparently I had been making that point once too often because, in a quiet moment... so that everyone nearby could hear.... Little Cuter turned to me in exasperation and commanded thusly:
"Mom, enough about Title IX"
Point taken, kiddo. Who wants a history lesson when you play the same game the women on the field are playing? 
I didn't go to Congress on Your Corner on Saturday.  By the time I went to sleep on Friday night, I had decided to stay safe and secure in my comfy little bubble here at home, though I reserved the right to change my mind in the morning.

The newspaper revealed that Congressman Barber was stuck in the weather delays back east.  The event was pushed back to the afternoon.... and I had plans to drive to Phoenix to see the Cubbies .... so the scheduling just didn't work out. 

Did I really make a decision?  I don't know and I don't care.
Aaron Sorkin is back and my heart is aflutter.  Find The Newsroom on HBO or HBO Go.  Sam Waterston speaking Aaron Sorkin's words on stupid is a much more eloquent screed than mine

Friday, June 22, 2012

Congress on Your Corner, Redux

My Congressman called me last night.  It was just before 9pm here in Tucson; it was approaching midnight in Washington, D.C. where he's taken up temporary residence while voting on the floor of the House of Representatives. 
I know him as Ron, a fellow shootee.
There was awe in his voice as he described himself.  He's busy and he's motivated and he's still the same Ron I know from gatherings of all of us from that day, that ill-fated Congress on Your Corner sunny Saturday morning.  We chatted about the environment vs border security and the nuance required when making such decisions and we marveled at the fact that we were having the conversation at all.  Strolling into Little Cuter's room, we laughed at how impressed I was with myself.... I must be pretty special if my Congressman calls me at home, right?  Or not, we said, in unison.
He's just Ron, after all.
In the back of my mind, I knew why he was calling.  I remembered making a large donation to our Marin Congresswoman's re-election campaign (in order to buy an autographed-by-Bill-Bradley-basketball) and finding myself on the list of calls she made, month after month, year after year, soliciting further contributions.  When I asked her if there weren't other more productive uses of her time she sighed and confessed to spending two hours every day making these kinds of calls.  It was an awful moment.
But, he's Ron and I like him so, of course, I'd listen to his pitch. 
Turns out I was wrong about his intentions.  He wasn't asking me for anything, not even my presence.  He was calling because he wanted to tell me himself before I read it in the newspaper or heard it on tv - he's coming back to the district this weekend and he's holding his first Congress on Your Corner this Saturday morning.
I found myself sitting on the big purple chair in Little Cuter's room.  There was a giant hole in the air.  Neither of us said a word for a while.
"You're not doing it there, are you?" to which he replied "Oh, no... that would be...." and neither of us could find the words for what it would be, though awful kept rattling around in my head.
"Will there be security?" came out of my mouth as I watched my left arm shake.  My stomach wasn't in a knot; it was rolling around from side to side.  I started pacing again as my Congressman, not much taller than I, reassured me that there would be plain clothes and uniformed security in attendance. "Big officers.... with big guns?" I wondered and he repeated it, slowly and carefully....big guys with big guns.
And then we were quiet again.  I was, once again, in a unique situation.  No one had prepared me for this eventuality.  I was experiencing a singularity.
Would you revisit an event that tore up your world?  Would anyone ask you to do so?
Ron, sensing my unease and being a nice man, reassured me that he held no expectations of my attendance.  He wasn't calling to invite me, though he would love to see me, Saturday or any day.  His call was to alert me so that I was not blindsided while making dinner.  He was making a lot of similar calls..... there were 19 of us who intersected with bullets that morning.  It was a gracious call, not a summons to an event.  He wanted to be sure that I was okay, even as he, himself must be dealing with many if not more or all of the same feelings.\
He can't hide.  He has to be available.  He's our representative and we have to be able to talk to him.  Congress on Your Corner is a great opportunity for that to happen.  Unfortunately for Ron and me, the last one we went to didn't turn out that well.
I have always said I'd take Christina-Taylor to meet her Congresswoman again, that I'd done nothing wrong, that we were in the right place at the right time and without a doubt I'd do it again. And yet now, when faced with the reality, I find that I am chickenshit. Even with security......

It's an event to which I'd take Amster's kids and Juan from Prince Elementary School and JannyLou's grandkids if they were still in town..... if I hadn't nearly died the last time I took a kid to the same event.  In my mouth and my mind, of course I'd go.  In real life......

Do I let the shooter take away my enjoyment of civic engagement in a public setting?  That's letting him win twice.

Do I purposely put myself in an anxiety provoking situation?  I could use my biofeedback techniques and practise relaxation in a stressful environment.

Do I go to support my friend at his first representation as my Representative?  Good people don't run for public office very often; what if good people don't even attend free and convenient public events, either?  What kind of statement am I making?

Will anyone but I know if I attend the event?  Will anyone else care?  It's possible that, as has happened before, strangers will approach me and tell me that they saw me on the televised coverage of the event whether I am there or not.  Big Cuter, with whom I discussed this situation last night, is trying to get his head around the fact of people remembering what could not have been. 

Do I let my fears dictate my actions?  Do I give in to the bubbles brewing in my gut as I type this post?  Do I listen to TBG when he says, not altogether facetiously, Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

It's awful to think this hard about attending an event which I'd normally just pencil in on my calendar, without questioning it at all. 

Eighteen months ago, I really was going to meet Gabby.  I wanted to be in her presence.  I'd voted for her and I was going to shake her hand and introduce her to a little girl who might, after she made her mark in Major League Baseball, just might follow in Congressswoman Giffords's footsepts.  I'd never done any of that before.

But, I know Ron.  I can call him at home or send him an email.  He's just Ron, after all. 

Do I have to stand in a parking lot..... can I stand in a parking lot.... can I contemplate standing in a parking lot in front of a Safeway on a sunny Saturday morning, waiting to meet my Representative? 

I just don't know

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Am I Too Cynical?

My sister forwarded me the information : Norman F. Lent, 11 term Congressman from G'ma's Long Island district, died at the age of 81.  He considered himself a moderate conservative, an extinct species as far as I can determine.  He opposed integration in a local school district, co-sponsored the Superfund legislation, worked to liberalize New York's abortion laws, and was prone to such utterances as these:

“We continue to play a game of chemical roulette with man’s biological future. We’ve got to stop this.”
My memory of his terms in office reflect none of the nuance that was obviously part and parcel of the man.  Instead, I remember sitting at G'ma's kitchen table, red pencil in one hand, Congressman Lent's quarterly newsletter in the other.  G'ma saved them for me.  Together, she at the sink, cutting veggies for the salad she created every single night, I reading aloud and groaning over misspellings and poor punctuation and rhetorical inconsistencies.  I marked up the paper and mailed it back to the Congressman.  No one ever contacted us about it, nor did the grammar improve.

I was blinded to the substance of his work in Congress by the insult to my intelligence that was his newsletter.  His newsletter, which was franked and therefore paid for by my tax dollars, which was to represent my Representative in my home, which was to deliver information, his newsletter was the butt of our jokes and nothing more.

And yet he kept getting elected.  G'ma and I must've been the only ones who cared.

TBG and I had Dylan Ratigan on the television as we were changing to go to the gym.  His interviewees were two educators who are obviously quite talented.  They were able to understand Ratigan's questions.  TBG and I were hard pressed to come up with the topic, let alone where his interest lay.  One question..... two questions.... the third time came and I still had no idea what he was talking about so I changed the channel to an oldies-on-the-cable-tv-station and we boogied away our irritation.

The man was hired to speak.  He's not an ex-jock who can be forgiven for slipping up every once in a while if the rest of the time his patter is listen-worthy.  He is nothing but a mouth.... we saw no evidence of a brain behind it. 

And yet, there he is, every afternoon.  Are TBG and I the only ones listening?

Rio Nuevo is the redevelopment district from hell here in Tucson.  Funded with sales tax revenues, this District within a district has all kinds of powers and, apparently, a total inability to account for all those millions of pesky dollars that flowed into and out of their coffers.  Thus far there are a few rehabilitated storefronts downtown and a nicely bladed and dusty acreage on the south side which has a nice sign and nothing else going on.... and that's just on the east side of I-10.  The Arizona Star is reporting an audit questioning $33.8million of questionable spending on the west side of I-10. In all, between $200 and $300 million dollars have been spent with nothing to show for it.

And yet, no one is in jail.  Boards are reconstituted and new mayors elected and still, nothing happens.

I could go on about the SuperPac ads which innundated our district for the special election which sent Gabby's handpicked candidate to Washington while delivering a decisive defeat to his Tea Party oppponent.  In the aftermath of the election, no one was heard to call him a Republican.  Some on the radio called him a Tea Party Republican, but most just used the TP part. 

The winning Democrat went to Washington, got sworn in, and immediately voted against his party by agreeing to allow Border Ptarol vehicles to pursue illegal crossers on federally protected lands.  It's a nuanced issue; when Park Rangers are afraid to use the provided-on-site-as-part-of-their-compensation housing because it's too dangerous and there is no protection then my concern for endangered species smaller than humankind seems less important.  Congressman Barber's constituents include those Park Rangers as well as all of us cactus-huggers who resist mining and development and bright-lights-at-night.  It's a fine line to walk; one that requires thought and balance. I admire his courage in voting his conscience.

And yet, as I read the article in the paper this morning I found myself murmuring "He's running for re-election already... that vote is for the ranchers...."

Am I too cynical?  Am I looking at the dark side?  Is there hope?  I'm just not seeing much good out there, nor, does it seem, did I ever.  Sigh.......

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I've spent the morning collecting things for a project MOTG and I are creating.  Truth be told, she's doing the creating and I'm doing the collecting, but we're in it together, that's for sure.  I'm in charge of technical details, she's in charge of beauty and artistry and design and composition.  We're playing to our individual strengths, almost without thinking about it.  It just kinda happened this way.

I spent last night in the company of JannyLou and her daughters-in-law, celebrating a year of health and well-being.  The girls - mothers themselves but young enough for the appellation in my eyes - were supportive and protective and loving through JannyLou's surgeries and recoveries and re-surgeries and re-recoveries but they never failed to acknowledge the fact that I was there, right next door, as back up.  They were glad to have me close at hand, nearer to a woman they hold dear than their lives would allow.  Their concern, their conscientiousness, their love and devotion gave great weight to the advice JannyLou gave to Amster over wine and salads - Be sure to make friends with your sons' wives.

It's good advice, for mothers of sons and mothers of daughters, too.  I'd append an addendum, though: It's even better if you are friends with the in-laws.

There's not an English word for the parents of the person my child marries.  Yiddish provides machatunim to define the relationship, although there is some controversy over whether the term can also be used by the couple to identify the other's parental units.  (Are you as confused as I am?) Personally, I go with the larger definition, simply because mother-in-law and father-in-law are perfectly fine distinctions.  Little Cuter's Husband's Parents is too much of a mouthful.  Machatunim is just right.

Blending family traditions isn't easy. Do you open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?  Does the Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole have marshmallows sizzling atop the pyrex or are they too yucky for words let along the dining room on the best eating day of the year?  Are birthdays mega-events, spanning a week or more with frivolity and gifts in abundance?  Or, are they quietly noted events within a small circle of loved ones?  Do you drive to see Grandma and Grandpa every Sunday afternooon, or is the day spent in front of a football game, chips and salsa at the ready?  These are the things that make married life difficult... more difficult than the larger issues of trust and commitment and devotion, I think.

TBG and I enjoyed the other's parents, in doses large and small.  Luckily, the parents returned the favor, to us and to each other.  Living in Cleveland and Long Island, the opportunities for interactions were limited, and that may have added to the joy they found when they were together.  The moms chatted about things moms chat about.  Daddooooo talked and talked and talked and talked to Grandpaw, who smiled and nodded and turned off his hearing aid.  The two men would sit, most memorably for 4 hours in my parents' backyard the night before our wedding, my father blathering and TBG's father deriving equations in his head, blissfully unable to hear Daddooooo's rambling.  That suited them just fine - Grandpaw could let his mind wander, calculating patterns and admiring the stars and Daddooooo had, to his great satisfaction, an audience willing to sit and listen.

It worked for everyone. 

I had only one argument with Nannie in the 30 some years I knew her.  TBG was going off on a business trip during a blizzard and she insisted that I keep him at home.  I understood her worries; I shared them myself.  Listening to her detail all the things which could go wrong did nothing to soothe my nerves as the father of my infant son prepared to board a plane and fly into the eye of the storm.  I was looking for solace, she was looking for comfort, and I yelled at her.

I was sorry and sick about it for days. 

It never drove a wedge between us; TBG assuaged our bruised souls by reminding us that HE was the one who was in danger and that our love for him was putting us at odds.  We all wanted the same thing.  He was right, of course, and we were able to agree that all that caring sometimes led us astray.  Of course, Grandpaw, his father, thought we were all nuts.  There was work to be done.  Damn the weather, full speed ahead.  It was an obligation and obligations were to be met.  Daddooooo, my father, agreed. 

Perhaps that is the real answer.  Despite all the differences between us, our families' core values were rock solid and exactly the same.  Stay safe.  Work hard.  Protect one another.  That is what comes to mind when I think back on it.  Our friends and neighbors thought that our husbands were wonderful human beings; they, themselves, shared that opinion.  Every once in a while my phone would ring and Nannie's voice would be in my ear, begging me to agree that her husband was not as perfect as he thought he was.  Invariably, I had my own similar story about her son.  We couldn't go outside the family with these complaints; that would have been unseemly.  But between ourselves, despite our differences, we could agree that while we loved them unconditionally, every once in a while one or the other of them made a mistake. 

They were not perfect.  We could laugh about it, knowing that our relationships with our guys and with each other were strong enough to weather the storm.... the snow storm or the verbal storm.

Watching Anna and Amy loving JannyLou last night warmed the cockles of my heart.  Emailing MOTG this morning rekindled the fire.  I'm looking forward to creating my own new family circle.  I have some pretty good role models to follow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reigniting the Flame

Bunionella and Honch visited for a couple of days in the middle of their road trip.  They've had the top down on the convertible and avoided the interstate highways as much as possible.  They arrived after the rain stopped on Saturday and left this morning after TBG went to spin class.

No matter how long they stay, it's never enough.

There are some people who know how to maintain long-distance relationships.  I'm pretty good at it, most of the time, but I have sympathy for those who don't invest the time or the effort.  It's hard to stay close when there's distance between you. 

Miss Nancy and I hiked every Saturday and Sunday when I lived in Marin.  Sometimes, when I could convince her to cut out early from work, we'd sneak in a Friday afternoon close-to-home adventure.  We talked about everything and nothing.  We shared the contents of our cupboards and our calendars and the love and aggravation provided by our children.  We walked and we talked and after a month or so all the nieces and nephews and brothers and cousins were clearly delineated for each of us.

When we moved, I left a pair of hiking shoes and socks in her garage; that way I didn't have to pack them when I traveled west.  It was a certainty that I would always stop by for a hike.  That was six years ago; I've used the shoes once in all that time.

My 8-mile-hiking-days are over, for now, it's true.  I couldn't keep up with her rabbit like uphill pace, and the downhills would do me in for sure.  But there are other reasons we haven't hiked, and most of them are because we've just lost touch.

I used to receive emails with pictures of our mountain trails, or her vacation hikes, or a comment on a post.  I used to send the same kinds of things to her.  Gradually, the time between correspondences grew greater and greater and the amount of information needed to bring her up to speed on my life grew larger and larger.  After a while, I just stopped typing, and so did she.

I miss her breezy attitude and sound advice and her stories about the cousins and nephews and sisters and aunts who made up her loving, Italian clan.  They were intimately involved with each others' lives; I was the soap opera voyeur who was fascinated by their antics.  I always believed that she liked my stories as much as I liked hers.

Why have I managed to keep emailing others while ignoring my erstwhile gym-rat-and-hiking-buddy?  I have no idea. Typing to you about it is closing the gap for me.  Perhaps I'll send her the link to this post. 

After spending the weekend with dear old friends, I'm reminded that they are a commodity to be treasured and nurtured.  Here's my apology for losing track of your life, Miss Nancy.  Shall we start again?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Random Thoughts

My e-cation was a blessed relief from the superpac ads which bombarded our airwaves in the days leading up to our special election on the 12th.  I had hoped for substance; what I got were slogans.  I absented myself from the television except for bits and pieces of the occasional basketball game.  Commercials were muted, but the visuals were still there..... like these two items, following one after the other...with big bold letters linking Ron Barber to Barack Obama and then... with nary a pause... came Cannibal's Girlftriend Speaks/Live at 10.

I went back to my novel.
I understand why Little Cuter refused to leave the womb, necessitating knives and surgery and many interesting drugs that morning in May.  Watsu, an acquatic massage experience which takes place, at Canyon Ranch, in a domed and decorated space created to provide as relaxing an experience as I have ever known.

At first, it was a little up-close-and-personal for me.  My inner-New-Yorker rebelled at being cradled in someone's arms.  But that feeling was lost in the wonderfulness of being floated and stretched and turned and rotated and learning that my hip joint really can move in ways that I thought were unreachable.

It took all my will and effort to leave the pool.  I get it, Little Cuter... I really do.
I'm listening to the brouhaha over President Obama's first step toward the Dream Act and I'm wondering.  Perhaps I'm over-thinking it all, perhaps it is anyone-but-Obama as TBG insists, perhaps there's a piece that I'm missing, but still....
How can you be unwilling to pay for education and health care for the undocumented when you are willing to pay for your fellow countrymen who are unwilling to buy their own health insurance?   Is it that the costs of the uninsured are less obvious... that wading through medical bills for major (and minor) procedures is an exercise in futility... or do you just not like the other?
Sitting on the front porch of our suite at Canyon Ranch, TBG asked me if I had walked back there.... and I started to think.... shouldn't it be forth and back instead of back and forth? 
Did you know that the simple act of lowering your shoulders away from neck can lower your blood pressure?  Biofeedback at The Ranch (as we afficionados call it) proved it to me.  Resting my elbows on the padded armrests of a very comfortable desk chair allowed me to slump into myself.  Placing my hands on my knees, bringing my shoulders away from my earlobes and thinking about inhaling and exhaling made the sensors attached to my fingers register relaxation.

I felt at peace.

Give it a try right now, denizens.  Put your feet on the floor, your hands resting comfortably palms up or down on your thights, and breathe.......

We'll be here when you get back, I promise.
Bunionella and Honch are driving in from points east to spend a day or two before continuing on their road trip.  My plan was chilled wine and snacks poolside, followed by barbequed tri-tip and veggies.

The rain started at 3pm and shows no signs of leaving.  The lightning show is magnificent..... I wonder what I'm going to feed them..........


Friday, June 15, 2012

When Did I Get Old?

When did my legs start to look like my grandmother's legs?

There I was, catching a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror in our suite at Canyon Ranch, asking that question out loud. 

"Did you ask me something?" TBG called from the bed down the hall.

I suppose I did... but it was more of a question to the gods in the ether, the ones at whom I direct my rage when the ground squirrels nibble up all my portulaca.  I know why it happens... I'm not looking for facts.... it's my younger self exclaiming that it's not fair.

It's not that I didn't like my grandmother's legs. They were just as wrinkly as her chest is in this photo of me rejecting ginger ale from a straw in the summer of 1952. 

She was in her 60's then, but to me she was just old.   I thought her wrinkles were the prettiest wrinkles anyone ever had.  They were everywhere, as I recall, on her arms and her legs and her bosom.

Looking at this picture, I see that she was less crinkly than I'd remembered.  Is there a lesson there?  At the time, they looked sunny and healthy.  My grandmother loved the beach, and her skin showed it.  She and her sisters and brothers took bungalows at the shore every summer, carting children, swimsuits and lounge chairs and not much else.  Daddooooo described it as two-suits-and-pajamas summers.  They needed nothing more. 

As a child, visiting my paternal grandparents always involved sand and surf.  In the winter we bundled up and brought our kites, in the summer we'd run back to the half-a-house they shared with the landlord for snacks between swims.  My grandmother was at the stove, creating the world's most delicious hamburgers ("Sure, they're delicious.... she uses ground steak," was always G'ma's reply) and always willing to accept a hug... a hug around those wrinkly legs.

Now, they are my legs according to that mirror and I want to know whose idea aging was, anyhow? 

I don't want a face lift.  I want a leg lift.

Fifty, for me, was the downhill slide of life.  Anyway I look at it, it's at least half over.  That's neither sad nor surprising nor a cry for pity or help.  It's merely a fact.  I can handle mortality.... it's the mirror that's giving me trouble.

The concept of good years has always troubled me.  G'ma's idea of a good year isn't one I'd like, at least now.  But she is happy in her recliner-which-she-refuses-to-recline, watching The Weather Channel and Law'n.  Will that be a good year for me when I'm nearing 90? Who knows.

I remember being appalled that I'd be 48 in the year 2000.  That was nearly 50.  Mr. 9. back when he was Mr.7, remarked with horror that in two years I'd be 60.  The urge to shield me from such a fate oozed from his every pore. 

I know, age is a state of mind.... I'm doing great for any age let alone being 60 and having been shot three times.... 60 is the new 40..... I know.... I know.....

For right now, though, I still want the answer to my original question:
When did this happen to my legs?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lunch with The Happy Ladies Club

Chicago Gal, Too  walked over during lunch to laugh at the pseudonym I'd ascribed to our club.  She couldn't keep the giggle out of her voice.  In her inimitable midwestern twang, she told me that she couldn't stop herself, the smiles just kept coming. 

That was pretty much the rule this afternoon, as The Happy Ladies Club gathered at Union Public House for a summer luncheon.  The space was formerly occupied by an upscale foodie heaven; Acacia is now at the other end of Campbell.  We'll be lunching there in July.  Union is more pub than elegance, the food less precious and the floors rough hewn. 

We were in the party room in the back, which was bright and cheery and about as noisy as a space could be. The only soft surfaces to absorb the sounds were those we carried with us on our persons.... our tanned and exposed flesh, trying our best to get through 100 degree days with dignity and an absence of sweat stains.  There was a lot of wonderful jewelry; the clothes were so minimal that Chicago Gal (the original) wore her name tag on her chest... literally.... on the skin.

The menu was simple while covering all the bases - swordfish tacos, burgers with bacon jam, flatbread prosciutto pizza, salad and soup..... okay, so it's upscale pub fare.  The waitresses managed to take 40 some orders and not mess up a one.  Separate checks wasn't an issue, either.  All we had to do was decide, eat and pay.  The conversation was an extra bonus.

Loss and love and illness and hearing aids for a 33 year old crossed with Hunger Games and the Shades of Grey trilogy as we caught up on one another's lives and projects and adventures.  I'm always struck by the kindness of these conversations.  Strangers for the most part, we come together two or three times a year, remembering a shared movie or concert or luncheon speaker.  There's no awkwardness or reticence; the club's purpose is to make friends.  Knowing no one is not a social liability in this setting; in fact, it's almost an asset.

Your stories are unfamiliar to me.... please, tell me more. 

No wonder everyone is smiling; it's hard to be bored when there's so much new around.  I find myself either fascinated by an experience I've never imagined or amusing a neighbor with tales of G'ma's memory.... or the lack thereof.

Only at The Happy Ladies Club luncheon can I whine and laugh about G'ma's misplaced and only pair of glasses... about the phone call that sought to assign blame to me since I'd taken her out to lunch yesterday.....about the fact that this she could remember, though my name is escaping her once again.... about finding them on the pile of knee-hi-hose atop the shoe rack in her closet...the pile of worn hose which should have been transferred to the laundry basket... the laundry basket in which I thought to look for the missing spectacles.... these women listened and sympathized and commiserated and understood. 

No one had dessert, our iced teas needed no further topping off, we received our checks, left cash or waited for credit cards to be swiped, and then I was in The Schnozz, tooling across River Road, reprising the stories I'd heard, the hugs I'd recieved, the love I'd shared.

Some things improve over time.  The Happy Ladies Club is doing just that for me right now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NBA Finals - Water Cooler Topics

I've been remiss, denizens.  Those of you who count on my input to create the illusion of sports patter competence have been left in the lurch this playoff season.  I'm not into hockey, though I agree that the players are fabulous athletes who can do what I cannot.  The NBA has not held my attention since Michael Jordan retired (the second time).  We tried to be Phoenix Suns fans, but they're not a Tucson team, nor are they very good at what they do these days.  We've been fair-weather rooters, latching onto whatever band wagon looks like the most fun. For the NBA championship series, we've become fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

I've had a soft spot in my heart for OKC ever since Timothy McVeigh tried to rip out its heart and leave a hole in its place.  The town resisted being defined by a tragedy while creating a memorial that left even Charles Barkley speechless.  Sitting at the commentators' table, he could get no further than powerful before he looked at the camera, straight into the eyes of the viewers, and told them all to get off their duffs and make a special trip to OKC.
"It's worth it... well worth it...," he said.... and he is right.  One chair for each lost life, smaller ones for the day care kids, and a portal to move through and out to the other side.  I hope the January 8th Memorial planners here in Tucson pay attention to OKC's success.

The similarities between our two towns are striking.  Out in the middle of nowhere, an inconvenient airport, a downtown that hopes to be more vibrant, and a tragedy that came out of nowhere on a sunny morning - but OKC has a professional sports team within its midst and therein lies a huge difference.  We Tucsonans can cheer for the UofA's Wildcats, but a team bearing our town's name would mean the world to us fans.  Alas......
As Scott Brooks, coach of the Thunder, put it on ESPN before the last game in Oklahoma City, the game that sent this young team to the championship series, "this group of young men have unified this city and this state as never before."  

Tucson could use some of that unification right now.... yes, indeed, we could.  And what town couldn't?  It's reminiscent of the relationship between the Packers and Green Bay, Wisconsin.  It's the way Brooklynites felt about their bums, the Dodgers.  Zada, a true fan who moved from Galicia to East 93rd Street in the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn, the third largest city in the USofA, Zada could call them bums.  But just let a Yankees fan come anywhere near that appellation.... my mild mannered grandfather would quickly put him in his place.  Hometown teams have a tendency to do that to a person... to a town... to a community. 

The players, the coach, and the fans of the Thunder all use the same word to describe themselves: family.  Kevin Durant, 23 years old and the anchor of the team, ended his first answer to his first question in his first interview after winning the Conference championship with these words: for Oklahoma City.  Every interview with every player comes around to the phrase we are doing it for one another. 

That's how Tucson felt to me eighteen months ago.  We were all in it together, we all cared about and for one another, none of us could let another down.  We were Tucsonans, bloodied but unbowed.  Last week, listening to the fans drown out the interviews as they chanted OKC...OKC....OKC...OKC... each letter loud and distinct and proud, I was just a little bit jealous.

If you don't know the NBA, you can climb on the bandwagon of a young man who loves his mother (she sits courtside at every game, often the only voice her son can hear, always the first person he greets after the final buzzer sounds) with nary a qualm.  No one will doubt you if you say "I just like Kevin Durant."  Add a sage nod and a big smile and you'll look like you really know. 

Want some more? The Thunder play hard every night, on young legs, without carrying a lot of baggage in their wake.  They are competing against the team created around LeBron James... the Miami Heat... the team that lured Cleveland's superstar away with the promise of friends and a championship opportunity.

It's an interesting dynamic, thinking of LeBron as the older guy.  I suppose, out of loyalty to Cleveland-born-and-raised TBG, I'd be cheering for anyone but LeBron right now.  But the Thunder stole my heart and I'm betting they take the series in 5 games. 

A girl can always hope, can't she?
Addendum:  The Thunder won the first game, 105-94.  There's plenty of room on the band wagon, should you want to hitch a ride.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wherein I Create Fire

This Week at Canyon Ranch said it best.  Last Wednesday, I learned how to coax a hot coal from hand-hewn sticks with this most exciting of outdoors skills.  It really is a true Aha! moment as you connect with the primal thrill of creating fire.

No, one of the sticks was not a match.

Yes, it would have been just as easy to carry a lighter.

But neither a match nor a lighter would have been as much fun.  My face was in a permanent state of grin for the rest of the day.... and the class began at 7am.

Yes, I set the alarm on my e-cation.  I set the alarm for 6am, to be precise.  Our room, a fantasy suite with room for a family of 6, was at the top of the property and the lobby meeting place was decidedly downhill.  I was fine, navigating the paths with my hiking poles, as long as I paid attention.  I wanted to be sure that I was fully alert before I ventured forth. 

I was the only participant.  I have no idea why anyone would rather sleep in (which can be done anywhere, anytime, at my stage of life) rather than learn to make fire, but apparently I was a minority of one on the 6th of June.  No matter.  Randy, Canyon Ranch's outdoors maven, who would write the great survivalist text but they've already been written, was happy to teach me.

We set up on a bench, atop gravel, far away from overhanging branches and invasive plants.  Randy showed me what we'd be using (his handy dandy knife, with the comfy covered handle and perfectly weighted balance), what I'd be borrowing (the bow and cord) and what I'd be creating (the top and the bottom
and the stake.
The significance of borrowing those pieces became apparent later on.  In the beginning, I was too busy being overwhelmed.  Using a knife?  I was confronted, once again, by Daddooooo's reluctance to teach a girl any boy skills.  Brother always had a pen knife, a pocket knife, a tool of some sort.  I was directed to G'ma and the sewing machine.  In the wilderness, there are no Singers, with or without a foot pedal.  In the wilderness, I use a knife.

Apparently, I have mad skills.  Yes, I was sure that I'd never tried to drill a hole in a piece of wood before, either trying or not trying to go all the way through to the other side.  But, there I was, early on a Wednesday morning, making holes and pie slices and whittling a point on each end of my stake. 

The wood was soft, the teacher was supportive, and we worked in companionable silence until a road runner joined us and we had to stop and stare. It may have been on the grounds of a 5-star resort, but in the moment, I was deep in the woods, with my knife and my weird looking bird.  Primal?  I'm not sure... but definitely connected to something.

Once all my pieces were carved to Randy's satisfaction, I was instructed in the art of twisting my stake into my string.  Deceptively simple in the master's fingers, in my reality the stake took its own sweet time before deigning to join me in the task at hand.  I spent more time than I want to tell you chasing the thing across the sidewalk. 

Coordinating the top, the bottom, the stake and the bow took some doing.  Being somewhat unstable on two legs, even eighteen months into my rehabilitation, securing the bottom with my sneaker as my wrist pressed into my calf required serious thought.  My muscles have atrophied, and so have my brain cells, it seems.  I had trouble telling my lower half what to do.

Randy just laughed along with me, assuring me that everyone had issues at first.  Without another student, I compared myself to myself and found the right amount of pressure from my hands and my hips and my feet and then the bow was going back and forth and back and forth and the stake was making three turns with each stroke and all of a sudden there was a mound of smoldering black crumbs in the bottom, tumbling out of the pie piece I'd sliced and falling into the tinder resting below the opening.

Gently, every so gently, I nudged the rest of the coal into the center of the puffy pile of flammability.  Softly, carefully, I folded the sides up and over and, holding the pile over my head, I began to exhale.

Randy said that holding it overhead would keep me from inhaling the smoke.  I'm sure that is true.  For me, that morning, with the sun peeking through the leaves and the fruits of my labor lifted toward the sky, it felt as if there were a larger reason to hold it up to the air... to the sky... to whoever or whatever might be up there or out there.  It was a sun salutation, a thank you for the gift of warmth and light and toasted marshmallows...

...and then the coals became redder
 and then there was a poof
and then there was fire. 
 I created that fire....
right there in the sunshine.

"Why doesn't everyone want to do this?"  I couldn't stop asking... I couldn't stop smiling.... I couldn't wait to show TBG what I could do..... and then I realized the wisdom behind borrowing the bow and the cord.  If I had the whole set, I'd have gone right back to our room, dragged TBG out of bed, and made him a fire.... and, with the wind in the right direction I might well have burned the whole place down.

Instead, I spent the day carting my pieces around in my nifty Canyon Ranch tote bag, taking them out every now and then to inhale the scent of the burnt end of my stake.

I'd created fire.  I had the proof.
Amster says that Mr.6 is asking about making fire..... I do so love little boys, and moms who trust me not to burn down their houses.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Heaven on Earth

TBG and I are back from a week of bliss.  Mel and Enid Zuckerman, founders of Canyon Ranch, treated us to a week of healthy living here in Tucson.  The offer was extended to all of us who were there on January 8th and, eighteen months later, I felt as if I were up to the challenge.  It's a beautiful property - a very big and hilly beautiful property, if the truth be told.  I took my hiking poles and a positive attitude as well as every bit of exercise clothing I owned. 

We didn't need anything dressy.  According to Kendal, the lovely lady with the lilting laugh, there were three dining areas; guests are asked not to wear their bathrobes in the main dining room.  Beyond that, it's very relaxed.

Relaxed is an understatement.  You have to love a place where the gate keeper tells you to turn right at the shadow... not the stop sign to its right, but the shadow.  From the beginning, we were using a different frame of reference.  It felt great.

Our room wasn't ready when we arrived, and our bodies were not up to a walking tour of the grounds in the mid-afternoon heat, so we clambered aboard the first of our many golf carts and tried to get the lay of the land.  Our tour guide was amusing and amused.  "In here, for your pleasure or amusement, are the tarot reader, the clarivoyant and the numerologist," she said as we breezed by one of the low stucco structures dotting the landscape. 

By the end of the week, having heard from more than a few fellow guests that the clarivoyant had commented on issues about which she couldn't possibly know anything at all, that she had details no one in Arizona shared, having spent day after day in a place where the energy was palpable, that building looked more and more beguiling.

We shared a class that first afternoon.  Blissful Stillness was exactly that, as far as I was concerned.  A gentle, restorative yoga practice, there were four postures in 45 minutes.  I was refreshed.  TBG was claustrophobic.  His time in the gym has to include movement, it seems.  From then on, we went our separate ways when classes were involved.  Other than that, though, we were together, sharing the bliss.

We shared dinner that night with Kelly, a nutritionist on staff who was, as part of her training, spending a week as a guest.  This is the right kind of employer.  She'd been on the other side for just that afternoon, and she was already delighted.  Helen, a Canyon Ranch regular, arrived with Ira, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome, who had been promised within the year by the clairvoyant and who'd appeared, just in time, last New Year's Eve. 

Odd, yes.  But very Canyon Ranch.  That which seems bizarre elsewhere seems natural there. 
I sat alone in a public space, Saturday afternoon by one of the pools,
 not another human in sight,
my umbrella tilted just so,

the palm trees and the blue sky and the birds
my only companions, and I knew I was in paradise.
I had no place to go, nothing to do.
I took out my beautiful blank book and made note of the wonderfulness.

There was healthy food and there were delicious spa treatments and the indoor whirlpool baths had bookstands to hold my novel as I let the jets pummel my aches away.  The showers had perfectly-folded-to-be-available-after-my-shower towels ... two of them... and a clean bath mat on the well-within-my-reach hooks outside each curtain. 

There was steam and sauna and inhalation, which was steam with a healing scent and there were soft terry cloth bathrobes and comfy spa slippers and every toiletry imaginable.  I took more showers last week than I have in the last two months.  I wasn't that dirty; it was just that much fun in the locker room, with four kinds of water (cucumber, plain, lemon and orange) and fresh orange juice readily available and charming attendants willing to get whatever I needed with smiles on their faces and laughter in their voices.

I stayed away from electronics except when it was absolutely necessary, and the release was delightful.  I'll check my email and your comments Monday morning.  For now, as I readjust to the real world, I'm hanging onto my ecation for a few hours more.

Heaven is hard to leave.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Animated Elders (redux)

Ecation Edition.  First Published 3/19/10)
Who knew that Antonio Banderas was producing animation? Not I, that's for sure. But he is.

In the tradition of Up (if something produced last year can be said to have a tradition) an obviously old person remembers love and lives with loss and makes a decision but someone knows better and then all hell breaks loose.

And it's not really their fault. Either time. They had plans and those plans were good and somebody else decided to help.

The Lady and The Reaper was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 2010 Academy Awards. If you've not seen what we used to call cartoons in a while, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Watch it..... it's a fast 7 minutes or so... and be sure to stay til the credits have rolled. You'll feel incomplete if you don't.

That was fun, wasn't it? Did you see the reaper's last scene to get the incomplete mini-joke up above?

Are you noticing a theme here? The lady is comfortably dying, going off to meet her dear departed husband when Dr. Superhero decides to save her. Tell me this character from The Incredibles

isn't a dead ringer for our medical miracle worker
I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Hence, I blog and they animate, or computer graphicate as the case may be.

These are not old people making these movies. Yet somehow they have tapped into the very essence of my issues with G'ma - who makes what decisions for whom? At what point does someone else know best? Are you selfish and ungrateful to refuse assistance? Is medical science or sheltered care the best answer for every situation? And, most important of all, who's life is it, anyway?

I've got a third story to share - one with a less buffeted-by-fate theme, I think. The Triplets of Belleville sends Grandma, stray coarse hairs, whistle and all

to her grandson's rescue.

And who's helping her?
Why, the Triplets of Belleville, of course.

Former girl-group-hotties, they still manage to cut a rug every now and then. Here they are in their heydey:

There are few offers of help tendered toward the elderly ladies who anchor the story. They make lemonade out of the lemons in their lives, and the world (and the grandson) are better for it. Left to their own devices, these girls do just fine.

Of course, a little help wouldn't have been begrudged.... or would it?

I've got no answers. I'd just like to believe that I'll be cognizant of my surroundings and interested enough in life to demand to be heard., as the lady and Carl and the triplets and the grandma do. And I'm hopeful that those around me will have the patience to listen.

Thanks to for the illustrations in this post.

I found the video at Time Goes By, a personal/cultural/topical/elderblog on my permanent BlogRoll.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Attics and Basements (redux)

cation Edition.
first published 6/30/09
Houses with steps are lots more fun than houses without steps. This was pointed out to me by the Big Cuter as we were moving from a multi-level home where his window opened out onto one of the rooftops. How, exactly, did I propose to provide him with a similar opportunity in our new digs? Granted, the chance to scare your parents half to death while you know you are perfectly safe is one of the true pleasures of childhood. Still, I can't say I was all that sad to remove the temptation.

Houses with steps can have closets hidden underneath the staircases. Not front-hall closets or linen closets or clothes closets, but closets that hold treasures. Nannie and Grandpaw's was stuffed with carefully folded wrapping paper from celebrations held before the Cuters were born. But in and around those stacks of paper were board games we'd never seen before in boxes which had been repaired with glue and tape and string by Nannie's mother. There was a bag of marbles. The pick-up stix were made of polished wood and had a lovely heft within their slenderness. The smell of the musty toys and the wooden shelves was an instant smile.

Sometimes, houses with steps have attics and basements, too. Those staircases are often steeper and narrower than the others in the house. The stairwell is tighter, and there is always a railing. You might have to be careful walking up or down; these steps seem to accumulate things that need to be put away or brought up/downstairs. Laundry's tossed down the basement steps in a way nothing else is tossed anywhere else in the house. The attic might not have a full floor, and you'd have to be aware of where your feet were going or you'd end up like G'ma's friend, who, in 1960-something, took a misstep in the attic and fell through the insulation into the garage and onto the roof of her Cadillac. (It's ok to laugh - she was fine.)

A "finished basement" was a really big deal when I was growing up. One Sunday, while G'ma was out of the house, Daddooooo led a kids' painting party so that we could have one too. G'ma returned to a pastiche of colors. I learned about wainscoting that afternoon; that was Daddoooo's description of the fact that some of the painters couldn't reach higher than 2' from the floor. She tried, but she couldn't be very mad for very long. It was the basement, after all.

The attic held mysteries beyond comprehension. Portraits of scary old people in dusty oval frames leaned against army cots and old ice skates. There were stacks of Playbill 's and 78rpm vinyl records and clothes I'd seen in pictures of G'ma and Daddooooo but never in real life. The attic was a window into the past. And soon my past was ensconced there, too. A trunk held my costumes . The can can girl with the real ostrich feather, Robin Hood's green shirt and hat, my toga - they were all there, wrapped neatly but not so perfectly that we couldn't open them up and put them on. Or just look at them and remember.

I once asked an LA born and educated friend living in Marin what she did with the artifacts from her past. She showed me the shoebox which contained all her treasures. All of them. In one shoebox. OK, it was a pretty big shoebox, but it was still a shoebox. This, I learned, is what comes of living without attics and basements. You save nothing.

I'm glad I had both.

And I miss them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Root Root Root for the Home Team (redux)

Ecation Edition:
first published 11/5/09
A relative has begun signing her emails "Go Yankees". Conversation at the Happy Ladies Club luncheon today dwelled on Oregon's resurgent football team. Gardeners were meeting for an early dinner and a UofA volleyball game last week.

I am bereft. I have no team for which to cheer. I need a home team.

I love Peyton Manning, and the Little Cuter has outfitted me with a commemorative shirt

but I've never lived in Indianapolis so the Colts can't possibly be my home team.

The Cowboys may have been America's Team, but now, I think, the New Orleans Saints have earned that moniker. They are marvelously undefeated and totally fun to watch and it feels good to be able to share successful vibes with The Big Easy, but, again, they're not my home team.

Orb Kcrob never wears anything but Michigan t-shirts. It's where he went and he's damn proud of it. I find myself in collegiate gear from TBG and the Cuters and myself but I can't seem to make myself wear any of the University of Arizona paraphernalia I have acquired in pre-game shopping excursions. Somehow, the weather was never right for the outfit I'd purchased and a plain red shirt or sweater was just fine, thank you. UofA, though I live here, isn't my home team yet.

You have to live and die with a home team. You have to remember when and have the stories to prove it. Where you were when........ How it felt to watch........ How cold/hot/wet/windy it was that time ....... The stories and their connection to who you were at the time are inextricably intertwined with your sense of self.

I remember when the New York Metropolitans were created. The principal was substituting for our suddenly ailing teacher, and "Will you cheer for the new Mets team?" was the topic he chose to discuss with us. What was the right answer? Would the Mets be trendy and would we feel left behind if we didn't jump on the bandwagon early? Should we turn our allegiance from Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and pinstripes to a stadium in Queens with a team dressed in orange and blue? Weren't the Yankees our home team??

The dichotomy between fans in a two team town became crystal clear to me when we lived in Chicago. Though I spent 9 long months in Hyde Park, on the South Side, my baseball allegiance was formed early on -- on the North Side, in the bleachers of Wrigley Field. We took the train to the games. We stood on Waveland Avenue to buy $2.50 bleacher seats and drank beer and ate peanuts and sang along with whoever was in the announcers box during the 7th inning stretch. The White Sox played in a scary neighborhood; we bought our first house within walking distance of the Cubbies. Planting flowers in the backyard, I could hear the cheers and run inside to see the instant replay. It was the perfect way to watch baseball. Now the Little Cuter and Son-In-Rent have taken up the cause; there's a Cubs room in their apartment where some, but not all, of their memorabilia adorn the walls and bookshelves and windowsills and the rest has spilled over into the otherwise-very-adult living room. They live there and play on an eponymous co-ed softball team. The Cubs are their home team,now.

This summer, our painter, in assessing the house before starting the job, was surprised to hear that I'd never lived with stucco before. "Where did you live?" "New York and Chicago and San Francisco and now Arizona."

His response fits neatly right here: "Boy, what team do you cheer for?"

I want someone to give me credit for avoiding Seinfeld's "cheering for laundry" dismissal of team loyalty. Believe me, it was hard to avoid a rant on the subject. Perhaps... sometime soon...?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Voting With G'ma (redux)

Evacation edition.. see Monday's post for details
first published 11/3/10
I rode my bike for the first time in a long time today. I had books to return to the library and then I planned to head over to the pod-castle and visit with G'ma. I was prepared - had my helmet and backpack and garage door clicker and cell phone and water bottle - and my new bicycle pump was easy and pouffed those tires up to a nice firm roundness. I set off in the early afternoon sunshine, a slight breeze at my back, coasting down the hill and smiling. Crossed at the green, not in-between, and it was only when the road began its ascent that the fact that the only 2 gears available to me out of the 21 promised by the chains and the cogs on the derailleur and those clickers on the handlebars were impossible and who do you think you're kidding?

I heard Jillian Michaels screaming at me to finish the hill finish the hill finish the hill and I did. It took me a while to recover, and while I was resting by the side of the road I thought back to the last time I'd used my bike for a regular errand.
I must have been 11 or 12 or 13 when I began biking to the bakery early on Sunday mornings. I'd ride past my neighbors, the men outside doing yard work or car work or just bringing in the New York Times and Newsday and, as I passed, I took orders. I had a note pad from Woolworth's just like the waitresses at the Rainbow Diner and I gave each customer his carbon copy as a receipt.

I was working. I was independent. I was self-sufficient. I knew at the time that the men were impressed. Was it patronizing or was it real? It doesn't matter now. At that moment in time, I was a wage earner, just as they were. We were up early, doing the things that that wage earners do. It might have been their day off, but for me, it was just another workday. They expected me to come by, and I did. If they'd missed me the week before they were sorry. I was a part of their weekly routine.

Getting there was half the fun. I always took the sneaky way, across the high school field and
across the footbridge and through the marshy area past scary, old Camp Algonquin and then twisting and turning down streets we'd never drive on but which made the perfect, most direct route to Lincoln Shopping Center and the bakery.

Some mornings it was cold and dark and sometimes it was rainy but as I cycled through the neighborhoods, with a purpose and a plan but in no particular hurry at all, I was alone and outside and it felt great. I feel that when I'm hiking now.

It was nice to be recognized as a regular, to have the 6 poppy seed rolls and a thin sliced rye with seeds go into the bag before I started to place the rest of my order. Other patrons were amused to see me stagger back to my bike with my spoils, but their smiles never bothered me. I'd stack the individual bags carefully in my basket and then I'd ride home.

I was useful. I was responsible to no one but myself and the job I had contracted to do. I had intersected with the world while most of its inhabitants were still snuggled under their covers, dreaming Sunday morning dreams.

I was pretty special.

And I wonder, now, 40+ years later, where that sense of accomplishment, of being at one with the world, of having nothing on my worry list except deciding which left turn to take.... I've been wondering where it's gone. When did I become so encumbered that my achievements all seem to have a but attached to their tails? Everything is so complicated for me now.

On the other hand, no way do I want to time-travel back to that space. Would you?