Sunday, August 02, 2020

The State of Our Union

I always read in bed at night, and last week I started reading Lilac Girls, a debut novel about three women during WWII. It seemed clear, given the setting, that one or more of them would be in peril at some point, and I hoped the book wouldn't be too suspenseful. I don't handle suspense well.

Last night I was introduced to the third woman, a young medical student in Germany. The year is 1939. She has been taught (brainwashed) that Jews are bad people who want to corner the market on law and medical jobs, and she has a real aversion to them. Her father does not, but her mother does. Lists are posted in public places (there is a name for these lists) of Aryans who shop in stores owned by Jews, and those on the list are ostracized, and sometimes arrested. Meanwhile, Jews were being pulled out of their homes, and all their possessions were either looted by the SS or spread out on tables in the street and sold for cheap. 

There was such a horrible divide between the followers of the Fuhrer and those who had compassion for the Jews and felt the Fuhrer was a dangerous man. (The book, thus far, didn't even mention the others who were persecuted and killed, such as homosexuals and the disabled, which I believe happened before they turned on the Jews.) People had to be careful of what they said in public. Strangers sniped at one another in stores. Marriages and friendships were strained. The divide produced a pervasive atmosphere of suspicion, animosity and lurking violence. It reminded me of the situation building in the U.S., and I had to abandon the book permanently. It kept me awake for hours.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Staying Home vs. "Staying Home"

I like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, but I wish he had never mentioned the "shocking" 66% of people who contracted Covid-19 while staying home. The lunatic fringe has jumped on this, and now we have protesters carrying signs that read COVID IS A LIE.

What they don't seem to have thought through (do they think through anything?)  is that "staying home" doesn't necessarily mean staying safe. I'm pretty strict about my isolation because I don't dare get the virus, But  some people, while staying home from work, shop at Walmart and  Home Depot, and who knows where else. They don't bother to sanitize what they bring home from the stores, and they don't pay attention to their mail and UPS packages either.

And they have visitors. "It's only family," I've heard more than once online. They let their daughter in because she's their daughter--even though she goes to work every day or lives with someone who goes to work every day or gathers with her friends on weekends "because it's hard not to socialize when you're  young." Or their grandkids get dropped off at their house every morning because they've always watched them and they're just little kids. Or they invited the whole extended family over for Easter dinner because they always get together for Easter and they're not about to give that up because some stupid governor issued an order.

So I don't find the 66% shocking, and I wish the protesters would get off the street and back in their houses where they belong.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Home Sweet Home

I've been self-isolating since March 6, and up to now I've had it relatively easy as my son and his family (my only visible neighbors) have been isolating too, so we've been in the same isolation circle.My son has stopped in every day, and the boys (8 and 6) are in and out of my house. I get to see the baby (4 months) too. But now my son has been called back to the office once a week, and that changes everything. Because of my age (77 in a few weeks) I have to be extra cautious. So now my isolation really is isolated! Good thing I'm pretty good at solitary confinement. Also, being an only child means I'm never bored.

My rural county has 10 Covid cases, but an hour to the east--closer to NYC--another county has 236. Both counties are under a stay-at-home order. I have a good supply of food and other things, and we've picked up a couple of online Walmart orders when we got low on fresh produce and other perishables. Not everything is always available, but we're flexible.

I do worry, though, about the magnitude of the crisis and how it's going to play out. I've heard experts state firmly that we will have a resurgence in the fall. It's hard not to envision an endless loop. But as much as I've bad-mouthed pharmaceuticals, the companies are working hard on a vaccine (whether from altruism or the profit motive, it doesn't much matter), and the same goes for treatments.

And I'm grateful for technology! Imagine doing this in the years when I was growing up when my parents had one phone (squat and black) and one small TV. Or before that, with no phone and no TV. Like the 1918 Spanish Flu. Or the 1800's, when diphtheria ravaged communities. Be grateful for the internet, and stay safe, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Upside of Self-Isolating (Single Woman Version)

Let your hair air-dry! It doesn't matter now that part of it is wavy and part straight.

Eyebrows looking a little sparse? Who cares?

Hunt up your singleton socks and get some wear out of them. More fun if the colors clash!

Leggings getting a little baggy? Not a problem!

Yes, your hands feel like sandpaper from all this washing. But it's your secret.

You're saving wear and tear on your car.

And adding lots of steps (maybe) on your Fitbit.

Dried beans . . . rice . . . pasta . . . crackers . . . carbs without guilt!

And finally, you know those people you'd like to avoid? Now you can!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Adventures in Gravestone Photography

I've mentioned before that I volunteer as a gravestone photographer.  I received three photo requests this morning and decided today would be a good day to fill them. So I ventured out to a little cemetery I'd never seen before. It was next to a church, but the church hasn't been used in 10 years. I don't know how the parishioners accessed the church even then because there's nowhere to park--not by the church, nor anywhere else within reasonable walking distance. 

I was determined not to leave without taking pictures, so I turned into the closest road and pulled as far over as I could, and left my car there. I then set out on an uphill hike to the cemetery. I didn't realize right away how dangerous this was. The road isn't heavily traveled, but when a car or truck comes by, it's flying. With the road's hills and twists, visibility isn't always the best. And the shoulder, if we can call it that, was just a tangle of poison ivy and tall weeds--some as tall as my face.

I don't normally get a lot of exercise. (My daughter once gave me a mug that reads, "Typing fast is my cardio.") I have back issues, and I don't remember the last time I walked that far--and certainly not uphill! I had to stop twice to catch my breath and ease my burning calves. But I made it, and had photographed about 2/3 of the stones when my camera battery died. Oy. I'd left the spare battery in the car, along with the list of photo requests.

I haven't gone through all the pics yet, so I don't yet know if I actually fulfilled the requests. I do know I made it back down the hill without getting killed, and I also know there's no way I'm doing that particular adventure again. Maybe another volunteer photographer can arrive in a helicopter, although that does seem unlikely.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Maybe I Should Have Remained a Republican.

When I first registered to vote, my dad explained the process and said I could choose Republican or Conservative. I chose Conservative, thinking at the time I might learn something about politics and get involved. I couldn't have been more wrong, and at some point I switched my party affiliation to Republican, so I could at least vote in primaries.

This was the pre-Fox Republican party. This was a time when Democrats and Republicans could talk politics and remain friends . . . when Congress members on both sides of the aisle discussed issues, compromised, and voted with their hearts and brains rather than out of some misguided knee-jerk sense of party loyalty. A time when they attended the same functions and actually socialized together.

I married a Republican who never watched TV and got his news from The Wall Street Journal and NPR. Yes, NPR. To those who are surprised because you assume NPR leans left, Joe felt "All Things Considered" offered the best in-depth, balanced news reporting. I agree.

Over the years I voted more like an Independent. Contrary to what a Social Studies teacher taught my high school class, I voted for the person, not the party. I didn't vote for Clinton. I did vote for Obama. Twice. But I was still a registered Republican, and one reason was that I could have lots of fun wearing my "Republicans for Obama" button.

But when a lying, cheating, stealing egomaniac moved into the White House last year I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take him, I couldn't take his handlers, and I couldn't take the state of the Republican party. During the years when I hadn't been paying attention, many Republican members of Congress had turned into a bunch of self-serving suck-up lemmings. I wanted to distance myself from all of them, and all of it, as best I could, so I changed my party affiliation again and became a Democrat.

But now, when it's more important than ever to keep pressure on our elected officials, I have the feeling my new voting status will eliminate any possibility of a Republican Congressman taking my opinion seriously. I think they'll very likely say, "Oh. She's a Democrat. She's not going to vote for me anyway, so I don't care what she thinks." Or they'll think I'm stating the Democratic party line. Since they don't think for themselves, but parrot their party line, they probably think everyone else operates this way too.

Life was a great deal more pleasant when I never thought about politics and related issues. But once your eyes have been opened, it's hard to close them again.

Monday, December 04, 2017

So Much Fun

A bon voyage party for Ernest aboard the QEII, c. 1967 (see post below)

A Thrilling Place to Be

The letter begins: "My memories of Louise and the time we all spent together at Lincoln Center remain vivid, and I suspect they always will. I close my eyes and I m sitting in front of Louise's desk in her beautiful office with the Navajo White walls and all that brilliant light."

I wrote the letter yesterday to Ernest, Louise's recently widowed husband. Fifty years ago they weren't married yet. Louise was my boss, and we all worked at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. It's hard for me to imagine a more thrilling place to be than Lincoln Center in New York in the 1960's.

"I'm so glad I had the opportunity to meet you both, to work with you, and to have had so much fun with you."

So much fun. Part of my job was being in charge of house seats for what was then Philharmonic Hall. It later became Avery Fisher Hall. I don't know what it's called now; to me it will always be Philharmonic Hall. My fingers still fly over the keys at top speed when I type it.  Being in charge of the house seats made me a very popular person. This was especially evident at Christmas, when the gifts poured in--gifts from very nice people with very deep pockets.

My employers were generous too. My friendship with Lee, which I've written about here, started at Philharmonic Hall, and her boss managed the venue. I remember one birthday when he gave me a standing rib roast and one perfect garlic. The bunch of us talked about food all the time. Constantly. We shared recipes and cookbook recommendations. I learned to make Julia Child's Soup au Pistou from Lee's boss. Sometimes I ate lunch at my desk while I embroidered. This was referred to as "The Hearth Hour."

We read a lot of the same books. Addicted to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee mysteries, we posted a chart on the bulletin board to keep track of them all. And we lunched. Boy, did we lunch. The famous Madison Avenue lunches had nothing on our upper West Side lunches. Caracalla and the Cafe des Artistes were two of my favorite spots--the latter with the famous Howard Chandler Christy murals. I don't think either restaurant is still there. Much of the time I stayed in a luscious rut: Sole Meuniere at Cafe des Artistes and sweetbreads at Caracalla. I haven't eaten sweetbreads since.  I have no idea what these lunches cost. My lack of attention to prices was so very different from my present frugal life in the country. Our food was usually accompanied by alcohol--martinis or scotch. I don't know how we got anything done in the afternoon.

Under my desk you might find my dog, Poppy, who became the official mascot of the Philharmonic's softball team. People could tell she was there when they heard her tail thump as they walked by. Imagine spending a "work" morning in Central Park in the sun with your dog, watching your friends and musicians from the New York Philharmonic play softball. Opposing teams included the Playboy Bunnies.

Music, of course, was everywhere: pianos in some of the offices, random musicians in the hall outside my open door, rehearsals and performances piped in from the stage if we wanted. So heady to have access to all the events in all the buildings. I attended the Metropolitan Opera and dropped in on rehearsals. We attended stage productions and film festivals. I remember being told one of those films, "French Lunch," was extremely sexy. Of course Lee and I showed up, leaving the office that afternoon and slipping into theater seats in the dark. The opening scene showed a large knife cleaving an orange. "Mm," we murmured, nodding, acknowledging the symbolism. The film turned out to be about a chef making lunch. In France.

We were surrounded by the talented and famous, on the stage and in our offices. I wrote in my 40-words-a-day blog about my amusing encounter with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Somewhere exists a photo of me with Leonard Bernstein. Performers abounded in other genres too. Like Peter, Paul & Mary,  the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Tony Bennett. In 1966 I received the "Annie Get Your Gun" soundtrack from Ethel Merman herself. And I once got a kiss on the cheek from Harry Belafonte, but that was because a cousin of mine is a good friend of his.

The events! The gowns. The buildings, the marble, the architecture. The elegance. The clouds of Jean Patou's "Joy" perfume competing with Chanel No. 5. Somewhere exists a photo of the audience at a stellar gala concert. If you scan the faces you'll see Jacqueline Kennedy and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. And Louise and Ernest. And me.

I left NYC around 1970, and sometime after that Louise and Ernest married and moved to his home in England. We stayed in touch.

"I'm happy we've remained friends even when a lot of time and distance have separated us."

I've searched for community over and over in my life, with varying degrees of success. I found it in spades at Lincoln Center. It was so hard to leave. When I heard that Louise had died, my first thought was to call Lee to tell her. But of course I couldn't. And of course she already knew.