A Movie You Must See and a Question You Can't Ask

My dear friends,

Pedro Almodovar has a new movie:  Pain and Glory.

DO NOT MISS IT.  I repeat. DO NOT MISS IT.

If you find yourself whirling in the what feels like an endless cycle of your existentialness (don’t look it up it’s my word).

If your aging process is moving too fast, giving you physical grief so much so that you have lost count on the doctor visits. 

If your HIGH ANXIETY  wakes you in the middle of the night so your only recourse is to pop a pill or call a friend that you haven’t called before to senior-sit with you as you try to calm down.

And if you avoid any questions about what you are working on or if you baldly lie about your latest project, you need this movie.

My whole olden being is engaged in finding that which will engage my creative juices.  You know what I mean… something that will make use of my still active and engaged mental equipment however saddled with a more rapidly aging body.

Of late, I have been exposed to what I would call coincidental “bashert” (the wonderful Yiddish word for destiny).  The most recent examples being Almodovar’s new movie, wherein a famous director of past great movies is hobbled by aging health issues and loss of his muse.  Welcome to The Club!

Another is an article in The New Yorker by John McPhee, Tabula Rusa in which he is writing what I call “mini memories”, one of which includes a story about a luncheon with Thornton Wilder. 

At this luncheon, a very brash and slightly callow youth of a writer (McPhee) dares to ask Wilder who is 66 at the time (an age that McPhee thought geriatric) what he is presently working on. Politely, Wilder tells him he is cataloguing the plays of Lope de Vega.  McPhee thought and then asked Wilder, “Why would anyone want to do that?” The silence at the table was deafening. In fury, Wilder exclaimed. “Young man, do not ever question the purpose of scholarship.”  My translation:  Do not ever ask an artist what he is working on .

McPhee who is 88 now knows that those plays were serving to extend Thornton Wilder’s life.  It was a project meant not to end.

I was led to that article and to the Almodovar movie because it is exactly what I needed to read and see.

I need my own Lope de Vega and my own muse restored. I think I’ll stop with the excuses and all the other blocks I put in my path towards my next creative move. The major hurdle I face is finding like minded younger and older artists who know what I am talking about and finding a way to support each other in our quests. I think when you are younger by the nature of your youthful strength you go it alone. I believe the artists journey is singular and lonely.

Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self

 I do not think my discovering that older artists and their quest for relevancy (because really isn’t that what it’s all about…I’M STILL HERE!) is accidental.

Like I said before, I am experiencing coincidental beshart (love that word)…

If any of this makes any sense to you, I’d love to hear from you… if not, have another cup of tea and a fabulous day.

And don’t forget to see Pain and Glory….

Right?  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ♥️

P.S.

Recently, I received a book from Amazon that I did not order: The Flight From Truth by Jean-Francois Revel

No note as to who it was from… I love surprises… but I want to thank whoever did the deed.

And that is not possible… curiosity killed the cat… If it is one of youse who did it… take pity and tell me.

Puleeeze… ❤️

THIS IS THE WORST CONGRESS EVER!!! (NOT BY A LONG SHOT!)

As the impeachment moves into the Senate this is what I am hearing more and more. Now if you will all sing along with me to a song written by Burt Bachrach made famous by Dionne Warwick… ready?

🎵WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE, SWEET LOVE…🎵

..and some perspective for goodness sake, and some history wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

Not that this Congress would win any medals in the “for the good of the country and its people which I have taken an oath to serve” department. They have been singularly obstructive and divisive and wholly partisan.  

However, this is not the first time and since Congress is made up of human beings (although I think on an individual basis that is debatable), it will not be the last time that we have a self-serving partisan Senate. 

I am hoping that what I am about to share with you will give you the hope we need to carry on and remember, “This too shall pass.”

Let me take you back to 1776, the first Continental Congress, the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Only 13 colonies. Each colony a kingdom unto itself. Divided geographically and culturally, coming together only in common cause to separate from their Mother Country, England.

The Declaration of Independence, written and approved by the delegates, aka Congressmen, was their Declaration of War against England.  A war because of the selfish, partisanship, and venality of its members would have surely been lost and the United States today would still belong to England.  And don’t think for a minute that today the English think we would be far better if we had not separated. It’s a very love/hate relationship… sibling rivalry. But that is another subject.  

Back to Congress almost losing the Revolutionary war. Our history lessons gave us the Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, Nathan Hale, The Founding Fathers, etc. But did you know that each of the colonies, to the point of almost losing the war, played the same unpatriotic game of  partisan politics. 

Did you know that George Washington had to play along with these political games and placate this Congress to try and pay his soldiers, organize his staff and select his generals to fight a war against the largest most highly trained military machine of its day?  That his position as General of The Revolutionary Army was not at all assured? Each of the New England colonies had a favorite son they wanted nominated to take over for General Washington. He had a rag tag army not getting paid and he did not have this Congress’s full support.  The new United States of America stood on the brink of doom if the Congress had had their way.

If you want to know how the Revolution was saved from this self serving obstreperous Continental Congress then you must go to the library or your favorite book store and read Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, Valiant Ambition.

As the absurdity of, dare I call it… The Impeachment Process continues – and really what it should be called is the… You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours Tango (a little lower please), reading this book offers a perspective we desperately need.   

The Union that brought forth this nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, was saved.

Let us hope it not too late for this expanded Union today.

Right?  Of Course, right!! 

American Health Care, aka KAFKA KARE

My Friends,

Everyone knows, it is de rigueur not to get sick between Christmas and New Year. Now tell me something I don’t know. As someone who lives alone even with help,  eventually they go home and as luck would have it, take vacation days right after Christmas through New Years Eve.

I really tried to be brave. We all know I come from a long line of mother martyrs. I was all right.  Nothing is wrong with me.  I even start singing…

The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar…

By the time New Years Eve rolled around, I was finished with Tiny Tim and James Stewart and Edmund Gwen and Margaret O’Brien (and just to throw in a name to struggle to identify) Guy Lombardo. For the first time I understood the full meaning of BAH HUMBUG!

A few days before Christmas, I had returned to Florida from a brief and fabulous family holiday in New York. I was wiped out. I thought a few days of feet up would fill the bill. It didn’t. I was only more tired. After Christmas, I was no better and even more fatigued.

I called my Florida Doctor which I discovered is as much an oxymoron as Florida Health Kare. She was unavailable until January 2 and I was referred to the Urgent Care Center and so began my Kafkaesque journey, which I have written as a play…

Kafka Kare

A Play by: Dr. Mother Martyr Heit

Scene 1

Urgent Care Center Waiting Room, Florida. New Year’s Eve. The last day of the year every person who doesn’t have health insurance in Ft. Lauderdale is waiting in the waiting room.

While at home trying to figure out what she was dying from, Mother Martyr Heit had spend days assuring her daughters by phone that all she needed was to rest. After all hadn’t they just enjoyed a brief and fabulous family holiday in New York? OK, maybe rest and a blood test.

Dr. Mother Martyr Heit (DrMMH):

Excuse me, how long will I have to wait?

Receptionist:

About 3 hours, give or take.

Scene 2

Urgent Care Center Waiting Room, Florida. New Year’s Eve – 6 hours later.

Receptionist:

            Ms. Heit?

Scene 3

Urgent Care Center Exam Room.

Nurse:

            First, I’m going to take your blood pressure.

Dr. Mother Martyr Heit (DrMMH):

Of course, look all I really want is a blood test.  The menu outside says I can have one for $120.

Nurse:

            I have to take your blood pressure again.

DrMMH:

            Sure. And then can I get a blood test?

Nurse

            I have to call the Doctor. Your blood pressure is 200 over 110.

DrMMH

            That is high!  All the more reason to give me a blood test, right???

Nurse leaves.

Scene 4

Urgent Care Center Exam Room, Florida.

Doctor Enters and introduces himself.

Doctor:

I am going to take your blood pressure!

DrMMH:

OK.  But I think if you give me a blood test we shall discover what is going on!  Don’t you?

Doctor:

 It’s very high! 

DrMMH:

 So everyone says!  How about the blood test?

Doctor:

 Oh, I can’t do that!

DrMMH:

 What???  Why not??

Doctor:

Well, you already have a doctor!  And we have to wait for her to give the order to give you any medication or tests!

DrMMH:

My doctor will not be back until January 2nd !  It’s December 31st!  Is it all right with you if I walk out with that number on my blood pressure???

Doctor:

Our policy is if you have a doctor she has to order the tests for you!

DrMMH:

So, let me understand this!  I have blood pressure that could cause a heart    attack or stroke and you are not going to do anything to help me.

Doctor:

Madam, you can insult me all you want but that is this urgent care’s policy.

DrMMH:

Doctor, let me tell you, if I was insulting you, you would know it! I am simply and absolutely incredulous that you call your policy “health care”!

Doctor:

You can go to the Emergency Room at the hospital.

DrMMH:

I’m not sure I have another 6 hours to wait! This is just too Kafkaesque!!

Doctor:

 Oh, is that the name of your Dr.?

Dr. Mother Martyr Heit calls Uber. Goes home. Takes a valium.  Her blood pressure comes down.  She goes to sleep, hibernating until her doctor returns Jan. 2.

The End

The end of the play but not the end of Kafka Kare in Florida.

When my doctor returned I called with my blood pressure reading and she told me to come in.  She gave me a very inclusive blood test and urine test.  A major infection, some antibiotics and on the road to recovery.

“The sadder but wiser girl am I.”

I have already told this story a few times. No one raises an eyebrow. 

“What’s your problem, SJ?  You’re in Florida”

Last time I looked Florida was part of the U.S.A.  What happened to make the US Healthcare System the star of the third world?

Dr. Kafkaesque is alive and well in the United States.

Love, Sally-Jane

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

IF I HAD THE POWER…

I would provide everyone… and I mean everyone with immediate access to the movie, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

Listen, my friends I had to force myself to go and see it. Even after my daughter Lori made a special call to convince me to go. I put her recommendation into the back seat of my mind. I loved the recent Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. What more was the movie going to show me? Nothing I did not already know. Right?

Wrong!

I was soooo wrong. It has nothing and everything to do with Mr. Rogers. And even though reviews have been very positive, from my point of view, none of the reviews touched on why today, more than at any other time in this world, everyone needs to see this movie.

Let me try to write how I experienced as I watched the movie unfold.
From the opening, before the credits, a “lego-set “of a residential area of a nameless city (although if you know Pittsburgh, you recognize the three bridges that cross two rivers or is it three… I forget) and suddenly Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers walks into the set and begins to do the Mr. Rogers opening.

Miniature sets used in TriStar Pictures’ A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

But, it is different from the one he usually does in his show as he introduces a picture board of different characters… most of whom you know from his show and one who you did not know, the writer who under duress and in anger has been assigned to do a profile on Mr. Rogers. From that very first moment, I was captured, captivated, you name it. I was had. The mystery, and it is a mystery of a plot unraveled.

A little background: I am in Florida. It was a rainy day. Perfect afternoon for the movies. And perhaps a dozen others thought the same thing. And from that very same beginning moment, this small audience breathed as one. I mean it. We all inhaled at the same time. We exhaled at the same time. No one moved a muscle… no popcorn munching. No slurping. No candy wrappers. We were all suspended in the one hour and 59 minutes of this movie.

Now I am not going into any more detail about the movie. You want to know how this story unfolds. Go to your movie house. I know it is playing there now.

By the end of the film, as the credits rolled, this small audience in a darkened theatre released their breath and applauded as if they were in a live show.

Why? They were moved. The cathartic emotional release of all was palpable. We had all, together, been part of an experience where anger and bile were transformed into love and forgiveness; released into the stratosphere by the catalyst of a vulnerable and fallible human named Fred Rogers.

What are you doing still sitting reading this? Get up. Get out. Get transformed.

Love, Sally-Jane

Live Opera at the Movies v. Live Opera at the MET

My Friends,

Ok, here I go again having to swear off never saying never. I have always shouted loud enough for all to hear (didn’t need a microphone) that going to the live performances of the opera at a movie house just didn’t cut it. But here I am in sunny Florida (Sorry my Northern friends) and missing several desperate-to-see operas. 

Well I get an announcement that Philip Glass’s opera, Akhnaten is coming to a local movie house Live in HD from the MET. Well I shortened my snobby nose, swallowed my boastful pride and bought a ticket. It was to begin at 1 pm and finish at 4:45 pm.

I alerted my friend Diana who dropped me off to be on call as I was pretty sure it would have to be brilliant to keep me in my seat all that time. Guess what? It kept me glued to my seat except for intermission bathroom breaks. 

My dear friends it was and is brilliant! I’m not sure it fits being labeled an 
opera. It belongs to a new category of music and song and story and dance and juggling. 

It is classical. It is history. It is dramatic. The music is as otherworldly as Glass usually is, but it is completely in sync with this era of an Egyptian ruler who created a new religion. A monotheistic one that worshipped The Sun God. Versailles came after the pyramids right?? Of course right!!

I had a perfectly gorgeous New York Cultural afternoon. The camera even gave me shots of NYC and the interior of the opera house. Of course, as I sat in my shorts and t-shirt I was not unaware of the winter clothing of the audience. They had my full sympathy. I am grateful to have been able to see an opera on my wish list. 

However… that being said…
For me it will never replace the live experience. I am not overly thrilled with all the interviews they use to fill the intermissions. It breaks mood. 
But Lynn (you are right) and all, I was and am grateful I was able to see it. And look forward to seeing Wozzek in January. 

If anyone wants to come to Florida to go to the opera Live at the Met at the movies, let me know and I’ll get an extra ticket. Sorry no popcorn 🍿But how about a soupçon of caviar? I drink it all day!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

Post Script…

My dear friends, I greet you this year at this time of the year and ask you to spread the joy.  We could either focus on the negatives as the media, social and otherwise appear to do, or take this opportunity to go to the Spa of Life to share the elixir of peace and goodwill to one and all.

I don’t care what you think or what you believe as long as it is in and with LOVE it will help in healing the world.

I have this funny feeling that this is the American Year of Denial.

Think about it…

If we deny the troublemakers and naysayers and fearful their usual space in our heads, I predict we are going to have a great holiday.

Right???  Of course, right!!! 

Addendum to Waiting for Godot…

My Dear Friends,

I come from a Jewish Christian Science mother… figuratively not literally.  As one of 8, in the depression era of the 1930’s-1940’s, there wasn’t a lot of money for doctor visits. So if you awoke with any health complaint, it was usually ignored.  I think this is called the grit-your-teeth-school of  grin and bear it.  You had to be brought home in a stretcher for medical attention.  From that environment, I learned to ignore the signals of any health problem.

With the first “incident”, my body finally had enough of the mind control I was exerting over my symptoms. This brought me to my knees and the emergency room. 

And now we come to the point of this addendum.  There has been a cloud over my head for several months.  Like waking up with a hangover…oh, yes, I remember that well. A very simple blood test, a very good doctor, and suddenly there is an answer. 

AN ANSWER.

Not definitive but hopefully it will lead to the definitive, and herein is the core of what I want to impart to you.  I threw off  my mental hangover.   And let me be the first to tell you that the sun is always there right behind the dark clouds. I said to a friend this morning after learning what might be the central cause that knowing what is going on in my body is 50 per cent of getting better.  She replied. 50?? Oh, no, not 50 per cent, 85 per cent!!!

RIGHT ???  OF COURSE, SHE’S RIGHT!!!

Love Again, Sally-Jane

Waiting for Godot… Again

Samuel Beckett’s existential play, Waiting For Godot is my favorite play. Two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives. I have always seen this play as a metaphor for life/death/God. Recently, that metaphor became a reality.

Alright already, what the hell am I talking about?

Twenty Questions!!!  Fugetaboutit!! How about three? What is joined at the hip with LIFE? What is not animal, vegetable or mineral?  What has many different shapes and names and, according to Mel Brooks, does not like garlic?

You got it! DEATH!

Come on guys, it’s almost Halloween. So many of its forms are present in and around houses, so many movies have him/her as the main character (Darth Vader was not named after Mickey Mouse) and what do you think the Gothic look is all about.

Death. Of course, death.

Is my focus on death coming from a general malaise and melancholia? We all know there is plenty of reasons for these feeling at this time in the world and most particularly in the United States and most, most particularly in Washington, D.C.. 

RIGHT ???  OF COURSE, SHE’S RIGHT!!!

But, no! It is not!! Where is it coming from??  Thank you for asking.

Recently, I had a health scare… or as the medical world calls it, “an incident”. It happened only a week ago.  I am bored telling what happened so if you want details you’ll have to call the Emergency Room of the hospital, my primary physician, my cardiologist/nurse practitioner, my children local friends and the butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker… oi vey, the list goes on.

Suffice it to say, I survived. No, not suffice it…. I am over the top happy to report, I’M STILL HERE!!

I know you are wondering, and if you’re not, you should be… So, if I’m still here what’s with this DEATH THING? I think there are medical records that have reports of people scaring themselves to DEATH.

After “the incident” and from Sunday through the following week, almost every day, I waited around for DEATH to arrive.

I tried to pretend I wasn’t waiting.  But just like you can’t fool Mother Nature (an old television commercial), I can no longer fool myself. Maybe for a few minutes I could, or even an hour, but eventually, my fear coupled with a large dose of  neurotic anxiety, got the better of me. And I do mean better because I allowed the scare I had to hang out in my consciousness.  In the past, I would attempt to hide what I was really feeling.  I wanted to be BRAVE. Here was the actress, again, playing, yet, another role. Not that sometimes acting “as if” can’t work miracles because it can and it does.   It is just that there is a time and place for everything. I needed to find out what happened. If I was acting as if nothing happened, I would be actually hurting myself. Been there. Done that.

The Emergency Room staff and tests were wonderful.  I was dismissed with their seal of approval.  As my Physician Assistant said to me, “ Right now, you are the healthiest person in the ER.”

And then he added those ever magic words…FOR A WOMAN YOUR AGE.

Wait a minute! I wrote a show with that title… a funny show about perceptions of a society about us elders. 

I have long recognized myself as the older, and I mean older older, woman.  No more wolf whistles for me.  No more leaping across the dance floor or dance class. No more 2-hour one woman shows (truly the hardest to accept).  What is my problem?  All those limitations and more to come as time goes by, they are actually getting in the way of my health care and allowing my neurotic tendencies to have a field day. 

I accept that there is a segment of society that discounts the older generation.  We are THE IRRELEVANTS.  Actually, some of my nearest and dearest are included in that group of discounters. It’s ok. I know what I know about myself. I love a challenge. I want to continue to explore. I still love to travel; not able to go to all the places I want to go but there is enough for me to see and please my gypsy spirit. I love asking questions. I love reading and learning anew.  I love living alone but I am not a hermit.

If everything is so good,  why was I waiting for DEATH?

Because “ the incident” occurred in my 86th year and some, not all, thank goodness, of the medical profession that I encountered were discounters of my generation.  No one says it like it is… no one actually said to me, “Oh, come on, you’re 86, what do you expect?”  However, I am not an 86 year old you can readily fool. As an actor, I am a student of human behavior. I have to be to do what I do. 

So, remember…

There was an easily discernible for me eye rolling and hidden yawns that set my alarm to ringing. Hey medical profession, I want some answers!  I want some explanations.  Attention must be paid. I know answers may not be readily accessible and information limited, but do not…do you hear me…DO NOT BLOW ME OFF. 

I waited for DEATH because initially I felt I was not being heard. It made me feel helpless and hopeless. Frankly, it felt a little like being in my childhood home.  

So what to do when this happens. Become proactive. What does that mean?

I became my own best friend and medical advisor. I found medical professionals that talked to me. I mean really talked me and answered my questions and actually advised me.  I am on the trail of the cause for my “incident”.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me… I am still waiting for DEATH. I think it is appropriate at this stage of my life.

Actually, I think it is appropriate at every stage of my life. DEATH is ginormous… gigantic… bigger than sliced bread… BUT, it has a sister, brother, whatever that for me is more bigger and definitely better.

LIFE, LIFE, LIFE!

Right?  Of course, Right!!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane