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Fly Away

When I was very young I used to dream that I could fly. Almost every night I’d soar beneath the stars on the ceiling of Grand Central Station. When these dreams stopped, I missed that feeling of freedom. Now I think it’s odd that my preteen dreamself was actually trapped in a train station. 

35,000 feet above the earth, Bob and I shared earbuds to watch the movie Birdman on an iPad. It wasn’t always easy to hear the dialogue in one ear with flight attendants serving drinks, but we managed. Michael Keaton played a washed up actor (or maybe a celebrity) performing in a play on Broadway. A play within a play. 

We loved the movie except for one thing. The drums were disconcerting. Every time Keaton, who was famous for playing Birdman a Hollywood super hero, heard that little voice in his head, we’d get the drum roll. Alright already, we get it. He’s a tortured soul, looking for redemption, most likely psychotic since he thinks he can still fly. 

Like his famous former self. Like my early life in dreams. Flying is how Bob relaxes. He will most likely be certified again to land on this little spit of a runway. Turn left at Pain du Sucre, climb a little between two mountains, then dive like a pelican for the airport. It’s tricky business. 

The doves are back cooing at me, they want their croissant. And yesterday we found a turtle in our bathroom. If I could pick my own super power it would have to be flying. 



After weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and frozen water pipes, Bob and I have escaped. We landed on our favorite French island yesterday and today we are slowing down. Two mourning doves gingerly approached our breakfast table, but so far no turtles or iguanas have appeared in this mystical landscape. 

We started coming here in the middle of winter because Bob could never leave the hospital in the summer when new interns arrived to hone their craft.  Leaving a frozen tundra behind quickly became second nature. The antidote to his life in an ER where you never know what to expect next. 

Here we expect to be kissed by the sun, hopefully not burned, to swim in the turquoise sea, and to practice our French. Twenty five years ago when we first came here, we were cut off from civilization. Today we have too much connectivity; wi fi and international CNN at our fingertips. 

But don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for awhile. We have decided to be “paradise pirates” and leave our devices alone. An artist here burned these words in copper and wood to honor the peaceful instincts of this 18th Century band of brothers:

TO WAKE UP AND BE LIKE THE WEATHER, TO BE NO LONGER THE BROKEN HEARTED SERVANTS OF MAD KINGS

I can only wish for you that there is a special place in your lives, a place to disconnect and wake up, if only for a little while. 



Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. A friend from my Rumson book club gave me my first fix of Anne. Bob and I were preparing to move to the Blue Ridge, my youngest was heading off to college, my home on the tributary of the Shrewsbury River was filled with packed boxes. I was recovering from a severe bout of West Nile, putting steroid drops in my eyes every two hours. Hard change doesn’t come easily to me, and this move was proving to be extremely hard. Polli gave me the book “Traveling Mercies,” and inscribed:

I will miss you. I have loved having you here on Buena Vista as a neighbor and dear friend. Now the neighbor part changes, but never the dear friend! Enjoy Anne Lamott’s irreverent spirituality…

Anne is a recovering addict and alcoholic, she writes about it shamelessly. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about her, the shameless part. She’s also into Christianity, and I thought nah, I’m not going to enjoy this journey so much. Look how I fought to leave all those shaming, stern nuns behind; look how I married a Jewish man and raised my children Jewish. But finding grace is nothing to sneeze about, and Anne found it living on a houseboat and carrying on with a married man.

She woke up one morning and poured the wine and box of pills over the side of the boat, got into recovery and was baptized. Then she immediately got pregnant and her best friend discovered she had stage four breast cancer – she had to raise a child and help her friend prepare to die simultaneously. And i thought I had problems.

Here is Kelly Corrigan’s epic interview with Anne Lamott. https://medium.com/foreword/w-a-t-c-h-be1a0b70368e just for you.
I’m currently reading “Small Victories, Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” Because I need her now more than ever. She tells us not to try and fix things that are unfixable, she tells us to swim. That we don’t have time to worry about showing our upper arms or our thighs. When Kelly asks her if she could say four words to anyone, she says, “You will come through.”

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The city of Charlottesville has been ordered to halt the enforcement of an ordinance that prohibits panhandling on parts of the city’s Downtown Mall… a federal judge Thursday ruled the ordinance violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

Back in the day, I used to have to rack my brain to think of something to give up for Lent. It would usually be something like soda, or pizza, or ice cream. It just didn’t count if it was something you didn’t like to begin with, like liver. And yes we were very literal, it was always some form of food. Nobody gave up playing basketball for instance. I’m guessing it was the Christian form of fasting, like Yom Kippur or Ramadan. We Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays all year long, then we’d get marked with Ash on Wednesday and asked to stop eating something we loved for 40 days leading up to Easter. Lots of sacrifice, that was us.

Call me crazy, but I’m trying to square this with a federal judge’s ruling about a City Ordinance that Charlottesville enacted in August of 2010. In an effort to appease the business owners on the Historic Downtown Mall, the city created buffer zones to restrict panhandlers/homeless people. The city’s attorney argued this was a safety issue, but Included in the ordinance which distanced solicitation from certain areas on the Mall, was language saying that they could not approach people for money.

Lo and Behold, an attorney representing five homeless people filed their appeal based on constitutional law – saying this restricted their right to free speech. And US District Judge Norman K. Moon agreed with them “The City offers insufficient justification (much less a good explanation) for the fifty-foot measurement of the so-called buffer zone,” he wrote in a 25-page opinion filed Thursday. “There are other laws that permit the City to protect the public safety.”  http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/judge-rules-charlottesville-s-panhandling-ordinance-is-unconstitutional/article_c2ed6ff2-b89e-11e4-a872-e391736e6826.html

In striking down this ordinance, people standing or sitting, holding cardboard signs asking for money with dogs and a duffel bag by their side, are now not only allowed to be wherever they please, they are allowed to approach anyone and ask for money. Because the ordinance was not broad enough, limiting the free speech of pan handlers alone and not, for instance, political petitioners. Since I was once on the Mall hawking my view about the Affordable Care Act, I get it. It does in fact appear discriminatory.

Yesterday, on my way to unfreeze a hot water pipe, I passed by a homeless man standing on the corner to the bypass. I could barely see him, he was covered in rags from head to toe and my car thermometer read 16 degrees. I wondered about his life, what brought him to that corner, and I was strangely glad he didn’t have a dog with him. Because it’s one thing to expose yourself to such weather, and I fantasized for a minute about asking him to get into my car, bringing him to a restaurant for a meal. But the light was changing and I didn’t stop, someone would have plowed into me.

The city has a program for the homeless in this weather, different churches open their doors. But do we follow up with housing for the mentally ill, developmentally challenged all year? Where are the social service programs helping families one rental payment away from eviction? What is the role of government? Let’s not ask what we should be giving up after Fat Tuesday, but how and what can we give back to our community. Existential questions require more than a lawsuit that will pay out a “six figure” sum to the lawyers and the homeless defendants who had their right to free speech violated. IMG_2160

It was 8 degrees this morning on my perch of the Blue Ridge. This is nose-hair freezing, eye watering, finger numbing cold, even if we still lived in the Berkshire Mountains. Which we don’t; we moved in part for warmer weather. But mostly to be closer to our daughter. Then she moved, to pursue her ER residency, to the ice capital of the South currently known as Nashville. And we’re all wondering why we didn’t follow the Rocker to LA right about now!

He texted us a weather report for the week – party sunny and 70s all week out there. Which is great since the band is on the Left Coast touring. They started out in LA at the Echo Tuesday night and a little birdie told me it was “…packed to the back.” Guess you can’t say, “…standing room only,” since everybody stands and rocks out all night. To check out their tour dates, and download “Cry Wolf” just skip ahead to their website: http://www.parlormob.com

“It’s the first thing we’ve produced ourselves with no outside involvement from anyone else for about 10 years, since we made our first record,” said guitarist Dave Rosen. “We didn’t really have any concern for anything else other than exactly what we wanted to do. So, we went a little crazy, basically.”

Imagine that, artists writing, recording, producing their own music. Bob was asking me if I ever heard of the Brill Building, sometimes called the Glass Building, and I said, “Nope.” So naturally I got a little history of music lesson. It’s located at 1619 Broadway and 49th Street in Manhattan, at the heart of the Theatre District. While we all know about the Motown sound coming out of the Hitsville Studio in Detroit, and Country coming from the Ryman, New York was doing music this way in the 50s and 60s.

“After its completion in 1931, the owners were forced by a deepening Depression to rent space to music publishers, since there were few other takers. The first three, Southern Music, Mills Music and Famous-Music were soon joined by others. By 1962 the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses.”

In essence this was called vertical integration. If a songwriter was looking for an artist and a publisher for their song, this was the place to be. In fact, “There you could write a song or make the rounds of publishers until someone bought it. Then you could go to another floor and get a quick arrangement, lead sheet for $10, get some copies made at the duplication office; book an hour at a demo studio; hire some of the musicians and singers that hung around; and finally cut a demo of the song. Then you could take it around the building to the record companies, publishers, artist’s managers or even the artists themselves. If you made a deal there were radio promoters available to sell the record.” http://www.history-of-rock.com/brill_building.htm

So before the internet, artist/songwriters needed all these middlemen, to get their music off a napkin and out to the public. Carole King had a cubby in the Brill Building, so did Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Burt Bacharach. The power was in the hands of the publishers, not the artists. Today we have Pharrell Williams, the perfect example of a singer/songwriter/band/member who now runs his own multimedia company, hat and all. I mean I’d be happy too, wouldn’t you?

Happy touring boys, wish I could be at the Vegas show!

at the Echo

at the Echo

“…cause I’ll never stay,” said Lesley Gore in her 1964 song, “You Don’t Own Me.” It was a feminist anthem long before its time and I was sad to hear of her passing this weekend at the young age of 68 from lung cancer. We lost a beautiful woman and a talented singer/songwriter while celebrating St Valentine and flocking to the latest bondage movie, “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

Fifty years later, women must still remind men that we cannot be owned, our bodies will not be legislated, and our minds are not built for submission, unless of course you like that sort of thing. I’ve been strolling down memory lane lately because a friend has reminded me that my 50th High School Reunion is fast approaching; the Dover High School Class of 1966 is gearing up to party like it’s, well 1966.

“Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you.”
— Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”

I met my husband our Freshman year in high school, by Junior year we were dating. It was a short-lived romance since, once in college, he went to Woodstock and I went to Westchester. But we never really lost touch, and who knew that 70% of couples who reunite with their first loves would find love again? At the ripe old age of thirty we married, and Bob is still playing the Nathan to my Adelaide.

Fifty years later, we were talking about the wind this weekend. And Bob recalled how he had been blown off Windsor mountain when the Bride was just a baby. His little white Honda was wheels up in a snowdrift on the side of the road, and he was hanging from his seat belt upside down, watching his coffee drip from the door frame.

Luckily he walked away and someone stopped on the road and picked him up. But what if he couldn’t unlock his seatbelt? What if no one came along? In his line of work, and with my history, we’re both aware of how your life can change in a split second. I couldn’t even imagine going through this life without him, without my son who was not yet born.

No, he doesn’t own me, but he signed a long term lease on my heart. Today I’m dreaming of warmer, tropical winds, and I’ll let him take the helm if the water gets choppy. Sao Mai CLR Sunset 0208

Nightmare Neighbors

We’ve all had one in our life, lucky me I just happened to have had two. But maybe my one neighbor and BFF Lee, in the Berkshires, cancels out the others? She became my best buddy, my Vineyard vacationer, my muse; and we met at a ballet class of all things. After that, it gets murky.

I’m busy unpacking boxes at my new house in NJ, when a policeman walks up the steps to my front door. Let it be said, that up until that moment I never had a police person visit me at home. He was giving us a warning about our dog, who was “roaming free.” OK, so we moved from the MA woods to suburbia, maybe I didn’t know the rules. Then the young cop tells me he gets lots of complaints from “that neighbor.” Like he wants us to excuse him for this visit, like he really didn’t even want to be here, in my front hall with a 2 year old running around me.

Eventually the tables were turned. My daughter told me that that “mean man” had put a trap in his front yard, a bear trap in fact! I was outraged. He didn’t want kids or dogs wandering onto his property after their balls. Well you don’t mess with this mom’s kids, so I called the police. They went to visit him for a little sit down chat, and the trap was removed. But I remember, he had no boundaries, he would walk the block on our cul-de-sac as if he owned it. I wrote him off as a sicko. It never occurred to me that he might own a gun, not back then.

Fast forward to our little old town house. While we were renovating it in 2005, a neighbor would suddenly appear out of nowhere. He’d tell us what the contractor had done, which subs had shown up, and he made it known that he was touring the inside of the house on a regular basis. At first we thought how nice it was for this guy to keep tabs on things while we were away, he’d chat about his rental income and the prices of real estate. He even organized a petition to get permit parking on the street. Then my friend moved into our investment property.

The saga of the porch fan is best left to her, in her sweet South Carolina accent, but since she has moved on to sunny Cali I’ll try and do it justice. We thought that every Southern porch needs a fan to go with the mint juleps served on Kentucky Derby day. Now Karen is the sweetest, kindest middle-aged lady who would find it hard to say anything bad about anyone, but one day she called me up about our neighbor. He informed her she would need the approval of the board of architectural review to put in a fan since we are now living in a historic district. He was going to “report her.”

So the chairperson of that board had never heard of such a request, but she approved it on the phone and had me send the schematics of the fan, which I got off the internet, to her office for a one hundred dollar fee. OK, case closed. But no, Karen started doing some gardening work in the front yard, and you guessed it, the nosy neighbor started up again, and I asked her what did you say? She told me, “I just ignore him now.” And again, the thought that he might have a gun in his house had never occurred to me.

And then yesterday, we hear about three young Muslim Americans shot execution style in NC, Chapel Hill students just beginning their lives. And the police want us to think it’s not a hate crime. It was a dispute over a parking spot? In fact ,the murderer had menaced Deah Barakat and his wife and her sister only after his marriage and the girls moved into his Chapel Hill condo, so he could see their religion plainly since the women wore headscarves. The nightmare neighbor had been seen around the complex carrying a rifle openly, and was always complaining about parking and noise.

Deah and Yusor were barely six weeks married, a story of love, respect and support that warmed all our hearts. Razan, Yusor’s younger sister, was visiting her big sister and brother-in-law when they were killed. Police said their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, came into their home and shot them. I cannot imagine the sweltering hatred and utter disregard for human life that must have plagued the killer’s heart and soul, but all must know and honor the kinds of people Deah, Yusor and Razan were to understand how terribly they will be missed. http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/11/opinion/masmoudi-unc-shooting/index.html

So was it a hate crime, a parking spot, a mentally ill person with no boundaries…maybe, and probably all of the above. But it was the gun that allowed him to kill them, one at a time, execution-style. And I bet he got it legally too. My heart goes out to the families and the Muslim community in the Research Triangle.  carolina.si

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