I have a profound affinity for Stephen Sondheim. I always thought it was because of his brilliant musicals. However, I watched an interview he did many years ago. He was trying to explain about being neurotic . It was so simple for him.
“I like neurotic people.”
That’s it! He likes me. I love him.
He went further explaining that most people, including himself, were neurotic concerning their problems, professional, personal. When he writes from that sensibility he is going to touch someone. And isn’t that why we go to the theatre; to be transformed, transported, in some way, touched.
Stephen Sondheim may have passed away, November 25th, but as in the name of the song he wrote for Follies, I’m Still Here… he will always be here.
His death was and still is a shock to me.
My inner monologue upon hearing about his demise:
I can’t believe it.
What’d you expect? He was 91.
I’m 88… 91 is only 3 years away… too close… much too close.
This is not about you. I know. I know. I can’t help it. When I consider Sondheim is no longer with us, and some of the jerks who still are, makes me crazy…life really isn’t fair, is it???
To make this news totally personal (when have I ever not made everything totally personal), I’d like to share my experience performing Sondheim.
No dates. It was a long time ago.
I played Mama Rose many times in Summer Theatres and local Washington, D.C. theatre productions of Gypsy. Sondheim wrote the lyrics. Julie Styne the music. It is a musically and lyrically brilliant score. In the climax of the second act (or as Broadway Babies are wont to call it, the 11 o’clock spot), Mama Rose has a nervous breakdown. Sondheim broke the sound barrier. It was Broadway’s first operatic aria. The music, but mostly the lyrics are compelling, complex and incisive. It can be said for any performer playing Mama Rose, it’s all in the writing. It’s extra if you have a performer like Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Patti Lupone singing it. However, because it is all in the words, it is actor-proof material. No matter how many times I played that role, and I did play it many times, I don’t think I ever plumbed the depths of what Sondheim wrote.
I had a similar experience when I played Joanne in Company (Elaine Stritch’s signature role). The score for Company was brilliant, but, oh sooooo challenging! I could read music but I would never call myself a musician. Singing a Sondheim score is like singing Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Company is a brilliant and musically challenging ensemble theatre piece. No matter what grade of musician you are, performing that score challenged every actor beyond what they thought they were capable of. My song, Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch was and remained a challenge until I saw Patti Lupone sing it at Lincoln Center’s Stephen Sondheim 80th Birthday Celebration:
Lupone took that song to where it was meant to go… to the moon. Even if I can’t perform it now, I am so grateful to have watched someone who got to the meat and heart of what Sondheim wrote. Another mystery solved.
My last example of performing Sondheim was a song he wrote for Yvonne De Carlo (remember Yvonne… exotic technicolor movie star of the 50’s?) in Follies, titled I’m Still Here.
I simply had to wait until I felt seasoned enough to fill the shoes of life experiences to give the nuances the lyrics demanded. I did a credible job with it. However, in that same Sondheim 80th Birthday celebration, Elaine Stritch literally knocks it out of the park:
Finally, I’d like to recommend a documentary produced and directed in 2013 by Sondheim’s friend and collaborator, James Lapine, and friend and former drama critic, Frank Rich, Six by Sondheim.
What makes a creative artist a genius? I don’t know. (laminate that statement…I don’t say it often enough)
I do know one such genius just passed this past Friday. As I watched the above documentary, two important and essential traits of Sondheim’s writing and ultimately who Sondheim is were made eminently clear.
Ambiguity, which for me translates to exhibit the zits and warts without judgement, and love.
If you study his lyrics which you can easily do by reading FINISHING THE HAT… the book he wrote of his collected lyrics with attendant remarks (aka delicious showbiz gossip), it is all there.
In the documentary he says, unequivocally, write from love.
Nobody says it is easy. No one says it is without pain. No one says it is without disappointment or grief. Considering his childhood was profoundly bereft of love, Stephen Sondheim is proof that along the way, as he opened himself to the universe, the universe did provide.
It’s official. I just celebrated my 88th Birthday.
No applause. No gifts. Unless, of course it’s a ticket on the William Shatner and Jeff Bozos… oops, I mean Bezos, moon rocket… NOT. Whatever days I have left I am not willing to risk it all being over while I’m in company with an actor (believe me having been one I know just how boring they can be) and a gazillionaire who like Nero before him spent his money playing with rockets while his country burned. The jury is back. I am wholeheartedly judgmental.
Back to my special day. I was gifted with a novel, Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue, a beautiful and talented Cameroon immigrant. I began to read it. Not at the party. I waited until everyone was gone.
I was talking to a friend about how good the book was. It occurred to me that the immigrant story is a forever story. Whether it was then or now… forever. And then a light bulb went on in my headball. I am telling you my friends, it is crazy, absolutely crazy, this crazy mess and mix up of who is the immigrant and who is not. Get it clear, my friends. Except for the Indigenous folk and their descendants, we are all immigrants.
WHO WAS HERE FIRST?
I guarantee unless you are an Indigenous American or have American Indigenous blood in you…. it wasn’t you. This includes each and every descendant of the Jamestown Colony of Virginia and the Mayflower, AKA the Plymouth Colony, or the New York City Dutch Colonials. And let us not forget the Spaniards of Florida, the West and Southwest, the British of the Northwest. And by the 1800’s the ongoing stampede from Europe, the Germans, the Irish, the Greeks, the Italians, the Swedes, the Danes, the Norwegians (I Remember Mama), and oh so many other countries, as well as from every shtetl in Eastern Europe and Russia.
I’m exploring this theme because it has brought to mind the many memoirs I have read of the more recent immigrants from Africa, Viet Nam, India, Korea, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan along with the many Latin American countries… the Islands, Central and South America. I’m not sure about the flood (literally and figuratively) of Inuit and other Northern Eskimo tribes. But once the Poles complete their meltdown I assure you they will be rowing their way to our shores.
OK, here is your first test. What is the difference between the immigrants of the founding countries of this yet to be United States of America and the immigrants of the last 50 years of these United States of America?
You are too smart! You are right! COLOR!
CAVEAT: I do not count the African Black population of the 17th and 18th Century that arrived by the boatloads. Traveling in storage, not steerage…storage! Kidnapped, enslaved and in chains doesn’t count as travel to the new world. Journey to and in Hell is more accurate. And as a matter of real fact, they actually weren’t counted as human at all, anyway. That came later. What am I saying? It’s not here yet. Hopefully, soon.
Here’s my question… Would we be so up in arms about immigrants if they looked and thought and sounded like white Americans. Wouldn’t it be great to take all the naysayers back to their roots to listen to their family accents, their family old country traditions, their difficulties in assimilation.
Aha! Assimilation! Most of the white immigrants managed to assimilate… some more successfully than others. The possibility of assimilation through work and education particularly in this country was always a possibility. Only if you were white, of course.
Isn’t that what this is all about? The majority of the immigrants over the last 50 to 100 years are people of color. Pretty hard to assimilate when ones color is the first thing you notice about a person.
No matter what race theory you subscribe to, consciously or unconsciously, there is no getting away from being a different color.
It’s not easy being green…is it?
Anyway, I find myself amused when I realize how upset everyone is about the immigrant situation. Often my amusement turns to anger when someone wants to put up a wall or chase immigrants down a river on a big horse with a big whip. That’s when I want to give them a big shake, shouting, “Hey Jerkball, you are not an Indigenous American. Therefore, you’re an immigrant, too! I promise you… someone in your family came here from someplace else. Give someone else the same break your ancestors had when they arrived. If by chance they didn’t get that break, well let me be the first one to tell you LIFE IS NOT FAIR. And yet, even today withThe Troubles(lots of the Irish immigrant in this country can definitely relate) this is a great and unique country. There is still plenty of land. And there is always someone willing to climb a ladder. Got it! Get it. Good! “
However, it won’t work. Today, no one listens to anyone. Unless you are parroting what they say. Then, you are not really listening. You are a parrot. Nice feathers… no sense.
Here’s the kicker. Anger is not helpful to my blood pressure and man, it really saps my energy. So I am just going to do what I can for others. Keep love on the front burner. Call it like I see it. Have some more birthdays so I can keep Blah, Blah, Blogging.
These days as my mind travels between masks, mandates, and misinformation, I attempt to find subject matter and viewer material that takes me away from the news you almost can’t get away from. My newest distraction device is my Kindle. I shall come right out and say it. I don’t like it. I don’t think I shall ever like it. It will never replace the beauty of the real book., As the years roll by and my ability to hold a book like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker wanes, I needed to make a change. After reading that 1,336 page book, I was forced into physical therapy for various overused body parts. It was definitely worth it, but I thought there has to be a better way. There is. The Kindle.
When I need to get away from the prevalent pontifications (enough already, all you politicians, Harry and Meghan, any Kardashian), I have found two methods. The Kindle offers easy purchase and reading of alternate favorites. Historical novels… The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers explores the history of an African-American family in the South from the time before the American civil war and slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement to the present… brilliant. Abir Mukherjee’s historically fascinating mystery series, Wyndham & Banerjee Mysteries about a former Scotland Yard Detective in Calcutta circa 1921 The British in India make the anti-bellum southern plantation owners look almost kind. I said almost. And non-fiction history, The Forever Wars by Dexter Filkins about the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s ongoing battle with Islamic Fundamentalism after September 11, 2001.
Yeah, yeah, eclectic selections for an eclectic mind ball. But we all know that.
Now let’s throw in my evening television streaming. Slim pickings until recently. It got so bad I had to make do with reruns of Poirot, Miss Marple and Schitt’s Creek. This was no hardship. They are funny and lovely and still interesting even though I know “who done it”. And then as September 11th, 2021 began to appear on the horizon, the streaming fare became more bountiful. And it is interesting how without any prior planning what I was reading dovetailed with what I was watching.
The first was the Netflix movie, Worth. The movie follows Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) who was appointed as the Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. In the months and years that followed the event, he led a team in allocating a price of the lives lost for the victims’ surviving families. Was there ever supposed to be a time when for whatever reason one could put a dollar value on a human life. Back in olden days, like yesterday, a peasant’s life had no value. Actually, peasants never had any value. They were expendable. I don’t know about your heritage but I do know about mine and that’s precisely why my ancestors without language or means traveled to an unknown world in steerage (with the animals which is why they called it steer-age) from various parts of Eastern Europe and Russia because those crazy Americans prior to their Revolution had this crazy idea that all men are created equal. Insurance companies were very unhappy with Thomas Jefferson as were his slaves. Jefferson was a brilliant man with limited vision. I can’t say he was alone. There has always been an over abundance of stinking thinking peoples.
My two historical novels, one about the American South and one about the British in India, where no matter what your achievement or class you were expendable, was a prologue to Worth.
Along comes Spike Lee and his documentary, NYC Epicenters: 9/11 → 2021 ½. I tried. I really tried to watch the whole thing. I stopped in the first hour of the first part of the series. After he made his views and opinions quite clear by the way he presented his interviewees I became bored. And then I read a review in The New Yorker by their new television critic Doreen St. Felix about the last two hours of the documentary. I decided to give it another try. And she was right. It begins with a glorious, technicolor, paean to New York City. Right out of a movie. And it is right out of a movie… On The Town with Gene Kelley, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munchin, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. I knew I was being set up but I didn’t care. Seeing the city in all its 1950 glory was worth it.
I want to give myself a medal because I hung in until the end. I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t tear myself away as the tragedy began to unfold. I think one of the reasons I felt so paralyzed was because it brought back my own memories of that day. I was in my mid-town apartment in NYC. I lived on the 8th floor. It was my neighbor’s birthday and with other 8th floor folk we were about to knock on his door with a candled cupcake to sing Happy Birthday. Before we even knocked, he opened his door and told us to go home and turn on our television sets, “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” I remember saying what one of the interviewees in the documentary said, “I can’t believe it. A new pilot lost his way and accidentally flew into the building”
Before I moved to mid-town, I lived for years across from The World Trade Center in Battery Park City. I was in and out of that building every day. The bar at Windows on the World restaurant was where I took friends and guests (sometimes they were actually the same) to give them the full breadth of the city. It was exciting. It was exhilarating. No other view like it. They were WOWED. So was I.
For the first time, since 9/11/2001, I viewed the footage of what went on in my old neighborhood. I literally froze in my seat. I remember what I did after the second plane hit the second building. I had one daughter who lived off Central Park West on 92nd street. She had a one-year old baby.
Irrationally, as they were at the opposite end of the city from where the horrors were happening, I needed to assure myself they were all right. I walked (there were no subways or any transportation) from 54th and 6th avenue to 92nd Street, passing the ash covered zombie ghosts walking up from Ground Zero. A terrifying and wrenching sight, completely incomprehensible.
When I arrived at their apartment, I kissed and hugged my children. I never wanted to let them go. It was incomplete. I needed to check my other two daughters and their children. They lived in Northampton, Massachusetts. I had a small house in Great Barrington. My NYC daughter tried to convince me Northampton had no reported terrorist incidents. I was not convinced. They had already announced there would be no trains out of the city from any of the terminals. I walked over to Pennsylvania Station. The last Amtrak train from NYC to Albany, stopping at Hudson, New York was going to leave. No tickets were available. With every amount of emotion I could muster, I asked the Conductor if he would let me stand to Hudson. I said I didn’t need to sit. He never replied. He just turned away from me calling, “All aboard.” I took that as a sign and just slipped onto the train and stood for the two hours to Hudson where I had called a friend who was coming to Hudson to pick me up. I got my squeeze and a kiss.
I never did make sense of what happened. I did know the initial support of the world against the villains was a gift that was squandered. A missed opportunity where a human tragedy could have brought the world together was traded for WAR.
And as a gift to yourself, if you haven’t seen the movie, watch Wag The Dog by David Mamet with Robert de niro and Dustin Hoffman. DO IT NOW.
The non-fiction book The Forever Wars by Dexter Felkins is the continuation of 9/11. Felkins is in Afghanistan in the early 2000’s interviewing an Afghan and asking him what he thought about 9/11. His reply gave new meaning to the word perspective. He responded that his world, for as long as he could remember, was always a version of 9/11. The Afghan people have been at war willingly or not FOREVER. From the War Lords to the British, back to the War Lords, to the Russians, back to the War Lords, to the Taliban, to the Americans, back to the Taliban. I get the feeling it’s time for the War Lords to regroup and give it another go. And the beat goes on…
I shall conclude with my favorite Voltaire quote (he’s a very dear and very close friend)
HISTORY DOESN’T REPEAT ITSELF. PEOPLE DO.
It is always the simple idea that is the most difficult to enact.
Will human beings ever realize how much we need each other? To exist… we really need each other.
So glad you asked. And if you thought you’d get a direct answer…fuggetaboutit!
Most know I am the 7th of 8 siblings. Of the 8 only 4 remain. The three youngest (oh, to be called youngest at 90, 88, 85) and the oldest brother of the whole clan… 101 years young with all his marbles intact. Periodically, we check in with each other.
A sample check in:
Sally-Jane: Hi, Raymond, how are you?
Raymond: Still here.
Sally-Jane: This is a good thing.
Raymond: It’ll do until something better comes along.
Sally-Jane: That’s why you are still here. There is nothing better.
Raymond: I’ll take your word for it.
Sally-Jane: So what are you reading?
Raymond: For Liberty and Glory by James R. Gaines. It’s about Washington, Lafayette and their Revolutions. I am really enjoying it.
Sally-Jane: Oh, yes, I read about it. I’d like to read it.
Raymond: Well, I’ll send it to you when I finish it.
Raymond: On second thought you better get your own copy. At the rate I read, maybe you’ll get it before I die, maybe you won’t.
I got my own copy. Reading it provoked the above question, “Congress. Has it always been thus?”
The Continental Congress in July of 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the former colonies of Great Britain to be independent sovereign states, declaring war on Great Britain .
There were no political parties at the 1776 Congress. There were just 13 SOVEREIGN STATES… maybe like 13 political parties. How were the representatives of Massachusetts going to agree with representatives of New York, no less with representatives of South Carolina; issues of culture, geography, climate, to put self interest before common interest. All issues combined to make their individual State legislatures vastly more important than any central government.
Indeed, the first several Congresses after the Second Continental Congress, which was the Congress of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War were all Unicameral, That is, no political parties… just sovereign states, each one pulling in their own direction to fulfill their duties as representatives of their States. Most representatives of the original 13 states wanted a weak Central Government allowing them to deal directly with their own local issues as they saw fit. There were only a few who thought a strong Central Government would be much better for the nascent nation; better for issues of economics and foreign intervention. There is strength in numbers. Even I, who needs all my fingers and toes to count, know that 13 against 1 or 2 has a better chance of succeeding. Let’s face it, if all 13 didn’t agree to sign the Declaration of Independence which was a declaration of war against Great Britain, we would all be having tea with milk, fish and chips in an old newspaper, and singing God Save The Queen instead of God Bless America. I realize for some this would not be a bad thing. I am totally aware how this country is bonkers over British Royalty. Diana is more celebrated today than she was over twenty years ago. For that matter so is Victoria, Elizabeth I, and dare I even mention the Royal Soap Opera for all time, Downton Abbey. But I digress…so what else is new?
OK back to Congress. The divide in the United States that I find so disturbing today had its beginning in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787. The Constitution was a plan developed for a stronger federal government with three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.
From that moment, this country has always been divided between States Righters and Federalists. A really interesting not so side fact is that prior to Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, all Senators were appointed by the Governors and Legislatures of the individual states. Under Wilson’s term in 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed the words, “chosen by the legislatures thereof” to “elected by the people, thereof”. Make of that what you will. Personally, I think it was supposed to open the Senatorial selections away from State Politics (aka legislature) to the State’s population. However, if the state’s population is as divided as the legislature… what’s the difference?
I’m sorry, my dear friends. I get carried away by the history involved in birthing this country and in doing so lose my way. Get to the point, already, for goodness sake.
In reading this book about the struggle George Washington had in winning the American Revolution, I see that the albatross around his neck was the Second Continental Congress. They signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a very brave and courageous thing to do, and then ignored most of the requests and pleas and beggings of George Washington to fortify and supply the Army that was fighting for Independence. This Congress did everything in its power to focus on their own and their state’s individual needs and ignore the battles for Liberty and Freedom that were going on all around them. (brilliantly depicted in the movie 1776)
OK here’s the question for you to answer… is it in the nature of the beast (aka Congress and humans) wherein self and local issues will always outweigh the common good and as the world turns, is it harder for the individual of good purpose to make a difference, no less get elected? And the biggest question of all, HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY? Whatcha think?
Hey guys, before you think… I have an important recommendation for you. For the most wonderful and powerful depiction of this Second Continental Congress please see the movie musical 1776. It is brilliant and written with historic accuracy. I promise you. You will love it.
As a matter of fact, it is in that movie the seeds of my question about the ultimate fate of Congress is first planted.
And even though I was very young back in 1944 (10 to be exact) I was old enough to remember a RADIO show by that name of which I was a devoted listener. My passion for the mysteries of life, no less literature, started when I was very young. For the last 20 years, at least, I buy and read the good ones from all over the world. Pitting my puzzle-solving oriented brain against Holmes, Christie, Sayers, Highsmith, Penny, le Carre, Ross Macdonald, Markell, Hiassen, Crais, Mosely… to name just a few of the masters. Lately, David Ignatius has captured my imagination.
His genre of books is the political thriller in the land of the internet. I am computer challenged on every level. Without help from a very dear friend, I would never have been able to organize and send the Blah Blah Blog. (There’s a juicy self-deprecating remark just pulsing to be written which I will hasten to ignore.) So why would an internet driven mystery intrigue me?
I’m so glad you asked. Because David Ignatius is a journalist, editor and columnist for The Washington Post. I find his 11 novels to be edged with reportorial skills that give insight to the real and actual political workings of hot spots around the world (Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Russia; just to name a few) and no less detailed workings of the many Departments of the government of The United States. Truly, in the most legitimate sense of the words, he has inside information.
Well, ever since January 6th and watching as the President metaphorically, but really actually, yelled “FIRE!!” in a crowded theatre, prompting the frightening, illegal and unbelievable assault on the Capitol, I have been waiting for someone to unravel the mystery of how this horrific happening came to be.
The information we have received up to this date has been sparse, incomplete, and does not tell the whole story. To put it in today’s terms… it just doesn’t compute.
I am inspired to try my hand at writing a political thriller based on the events of January 6th. Including that which preceded the happening and what follows. With your indulgence I am going to share with you my outline. Forgive me if I seem to overstep the bounds of rational reasoning. Come to think of it, for the last four years that particular mental condition appears to be as contagious as the virus…
Here is my outline in 3 parts…
Part I Phase I
January 2009 Palm Springs: A Gazillionaire meeting hosted at the palatial fortress of Manny Midas of the top ten Gazillionaires. Topic: “There’s a Black Man in the White House“
The decision after everyone finally stopped blaming everyone for being asleep at the wheel was to fund an educational program that would train young men and women to promote the “Rich-As-Croesus-Old-White-Racists-Men” (RACOWRM) ideas of racial and economic division.
Their strategy was brilliant. DIVIDE AND CONQUER.
The old white racist men decided to endow a Rich-As-Croesus-Old-White-Racists-Men’s educational program in various colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Taught mostly by committed conservatives* of every stripe and occasional color, the programs offered what appeared to be an almost free education for those who qualified.
Upon graduation, the sharper and by now completely committed conservatives were offered high paying positions in the Conservative Think Tanks around the country and public relations firms committed to radical ultra-conservative issues… formenting public opinion on issues such as gerrymandering, voting restrictions, immigration policies… They did this through organizing social media, creating many ultra-far-right-radical-conspiracy-theory individuals and groups.
*Point of clarity: There is no judgement on being a conservative by choice. However, there is a difference between being an Ultra Radical Anything where reason and logic exit the field, leaving no opportunity for dialogue.
RACOWRM danced the Scrooged Screw (a well-known Rich as Croesus Dance) at the success of their program and vowed to meet every year in Palm Springs to discover how else they could control various Government programs from their hot tubs in Hot Springs.
Part II Phase II
In 2012, the rich as Croesus old white racist men were assured by the pundits and by the amount of money they spent that the black man in the White House was a one term President.
In January 2013, meeting again in Palm Springs, without dance or hot tubs, these RACOWRM decided it was no more Mr. Nice Guy time… the gloves were off.
The momentous decision of that meeting was to search and find a missing President. A missing Presidential candidate that would bring White Privilege back to power and center stage. Criteria was important.
Manny Midas, the richest of the RACOWRM, was a fan of a television show called The Apprentice. He enjoyed watching the host make a fool of himself and he made a lot of money as one of its sponsors.
For reasons we can only guess at, but shall never know, Manny fought for and won the lottery on finding the missing Presidential candidate. Of course, it helped that this man came with his own base (literally and figuratively). His fans were addicted to his vulgar, intolerant, and mentally unstable character. Human nature at its worst.
From 2013 until 2016, the RACOWRM built their special candidate. It was like reading or watching a sequel to Mary Shelley’s 19th Century novel. (look it up)
Using their same principle of Divide and Conquer, the Ultra Conservative Think Tanks and public relations firms worked tirelessly through the use of algorithms (can anyone explain that to me?) and other modern techniques of social media on the internet to organize and develop the “Younger Not So Rich White Racist Men and Women”. They fed the YNSRWRMW the necessary information to make their chosen candidate irresistible.
Let’s face it. It was kind of a miracle. To convince people that a bankrupt unsuccessful businessman in his 70’s who was a reality TV show host and who had never won an election or served in any public capacity, except as a Page 6 headline making President Clinton look like a member of the Puritan Party, would make the perfect President. The moon was definitely in retrograde because…
Against all the odds and evens and pollsters and punsters and everyone in the real world, he actually won!
Part III Phase III
I’m not sure, guys, whether to fast forward through the gathering storm of false news, the twitter and the tweeting, mind-boggling appointments, and too numerous to count declarations of “You’re Fired”, to get to 2020, but I think I shall…
It must be said that our Palm Springs group continued to meet and continued to pull strings on their creation and they were happy. They had a proven handle to control. If they wanted action of a certain kind, they primed the pump of his ego. His tweets were his method of governing. Leaving the real work of legislation and judicial review to their RACOWRM Worker Bees and the President’s family. His being “the greatest” worked miracles for their agenda. If he got out of line, they just let some of the air out of his ego balloon and woosh, he was back in line. The RACOWRM never veered from their original agenda – stoking the fires of racism. This election year was supposed to be a shoe-in. So many Democratic candidates, all fighting and blaming each other. A party in disarray. Definitely a shoe-in.
And then an ill wind blew in from China. Whoa! Regroup time!
The RACOWRM were stymied. No matter how much money they threw at the virus – and they did throw money – conquering the rogue virus was beyond their control. And to add to this conflagration, another black man was murdered by a group of white police officers. George Floyd’s death by police should not have been any different than the thousands that came before, but (and that’s another story) it was. Combine the pandemic with the Black Lives Matter rebellion by blacks and whites and the playing field has been permanently altered.
Well Guys, he never got his MOJO back. Unfortunately for the RACOWRM, their creation was a man incapable of dealing with reality which means he cannot be called upon to cope in an emergency.
He tried. He caught the virus to prove his super powers of recovery. However, no matter what he did, he never found the magic wand or pill to staunch the bleed. So he lost the election.
He remembered what his best buddy Roy Cohn advised him, “NEVER ADMIT DEFEAT”. Perfect advice for this situation. He didn’t lose. He won. He was still the world’s greatest… victim. They stole his election. “They” being anyone who knew he lost.
Uh-oh! The RACOWRM had to find a way to distance and disassociate from their creation. They were able to get their Ultra Conservative white worker bees to prime his pump again.
The plan was to stoke his ego to the bursting point. He needed to both implode and explode… a very difficult task. So when he lost the election his backers were set up to create chaos and dissonance and if push came to shove, which it usually does in these situations, violence. This was easy to do. They simply had to convince him to ignore the election. Ignore the Pandemic. Ignore anything happening in the real world, which was fine with him because he would do that anyway.
But as his ego was being stoked, the various Younger Not So Rich White Racist Men and Women were being organized to follow their leader. They had had a dress rehearsal at Charlottesville which proved very successful.
It was not difficult to get their creation to stand outside the White House on January 6th, a little puff of ego air, and do exactly what he and his family and his various white racist groups were programmed to do – scream “FIRE!!” in a crowded theatre, aka “The White House”, followed by invasion, assault, and destruction of the Capitol of the United States of America, as they were bidden to do by their leader. And they didn’t have to work to get access. They were indeed invited in and escorted out.
Okay that’s as far as I got. I’m waiting for the CIA, the FBI, the various intelligence agencies to suss it out. So, what do you think? Do I wait? Or is this the craziest most ridiculous unbelievable plot that no publisher in the world would buy because it could never happen in this country?
Update January 14:
I thought this post was a reasonable compilation of fact mixed with my over-the-the-wall, wild and vivid imagination about what I felt brought about the Capitol riots of January 6th. I clearly did not go far enough. There is now a call for investigation of claims that on the day before the pillage, Republican representatives and senators who had spread the lies of a fraudulent election, organized tours through the Capitol for the riot gang leaders from their different states. They allegedly pointed out points of interest like Pelosi’s office and various other chambers. Didn’t you think it was strange they knew exactly where to go? The Capitol is a mighty big building. I’ve been through it many times getting lost as I went.
Very recently I had a very challenging and ultimately satisfying experience.
I think most of you received an email about my reading the Edith Wharton short story The Mission of Jane at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts)
This was going to be the fifth year of my reading this story. I had convinced the powers that be that the story was so rich and funny that a yearly reading would plumb the depths of pathos and humor of Wharton’s writing. Thankfully, they agreed.
Enter the villain virus.
It was a challenge for Susan Wissler, Executive Director of The Mount.
There is nothing Susan likes better than a challenge. She took a failing Mount out of bankruptcy and the cultural world marveled at her leadership bringing The Mount into solvency and success.
She accepted the Villian Virus challenge. The latest of which were the live readings of Edith Wharton’s and other short stories. Of course it had to be outdoors and the number of audience limited and distances set. She decided to use the forecourt of The Mount – a beautiful area originally established for carriages and cars to dispense passengers before their entering the mansion. It was perfect.
Wednesday, August 19th arrived with sun, then clouds, then rain and not until 4 pm before a 5:30 reading was there a go-ahead. Leaving this reader slightly frazzled. Hey, guys, those in the know know… it don’t take much for that to happen. Sensitive or neurotic or a little of both. Take your pick.
The build-up to performance was intense. I rehearsed. I tried to forget my age. (fat chance) I love performing. I love the story. I love The Mount.
“Be gone, Virus! You are not welcome here!”
The reading was SOLD OUT. The reading was limited to and audience of 45. I didn’t care. I love saying I played to a sold out house. Sue me!
I looked out over the audience. Two people seated way over left, 3 people seated way over right, 4 people here and there, another double, another triple, and so on spread apart from each other (as required by law) all through the forecourt. There was no audience seating. There were disparate chairs placed all over the space. So that I could not read to one group as I did before but individual groupings which made it difficult for the audience to relate to each other, no less to the reader.
It is something I never thought about before, but when a member of an audience comes into a performance space, he or she may start out individually but as the performance continues the audience slowly but surely becomes unified, sometimes for you and sometimes against you.
I would venture a guess that, seated together as they all are, that unity makes it possible for the actor or actors to create the necessary bond to create a satisfactory relationship. A catharthis, right? (look it up) I am grateful that the story was an hour long because it took me at least thirty minutes to bring this disparate audience into a unified one.
And then there is the wearing of masks. This was a reading in daylight. I looked out at a sea of faces masked to their eyeballs. At the beginning I couldn’t see their smiles or hear their laughter (some advantage… I couldn’t see them yawn, either.) As the story progressed and as the audience came together, the laughter escaped the masks and finally I could sense there was enjoyment.
There was a nice prolonged applause at the end of the story. And, my friends, I have to tell you I think in part it was for me and the story, but I also think it was because the event at The Mount gave 45 people the opportunity to come out from their isolation, from their quarantine and for that they were grateful. Me, too.
I want to thank Susan Wissler and The Mount for the opportunity for me to blow my horn and also for creating engaging, inclusive programs for all.
I was so grateful to be able to provide release and relief in the time of this pandemic. And I look forward (ain’t that a nice word for this time in all our lives!) to more creative and satisfying experiences.
Right? Of course, right!!!!
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️
P.S. Our next opportunity for a creative and satisfying experience is coming up!!
A friend recently sent me a link to this article by George Conway in the Washington Post. To say I had a strong reaction is an understatement! I couldn’t understand how reading a list of his bona fides insanity and ridiculousness could possibly be worth my time. Between the pandemic news of the day and the election news of the day, we are taking a battering.
Well, my friends I had to interrupt my reading at Chapter 2 to write to you…
WE ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! It reveals the truth of how the monster made it this far and what we all did or didn’t do to contribute to our current painful reality. It is from this painful acknowledgement that the solution can be found.
And if I didn’t believe there was a solution to the absurd and terrifying situation we are in, then I’d go out without a mask, touch my face, never wash my hands, go to school in Georgia and buy a Harley so I can join the South Dakota Bike Rally.
So while I finish this book, I hope you’ll start it. Then, let’s tawk!
P.P.S. And finally, amidst all this confusion someone speaks how we can understand and come together…
Every time I think I have a handle on how to handle the world I and fellow beings presently inhabit, I lose the handle. Why can’t I keep a steady hand on the wheel of my life? I know the rules of safety. I try my best to follow them… Social distancing, masking, hand washing, sanitizing, travel limits.
I am kidding you and myself because, of course I know why I can’t keep it steady. I am not in control.
I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. I know the feeling well because I have been there many times before.
I think I am being vigilant. But then, I watch others out of my control, threaten themselves and others with their choices. It then becomes my responsibility to set limits and put out the no vacancy sign. It is so alien to the nature of this here beast.
My door has always been open. In the world today that is not an option. I can make some adjustments. And for this I am so very grateful that I am able to set up for a meal in the garden or the porch with safe spacing, masks and whatever else is necessary for the safety of all.
I did not know the depth and the extent of the migration of Black Americans from the South to the North and to the West from 1915 – 1970. For me, Ms. Wilkerson’s narrative is the foretelling of the ongoing struggle for Black equality we are experiencing at this time. She has chosen three protagonists from three different locations in three different decades of the migration. Their detailed journey from the white racism of the South that followed them to the white racism of the North and West is shocking and a necessary and important tool in understanding how racism, subtle and not so subtle works.
At the end of the book Ms. Wilkerson writes some notes about her methodology in putting this brilliant study together. She quotes from a 672 page report by a white-led Commission on the Chicago Riots of 1919 wherein the commission admonishes all.
THIS MUST CHANGE!
It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery wast introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.
Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance… Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical… There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; an understanding of the facts of the problem — a magnanimous understanding by both races — is the first step toward a solution.
Excerpt, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, page 543
The report came out in 1922. Last time I checked my calendar it was 2020.
THOUGHT 3: IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST
There is no way that I am going to leave you without a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart. Even though my go-to cheerleader, Carl Reiner, left for quieter climes.
I am sure Carl and Snoopy were in complete agreement.
Here is a documentary he narrated when he was only 94:
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️
P.S. Happy July 4th. It’s way past time to put our money (and our votes) where our mouths are…