WHY ARE YOU SO MAD AT ME????

My Dear Friends and Family,

This is the way I feel today when I read about Covid and the political scene.  I have written a little playlet featuring two of my favorite Ted Lasso characters.  See if you can guess who is who.

“I don’t get it!”

“Grrrrrr..”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Grrrr…”

“Did I hurt your feelings?”

“Grrrr…”

“Please!  I really want to know.”

“Grrr…you asked me to put on my mask.  Grrr…you asked me if I was vaccinated.  Grrr…you are from Venus.  I am from Mars. Grrr…”

“Ok!  I get that but can’t we still be friends or at least friendly acquaintances.”

“Grrr… NO!”

And my friends, dats da trut!  Gone are the days when you could have friends that agreed to disagree.  Today you either agree or, like on a plane someone slaps you and ties you up.

What happened? Here’s my theory. The world is living through the perfect storm. The combination of P&P – politics and pandemic – an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, cyclone beyond the beyond scale of human endurance.

Also, we have been watching and personally witnessing climate change that is the devil’s advocate in this perfect storm.  

How much can a human being bear?  Every day there are more and more incidents indicating not much more.  For me, it’s like watching the thermometer rise on a roiling/boiling cauldron about to explode.  Daily, civility takes a back seat to violent eruptions. The other day I drove by a full sized banner on the front of a house that read … first a Mea Culpa: I have abundantly used four letter curse words because they are a release for me of tensions, stress and anger… but I am very careful to use it on and for myself not others, so please excuse what I am going to print out to prove a point… this is what was on the house sized banner,     

FUCK YOU BIDEN AND FUCK YOU WHO VOTED FOR HIM

Wha????????

This was on a house in Western Massachusetts illustrating how this virus of vitriolic hate, anger and  maniacal behavior is spreading.  

I do not want to be discouraged or lose hope. I want to understand what is happening. Here goes!

The human condition is always in survival mode.… aka fight or flight. I also understand that this perfect storm of pandemic and politics has kindled the fire of fight. The level of anger that brings out a banner of cursing HATE is covering an incredible amount of fear. If I scratch whatever I am angry about I find the fear.

Nina Simone says and sings it far better than I could…

O.K.?  What then…??? Here’s the tricky part! Patience, faith – and here it comes guys – LOVE in equal measure must be applied to the wound. Easier said than done. I had it all wrong. I thought as long as my fear protected my anger, I could function. In humble gratitude, slowly over the last twenty or thirty years (believe me, we humans are really intellectually and emotionally challenged. Translation: slow to change). However, as I aged, love melted the anger that melted the fear that lived in the house that Sally-Jane built.

Like I said it is not easy… simple, but not easy. The speed of the internet, social media, transportation, make it harder. This is when I yearn for the good old days. Imagine trying to read a newspaper or get to your Twitter or Facebook or Instagram accounts from your Roman litter as you commute to work.  

Whatever stories that are hanging fire would have to wait until you got to your office or home. By that time, you might have actually calmed down. Maybe even talked to your litter bearers, asking and sharing thoughts. In other words, no knee jerk reactions that you would find too difficult to apologize for or ask forgiveness for. The human condition has almost no genetic structure for apologies or forgiveness. It’s still evolving. From your mouth to God’s ears. Which reminds me there was this guy a couple of thousand years ago who spoke about turning the other cheek and other outrageous ideas, but it’s obvious the way the world is going no one remembers him.

So I am asking… no pleading with you, next time you want to punch someone out verbally or physically

STOP…THINK…and remember… 

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself and the guy next to you who hasn’t been vaccinated. 

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love,  Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. There is one brilliant documentary that must be seen… MUST! And you will be tested on this.

I promise you if you watch PBS 4-Parts of Ken Burns Documentary – Mohammed Ali you will see before your very eyes the evolution of a human spirit and soul into what he announced he was, at the beginning of his career and still is and will remain,  

THE GREATEST

This documentary is the perfect antidote to the rickety raggedy human condition of today…

Thoughts That Lead To Memories…

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.

Right?  Of course, right!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

My Dear Friends…

I often ask myself why certain life stories inspire my Blah, Blah Blogging?

Self:  Why did Buddy Guy in the recent American Masters series on PBS inspire you to write about him?

More Self:  I can always depend on you to ask the right question at the right time.

Even More Self:  Who are you talking to? 

Back to the first Self:  Don’t ask. Just go with the flow.

There are so many reasons I tuned into the story of Buddy Guy:

  1.  I love the Blues. I have a vision of myself from forever as a singer of the Blues. Sitting atop a piano, looking strangely like a bad imitation of Julie London, plaintively crying a river of blues. My audience suitably sobbing (free tissue packs included in the price of admission.) Scratch a comedienne and you’ll find a tragedienne.
  2. I knew the name Buddy Guy.  I didn’t really know who he is.
  3. American Masters always find really interesting people to profile.
  4. Their documentaries are gloriously, artistically interesting and informative.

Buddy Guy is a blues guitar player in the style of his heroes and mentors, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters. Familiar names but little known to me.  Buddy was born 83 years ago in a small town in Louisiana. From the beginning he never thought of himself as special. And as I listened to him describe his life in this small town, where his family were share croppers and as a child, he picked cotton. Before I even heard him play, I felt I was being osmotically drawn to him right through all the electronic apparatus between him and me. As I watched and listened to him learn to play, at first with only two strings before he had enough money to buy a real guitar, I thought… ”What is it about this man that touches me so deeply? First, his humility… what can I say, is humbling. At a time when everyone is “look at me-ing” all over the place, he put his focus where it belonged… on discovering, exploring, and practicing his gift.

He needed to breathe.
He needed to play.
One was inextricably linked to the other.
I related. Even when I didn’t want to, that is how I lived.

BREATHE IN… 1,2,3

WORK… and a-1 and a-2 and a-3

In the first moments of this profile, I watched as he listened to the greats of his time, first in Baton Rouge then after moving on to Chicago.  All he ever wanted to do was try to play like they did.  He never thought he’d ever become a professional musician. He just wanted to play his guitar.  Chicago was a mecca for the Blues. He could and did watch. He could and did listen. For him it was simple. He needed to breathe. He needed to play. This was all very familiar to me. I was hooked.

Throughout the documentary, various personalities, guitar players (of all ages), managers, agents, tell Buddy’s story.  And then we have the Brits. I find it interesting that most Americans of the 50’s and 60’s and even into the 70’s (my ignorance astounds me, but then it always has) didn’t know about Buddy or Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters, or John Lee Hooker, but Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones knew. Eric Clapton knew. Stevie Ray Vaughn knew, and when Buddy went to London as a tourist…. the Brits pounced on him and made him play with them and it was the breakthrough he needed because it was when the Stones toured the States that they demanded and got these great unknown (Ha! Ha!) guitar players included in their tours. 

An amazing piece of Black History. Of course there are so many unknown amazing pieces of Black History to shake up the shame I share with whoever is willing to share it with me.  

Another piece of my ignorance follows the various interviews of one, John Mayer. I had only heard of him as the escort of various People Magazine movie and television stars.  (Please don’t give me grief. People magazine is my go to the beauty salon, doctor offices, necessary reading material. I call ahead to be assured the establishments carry the latest issues.) So who knew from John Mayer? Turns out these movie stars knew a good thing after all.  He was truly erudite, intelligent and bonkers over Buddy. And I understand he can play guitar as well as other things, too.

Buddy Guy’s life story stirred my thinking about the creative process.

As I view some of the artists today, I am saddened. It’s not as if I do not see the talent, the gift. In my thinking however, the gift really is only one small part of an artist’s process. Without discipline, without working the gift, it can only go so far. In fact, I would say, without the kind of practicing that Buddy Guy did, his glorious gift would never have developed the way it did. Practice doesn’t guarantee success, but without it the shelf life of the artist’s gift is a short one.  

Right???  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. So THAT is how you get to Carnegie Hall…

P.P.S. More enticement to watch documentary…

The Big Laugh

My Dear Friends ~

I’m packing to travel North. This is not a fun thing to do. I need a laugh. I always need a laugh. And rewatching old episodes of The Nanny was not doing the trick because I can’t stand the laugh tracks 

Over the covid-pandemic-isolating year finding a laugh meant I could hold out for another day. I’m down to counting microseconds so I can take my shot-up body North to hug other shot-up bodies. 

Between packing breaks I hydrate and read. 

Today I received the April 12th issue of The New Yorker. Anthony Lane, their movie critic, provided me with THE BIG LAUGH.

Illustration by Hisashi Okawa

Hollywood has not lost their sense of humor with their latest blockbuster, GODZILLA vs KONG. Anthony Lane knocked it out of the park with his review, A Journey to the Center of the Earth in “Godzilla vs. Kong”

It almost makes me want to see it. 

Enjoy this one on me. 

Love ~ Sally-Jane 

Game of Life: Humanity: 1 / Immorals: 0

My Dear Friends & Family,

Last night I looked forward to watching a new Netflix thriller/mystery I Care A Lot. It had some of my favorite actors Dianne Wiest, Peter Dinklage, and starring Rosamund Pike.

Basically it’s a story of a woman Marla Grayson (Pike) who is in the very profitable business of defrauding seniors. Her racket is guardianship:  identifying powerless retirees, having them falsely declared mentally incompetent and herself appointed their legal conservator and then defrauding them of all their assets which by some not so mysterious ways ends up in her bank account. This happens through the collusion of doctors, nursing homes, and oblivious judges. It’s a really juicy plot.

I began watching and somewhere as I was approaching the halfway mark of the film I began to get a queasy feeling in my stomach. At the beginning, her success record of 100 per cent was challenged by only one son concerning his mother. He wanted to see his mother.  He questioned her need for Guardianship.  Marla chewed him up and spit him out.  She was unstoppable.

She makes a mistake by targeting the mother of a crime boss but rather than show fear, she ups her game and no matter what the threat (and there are many  consequential threats) pursues her dream of being so rich she is untouchable. (Put forth in the movie as “The American Dream”)

I didn’t stick around to see if she succeeded. I was sick to my stomach watching  the amorality that filled the script and  screen.  Not one character in this film had any and I mean any redeeming features… a dark world that only got darker. Why do I want to watch people whom I don’t give a fig for succeed as they decimate whatever and whoever is in their way without any consequences.

As for me, I immediately reached for an antidote to the poison that had been spewing from my television for over an hour… I definitely stayed too long at the fair.  I turned to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.  Plenty of really villainous types but somehow always caught in the web of their own making.  

To put salt my own wound, today I caught an interview with Rosamund Pike from an article in USA Today. Her statement made me wince. 

I think it maybe reflects the fact that people need a dose of what this film serves up at this time. I think it’s that kind of dark, irreverent humor that we’re all a bit in need of.

~ Rosamund Pike

For the life of me… Where was the humor?? Definitely not the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. Of course, as an actor I totally understand the thrill of being chosen but I find her statement unbelievable and irresponsible. 

I certainly don’t recommend you see it, but if you have seen it I’d love to know what you think.

My philosophy has always been what goes around comes around. Time is not in anyone’s hands… but my belief is… in the game of life, The Decency and Humanity Team: 1 / The Amorals: 0     

Of late, we have been sorely tested… but ain’t that what life is all about? It isn’t easy. It is difficult. And it definitely isn’t fair.  Our work is never done. We have occasional breaks from the onslaughts… a walk in the woods, a picnic by the lake, a good book, a great movie, friends and families… and then we are right back in it again: snow and ice in Texas. 

My beliefs say we always know what the right thing to do is… we are always challenged to do the right thing. Sometimes we can. Sometimes we can’t. But we know. That is what separates us from the beasts…

Right???  Of course, right!!!

 Love, Sally-Jane

An Antidote to High Anxiety

My Dear Friends,

The woman in the closet video is definitely a reminder that you are not alone.  And if, during this pandemic crisis, you haven’t experienced some paranoia, then please check your pulse because you probably don’t have one.

I don’t know about you guys, but my anxiety level is an up and down affair, and lately mostly up. The more tuned in I am to the current events of the day with news briefings, emails from political organizations that accurately highlight the criminal ineptitude of the current Senate and administration, the more increased my blood pressure. However, as I prepare to pack and fly north, I recognize even more how the pressure is rising.

Even though… (to the tune of 🎶IRVING BERLIN’S TOP HAT 🎶)

🎶I’m putting on my hazmat suit 🎶

🎶Packing up my wipe wipes🎶

🎶Gloves and masks in place🎶

And I am totally serious. (Photos of flight day to be shared later.) But with every item secured, the pressure went up a notch.

I thought to myself:  “Self! You are making yourself sick.”

What to do???

And in a flash it came to me. Stop thinking of yourself.  If I thought the quarantine was a challenge to my mental health, just try focusing only on yourself.  STIFLING! BORING! CRUEL AND INHUMAN!

The operative word is inhuman. I understand survival is numero uno. However, I have come to realize without caring for friend, neighbor, family, we revert to the animal. And all you animal activists, I recognize the many animals that can make the human seem more selfish than most in the animal kingdom, so please don’t yell at me. I’m just saying that I think we have a more developed brain – not to be more selfish and “what about me?”, but to think of OTHERS.  What a concept… think of others. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that as my pressure was hitting a high point I remembered a friend of mine was going through a very rough time. It hadn’t anything to do with the virus. It was a very private misery. I literally stopped thinking about myself and thought about what she was going through.  I wrote to her of my feelings for what she was going through. I didn’t even know it at the time… but, something lifted. Yes, and the pressure dropped. I got it. 

The next time I begin to take myself too seriously I shall get out from under my own microscope. Unfortunately, these days, I cannot go ‘round with a real care package and hug.  It’s the virtual picnic hamper, the virtual hug, the virtual everything.  But don’t forget the real phone call… human vocal chords can work wonders. 

For me, after thinking of others the next best way to distract me from me is to watch good funny movies.

Of late because I am old, I have focused on, for some, unheard of gems.  And I only realized recently there was a master hand behind many of them. He is my very personal (though he doesn’t know it) 2,000 years older than me friend, Mel Brooks.  These are movies that he didn’t necessarily write or perform in, but it’s his absurd sometimes not so funny and always irreverent humor rooting around in the mix of the movie.

The In Laws movie, circa 1979 with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.

The In Laws movie, circa 2003 with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks

My Favorite Year, circa 1982 with Peter O’Toole

Ishtar, circa 1980’s.  A major flop in the 1980’s and now it is a cult movie written and directed by Elaine May (and occasionally, Buck Henry) with Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Charles Grodin. Fantastically prescient about the coming trouble in the middle east and oh, so funny.Makes Wag The Dog look like a sitcom.

Bowfinger, circa 1999 starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy (when he was funny)

Waiting For Guffman, circa 1997, directed by Christopher Guest and written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy with Catherine O’Hara in the cast (previous to Schitt’s Creek fame)

And last and probably least…

So Fine, circa 1981, starring Ryan O’Neal and if you don’t blink Sally-Jane Heit as a brunette in a scene in Bergdorf Goodman; written by Andrew Bergman of the 1979 In Laws and other comedies.

And just so you don’t think I’m too old to appreciate the new…

After Life streaming on Netflix written by and starring Ricky Gervais. He has definitely got his finger on the pulse of the human condition and he is VERY funny!

Like they always say:  What goes around comes around. Or, is it what comes around goes around? Either way have a laugh on me and always…

stay sane, stay safe, stay distant……

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

Does Loving the Film, ‘Green Book’ Make Me a Racist?

My Dear Friends,

I have a new friend. He is nice. He is black. I am white. I didn’t mean to but I offended him.

Here is the backstory…

In December 2018, I saw the film, Green Book. I flipped. I loved it. No, I mean I really loved it. I was in the local movie art house and there was hardly anyone else watching with me. I would say maybe 10 people at most. I laughed. I cried. I thought Viggo Moretensen and Mahershala Ali were beyond brilliant. I ached for each of them in the many cathartic moments of the film. I was enraged at the America that made it necessary to publish a horror like Green Book.

I was beyond the stratosphere at the music. Don Shirley’s classical music background blending with a jazz originality to create a sound that kept my head, my hands, my feet, and my heart moving constantly every time he played. (Just so you have all the information… the pianist, Kris Bowers, composed the movie score and played the piano parts and he too is brilliant.)

I’m glad the theatre was empty. The way I was swinging with the music, I may have been asked to leave.

And when it was over, I stood up as in those rare standing ovation moments at the theatre. I say rare because for me to stand means to know you have witnessed a genius rarity not likely to happen again. I yelled, “BRAVO!” I applauded. I was ignored as the very few fellow audience members left, walking rapidly, perhaps nervous that some cuckoo was on furlow for a matinee.

I practically danced up the aisle. As I left the theatre, the ticket taker was standing at the door. She is black. I stopped. I took her hand. She withdrew it. Undaunted, I gushed my enthusiasm for the film. I asked if she had seen the movie. She looked hard at me. She said in a very clear voice. “No! I don’t watch rubbish.”

I guess that should have been my first clue. But, I ignored it. I couldn’t wait to get home and call my near and dear ones. If they ever wanted to see or speak to me again they needed to pass the test of seeing this movie.

Fast forward to the next day after the Academy Award ceremony…

Don’t hit me.  I didn’t watch.  I never watch.  They always leave out the one movie I thought was really great or the actor or the writer…and basically, I am not sure about awarding best anything to any artist.  The competition is within  the artist.  Don’t tell me someone is better than someone else.  I don’t believe you can compare apples and oranges.  However, God forbid the money men and women don’t make their money back on their product.  And for them, it isn’t about art.  It is about “product”.

All to say, if they called my name for an Oscar, I’d probably be there.

My new friend and I were talking about the Oscars.  Those who know me know.  Those who don’t know me are pretty sure.  I have an opinion on everything.  Ask my daughters.

I had read Spike Lee was angered by Green Book’s big win. I opined that it might be sour grapes.  I had seen his film, BlacKkKlansman and thought it was great. The perfect example of trying to compare apples and oranges.  

My friend said he enjoyed Green Book, but he was also in agreement with Spike Lee. For him, the Academy was doing its usual thing. Rewarding the white man as he rescued the black man. Another movie to make the whites feel good.

I don’t often keep my own counsel. I continued on and on about how Green Book detailed the possibility of a bigot changing his tune. And isn’t that what is needed in a world gone mad with so much hate and bile. A world growing more and more into “them and us”.  Separating humans of ever color from each other.

As I pontificated, I assured him, I knew what he was feeling.

There came a very pregnant pause. A close to delivery pregnant pause. The pause was so awkward it actually shut my faucet mouth.

After some time, we broke the pause with banal conversation. Not going near the subject, we talked awhile and then said goodbye.

After we parted, I recalled what I had been saying. What was it that brought about the pause that did not refresh? As I did, I realized my new friend had been trying to tell me something without telling me something. No matter we are both minorities. I am Jewish and a woman. But I am white. He is black. I cannot and will never know what it feels like to be black.

Later that same day, I wrote an apology. I wrote that of course I could never know how he feels. I have had some of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune thrown my way, but against being born black in this world, past or present, not comparable.

He acknowledged my apology. We have not continued the discussion. Hopefully someday we will. Slow and steady as the friendship deepens, anything is possible.

“The Blind Are Also Color Blind”
Photo taken at Foundation for the Junior Blind Summer Camp, Los Angeles,CA by Doug Wilson.

I don’t know. I do know there are those who want to see a better world.  Me, for one.  And for me, a better world would be one where we all wake up one morning and find we are color blind.  If that were true, then Green Book and BlacKkKlansman and all movies about race would be Fairy Tales. A collection of very Grimm Fairy Tales.

Is it possible?

As long as we are still breathing the world of possibilities will always exist? Right?

Of course, Right!

Love, Sally-Jane


P.S. It seems no matter where I turn, going to the movies, reading a book, I am surrounded by with racism, bigotry, and the inherent anger, resentment and frustration.

In a recent biography of Frederick Douglass, David W. Blight writes of an event which occurred in Washington, D.C. on the 11th anniversary of the end of the Civil War as well as the 11th year anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  At the unveiling of a monument honoring Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, with President Ulysses S. Grant and all of official Washington present, Frederick Douglass spoke:

It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man…

He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration… My white fellow-citizens… you are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.

Excerpt from oration delivered by Frederick Douglas at the Unveiling of The Freedmen’s Monument in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., April 14 1876

That speech was given in 1876. It is 2019. Have things changed? Externally, yes.

However, haven’t I been reading how the Executive Branch, the Congress, our Supreme Court are colluding and searching for ways to limit and deconstruct the civil rights legislation LBJ pushed through after JFK’s assassination.

Isn’t this what happened to the promises of Reconstruction after the Civil War?

I think this is the time to bring out my favorite Voltaire quote (a very dear, very old, very close friend of mine),

“History doesn’t repeat itself.  People do.”

The Birth of a Nation – 1915

How’s this for a suggestion? LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING

Look for the Silver Lining was one of my mother’s favorite songs so we know this is an ancient tune. Praise the internet for shortening research time.  Look for the Silver Lining, written in 1919 (the year my mother married) by Jerome Kern and Buddy DeSylva for the Broadway show SALLY.

I was not a child until at the very least, 1938. I remember my mother telling me how she went to see Sally in the 1920’s, falling in love with the star of that show, Marilyn Miller and the Silver Lining song she sang.

sally-poster

As I write this now, I ponder, was that the reason I was named Sally? Then why did my mother add the hyphen and the Jane?  Since she is the only one knows the answer, I shall add it to my ever-growing mountain of unanswered questions.  Am’t I supposed to get smarter as I get older?  I used to think so.  I think whatever intelligence I thought I had has definitely reversed direction and is heading towards oblivion.  And I have to tell you, on certain days  I am mightily relieved… oblivion is so much nicer than the news.

But I digress (my favorite pastime and present-time, too)!

Here are my suggestions… I chose the song, Look For the Silver Lining because of two recent movies I was privileged to see, both documentaries.

Now for those of you who don’t know me – give me good trash! As a  friend of mine once said, “Oh, Sally-Jane, she can be had by the commercials.” That was before I became addicted to streaming. And now I don’t know from commercials… so I save myself for the trash.  That is, until seeing these two documentary films.

RBG.jpgRBG, the title of the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, our Supreme Court Justice, who like Atlas single-handedly holds the world safe to keep it from spinning out of orbit. Well, that’s what it feels like for me, my friends.  In future history books, she will be known as The Great Dissenter.  And I feel, every dissenting opinion she writes will, when we straighten up this mess, be turned into laws that will help not hinder the people. It is also the very candid and real journey of a woman climbing a female sand mountain.  I would like to think it’s not as high a mountain as it used to be. But the verdict isn’t in yet, I fear.

The second documentary is, Moving Stories about The Battery Dance Company in New York City.

Moving StoriesThis is not just another dance company looking for funds. (Tell me any cultural organization you know that isn’t having difficulty getting funding for their programs.  Museums, orchestras, non-profit theatres they are all in trouble). This dance company has a very unusual program.  As someone put it quite succinctly, ”this documentary titled, Moving Stories, shows dance as soft power supporting people that political and social failures have hurt.”

The film profiles the Dancing to Connect program of Battery Dance Company. Six empathetic and inspirational dancers from the company each travel to 6 different locations around the world – New Delhi, Bucharest (Roma children), Busam (where traumatized children escaped North Korea), and defectors from China mix with South Korean teens to create motion through their emotions, and a young Iraq hip-hop dancer, given lessons through Skype moves towards his destiny.

Moving Stories is about far more than how Dancing to Connect teaches stigmatized, abused, frightened children to dance.  It is about how the children learn to unlock their hesitation and dance together. Together…. oh, what a lovely word!

Just so we are clear. I have not given up my good trash viewing.  However, what I have done, for myself, and hopefully, for those who are interested is to signal for all who are depressed by a world gone mad – a light at the end of the tunnel.  Otherwise known as hope (and I don’t care what you say this is not a dirty word… another lovely word… how’s this – “Together hope”?)  Hey guys, who knows maybe the world has always been mad.  Yet another question for my growing mountain of unanswered questions.

Maybe that is why the song popped into my head.  Sure the lyrics are cornball and cliché, but isn’t it written somewhere, it’s only a cliché because it is true.  Well, if it isn’t written somewhere, it is now.

Here are the cornball cliché lyrics:

Look for the silver lining
Whenever a cloud appears in the blue
Remember, somewhere the sun is shining
And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you
A heart full of joy and gladness
Will always banish sadness and strife
So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life
One more suggestion… Won’t you join me as we sing together in hope?

Love ~ Sally-Jane

Humanity Doesn’t Mix with Politics (so far)

As I watch the leaves change and fall, mostly fall without changing this year, I hear two questions consistently from friends, relatives, and passers-by:

  1. How did this happen?
  2. Are people ever going to be nice again?

There are plenty of pundits that give chapter and verse concerning both of these questions. Answers are about economics, racism, politics as given reasons for the way the vote went and for the lack of civility. Yes, I think they are connected… somewhat. But that is not all of it.

Alright already, so what happened??? Phew! I never thought you’d ask.

Sub-CMS_VietnamV2The following thoughts were provoked by my viewing the PBS series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick – The Vietnam War. And over the course of very intense viewing, my thoughts began to brew and now they are spilling over. Ready or not, I want to share because I believe we can be better and nicer, no matter who we voted for.

My thoughts before viewing: I was a 30-year-old unpolitical wife, mother of 3 babies, and a professional actor, singer, dancer living in Washington, D.C., a city that had no rights and an 80 percent black population. In this city of political shenanigans, I was innocent, which is another word for dumb. I read newspaper headlines and scripts. Viewing this series  began my late education of Vietnam. My passion for movies gave me somewhat of a head start.

Two films. Indochine, a French movie starring Catherine Deneuve and an American cult classic, Medium Cool. The French film gave me a history of Vietnam – brilliant and devastating. The second was shock treatment for this American, thinking it couldn’t happen here – the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago with the world watching as Mayor Daly’s storm troopers beat the anti-war demonstrators. I remember running around the house screaming “This can’t be happening! This can’t… someone is going to stop it… Isn’t someone, please, going to stop it?!” I was awakened from a deep sleep. And it wasn’t by anything as gentle as a sweet kiss. It was the rudest awakening ever!

To begin with, I began my viewing with one chapter (2 hours) a night. However, after the first five chapters, I had difficulty sleeping. I also noticed I was holding onto my chair like I was being sent to the moon. Such tension! And though at this point I knew what was happening and what was going to happen, I kept talking to the television and telling it, “No, don’t let it happen, please, don’t!”

I fell in love with all the foot soldiers – American, North and South Vietnamese – that were interviewed so many years later. Every one of the grunts, airmen, seamen… and all the others who, as Westmoreland and Lyndon Johnson kept increasing the draft, were being sent to Vietnam and I wondered how Ken Burns had found them. They came to do what their fathers did in World War II and when they got to Vietnam, recognized this wasn’t Europe or even Japanese occupied islands… this was a Political Swamp... Having nothing to do with helping anyone except politicians in their quest for elected office. Sound familiar???

And that’s when I decided I had to pace myself. From number 6 to the last of the series, I watched one every three days. Not only was I able to sleep, but I was able to think through each one I had seen and slowly, as I said at the beginning, my thoughts took me to new places that connected dots in a way I had not previously been aware of.

nixon_thieu

As Nixon became the spokesperson of The Silent Majority, (I had forgotten that one), everything I believed in, all the brilliant history of The Founding Fathers, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, were being used as kindling for a fire that is still raging.

Then there was Kent State. The National Guard and State troopers shot and killed college students on their own campus during an anti-war demonstration. I don’t think I was the only one who walked around afterward in a disbelieving daze. But did you know that in a poll 58 percent of the American people approved of the shooting?

All of this and more came out in this series. And I am thinking, “This is not new.”

Here’s what I need to know…  how do these beautiful soldiers, sailors, airmen, POWs on all sides… how do they make sense of a war where so many died, were wounded and when they returned were shunned and shamed. These are the true poets of this series.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, in the last installment, throw us a life raft. And if you choose to, you can climb into it with me… It involves the selection and building of the Vietnam Memorial.  The meaning of it to the veterans who make a constant stream of visits to touch a name, to say a prayer, to be where a buddy they lost can for the moment be found. And even more thrilling, the story of the many Vietnam veterans who returned to Vietnam to redeem and reconcile their tours of duty to help rebuild a destroyed country.

Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu created an environment in South Africa of reconciliation and truth-telling.

The first President of the first all-German Parliament after World War II, Richard  von Weizsäcker had this to say,

“The desire to forget prolongs the exile, and the secret of salvation is remembrance. We cannot save ourselves, nor can we undo what has been done. We have lived through unfathomable and abysmal events and take part in them. But one thing we can and must do. Look at our past steadily, recognize its truth. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations.”

OK guys… all praise to PBS, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and all who made it possible to help us look at our past without punishment or judgment.  Yes, you can disagree with various points in this series, but you cannot disagree that it is time to look at this most divisive war and how it ruptured the country.  With the direction our country is moving, along with the lack of civility I referred to at the start of this blog, it’s worth looking at…

Do not look away.

Do not say that was then.

Do not say now is now.

Because, my dear friends, now is then.

The men and women in this film give new meaning to forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation.

If they can make nice, what’s your problem?

Love, Sally-Jane