Friday, August 28, 2009

Curtains for Camelot

The curtain has fallen.
Cut the applause and standing ovations,
There are no more encores.
Time to dim the lights and leave the theater.
Camelot is done.

It matters little what the remaining Kennedys of the so-called younger generation do, with the death this week of their “Uncle Teddy” the “dream” has died. (Even if Caroline does resume some political quest.)

And even knowing the Kennedy “Camelot” was as mythical as the literary one, it still saddens me. At first, as I watched Edward Kennedy’s casket escorted from his boyhood home for the final time, I couldn’t put my finger on why that might be.

Then it hit me—my adolescents and young adulthood was bound up with that family, for good or ill.

I will admit that as a teenager I enthusiastically bought into whole bag, delighting in the contrast between JFK and Ike. I felt as if the world was opening up, just as I was approaching adulthood, possibilities unbounded. A series of well-aimed gunshots cut short the lives of JFK and RFK . Others, like the affable JFK Jr., were lost to their own fatal misjudgments. But there always seemed to be another Kennedy to step into the void and feed the myth. Until now.

The “dream” that died with Teddy was not the one of political dynasty, power or privilege. It was the dream of my—and my generation’s—youthful view of this country and what our lives might be. As much as we boomers hate to admit it, the torch REALLY has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born to a very different reality and impatient with the masses of us clogging the road to their new millennium.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the puny penis defense

Now the world knows mondo rip-off artist Bernie Madoff’s “other secret” thanks to his self-proclaimed former mistress Sheryl Weinstein. Bernie, she says, is puny in the penis department. This I learned last night watching the “news.”

And as we women all know, size CAN matter, both for good or ill. That’s the hard truth of it. So suck it up, guys. If you doubt me, check out HBO’s “Hung, ” a kooky comedy about an over endowed divorced high school basketball coach who needs money after his house burns down an bills himself out as a “happiness consultant.”

So now pundits are pondering if his super fraudulent life was the result of his less than adequate genitalia. Bernie was simply “overcompensating.” Shit, he must have a penis the size of a Ken doll. Come to think of it, Ken was sans genitalia. Oh, well. At least Madoff had balls, eh? He never met a buck he couldn’t steal. He even took his honey for all she was worth, she claims.

So now it’s out. His penis made him do it.
Hey, they once laughed at the Twinkie defense.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

missing Woodstock

So I’m missing Woodstock—again.

Forty years ago, I was the same chronological age as many of those at the hallowed festival. But in reality I was much older. I spent the time almost unaware of the goings on. You see, I was already married with an 7 month-old daughter. My choices had already constricted my life to a tiny yellow five room ranch house in Point Pleasant, NJ.

My Aunt Sally, on the other hand, summering in a nearby bungalow colony, responded to pleas for food. I did have a tenuous connection.

But as years have melted into decades, the distinction has faded. The images of the place, masses of flesh, mud and drugs, mixed with music , joy and freedom have sunk into our very souls. All of us feel we were there. (Gone, by the way, are less savory images of drug overdoses, overflowing toilet facilities and the like.)

That’s how I feel now, watching the celebration’s 40th birthday. It does, however, remind me how much of my own “era” I observed rather than participated in—such as civil rights marches and sit-ins. My only sit-ins were in the pediatrician’s office.

That child, now a 40 year-old resident of London, was certainly worth it. I would make the choice again. I would, really. I've never much cared for crowds after all.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

32,850 sunsets

I don’t usually run other folks columns, especially pieces making the email rounds. You know, the words of wisdom you find forwarded to your email addy from friends. Maybe I’m feeling mellow and introspective on this summer Saturday, but this one hit home, so I’m posting it.

This was written by Regina Brett, now 90 years old, and appeared in the The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, evidently some time ago. I think when someone of intellect looks back to share his/her insights, it behooves us to at least pay attention. Some, like the ones on retirement and credit, I ignored at my own peril. Others, while seemingly simple, are really hard to do. I have my faves. Which are yours?

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me,” says Brett. “It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:”

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful..
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative--dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie & Julia & Me

Yeah, so I’m blogging about a film about a blogger. Sorta.

Julie & Julia is one delightful flick. Even being interrupted by a 45-minute evacuation from the theater didn’t hurt. (We were never told why the alarms went off.) The performance of Meryl Streep is everything you see in the trailers. It was just fun, so much fun I was sorry to see it end.

But along with my engagement in the dual storyline, (I’m not going into that here. It’s just a google away.) I found myself reacting strongly to the experience of nascent blogger Julie Powell working her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days—and that of nascent chief Child’s in France.

I could certainly identify with Julie’s concerns that she’s just sending her writing out into a literary version of lost in space. I still feel that way, even after almost a year. Is anybody out there? Does anybody give a damn?

I chuckled at her delight when her blog receives its first comment, only to find it’s from her mother—real close to home. And her excitement at getting 65 comments from “people I don’t know.” Here, I started slipping over into more dangerous territory—envy. Powell developed a real conversation with her “readers” who even sent her gifts through the mail.

My own stats, which are too easily checked, are silly low. Yet I am determined to continue. The climb up is incremental. Unlike Julie, I have no “gimmick.” That’s what the reviewers are calling her Julie/Julia project. However, I beg to differ.
What separates me from both Julie and Julia is passion, a focused passion. In both their cases it is food. Well, not just food. I am passionate about food, eating it that is. Their passion lay in the process, in the preparation of (and then the consuming of) said food.

Julie nurtures a love of cooking as a means of getting her through an otherwise drab existence (not unlike Child, by the way), before she starts her project. It’s not an artificial construct. Without that innate passion, neither of them would have soldered through to the end. Julie, her year of cooking dangerously, and Julia, fearlessly going where no American woman had gone before. Neither had a smooth ride, although both are blessed with amazingly supportive spouses.

The so-called “gimmick” of cooking her way through Child’s tome, is really what we journalists call a “hook.” It’s a means to draw people into the young woman’s life, as she struggles and juggles to navigate the year without losing her job, her husband or her sanity.

For Julia, her passions fall upon her rather late in life. She is still a virgin at 40 when she meets the man she marries—also a most passionate relationship, by the way. Her cooking career begins after as “something to doooooo.” Julia masters the cooking easily enough, but getting that now familiar opus published, while following her adored husband with his diminishing career around Europe almost proves her undoing.

What saves the film from ending up as a fairytale, is the reaction of then 90-year-old Julia Child to Julie’s blog—she is unimpressed, calling the young woman disrespectful and not serious. Thankfully for the upset young woman, this news comes to her after the project is complete and accolades pour in. Her husband rightly reminds her that it’s the “Julia in her head” that matters.

Since Nora Ephron combined a bio partly penned by Child and her grand nephew, along with Julie’s book on her project for the movie, we are left with the real sense, that if Child were still alive, this film would not have seen the light of day. And that would have been a shame.