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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Melancholy of Autumn

This week, I was wowed, as if by a spectacular impressionist painting, when the brilliant hues lingering on the trees were at the height of their color: oranges, reds, golds, purples, and every shade in between.  The soft light of early November must contribute to the visual splendor of the foliage.
While walking in the park, I commented to my husband, “The trees are unusually beautiful this year, particularly considering the dry spell we had this summer.”  
My husband’s reply, “Every year you say, ‘This is one of the most beautiful falls I can remember!’”  
And I suppose he is right.  You see, he has a better memory than I do.  Both for statements and places.  I remember faces and smells.  But apparently I do not remember how beautiful the autumn season is, from year to year.  Every year I am struck as if it were the first time, seeing the breathtaking colors.  Nor do I recall, until reminded, that I have this same reaction of mouth-open, jaw-stammering awe.  But now that I am reminded, I suppose it is true.  Nonetheless, the fact I have been here before does not diminish my visceral pleasure in the experience.  Maybe it is because I don’t remember the vivid colors from year to year that I experience each “wow” autumn for the miracle it is.
 By November the trees will have lost most of their colorful leaves.  I am saddened by how quickly the seasons pass.  Meanwhile, my Mother enters what looks to be her final phase.  She talks to me for a few minutes a day, responding to my questions with a word or two.  She no longer has the energy to talk much.  I don’t know if she even has the energy to listen.  But she seems to enjoy hearing my voice.  I remind her of the time I had laryngitis on Thanksgiving.  Our oldest son was one year old.  Mom had said at that time she would be happy to talk for me.  And she did.  Now I don’t know if she remembers the experience or is shaking her head “yes” just to be companionable while I am visiting with her.  That son is grown and has two youngsters of his own.
While the scene through my window is late fall with dabs of color here and there being overtaken by the grayness of winter, in my garage it is spring.  The less hardy outdoor plants that no longer fit into the house proper are consigned to the garage.  And there, ferns are happily waving near the front of our cars.  A tall bay leaf tree also breathes in the garage odors.  I wonder if the car fumes will affect any bay leaves I cut for stews. Intermingled with the ferns is a potted azalea that has summered on the patio.  Now it is in full bloom, having mistake the change of location, and the garage’s cool, but steady temperatures as springtime.  Bright Barbie-pink blossoms peak between fern fronds and greet me every time I pull into the garage.
Inside the house, asparagus ferns that had waved merrily all summer on the front porch now are turning yellow and shedding their needles.  A hardy Thanksgiving cactus persistently blooms in its favorite window.  Rosy blossoms perch on the ends of nearly every waxy cactus flower.  The cactus looks too good to be real.  And yet the only attention it gets is a weekly watering and benign neglect in its favorite window.
The leaves have fallen too quickly from the trees.  But we cannot hold them back and prolong the season.  We may not even remember how beautiful the season was until the next time it comes around and we again are reminded of the world’s spectacular beauty.
(Adapted from an essay written during another autumn)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell Blazed

Sunday night’s performance by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, backed by the “Blazing Jimmy’s”, the tag for the rest of the back-up band that Emmy Lou announced they had decided on just in time for the this, their final performance of the tour, was, in one word—blazing.

I’d first heard Emmylou back in the mid-70’s and thought she had the voice of an angel. Sweet and pure, almost a crystal bell in tone. She still sings like an angel with that crystal bell perhaps a little deeper but just as pure and sweet. Rodney Crowell, who said he also first became acquainted with Emmylou back in the 70’s, though more intimately as he is the songwriter for many of the songs on her albums, nicely harmonizes with Emmylou’s sweet voice.

The back-up, “Blazing Jimmy’s” are an accomplished group of musicians who added to the musical experience. The musicians rocked and harmonized, stomped and created music that was memorable. From “Pancho and Lefty”, “Red Dirt Girl”, “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, to “Stars on the Water” and “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”, the packed house was thrilled by the variety and depth of the music.

Though fans of Emmy Lou, like I, waited with baited breath for Emmy Lou’s solos. Her voice, a fine instrument that rivals the angels seems to only have improved with age. 

The concert, part of the Troubadour Concert Series was at the Lexington Opera House in Lexington, Kentucky.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dirty Dancing, the Broadway Series: Nails It

Thursday night’s performance of Dirty Dancing at Louisville’s Broadway Series follows the 1987 Patrick Swayze / Jennifer Grey movie of the same name with Christopher Tierney in the role of Johnny Castle and Gillian Abbot in the role of “Baby.” But you don’t have to be a devoted fan of that movie to appreciate this production.

The play tells the story of Frances “Baby” Houseman as she comes of age, sexually and politically, in 1963 while her family is vacationing at a Catskill Resort. The show touches politically and morally sensitive issues of abortion, segregation, voting rights and freedom riders, as well as class differences and sexual activity among young people.

The story is well told, the performances are tight, and the dancing energetic and engaging. Plus, the singing takes no back seat. In fact, Doug Carpenter (Billy Kostecki /Singer), with his rendition of “In the Still of the Night”, took the roof off the theater and practically blew the audience away.

For mature teenagers and adults this production certainly is worth your time and money. This is good musical theater at its best. The dancing was well executed and a joy to watch. The singing knocked my socks off and left me humming some of the more memorable tunes. (The playbill mentions this production was able to acquire the rights for some songs intended to be in the movie but were not able to be acquired.)  And, finally, theater-goers were left with serious issues that are still relevant today.

If you can still get tickets for this show do so. But leave the small children at home. As thrilling as the singing and dancing were, this show was not appropriate for some of the young children in the audience, as judged in part by the overheard questions from the child sitting on a lap next to us. This is not the “Lion King” but a strong PG-13. If you take your teenagers along, be prepared to discuss some of the topics raised by this serious musical. You and they most likely will benefit from the discussion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Geezer Grandma With a License To Sue

Four phone calls this morning. Several with a robotic voice, congratulating me on my upcoming birthday. One with a live person who could not understand my request that she “please state her business”. All she would tell me was that her name was Joan and she was calling to wish me happy birthday.

I suppose I’ll never be lonesome now that I’m two months away from my 65th birthday and everyone wants to congratulate me. Everyone, that is, who sells Medicare supplemental insurance.

Just for the record, if anyone out there is listening, I do not want a stranger, whether live or robotic, to congratulate me on my up-coming birthday. I’m on the “No Call List” for a reason. That reason is if I don’t know you, I don’t want you to call me.

Nowadays, the only people who call unannounced are robots. Even my friends and relatives, though they don't need to, generally text or email to ask first if it’s a good time to call. For the record, I’m happy to talk to friends and relatives unannounced. If my hands are covered in cooking splatters, or I’m taking a shower, I won’t pick up the phone. But leave a message, I’ll call back, and we can happily chat.

Salespersons, on the other hand, whether you are trying to sell me Medicare supplemental insurance, or anything else, will not leave a message. They just keep calling back. So I answer those calls, try to get a live person and ask to be taken off their call list. But to no avail.

Here’s the deal. Joan, whoever you really are, I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. I don’t want you to wish me happy birthday--two months early—or ever. I have enough friends and they don’t try to sell me insurance on the phone. And I especially don’t want to know all the robots that keep calling me.

So, be warned. The next ones to call, I’m recording your calls. I may notify the Attorney General’s Office of your violation of the “No Call List”. I may file a lawsuit seeking a restraining order and damages under the Consumer Protection Act. Or, if you are a real person, I may blow the loudest whistle I can find in your ear.

When you get close to age 65 you also get crabby when strangers keep calling to try to sell you something. We may be older but we aren’t stupid. And I can still find my way to the courthouse.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Let’s Stand Up and Be Heard: Call For Gun Control

Another day, another shooting. Or several shootings. I’ve had enough talk where politicians wring there hands and say nothing can be done about guns. Or let’s look at mental health. It’s time Americans stood up and said, “Enough talk. Let’s see some action. Take their guns away.”
And it is an American phenomenon. Because we are a country of guns. Elisabeth Rosenthal eloquently and factually explained, More Guns = More Killing.
Below, I am re-posting an essay I wrote back in 2012. The location of the shooting is different. The victims this time are college-aged rather than elementary age. But three years later and we are still dealing with the same problems, the lack of will by elected politicians to do something that actually will make a difference. That is, take away the military-style weapons from the general populace.

Enough with blaming mental health professionals for not identifying which particular young or middle-aged or old male will be the next mass shooter. Most of these mass killers are male—that is probably the best demographic in identifying the next shooter. Women tend not to kill a whole group of strangers first if they decide to end their lives. We do not have the ability to identify who is going to suddenly decide to take out a bunch of other innocents as he ends his life is a news-worthy fashion. But we do have the ability to prevent every-day folks from acquiring an arsenal.

Mental health professionals, even the best of them, and I’m married to one of them, cannot predict which loner, which disaffected person, which otherwise normal person is going to be that one. This latest shooter, like a lot of the other mass-shooters, while perhaps a little strange, or someone who kept to himself, did not do or say anything that under current laws would have given a clear clue he needed to be committed or kept from having access to the ridiculous, military-style, deadly weapons legally available in so many places.

Let’s stop giving a pass to politicians too cowardly to stand up and do what’s right. “Stuff happens.” That’s what Jeb Bush said of the most recent mass shooting. He used the cleaned-up version of “Shit happens.” Is that what he would have said if he had known one of the victims? I think not.

The demi-god Trump said something like, “It’s too terrible to talk about.” He who talks about everything and is not afraid to go anywhere. Another coward.

Hillary is not a god, or even a demi-goddess. But she has mustered, even before this latest tragedy, the courage to come forward and argue for sensible gun control. Good for her and for anyone else who has the courage to make themselves a target of the NRA and do something to stop the next tragedy before it happens.

That is my litmus test for a politician who will get my vote. They must be willing to take on the NRA. They must be willing to talk about sensible gun control.

These latest shooting victims could have been my children. My grandchildren. My husband. Me or my friends. Or they could have been you or yours. Do you think the families of the latest victims suffer any less than you or I would if it had been our family’s loss? Does each and every one of us have to lose someone before we put an end to the madness?

Join me and shout “Enough”. I will not support any candidate who does not speak out and stand up for sensible gun control.

Written December 2012
I promised myself I would write more upbeat, happy essays. After all, life is too short to wallow in sadness. And I did claim this blog was mostly about the amusing things in life with only an occasional dose of seriosity.
But then I turn on the news and see the funerals of little children.

Local news is no better. If they are not covering the national tragedy in Connecticut, they are reporting on local violence and threats to schools in Jefferson and other counties in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the front page headline of Louisville’s Courier Journal proclaims drastic budget cuts in Kentucky to school safety. A Kentucky state representative is quoted as saying we “need to study” what happened in Connecticut before we think about putting more money into school safety.

We aren’t back in the 1700’s, which incidentally is when the Second Amendment was adopted, and when stagecoaches and the Pony Express carried the news. Don’t we already know what happened?

A young male with easy access to military style weaponry shot his way into a locked school and massacred little children. Back in the 1700’s I suppose we would have called out the Calvary and blamed the Indians for rampaging. Maybe we would have evacuated families with children to a fort.

In the New York Times an architect writes about how we should “harden” our schools like we have done for airplane cockpits to keep the crazies with guns out. Or maybe we should just make schools, movie theaters, churches, mosques, shopping malls and wherever else a crazy person with legally-purchased automatic or semiautomatic weaponry and accouterments might go into fortresses. That would take a lot more money and for more than just school safety.

Retreating to fortresses would not protect us and our children even if we could afford it. The answer is obvious as the noses on our face and the guns in our hands.

 Our love affair with guns and belief in an inalienable right to a gun-toting “frontier” way of life with 21st century weapons has created the opportunity for this mass carnage of innocents.  And politicians’ blind adherence, until now when some sane voices have emerged, including Louisville’s own brave Representative John Yarmuth, to the NRA’s big stick have the blood of innocent children on their hands.

What century are we in—with 21st Century guns and an 18th century mentality?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Home Work Casual, Seasonal Style

First day of autumn came and went with warm temperatures still dogging our footsteps. So today, now that October’s cooler temperatures surprised me, I pulled out a new pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. It happened to be a very old button-down from previous work days. But nothing special.  Blue checks on a white background. I turned up the cuffs so I wouldn’t have to bother unbuttoning and then buttoning them again when I changed at the gym later.
So how surprised was I when several people asked where I was going today, what was the occasion, and why was I dressed up? And one of them was my husband. Keep in mind, my hair still had not had any more attention than a three-second brush-through, make-up and jewelry were non-existent, and I was wearing jeans for heaven’s sake.

It’s a good thing the weather is getting cooler. I can go to jeans or snug but comfy yoga pants, pull on a nice, longish jacket and people will think I actually have someplace important I have to go to during the day. Like a real job, not writing at home in cutoffs and a tee. I guess my summer casual had gotten pretty casual. Here’s to autumn casual.