Friday, June 29, 2018

Over His Dead Body

     I hear that what we now know about Pompeii is known because 'the dead speak'- a phenomenon of considerable importance to historians and one driven home in the wake of our losing Charles Krauthammer last week, (Born March 13, 1950-died-June 21, 20018, Charles was 69.)
     While engrossed in a culinary video, savoring a favorite chapter, "Amazing Avocados", I was assaulted by a news alert announcing that this intellectual giant, Renaissance Man, liver of the life "he intended" and  pillar of civility had been snatched from us by cancer.
     Charles allowed as how his ‘date’ with learning and purposeful growth was to blossom into an exquisite, enduring marriage with an assist from his father, the penultimate matchmaker. "My father told us very early, 'You have learn everything.  You don't have to do everything but you should learn everything.'".
     Following a diving accident one year before he was to graduate from Harvard Medical School, which left him paralyzed, he asked to continue with his class.  Had he not, Charles was certain he would devolve into a black abyss of despondency.
     After his arduous recovery and 'on time' graduation   (Our boy demonstrated adefining spirit characterized by his affinity and friendship with hard work.), he pursued psychiatry, finding it to be midway between pragmatism and philosophy.  A need to affect change and leave his imprimatur on the world through honest discourse and his clear, succinct style of writing, he deserted medicine, embarking on a career in political                         journalism in Washington, DC. Why you may ask  with hungry curiosity. "Because that's where they make laws."
     With his cavalier attitude, his bride and an optimism that was de rigueur, he succeeded in landing an op ed spot with the Washington Post.  One thing led (take your best shot. I cannt submit that hackneyed phrase to a piece about Charles. Although he did use it when describing his career change in casual chat!  I'll go with 'destiny '.), he eventually joined Fox News as a much venerated, oft-quoted commentator.  By the by, our 'hail fellow well met ' was awarded the Pulitzer prize for journalism en route.  We last found him there-the pithy, polished pundit we came to know/strived to emulate (Thesaurus in hand).  At his passing he also wrote a weekly column for the Post when not engaged with presidents and kings.  
     His positive affect and innate good grace and affability have been heralded by colleagues, friends, historians, world leaders and the entire Washington Nationals franchise over the decades,   (He noted of latter, "With the world going to hell  in a handbasket, God created baseball very late on the sixth day.")  These same folks, true followers all, also confessed to episodes of white knuckled panic during merry forays with Charles driving his wheelchair-customized van.  His propensity to speed dashed all chances of indoctrination into the Drivers' Hall of Fame.
     Charles cruised through venues-social, political, sports-with the admirable ease found only in the man who incorporates truth, kindness and comfort with in his own skin.  Like some opulent millionaire, squandering precious coins of personality, he whipped around in his metier now engaged in hearty debate, now cheering his beloved Nats, now sharing a room, a dinner, a tete-a-tete with a cohort/friend, or 'splitting a personality ' with stinging bon mots, with his personal ebullience and savoir faire,
always holding forth and fifth and sixth. And his audiences will recall and savor each 'Charles encounter ' as one of spirited inspiration.  Thank you, Charles.  
     Weeks  before leaving he wrote he  was losing my his battle with cancer`.  An army of collea gues      have vindicated him admirably by airing his sage commentary vis a vis news topics of the day.   
JUST   last week, he joined his fellow panel members with his thoughts on immigration.  It  was wonderful to see   and hear him - healthy,wiley and natty as ever wrapping it up for the gang. 
     As with Pompeii, he 'speaks '.  While history herself is in mourning, eloquence has been silenced.  Who among us would deny the value in perpetuity of this phenomenon?  Who indeed.  (Think about it.  Take your time.  I can wait.)
Later, Lorane. . .

Sunday, October 1, 2017


              She's very excited.  My ten yea-old granddaughter.  It's her first ever attempt at grabbing an office.  With her imposing poster(three feet long from chin to knees) that reads "I may be a Rookie but I'm one Smart Cookie".   She's in a field of fifth grade luminaries at a private school in Southeast Virginia.  They're 'running' on adrenaline, coined phrases, ambition, the competitive spirit and a blissfully blank platform.  But, they're awash with the good intentions of a frontiersman for theirs are footprints that will trod virgin paths of academia with hormone-infused, heartfelt slogans:"Council for council", Install Hall", and then there's our cookie.
       Is there precedent for this confidence?  (Or would that be putting the 'duh' in redundant?). The fruit of just her maternal family tree nourished legions of the needy, placed honorably among the more-than-capable, produced juice that was prized in the nursery and dried well into ensuing generations.  Its legacy was cherished and preserved, not in the awkward scrawl of the child but in the baroque style favored by legends.  One particular tree branch proved destined for immortality.  It crashed into self-sufficiency having acquired the wisdom and power to succeed at the foot of a global specialist.  I give you the Jackie-Fruit Cookie.  (Take it.)
       The Jackie-F was planted under a nom de plume.  (Patience, dear reader.  It's rough going to keep this 'mix' of metaphors straight.  But if we work together, we all learn.)  Christened, raised and educated as Bertha, she ultimately retained counsel reputed to be the best and charged it with her image-makeover.  The chocolate chip Bertha Cookie was deeply dunked, emerging a self-created 'Blue Chip' confection.  Forsaking her bridal New Jersey shores (the Palisades ne'er the wiser) the Jackie-F could be seen seated cozily behind the tinted glass partition of her Mysterious Blue limo - George at the wheel - nestled in the smooth, gray pile of satin velvet seatcovers, bound alternatively for Delmonico's, then Idlewild Airport, or the Office - of new female hirees, shared with the more stately, established 'lady', Liberty (Libby in the 'hood). By late, late evening, she was brownstoned in Brooklyn.
       It was a time for leveling the global playing field in business, in banking, in corporate-ladder land.  Jackie (in Prada) knew the mechanics, merchandising, 'money' of oil better than most. She had traveled extensively (and mostly in Greece, on yachts and in Prada) in her last position at Axon.  Nationally, she was feted at the Oil Industry's "Fleet Week'' in New York Harbor, as well as equally comfortable and poised at the Pentagon where defense contracts were served to minority bidders with regularity.  Jackie's four-inch Fendis clicked her to the winners' circle in DC, in glass-breaking steps at the finest Greek Galas, and, at last, to the pomp and ceremony of the launch of "L'Isle Petroleum", the first of its kind in the industry.  Twenty-Four/Seven was de rigueur for her.  "Top Gun" (Tom Cruise)' work sun to sun.  Jackie's work, never done.
       Only the Georges in her entourage knew of the many nights never going home, missing meals, and non scheduling of doctors' appointments and time with her family.  It was also given to George to fetch her Diet Cokes, her visiting family from airports, her realtor to present papers for signage on the newly-purchased townhouse in Georgetown.  George it was who also met her maiden aunts when they arrived to assume the care of her eight year-old daughter in Washington when she was summoned to "camp".
       You see, (don't you?). The Gulf War 'happened'.  Our jets needed fuel.  Jackie-F had several huge Department of Defense contracts.  They called for supply of "Jet-Six" for our fighter planes.  Prices, in deference to the war, were down across the board. Jackie-F noticed the government as to the price change.  At the dizzying three-month's end, she noticed no change in payment.  At war's end, the error had been compounded many times over.  She sought counsel.  They advised: Do nothing.
       She was stunned.  In disbelief she heard the words.  Comprehension would be a very late arrival.  Her stellar career!  Exhausted from her ascendance, she was thankfully numb when they told her how "Isle" would be divided, who'd been selected to assign foster care for her 'baby'.  There was legitimate help waiting in the wings to assume the care of her (illegitimate, it seemed) child while she was detained in the federal penitentiary. Was it fatigue?  "I can't feel my feet"      
      The picture painted by her attorneys guided her preparation.  There would be sports - tennis, surely and sailing, weather permitting.  Spas -'The Pamper Pad', she remembered them saying.  Dress would be very casual.  And she so missed her jeans, jellies and jet(bomber) jacket.  Best to wear her hair long for now.  She would leave her CDs with the aunts for little Josie. Skype? She presumed so.  But.  Her Erno Lazlo, just in case they don't carry. . .
       The big day did  not disappoint.  Six feet, one inch in height, Jackie-F's arrival would most likely be noticed.  So sad, parting with George.  (He'd become the Morgan Freeman of her conscience, explaining, embellishing, erecting "Enter, Jackie-F!", "Beat it, Bertha!".)  But. They insisted on a chopper.  It put her in mind of "Fleet Week".  She'd been lowered to the deck of a carrier!  Top Gun! Roger that.  Over and out.  Today, it would be to a dry, courtyard expanse, seated in something called a "double bucket swing".  Yes.  Don't drop your racquet.  Don't lose a jelly.  Be courteous to your 'bucket buddy'.  Enter and in. Roger this and that and happy and skipping. 
       Boy. Wow, that 'lady' must have had a really bad day.  Took all my stuff.  The others laughed.  No.  Please.  "I'd rather not bend. . ." Lines.  Lines.  This morning I believe they are serving. . .  "French toast, please. . No? No, No, No! Well, that's just too Goddamned bad! It's a law! You have to give me bread and water. A law!"
       She had always loved to clean.  Maggie - older sister - would cook and Bert would clean.  In Mars.  Thank God for dirt.  And for books.  She learned more about the law than any of her new friends.  She composed lovely, neat arguments and motions about the incompetence of lawyers at trial and in hearings.  And, in turn, she never had to worry about her safety - or comfort.  She began to pray more.  Remembering Latin verses or words straining to rhyme.  Never once did she doubt her intelligence.
       And there was so much to learn.  Just like a frontiersman, her jellies found new roads.  Every day a new challenge.  It reminded her of the way she felt in the sixties at Berkely.  Or in the Peace Corps.  Always giving, giving, giving.  Even back then. Thinking of her early days at Axon. . .  She hoped she could take Josie to the Greek Islands and that the numb feeling would go away in her feet.  And the dizzy spells.
       As with everything else, time would tell.  But Jackie-F knew - because she was a smart cookie - that things would end well.  She would be whole, intact, in control.  Because smart cookies don't crumble.  Wait.  Do I see crumbs? Do you?  (You look.  I'll be right here).  Holding things together. Not stirring.  Like a mouse on Christmas Eve.  In a smart, quiet house.  Sooner or
Later. . . . .

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


      There are days - sometimes weeks- when reverie seems to hover, like a shroud covering the ranch.  It touches memories blown from shelves, book spines and kodachrome-heavy albums.  Moving among these threads of the whole cloth of our lives, one can re-create the scenes from which they hail.  It's  a tidy idea to have a framework for working with life experiences.  Time, place, age -they all serve to orient the memory organizer making the job one of re-lived accomplishment, even overall good times.  (I've gone with 'hair color' and 'do' when dealing with the last with excellent results.)
       Our "family" experience (soon to come "the Personal", "The Professional" et cetera until you regret ever learning how to read) best evolves geographically.  Another child, new job, the Jones' - there's always an impetus for the filling-nesters to migrate.  And there is no formula; each is a one-of-a-kind template to be colored in.  I tend to recall walls  (I painted), furniture  (I re-covered ) addresses, neighbors, views - the physical trappings that peopled life; relationships that offered kindness, assistance, a beer - inanimate trappings,well they are a measure of progress  - more or fewer things to dust and maturity - moving when progress calls.     
       Inanimate trappings coordinated with location by and large. But.  You cannot use only location to measure value.  To (and fro) wit, thirty years of living spent at our second zip code saw the birth of three, the death of seven, sending off of four  and the  incorporation of additional family units.  Thirty years bore witness to a bounty of momentous occasions that were never reflected by a concomitant transfiguraon of the physical residence.  Hardly.  White house, black trim and shutters, large, redwood-fenced back lot, and purple - yes purple - metal-slatted blinds  shouted the existence of a roaring crowd of diverse, busy folk 'rolling' on an otherwise run-of-the-wanna-be-upper middle class-not-so-sub urban-types street. Two moves, twenty years, barely pre-IRA-living later finds the nucleus of those folk in a custom built, new home.  These digs can hardly tell a story of upward mobility when you drive immediately passed "Jeb the Butcher" as you approach the right turn onto "I live here" boulevard.  Hardly.
       Returning to sub sub urban involves returning to a brief, inoculatory phase endured before the high-powered whirlwind 30-year lap.  This incubation spell was ne'er idle (lest the reader get confused). While incubating, the nest was a white/black trim Dutch Colonial that squatted on an immense, meandering corner lot and peacefully leaned back onto a very old, sprawling magnolia tree that rather controlled its wedge of end-of-the-neighborhood' land. For it hardly traversed at all before ending in a trickling stream the other side of which became a path that stretched into a dirt road which, once adopted, became the sidelines (bleachers to boot) of a crookedly-lined ball field by which the tracks of Norfolk and Southern carried punctually-routed trains 24/7.  (Note to writer: Do give examples of the 'death-to-creativity' run-on sentence in your next 'improve your grammar' blurb.  Oh, look. I have! Never mind.)
       Fourteen-thirty-two Gates Avenue was the official location but technically/sociologically - you shall see- it was the very busy apex of the triangle formed by two sleepy, tree-lined streets which served to house - in a landscaped vision - attorneys and doctors and their families. (and their stories.  If azaleas could talk! Don't ask.  Well.  Go ahead.  Ask.  I'm going to be right here.)
  As noted, this incubation spell was ne'er dormant.  Rather, the master amused himself with a riotous schedule - thirty-six hours on and twelve off - dedicated to his healing apprenticeship.  Off hours found him bonding with their boy as well as engaging in gang buster efforts at family expansion.  Boy needed and wanted sibs lest he be 'to the meagre' born.  However boy's days were joyous, filled with the things of the child.
       The mistress (poor word choice) having tip-toed by home decoration - the carpeted first floor was barren save the pillowed/stuffed pieces in the den, boy's room sported an elaborate scheme hatched at the previous home and the master bedroom, well it was a utility room, as you can imagine. ( knock yourself out!)
       Time never hung comfortably on her hands.  Not wanting to spend it circling the drain, (This 'issue' is worthy of its own post but suffice it to say, she'd noticed that wanna be docs' wives, trying to hone their 'solitary evenings' skill set, often resorted to handy pharmaceutical aids.  The result was 'wives nite out'  or in a clouded room, a smoky restaurant, a dim cafĂ©, voices leaking out in disarray.  So sad.  The pills - prescribed as pain relievers and mood elevators -  morphed into pain expanders and mood relievers.  Everything hurt and nothing made sense.  Some flirted with detox time or worse.  I bring you no news when I tell you that prominent among these ladies, one could find Junior League presidents and heads of Mothers-Against-anything-verboten. Remaining an outsider to this fate, she followed her doctor's suggestion to "get involved in something you love ".)  Time, then, was exuberantly squandered on her lifelong passion, theater.
       As fortune would have it, the town's little theater was within walking distance.  Time, in this case, gunned the engines of her extreme restlessness.  And the dinner theater was an easy drive from the launch pad.  Now, their schedules were aberrant - for this hood - but being caught up in rehearsals and performances would take the bite (usually felt by Mrs. Intern and Mrs. Resident) out of her 'home alone' evenings because she wasn't.  Doctor's work sun to sun.  Ingenue-with-child's work never done.  As the season came to a close, she bounded over to calls at the dinner theater, landing a plum part that would define how she rolled hence. At 1432, that is.
       She worshipped at the alter of structure in the pre-opening weeks.  Boy walked  to school; almost-doc was on duty at St. Everywhere; lines, line, lines were the task-master of her days.  The vagaries of board-trotters trumped the vapidity of school board meetings.  The Junior League Roll Call never sang her name.  Dinner on the run or not at all was followed by our Boy basking in abundant care and feeding by fellow cast members. 
       As you may know, The Prisoner of Second Avenue is pretty much a two actor performance.  The husband and wife carry the audience through a life/relationship-changing-burglary.  In New York.  In two rooms of their apartment.  Mel is a lumbering, teddy-bear of a guy - pj's and ball cap -clad - depressed and in reverse on the trigger. ( If you get my drift.  I'll wait while you think.)
       Edith is a youthful, forty-two New York doer- type.  She has no time left for small stuff while Mel's stuff is being big on the New York Times while he's out of work.  The audience merrily gobbles two and a half hours of Neil Simon one-liners with a plethora of sight gags which were crafted in a style so subtle and nuanced as to feature Simon's comedic genius rather than comedic bufoonery.  And, well, our leading lady darts around, now focused, now musing in a personal neurotic charade, but ever in her color-blocked, long, terry robe--fresh from the bath.  (Hey, this robe could have been borrowed from her aunt, a cloistered nun, but, eyebrows will click their heels or whatever they do when the Southern Belle image has been bruised.  And that would be by viewers or reviewers- a distinctly astigmatic crowd at the time.). Predictably, the majority of audiences pierced the sonic capacity of the room in greeting her when she padded to the stage apron, barefoot, robed and last for the curtain call.  Except for one particular set of eyes and ears that would remain stolid and stunned.  Moreover, their attendant mouths would gear up to 'talk'. 
       It was soon after the show opened to long run/rave reviews that they were invited to a 'welcome to the neighborhood ' party. (for them). The host and hostess  were the attorney who represented the area's largest-profile children's hospital and Mrs. Attorney, Heika, homebody (body being the operative syllable of the word).  The target couple, king-and-queen-for-a-Sunday-evening, were accompanied by their next door friends, the Hills.  (He was also an attorney but Helen rode her own star as a docent at the city's pestigious museum.  Now Braxton - Brac- did have his bronzed kicking shoe from the glory days at UVA prominently displayed in the living room, but overall and perhaps because of a mutual interest in sports, wanna-doc liked Brac.  Helen-of-Gates would follow a bottle of Asti Spumanti anywhere but otherwise was inocuous.  Smiled alot actually.) 
       So it was, on the big welcoming night, that the newbies joined the masters/mistresses of their contiguous, tree-lined streets (remember that triangle) to make merry, spear Gouda and sport "Hello, My name is ____" badges.  Several hours into the soiree, the host approached our gal as she was balancing dipped crackers in one hand and hubby's and her wine in the other - clearly a replenish mission.  Host Esquire (slander is such a messy scene, no?) proferred -sans any pleasant platitudes (which were pitifully abundant when this group gaggled)- : "I just want you to know that we (gesturing at the room, the world, the planet beyond) all know exactly what you are (pause, wink meaningfully) and what you're doing."
That she paused, gathering her thought, is once more bringing you no news , but punctuating the massiveness of the gestalt of emotions she had to suppress and what with both hands full, scotching any possibility of 'leaning attentively on the piano', we must color her paused.  But, thus digitally constrained, she looked beyond Esquire Bill, her cold stare finding Mrs. A, Heika, transiting the room with seven or eight "Hello, My name is male guest" stuck onto the seat of her too tight slacks.  Thusly rewarded, she returned her focus to her antagonist, her expression questioning, her voice locked, as Bill held forth, "Leaving at dinnertime, usually dragging the child.  Get home rather late, eh?"
       Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said, "It is wiser to remain silent and be thought ignorant than to speak and remove all doubt."? Clearly, our guy has grossly overstepped and underestimated.  And she.  Well, she's a survivor who has 'bigger fish to fry' as it were, down the road.  (Would that she'd had a free hand to toss some savignon blanc at his sneer.)
       His elaboration sparked some (a soupcon?) tension.  Her thoughts tumbled about in her head, barely concealed by wispy bangs, emotions threatening to jog amok.  This was a really bad scene in which she was forced to play.  What price, though, public confrontation, or her reputation, or asparagus for that matter.  All of the energy, time and work she'd put out to ensure safe passage and privacy of their domestic ship now seemed wasted, the ship marooned.  She knew, moreover, that if she stirred this pot, Bill would go on a fool's errand, and she to pieces.  
       Rather, she'd opt for 'Bill avoidance/non-event', the sorry but typical reaction he usually encountered. Indeed, her very own wanna doc never spoke of the Bills of the world, save as potential patients. (which this Bill was bucking for!) Were she to acknowledge his lunacy, he'd have ventured and gained. Her world had been rocked before, by far better than Bill and, wait a . . .       But Bill waits for none but, in his pickled, puffed up pouter pigeon voice spouted, "My Heika.  When I get home at six, she's waiting by the front door, with my children, happy and anxious to give me anything, and I mean anything, I want".  (Assuredly, this last was delivered with a leering wink'n lip curve, but she doesn't recall.)
       This last also fell on deaf ears and nerves.  No longer in the conversation, she moved aside, poking her way passed partygoers, approaching husband, indicating the front door (For good measure, she glanced toward the foyer.  No sign of Bill's kids.  That's crazy!, her mind interrupted.  Crazy.  She wanted to look into "help" but knew there'd be no room at the 'bin'. She doesn't do crazy.  She's a wife, a Mom, still a daughter and sib.  She reads  EKG'S.  When not working, she acts.  Loves the theater, you know. ('Course you do.  You are still reading, no?  There could be a test. . .). What else can you do when a tipsy Bill spouts BS? At his house.  At your party. I ask you. What?  (Take your time.  I'll be right here.)
       She waited a few weeks before sharing the episode with her mate.  And when she did, it became an addendum to her happy plan of getting comp tickets to the show for the neighbors.  An away-from-home, Cumbaya bonding event for the hood.  (How could Bill not see the folly of his thinking after that?  All of that audience interaction, warmth , fun, skipping.  She was certain this would clear up all misunderstandings.  Wipe her slate of nasty falsehoods.  Dissolve any enmity.  NOT.  
       Saturday nights were usually sold out.  And it was indeed a  full house to which her neighbors added ten wary people.  They were happy to use their complementary tickets.  They were happier to see their choice reserved seats.  After a wonderful meal, there was satisfied chatter as they anticipated seeing their very own friend and neighbor on stage.  
       Lights.  She enters in blackout.  Stage lights  up.  Upstageright, she she's speaking frantically into the phone.
    Edison.  E-D-I-S-O-N.  Edison.  Yes.  They robbed us.  We've been robbed.  What d'ya mean, "What do I mean?"  Robbed.  They come in.  They take things out.  Robbed us.  And so she whisked through the Edisons' burglary and Neil Simon's work of art.  All of this happiness was met with thunderous applause  right up to and including the reassuring, bemused dĂ©nouement.  The performance almost over, the gasp caught her attention.  Then the low buzz.  The inappropriate whisper.  
       It now was  over.  She waited a bit longer  before starting from upstage center, alone, to greet the robust audience response.  At the apron, she looked for her guy.  He was exhausted and giddy with wine and clapping wildly. (She recalled hearing gales of laughter coming from this table.)  She bowed deeply, head down, robe slightly open, feet very bare.  And the Bill.  Looking at his tablemates.  He began whispering, then insisting on something.  They ignored and non-evented  him.  They applauded.
       He stood, making very sweeping extremity moves as he packed up his program, cigarettes and car keys.  His Heika was already marching exitward.  He followed after first stooping down to speak to a man at the next table - a total stranger.  Stranger ignored him, focused on applauding.  Bill deposited his commentary into stranger's wife's ear.  (He was just thinking of  others.  Even then.  He was just giving , giving, giving.  Doctor's work sun to sun . Bill's work never done.)
       Spring, welcome as always, found new life in the hood.  People were out jogginq, kids playing ball. Moms strolling beside Santa-brought shiny trykes.  And Bill thrilled with his new pine-paneled game room, invited ALL the boys for Wednesday night kickass poker.  Even wannbe doc found time.  She was glad.
       It was after midnight when she heard Brac's voice.  "Time for bed, doc".  Wanna be had won big with two pairs.  He'd defended her honor, and left his host with an impressive swollen lip and no instructions for caring for it.  Heika would want to happily administer 'tender loving care' and do whatever the ER doc advised.  
       Stuff happens but you go on.  Of course she knew nothing had happened but some goodness knows maturity. Father Barton - a friend and frequent dinner guest to many in the hood -was no stranger to her.  He'd recently spoken of Bill and Heika and change and smiling and skipping.  
       On a Saturday, early, before the unforgiving mowers got going, Bill found doc hanging a tire swing for the boy.  The magnolia tree had finally become more than a pretty face.  At first he helped in silence.  Then they were facing each other and the huge branch stole the show.  But not before she saw hairy arms resting on broad shoulders.  Then she smiled, listening to friendship.  Halting at first.  But quite real.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


It seems the Summer of 17 has been quite the sizzler.  Gods of War have held the headlines.  National, ethical and economic issues/conflicts have preoccupied bylines.  (Albeit the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and its environs remain blissfully 'Southern' quiescent.). Tragic and conquering heroes now escalate, now ebb ere moving from center stage to sidelines.  A season of bombast, the natives a-twitter, twitcin' like the fingers on a trigger of a gun.
And that's just TV fare.  Rumor has it that from the local scene to the international stage, reality has surpassed network headlines.  (looks like I'm to go with aubergine for 'reality'. Editors!). In fact, my sources often touch base in the middle of the night-disturbing a perfectly perfect bay at the moon- using Morse Code, such is this global imager/'screwdriver-in-the-shoephone' obsession.
Thankfully, my ruse was outed, find me they did-hiding, 'Garboesque' at our North Carolina cottage, back to the fray, nose as distant from any grindstone that may lurk about as possible.
Forty-five years of summering with children embedded crowds of memories in these walls.  Now they wrap me in their Zeitgeist and I am a willing captive .  Standing proudly on its piles, cottage and I are a coning tower, gleaning and reporting life activity, a safe harbor, unedited, unplugged (perhaps unread) and awash with candor.
Locally, tis a fact that the renters have been testy.  Communal energy levels have been notably, if not alarmingly low as one might expect, what with the dismally damp weather pattern.  They soldier on, our mostly 'Yankee ' brothers.  Each morning finds our lock-stepping band of hopefuls marching along the unforgiving planks of the main beach walkway, passing our East front porch.  The path was cleverly constructed so as to obliterate any view of sand or surf save by periscope from the road.  This structural malfeasance results in our campers having to bear, push, drag, forgo (most  common) their 'fun-in-the-sun' trappings toward an uncertainty.
THEN, their paternal leader faces the grim task of deciding whether it will in fact be a 'beach day'.  There will be a collective peering out at the horizen in the hope they'll soon have to squint or seek cover under a gaily striped umbrella.  Not.  The gaze from our porch reports another 'rainy, mostly rainy, rain with t-storms' kind of day.  By day three, I was seeing fewer parades and earlier starts of the crestfallen  trek back to the cottages which in the brochures, had such an abundance of healthy, tanned fun and now seem to mock the very notion.  Several 'tourons' have taken to glancing my way with narrowed eyes of suspicion, accusation even.  Relax, pal.  Not MY raindance.
In fact for me, this daytime fare alternates with evenings of news viewing .  That said, I must qualify that scene by mentioning the occasional disruption.  Yes, dear readers, Camelot is subject  to being pierced by random sneakerfalls of rude, tresspassing night revelers, shouting obscene words, tearing off bits of bits of clothing, while generally rumbling along in some nocturnal, ritualistic 'dash-to-the-dunes'.  Of course these are  the same dunes re  which  they have been asked to "keep off". And given this species of motley humanity, it's no oddity that also by day three, much of the signage has been altered/embellished in the infantile scrawl common to New York City Subway wall writers with... . the old familiar suggestion, in some cases graphically, if in a puerile fashion.  (Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to apologize for this shocking breach of taste.  This, because my editor, who usually functions as the Morgan Freeman of my conscience, is now out.)    (BLACKOUT, PU-LEASE!)
During most welcome hushes, I can see that back home the quest for 'altered argot' is still in full force.  Responses/statements are wearing a freshly washed and starched 'so' as their lead-in.  (You'll recall our time worn 'so'- a letter couplet used to indicate degree or amount, less frequently, demonstrative of style or manner.)
Location queries insist on terminating with 'at'.(And one cannot imagine where the solution to this problem is at.).  People, rather than attending, accepting, declining, or missing meetings, are 'taking' them.  And our most recent outing of the 'Batta Book, Batta Boom' sit com is pointing with his horned rim glasses to achieve impressive levels of authority and take-charge-ability.  A brief preview has our hero foregoing verbal response completely.  Rather, he's planted downstage right, facing the audience, a vision of smug satisfaction.  He stands in silence ( a condition which, we may see by the end of this post, is not without powerful message potential.)  He is silent as well as stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox.
In the ever-shrinking big tent of significant action, we find paralysis.  This because seated, nay sutured within the seamed borders leading to 'action', are words, words, words.  Flung, delivered, sung, twittered, their insufficiency and ineptitude as harbingers of their brethren, 'deeds' puts one in mind of 'Liza Doolittle's plea, "Show me!".  (And wasn't her monicker a misnomer).  Their recipients are alternatively frightened, confused, insulted, at a loss, having revved down from slo to no motion. And this is because action without forwarned, amplified drivel was playing at the top of the charts this week.
In an impressive, lothario performance, life taking action cut quite a rocket swath to the top following 'words' clumsy stumble to its nadir.  Good guys' work sun to sun; terrorists' job, never done.   Finally, their work is never desultory.  Indeed, in their absence, they are pointedly life-threatening. (See Spain, Finland, Germany)
Why just today, during the somewhat conclusory commentary of a current events panel, the participants shared the 'special place' or custom -  from their respective pasts - to which folks were drawn in the event of a community crisis.  (This is daytime, happening now fare, guys.  It's how we roll at high noon.). Each panel member in turn proffered a place  -  town barbershop, church, city hall and the 'casual' like.  The last panel member, known for her savy and no nonsense candor, offered a deadpan, "In Rumania, we just ran somewhere and ate stuffed cabbage.".  Conclusions are -  and should remain -  in our inbox.  This observer's takeaway, nonetheless (utile little word, no?) is in the company of 'imprimatur' and "me too". 
Crisis Centers punctuate crisis; barber shops allay it.  But.  Modern medical science seems without conclusory evidence of harm, short or long-term, from eating stuffed cabbage.  Of course studies are mostly limited to Rumanians and carnivores but in the words of a wise old Buddhist monk, 'who's to say if this is good or bad?'. 
And Simon says:
"Fools said I you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But the words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed in the well of
Simon said, "do".

So, I say, "now hiring: do men"and in signing off, happy birthday, Mom and Kathy, and y'all, eat stuffed cabbage.  Sounds safe, tho awaiting FDA approval in the overcrowded bin labeled, 'later',

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Are the Stars out Tonignt?

      They say (and don't you always wonder who 'they' are?) that words are the control mechanism for one's personal magic.  Indeed, this notion is by habit hammered home to one's children and grandchildren.  Would that the spiffy club of Madison Avenue 'ad' folks subscribed to and considered it when penning their messages, entreaties and 'plugs' to the public.  Before sharing today's thoughts with you, I should like to call attention to some word usages that were better left idle.
       Without 'naming names', (you know who you are) there has been an anemic campaign - befitting its subject - afoot to market an overnight/week inn that has the target audience believe there are great minds and clever wordsmiths culled from the higher institutions of writing, such as they may be, assembling in Spartan rooms, legal pad at the ready as well as an imagery net to snare only  the catchiest of phrases out of the literary ephemera for uses most befitting their product needs and their targets' agenda/capacity for understanding the English language.  In one such think tank setting, a somewhat brash, confident, self-aggrandizing, and apparently easily entertained guru 'takes the floor' (rather than his leave, which would have been the more humane move) to subject his audience, uninspired fools all, to THE answer to this day's charge, spouting meaningfully  and, were it not so pathetic an offering, smugly, "Batta-Book, Batta-Boom!".
       That this outburst is greeted with less than his anticipated enthusiasm is right up there with the reaction of the South when Sherman marched through Atlanta.  Dauntless in spirit as he is witless in expression, our boy leers about the room with eyes settling upon those of his cohorts, slowly and deliberately as only those who are patient/kind to their inferiors can do.  (Odd, don't you think?  For in truth this young turk most likely believes he's never had any.  Inferiors, that is.)
       Moreover, the bruise to our language is converted quickly and smoothly to a deep, life-threatening laceration by the fact that save ONE daring doubter, speaking in the dulcet tones of the meek and inexperienced, ("Don't you think we should mention something about our low prices ?") the gathering submits in silence, punctuated by the smallest, youngest sycophantic outburst from  a bespectacled, non-cunning little shaver clad in conservative office-ware's, "I like it.", which elicits the expected boom from our leading buffoon of, "Hire him!"
       As a  nation that's been watching millions of immigrants sail under Lady Liberty's armpit, her fearlessly-welcoming torch held high lo these past seven or eight decades or so, transforming them into proud Americans who would, live, grow, mate, procreate and speak English in their adopted land, we deserve more than "Batta-Book, Batta-Boom" when we are holding ourselves out to the world through an advertising campaign.
       We demand proper diction from our children and more than a passing acquaintance with their vernacular; we have been proud to incorporate those very same immigrant names and families into our culture; we nod approvingly and with pride as we call out their names as the brave who have given their lives in heated, ugly battle for this country.  Do we dare now, having produced genius as well as men and women happy to make  the Ultimate Sacrifice, stoutly put forth, "Batta-Book, Batta-Boom" as the best we have to offer?
       In deference to patience (yours) and sensibilities (mine AND yours), I shall leave "Eat More Chiken" or whatever for another outing.  Today, we celebrate our Independence (and thank God it wasn't won in a spelling bee or judged by a grammarian).  More in tune with that celebration, my thoughts were waxing more astral than asinine today. (Take note of tense usage there.)
       In honor of words, as they march along our pages bearing our thoughts, it seems now that my own birthing has become an indistinct anachronism, that taking time to reflect and record this living may have merit.  With that humble goal, seventy-year-old thoughts were attempting to form such a reflective piece recently.
       Perched quietly ("Listen" and "Silence" have the same number of letters.  Coincidence?) in my study, poised to commit thoughts to paper and fling them onto my .NET, when SHE, the 'passing-by-thought-I'd-stop-in-intruder arrived, with the force of an un-forecasted hurricane.  The room, it contents, my quill and I shuttered with such force from the vibrations, those 70 year-old thoughts were fractured upon impact with the pages.
       From an off-center pacemaker or five, word fragments flew, vying for speed and dominance in contorted paths  - now straight, now spiraling, here up, there down - and when given sound/voice/escape, produced NOT the uttered catharsis of artistic expression but noise that pushed the line between cacophony and chaos.
       Listeners knelt in fervent benediction, praying for a spate of discernible, meaningful, peaceful  lines to soften the impact of this writer's frenetic  oration.  Some quietly fled, quit the cool comfort of mosaic tiles underthongs, embracing the hot, slate, cracked sidewalks and skirting the pot-holed tar crossings in a frantic, desperate/disparate (your pick) hunt for the sound of silence.  Pausing at the corner of Walk and Don't Walk, they came upon a stubble-faced, toothless old man, Frank, peddling his warm, soft, salted pretzels.  He smiled his encouragement.  The taste of freedom would sate their need, help them swallow those last echoes of her neurotic banter.
       She permitted herself a pause: I can't control the wind but I can control the sails.  In pursuit of a 'bridge over troubled water', she took leave of her home, seeking the rhythm of the sea, the heat of a carpet of sand.  Greeted by the sleek rainbow shining down and from the massive mural, dominating the cathedral-ceilinged great room of the cottage, her childhood pierscape of the 59th Street Bridge yelled a Brooklyn "Back-atcha!".  She was 'feelin' groovy'.
       No longer exquisitely bored, she applied some sonic experimentation via Simon and Garfunkel gifts to the soul to herself and to the task at hand.  She would  have the tools to write here.  The grim latitudes of Suffolk that caused 'writer's block' - when the people in your head stop talking to each other - were back 'at the Zoo'.  All the thoughts in her heart, straining to be released and shared would skip over the boulders of obstruction and tumble out, freed from that toxic confusion of interruption by man and machine. 
"Staying long?", a shout-out from neighborly voices.  In and out, fro and to the familiarly desultory escape into a silent, inner-self writing, with, not under, the stars,
"For the Listeners and Livers Still Waiting To Be Born".
Later, Kathy, Mary, et al. . . . .

Monday, June 19, 2017


       In 1926, Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" was published by Scribners under the masterful editorial guidance of Max Perkins.  Prior to publication, two editorial discussions were held by author and editor.  The first dealt with words and  phrases - Profanities which the editor felt might cause suppression of the book at the time.
       The second focused on the book's epigraph in which Hemingway wanted to juxtapose a comment of Gertrude Stein, referring to young artists of the day as the "lost generation " with a passage from Ecclesiastes containing the words:
One generation passeth and another generation
cometh; but the earth abideth forever. The sun  also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and resteth to the place where he arose.
Thus the genesis of the title was in the Old Testament, punctuating the author's theme of the relationship between the earth (abiding) and its people  (transient).
       Not unexpectedly, reactions to the book focused heavily on the editorial discussion.  Papa's word choice and characterizations were seen as scandalous-SALACIOUS even, vulgar  and a reflection of the values and judgment of their publisher.  Perkins bore the burden of response to this negative epistolary reaction.
       In one such justificational elaboration he shared an observation with the irate reader.  To wit, there were two common positions held with regard to books like this.  The first feels vice should never be presented in literature openly  as it is unpleasantly evil.  The second sees the open presentation of vice as valuable because it is evil and ugly and if known will be avoided but if concealed/ignored, it dons a "false glamour which is seductive."
       In a not so distant artistic presentation, a TV series, "The Sopranos", enjoyed a long and avid following.  Its depiction of the Italian Family Mob activities was graphic and violent and seemed to weave these qualities into the same cloth used to fabricate the characters that peopled the domestic families of its protagonists.  Perhaps a majority of one, this observer, an Italian New Yorker, found everything about this artistic gestalt  to be repulsive as well as inaccurate.  Different strokes?  One wonders with detached curiosity.
       Perhaps a decade has passed since the end of this weekly injection of unadulterated vice which, as  noted, was mainlined by a large and enthusiastic audience.  Time has not dulled my guttural, near violent opposition to its popularity.
       Currently, our nation-hood by hood-is all a-whisper about this  'vice scene 'on our very own streets  - in demonstrations where the sit-in has devolved into the 'smash-in'; in minor criminal behavior where the young shoplifter has placed guns and machetes into his sticky fingers; where the major crime scene now eliminates not one or five with direct or friendly fire and bullets but rather mows down a crowd of unfortunates happening in their wake; and most recently, we have the crudely hollow but loud roar of opposition to elected officials by many who at one time applauded "The Sopranos ".  This last phenomenon culminated in a "family-style" takeout hit of adult innocents on a baseball field where the victims were practicing for an upcoming charity fund-raiser.      
       The perp apparently stalked and skulked for months; vice concealed/ignored, seduced him in much the same way that legendary sirens seduced seamen.  And yet, to this observer, his may be the smallest brush stroke in this portrait of vice.  The mute acceptance, nay encouragement, of the hate-spewing, destructive, senseless, mean-spirited  cast of thousands of miscontents-turned- miscreants will flood the canvas with grease paint as the crowd-killing of a nation unfolds .
       Oh, for the days when vice was unpleasant and ugly and calling a fictional  character like Lady Brett a bitch in print threatened to suppress a book's publication.  "The Sun Also Rises" was banned in Boston.  The non-lady bitches in our congress speak at podia with amplification.

Later, Lorane. . . . .

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I'm No Fiddler!

       I've heard that Nero played his fiddle while Rome burned.  Guess he demonstrated his lack of the ability to multitask when matters of import were occurring on the world stage.  Well, far be it from me to criticize.  Obviously, I can't UNItask (continue on an awkwardly begun, well-intentioned writing catchup even.). ADHD does that to one.
       But today, in that I actually completed what was to be a written communique, in person, in real time, I turn my attention - such as it is - to current international events.  To wit, (whom I hardly know), on the increasingly, potent, frequent and ugly extremist attacks on innocent, unsuspecting, helpless victims on this same 'Nero' world stage.
       I heard an angry, determined law enforcer commenting on the abattoir recently created in Manchester, UK.  He said, "They have a moral elevator that has no bottom floor."  I am moved to respond:
(To be performed atop the fetid, sunk remains of the losers during their impudent 'victory' gavotte)

   We must leap onto the 'retribution/redemption' escalator set to propel the globe's 'people-mover' to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, leaving an endless 'magic carpet', piled with the packed carcass bits of gratefully dead and condemned, having been ferociously slain while quaking in fearful anticipation, their very beings infused with the approaching symphonic song of annihilation that would be followed by the blissful and cherubic cheers drowning out their eternal sounds of silence. 
       The Roman poet  Horace wrote, "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero." His admonition has been translated, "Seize the day, trust as little as possible in tomorrow.". Horace, obviously a man of action, wasn't allowing any moss to gather under his 'stones'.  That's how he rolled.  As to his decision, it seems a prudent course.  Indeed, the  more likely and proximate harm becomes, the more passionately we may wish to adopt his lexicon.  You can certainly count me in.  I'm no fiddler!
Later, Lorane. . . . .  




Friday, May 5, 2017

Here's To The Lady Who Lunched , The Spirited Men Who Joined Her, Unsinkables and "Always Dreamin'".

       The birth of this new month is etched on my heart by its being the start of my second post operative week, having  had  foot surgery the week previous .  Home alone.  So  much time.  I used it to entertain  - lavishly - the many thoughts I've been  wanting to  share with neglected loved ones.  But the  'party' never came off as it sadly lacked the action verb - share.
       Here we are, then, dear readers, at week's end and as the inimitable Dorothy Parker spat in response to her proferred party invitation, "Oh, are you entertaining?", "Not very.".  Worse yet, my neglected loved ones deserve better lest they begin to see themselves  as forgotten, shunned even.  In a paltry attempt at mimicry - imitation  being the highest form of praise, I shall adopt an acid-tongued, clever story-telling style used by Ms. Parker in her column/poetry proliferative years.
       She told several stories at once using (known in cardiology as 'interpolation' or an extra heart beat 'fitting' between two normal ones without disturbing the rhythm).   Post operative foot notwithstanding  I shall leap over Dorothy's acuity (fat chance), incorporating a 'crowd'.  Many loved ones. Very little time.  No appreciable attention span (you may recall.  Or not.)
       (On the first rumination day, I was haunted by thoughts of my dear, thespian friend, Marty McGaw, whom I've not seen in years but spoke with two years ago on the occasion of the tragic, sudden death of  one of  her beautiful sons (Sandy).  Karma guided me to my desk - ostensibly for stationary and I stumbled upon a haltingly begun emotionally abandoned letter which I give to her now:
'Marty, et al,  There are no words - save those that the levelled and bereft must continually come up with to fill the never-ending voids generously offered by 'The Comforters'.  Ere long you become a turnstyle easing another group of "I-don't-know-what-to-sayers" down and through, oozing along with an occasional, "Yes. Henceforth I shall be sloshing my Alaskan King Crab legs around in the salty, down home bath of my tears.".
I keep a notebook - but promise to write directly to you clearly as soon as my heart can handle clarity - titled, "Ridiculously Good Ideas".  Last week's entry: RANDOM THOUGHTS - THE SANDY 'HAPPY LIFE FORMULA'.
If we could see life as a spectrum, with SPLENDOR at one end and TRAGEDY at the other, what would the diagram look like? (work with me here, Marthena.  Picture a horizontal, bisected paramecium with words in each section.)  On the left or SPLENDOR Side: finding the right life partner; good health for you and your family; freedom/opportunity to move around to tropical climes; surviving/overcoming daily annoyances. Now the right or TRAGEDY Side: moving ahead after a crisis; losing a long-held job unexpectedly; leaving a listless, apathetic spouse; raising young kids by yourself; dying young.
Does 'feeling happy' require discipline?  How or should or need one maintain a large, transparent perspective?  Is that the trick, Sandy?  Or is that too unrealistic an aspiration for the average, non-Sandy Mac who can barely remember to buy toothpaste in the drugstore?
Guess I developed 'writers block'.  The people in my head stopped talking to me and each other.  We had to 'take it on the road' for a year or so while you were taking it on the chin.  But I'm preaching to the choir.  Of all beautiful, temperamental souls, you most of intimately understand the crippling quirks of the artist.)
       Dorothy Parker once put forth in a poem,
"For art is a form of catharsis, And love is a permanent flop.".  I would have given those lines to Sandy but she saved the piece , "Comment" for him, as do I:
"Oh, life is a permanent  cycle of song, A medley of extemporanea; And love is a thing that can never go wrong; And I am Marie of Roumania."
       (Sandy's Life Song:

Will of necessity be garbled in the morn.  A night of brain rest is a-bornin'.
Later, Lorane. : . .

Saturday, April 15, 2017


       Sometimes, when you just have to bite the ole 'responsibility bullet', put the laundry in, scrub that burnt grilled cheese crust off the still-soaking pan and get the veggies ready for steaming, it's a tad less tedious if you have the TV on (volume very loud) in the background.  Sometimes.
       Now there are alternative 'carrots'.  Like today, I made reservations to fly North and visit the daughter and her fam who said "No!" to being a Southerner.  It was a fun chat with a travel agent - an Idaho native.  She was pleasant, funny and professional and, obviously, when faced with the 'big question', she decided to leave her hometown hood for a barely-remembered local to drive around in a 16-wheeler, repeatedly losing the truck and the huge baking potato splayed across its middle.
       You may recall, we recently moved to a decidedly rural, picturesque, prosaic area of Virginia. Indeed, I get lost when driving along one white-gated pasture after another.  I could just kick myself because my parents weren't Holsteins!  City-raised, ambling through this overdose of NATURE does nothing to improve my already bruised mental status so a retreat from the un-natural world of TV advertising has become a nonpareil when it was once non-existent.
       Today, I was treated to a head shot of a whining young married posing the question that must be consuming her sisterhood, "Ladies, are you as tired of NOT being able to find the perfect, most comfy recliner for your hubby as me?". (That's not even rhetorical.  Unbelievable comes to mind.)
       This travesty was soon hooked, replaced by a pert and serious journalist giving us the heads-up on what we may have time to learn- today's news.  Her selected 'MO' was the 'no-lead-in-snippet-of-the-meat-of-the-matter'.  Alabama's governor was seen sourly baring his conscious - smothered in rural,garden-fresh garni from his estranged wife's new green bank account.  It seems our remorseful state leader is stepping down, having stepped in and out with one of his underling aides.  Back to the ADS, pu-leez!
       There is that poor dear literally hopping up from her seat in the center of a theater row, whispering embarrassed, "Excuse mes" as she is pulled down and forward in her trek to the aisle, apparently at the insistence of  of an animated, bloated, determined bladder.  After enduring several such humiliating exits, she takes a stand (and presumably a seat) wit, "That's it.  We're going to the doctor.".
       And she's not alone in facing absurd resolutions.  The asthmatics, the forgetful, the overweight, short of breath, blood-clotters, joint achers, complexion-pocked, heart-beat blocked eve, the sleep under-stocked - all malingerers NOT to the malaprops flock - your friendly PHARMACIST.  He's got the stuff - that gels your feet when you can't jump, that tells your heart how fast, slow or strong to pump. The MAN.
       The medication, information and cost for this remediation concludes the cheering and he goes on to 90% of what he's to say - the AUCTIONEERING!  His tongue came to the fork in the road - and he took it - and us.  
       That yellow brick road was fun but don't kid yourself into thinking you won.That road morphs to quick (very quick) sand, and you're swallowed into the dire,fatal even,things that can possibly - indeed already may have - happened, befell the cure-taker. Buyer beware.  You can lose more than your hair.  If brevity is the SOUL of lingerie, CYA-jargon is at the very HEART of the "info-mercial" that 'drapes' to the point of smothering you MEDICAL HEART.  I wound up  catching too many glimpses of insanity-pushing and no diversional and really helpful data.
       I tell folks we moved to the "Plantation".  I've counted 14 spots per night dealing with death and burial preceded by spots pushing 'company/care/sequestration' for the older set, the soon-to-be planted.  Their "NATURAL HABITAT"?  Think I'll take a solo trip to a weekend spa, then come back, rested, but not bested.  And just munch on the ole 'responsibility bullet'.  Ya know?
Later, Lorane. . . . 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stray Thoughts

       Been a while since last we met.  People - family and friends - are askin', "What's up?".
       Thinking, mostly.  It's good to stop and take stock every now and then - especially when another year of living is about to become history.  Catalogued, as it were.
       Be warned, dear friends however, that mine is a living and thinking of parentheticals, ellipses, dashes.  This because whereas most folks, be they right or left-brained (the 'right' thinking logically, rationally; the 'left' thinking metaphorically, I think), still maintain a fellowship with consistency, order, flow and relatedness.  When they write or tell a story or describe an encounter, the reader or listener or visualizer follows them.  They understand.  They 'get it'.  They can imagine, if only analogously.
       My constant companion, the 'good fellow' I hail is known today as "ADD" or attention deficit disorder.  Arguably, the single thought process or mode of expression or descriptive ability that I consistently 'maintain' is the IN ability to 'stay on point', shall we say to completion.  Moreover, this phenomenon is ill-suited to my gender as the end point for women IS completion unlike that for men which is perfection (To be sure, many of my married sisters would experientially argue this point.)
       So, it would seem I'm a majority of one in a 'non-category' of folks.  That said, (BTW, have you noticed lately that respected, educated people, when speaking a response, begin their peroration with the word "so"?  What's up with that?), I can embark on sharing my "What's up?" utilizing every arrow in my quiver of loose associations, flights of ideas and oxymorons consoled by the knowledge that the recipients of this malapropismic outpouring, armed with the ability to discern that some sequitors are perfectly logical and some are non, will select with ease the material intended/enriching/informing for them, casting inapplicable detritus aside.
       My dearest buddy from high school, Kathy, whose friendship and personality I love AND admire, is presently the object of a rarely felt emotion by me - jealousy. (And why are some window blinds dubbed "jealousy"?  I welcome any and all takers.)  She, with hubby Will, are in Florida, having extended their annual visit with the ONLY one of their seven children who does NOT live close to their home in New York.  Kathy's rheumatoid arthritis fares better in the warm clime and she immerses herself in the morphed relationship of friendship with Elizabeth who, by virtue of age plus the longevity/depth of her many other virtues, has become more of a confidante than daughter.
       This new found but predictably gratifying development is definitely in the 'more-bang-for-your-buck' category - rather like the little 'roadmap' that Russel Stover illustrates (I've seen examples) on the inside of the lids of their boxes - a reassuring, more enjoyable type of indulgence of "quality ingredients in small batches" - one that insures both participants that they'll NOT 'get into' something unappealing.
       Of my three children, two live close by but are struggling through some rough patches presently and the third lives in Boston (buffeted by an Eskimo Winter with all of its vagaries), well out of 'coffee clatch'-range but with her hubby and daring little troopers:

visit from VA cuz Emma

AND baby cuz ZOE below welcomed warmly by "The Troopers"

 "The Troopers" - MIA AND WES

Mia welcomes "chilly cousins"

       I DO relish decorating our new home for their anticipated visits, though.  I've recently 'bonded' with Martha Stewart (VERY unlikely bedfellows) in spirit as I certainly cannot afford her recherche concepts save a visit from The Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol.
       And I feel blessed by the proximity of the other six of our eight grandchildren, ranging in age from twenty-seven months to fourteen years.  Taking care of, playing with (when MY arthritic joints permit),talking and listening to as well as watching them at play and study is a priceless gift.  They are so close and caring with each other, share many of the same qualities and activities but evince impressive and strong individuality.
       The youngest - unplanned and to date, seemingly unbridled Zoe - currently stands out in the individuality arena.  It IS true (so scotch any kind rumors to the contrary) that several weeks ago, on a rare "Mommy and Daddy are gussying up to attend a fancy-dancy dress-up party hosted by Daddy's boss night", while Mommy was chatting with her and trying to find and apply some makeup, little Zoe was quietly (too quiet) 'borrowing Mommy's red nail polish to carefully paint her entire foot and toenails.  Hmmmm.  Decision time.  Dad in his tux; Mom, gown and heels.  Do we can the formal OR call and plead with the sitter to come early for a special 'cleanup' project.
       Their sitter ran with the ball and Mommy and Daddy danced the night away at theirs.  But.  This is the same little Zoe who happened to be with her parents, Granddad and coloring travel gear when, during a visit to very ill Paternal Grandmom, her doctor took the family into a conference room for the saddest of possible words (and they were NOT Tinker to Evers to Chance) with Zoe and her portable playroom in tow.  That she would remain seated, let alone quiet was a long shot.  Well, when they come in against big odds, long shots pay off big.  At some point, Granddad broke down.  Zoe, twenty-seven months of pure decorum, slid noiselessly out of her chair, walked the length of the conference table to a staunchly-seated but clearly beat Granddad, climbed up his very long legs, sat in his lap, arms around his neck and settled her soft towhead gently on his shoulder.
       This kind of precocious, loving, intuitive behavior is rarely seen - even among the non- astigmatic.  When one DOES see it, the proper response is the purchase of one or ten bottles of "Jungle Red" nail polish.  Just leave them in her crib, next to Lovey, turn on the humidifier and exit the room, silently pulling the door behind you.
       The VERY special ingredient in all of these grand parental (Grams to all but the Boston battalion.  Mia had trouble pronouncing the hard "g" when she started talking, so I'm 'Gigi' among the Yankees) relationships is the reciprocity.  I watch THEM learn and, in turn, learn FROM them.

             The Other Local Contingent

              The Local Contingent
       Theirs is a new world for me. While, of necessity, I appreciate (and take advantage of)  the advances in learning resources that propel their education, research and overall progress, I fully agree with author Charlotte Moss who tells us, "It requires discipline to power off and not get sucked into the digital rabbit hole.".
       I take every opportunity to stress the importance of - every now and then - doing what they consider some very old-fashioned things to jump start their minds, their souls and get the creative juices flowing.  When they become frustrated and whine about NOT being able to select an essay topic, I remind them to slow down, to allow themselves to fully experience their "now" - take a walk down an old street when they are on a field trip, really see how people used to live, smell the air, stare at the crowds, listen, eavesdrop, commune with the stars, BE INSPIRED. These are the experiences that will become the memories that influence, define the rest of their lives.
       (I still recall with a chuckle what a pro my paternal grandfather was at 'defusing' a potentially unattractive scene involving him and his spouse, Grandma Stella.  My recollection is, of course, based on eavesdropping - a habit of which he was acutely aware.  On one of our compulsory two week "whole family" vacations to a forgettable Jersey 'resort', he had JUST finished pitching baseballs to his four sons, at least two of whom were quite athletic.  None of them could hit him - left or right-handed. He lay down on the grass, arms crossed in total self-satisfaction (which ANY observant onlooker would say was highly deserved), when Granma Stella approached, shattering the glow of his sunny-day victory with a dismissive mutter of, "Willie.  Time to wash up for suppa.". (I daresay Stella's mudder was no girl's best friend)
       Of course Granpa ignored her.  And of course she persisted times three as she stealthily approached.  FINALLY, he uttered with the perfect smidge of indignance, "Stella.  Can't you see I'm talking to the Sun?"  Never even opened his eyes. Noting no support forthcoming from her audience, she stomped off, one foot collecting an unnoticed cow pie.
       His other diffuser (what with the little ones afoot and all ears) was song.  Indeed.  Stella would attempt to goad him into an argument about a long- forgotten, inconsequential disagreement (an all-inclusive category)  and he would spin around, hand over chest, crooning, "Ya gotta GIVE a little, TAKE a little, and let (down on one knee) your poor heart BREAK a little. . ." followed by applause from the kids and a bow from him and - ready? - a mudder from Stella.  My favorite was his rendition of  "Peg 'o My Heart, I love ya. . .". None of the other kids thought that one was funny.  And it wouldn't have been had her name been Margaret. The point is, the guy - the MEMORY of the guy - has been topic and character and behavior fodder for yours truly for a lifetime.  Hope you get the chance to catch my "Second Hand Rose" some day.)
       So, when my 'grands' can't come up with a topic, can't articulate a design scheme, convey/describe a color - they can turn to their 'hard drive' of experience, of really being present in their "now".
       When my fourteen year-old grandson asked me why it was so hard for him to come up with an idea for an essay while his dad could easily think of five right off the top of his head, I told him it was part longevity and part recalling experiences with  clarity and exactitude because he'd taken the time to fully appreciate the present moment.  (So much so that he earned himself a 'gentleman's C' at Georgetown but an A plus in 'person'.)
       By way of example and as a means of giving him something to which he could relate, I shared/gave him one such example that I own.
       I had the privilege to know (well) the "mental coach" of the US Olympic Diving Team during the era of the inimitable Greg Luganis. It was during the few years following Greg's terrible accident, crashing his head into a platform during a badly-timed/executed very high and difficult dive.
       Coach thought he'd never climb that ladder again.  I was in Florida with Greg and his mental coach when Greg was helping coach our team for an upcoming competition.  I asked him - during a break in their daily twelve-hour practice.  "Greg, how did you ever have the guts to get up and, after the doc cleared you, climb that ladder AND execute a perfect Gold Medal dive?".
     His response:   " I looked at Frank (the mental coach).  He approached me and in his gentle, dulcet voice said, 'Greg.  Try to remember what it felt like when you did it right.'"
       Greg had been coached to fully experience every important life challenge.  He closed his eyes for a moment, then calmly and fearlessly began the longest of ladder climbs to the platform from which he was to execute the Gold Medal dive.  He never heard the crowd.  His focus was completely on the memory of what it felt like to do it right.  With this vivid memory, he perfectly executed the best First Place dive of his life.
       Like Greg, dear readers, die really KNOWING SOMETHING.  You are not here long.
Later, Lorane. . . .