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Archive for July, 2019

Who’d ever think these 2 old hippies (the name of a great store in the Gulch btw) would transplant themselves so seamlessly further south and inland to Tennessee? Despite the lack of a beach, Bob and I are continually amazed by the welcoming people, gastronomic delights, and literary events.

Just this past weekend our streets were closed to traffic so people could stroll through Germantown to the Buchanan Arts District – “We have everyone walking, biking and dancing,” said Nora Kern, the executive director of Walk Bike Nashville, “whatever they want to do in the street, they can do it.”

Whoops, did I forget the music?

Tonight I’ll be visiting my favorite bookstore in Green Hills to hear the author of “My Sister the Serial Killer” talk with the author Ann Patchett. An immigrant to the UK via Nigeria, Oyinkyn Braithwaite’s debut novel has been longlisted for the Booker Prize! When one sister is a nurse and the other becomes rather murderous, chaos and charm commence!

There’s a seditious pleasure in its momentum. At a time when there are such wholesome and dull claims on fiction — on its duty to ennoble or train us in empathy — there’s a relief in encountering a novel faithful to art’s first imperative: to catch and keep our attention” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/books/review-my-sister-serial-killer-oyinkan-braithwaite.html

I’ve finished “City of Girls” and am on to “Mostly Dead Things.” For all my book loving readers, may I invite you to follow Parnassus Bookstore’s blog “Musing” about books, https://parnassusmusing.net/

And if you missed this little headline recently, this tidbit of local Nashville news, you could be forgiven. It happened in Hermitage – a group of neighbors surrounded a car during our deadly heatwave to provide gas, water and food for hours to the father and 12 year old son inside; they were being badgered and interrogated by ICE agents who came to collect them with the wrong warrant!

These same neighbors formed a human chain for them, so they could return to their home where the ICE agents were not allowed to enter or evict them! https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/07/22/nashville-neighborhood-responds-ice-agents/1796453001/

Is this not humanity’s first imperative? A tenet of Christian teaching, to help your neighbor? To be empathetic? Certainly not to separate families and then “bear false witness,” by denying our government is creating concentration camps at our border. I was separated from my family at the age of ten months, not by ICE but by a set of circumstances culminating in an automobile accident on the Fourth of July 1949.

My foster parents were my parents’ neighbors and friends. They surrounded me with unconditional love and acceptance. The children lucky enough to have been reunited with their parents today are still suffering mental anguish. They have become detached as a response, and show high levels of anxiety and depression. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/us/migrant-children-separation-anxiety.html

Mr T’s America is not my America.

My America embraces the refugee; it doesn’t send youth ministries to Latin America on “Mission Trips,” only to reject refugee children trying to cross our border for a better life. My America empowers women to make their own reproductive health care decisions; it doesn’t pass TRAP laws “protecting” a fetus they have NO intention of helping once it is born into poverty. My America passed an assault weapon ban once; it does not turn its back on children being gunned down at street fairs and in schools.

Our cousins were visiting from NY, here is our family at Nashville’s Farmer’s Market. Should I have been thinking of a fast exit, just in case a shooter walked in? Which two of us would push the wheelchairs, who would carry a child?

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Anyone else think the new PM of Britain looks familiar? That tousled mop of reddish-blonde hair, the arrogant swagger and pouty mouth of a blowfish. Indeed, Boris Johnson, the newly elected British Prime Minister, is following in the footsteps of our own Mr T in trying to take his people backward, maybe in a Tardis?

Today, while we are watching and hoping for a miracle that will never come as Mueller addresses Congress, Theresa May will resign to the Queen. In a last ditch effort to redeem her Brexit/Exit, the ex-PM has passed a health document into her last days at Downing Street. She wants to reduce the number of years her fellow country people spend in poor health – namely:

‘The government is pledging to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to tackle the causes of preventable ill health.”

You might wonder who’s still smoking, but walk into any public building and you must hold your breath to navigate the sidewalk through cigarette smoke. We can ban smoking in restaurants, and try to tax it away, but it seems that 14% of adults still smoke in England…. and in America it’s 15%, or about 40 million people!

And that’s not taking into account the upswing in underage, teenage smoking – not the old fashioned, combustible type of cigarettes mind you.

Teens are using e-cigarettes at record levels: “America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017. ” https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/12/teens-using-vaping-devices-in-record-numbers

A 10% jump in just one year, I wonder if 2019 will follow suit? Commonly called Juuling, after the brand name “Juul” that sells their vaping device as an upscale alternative to tobacco, vaping contains the same amount or more of nicotine along with some carcinogens wrapped up in a pretty, pen-like, battery charged package. I know because my sister’s nurse told us all about it. And now nearly 40% of our kids are trying them out, thinking they are vaping a “flavor” and not necessarily knowing they are becoming addicted to nicotine.

My whole family smoked cigarettes. In fact I’m pretty sure I NEVER smoked one cigarette because I always felt it was impossible to breathe in their vicinity. I hated the smell, the dirty ashtrays, the feeling of superiority my older siblings coveted as they puffed away. I would sit alone in the front of an airplane back when airlines allowed smokers to sit in the back; way back there, where my sister Kay and brother Mike were having fun. “Smokin and jokin.”

Vaping is not without its drawbacks – a man has had the battery explode in his face. It has caused “wet lung” and countless other maladies along with addiction to nicotine. According to the doctors in my family, it will most certainly be banned in the near future because of its marketing to children with flavors like fruit medley and cool mint.

The threat of COPD, cancer and emphysema are hazy outcomes when you’re a teen. You want to look cool, I guess that’s the top priority. Huffing on a flash drive doesn’t look very cool to me though.

And second-hand vaping is real y’all! “…vaping worsened indoor air quality, specifically by increasing the concentration of nicotine, particulate matter, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and aluminum — compounds that have been linked to lung and cardiovascular disease and cancer among other health effects.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/e-cigs-and-second-hand-vaping/

At one point while I was in NYC, I was surrounded by 3 vapers. They were adults who either thought this was a more acceptable way to smoke, or maybe they thought they were saving money? I just couldn’t wait to breath some clean, fresh, hot, city air.

The race is on. Will England be the first to win the prize of eradicating this public health enemy? Or will we look across the pond next year with a newly elected progressive president ready to tackle climate change and give us universal healthcare? Banning weapons of war along with e-ciggies?

The ball is in your court Mr Mueller! This is what the L’il Pumpkin thinks of smoking.

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Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? The nostalgia this week is killing me.

The summer of 1969 I was a few weeks away from my starter marriage, living in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA. My roomie, Alicia and I, had a small TV perched on a chair in the corner; I can picture it now like an old Polaroid developing slowly. We stood there watching the grainy image, marveling sure, but also discussing our plans for the weekend like most young girls.

Alicia’s father had invented some kind of outdoor/basement/door, Bilco? Yup, and it’s still in business! https://www.bilco.com/

There I was in a basement, with an heiress to basement doors, looking at the moon’s surface. I was too young to really understand the significance of what we were seeing. We were both Catholic, and our handsome Catholic President had been shot, then MLK and Robert Kennedy; I’d dropped out of school to work at Harvard, and for no good reason I can think of now, I was planning a wedding. 19 years old and full of my own insecurities and vanities – 1969 was a very strange year.

I agreed with President Kennedy that anything worth doing was going to be hard, and that would make its success so much sweeter. After all, how could we revel in our happiness, if we didn’t know despair? How much despair could a teenager know?

Well, I’d had 2 fathers die, a biological and a step-father, and Bob was going to Woodstock! The love of my life was gone, so I thought, and I was making the best out of a bad situation. Better to marry a law student than to continue seeing the phantom of love lost on the streets of Boston. I dug in my heels and had bridal photos done; whatever they put in Catholic churches about up-coming weddings was publicized in his Ohio newspaper.

Did I tell you that Henry Winkler, aka the Fonz, was an upperclassman at Emerson College on Newbury Street in Boston? I was a lowly Freshman/person when we met and he was bound for Yale Drama School. Did I mention that I broke my leg skiing with a Brown student? There had been a few suitors, including one from Colorado I almost married, but I chose this law student because I thought Nelly Bly and the Flapper would approve, and because he was so unlike my high school ghost.

He was rigid, and rule-bound, an Eagle Scout from Cleveland.

We went to the moon, not because it was easy. And I went to Westchester County, NY precisely because it was hard. Because that’s what girls were expected to do in the 1960s. And we had 2 pretty good years and 2 pretty bad years when I sought the first divorce in Connecticut history due to “irreconcilable differences.” It was the 2nd wave of feminism, and I jumped on board.

Where were you when we landed on the moon? This was us when Great Grandma Ada turned 95 in June!

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Did you go to summer camp? Swim in a lake that glistened like diamonds in the sun? Play jacks on the front porch and sleep in a frozen cabin in the mountains with a nun secluded in one corner behind a locked door? Rise to a recording of Reveille every morning and assemble under the flag pole for inspection? Sing your heart out to the Virgin Mary!

No? Well I loved it! I mean I actually dreamt about that place, Camp St Joseph for Girls, into my adult years; so it’s no wonder I jumped at the chance to hold a little day camp of my own for the Love Bug this week. Her brother would be in his pre-school program, and it seems that Pop Bob is busy with other things, so the girls will be large and in charge.

Today we are picking up the Bride and Great Grandma Ada for a trip to The Frist Museum. https://fristartmuseum.org/ Today will be Nana Camp on Wheels.

Four generations will roam the gallery exhibit of “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism…”

“Kahlo infused her work with mexicanidad, an identification with Mexico’s distinct national history, traditions, culture, and natural environment, but in a much more personal way. About a third of her paintings are self-portraits, the works for which she is now most celebrated. They accentuate her distinctive appearance, characterized by a v-shaped unibrow, deep brown eyes, mustache, carefully coiffed hair with braids, and indigenous Mexican clothing. In Diego on My Mind(Self-Portrait as Tehuana), for example, she crowns herself with a festive indigenous Mexican headdress known as a resplandor.” 

So while Mr T terrorizes undocumented immigrants with ICE raids, we will be viewing an exhibition of fine art collected by Eastern European immigrants to Mexico before WWII. “Jacques and Natasha Gelman were glamorous and wealthy Eastern European refugees who married in Mexico in 1941, took part in Mexico City’s vibrant art scene, and acquired art mostly from their artist friends.”

While refugees are separated from their families and caged without access to showers or even toothpaste at our southern border, we will delight in the art of our Mexican neighbors. The irony doesn’t escape me. We now have a commander in chief with bone spurs who loved to cavort with Jeffrey Epstein and tells Congresswomen of color to return to the countries of their origin. His language by Tweet is not so subtle, coded to signal his white nationalist/supremacist/misogynist followers that it’s OK to hate the “Other.”

For awhile I was immune to his horrible early morning Tweet tirade probably made from his golden toilet seat, I was news-free. But I’m home for better or worse. My first day in Nashville I awoke to a headache and sore throat, a viral cold had attacked me. The City is tearing up our alley to fix some damage an apartment building has done to the ancient sewers, so jackhammers punctuate my mornings. And Bob has replaced the classical music station on our Sonos with old-time Rock and Roll. Nothing stands in the way of progress, as Adelaide’s Lament would say, “A person can develop a BAD BAD cold!”  Achoo!

Did I mention that Day 1 of Nana Camp included learning to play pranks!

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My sister Kay is home in her vintage apartment. She’s been here for over 50 years, as long as I can remember. Stunning artwork is sprinkled around her dusty pink walls, it seems that nothing has changed. The old lady upstairs is still moving furniture every night.

Luckily the doormen are divine! That is a very important part of life on the Upper East Side.

When I was a teen I would arrive at the Port of Authority-now I wonder about that moniker but then I took it for granted- and she would meet my bus. We’d hail a cab and head uptown. There were no lines, no Uber.

Kay was my beautiful big sister. She taught me how to walk in NYC, never looking UP like a tourist. She told me not to smile at strange men. We went to the finest restaurants and she would say, “Order anything you want!”

Kay would correct my speech, so that a NJ accent never took hold.

I admired and adored her as only a little sister could. Marriage just wasn’t her thing, she tried it for awhile, but a wild rose is hard to tame. So when she fell and broke her hip she was alone.

Our niece Karen drove up from DC before her surgery and Kay told her a sub-acute rehab hospital was not in her vocabulary. When I arrived on the Fourth of July she was eager to recover. But please people, don’t end up in a hospital when new residents are starting their training, or on a holiday weekend.

Recovery can be slow going.

Today I walked down Madison Avenue making faces at the children clutching the hands of their nannies looking down at their phones. I would always get a smile.

I stopped to pet the French Bulldog who just returned from Nantucket. His name is Gus!

There are more nail salons than I remember. The Armory where the police kept their horses is now a school. Things change, but not my sister’s apartment.

In this heat wave she is worried about running the AC. It is a balancing act; I turn it on and she turns it off. She grew up really poor, whereas I guess I was just poor. She was only 14 years old when our Father died and and the Year of Living Dangerously commenced.

It was a midsummer nightmare on the Fourth of 1949.

Now post-surgery my sister Kay is rallying as usual, walking with a rollator and taking no prisoners. The Flapper would be proud!

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Tonight we had a bonfire on the beach. The Bride’s friend actually lives here, in Old Blue Mountain Beach (yes I get the irony), so we roasted hot dogs and made s’mores over a small fire. It was heavenly, fueled with margaritas and a yellow flag.

The yellow flag means the Emerald Coast is putting on its best show of small waves in a peaceful sea. We’d been floating in the waves all morning like turtles, so this was the perfect ending to our vacation.

I’d just finished reading Chelsea Handler’s new book, “Life Will be the Death of Me,” and was about to start Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book when we got the call.

My sister Kay broke her hip.

Kay is my big sister, the beautiful one who always pulled us out of jams and never told our mother. She was the responsible one. But she also married young and then became a “gay divorcee.” She isn’t gay in that sense, but she did have a lot of fun! Traveling the world as a stewardess with National Airlines, I remember visiting her in NYC and never wanting to leave.

Leaving the beach will be hard but seeing my sister again will be just what the doctor ordered. She’s had surgery only two days ago and has already been discharged to her apartment on the Upper East Side. She is so much like the Flapper, strong and resilient. When PT tried showing her how to walk slowly with a rollator, she insisted on going faster!

So long powdery sand. So long beach. And Happy Fourth of July everyone. I’m never driving on this holiday but I will be flying north.

Bob is the sun to my moon. He took this picture tonight while we were catching sand crabs.

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