Archive for May, 2011

Once upon a time when my high schooler, the Rocker, had a metal band in our garage, Bob and I caught a midday movie called House of Rock, at the Monmouth Mall. With a handful of people in the darkened theatre, in walked a family during the previews with 3 little kids. They sat in our row. They laughed at the same jokes. As we were all getting up to leave, I said to the dad who was closest to me, “Just wait ’till you have a heavy metal band in your garage.” He laughed and said, “I know.” That voice under the cap. While walking up the aisle, I looked at the back of his skinny legs in tight jeans and knew it was the Boss.

Bob's blue light cell pix

Last weekend my son’s band was headlining at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. It’s an iconic music venue that was nearly torn down during a 90s urban renewal craze. The beautiful carousel horses on its Boardwalk were split up and auctioned off. Luckily, the Pony, where Springsteen got his start, remains refurbished and ready to welcome the next generation of Rock and Roll. It was well known that Bruce would even occasionally drop by in the wee hours to play with some astonished young musicians. But on this night, nearly a thousand young people were here just to see the Parlor Mob.

The Rocker endured 2 years of violin lessons, through 2nd and 3rd grade, in order to play his coveted guitar. And once that 9 year old little boy got his first Sunburst Fender, it never left his hands. The Rocker was reluctantly launched  for college, leaving his garage band behind after one of his bandmates had already left for NY to study sound engineering. But a band called What About Frank beckoned, and he left TCNJ to play guitar at the local hot spots. He delivered pizza. This was one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a parent, that my expectations for my children are not theirs. That at some point, you have to let go, and let them follow their passion.

Our Rocker on Right

Now The Parlor Mob has recorded their second album (not counting the first they produced as What About Frank), they have a contract with Roadrunner Records, and are getting really good bar food! They played for nearly 2 hours and I could look into the crowd and see kids singing along with them, some even transported into another world by their music. The industry has changed since Bruce started out, but the story and the music remains. TPM is an amazing live act, incredibly tight and anthemic in their range; everyone a brilliant musician with a singer whose voice is rich and strong. And that’s not just one proud rocker mom talking.  I can’t wait for this next record to be released, and to see them at some point of their European Tour next year?

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On the drive up to the Jersey Shore to see Parlor Mob debut their second album, we listened to an interview on NPR of a Harvard Psych and Public Policy Professor. Paula Caplan wrote When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home and her message on this weekend was to speak to a Vet about his war experience. Allowing them the space to talk, and listening with an open mind and heart, can do more than any therapist or drug regimen combined could do to help them cope with life after war.

So when we arrived at my in-Laws, I asked Hudson if he had seen combat on his ship, the Zaniah, during WWII. He told us he was up on the deck one morning in Okinawa, when he saw a plane coming low, straight toward him. He thought it was “…one of ours,” there was no “general quarters” alarm.  At the last minute, it swerved and crashed into another ship. He looked at me with such wisdom, and it made me think of my brother Jim’s story. About being in Saigon at the Officer’s Club and the siren’s blowing and this guy who left and took cover under his bunk and was killed by a stray bullet.

That may be the hardest existential question of all. Why did I survive, when other good men and women perished? And each Johnny and Jane has to answer that for themselves. At our Wedding, in my kitchen, my step-brother Eric and Jim talked for the very first time about their Vietnam experience. Jim was an Intelligence Officer, Eric a med-evac helicopter pilot. My teenage self thought Eric would be safe with a big Red Cross on the side of his Huey; later he told me they were targets for the VC. He was one of very few pilots to survive.

Jim and Eric on Right

To all our veterans, and active-duty service men and women, today and every day in every part of the world, thank you.

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Women of a certain age have experienced “Consciousness Raising Groups,” where as young feministas we learned to ask for what we want and be assertive, without too much aggression. We refused to take typing tests, carried around Our Bodies Ourselves like it was the bible, and some of us burned our bras. This is why the TV series Mad Men does not appeal to us, we were Mad Women! Then we married and had children and joined “Play Groups” with our babies, where we’d discuss our lives and continue learning from each other. If one of us was sick, we’d stop by with soup (chicken was my specialty). We nursed each others babies if need be. When my toddler went on a hunger strike, I remember thinking, really, I can cut up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and she might eat that? We supported and nourished each other.

And now I have “Book Club” in the Blue Ridge. I moved here almost 7 years ago, when my youngest, the Rocker, took off for college.  A wonderful neighbor, Kay, asked me if I’d like to join her Book Club. I love reading and missed my old book clubbers. In my Shore town, we all knew each other from our children’s school, so our time was spent about halfway on literature and half on gossip. I was a little down, thinking I’ll never have friends again like the ones who knew me “when.” But the smart Southern women of Ivy Farms Book Club have stood the test of time: through moving – when we left Ivy Farms and built our ‘not so big’ house on the hill a 25 minute drive away – and through illness, divorce and even the death of a spouse. Some are sending their children off to college, and some are moving their parents into assisted living close-by, but we are are all still in it together. We are rock solid, we are here for each other. Or as Oprah just put it, “I see you, I hear you, And what you say matters to me.”

The book we discussed last night was Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. It was a resounding success. It’s so nice to read about love at a certain age, and the possibility of change, of redemption. Oh and we hit a few hot topics, like the powerful Strauss-Kahn who thought he was above our rule of law. Thanks to our hostess, Virginia, who served us an Indian feast to honor Mrs Ali. And goodbye Oprah, thanks for the memories.

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When life gets complicated, I like to cook. Something about preparing a hearty soup is good for my soul and the family. Trouble is, I still cook for 4, even though we are just 2 now. Since the garden is just getting started, we had to get most of the ingredients from our Whole Foods; which btw, is having a half-price sale June 5th before they move into their humongous new building! Start to saute with the holy trinity + garlic. Collect all your fresh vegetables and boil!

Holy Trinity + garlic

the Power of Kale

Simmer 20 minutes

This is the second recipe to be passed down to the Bride. The first was a 3 layer carrot cake with toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. Making vegetable soup is the only time you will find Bob in the kitchen. We enjoy making this together, washing and chopping, dancing and tasting. One of our first attempts back north was pure slapstick.

Prince Michel white wedding wine!

There were 2 sinks in that kitchen, and the smaller one erupted in a geyser of green water after Bob finished putting a little too much refuse through the garbage disposal of the bigger sink! Live and learn…please see comments for recipe.

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Not being one to believe in the end of days, Rapture, mass hallucination craze, I decided to stay up late and watch Lady Gaga on SNL. But if you think about it, the fact that Oprah is leaving her daytime spot and according to Forbes, Gaga is already surpassing Ms O in her business model, well, maybe we should start stockpiling food. Before taking on the Mama Monster, here is  a shout out to my Jersey Girlfriend, a stunning performer with an incredible voice. Nicole Atkins is a woman with pipes! Her second album was just released “Mondo Amore.” Do yourself a favor, and listen to her croon.

Nicole Atkins

I have to just say it, I don’t get the Gaga thing. Maybe it’s that I’m not 12? I was really trying to get her, but watching her performance last night convinced me – Madonna does it better. My Mother had Mae West, my sister had Marilyn, and we had Janis. And they had talent, with a capital T. Bob took the Bride to see Madonna at Madison Square Garden when she was doing her Blonde Ambition Tour. It was akin to seeing Janis Joplin on his college campus, and taking this picture – Epic!

Janis at Duke 1968

But the Grammy egg thing? What’s that all about? Last night Gaga nailed the comedy sketches with Justin Timberlake. But her dancing and voice leave a lot to be desired. I’ll give her points for spectacle, but I’ve got a feeling Lady Gaga is going to self-implode; she doesn’t seem to have the chops. And who am I to critique this phenomenon? Remember my Adelaide and her Hot Box “Take Back Your Mink” routine?

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The dogwoods are done blooming, but limos are seen driving everywhere about town. It’s not Lady Gaga on her way to SNL that has those ubiquitous black sedans pulling up outside restaurants, or this weekend’s UVA graduation with its influx of celebrity parents. Nope, it’s time for that teenage angst or rite of passage known as Prom!

Nathan and Adelaide

I went to my Senior Prom with my future husband and co-star in Guys and Dolls (aka Nathan Detroit). Real life vaguely resembled that Runyonesque musical comedy because it actually did take him 13 years to propose. So naturally when the New York Times asked its readers for their own prom pictures I was happy to oblige.  Noting we should only add a few sentences, I took them at their word. After a few rejection letters from this publishing giant – ps, I never thought they’d print us, page 5 – let me elaborate here. http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/05/19/us/20110519_PROM_USERGEN.html

Back then, in 1966, we didn’t drink or do drugs, well at least I didn’t. We also didn’t “go all the way” in high school, imagine. Strangely enough, we still managed to have fun. We drove down to the Shore afterwards with our geeky/drama club friends, the same people we still celebrate Thanksgiving with almost every year – the Big Chill group. We spread out blankets on the beach and we swam and buried each other in sand till dawn. We were heady with the freedom of it all. Thinking back, I had a pretty progressive flapper Mother!

Big Chill at Holden Beach

We made our own dresses and drove our parents’ cars. Granted I inherited my big brother’s teensy Renault, but having one’s own car in high school was unusual. Skipping ahead to the Bride’s Prom, she refused to go with a gaggle of girls and waited for the formal invite. I never had any pictures, but heard it was great fun. She found a beautiful white Calvin Klein dress, that she managed to wear at her sorority formal too! By the time the Rocker was Prom material, I was serving on the School Board, making things a bit dicey. He wasn’t interested in proms, he had his metal band holed up in our garage day and night. Luckily, Title 9 extended to outdated notions of who should ask who to prom, and we actually had to buy him a tux since he was invited to so many.

Blonde Rocker on Right

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may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Can you guess the poet? Our hearts go out to the people in the flood plains of the mighty Mississippi. Through marriage, we have cousins living in Vicksburg. But we live near the upper fork of the Rivanna River, which is overflowing its banks and running fast to the James and then on to the ocean.

The Saint of Lost Things

The Bride has lived through two major floods. The first, the December 11th No Name Storm, happened so quickly they couldn’t even give it a proper name. She was just 12, and the Shrewsbury tributary came rushing through our backyard on the Jersey Shore, flowing into our house. She had to be rescued, along with her brother, by a fireman friend. The second, happened in early May of last year, while she was working as an ER resident in Nashville. The hospital roof caved in and her car was stuck in the parking lot. Her Groom-to-be rescued her after finding their shelter pups happily swimming in their flooded basement.

I keep two smooth stones with me always as talismans: one from the beach at Sandy Hook, and one from County Mayo. Not that I’m superstitious, no not at all. The poet is E E Cummings.

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I love having a vivid dream that wakes me up with an “Aha” moment, propelling me to either: book a dental cleaning; cut my hair; get a divorce; or say, start walking. Last night I dreamed I was dropped on a mountain with two Corgis and had to herd them downhill to a field. OK, there was more that included a rabbi and a priest but I won’t delve too deep into our collective unconscious. I’m pretty sure I know where this doggie dream came from.

The week before, I was making my usual excuse at a party for no longer taking a daily meditative walk – my dogs just can’t handle it. For years I would head out the door with two dogs and walk two miles across the little spit of peninsula we called home on the Jersey Shore. It was a perfectly flat, beautiful road appropriately named Buena Vista Avenue. I’d catch sight of egrets nesting in the trees, greet my fellow walkers and bikers, and generally feel as if I did something right, even if that’s all I managed to accomplish in a day. Stress melted away, like a Calgon commercial. My Welsh Corgis loved to walk – I remember a Vet telling me once that walking your dog was like taking a kid to the circus every day!

Now I’m almost two miles from a paved road, on a long, gravelly, mountainous driveway, with a 15 year old 100 pound dog (Buddha) who can’t walk well, or even get in the car anymore, and his two year old, little housemate (Miss Bean). Bean starts heaving and gagging as soon as I manage to corral her into the car; she has been car sick since the day we brought her home from the great no-kill shelter in town, Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA. She should have come with a warning, “Beware, cute but barfs in car.”

The constellation of events that triggered my dream include my recent excuse-making ploy, followed by my cousin Anita recounting her tragic hiking tour through Provence while I was tasting my first Absinthe (yes, it’s legal now), and then reading in June’s Real Simple magazine that three 40 minute walks a week can lead to a 2% growth in the Hippocampus. Yep, we can prevent brain shrinkage and presumably memory loss if we would only hike a little! I swear, it’s on page 12, “The Simple List.”

So, I’m off to buy hiking boots, and maybe a Taser, just in case I meet up with a bear on the way to the street. Tasers are legal, right?

The Driveway Beckons

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While my daughter the Bride was exploring Seattle, and my son the Rocker was debuting his band’s sophomore album in Brooklyn, Bob and I decided not to sit around on our laurels, so we traveled to Richmond to see Picasso at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). I knew I wasn’t a Northerner anymore because while strolling through this crowded museum space, people would apologize for either bumping into me, or crossing in front of me. I almost clicked my heels over the sheer civility of it all!

Born in Spain in 1881, Pablo Picasso made Paris his home at the age of 22. The sheer volume of this exhibit in Richmond is extraordinary, but only a small example of the 50,000 works he produced over his lifetime – all done in different mediums. As the museum’s literature so succinctly put it: “Picasso … remained open to all kinds of stimulation and restlessly moved on to new forms (and women I might add) before depleting any one style of expression.” He and his room mate, Braques, developed a different way of interpreting their world, they called it Cubism.

By the age of 12 Picasso was a better painter than his own father, and could paint in the representational style of Dutch masters. But as he said when he painted his son in a jester’s costume, his paintings had to leave space, things unfinished, because that was his art. Soon afterward, he was deconstructing and fracturing the human form in ways almost unrecognizable. His paintings and sculpture not only represent his own inner world, they reflect the tumultuous times, the wars, and a movement – the “modern” aesthetic that sustained him.

Touring the exhibit was a most holy ritual. Seeing up close and personal his style of plastering paint on canvas and then hatching it off, the sequential photos of him preparing his masterpiece of war, Guernica, and the brilliant  portraits of his wives and mistresses, left me breathless. I came away realizing genius and madness are closer than we think. His advice while living in the South of France after WWII was to, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

Waiting in Line

We always encouraged our children to follow their passion, which explains the scientist and the artist traveling around the country. Music coursed through our son’s veins, he could never deny that muse. And I wish him and the Parlor Mob an amazingly  successful second album and world-wide tour! Here is a picture of the Rocker a couple of years ago in Paris. I would love to see how Picasso would paint those long red legs!

Photography was prohibited inside VMFA (included is a  shot standing in the line). But here is a website that lets you create an artistic portrait, not in Picasso’s style unfortunately, with a photo.  I wish you a life as long and vitally creative as Pablo, and fun playing with computer imagery. This is what becomes of my face, when treated to a Modigliani interpretation! What makes me think he may have had astigmatism?


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Tim and Anita

What a day. Not everyone can say that one of their best friends also happens to be a relative – and a very savvy, politico too. We had just sat down to lunch on the Mall when my cousin Anita’s eyes lit up and she said, “There’s our Governor.” He leaned in, shook my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Tim!” Needless to say, we had a nice chat and told Tim Kaine we were happy he wanted to fill Senator Webb’s boots next year.

After lunch, we hopped over to the Jefferson Library for a book launch. Next door to Monticello, it is the repository of everything about our Third President. A gorgeous piece of architecture that was built in 2002, you feel celestial, embraced by the bookshelves in its main hall. Author and current Professor of “Imperial British History” at Harvard, Maya Jasanoff introduced the standing-room-only crowd to her new book, Liberty’s Exiles, American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Called an intimate narrative history, this is non-fiction you can sink your teeth into.

Maya signing books

I learned that on November, 25, 1783 our country was actually liberated. That was the date that General George Washington rode into New York City and proclaimed the British Occupation to be over. 60,000 Loyalists fled taking with them some 15,000 Black slaves. Less than 15% went to Great Britain, with about half going north to Eastern Canada, and the rest scattered throughout the Caribbean and West Africa and even India. Here is history from a different point of view, freedom was promised to those slaves who would follow. But as Ms Jasanoff said, “Lives that are once unsettled, cannot be easily put to right again.” This is a must read, about migration and tolerance; looking at freedom through the Loyalist lens. And Mr. Jefferson was hardly mentioned at all.

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