My Mother & Me, An Update for Mother's Day May 8, 2011

This was originally posted on June 4, 2006. My mother was born September 25, 1925 and died on November 13, 2003. About three years after she died, I wrote this tribute to her memory and am updating it to post in on facebook for Mother's Day, May 8, 2011.

I feel compelled to write an addendum to last night's post. Regarding my mother, it only told one part of the story and like everyone's story, there are a myriad of sides. When I was a child, though I was the "middle child", I always thought myself to be the favorite, well, at least my mother's favorite. We had what I saw then as a very special and close relationship. That she shared with me at times her sadness and even helplessness and though I saw her cry, probably more than was healthy for a young girl, this was only a small part of what there was between us. My mother had immesurable energy for life. She always had a weight problem (an issue that felt like my own because it made me so sad for her and I worried that others would talk about her)but she seemed to have more energy than most women half her size.

The following would have been a typical day for us when she would take me to New York City. We would wait at the bus stop across the street from our house and get on the De Camp bus number 33 or 88 at either 5 minutes before or 25 minutes after the hour and that hour would have been 10 or 11 AM. We'd get into the City 30 minutes later and walk from the Port Authority to 44th or 45th or one of the streets with those little Ticket Brokers that sold Broadway tickets for the same day. This was before TKTS TKTS on 7th Ave. So, she would buy us tickets to see whatever show or play was hot at the time, say, for instance, The Miracle Worker with Patty Duke and she'd pay top dollar for excellent seats for the Matinee performance, which started at 3 PM, so we would have 3 or 4 hours on our hands. She would take me to lunch and then we might go to Saks Fifth Ave, buy me some clothes which we sent home so we didn't have to carry the bags, nor pay the NYC tax. That would bring us to near curtain time, when we'd hurry off to the theater. I always LOVED the play or musical and more times than not, she would go with me after the performance to wait at the stage door for the star to come out and sign my Playbill. To this day, I have many of those Playbills.

My mother and I saw them all, Funny Girl (Streisand), The Owl and the Pussy Cat (Alan Alda), Golden Boy (Sammy Davis, Jr.), The Impossible Years (Alan King, Bert Convey), Fiddler on the Roof (Herschel Bernardi), On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (Barbara Harris), Superman (Jack Cassidy), Half a Sixpence ((Tony Tanner), Mame (Angela Lansbury), The Star Spangled Girl (Tony Perkins, Connie Stevens, Richard Benjamin), Man of La Mancha (Jose Ferrer), Black Comedy (Geraldine Page, Michael Crawford, Lynn Redgrave, Donald Madden), The Apple Tree (Alan Alda, Larry Blyden, Barbara Harris), Jimmy Shine (Dustin Hoffman in Dec. 1968), Hair (Keith Carradine, Melba Moore, James Rado and many others...I actually saw this one with a good friend, Howard, who came into the city for the day, from Philadelphia ), The Rothschilds(Hal Linden), Two By Two (Danny Kaye, Madeline Kahn). My Mother and I went to the theater in my adult years as well and one play stands out in my mind, Whose Life Is It Anyway? (Mary Tyler Moore). So, back to our day. After we got the autogragh, we might be hungry again, as it was getting dark and we had somme time to kill before we'd go to see an evening movie or even on a few occassions, another show. The day was endless, like my Mother's energy, and the experience was always fun and memorable

Every year we went to Radio City Music Hall and stood on those long lines around the side of the building to get tickets for the Christmas Show. In those days, we got to watch a grand Disney movie like Dumbo or Around the World in Eight Days before the rest of the Christmas extravaganza even began. I loved the costumes and the camels and of course the Rockettes. We'd eat at places like The Brass Rail and it would be a day fit for a queen. I loved those days together. I still love to think about them and look at my Playbill collection. I still love the theater, but I don't kow if I ever enjoy it as much as I did as a child and teenager. The other thing my mother had endless energy and patience for was shopping. She would always know the stores where they helped you, so she and the salesperson would go back and forth from the dressing room to the floor, as I tried on one piece of clothing after another. I would get tired out way before she did. We'd walk out of the store laden with bags of clothing. We'd cap off our shopping with lunch and revsiting our purchases as she drove us home.

Another thing about my Mother was that she almost always supported me in the things I wanted to do. She and my father sent me on teen tours across the United States when I was 14, to Mexico at 15, and the summer when I was 16, they sent me on a two month teen tour to Israel. This turned out to be one of the handful of defining times of my life. When I wanted to go back to Israel the summer after my Junior Semester Abroad (in Florence, Italy...another defining time period of my life) and my parents were against it because there had recently been a terrifying terrorist attack there, they listened to my rationale and that of a dear Syracuse Professor (Professor Mickeljohn) who agreed to write them a letter supporting my desire to go, and in the end they supported me in this too. They allowed me to travel with a friend in Europe in my college years and supported my decision to go to Wichita, Kansas for Grad School. And everywhere I went, my Mother and Father visited me..... Italy, Israel and even in Wichita, Kansas. During my Senior year in college, my Mother took me on a trip to Portugal. I can remember the night when she tripped over me sleeping on the hotel bathroom floor, where I'd gone to escape her snoring. We laughed about that for many years after.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I am what I am today because of what she could and could not give me. What she lacked, I have been trying to make up for in therapy. What she had to
give, I took in wholeheartedly and encorporated into my being and for that I will always be grateful.


The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Remember the paper chains we made as children? Each link, on it's own, is complete and colorful, but it is in the way they link together, where the antecedent determines or at least influences the following link on the chain, that makes it interesting. Life is a colorful paper chain. 

I heard the author Walter Mosley interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's  Fresh Air and I was intrigued. Mosley was not totally unfamiliar to me because I'd seen the movie Devil In a Blue Dress, with Denzel Washington, which was based on Mosley's book by the same name. I'd heard of the  Easy Rawlins mystery crime series, but not being a fan of the genre, never payed much attention to the author, that is until that December day, when  I  happened  upon the interview. I wrote down the name of the book, for future reference. This particular piece of destiny was the first link on this particular paper chain.

The book, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley, is currently playing in my car's CD player and it has been a truly satisfying audio read. It is narrated by Dominic Hoffman, who is perfect. In researching Walter Mosley, I revisited the Terry Gross Interview in print and there was an excerpt from the book. I could hear the characters speaking in my head, in the voices of Dominic Hoffman. Not all readers of audio books are equal. This reader gets an A+.

The story is about a  91 year old black man who is well into the beginning stage of dementia, which not only makes it difficult for him to think clearly and to remember things, but it causes the past and the present to mix together in a cluttered mess, making life confusing and frightening for Ptolemy. He encounters a young woman, Robyn, age 17, and the give and take between these two characters, from that point on in the story, represents a kind of "love story" based on connection. It is a joy to read. And Walter Mosley is now for me an author to be reckoned with. 

And the links go on.......



Politics With Eyes Open

I am a Liberal, with a capital L, but that doesn't mean I don't like and appreciate a good Conservative when she is both intelligent and well spoken. Tonight, I came upon a 1996 interview on C-Span's Booknotes TV program, where Brian Lamb was interviewing this young woman. At first, I thought she was Ann Coulter, because of the pretty look and the pretty long blond hair, but she sounded so well spoken and likable and I generally find Coulter to be repugnant, so I was pretty sure it wasn't Coulter, but who, then? As I watched the interview, it became apparent that it was Monica Crowley, a name not at all familiar Monica Crowleyto me, though something about her did look familiar. She wrote a book about Richard M. Nixon, called, Nixon, Off the Record: His Candid commentary on People and Politics.. I was intrigued. Though, Crowley was obviously fond of Nixon, seeing him as a very nice man, particularly nice to her, and respected him for what she saw as his brilliance and perseverance, she also came across to me to have written this book without inserting her personal political bent, whatever that might be. Of course, Crowley was only 21, when she was hired right out of college by Nixon as a Research Assistant. Crowley explained how she had written Nixon a letter and he sent her a hand written letter in response and invited her to visit him in his Bergen County, New Jersey office (Crowley was raised in Warren, NJ) and then offered her a job shortly after the visit. Monica worked for Nixon from 1990 until 1994, when Nixon died. She had obviously become as much a confidante, as a research assistant to Nixon. Besides for helping him write speeches, and eventually assisting him in writing his last two books, she always had a pad with her whenever she was in Nixon's presence and she took notes in short hand, which she'd expand upon later in the day, so as to not forget exactly what he had said and at the end of the day, she'd write a complete transcription in her diary of what Nixon had discussed with her on that day. Needless to say, in the four years she spent with Richard M. Nixon, she compiled quite a long diary, from minutia to monumental of what was on Nixon's mind and came out of his mouth. From these writings, she put together the book about Nixon, revealed mostly from his own words.  I found the interview to be fascinating, even thinking that perhaps I would choose this book when my turn came up in Book Club. I still think I might.

The interview was from September, 1996, somewhat more than 14 years ago. At the interview's end, Crowley mentioned she was, at that point, working on her PhD. So, I wondered what Monica Crowley had been up to since then, and I did a little snooping around the Internet. I found to my discomfort, that it was she that I'd seen occasionally on The McLaughlin Group (now I understood why she'd seemed a bit familiar to me), when it used to be on NBC, after Meet The Press. She represented the Conservative viewpoint as opposed to Eleanor Clift's more Liberal one. Worse, she is a regular contributor on Fox. I guess if I dug even deeper, I might find more stuff about her that would turn me against her. Or maybe not. Perhaps, she really is one of the "good" conservatives, who values intelligence and thoughtfulness over overt ideology at all costs. I'm going to stop investigating. I'm going to let myself go on with that belief. I am sure to hear her name come up in various settings, now that I saw that interview and wrote this post. Serendipity or Synchronicity will see to that!


America's Movie Critic is Back!

America's movie critic is back and I didn't even know he'd been gone. As so frequently is the case, I get a great deal of information and even more inspiration from the CBS TV program, Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. I tape it each week, just in case I'm not up at 9 AM and watch it sometime later. To my great surprise, shock and horror, I came to find out that Roger Ebert is not the man he once was. That is to say, as a consequence of  thyroid and later salivary gland cancer, Rogert Ebert  looks nothing like himself and he is non-verbal. Besides for having had a tracheotomy, half of his face has been removed. It is uncomfortable for me to admit this, but I found it difficult to look at him, perhaps because it was such a shock. I absolutely had no idea. Having said that, here is a quote that counters my immediate response. In April 2007, in an interview with  WLS-TV in Chicago, he said, "I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers — so what?" On April 23, the Sun-Times reported that, when asked about his decision to return to the limelight, Ebert remarked, "We spend too much time hiding illness." Fans at his website have remarked his public appearances have been inspirational to cancer victims and survivors around the country. 

Roger Ebert and his wife of 18 years, a trial attorney, Charlie "Chaz" Hammel-Smith. Though he no longer can eat by mouth, he loves to cook. In the "Sunday Morning" interview, it was stated and evident that it is this relationship that has given Ebert the strength to go on.

I have been going to Ebert's  website, rogerebert.com for a very long time, to get his review of movies before, and sometimes after, seeing them. In fact, just last Friday (New Years Eve), I was perusing his blog for a review of the movie, Black SwanAs for a review of Black Swan, that's for another entry (or not). I often agree with Ebert's reviews and just as often appreciate how he writes and what he chooses to discuss in them. Truth be told, when I went to this site, I though I was reading the film review column from the Chicago Sun-Times, not a blog. I can, of course remember watching Roger Ebert's TV program, "At the Movies" with Gene Siskel (I just found out that he co-hosted two programs with Siskel for a combined 23 years) and perhaps once or twice after Siskel's death, I may have watched Ebert co-host with Richard Roeper. But, I have known Roger Ebert best from reading his reviews. I was not completely aware that he had not been on television for over four years. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early 2002. He had surgery and then in 2003, more surgery for salivary gland cancer, followed by radiation therapy, and in 2006 more surgery, which removed part of his jaw. He continued to have related health problems. But, he also continued reviewing movies and I continued to read them, knowing nothing about his health status and how this had affected his life. 

 Live and Learn!