Archive for March, 2015

Bob’s been working a number of evening shifts lately, so I try to stay up past midnight to welcome him home. It’s also a self-serving move, since many times if I fall asleep, I have trouble getting back to sleep once he wakes me. Reading would definitely put me to sleep, so naturally, this is when Netflix comes in handy – I’m a serial, binge watcher. I’m all caught up on House of Cards, and believe me I didn’t see that end coming. Now I was ready for something new. And this new Tina Fey number delivered, ear worm and all. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/03/unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-theme-song

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is like cotton candy in your mouth; it’s sweetly cloying and gone in a New York minute. The episodes are short and were originally developed to fill a half hour TV slot. The idea is some women are kidnapped by a crazy, end-of-days preacher and kept in a bunker for 15 years; but we start with their ascension into sunlight, prairie women garb and all; oh, and that song. Leave it to Fey to make this funny. Because Kimmy was in 8th grade when she was taken, her world is stuck in the 80s. With Manhattan as a backdrop, and filmed in vivid, sunlight-soaked primary colors, she finds work as a nanny (sort of) and a Black/Gay room mate. It’s as if Sleeping Beauty woke up to Hammer time.

Kimmy’s vision of the good life has exactly that vibe: she wants to enjoy what she’s missed out on. Roaming around New York, she binges on candy, like a crazed toddler. She buys sparkly sneakers. Peppy and curious to the point of naïveté, she acts as if she’d learned about life from sitcoms—she gets into a love triangle, she goes back to school, she’s eager for every party. But there’s also something tense and over-chipper about Kimmy’s zest, an artificial quality that even the cartoonish characters around her can sense is “off.” Yes, there was “weird sex stuff” in the bunker, she blurts out to her roommate. She has an unexplained Velcro phobia. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/30/candy-girl

I’m reminded once again about the nature/nurture question. Think about Elizabeth Smart, how she managed to overcome nine months of unbearable”…boredom, hunger and rape.” Also at the hands of a would-be “prophet.” What might break some, actually forges a stronger identity in others. Because at the heart of Kimmy’s pop/yet/dark dramedy, lurking on the margin, is sexual violence and religious fruit cakes.

Let it be known, in my small way, I’d like to continue to fly over Indiana. “Religious freedom” to my mind means don’t layer your religious beliefs into our public policy. Keep them hidden, in a bunker maybe.  GOAT-Cultural-Clicks-3-27-690

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When we first heard about the German jet crashing into the French Alps, we were horrified. I asked Pilot Bob what could have happened? No need listening to all the speculation on cable news, when I have my very own pilot across from me at the dinner table.

He told me it must have been a sudden loss of cabin pressure. And when he talks, I listen. When the Piper Arrow gets above 9,000 ft, Bob whips out the oxygen and everything is fine. So I asked him, how long would you have to be sentient (yes that word just popped into my brain last night over Thai food) at 38,000 ft? How many minutes before one would pass out from lack of oxygen? “Fifteen seconds,” he said. The pilot would have fifteen seconds to grab an emergency back-up oxygen mask right next to his head in the cockpit. He added, “At 60,000 ft your blood would boil.” Thanks.

And then the news this morning. I could barely drink my coffee. Somehow it was better to think that Germanwings Airbus flight 4U 9525 dropped out of the sky, one minute after reaching its cruising altitude, due to some mechanical difficulty. But listening to the French Prosecutor, visibly shaken, putting his head in his hands, tell us that this was a deliberate descent by the co-pilot, left me feeling sick. He locked the cockpit door. He manually took over auto-pilot to begin the descent. He continued breathing and never answered his radio or the ramming on the door by his senior pilot.

So naturally, I called Grandma Ada. http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/mar/26/germanwings-plane-crash-investigation-press-conference-live-updates-4u9525

And Ada told me a story. Yesterday she went to her gym, and she spoke with a Hasidic woman about the fire in Brooklyn that took the lives of seven children in an Orthodox Jewish family. This is an ancient question; why do bad things happen to good people? The woman didn’t really answer, she kindly took Ada’s hand, and told her we need to do more mitzvahs – more good deeds, more acts of loving kindness.

Maybe that helps some, but either this co-pilot was psychotic and suicidal or he was a terrorist; either way this is a mass murder. If it turns out that the ‘interruption’ in the co-pilot’s training was due to a trip to Yemen, or some other terrorist training camp, I feel myself turning into a hawk. Forgiveness is not a word in my vocabulary at the moment.

Still, despite the headline-grabbing nature of airline crashes – especially mysterious cases like Flight 4U 9525 that were cruising along at high altitude – flying remains easily the safest form of travel ever created. A professor at MIT last year calculated the risk of a passenger dying in an airliner crash as 1 in 45 million. By way of comparison, the National Safety Council puts your lifetime odds of dying as a pedal cyclist at “merely” 1 in 4,982.   http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2015/03/24/germanwings-airplanes-flying-at-high-cruising-altitudes-rarely-crash/

If you need to chill out after a morning of bad news, may I suggest you click on to the nest of a bald eagle in PA. Two eggs were  spotted this Valentine’s Day and you can see her feeding her baby hatchlings in live stream!! http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1592549&mode=2

Hanover PA nest

Hanover PA nest

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Lately I’ve felt like my gender has been under attack. I’m not talking about the anti-women, anti-choice legislation that can strangle any hope of progress on sex trafficking up on the Hill. This is a more subtle, incendiary scheme – the media’s role in humiliating women. Let’s talk briefly about an intern.

Monica Lewinsky delivered a TED talk, and by all accounts it was something worth seeing. She talked about having to deal with becoming a pariah in her early 20s, the punch line of a joke. And she talked about cyber-bullying on a monumental scale: “I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”

I thought to myself, she really did have an “A” branded to her chest. She didn’t ask for that, she simply confided in the wrong person. I wonder how many young women JFK corralled in the White House, BI (before internet)? How many young women are seduced by older men, say their professors, and maybe what comes of it is a May-December wedding, or maybe not. Certainly not front-page fodder for years.

Yesterday I caught the end of our Police Chief’s news conference on the investigation and fall-out of the Rolling Stone article last November. Don’t get me wrong, I happen to adore Chief Longo. But, he managed to politely say that they interviewed over 70 people and maybe something terrible did happen, but they found no evidence of a crime.

We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said at a news conference. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie … we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/03/23/charlottesville-police-to-issue-report-on-u-va-sex-assault-investigation/

A female reporter asked the Chief if this conclusion may have a “chilling effect” going forward for victims of rape. He paused, and reiterated the many levels of support the University has for these women (“and sometimes men” he added), and that if bringing a criminal charge was going to be the next step, that time would be of the essence. Which sounded alot to me like, first go through the University system and only come to us IF you really want to proceed with a very messy criminal case; and don’t think about it over the weekend, or for two weeks or two years. Oh and btw, go to the ER right away in order to gather evidence.

All of this sounds good, but imagine if you are 18 and not wanting to admit what just happened. Not wanting to tell your parents, let alone a dean, or the police. In “Jackie’s” case, even her supposed friends remembered that night differently. You begin by blaming yourself, and move up the humiliation ladder slowly. If only you didn’t drink; if only you didn’t go to his room; if only you stayed with your friends.

Just recently the secret Facebook page of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University came to light with its pictures of nude, unconscious girls, drugs and hazing incidents. Why should we act surprised. Even today, long after my generation fought for our rights, it’s the woman who does the “walk of shame,” not the man. And in our anonymous world of social media, that walk only gets longer and can go on forever. http://www.buzzfeed.com/maryanngeorgantopoulos/penn-state-students-demand-university-suspend-people-with-ac#.ddZyg9ExxP

I’d call this culture very chilling indeed. Boys, here are some basic rules: DON’T RAPE, and don’t hack, post or share nude or any other pictures of girls without their consent. Newspapers used to end up in bird cages, public scandal and shaming had its limitations. Today, we need to think twice before throwing virtual stones. CAjYZ3ZWUAAXzen

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Almost by accident, I bumped into an author event at the Virginia Festival of the Book yesterday.

“Searching for Home and Life: Fictional Journeys” caught my attention while I was roaming through Barnes and Noble, looking for something to read at the gym. Instead, I stayed to listen to three authors read from their novels.

LaShonda Barnett’s “Jam On the Vine” is a coming-of-age story that takes place in the Jim Crow South. Barnett wanted to depict a “normal” Black family, not some dreary, dysfunctional stereotype. She told us that before Plessy vs Ferguson there were 20 Black universities, all in the South, and she brings to life a family that revered the written word. Her young heroine becomes a journalist, moving from Texas to Missouri in the process. I loved the way Barnett spoke about her characters, how they came to life, almost of their own accord. When I mentioned her voice was so beautiful she should record the audio book herself, she told me Phylicia Rashad had just finished doing it!                              http://www.npr.org/2015/02/08/384695774/black-and-female-in-jim-crow-era-a-reporter-in-kansas-citys-vine

Hiary Holladay’s “Tipton” is about a young woman searching for her departed husband. She starts her journey at the Tipton Home, an orphanage in Oklahoma, traveling by car to Virginia with her best friend. Holladay told us she was commuting to James Madison University, a treacherous trip in the winter over Afton mountain, while she dreamed and wrote about her characters’ road trip. Her voice gave us a hint of her melodious language skills, later I found out she was also a poet, which didn’t surprise me. The action takes place in the 30s, the same time period of the Flapper’s story. I asked Holladay is she was able to speak with anyone, or knew of someone, from that orphanage. She said she hadn’t, which made me think of my half-sister Shirley and brother Brian. How poor single, widowed women had to use an orphanage like a pawn shop for their children for centuries. This is an intriguing novel I can’t wait to start.                                           http://hilaryholladay.com/2014/12/19/how-i-wrote-tipton-2/

Katia Ulysse presented us with her novel, “Drifting”, a collection of stories she likened to leaves, drifting to the ground in a haphazard way, that is also well choreographed. Ulysse is an ESL teacher who is also an immigrant herself from Haiti, At times her native language, Creole, would take over her writing; as she told us, some words defy an easy translation. Her heroine is packing, eager to reunite with her husband in the United States, and we immediately feel her urgency, and her pain. “…in their drifting, they find not only their progenitor, but themselves by way of artificially produced calamities and natural disasters. Thus, no matter how far one drifts, one will always find himself or herself back home to an ethereal world created within the solace of one’s mind and heart despite misfortune, pain, and suffering.”                                               http://www.blackstarnews.com/entertainment/books/books-katia-d-ulysses-drifting.html

What is home to you? What kind of courage does it take to risk it all and set off on a journey? And are we ever too old for a second or third act? Barnett told me her heroine was an accidental journey woman, that “…that’s the best kind.”

I thought of my “accidental” stop at this event. and I thought of my Mother, the fearless Flapper, moving deliberately from PA to NJ to be closer to me, her last child. In doing that, she ensured my vista would expand beyond the lilac tree outside my bedroom window. Home isn’t a place, it’s the smell of lilacs and the touch of Bob’s hand.


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I woke up this morning to this picture IMG_2376

And just as I was getting ready to meet Anita for another great Book Festival event http://vabook.org, Bob asked me if I heard the news…

“What, is another girl gone  missing?” I asked Bob. No, thank God, but it’s the good ole Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) running amok once more. Remember those Keystone Cops of a few years ago, cornering some UVA sorority sisters in the parking lot of Harris Teeter for buying seltzer water? https://mountainmornings.net/2013/06/29/about-that-glowing-marble/ The ABC just last year payed out a whooping six figure settlement to Virginia Daly, the girl driving the car that was pursued by these gun-waving hooligans, thereby avoiding a court case.

Well, this time the ABC agents picked on the wrong student yet again. It seems a 3rd Year Honor student at the U, who just so happens to be Black, was wrestled to the ground outside a bar on the Corner (the small strip of bars and stores right across the street from the university). Martese Johnson’s head was smashed on the concrete sidewalk, and a picture of this bloody scene was circulated everywhere thanks to social media. His injury required ten sutures to the scalp!

Last night, over a thousand protesters marched from the campus to the Police Department on the Historic Downtown Mall, even though the City Police had nothing to do with this; these are plain clothes ABC agents who must just lie in wait to catch underage drinkers.

When I first moved here from the North, I was surprised to find wine and beer being sold in grocery stores and gas stations. And I learned about ABC stores, when you needed the hard stuff for parties, which we never do. Cocktails are not my thing, but back in the day I might have gone to one for some Bailey’s Irish Cream on St Pat’s day. Johnson was out in the wee hours of St Patrick’s Day and was denied admission to Trinity Irish Pub. http://news.yahoo.com/virginia-gov-calls-investigation-students-arrest-205040028.html

Now in our day, a bouncer would have confiscated a fake ID, and that would be that. But is that why Johnson was singled out and wrestled to the ground?

Returning from our trip, I was singled out for a “random” security search. even though Bob and I went to the trouble to get Global Entry clearance, I was patted down and got my carry-on up-ended. Then after going through customs in Charlotte, NC, I refused to go into one of those X-ray machines. The agent asked me, “Do you have a cell phone?” and proceeded to tell me that I get more radiation from the phone than I do from the machine. I gave him my best “Well bless your heart” look. As y’all know I hate those things. So I was sent to sit and wait for a TSA agent, for another pat down, until somebody opened up a metal detector since the wait was getting too long, and I strolled through it with the rest of the crowd. Thanks Global Entry, for nothing.

It’s an age old question, how much of our liberty are we willing to give up for our security? Maybe the ABC should stick with storefronts, after all, we have enough cowboys with guns on our streets as it is.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day to you and yours. It doesn’t matter if you make corned beef and cabbage tonight, or soda bread – recipe for the authentic loaf here: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to-make-real-irish-soda-bread.aspx

And it’s OK not to wear green, or drink a green beer, or eat a green bagel either.

Just pucker up and kiss me if you see me today, cause I’m Irish and worthy of a little smooch!

The priest at Sacred Heart Parish told me I had “The map of Ireland all over your face!” One of my first memories in fact, after Sister Mary Claire in 1st Grade smacking my knees with a ruler for chewing gum in Mass, was being singled out in class for my looks. Nobody laughed, thankfully. The priest’s comment was meant as a compliment I’m sure, but it left me wishing I could blend into the woodwork.

With my red hair, and the freckles all over my nose…I prayed for dark hair, to be like everyone else.

But that didn’t work, and so I grew into my Irishness. After all, it’s rare today to find anyone 100% anything, we are all a conglomeration of ethnic genes in this country, a rainbow of assimilated cultures. Our diversity is what makes us strong. And my wish has come true btw, we have a little ginger grandson! Who is so handsome, the Bride will need a shillelagh to beat the girls away from him (this was a saying in the Flapper’s house about my brother Michael, (let it be said I’m against domestic violence of any sort)!!

And for the first time ever, this year the LGBT community could march in the Boston parade. So let’s all celebrate today because we’ve got a great Pope, the crocus are up, and Spring is right around the corner. Because it’s good for the species to be different. Yesterday it was 80 in Cville!

And I’ll raise a glass of tea to Bob, who is like a saint. He can single-handedly remove poisonous snakes from our yard and find anything I happen to lose.

Here is a picture of me with the Lynn matriarch in Ballina County Mayo, “God Help Us.” I was just getting over West Nile on my first trip to Ireland, and this is our family’s ancestral home on 600 acres. The barn is bigger than the house, and like the Irish people, our hearts are bigger than anything!  Chris and Mary Gilboy Old Homestead 20150317 BIf you’d like to follow my Kiss Me I’m Irish Board on Pinterest, I’m @mpjamma

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…or determination?

Yesterday, I got up early and drove North to attend the public opening of a community hospital’s new ED. Yes folks, it’s a “department” not a “room,” one of the many changes I’ve witnessed tagging along with Bob over the years. “I can’t run a room,” was his constant semantic complaint. But it seems he can run a department.

When we first settled in the Blue Ridge, I thought it would be like old times. Bob would do some shift work at the local hospital, and we’d slide into a comfortable retirement; plenty of time together to visit grandbabies and pursue some new hobbies, maybe  keep a few alpacas? Or donkeys, or chickens? Then one year in, the Emergency Department Director just up and quits, asking Bob if he’d like the honor!

And just when I thought his directing days were over, he not only took over the reins, he became Chief of Staff and sat on the Board for many years. We had plans to go to Australia for a sabbatical that were put on hold, but we did manage to build our little house with a view. And one day he presented a plan to that Board for a new Emergency Department – they were bursting at the seams and the population was growing. He wanted a state-of-the-art facility and he managed to persuade the leaders and shakers with his constant optimism and tenacity.

Yesterday, the ribbon was cut joining the new building with the renovated old department, virtually tripling the space of the old ED. Twelve million dollars and five years later, the CEO introduced Bob and kindly said this project was his baby, and without his “persistence” we wouldn’t be here. Everyone nodded their heads, because everyone who works with my husband knows he can be pretty determined to achieve excellence in emergency medicine. He wrote the book on managing an ED and he served as President of ACEP in MA when we were young and just starting out in the Berkshires.

Unlike lots of physicians his age, he never gave up on medicine and he taught our daughter to love the profession too. To never forget the sacred trust a patient shares with them.

I was pretty proud of Bob yesterday, but we couldn’t celebrate yet. He had a lunch meeting with a colleague and then he was scheduled to work the 8 hour evening shift. Kudos to Bob, his assistant director Harvey, who followed him here from the Berkshires, and all the nurses and administrators who helped to make this remarkable transformation possible.

Maybe someday he’ll slow down, just a little? 19114_10152801541071943_7135939311025461658_n

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It just so happens that I read a couple of books on vacation that I would categorize as that heightened, coming-of-age, hormonal soup called YA – or Young Adult Fiction. Pity they didn’t have this category when I was that age, unless maybe “Little Women” qualifies? One book I picked up in the overstocked bookshelves of our villa was, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. He wrote “Remains of the Day” and the jacket said he was a Booker finalist, so I thought, “Why not?”

The other was “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. This one I found in a French bookstore, and I really should have known it was YA, by the author and the large print, but it was just something for the plane and I figured, “Pourqoui pas?” Also, it was in English.

Ishiguro went big on description, but he hooked me right away. Granted there were no vampires, no Katniss archery-action scenes, in fact, the plot just sauntered along, from the perspective of Kathy, a “Carer,” about to retire from her job. Slowly we learn she’s maybe 30 years old and she’s been doing this Caring business for as long as anybody can remember, 12 years! Her memory is the meat of the story; her two best friends and their time spent at an exclusive boarding school in England.

Spoiler alert, they are all clones! If you love English drama, subterfuge, and mystery, you will love this book.

Ishiguro does not write like a realist. He writes like someone impersonating a realist, and this is one reason for the peculiar fascination of his books. He is actually a fabulist and an ironist, and the writers he most resembles, under the genteel mask, are Kafka and Beckett. This is why the prose is always slightly overspecific. It’s realism from an instruction manual: literal, thorough, determined to leave nothing out. But it has a vaguely irreal effect. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/03/28/something-about-kathy

Bit by bit we finally learn why his characters seem so rigid, so overburdened with angst. Can they be truly human, whatever that means. The author wonders if they have souls. I came away thinking, holy crap, I wonder if this could really happen? Because that’s what great dystopian, sci-fi fiction will do, take us just a few steps into the future. You know if they can clone a sheep, and your pet dog, we humans aren’t far behind.

Lois Lowry’s 1993 book has been made into a movie, so some of you may be more aware of “The Giver.” In this novella the 12 year old protagonist is about to be assigned his life’s work. I thought about French children taking their BAC exams at age 16 or 17, and then being herded into the appropriate training college. Lowry pulls you in by the idyllic family life which seems fine, until you learn what his father actually does as a “Nurturer” and what Jonas’ job will be, the receptacle of the world’s memories. This community, that functions without color, or emotion, needs a scapegoat to remember the past. Rebellious pre-teens of today may find the action short but the overall mood of this little gem is compelling.

It’s always good to learn when everyone is the same, we are all lost. And this morning comes the news that a British author in the fantasy genre has died. ” I can’t imagine a 13-year-old alive who wouldn’t be changed a bit, for the better, by reading Terry Pratchett,” said Caitlin Moran on her Twitter feed. Sir Terry, who looked like a character from Hogwarts, succumbed to Alzheimer’s at the young age of 66. Best known for his Discworld series, he used satire to point out paradox in the adult world and published 70 novels.

“His death was announced on his Twitter account, on Thursday afternoon. The first tweet was composed in capital letters – which was how the author portrayed the character of Death in his novels.” http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31858156


La Librairie a Gustavia

La Librairie a Gustavia

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Our time here is almost up, so I thought we’d leave you with a small photo journal. 

We had the best meal of our trip under a Tamarin tree. 

We did a lot of reading. 

We discussed the Importance of Liberte. 

I learned how to take a panorama picture with my phone, not well I might add.  

And I let my son beat me at backgammon oui! Then we saw a Jasper Johns exhibit. Until next year. 

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We just missed Carnivale. That day before Lent when all bets are off and seemingly normal people don costumes and parade in the street. On this island I’ve seen Marie Antoinette, a gorilla, a bubble girl dressed in cut-up plastic bottles, and an airplane. 

And thanks to my MIL Ada, I’ve been reminded Purim would be next. A holiday that found Bob once dressed like an Irish fairy and our temple president wearing a Super Jew hero costume! And like Carnevale, there will be tasty sweets to go along with all the whimsy. 

Sometimes the connections between Christianity and Judaism are obvious, like all those eggs at Easter and the egg on the Seder plate. I hadn’t thought about putting on a mask to hide our darker side, that deeper aggressive instinct in us all as a link in our combined culture. We Americans think more of Halloween as that fun space in time, but for the Christian world it’s really Carnevale. 

So it was surprising to read about a similar festival in Japan. Our villa is bulging with books, and I happened to pick up “Geisha, a Life,” by Mineko Iwasaki. It was maybe only two sentences, about Setsubun, a time in February when people dress up in costumes. Now you might think that geisha are always in costume, and you’d be right. At least when they were out at night entertaining their clients. Their exquisite kimonos, reflecting each season, could cost nearly ten thousand dollars each. And no, they are not high class call girls. 

But even the women of the Gion Kobu district would wear something different for Setsubun, they would pick a theme and run with it. 

So it’s a universal condition, the need to play at being someone else in the middle of winter. To try out a different persona and see how it fits. In its way, we are reminded that everything will change. That lawyers can be super heroes and designers can be record players. And some can touch the sky. 

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