Monday, September 28, 2009


Think of this as a continuation of the previous post.

It’s Saturday morning. I climb into the front seat of our blue ’52 Oldsmobile with m daddy for the hour-long drive into Manhattan, my mom and brother left behind at home in Syosset, Long Island.

I wear my silver Capezio tap shoes. When I put them on, tie the ribbons into bows, my movements become audible, there for the world to hear. Tap shoes make you impossible to ignore. And I, too, adore being at the center of my world.

The Charlie Lowe Dance Studio is cold and bare, with wood floors scarred by years of metal-tipped tap shoes. The big windows and floor-to-ceiling mirrors bathe the large room in light, leaving no perches in which to hide, no background into which to fade. Music comes from a battered upright piano off to one side, with a real piano player playing real notes, unamplified, unfiltered and raw, like the dancing.

We take our places in rows facing a mirror. There is little clowning around. This is a hard-core, professional practice hall, serious stuff. I can hear the bark of the male instructor as he calls out the time step: “Hop, two taps change, brush out, stamp stamp,” again and again. I can dance it still; his voice, his cadence, echo in my body more than 50 years later.

I feel his look, that glare, as he turns to evaluate our form, motioning the best examples to the front to lead.

Several times a year, I perform in shows sponsored by Macy’s. I am given brassy tunes, such as “The Glory of Love” and “The Trolley Song,” somehow cute when performed by a second-or third-grader. Nothing fazes me. I relish being on stage, taking command of an audience. It’s easy, natural. I assume it as a birthright. So enamored am I with myself that the first time I hear Judy Garland, I accuse her of stealing my songs.

Performing is my passion. From the time I utter a coherent sentence, I insist I am going to be an actress. In the long, dark, narrow hallway of my Aunt Sally’s Brooklyn apartment, I gaze intently into a full-length mirror. No older than 5, I am singing with all my heart and soul, oblivious to family chuckling, rolling eyes or muttering about Sarah Bernhardt. I need no one to complete my performance. I enchant myself.

Fast-forward a few years. I commandeer the living room for acting out the scores to Broadway musicals, either alone or with my best friend, Carin. We leap and strut across tables and couches, emoting like crazy.

Fast-forward several decades. And I wonder. What happened – not to the cute, sweet, water-colored girl in fading snapshots – but to the tough, fearless creature willing to step into the world with only confidence as her shield? I miss her.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Just saw my most favorite TV commercial. It's from the large Florida supermarket chain Publix to support youth soccer.

An overwrought father is watching his very young (looks about 3 years old) son at his first match. He suffers as his son falls, reaches to pick up the ball and so on.

Finally he goes over to the boy, obviously intending to console him:
Boy: "Did you watch me?"
Father: "Are you OK?"

Boy runs off.
Close-up of father's face dissolving into a smile.

Ah, to find that child inside us all.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peter, Paul and Mary no more...

Note to all you boomers out thar: It's official folks, the 60s be kaput.

The passing of Mary Travers puts the final nail in that otherwise very full coffin. And frankly, I’m getting’ mighty tired of saying farewell to the cherished.

The timing of the news really hit me, as I finish every Wednesday morning story time at BN by singing Puff the Magic Dragon with the bunch of parents and kids. (Many of the parents are so young they need the storybook to follow along with the words.)

By the time I got to see Peter, Paul & Mary perform live, she had fought back her leukemia with a bone marrow transplant and her signature blond tresses were short cropped. The group was at the auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ, (which is like sitting inside a giant overturned boat.) singing to a sold-out crowd of aging hippies and their grandchildren. They didn’t so much “sing” as lead a sing-a-long. It was a warm and wonderful night. Comfortable.

And with their sweet harmonies, PP&M managed to be easy on the ear and the heart, even as their socially relevant lyrics hit their mark. I don’t know how I would have found Bob Dylan searing question, “How many times...” without them.

I admired their gentle constancy. They kept to their ideals, even when it was “unfashionable” to do so, although I never bought for a second the revisionist history the Puff wasn’t pot driven. It just didn’t matter.

Come to think of it, the impetus behind that question hasn’t changed, either, just the name of the war. The worst part of the 60s manages to live on—and continues bringing our young back in flag-draped boxes.

The answer, my friends, is (still) blowing in the wind.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guiding Light fades to black

After 72 years and 15,672 episodes they are turning off the lights in the mythical town of Springfield (actually Pea Pack, NJ). I learned the last episode of the soap opera Guiding Light would air next Friday while watching CBS This Morning yesterday.

Since, like too much of its audience, I had both aged out of the advertiser’s target market and returned to the workplace, this wasn’t exactly a shock. I can’t recall when I’ve seen the an episode of the show, which began in 1937. That’s 10 years before I whaled my welcome to this world. That’s when TV was considered a passing fad. Both had remarkable staying power.

Ok, so this isn’t exactly an earth stopping event. Except it is, in a way. Because the news stopped time for me, throwing me back to my Long Island childhood. Yup, another one of those. It was one of my mom’s soaps (along with As the World Turns). I flashed on laying across my parent’s bed on those days when I was home from school with some ailment, and watching alongside my mom—all comfy. Back then, the shows lasted only 15 minutes.

So I guess it’s only natural that I fell into following the convoluted storylines. As the shows grew in length to 30 and then 60 minutes, they shifted the time so I watched after school—or so I recall.

Soaps became something of a fashion for a while, very hip. When I was in college, there was actually a course called “Psychology of the Soap Opera.” And students would gather to watch together.

Then my own daughter, now 40, took to Guiding Light. And it served as a touchstone for us both. At times, when we found it hard to share our own lives, we had common ground. I was so grateful for that. There was always those folks in Springfield. Any problem you could imagine, they had. And they survived—until now.

So although I no longer watched, I guess it gave me comfort to know the world of Springfield still turned. What to make of a world without the ultimate star-crossed soul mates Reva and Josh, without the unending diabolical plots of Allen Spaulding and the rest of the population. What indeed?

Of course, I will be working when the last show airs, so I’ll have to check it out on the web after the fact. And that, my friends, is how the world now turns.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Separation anxiety

I want to feel like I’m returning home.
Instead, I feel that I am leaving home.

Even after 8+ years, I can’t wrest my soul from the Jersey Shore. My separation anxiety, it seems, is geographical as well as human.

I am in “soak up” mode, sucking in the brine at the Spring Lake boardwalk, as if I could find a way to make it last all the way back to Sarasota. I linger outside of No Ordinary Joe’s in Red Bank until my coffee is cold, obsessively scanning the streetscape. I gaze out at the Navasink River and imagine myself on one of the sailboats floating by.

I admire those who boldly stride into the future.
My neck cranes toward the past.
I cling.

So I make lists of the good stuff : I have a job, a roof over my head, healthy children, good friends et al. I mutter thanks to the universe for the opportunity to be here again this summer.

And I don’t know what else to do but keep moving, dragging myself into the forward. Well, I do purchase a lottery ticket each week. The belief in magic dies hard.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Something funny happened on the way to the publisher...

I became a blogger.

So I’m pausing to pat myself on the back—a bit—for crossing the year-one blogging divide. Not a small feat, or so I’m told. According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned.

I started this site last August 19, with a post about my daughter, without whose help I never would have made it off the ground.

I was not what you would call an enthusiastic blogger. Publishers and agents, who said they liked my second book, a few even loved it—yet they would not take it on. Since I no longer had my newspaper column , I was left without a “platform” they moaned, a demonstrable readership. (Even being called “early Nora Ephron didn’t help!)

Enter blogging. By casting my writing out onto the web, they opined, I would attract a following, create such a platform and thereby become publishable. That’s the theory, anyway. Reality, as always, tends to get in the way.

Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, has reported that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but “it’s probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views...There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”

Okay, so my audience exceeds that, but not by nearly as much as I had hoped. Like many folks of my generation, I find myself so overwhelmed by the marketing of this thing that it freezes me into inaction.

So until/unless I figure it out, I have come to terms with what is. I am determined to continue—even if I am an audience of one. It is, at a minimum, a date with myself, a date to show up on the page at least once a week, to continue and not get tossed away. This is no small thing in my life. I meet this commitment—others, not so much.

I’ve had three months of free time to work on my second “novel” and have done next to bupkis, nada. Whatever creative juices have been given over to me dried up. I am the Sahara of the literary world. Continuing here, on this site, is helping me make peace with that and move on.

Next week I will be back in my “real life”, back in Sarasota, back at work in B&N. This blog will continue and at some future time I hope to find my way back to that book or on to new ones.

Hope you stay tuned...and it wouldn't hurt if you would pass the word along to others. Thanks.