The New Face of Fifty +

If you were born in '56
And find that time has done some tricks
You think that youth has passed you by
Simply saying the word, fifty, brings forth a cry.

Well then for you I have good news
Though true this age we did not choose.
We bring to it a lot that's new.
We're healthier, wealthier and feeling less blue.

So, here's my suggestion to make you feel hearty
Celebrate 50 by making a party.
No rhymiing words but nifty, thrifty and shifty.
But the point is that WE are the NEW FACE OF FIFTY.

I created this invitation for my party. You're welcome to borrow it or create your own. Just be sure to C*E*L*B*R*A*T*E


Hustle and Flow: A Review from a Unique Perspective

When I told my 25 year old daughter that I really liked the movie Hustle and Flow (the latest of my rent-a-movie-by-mail movies) she was surprised and frankly so was I. Well, that's not exactly true. I had seen the movie, Crash (excellent, important, rent it) and from it, initially became aware of the actor, Terrence Howard. I could see for myself that he was a presence and when NPR did a piece on him, I knew he was someone I would want to continue to watch. However, though I pride myself on having an eclectic taste in music and movies, Rap and rap-culture movies have not exactly been , well, how should I say it, my cup of tea.

Terrence Howard plays a pimp, in Hustle and Flow, who is not all that satisfied with his life as it is, but like many in his situation, doesn't see any way out. He is portrayed sympathetically and even I, who gets offended just hearing the word, bitch in referance to a woman, was able to get past the language and my feminist beliefs long enough to see the person behind the male bravado. Howard's character, DJay has some talent in the music department and dreams about becoming a rap star. When he happens to meet an old high school buddy, who happens to be a sound engineer, DJay wheedles his way into the church where his friend is working. He hears a woman singing a gospel song with such passion and intensity, he is moved to tears. This was one of the first scenes that drew me into the movie.

DJay manages to convince his old friend, Key (Anthony Anderson), to listen to his music and eventually to help him produce a tape. Kay brings in a musician from the church, Shelby (DJ Qualls), who happens to be white, which does not go unnoticed by DJay. The character that Qualls plays is so refreshingly real and geeky, that he became the second reason I so thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Then there were the women. They were perhaps the most outstanding of all the characters . There are three main women in DJay's life and though they were mostly treated in a demeaning fashion, they were portrayed as important characters in their own rights, with human characteristics that made them not only likeable, but dignified. Paula Jai Parker pllays one of DJay's hookers and is, I believe, the one with whom DJay has a baby. She is the least likeable of the trio and when he throws her out of the house, you are not left with much sympathy for her. The second woman, more like a child-woman in her presence and style of speech, is DJay's main prostitute. Nola (Taryn Manning) is seeking a way to feel important, to contribute, and not to be only what she does with men. During the recording sessions, though the women's presence is initially spurned, they soon become a part of it and you see Nola donning ear phones along with the others. I was never sure if she did so as per request, or she just took it upon herself to wear them to be a part of the process. In either case, it did make her a part of the sessions and you felt her pride. Thus my third reason for enjoying Hustle and Flow

The real treat of the movie for me was the third woman in DJay's life who is his girlfriend and is pregnant, though I am not sure that she is pregnant with him, but I think she is. Shug (Taraji P. Henson), has an innocence that I can only explain as what you would see in a character from a simpler time, living in an environment, more like Appalachia than Inner City. She comes across as innocent and vulnerable. Yet, it must be remembered, this is all taking place in the hood, where there is not always a lot of innocence to be found. She is asked to sing a background part for DJay's song and does so with obvious trepidation, even, embarrassment. But as she goes on, she gets into it and in time begins to belt out her part as if she were Queen Latifah, herself. She is as surprised as anyone, yet you can see the pride and accomplishment in her face. Her face, especially her eyes are her expression.

Later, in a scene where DJay is heading for his car, to drive to meet with this ex- big-time rapper, Skinny Black (Ludacris, also plays in the movie, Crash), he suddenly turns around to run back into the house where he runs into the arms of the unexpecting Shug. The look of love and appreciation in her eyes is worth the price of admission to the movie (or in this case, DVD.)

Another draw to this movie is the appearance of Isaac Hayes. Terrence Howard, Ludacris AND Isaac Hayes. Really, what else could you ask for? And, if that weren't enough, during a practice session, either Shug or Nola interrupts them to bring in a gift, a lava lamp. I know lava lamps have become popular again in recent years, perhaps never really went out of fashion, but to me it was a perfect symbol for what I will call, Generational Crossover. Classic ROCKRAP....oh, yeah!

OK, so Blogger is making me crazy by not allowing me to upload any more pictures, so I will go ahead and post this, even though there are a few more pictues I reallly wanted to include. I'm afraid if I wait any longer, Hustle and Flow will become a movie Classic and rap music will be just "classic rap". Oooooh, now that would be nice. ;-)

Here are the pics I couldn't download or upload or whatever on my first hundred attempts.....if at first you don't succeed...try try again.


The 60th Annual Tony Awards


OK, so I am a complete cornball, cheezy, say what you will. But the truth is I love the theater. I love musicals, I am enraptured by good dramatic plays, I just love theater. It all started the summer of 1956 when I was just 5 years old, in my blue frilly dress, with my matching blue glasses with those little points at the ends (you have to be a baby boomer to get this picture) and my blond pig-tails, belting out whatever song it was, we were singing that year in camp at the Mountain Crest Swim Club in West Orange, NJ. I had no voice then, as I have none today, but then it didn't stop me from singing. A few years later, now at sleep-away camp in Milford, PA (Camp Indian Trails for the initiated,) I was walking around saying, God bles"smee" because I landed the part of Smee, the right hand man to Captain Hook, in Peter Pan. I, my friends, was on my theatrical way. I still couldn't sing, and certainly couldn't dance, but what did it matter, I loved being on the stage.

My next big stage appearance was in October of 1964, when on a Friday night at Temple B'nai Zion in Bloomfield, NJ, I stood on a stool, in order to be seen above the pulpit, which was on the "bimah", which is very like a stage; well, at least for me it was. I sang out my haftorah and orated my speech and could hear the roar of the crowds, if only in my minds ear, since you're not really allowed to clap and applaud inside the synagogues' sanctuary, but I knew that they would if they could. I was a 13 year old hit! And then three years later, in 1967, came the pièce de ré·sis·tance. I auditioned for the part of Helen Keller in our All School's Production of The Miracle Worker, and by god, I got it!!! Because I was playing the role of a young girl who was deaf, blind and mute, I had but one word to say in the entire play (wa-wa, in the last scene) but, I had to memorize every word of every part in order to do the physical acting that was required and so that I would know just where on the stage to be and with whom . It was a challenge that I, along with my fellow actors, met and, in my humble opinion, possibly exceeded. The play was very well received by the school community and the community at large. It gave me a feeling of self-confidence and pride that has never quite been duplicated since. It was by far one of a handful of defining times of my life.

I can't remember exactly when, but a few summers after that wonderful year, I decided I wanted to pursue my interest in acting by going to an extended workshop at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. I had to audition to get into the program and I remember doing the soliloquy from The King and I, where Anna comically expresses her anger towards the King...."YES, Your Majesty, NO, Your Majesty, How Low can you Go, Your Majesty..." I remember being very excited at the prospect of learning at this "prestigious" school. I felt hopeful that, though I was going into the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Syracuse University, the fact that this department was in the School of Speech and Drama, was to me an omen of sorts. I figured that even if I didn't change my major to Theater, at least I would be in the right place to be involved in it. This, however was not to be. My teacher at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts pretty much told me that I had no talent and shredded my confidence overnight. I did go to SU and my major, Speech Pathology, was in the School of Speech and Dramatic Arts, but that was as close as I was ever to be again in the world of theater. I was never in any of the scholl's productions and I was never again on the stage. As it turrned out, however, my progeny was recently on one of THE most famous stages in NYC . My daughter just received her Master's Degree in Teaching through Pace University and she received her diploma on the grand stage of RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, accompanied by the grand Wurlitzer piano. So, even if I couldn't get there with my talent, at least she got there with hers. There must be some poetic justice in that?

So, did I mention how much I love the theater? As I watched the Tony Award Ceremony last night, I must admit to being ever so green with envy watching these great actors receiving so many accolades for their talent and work. I must admit to not having seen any one of the nominations this year. Last year when I watched, I think I had seen all but one or two . Having been unemployed, by choice, for over a year, I was less inclined to shell out the $90-100 bucks (yes, for those who don't live in the New York Metropolitan area, that is what a ticket can and often does cost today, sometimes more.) However, now that I am once again gainfully employed, I have put on my Must See List: Jersey Boys, The Color Purple, The Drowsy Chaperone, Faith Healer and maybe The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The History Boys. The play I am most sorry I missed was the Rabbit Hole.

You know, it has occured to me that I am never so present, so "in the moment" as I am when I am watching good theater. It draws me in and keeps everything else out. So, if you are out there looking for a "partner in theatrical crime" or if you plan to be in The City for a weekend and want a fellow thespian lover to accompany you to the theater, you know who to call.


Jim Dawson - Brought Me Back from My MIA Status

It has been over three weeks since last I posted on this blog and before I get into the reason I'm back, I will explain why I've been MIA. The easy explanation is that I've been busy and not online as frequently as is my usual state of being. That's the easy answer. The not so easy answer harks back to early childhood, continuing right up to today, as per my therapy sessions with Diane would suggest. This is to say that when the child is in a position where he or she (generally this would be she) feels compelled to "mother" the parent, because the parent never got the "mothering" she needed, then the child grows up seeking the nurturing, that which is the birthright of every child, and getting from her parents the message that she is good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, that she is seen and heard and appreciated for who she is, nothing more, nothing less. So, the child, having never gotten her birthright, seeks this, but never feels she gets it. She is always looking for it in the eyes of those around her and she depends on their assessment of her. What she doesn't realize, until she finds someone like Diane to bring it to her attention and integrate it into her belief system, is that she will never find it until she herself learns to see and undertstand what she needed as a child and didn't get, then perhaps becomes angry, but ultimately forgives those who did not/could not give it to her. Only then can she learn to become the nurturing, loving, compassionate, rewarding, non-judgmental Mother to her own child, who still, at the rarefied age of (gulp!!!) 54, lives within her. Then, and only then, will she feel good enough and no longer need to seek seeing herself though the eyes of others.

So, what does all this have to do with why I am back and with Jim Dawson (and if you're reading this, you may be asking WHO IS Jim Dawson, but you know I will get there eventually)? I went to see Jim in concert tonight (more on this later) and the reminiscence of the evening, as well as what he expressed in his verbal ramblings between songs and the lyrics to the songs themselves, old and new, brought me to the following self-query and realization. Why do I feel that I have to write this blog for others to read and then when there is no one or very few someones, reading it, become disheartened and even insulted, questioning why other bloggers have readers and I don't, and concluding that my blog and what I have to say and the way I express it, is of little value and not appreciated. The realization that I don't occured to me. If I enjoy writing it and I like looking back on it as a journal of sorts and I get reinforced by my effort and I love looking at the pictures, as well as the words, all of which I do, then having readers would be like the icing on the cake, but readers or not, the substance of the cake is still there. Thus, I am here. I'm back!

So, who is Jim Dawson and why should you care? In 1975, I had just graduated with my Masters Degree in Speech Pathology from Wichita State University, in, obviously, Wichita, Kansas, the near exact center of these United States. New York City, it was not, but then having gone to Syracuse University undergraduate, I was ready, willing and enthusiastic to get away from all that was New York Metropolitan. This I found in Wichita. I found people who had never in their lives met a Jewish person and I loved it. I was the special guest at my own party (my favorite thing to be!) People were interested in me because of my differences and my background and this made me noticed and needless to say, I enjoyed that. I also appreciated the friendliness and hospitality and like they say, "down-homeness" of the Mid-West. Having said all that, after a year and a half of being the one and only person in the movie theater, watching The Way WE Were, catching the inuendos and identifiying with Barbara,rather than Robert, I realized I may be ready to return to the East Coast, which was a good thing, since my first job turned out to be in Providence, RI.

Of course I brought with me to RI, the angst of being an "adult" (24 years old to be exact)who still felt like a child and a "Professional" who not only still felt like a student, but wanted nothing more than to remain a student for the rest of her days. I'd been successful as a student and I was sure that I would never be that in the professional world (in fact, it was many, many years until I did feel that success, but that's another story for another time.) So, I trudged through that first year of my first professional job, pretending to be the "expert" and feeling like a fraud, living in a city that I really liked, Providence, near another city that I liked even more, Boston, but where the friends I'd managed to make at work, mostly all quit within that year. So, loneliness and insecurity, and well, knowing that I was not good enough, pervaded much of my time in RI. Music has always played a major role in my life and songs, as much as any scent, can bring me right back to another place and time. I can not remember how I came across him, but probably I heard Jim Dawson on the wonderful Boston radio station which played new singer/songwriters, even way back then. I went right out and purchased his LP called, Jim Dawson. Many of his lyrics "spoke to me", but none more than those in the song, "Until I Find Someone" (which he was good enough to play tonight, upon my request, even though he probably hadn't played it in ages and the lyrics were not all that familiar at this point and though it didn't hit the heights of the LP, it was very much appreciated by a "fan".) Perhaps at a later date, I will fetch my record and copy the lyrics off the back cover or the inside liner notes (remember how great it was to get albums with covers that were like pieces of art and were filled with information like lyrics and every instrument on every song and who played them and was large enough to hold like a book and as easy to read? Those were the days, my friend!) I had every intention to go to Boston to see Jim live, but like they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Still, that album made me a life long fan. Unfortunately, however, after I left Rhode Island in the Spring of 1977 to pursue my next adventure (Israel, where I studied and lived and worked for the next two years, and got engaged... but again, I digress), I lost touch with where Jim Dawson was or what he was doing and so it was for the next three decades.

Which brings us to Saturday, June 3, 2006 (though it is now well into Sunday, brevity not being my better suit.) About a year ago, thinking about my collection of LP albums, my mind meandered to Jim Dawson and I wondered what ever became of him. Being as internet savy as I am (achem!), I knew that the answer to my ponderings could be at my fingertips. So, I yahooed his name (yes, I am a Yahooer, not a Googler) and, voila!, I came upon the Jim Dawson Website. And, the rest, as they say, is history. Well, it's my own personal history anyway. I read the site and looked for an appearance and decided upon one that was to be at a place called, Miss Ellie's in the Village. I had every intention of going, but it was on a weeknight and in The City and the weather forecast was rain and I couldn't find anyone to go with me, so I sent an email to Jim telling him of my dilemma (well, first I filled him in on my connection with him) and lo and behold he wrote me back and told me to come anyway, that I'd be comfortable and I wouldn't be sorry (I'm not sure he really said it like that, but you get the idea.) So, I intended to go, but again did not. But I did keep getting emails from his site informing me of upcoming gigs, which is how I found out about this one at the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church on Rt. 206 in Hillsborough, NJ. This time it was on a Sat. night and since hub had gone to play his all night poker game on Fri. night, I knew he'd be agreeable (more or less) to attend this with me. I also knew that it was the kind of music and event that would appeal more to my sensibilities than his, but I wanted a partner for the event and took advantage of the situation. And, am I ever glad that I did.

Jim Dawson's voice has, like a good wine, improved with age and over time. He is preparing to celebrate his 60th birthday this month. He has a strength in his voice that lends itself to the melodies and lyrics and yet he can purr the words when it calls for that. Only a handful of the songs he sang were familiar to me (afterall, I had only that one album), but I liked most of them as well as I did the ones on my album. I am not sure if he writes all of his songs. I know that he has covered songs by other artists in the past, so perhaps that is still the case. But many of the songs he sings are testaments to his life story, so those are obviously written by him. I assume he also writes the music. I enjoyed him most when he sang accompanied by one of his two guitars. On a few of the songs, he accompanied himself on the piano. He did one song, that I think is called, On and On, which was his contribution as an artist to the aftermath of 9/11. He explained before the song, how it had come to be written, how the horrors of being an abused child at the hands of his father got entangled with the horrors around the fall of the Twin Towers and how in therapy he became able to deal with it and finally to write a song about it. Like with so much of what Jim Dawson writes and sings, this resonated emphatically with me and I just let the tears flow.

So, in closure to this my Return Blog, I would like to recommend that if you are reading this, you take a look for yourself at who Jim Dawson is and where he will be playing and should the opportunity arise to see him in person, seize it. Jim also has CD's for sale on his website (I purchased two at the concert) and as he said, not one, but many times throughout the evening, he has a new CD that will be coming out, hopefully sometime soon.