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Archive for February, 2020

When I first met Wendi, she was holding her baby boy. Her smile was like sunshine as she showed me around the property. We had finally moved to Virginia, and when the Bride and I first saw the house, she had been away on a business trip. My soon-to-be landlord was a fabulous designer, she flew all over the country installing the dreams of her famous clients.

Strangely enough on that crystal clear day in Charlottesville, Wendi was in New Jersey.

But at our first look, her husband, wanted us to rent their guest cottage. He knew the Bride was starting at UVA Medical School, and he was psyched about our Duke connection. As he led us through the main house and into the dining room, where an old Dutch master-like portrait of a man with a beard hung over a sideboard, I wasn’t prepared for this revelation.

“There’s a building at Duke University named after my ancestor,” he said pointing up to the painting, “It’s the Allen Building.”

In fact, Bob and the Bride were well acquainted with the Allen Building. Turns out it was named after a good friend of JB Duke in the early 1920s, a man from Warrenton, NC – George Garland Allen. Allen had started out as a bookkeeper for the American Tobacco Company in 1895, working his way up in the Duke organization.

My new landlord’s Great Grandfather, on his Mother’s side, had been known to say it was easier to accumulate his wealth than it was to give it away.

This didn’t stop us from moving our Welsh Corgi along with big Buddha Bear and Bailey Dawg (the Bride’s Lab) into the smaller “cottage” on their property. Wendi welcomed us with open arms, in fact she collected a menagerie of dogs too – from a sublime Great Dane to another ridiculous Corgi! When we finally built our house overlooking the Blue Ridge, Wendi had 2 small boys, and 2 matching Labs.

In contrast to her husband’s Southern lineage, Wendi was a California girl. She didn’t come from money; she had been a nanny in NY and then went to school for design. She built her own business from the ground up, and juggled 2 children with the demands of her world-wide clientele. I remember distinctly when she told me about this woman who would come in and cook you a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday and put them in the freezer.

Aha, so this was how working women who might jet off at a moment’s notice took care of their family. This was before GrubHub.

Wendi would throw great Gatsbyesque parties around their pond behind their home. She sent her boys to the public school and became one of the fiercest football moms around. She loved keeping tabs on the Rocker, and made sure her boys knew all about his band. When the Parlor Mob stopped by on a swing through Virginia, she treated them like royalty. When I became secretary of the local book club, she’d make a point of attending if she was in town.

She was one or two decades younger than most of us; a doctor, a few lawyers, a few teachers, and me, the one who could make an email list-serve. Wendi’s California blonde exuberance would always add the fun component to our gatherings. After her divorce, she started a new business of high-end consignment pop-ups that housed many of the pieces Bob and I couldn’t carry with us to Nashville.

Last month, after saying goodbye to her oldest son, who was heading to Australia for his college semester abroad, Wendi died tragically, she was only 53 years old. That baby, that I first met on her hip, is now in high school. When my old friend and neighbor called to tell me the news, I was shaking. How can this be? Didn’t I just talk with her about our trip to Tulum? Didn’t I just see beautiful pictures on Instagram of her December holiday in Puerto Rico? She’d found a new love, and life was looking good for my friend.

How can a light like that be extinguished? My lovely, vibrant Wendi, how can this happen? I hope you knew how many people loved you. Your outstanding sons are your legacy, your Valentines in football jerseys. Sleep peacefully dear heart.

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Democrats fall in love with their candidate, Republicans fall in line.

Spoiler alert! The last two (D) candidates to win both Iowa and New Hampshire were nominated and promptly lost their elections – Al Gore and John Kerry. Remember them? Kerry actually criticized Bush for the Iraq war, and let’s face it, that may have been too soon and his running mate, John Edwards, may have been too slick hiding a love child from his wife. But I still fell in love with both nominees, just a little.

This is why I’m not too concerned with the first NH primary today. I want a man (or a woman – love is love) who can flip the Senate blue. I’m waiting to see who will give me goosebumps. The way Brad Pitt did at the Oscars, gently scolding the GOP for disallowing witnesses.

Is it just me, or did anyone else not see any of the Oscar nominated movies this year? Well wait, Bob and I did see the first half of “The Irishman” in our local artsy theatre… but it was getting past someone’s bedtime, so we left via an Uber. Did DeNiro kill Hoffa? I’ll have to catch up on Netflix.

Netflix was the star attraction this past weekend when we joined some friends to watch “Knives Out” at their home. In this historic row house, a screen surprised me descending down a wall, with a projector hanging from the middle of the ceiling. It was almost like going to the movies! I have such serious home envy whenever I set foot in that home.

And to top it off, we had two big, fluffy dogs who would come to attention and bark whenever there were dogs in a scene!

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery on a cold rainy night? I won’t spoil the plot of “Knives Out” by saying that current political issues figure prominently when the investigator, played by Daniel Craig with a Southern accent, focuses his attention on a nurse named Marta. The privileged white clan/cast cannot seem to agree on what South American country Marta’s family has immigrated from – Paraguay, Ecuador?  https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/11/the-unlikely-hero-of-rian-johnsons-knives-out/602701/

Immigration politics swirls around the story of my night table book, “American Dirt.” First of all, it was one of my monthly First Edition Parnassus Bookclub picks, that arrived in its burlap sack a few weeks ago. I’d already been hooked by American Dirt’s violent opening chapter when I started reading the criticism on Twitter. At first I thought well maybe the author, Jeannine Cummins, isn’t Latina, so undocumented folks and those who love them were skeptical. But she had also initially claimed her husband was an immigrant, without saying he’s from Ireland. Cummins cancelled her book tour.

The novel follows the story of a Mexican woman and her son fleeing to the United States after a drug cartel massacre.
Cummins, who spent five years writing the book, isn’t Mexican or a migrant. The book, which was just published January 21, immediately sparked debate about who can tell what story and diversity within the publishing industry.
It also faced criticism for its reliance on migrant stereotypes, with many pointing out that if an author is going to write about someone different from them, it must be done well. “American Dirt,” some have said, was not — though the book has also been praised by a number of prominent authors.  https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/29/us/american-dirt-jeanine-cummins-author-tour-cancel-trnd/index.html

Is this what we mean by cancel culture? Was Joaquin Phoenix onto something in his Oscar speech before he swerved into the cow/milk controversy? Urban Dictionary tells us this culture is a direct result of social media and people who are, “…quick to judge and slow to question.”

Let’s ask the hard questions of our our Democratic candidates as they head into prime time and super Tuesday. Bloomberg can understand what a single mom is going through, he doesn’t have to be one. I believe a writer should be able to write about anything – a man can write from a woman’s point of view, and vice versa. If I’m writing about the Jewish mob, I need not be a member of that group, I can do the research. And I’m not ready to cancel anyone out of our primary process. I haven’t fallen in love, not yet.

Except for these two chocolate-teeth cherubs!

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Despite the political punditry of the past week, Bob and I reluctantly tuned into the Democratic debate last night. I think we can all relate to Mayor Pete’s “exhaustion;” I’ve been suffering from lack of sleep for months now. It’s not just the emotional drain of the impeachment conclusion, it started with simply not being comfortable on “My Pillow.” Yes, I succumbed to the infomercial for the supposedly best pillow made in the USA, thinking that might help my neck pain.

But finally getting treated for “moderate” facet joint osteoarthritis by a competent physical therapist has done the trick.

The Bride and Groom and I attended a Parnassus author event with Rick Wilson last week. His latest book is, “Running Against the Devil, a Plot to save America From Trump – and Democrats From Themselves.” What a title! He likes to swear. He tells it like it is. And he wasn’t giving me much hope either; still, like a good journalist I took notes.

“Do not run on boutique issues in a Walmart nation.”

We all laughed, but underneath I felt a tinge of anxiety – isn’t this just like calling T’s supporters “deplorables?” Still, I was thinking about that quote while listening to candidates debate health care and gun violence in New Hampshire. Wilson was telling us we need to be laser focused to beat Mr T in November.

When Tom Steyer finally started talking last night, it was as if a light shone down on him. “It’s the economy, stupid!” Republicans are happy with things the way they are, so why should they change? And why is Steyer always wearing that red plaid tie? Could somebody please get the man a stylist. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/tom-steyer-democratic-debate-defeat-donald-trump-949773/

In fact Wilson told us the election is already over in 35 states. Let me repeat that – “The election is already over in 35 states.”

California will vote for the Democrat and Alabama will vote for you/know/who. So now it’s a toss-up for which Democrat can convince those fifteen remaining electoral college swing states that are still in play; states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. Who can WIN that prize? A Democratic socialist for the progressives or a  pragmatic centrist for the middle? It’s up to us to decide, and Iowa wasn’t a sure bet.

Lucky for me and thanks to my PT, I slept like a baby after Iowa. No wonder sleep deprivation is such a great torture device! In 1985, when I finally awoke from the first 6 months of the Rocker’s life of non-stop ear infections, I realized I wasn’t in fact INSANE. Today clarity has returned again, and with it the feeling of Democratic doom. After listening to one ex-Republican strategist tell us we need to put Bernie out to pasture, I read ex-Democratic strategist James Carville’s “We’re Losing Our Damn Minds” interview. Read it and weep: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/7/21123518/trump-2020-election-democratic-party-james-carville

Following another miraculous, good night’s sleep, this morning over eggs I was talking with Bob about Mike Bloomberg. He wasn’t even on the stage last night, yet like a ghost he prodded the discussion. I didn’t like how Elizabeth Warren just went off about his billionaire status and “buying” the election. It panders to the “Us vs Them” eternal argument. Isn’t America all about making it BIG, the Horatio Alger stories? Twitter is abuzz with calling him just another “oligarch.” It made me think about how Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton actually used to be NYC friends.

And that’s it, healing our nation means finding out what we ALL have in common. Disaffected Trump voters and Independents can lean into student debt forgiveness, actually expanding the ACA with the option of Medicare. Talking about racism in New Hampshire was preaching to an all White choir; save that discussion for South Carolina. In fact, lead with that discussion in Florida. Don’t lead with guns in Florida, despite Parkland – Floridians like their guns.

And talk about immigration for goodness sake. Did I miss that topic last night? That’s how Mr T got elected, reducing his theme song to 4 letters on a red cap. We lost the rest of the world when we started separating families on our border, Democrats can win in November if we remember our humanity, what our country stands for – it’s written at the bottom of a certain statue in NY’s (or NJ’s) harbor.

Bob said last night, “It’s stupid to argue whether you go to Medicare in 4 years or 8 years!” Let’s not quibble over the particulars Democrats, we need a candidate who can beat Trump. Who is he most afraid of? It used to be Biden …and Biden “…of 10 years ago” as Wilson said, was a contender. If it takes another billionaire to defeat Trump, I’ll take him. Steyer or Bloomberg, sure they’re just two more old White guys who happen to be rich AF, but hey do you want to win? Pair Mike or Tom with Elizabeth or Amy and you’ve got a ticket, you can stop chasing windmills.

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Anyone else love Samantha Bee? I caught a bit of her show Full Frontal one night, when she called the movie “Joker” just another story about an angry white guy. Granted I didn’t see the movie, like I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. But I was mildly comforted this morning to read that Joaquin Phoenix, who won the Best Actor award for his performance as Joker last night in Britain, said

“I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here.” 

To me, this is everything. Because Brexit is all about not welcoming “The Other.” Mr T is all about building his wall and keeping The Others out of our country. And even though I heard that JLo and Shakira put on an excellent half-time show, the NFL is all about the money – getting people in their seats and tuning in to watch a game that white-washes the Black Lives Matter movement… at the expense of its players’ mental and physical health.

To be honest, I did catch a bit of The Puppy Bowl.

But it was a dispiriting start to the weekend for many Nashvillians when Sen Lamar Alexander cast his vote against calling witnesses in the Impeachment Trial of Donald J Trump. We really cannot call this a “trial” without witnesses or documents. Even Monica Lewinsky testified (via tape) in Clinton’s trial. Even UVA’s esteemed professor of all things political, Larry Sabato, asked on Twitter if this Senate meeting should be called a sham or a farce instead of a trial. I replied, “It’s a coverup!”

The Senate has said facts are not welcome there. First hand accounts would be useless to their deliberation. If the Donald tells them to blackball a vote why then, they must. I wondered about the etiology of the word “blackball” as soon as it came out of my mind and into my fingers:

The word blackball appears in 1770, referring to a negative vote. Voting through the process of a voter placing either a white ball, or positive vote, into a ballot box or a black ball, or negative vote, into a ballot box, means that voters will remain anonymous and are not forced to give any reason for a negative vote. In some clubs a single black ball means a candidate will be denied membership in the organization, in other clubs there must be two black balls to justify excluding a potential member.  https://grammarist.com/idiom/blackball/

The Hill actually IS a private club of mostly old, white men who are not happy with women and people of colour (as the Brits say) challenging their asses in the seats. Did you know that Mr T watched the Super Bowl with the paying members of his club at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach? We taxpayers paid to fly him down there for the weekend so he could hob nob with people who forked over nearly half a million dollars just to join his historic resort.

Is it funny that he Tweeted a congratulatory note to the Kansas City Chiefs from the “Great State of Kansas?” We have an untethered, narcissistic, idiotic, despot at the helm, who now thinks he can bribe anybody he wants cause hey, it’s in the best interests of the country. And HE is synonymous with the country. Don’t try to find that Tweet, cause somebody changed it to Missouri.

When Mr Alexander voted against calling witnesses I knew the gig was up. We will just have to beat him in November. And who is the next best hope for Iowa and the Democratic party? We cannot afford to play by the rules, we need someone who can stand up, toe to toe with Mr T and call him out on his lies. You can’t beat a bully by turning your other cheek, it doesn’t work that way. We need a fighter, and I’m afraid that Biden’s fighting days are behind him. We don’t need another angry, old white guy.

Tonight I’m heading to my favorite bookstore to hear Rick Wilson speak about Mr T; Wilson is the author of “Running Against the Devil.” About Trump’s little geographical error on Twitter, Wilson said: “This was a silly, innocent mistake” would be more viable if this wasn’t the thousandth iteration of his blistering ignorance.”

https://www.parnassusbooks.net/event/author-event-rick-wilson-author-running-against-devil

This is an art installation of all the people who were killed by guns in 2018 in Nashville. Who will have the guts to take this on?

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