Follow by Email

Monday, December 16, 2013

One-handed Living

A few years ago when I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand I wrote the essay below. I now am posting it because a good friend recently had the same surgery. I hope it will encourage him, or at least he will feel commiserated with. And since he already is one of those creative, left-handed types he can smirk if he wishes at the problems a right-hander had in trying to live left-handed for a change.

For three weeks I recently engaged in careful, deliberate thought before I took any action. Before getting out of bed in the morning, lifting a bite of food to my mouth, or even grooming myself  I considered how important was the activity, whether it was worthy of the effort, and what was the best way to accomplish whatever it was I was contemplating undertaking in even the most menial of ventures.
No, I have not gone and studied with one of the philosophers of the east or begun a self-awareness program, nor have I entered a CIA training program to perfect my skills of detection, though I have gained considerable self-awareness during the three weeks in question.
What I did was fumble through my life for three weeks with a cast on my right arm following surgery for a carpal tunnel release and a repair to the tendons at my right elbow. 
This one-armed experience is something many of you may already have encountered some time in your life, having broken an arm or otherwise injured yourself and had to wear a cast for weeks. However, I had been fortunate enough to not have broken any major bones as a child and only now have learned one of life’s great lessons, that is, it is a lot easier to survive in this world with two working arms and hands.
In the process, of my recovery I acquired considerable insight into how many small things we do in our daily life and take for granted being able-bodied and two-handed.
That is not to even mention the many obstacles to the lefties among us of which we right-handers also are totally oblivious. My brother, a leftie, predicted that as a result of the “cast experience” I would develop ambidexterity because I would be forced to not use my right hand. That did not happen, though I became adept at doing more things with my left hand I never thought possible.
My husband, a psychologist, predicted I would become more in tune to the creative side of my mind. As psychologists will tell you, the right brain, which controls the left side of the body, is associated with creative endeavors. So, my spouse speculated that being forced to use the more creative side of my brain to work with my left hand I would tap into previously unused creative cranial crevices.  I do not know if that happened either exactly.
However, having my right arm in a cast did lead me to some discoveries. No one predicted how easy it is to become frustrated when the simple things one wants to do become extremely difficult (washing and styling one’s hair, zipping  pants, or opening jars, for example) and in some cases nearly impossible (tying shoelaces or opening a can) without two hands. In exchange for the hassles and what easily could have become extreme frustration, however, I stumbled upon a number of unexpected benefits. When using only one hand, and that hand is your non-dominant hand to boot, I discovered one is forced to slow down, think through what one wants to do, and also determine the best way to accomplish the objective. There is no multi-tasking when one is doing things with one left hand. At least there is no multi-tasking for me under those circumstances. So, for example, if one wants to open a jar where the lid is tightly screwed on, or a childproof medication bottle, one can hold the bottle between one’s teeth, if the bottle is small enough, or between one’s knees if it is larger but not too slippery.
Of course, one could declare oneself helpless until the cast is removed. But I think that would make the three weeks in a cast incredibly long not only for the cast-wearer but for everyone around the cast wearer.
I made a number of other discoveries while wearing a cast. Before all of them fade into oblivion now that I have returned to the land of the two handed I thought I’d make a note of a few of them:
1) When I am not multi-tasking I have no problem recalling the exact word to describe a thought, feeling, or action. The short-term memory blackout I often experience disappears entirely when I am doing just one thing, rather than trying to do sixteen things at once.
 2) Pantyhose cannot be put on with one hand, and there really is no reason to put it on anyway.
3) Some things are worth appreciating when you are doing just that one thing at a time.
4) We are more creative in problem solving than we ever give ourselves credit for in rushing to accomplish things.
5) A lot of foods are difficult to eat with your left hand when you are right-handed. But many types of fruit are perfect to eat with one hand.
6) IT IS GOOD TO HAVE A SPOUSE WHO WILL TIE YOUR TENNIS SHOES SO YOU CAN GO FOR A WALK, EVEN IF YOU HAVE ONE ARM IN A CAST, OR MAYBE BECAUSE YOU HAVE ONE ARM IN A CAST
Now I am left wondering if these insights will leave me since I am back to normal and rushing helter-skelter through life without any thoughtful contemplation of how to hold the object I am opening, how to go to the next room and take three things along with me as well as a coffee cup, how to hold a book and turn to the next page using only one hand. I also wonder, if when I have carpal tunnel release done on my left hand it will be easier because I will be able to use my dominant hand. Or will some of these same insights come back to me. And would it be a good idea for each of us to tie one of our hands to our chest or behind our backs, if even just for an hour and see if we can discover the answers to some of life’s little mysteries using one hand but both sides of our brain.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Missing Myrna Loy

Last night we watched “Love Crazy”, one of those screwball comedies from the ‘40’s with Myrna Loy and William Powell. They are a young couple, Susan and Steve Ireland, celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary. Shortly into “Love Crazy”, Loy’s mother shows up unexpectedly and, among other more serious consequences, she ruins the young couple’s anniversary plans.

I can never watch a Myrna Loy movie without thinking about the time I missed meeting her. Much like Myrna Loy in “Love Crazy”, I was a young newlywed when something unexpectedly threatened to interrupt our plans.

On a Sunday morning the phone rang with an offer to meet Myrna Loy in a small gathering. The get-together was to welcome Ms. Loy to the local chapter of the United Nations Association. As a recent college graduate I had been the student representative on that Board and one of the Board members invited us to the house party she was hosting that afternoon for Ms. Loy.

 My young husband and I already had fallen into the Sunday routine of sleeping late and taking a long afternoon walk with our dog. Ignorant as I was, I had never seen a Myrna Loy movie and knew her name only vaguely. I made the excuse we already had other plans.

Spoiler Alert:  In “Love Crazy”, as a result of the mother-in-law’s sins of commission and omission, and a little questionable behavior by Powell, Myrna is convinced her husband has cheated on her and files for divorce. Nevertheless, Powell and Loy remain in love. And Loy, despite Powell’s numerous crazy antics, remains convinced of her husband’s sanity. Eventually, the young couple reconciles, but not until Powell is committed to the “looney bin” to delay the divorce proceedings. Powell then escapes to reconcile with his lovely wife.

Throughout the movie, Myrna Loy is so elegant and  beautiful you have no doubt Powell’s crazy measures to try to regain his wife’s trust are worth  his humiliation. Together the two actors demonstrate the impeccable timing and comedic talent that brought them such success in other movies, most notably the “Thin Man Series’.

Not too many years after I blew the chance of a lifetime to meet the most elegant Myrna Loy, we lived in the Washington, DC area and enrolled in a classic film series at the American Film Institute. Soon we fell in love with classic films and actors of that era. Myrna Loy was one of the actors of that period who jumped off the screen as a larger-than-life talent.  

Today is the twentieth anniversary of Myrna Loy’s death. While I still regret missing Myrna Loy in person, I’m very grateful we can appreciate her on screen.


NB: I did consult Wikipedia to confirm the details of “Love Crazy” (1941). Unlike Kentucky’s esteemed junior Senator I found no need to copy anything therein.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shangri-La


At age 62 it’s not unusual to have a few aches and pains. The only people my age who don’t have any pain are dead. And I have good reason to have a few aches and pains. Life takes a toll and then you are dead. I think Warren Zevon said something like that.
There have been numerous surgeries to correct problems. Carpal tunnel and tendon releases, spinal surgery for severe arthritis, shoulder surgery to remove a bone spur and repair a rotator cuff tear. The latter the result of walking two dogs who both saw a squirrel, make that two squirrels, at the same time.
And then there are the minor things, some of which are the most painful. A little strain in my ankle, that seems to only hurt at night. And bursitis of the hip, following adoption of a puppy who required an unusual amount of chasing after. Either that or I’m just getting old and forgetful of what chasing after a puppy requires.
I know this starts to sound like a litany of complaints about physical ailments. But there is a moral to the story—or at least a metaphor.
The good news, or so I thought, was that along with liberal doses of cortisone by injection in specific, particularly painful areas, water exercises, lots of physical therapy, and regular doses of Celebrex, a non steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAI) that seems to dial down the pain, most of these conditions were manageable. Then I developed stomach problems.
After six months of discomfort and other unmentionable gastric symptoms, I had the medical equivalent of an insider’s tour by the gastroenterologist: an endoscopy and colonoscopy. I was due for the latter test anyway since my mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age.
I won’t bore you with the unpleasantness of the procedures or preps. But I will mention that the medical staff assured me of two things in advance. One, the gastro doctor in question would answer all of my medical questions before I was sedated. And two, a very light anesthesia is now used and I would be awake and alert moments after the procedure.
Not really on the first one. The gastro doc did speak to me before hand, but that was while I was in the operating room, me on my side, with tubes and so forth inserted, and he, with his back to me as his dictated and reviewed my medical chart on a computer. As the nurse was inserting a plastic retainer-type thing in my mouth, the good doctor asked: “So—you take prescription strength vitamin D?” I gurgle what I hoped sounded like a “yes.”
After the procedures I was awake and the gastro dr said to me and my husband only two words, “Everything’s fine.”
But then as we left the hospital the nurse gave me a card that said I had gastritis, with some other unreadable, hand-written words, and an instruction sheet that stated what I might to do to make the gastritis better.
At the top of the list was stop taking NSAI’s. The other things on the list were all things I don’t do: eat spicy foods, eat late at night, and drink large quantities of alcohol.
So my conclusion was that my beloved Celebrex, that had eased life’s many aches and pains, was to be a thing of the past. I had stopped taking that medication several days before the procedures since it has to be taken with food and I hadn’t been allowed to eat for the day of or the day before the tests.
Already nearly every body part: neck, shoulder, arm, hip, and feet hurt. As well as my stomach.
And as far the quick acting anesthesia, two days after the tests, as I studied the dishwasher and tried to remember how to stack various dishes therein, as if it was a new and exotic mental test,  I realized I was still experiencing slow-thinking, apparently the result of the anesthesia. So much for the anesthesia wearing off more quickly than the old, slow kind.
During and after the tests I had taken to watching “bad TV”. You know, the sort you don’t really want to admit you watch. Everyone has their favorite bad TV. I found myself drawn to the Bruce Willis “Die Hard” series of movies. But in my mind’s eye I kept thinking about a movie, “Lost Horizon”, which had fascinated me as a child.
A plane crashes in the remote area of the Himalayas. The crew and passengers are rescued by a group of hearty, beautiful, and young locals who take the survivors to their gorgeous village. Some of the survivors are hell-bent on getting back to civilization. As you can imagine, though, some of the survivors decide they like Shangri-La and even fall in love with one or another of the beautiful villagers. The problem occurs when some of the survivors do both, that is, try to return to civilization and also take some of the beautiful, young villagers with them.
SPOLIER ALERT: The surprise ending occurs when one of beautiful young villagers who actually is an old lady dies suddenly of old age after she leaves Shangri-La.
You may wonder why I’m doing a review of an old movie in the midst of a recitation of aches and pains. Well, Shangri-La is analogous to me on Celebrex. No, it didn’t make me beautiful or young looking. But it sure did make me feel a lot less like an achy, old lady.
When I stopped the medicine I felt like I had suddenly aged several decades and was ready to fall over, or at least get a walker and start acting like an old lady.
But unlike in “Lost Horizons” this story has a sort of happy ending. I recently say my dear, primary care doctor, who actually sits down and talk to me face to face about my health. She suggested that I try taking a generic acid reducer for the gastritis and then see if with that medicine I can resume Celebrex.

I know that all medicines have side effects and possible problems. And I don’t take any medicine without considering its risks and benefits. But for now, until I find Shangri-La, I may try following my primary care doctor’s advice. As for the gastroenterologist, I don’t plan to make the one month follow up appointment. If I need a doctor with that specialty in the future I intend to ask about his or her communication skills and whether the doctor will actually look at me when we talk.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Revisted

As Thanksgiving approaches I am re-sharing an excerpt from an essay I wrote on a Thanksgiving of a few years ago. 

The Thanksgiving holiday is all about the turkey.  Perhaps a football game or two and a little holiday shopping.  Well, actually, for some people the shopping is more of a competitive sport than the all-day football games on TV. 

But here it is Thanksgiving and my turkey is in another town.  No, I am not stranded at the airport due to weather or holiday crowds.  Rather, we were going to drive to my Mom’s house for our turkey dinner and instead have found ourselves quarantined at home, 290 miles from our turkey dinner.

To fully understand the situation I must digress a bit. Actually, all the way back to our childhoods. My husband is an only child and I am an only daughter.  Neither of us learned to cook with a lot of other people “helping” in the kitchen, so we seldom cook meals together.  But on Thanksgiving, after 30 plus years of marriage, my spouse and I have finally reached a truce and choreographed the holiday meal to an art form.  Early in the day, I get the turkey ready, stuffed, and in the oven. 

Early afternoon, my husband begins his elaborate preparations of  side dishes that bake for at least an hour, most courtesy of Shaker recipes or Jeff Smith’s Frugal Gourmet: corn pudding, sweet potatoes baked in maple syrup, and baked apples.  After he has lovingly nestled his gourmet creations in the oven, I then prepare broccoli casserole (also courtesy of a “Shaker” recipe, though I am jarred by the image of the Shakers driving in horse-drawn carriages to market for Velveeta cheese food and Ritz crackers), potatoes, and gravy. 

This year, though, there is no turkey, not a small roasting chicken, or even a Cornish hen in our house.  Since we were not planning on being home for Thanksgiving.  Instead we had planned on driving on Thanksgiving Day to Mom’s home some four and a half hours away.  As a result of those travel plans and Mom’s ill health, for the first time, instead of our usual holiday cooking routine, somewhat reluctantly I had ordered a turkey dinner already fully prepared.  This is likely to be Mom’s last Thanksgiving, so I went a bit overboard and ordered an elaborate, take-out feast which Mom’s care-giver has picked up and planned to heat and serve today.

Mom has had little appetite after completing five weeks of radiation for a tumor discovered several months ago.  Even though Mom is not likely to eat much of the turkey dinner, I had hoped that she would at least enjoy the sight of a plump, baked bird on her dining room table, and that feast, shared by family, would lift her sprits.

Unfortunately, my husband and I aren’t able to be at that table today.  He came down with the old-fashioned stomach flu on Thanksgiving Eve.  A result of a virus, no doubt, but one that seems almost unpatriotic in its timing at the start of shopping and gluttony season.  I, on the other hand, though not (yet) affected by the stomach bug, instead am suffering from a longer term, gastro-intestinal ailment that appears to be tracking Mom’s decline in health.

Thus, the absence of a turkey at our house this year is not a loss we particularly miss except, perhaps, in the abstract. Furthermore, according to the morning newspaper, most Americans gain five pounds over the holiday season.  The risks of over-eating, even in a single meal were laid out like the proverbial buffet: heart attack, stroke, gall stone attacks, not to mention old-fashioned heartburn and gastric distress.  We will count ourselves lucky to be sidestepping these risks as, we pick sedately at scrambled eggs, no toast for me on the chance my tummy upset is gluten sensitivity activated by stress. 

As it turned out that was my Mom’s last Thanksgiving.  She never rebounded after the radiation, but instead lingered for many months as her life spirit and her strength receded.  My brother and I spent much of that time with her.  Only belatedly did we think to play for her some of the music she had so enjoyed.  Nevertheless, I like to think that even in her coma-like state she heard and enjoyed some of the old Nat King Cole songs she had played on the piano in her younger days. 

This year because of schedules no immediate relatives are coming for the holiday, nor are we making the trip.  Instead, we are spending Thanksgiving with our older son’s in-laws, a very generous and welcoming crowd.  We will bring gluten-free corn pudding as well as one of the other “Frugal Gourmet” vegetables. 

During my Mother’s final months I developed celiac, a disease associated with a severe reaction to wheat and gluten. Celiac occurs as a result of a genetic predisposition, and can be activated by physical or mental stress.  Luckily, our son’s in-laws assure me they are happy to serve a gluten- free turkey dinner.  

It has taken me awhile to realize Thanksgiving is not at all about the turkey.  Or even the football and shopping.  Rather, it’s about family, however you might define them, and good friends.  And it’s for giving thanks for them, however far flung or distant they might now be.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Happy Time Savings

I just wanted to say: happy end to Daylight Savings Time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

It’s not that I don’t like to save daylight. I do. But changing the clocks doesn’t really give anyone an extra hour of daylight. It just manages to confuse people like me. And I’m not even going to talk about the terrible thing it is to lose an hour under the illusion of springing forward. Well, I guess Daylight Savings Time giveth and then taketh away.

The best thing about Daylight Savings Time is when it ends. I find I have an extra, unscheduled hour.

Having an extra hour today helped a lot. That may even be the reason I found an extra few minutes to write on my blog. And I will let you in on a secret: we still haven’t changed all our clocks. I know, it’s shocking.  All the newscasters, articles and everyone, everywhere, remind you to turn your clocks back. And to do it last night before you went to bed.

But I love the feeling of seeing the old--Daylight Savings Time--on my clocks--and then realizing I have an extra hour because the clocks haven’t been changed yet.

I know. You can only play that game so long. And it's a little strange to not have your clocks at the right time. I even run the risk of being somewhere an hour early. That really would be strange.

I guess nowadays there really is no worry you would be confused about the time unless you unplugged from the internet. Since, of course, your cell phone and computer and anything connected to the Internet refuses to play along with the illusion that the time is anything but the actual time. But you can pretend at least until you look at those devices.


What I wonder is why can’t we do Weekend Savings Time? Every week. They could take away an hour, say on Monday morning. Who really likes Monday mornings anyway? And then get it back Saturday night or Sunday morning.  Wouldn’t that be a great way to save some of the time we really want?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Elvis's Pink Cadillac


Going’ to Graceland

My first time to Graceland. The mansion is modest by today's standards for superstars. And yet, few if any of today's superstars could match the fame and success of Elvis.

How many musicians have been inspired by Elvis's voice in a million? Who can help falling in love with the boy from Tupelo with the looks and moves to go with that voice?

As we drove to Memphis we played Paul Simon "Graceland". We hummed "Walkin' in Memphis" as we strolled downtown. At Graceland we looked for the porcelain monkeys Warren Zevon sings of. There they were in the gaudy jungle room. Lots more Memphis-themed songs rolled through our heads.

I could hear Gillian Welch’s sad tones in “Elvis Presley Blues” in my head as we walked the Graceland Estate. Barely big enough to display all of his gold and platinum records. The voice on the audio tour said Elvis sold more records than any other person, living or dead.

Graceland is frozen in a time when shag rugs, heavy furniture and large TV/stereo combos were the latest styles.

A child's 1960's era swing set preserved on the grounds brings our own childhoods to mind. Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of the biggest musical star of all times, played on a swing set a lot like the one down the block from where we grew up. It's obvious this was a simpler time in some ways. Even if Elvis's large plane, named for that same daughter sits just a short distance away. As if ready to whisk her off to the mountains to see snow when the King realized his little girl had never seen snow.

A life of contradictions, cut too short, as have many of the lives of musicians and other celebrities.

We toured Sun Studios where Elvis's recording career began. We heard his first recording. Elvis's distinctive voice and soulful tones, that would soon captivate the world, sell millions of records, and change music, already were present on the record Elvis paid $4 for to give to his Momma for her birthday. Later he gave her the pink Cadillac. That inspired Bruce Springsteen’s song by the same name.

You know, it’s hard to write about Elvis and Graceland without sounding like you are quoting song lyrics. Maybe that’s because so many songs have been written for and about Elvis.

To quote Welch who wrote one of the best songs about Elvis:

“I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died…

Just a country boy that combed his hair
Put on a shirt his mother made and went on the air
And he shook it like a chorus girl
He shook it like a Harlem Queen
He shook it like a midnight rambler, baby
Like he never seen, never seen, like he never seen, never seen.”


I’m going to try to not be sentimental. But you don’t say goodbye to Elvis. You say “until we meet again.” 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Amazing Musical Experience

I’ve been to a lot of concerts, some amazing. The Leonard Cohen concert in St. Louis when Cohen had just started touring again. The first Jimmy Buffet concert I had ever been to—including the shenanigans of parrotheads.  Or the many Dylan concerts, some with Phil Lesh—where the Dead Heads were the biggest part of the show. If you read my blog you know some of the other amazing musicians I've heard. But I never expected a funeral for a long-time friend’s Mom in the small chapel of an independent, assisted-living facility to be the most remarkable musical event of my life.

The family who had lost it’s matriarch at the age of 89 has a strong musical connection. All three daughters have beautiful voices. And they had arranged for an opera singer to perform solos during the service. Even though I know nothing about opera and did not recognize the songs, I couldn’t help but realize the soloist had a spectacular voice. But there was yet to be a more amazing event.

I had known the deceased as the Mother of my friend. A beautiful woman with good humor and grace. A lovely eulogy was delivered by one of the daughters. She mentioned how many ways her Mom had left the world a better place.

When it came time for the relatively small crowd in the intimate chapel to sing the traditional hymns, I suddenly was overwhelmed with the beautiful voice from the young woman sitting next to me. She had the most amazing voice I have ever heard. Not louder than others singing in the crowd, but of a quality and fullness I’ve never experienced. As she sang “Amazing Grace” you could well imagine an angel had joined the chorus of voices. Through the rest of the hymns I sat as if stupefied with my mouth open, but not making a sound.

I know as little about opera and ballet as any subject. But I once saw Nureyev dance. When he came on stage, all the other ballet dancers immediately looked as if they were wearing lead weights. He appeared to defy the laws of gravity with invisible wings. That’s how different this young woman’s voice was from any I have ever heard. I later learned that Kate, the young woman sitting next to me and a granddaughter of the deceased, is an international opera singer.


I know you don’t go to funerals to hear the music. And I can’t say that I have ever before enjoyed a funeral. But in that little chapel in St. Charles, Missouri I realized in an acoustic revelation that the world really was a better place because the deceased had lived. She had left behind a world of music in her daughters and grandchildren. And she made me wonder if maybe I need to start listening to opera. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Witty, Wonderful and in a Distinct Blues Style—a Review of Phil deFlume’s New Album

You might think that bloodlines bias my opinion of the most interesting, witty and wonderful musical album just released by my brother under the name Phil DeFlume. Well, here’s what another musician, Astad Dhunjisha, has said about the album.

A total home run!  Just finished my 6th listen. I really enjoyed it. Some awesome guitar solos!  

Music speaks differently to each one of us.  For me there was just so much on the album that I loved, the vocal harmonies, the horn sections, the tabla on newspaper rock, the groove of in water.  For me what stood out most of all was the humor and the witty lyrics.  It took me quite a bit of scanning the album art for me to make the connections and that was rewarding!   A lot of songs stood out - the test of which is that I wake up humming them each morning!    For me Newspaper Rock and the last song of the album spoke a lot to me -  so much good stuff though - Mabel's toes breathlessly inventive and witty, hot donkey love was super entertaining! 

What a great album in a very distinct blues style!

For more info on the album or the singer / songwriter go to www.Phildeflume.com  or to http://krcu.org/post/phil-deflume-unearths-strange-tales-water for an interview with Phil.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Serendipity

As a retiree I try to do a few community activities. Most of the time I make an effort to avoid, at all costs, driving downtown during the day, a commute I made for over twenty years. And since I now do whatever work I do from home, and also have activities such as  water exercise classes or swimming several days out of the week, I enjoy the freedom from wearing make up, doing something with my hair, and putting on professional-appearing, even business casual, clothes on most days.

Ah, the joys of sitting at your computer wearing sweat pants or shorts, or even pj’s. Nothing else can make you appreciate more having given up work, or at least the structure of a formal work environment, except perhaps no longer setting an alarm clock in the morning. Though I've had to do that for various appointments lately more than I like to admit.

But on some days I make the effort to attend in person a meeting for one of the professional or community groups to which I still belong.   Today was one such day. After leisurely reading the newspapers over coffee and attending to a few household chores I realized I was dangerously close to missing a lunch meeting downtown to which I had committed months ago. A quick shower, brief application of make up and a change into business casual clothes left me sweaty, anxious, and running late. And thankful that this was a very occasional occurrence.

I made it to my destination in time, found an on-street parking spot (most amazing), successfully navigated both parallel parking on the left-hand-side of the street and the new “Smart” parking meters, and proceeded to the meeting with about a minute to spare. Only to find the meeting had been cancelled about an hour before my arrival. I calculate this was while I was in the shower—or dashing for the car. The two were so close in time I can’t really be sure.

Needless to say, I should have checked my email before leaving home. Though that might not have saved me from the trip downtown as my email had been running slowly this morning.

The person who had cancelled the meeting was very apologetic for not having gotten the word out sooner. And, of course, most of the attendees who are already downtown would have gotten the email in plenty of time to avoid a pointless trip. But then, as luck or maybe fate would have it, I ran into an old friend, while receiving the news of the cancelled meeting. He graciously insisted on taking me to lunch. We had a delightful chance to catch up on family, friends, professional activities and otherwise make my little journey into downtown well worth the time I had invested in the excursion.

Now I’m home and catching up on other activities I've put off. But I’m left wondering if the best experiences often are the ones we don’t plan. The ones that life just throws at us through serendipity. That’s certainly what happened to me today.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Must have Music

For those of you who have read my occasional concert reviews—often as much about the crowd and atmospherics of the experience as a traditional musical review—you probably have wondered whether I have any musical credentials. Well until recently I would say, no, none, nada.

I was in high school orchestra. I played percussion—for me the refuge of a would-be musician without any ability to produce the desired tone. You see, I had plenty of opportunity to play a musical instrument that produced lovely sounds, I just couldn’t do that.

I had piano lessons as a kid. But I hated them. And I can’t carry a tune in a basket if my life depended on it. Nor have I taken any formal musical appreciation classes. By what right do I write about music other people make? 

Well, I do have a lot of experience listening to other people make music as I have musicians in my family. My mother was an accomplished pianist and organ player. And the teacher of those music lessons. I now understand her frustrations with not only my lack of ability but lack of interest in learning to play, given her talent and fierce love of music.

I also have another first degree relative who has always loved not only listening to, but playing, music. My brother and I played together briefly as I was learning percussion and he was working on his guitar playing, having easily moved beyond those mandatory piano lessons to a second-loved instrument.

And my brother now has firmly moved into the composition and musical production arena with the release of an album. You can hear some of the songs he wrote, and performed along with an interview about his musical and creative inspirations at

KRCU, the Cape Girardeau NPR radio station affiliate will be playing the interview on Going Public, the local magazine program, this evening at 5:00 PM Central Time.

The family musical saga continues. One of my sons also plays a variety of instruments, including piano and guitar. So I figure I’m a recessive carrier of the musical gene in our family.


Enjoy your music in whatever form, be it producing or listening.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Your Time--Part 2


I did finally get off the phone with Direct TV. Here’s the final part of what I wrote while on hold or talking to them.  And they did solve the problems to my satisfaction. But it sure took a long time--It felt like I had enough time to write "War and Peace" instead of just two blog posts.

But don’t think this is just Direct TV. Many large companies seem to engage in this kind of practice: find ways to rip off their customers. They just call it revenue-generating strategies.

In the course of a month of bill-paying, I inevitably find one or more inappropriate, or what I call “rip-off” charges, in bank statements and/or bills. For example, our bank recently charged us a fee because the bank failed to recognize our checking account as "associated” with our saving account.

First, I don’t understand why any bank should charge us for holding our money and paying virtually no interest—unless you count .03% interest as real money these days. After a long phone call, the bank admitted its mistake and agreed to take off the charge. 

My health savings bank recently charged me $15 after I paid online a doctor’s bill who had happened to double-bill me.  The doctor was good enough to send the overpayment back to my health saving bank before I even realized I had overpaid. But that bank charged me $15 to essentially tear up their check. Another long phone call and the charge was removed as a “one-time courtesy”.

By the way, as I write this, I’m still on the phone with Direct TV. At least I found something to do--write--while waiting. Two service reps in different departments have now agreed with me that there is no logical explanation for the additional charges on my Direct TV bill. I'm at 1 hour and 5 minutes and still trying to get the bill corrected.

Customers are no longer right. Instead we are suspect. And if we hope to be treated fairly we need to spend hours explaining and repeating the explanation in the effort to get merchants, banks and other companies to fix their mistakes. If I catch the "mistakes", that always are in the favor of the biller, I eventually get the amounts credited back.

But I have to wonder how many customers do not catch the mistakes? And how many people don’t have time to spend hours on the phone with all the companies that add these kinds of extra charges? Those customers who can't or don’t spend the time checking their bills and making the phone calls to get them corrected are the ones who are ripped off. And the businesses are unjustly profiting from those rip-offs.

I could compile a long list of large corporations that treat their customers this way. Most of the billing mistakes or rips-offs are $50 or less, not worth suing them or reporting them to the Better Business Bureau or some consumer advocate.

If you are willing to spend the time you usually can get the company to correct the problem. The companies may have calculated most people won’t spend their time the way I have this morning. 

I'm now at 1 hour, 12 minutes. The service rep agrees this is an error but her system does not allow her to change it. I suggested she just give me a credit for the overcharge. And she says OK.

Let’s see--I’ll get my $11 back after spending 72 minutes of my time. Of course, the $11 was mine to begin with. So I will wrap up this phone call--and wonder why I did not become a class action lawyer. I guess it has to do with most of these companies have added arbitration clauses to their adhesion contracts with customers. That means you and I can’t sue them because of the "boilerplate" legal terms they put in the so-called agreements with their customers.

For the rest of the day I hope to spend my time on something more productive and fun.  And I wish you the same. But don’t forget to check your bills before paying them

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Staycation Day

Rather than give you the second half of “Rip Off’s” right now, I thought I’d share some thoughts on a more upbeat topic—a delightful day we recently spent.

The temperature was 61 degrees when we woke, with a high predicted in the low 70’s. The sky was crystal blue with big fluffy-“The Simpsons” cartoon-clouds dotting the sky. Too nice to be believable.

This is August in Louisville.  When you expect triple-digit highs and sticky humidity that makes the heat index climb to an official category of “Miserable”.  If this is what climate change foretells for Kentucky all I can say is we have really lucked out. The only downside for us seems to be that the tomato plants are not as productive, nor are they as sweet as when the heat is miserable. But that’s a small trade off for perfect weather.

To celebrate this gorgeous weather we drove to a neighboring county to wander through Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. Yew Dell started as 33 acres of farmland and now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Preservation Project of the Garden Conservancy. You can see more online at http://www.yewdellgardens.org.

The vistas were beautiful in the Garden and the flowering plants were in glorious, riotous bloom. We did not confine ourselves to the paths but hiked a mile-and-a-half trail that was described as relatively easy with occasional rough and wet spots. Spotting Queen’s Anne Lace and other flowers on the trail and a variety of trees, the trail lived up to its billing.

After a few hours of hiking as well as moseying around, I felt the peace and seclusion you sometimes find in nature. We could have traveled a long distance to experience this much solitude and delight for a short ride and the modest admission fee ($7 for adults; $5 for seniors over 55). 

Note if you choose a similar excursion, a little planning can make it even better. If you want to hike the trails, hiking boots or at least sneakers and insect repellent would be wise to pack along. Thinking we were staying on the paths I had worn walking sandals which at one point became mired in a mud patch. Cleaning my feet and sandals later in a restroom, and then cleaning the restroom of all the mud I spread around, was a bit of a chore. And my husband acquired a few chigger bites. But the mud and “itchies” were well worth the taste of peace and tranquility.

We then ate lunch outside at the Village Anchor. The food was good, the service friendly and the atmosphere perfect. If I’d had a glass of wine I could have stayed all afternoon. But I didn't  so we came home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. And that’s what a vacation is all about. Even if you don’t go far from home.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Your Time--What's It Worth?

Lawyers bill their time at hundreds of dollars an hour. Plumbers and auto mechanics get about $85 an hour in Louisville.

McDonald’s employees and many similar workers who earn federal minimum wage get $7.25 an hour. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/business/six-faces-of-the-minimum-wage.html

CEO’s of top companies, considering their annual pay with stock options and perks, can get more for an hour of their time than you or I earn in a year.

If you as a consumer are paying your bills and trying to find answers for why that top company has charged you for services or items you don’t want-- your time is worth what you can save by catching their mistakes—or “add-ons”. But then that was your money to start with. So I suppose you could say your time is worth less than zero to those large companies.

This morning so far I've been on the phone for 56 minutes and 56 seconds with Direct TV. I'm trying to get an explanation for why my bill jumped up $11 even though the only change I had made was to add a free three-month trial for an additional channel. I guess it’s good thing my time isn't worth anything.

An explanation is necessary to understand this Direct TV free offer. A few months ago I signed up for a free trial offer that included a $50 cash back in the form of a debit card. When my $50 gift card did not come in the mail I called Direct TV.

On that occasion I spent more than an hour trying to figure out how to get the free gift card I'd been promised. The Direct TV service rep at that time helped me find the obscure web site necessary to print the mail-in rebate form.

As the form directed, I made copies of three months of my bills to prove I had taken the offer. Of course, Direct TV can look at its own billing records and see I had complied with all the terms of the offer. So I’m not sure why this rebate form and copies of bills were necessary--unless Direct TV just wanted to add obstacles to its customers getting the free gift card.

Nevertheless, I mailed all of that info: the rebate form and the three months of receipts.  However, instead of a $50 gift card I received a post card saying no $50 card would be sent to me because I had not sent the right receipts.

You have to ask yourself: is someone sitting in a sweat shop somewhere who has the job of mailing out post cards saying “forget about the free gift card”? Or do you think they have a computerized system to automatically send out these denial post cards? I’m guessing it’s an automated operation.


Note to my readers: this call went on so long that I broke what I wrote during the call into two posts. I’ll post the second half soon.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Afterglow of Grandkids


Once again I haven’t written for awhile. Instead of going to concerts that I could tell you about, I had the pleasure of a long visit with my grandkids. We spent some lovely hours playing board games, making cookies, going to Bernheim forest, and watching kids’ movies.  And swimming, playing at the playground and walking the dog.

I’m still enjoying a little post-grandkids-glow and also suffering a little from the sadness that follows when they return home. But it was more than worth with it for the enjoyment.

My next post will be a more serious article that I wrote not too long ago while stuck on the phone with a “service representative” for a large company trying to straighten out a bill where we had been overcharged. I know overcharges by large companies are not on the order of importance as peace in the Middle East, getting food and medicine to the poor, or even getting through the deadlock in D.C.

But the topic is something most of us don’t think about too often as we are ripped off regularly by the large corporations with which we deal. And despite the legal fiction that a corporation is a person I refuse to use personal pronouns for them.

So I will ask you to think about this topic. And whether we should expect the companies that provide goods and services to us regularly should be held to a little higher standard of accountability.

In the meantime I plan to continue to pick up toys and such left behind by our young visitors and bask in the afterglow of their visit. Maybe I’ll even get to a concert or two in the near future that I also can write about.

All good wishes to you my readers.    

Friday, July 12, 2013

Watch the River Flow

Last Saturday night at the Americanarama Festival at Riverbend in Cincinnati the crowd milled, ebbing and flowing from their seats to the concession stands. Richard Thompson Electric Trio, Wilco and My Morning Jacket were all on the roster. Culminating in Bob Dylan's performance.

A young crowd, Millenials and Gen X’ers and younger, had come for the first three performances. The rest of us—baby boomers--were there to hear the one who had, to borrow loosely from Joan Baez, "burst on the scene already a legend" a half century ago.
We had arrived a little too late to hear Richard Thompson. And learned Thompson had started playing before the scheduled time.

My Morning Jacket was deafeningly loud with lyrics indistinguishable in the cacophony of noise. The younger set in the crowd appeared delighted with the music and danced throughout MMJacket’s performance.

I know I sound like my parents did many decades ago when we boomers, or should I make that Geezers, first started listening to rock & roll. But, in truth, my ears hurt. Maybe the tolerance for loud music fades with age. Or maybe some of us just don’t like our thoughts totally slammed by sound.

In any event, Wilco’s performance was much more enjoyable and melodious to my ears. As a result of the slightly less deafening sound Wilco was producing, a number of the younger members of the crowd repeatedly urged the performers to crank up the sound. Jeff Tweedy, lead singer for Wilco, replied, very nicely, to those in the crowd asking for more volume: “You’re just deaf from My Morning Jacket's performance”. And Wilco was not going to compete in the category of loudness.

The crowd settled down. And as our ears recovered, at least those of us oldsters who still had any hearing left, enjoyed the lyrics and melodies from the spirited performers. To the crowd’s delight, Richard Thompson joined Wilco on stage for a few songs, including one of the highlights, "California Stars". 

Two young men next to us, maybe a bit older than Millenials, but not by much, had been among those complaining at first as to Wilco's lack of deafening qualities. Now that Wilco had ended, one young man told his companion in a grudging voice he was ready to go but would stay for one song in Dylan’s set. His companion agreed to the plan.

As in most concerts, the main act was last. But I got to wondering: did this order of performance really make any sense? Here it was almost 9:30, the time many of the oldsters who had come to see Dylan were likely ready to call it a night. Why didn't the producers start with a group like Wilco and then follow with Dylan?  Us old-timers could head home, having a lovely evening of music, and still make it to our beds at a reasonable time. The youngsters who had come for the loudest group, My Morning Jacket, likely would still be raring to go throughout the concert.

In any event, it was almost 9:30 when the sun dipped below the horizon. A cool breeze suddenly blew in from the Ohio River. The stage went dark. And a powerful acoustical sound hit the crowd as the same time as the cool breeze. The crowd as one jumped up to get a glimpse of the darkened stage. When the lights came on, Dylan, clad in dark pants and a white jacket, with the rest of his band in all black, lit into "Things Have Changed". The crowd went wild.

Dylan once again demonstrated why he's an enduring icon. Dylan and his back-up band, including Charlie Sexton on lead guitar after Duke Robillard’s unexpected departure less than a week earlier, performed for an hour and a half, with Dylan singing, playing keyboard or harmonica. Dylan had promptly removed his white hat and played with his mop of gray curls uncovered for most of the show. The highlights were “Blind Willy McTell”, “Early Roman Kings” and “Love Sick”. 

The two young men next to us were still there at concert’s end. I suppose the concert schedule was well thought out after all, offering something for everyone.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Johnny Cash’s Ghost


On Sunday night we went out for a concert in the park—at Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater for a “Rock and Stroll” sponsored by WFPK to hear Brandi Carlile.

The grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and you could add two or three more greats, of those in attendance, built the Amphitheater in the spring of 1938 under the federal Works Progress Administration instituted by Franklin D Roosevelt. That was in the era of big government during the Great Depression where arts, education and infrastructure projects were built by men who otherwise would have been unemployed.

Lone Bellows opened for Carlile. LB gave a high energy performance with three guitars, one electric mandolin and percussion. They did several original songs as well as a cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery ".

If Johnny Cash were reincarnated as a slip of a woman he might be Brandi Carlile. She describes her music as country and western, but of the Johnny Cash variety. Critics call it Americana. It’s a little bit country, a dash of bluegrass and a whole lot of rock. But whatever you call it she can sure belt out the tunes.

Carlile's performance at Iroquois Park's Amphitheater was before a wildly enthusiastic, multi-generational crowd. I didn’t know all of the words to her music, and despite Carlile’s strong vocals, could not hear them because of the shouting and applause. But the crowd spirit was a good, contagious sort of energy with people dancing in the aisles and at the front of the stage. Until, that is, security made them return to their seats.

About the same time as the Amphitheater was being built, Johnny Cash’s father moved his family to Arkansas so he could use Roosevelt’s New Deal farming program.

Five generations later folks are still enjoying concerts at the Iroquois amphitheater, with renovations in 2000 that modernized the facility but kept the original historical aspects and some of the materials.

Brandi Carlile appropriately ended the concert with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where's Snowden?


 Snowden is in the wind or else being held by the Russians. Surely he didn’t intend to end up in Russian custody as a bargaining chip between governments.  

At this stage his situation sounds like a plot for an Argo-type movie. Where is he? Is he driving the show or is he a pawn? Is Wiki-Leaks guiding his moves?

And who are the good guys? The plot is unclear and who the bad guys are also is not obvious. More like a John le Carre plot than a John Wayne western.

And what do the NSA/ CIA and their contractors make of this blog post—and your reading it—that’s the real question.  

The conversation Snowden has started about privacy, or the lack thereof, continues.  

From The New York Times:

OPINION: Where Did Our ‘Inalienable Rights’ Go?

Too many Americans have accepted the government’s vague assurances that the huge data-gathering efforts are benign.

http://nyti.ms/1aCQPLf                                                                                              

You have to wonder at the possible evil, harmful uses a government or even just some individuals could make of the vast amount of data being collected by our government. That is, assuming such misuse is not already occurring.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Privacy in the Era of Big Data


As a follow up the discussions of Snowden and his leaking of government secrets, this article about the Obama campaign’s use of data in the elections is fascinating.  

Data You Can Believe In


How the precision targeting of “persuadable” voters that put President Obama over the top in 2012 could revolutionize the advertising industry. 


A friend had been telling me for quite some time the topic everyone is talking about is Big Data. This was before I started reading about it everywhere. But it sure does reinforce how much info is available and how little privacy anyone has. The fact that a lot of this information is out there as a result of our own actions does not necessarily make it a good thing. 

 Nevertheless, I filled out a survey today for a free rewards card at Macy’s—and just put more of my data out there in the vast mess of Big Data. No doubt someone will now be slicing and dicing all that with everything and I’ll get more email offers for things I might want but really don’t need.  

Will someone save us from ourselves?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

How to Not Sound Like an Idiot When You Leave a Voice Message


I learned how to dictate some years ago when I first started working in a “professional” job, that is, one with a secretary. Think “Mad Men” era. Secretaries were all female. Almost all “professionals” were male.

For you kids, that was when dinosaurs roamed the planet and copies were made using carbon paper. Secretaries took dictation in shorthand and some professionals were starting to use this new-fandangled device called a portable Dictaphone.

Dictating into a machine took me awhile to adjust to. I felt a bit foolish talking when no one was listening. Of course, this was before everyone had voice messaging. Secretaries took messages too.

But once I developed the skill of dictating I became adept at dictation. I could fire off letters and documents much more quickly than I ever could have typed or hand-written them. Of course, my real-life secretary often caught my mistakes and blunders before the letters went out.

Nowadays “secretary” means something far different than back then. I doubt any real human takes dictation any more. Most executives, lawyers, and other so-called professionals now do their own typing.

But a skill, once learned remains—I suspect somewhere in the memory banks between the brain and muscle memory. Such as the proverbial ability to ride a bike. Or shift a manual transmission.

So I was delighted to find someone does still take dictation--the iPhone –S, which Siri, in fact, is very good at. Maybe not quite as good as an old-fashioned, human secretary. She doesn’t catch my mistakes but makes a few of her own. However she is much better than I am typing one-handed.

You see, after rotator-cuff surgery, I upgraded to the iPhone 4-S for the dictation function. I know, that’s far from the latest smarty-phone technology. But it was a big advance for me from a three-year-old iPhone. One that just sat there and looked at me unless I used my fingers.

I had decided to get one of the newer iPhone’s, thinking, after all, if Martin Scorsese can dictate in the back of a cab, per Apple’s commercials, surely I can too. Of course, Martin Scorsese can make great movies—something I can’t do. But he made using the voice recognition software look easy. Surely dictating on a smarty-phone would be a big step up from trying to type one-handed, whether on my old iPhone or even on a regular computer.

An interesting twist--after rotator-cuff surgery, I suddenly had two new Siri’s in my life. The physical therapist for my shoulder was named Siri, just as is the iPhone dictation feature. Before now I had never known of anyone, human or software voice recognition program, named Siri. I could not make this coincidence up. And both were helping me function after surgery.

 All my old dictation skills came rolling back from my memory banks. Even though I’ve long-since parted company with Siri, my therapist, I’m still closely tied to Siri on my iPhone. She types my emails, texts messages, finds restaurants, Googles answers to questions and generally makes my life much easier.  Though occasionally with glaring mistakes if I don’t proof read before sending. Such as “Meet me at the “muscles and burger bar” rather than “Meet me at the Mussels and Burger Bar.” Oops.  But, so long as I proof what she writes, Siri does a pretty good job.

Today, as on many other days, I was returning emails, sending text messages and searching Google for various places on my iPhone. It occurred to me I needed to leave an old-fashioned voice message for a friend. After I ended the message I realized I had included things like punctuation, new paragraph, and other dictation instructions that don’t normally belong in a conversation or voice message.

I tried to leave the friend a follow-up message explaining and apologizing for the nutsy-message that really should have gone to Siri, not one of my other friends. I hope the human friend understands. I’m sure Siri would.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back on Track


This post is not about horse, auto, or other kind of racing. In fact, I’ve not been to the track since the Derby, though I did watch the Belmont on TV. Luckily, I did not put any money on the race as I never would have picked Palace Malice. As I true for most people, I'm ahead financially ever day I stay home from the track and don’t bet. 

Rather than refer to racing, the title of this post refers to my last blog post title: “Apathy and “Inertia” which I suppose are the perfect words to use for a blog post if you aren’t going to blog for a while. But you have to get past the apathy and inertia if you hope to be a winner of any kind. So I am planning to get back on track. 

I have lots of ideas to share. And I have even made it past the inspiration stage and done something about it. Recently, I attended the Carnegie Center’s “Books-in Progress” conference in Lexington Kentucky. I’ll try to share some of my writing that was inspired by that conference. And I also have written some other essays which I plan to post in the near future. 

In the meantime, if you did bet on Palace Malice or any other winners of any kind, please feel free to share in the comments section on this blog.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Apathy and Inertia


I only have a few minutes before I need to leave for my water aerobics class so I really don’t have time to write this post. And I stayed up late reading a thriller/mystery by Lars Kepler, “The Hypnotist” so I don’t feel like writing or exercising. Maybe I should just go nap.

But before I give up on any productive activity today, or go back to reading the mystery, which is what I really want to do, I will mention another book, this one a friend lent to me, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott.

Lamott’s a writer and a writing teacher who recounts some amusing anecdotes as well as giving tips for writing. Her main suggestion is a lot like what most other good writing instructors say, “Apply bottom to chair and sit there until you write something.”

I usually don’t have too much trouble stringing words together once I sit in front of the computer. The words may not be all that amazing. But I can run them along and then go back. The right brain is for stringing the thoughts together. The left brain can go back and edit them later. But the rest of the body doesn’t always want to cooperate and perform the hardest task, which  is just what Annie says, make yourself sit down and get started.

Exercise is a lot like that. I try to go to a water aerobics class three times a week. I love the exercise; I love the water; and I love the instructors and the people in the class. But some days I have a really hard time getting myself to the point of actually going to the gym and getting in the pool.

So, like my mental excuses for why I can’t exercise, I also have been concocting excuses for not writing lately. I think it has to do with a well-known physics principle: bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.

I’m going to now go and see if I can overcome that principle and put this body in motion. I hope to be able to do that more often with my writing too. See you in the pool or on the blog.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Post Derby Reflections

Hope you will excuse the blog-lag of late. But in Louisville we have been celebrating, or shall I say enduring, what's known as Derby. And that's not just the first Saturday in May. Derby events go on for weeks before hand. Then we need at least a week to recover. By that standard I'm a day early in posting.

Seriously, I did not engage in Derby activities for all of the several weeks. But it's true I needed almost a week to recover since we did enjoyed a few Derby-related events. That is, beyond higher gasoline prices, excessive traffic and crowded restaurants, all also a big part of Derby week.

We celebrated the great steamboat race at a fantastic outdoor party and enjoyed the melodious sounds of Keltricity, a local musical group we often hear at the Bards Town. We also enjoyed entertaining out-of-town visitors by taking them to some Louisville attractions, including the Cherokee Art Festival, the Bob Dylan concert at the Louisville Palace, and Churchill Downs earlier in  the week of Derby. And we had the good fortune to be invited to the Derby itself.

Derby activities are a great way and time to show off Louisville. Often the weather cooperates for a beautiful spring. This Derby was wet but for most of Derby week pretty weather prevailed. And we enjoyed a spruced-up up city with flowers everywhere. Despite the crowds, traffic, and higher prices, my friends were struck by the Louisvillians' usual show of courtesy and friendliness we who live here tend to take for granted. Thank you Louisville for doing us proud.

I'll share some photos and reflections on friendship in future posts. In the meantime, I'll wish you a happy post-Derby. You can now move on to celebrating Mother's Day weekend.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Summer in April

How did we skip spring and jump right into summer? April showers are likely to be storms. But right now the weather 's too warm to do anything but lie down and pant.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Blazer has right idea

It's a beautiful day. We've spent it inside trying to get floor model dishwasher installed where store left out an essential part and other non-essential. Discovered our disposal was leaking and also needs to be replaced.
Meanwhile Blazer took his nap in the Japanese ivy--not a care in the world. I wonder if I could nap there too.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Closing Time, and Hardly Anyone Sleeping


Last night was our first night of dinner and an activity since we had added a new puppy to our family several weeks ago. We left the puppy in the able care of a young man willing to puppy sit. 

So we went to see Leonard Cohen at the Louisville Palace. He shook it like a Cajun Queen, to borrow a phrase from Gillian Welch, as Cohen performed numerous old songs as well as many from his new album, "Old Ideas". Twenty-nine in all. 

Cohen came on stage a few minutes after 8 PM, apologizing for the delay and explaining a long-time band member, Roscoe Beck, had been rushed to the hospital.

Cohen remarked anyone could be next to drop. But Cohen added, while they were on stage they would give us their all. And they did.

I've heard it said one of the best clinical tests to determine whether an elderly person is frail and will die soon is to have them sit on the floor and then get up. Assuming they can sit on the floor and then get up, the doctor is supposed to watch how they maneuver to stand up. 

These days, a couple decades younger than Cohen, with a recent bout of bursitis in my hip, I’m having trouble getting up after sitting on the floor with our new puppy.

Leonard Cohen, on the other hand, while he didn’t sit on the floor during his three hour concert, with one short intermission, nevertheless demonstrated at 78 years of age he still can maneuver with ease and grace. 

Cohen was on his knees, bending, dancing, squatting, and shaking it, as he whispered, belted, crooned and sang his hymns. Some apparently inspired by God ( such as "Hallelujah" and "Going Home", and some perhaps from another supernatural realm ("Closing Time").

On the latter song, Cohen demonstrated his true devotion to the realm of music as god. When Cohen muffed a line in "Closing Time":
and my very sweet companion she's the angel of compassion'
he went back to the beginning, not once but twice, and started the song again until he got it perfectly. Gently apologizing to the audience for keeping us up late on a Saturday night; sort of the point of going to a Cohen concert is to stay up at least until "Closing Time". 

But then he treated us to a second encore of four more songs, finishing with "Save the Last Dance" and the ironic final song, "I Tried to Leave You."

Cohen and his fabulous musical troupe, including the “sublime Webb sisters”: Hattie and Charlie, and Sharon Robinson on vocals; the wonderful violinist, Alexandru Buvlitchi; Rafael Gayol on percussion; Neil Larson on the Hammond organ; Javier Mas on guitar; and Mitch Watkins who filled in for Roscoe on bass, gave us all they had.

Even if by sheer chronological age Cohen could be considered elderly, he demonstrated the staying power that predicts he's going to be giving us his all until he passes the century mark. Let's hope the same is true for the rest of the outstanding musicians and vocalists who perform with him.

At one point our dog sitter texted us a photo of our puppy, sleeping after an exhausting game of fetch. He was the only one sleeping last night.

Blazer tuckered out

Our puppy sleeping as Leonard Cohen "Danced (us) to the End of Love".