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Archive for the ‘Books, Journaling, Wedding, Country’ Category

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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Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt, will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

What was it about the Nashville Symphony on Sunday night? Steve Hackman, a young conductor from LA, walked out to the podium with his long arms and long curly hair and faced the audience, telling us how he came to compose “The Times They Are A-Changin: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan.” He introduced the first violin; behind the orchestra sat row upon row of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, over a hundred voices strong.

As Hackman raised his baton to conduct one of the first pieces, “Tangled Up in Blue,” I could feel the knot in my throat constricting. Admittedly, I was already feeling blue – from the never-ending rain and the political parody of the last few years – from a week-long insult to our collective intelligence that was playing itself out on the Hill. I was feeling discouraged, resigned to a president who was like a demagogue, with an attorney general guarding his flank, and a lapdog/senator, who did his bidding.

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wondering if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red

As the music swelled and the chorus of voices swept through the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, Bob and I looked at each other. This evening would turn out to be a metaphor for our lives together, for the 60s and the 70s; tender yet explosive at times. We somehow knew, through war and divorce, we would find our way back to each other. We would meet again “…someday on the avenue.” Next came “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, babe
The light I never knowed
And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road

I forgot what it was like to be immersed in a musical experience, to close my eyes and allow the strings and chords to penetrate my soul. This wasn’t an Italian opera, the words were in English and they defined my generation. Tears were slowly rolling down my cheeks by the time the chorus began “I Shall Be Released.” Is this a plea for death to come, to cover us like a well-worn blanket? The last phrase is about standing in a lonely crowd, next to a man who swears he’s not to blame…”Crying out that he was framed.”

Any. Day. Now. Any day now, we shall hear what our senators are willing to do to keep their seats, to retain their power. Will they continue to cover-up his perfect phone call? To pretend our president wasn’t granting favors to other authoritarian leaders around the world?

In 2016 Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, for having created “New poetic expressions within the great American Song tradition.” He put off traveling to Stockholm to receive his medal, finally giving a reluctant speech about his influences in literature from grade school:  “Moby DickAll Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.”  Songs, he tells us, are unlike literature, they’re meant to be sung, not read.”

Finally, Dylan quoted The Odyssey: “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story.”

In this New Chinese New Year, have I become just another Cassandra, writing prophesy that no one will believe, warning my readers that our democracy is at a tipping point. That we are doomed to repeat the past if we simply stand by and do nothing. Nixon knew enough to leave, and Clinton knew enough to apologize for lying. This lying, malicious president knows nothing, which is far worse.

Today is T’ai Chi Tuesday, a form of mindful meditation. I will find my center, and try to balance the dark with the light. I will keep calling my senators, will you?

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What’s a person to do in the middle of this Impeachment Trial, this theatrical show, a “foregone conclusion” as Andrew Yang has said? After reading that Republican Senators have been leaving the room, fidgeting with finger spinners, looking “weary and bored” according to the Associated Press, I thought our neighborhood association had a splendid idea – wine tasting!

My Go-To wine lately is “A to Z Wineworks” from Oregon, but I was willing to expand my horizons.

On Friday night we all gathered at Richard and Linda’s townhome that sits on the edge of a park. Our sommelier Calvin was delightful; he poured a delicious chardonnay from the Finger Lakes Region, “Fox Run Vineyards.” I happen to like love unoaked whites, and he told us the climate in upstate NY is similar to Chablis in France. The motto on their website is “Drink wine, Be happy.” https://foxrunvineyards.com/

Unfortunately, drinking wine hasn’t been making me happy since 2016. But I’m willing to keep trying.

Did you know some of the best wines today are coming from Virginia and Texas? Still, one of the finest unoaked chardonnays hails from California, at $90 a bottle – Williams-Selyem 2017. “California makes more wine than any other state in the United States. Not only does the state grow a variety of noble grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, there are also plantings of lesser-known varieties such as Nebbiolo, Roussanne and Mourvèdre to name just a few.” 

Ever since the Rocker and KiKi moved out to LA, I’ve imagined myself a California girl. A most Progressive state, with no humidity, no mosquitoes and plenty of sunshine! So naturally Mr T hates it, why else would his administration threaten to cut federal aid unless the state drops its requirement that private insurers cover abortions. Governor Gavin Newsom said:

“California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop.”

The California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, tweeted: “We will fight this by any means necessary.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/health/abortion-california-insurance.html

It’s hard for me to think of a more vindictive and malicious president in our history. He has been impeached, and knows he will most likely NOT be removed from his office, he will continue to hold his radical right-wing “rallies” and run again for a second term. Like every good con man, while we are all (A) looking at the Senate, bemoaning the lack of civility, he is (B) attacking a woman’s basic human right – to have control over her own body.

Again, this bully of a president threatens to withhold funds, but now instead of Ukraine he attacks California to please his base of white Christian zealots. “Let’s start by acknowledging that women are not things. Before we talk, like we have to, about what the attacks on abortion access mean for this anxious, awful political era, let’s establish as a ground rule that women are not vessels, or incubators, or an undifferentiated natural resource. Women are human beings whose human rights matter.”  https://newrepublic.com/article/153942/criminalization-womens-bodies-conservative-male-power

This is why your vote matters. This is why senators should actually be listening to Adam Schiff’s arguments, paying attention and not just getting their panties in a twist over his “head on a spike” comment. The GOP needs to stop whining and do their damn job! Remember that the GAO said Mr T BROKE THE LAW. Remember you can actually call on witnesses that were in the room. Remember the documents you are demanding are being withheld by the White House… We now have a tape of him saying Lev should “take her out” about the Ukraine Ambassador.

Our democracy is being held together, tenuously by our free press. Calvin and Linda are welcoming us into a new decade, this next week will no doubt set the course.

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It’s been a busy week: I started physical therapy; Great Grandma Ada had a visiting  friend from New Jersey, so I took her to a drag brunch; and Ada also regaled her JCC Book Club with a look back on her life… which will have to be continued since 95 years cannot possibly be distilled into an hour!

We did learn something new though – Ada was voted “Most Charming” by her Brooklyn high school class.

Since I’ve found the Senate Impeachment Trial of Mr T most distressing, and not charming at all, I refuse to watch it. Relying on the occasional Tweet to keep me up to date, especially of my favorite Senator Amy Klobuchar, it would seem that only Justice Roberts is taking this trial seriously. I’m glad he admonished both sides to keep it civil and behave with the gravitas the Senate chamber deserves.

A trial with no witnesses and no documents is still a trial worthy of respect. Right?

I was served a subpoena twice. Once a long, long time ago when I was working at Head Start in Jersey City I accidentally hit a homeless woman illegally crossing the street. Just as the sun came up over the skyline of Manhattan, I was blinded turning a corner and didn’t see her. My insurance company kept me in good hands and settled for the maximum amount on my policy.

The second time I was served we had just moved from NJ, and I had left my old car behind, it was a green Ford Explorer that the Rocker had inherited and drove to high school every day. But he wasn’t allowed a car on his college campus in Trenton, so we sold it. Or I should say, Bob sold it to a young man while I was in VA.

Long story short, he was arrested the next day for having marijuana in the car, my old Ford Explorer, and somehow or another I was still listed as the registered owner. Hence, a guy shows up at my door in Virginia ordering me to appear for a trial in New Jersey.  Again, a lawyer was deployed, money was exchanged, and a calamity was averted.

Isn’t it strange that I’ve never been called for jury duty, something I’ve actually wanted to do all my life, but I’ve been served TWO subpoenas! What if I didn’t have car insurance or the money to pay for a good defense? I was recently talking to a friend about Jane Fonda getting arrested for her Climate inspired Fire Drill Friday demonstrations.

I mean with all the protesting I’ve done over the years for women/human rights, why haven’t I been arrested? It’s almost a badge of honor today.

Congress should have subpoenaed Ambassador Bolton, sure, and he would have every right to hire a lawyer and fight it, if the Senate had the guts to call on him. It sounds like he’s willing to talk, and he might even lend some decorum to the proceedings, but his Republican cronies are afraid of the truth. They can’t handle the truth! 

Here is Amy Klobuchar’s early morning Tweet:

 “At 1:30 a.m. after a bunch of votes to stifle key witnesses the Republicans just voted down having Justice Roberts decide the witnesses! Why have this job if you’re not going to protect the Constitution? We are sworn to protect our democracy, not serve the President’s interests.”

Can you handle this cuteness?

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