Monday, June 19, 2017

OF VICE AND MEN

       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:
THE PLANETARY GRAVE DANCE
(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?
CURTAIN
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

LADIES, DON'T LISTEN UP!

       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. . . . 
     




       
       
       






Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Wildest Dreams

       Shouts of "Happy New Year!" have been heard in spates since the first of January - at least in my limited experience. And you can be certain that such ãn outburst would never be initiated by yours truly. (Just as certain as my ignorance of why that diacritical mark landed on the letter 'a' in the word "an".) This because within hours, often minutes, I would be told tacitly by an eager eavesdropper that the recipient of my ebullient greeting had lost his dog the previous day.
       I am puzzled by this perceived lack of uniformity with regard to 'happiness wishing' by known passersby. As a population, are there segments among us 'waiting for the other shoe to drop ', thinking "what's the point?"; could there be superstition afoot? Preoccupation? Heretofore unknown malevolence lurking in their 'over-the-shoulder' opinion bags? Gradual hearing loss? A trend toward insularity fueled by the unhappy accompanying spate of violence? General malaise? Asparagus? WHAT?
       Pondering this phenomenon the other night, I thought, "Never in my wildest dreams have I considered experiencing such behavior.". Pause. (mental drum roll) "Have I any wild, let alone superlatively so, dreams?" Statistically, they surely exist, but live in the young or lonely. As I tend to treasure solitude, if I had wildest or even wild dreams, it was so long ago, I've forgotten them. And more's the pity, as they could have been rather entertaining doozies!
       Ironically, I often admonish my grandchildren , "Dream Big!" Sad realization indeed to think the 'admonisher' dreamt not at all.
But she did. From the moment I spied my babysitter Aunt's Underwood typewriter, I went into a child's forbidden trance. (Forbidden because kids from Brooklyn don't 'do' trances.) "Someday, I'm going to be a writer." (Whilst dear Aunt Stephie was yelling, "Don't bang on the piana!")
       Piana indeed. I'd given my regards to Broadway in the form of seeing Camelot and My Fair Lady twice each - payola from my older brother - my senior by five years, for grabbing the NYU grade postcards and handing them over to him before the parents got home from work. Why Camelot and My Fair Lady? 'So's I wouldn' be sayin' things like "piana" or yellin'.
       Guess I had some wildest dreams after all. Well, wild anyway. I'm writing this blog. "Wildest" would be having avid, devoted readers, after being published in 'grown-up people books. My lot, it would seem, is more akin to Dorothy Parker's retort to an evening soirée invitee's query, "Oh. Are you entertaining?" "Not very." The latter remark was Dorothy's.
       For the record, then, my little grandpeeps, Grams DID have "wildest dreams" and for you, dear readers, I should like to apologize for my shocking breach of taste in not wishing each (or both) of you the HAPPIEST EVER OF NEW YEARS!
Later, Lorane. . . . .