I wonder why I feel so discombobulated. Don’t you just love that word? It feels like what it means, right? Every morning I awake hoping as I check the news services, a habit I am going to break any day now, that during the night the Good Fairy has worked his, her, they, them magic and people have come to their senses. We have stopped violating each other physically, verbally, emotionally, psychologically.
Honestly, I do not understand. It seems only minutes ago I was reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing the Star Spangled Banner in my Brooklyn, N.Y. classroom of mixed Americans and immigrants. Everything was far from alright. We were in the midst of World War II. That was a time we came together against a common enemy. Is that the problem? If we are all potential enemies to each other we no longer have a common one. Was I just another kid who drank the Kool-aid? I wanted to give everyone who was suffering from the forces of evil… the Nazis and Japanese War Lords… a free ticket to the land of the free and the home of the brave. After all, when my father was a young boy, he had had a ticket (I’m sure not free) from somewhere in Eastern Europe to the Statue of Liberty. I am definitely a product of The American Dream. What happened?
Somewhere along the way we humans are losing our ability to adapt. Evolution, development, dare I say, maturity is all about improvisation. Isn’t that how a bunch of single cells became a Brontosaurus? (check out a new book by Steve Brusatte, The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs)
I do not want to join the growing parade of naysayers. I would rather believe any situation we humans find ourselves in is yet another opportunity to create a different, and dare I hope, better world. Please don’t roll your eyes any further back into your head. You will lose them. I realize it is not going well anywhere. But that doesn’t mean I am down in the dirt ready to holler UNCLE. (see Debbie Reynolds as The Unsinkable Molly Brown… she is inspirational)
Far from it. I am happy to sing along with the former Washington Senators Baseball team in the movie, Damn Yankees
Some days it pays to be old. Today, the day after Roe vs. Wade was overturned, is one of those. In my small world, young friends and relatives are numb with the shock of it. No matter that it was expected. No matter three Justices on the Supreme Court lied about their position on the Amendment. Although, I have a sense, if we read carefully what they said, these particular Justices, in splendid legalese, evaded sharing the essence of their true thoughts. How many times have cases hung on the wordage of lawyers in their evasion of truth? I lost count.
I want my shocked friends and relations to take a deep breath. Please! Try this perspective on for size. It took over two hundred years to pass any Civil Right legislation; we failed to pass an Equal Rights Amendment; we only recently passed the Emmett Till anti-lynching law. All to say, even as we use pronouns and surgical procedures to challenge gender fluidity, human progress is slow and recalcitrant.
A few days before the RvW decision, a friend expressed her feeling that misogyny was on the rise. I thought about that. And here is my response. It is not on the rise because it has never actually gone away. From time immemorial we are and always have been the Second Sex; not because there are two sexes so there is one that is a male and one that is a female. The Second Sex, in my thinking, has always meant the lesser. At least, in the animal kingdom, femaledom is not thought of as less or weaker. The animal female is about form and function. Until the male animal develops teets and a uterus, there is no argument. Oh, sure there are fights over a female when mating. However, that particular characteristic belongs to the male animal and human. The female has better things to do with her time than strut, spread her feathers, and punch someone out for staring. Don’t yell at me for making certain generalizations. I have a point to make. And I always allow for exceptions except when I don’t want to ….
OK, misogyny and Roe vs. Wade. The overturn is the ultimate sign it is more overt than ever before. I think we can look at the laws that have chained women to the purpose that men have enacted to keep them “safe” and “secure”. And do not leave out the women who have ably assisted such men in their drive to help keep women in their place. There have always been women who operate in a world within the hidden power of their sex, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically. They are the ones with secrets. If you find a hard nosed male misogynist, I would almost bet the farm that behind that male is a woman who uses her female power to manipulate the male. In the past, women’s power came from manipulating her husband and sons. I am sad to say this has not changed. Phyllis Schlafly, all her predecessors and her future sister, Amy Coney Barrett, understood there was a power loss in equality. But succor the male ego and animus and your queendom is assured and HE would never know what hit him.
How do we fight this dreaded return to women baiting and hating? Here is where perspective raises its all important head. In my life it has always been two steps forward, one step back. I was the 1950’s wife, the 1960’s mother, and onward through the decades of, first I get it then I don’t. The yin/yang of life had me crossing my ankles to keep my skirt from rising to dancing to the devil’s music, (Oh My I love Rock and Roll…I still do) and embarrassing my children. Assassinations. The Watergate Hearings. Viet Nam.
My children ask questions. I don’t have answers. What happened? My parents always had answers. As my children struggle to make sense of their world, I struggle to make sense of mine. We agree. We don’t agree. We grow apart. We come together. Being in this family is a moveable feast. Life just moves from one beat to another. What is more important than agreeing or disagreeing is to LOVE one another.
So this animosity against women, this attempt to chain us to laws that inhibit our freedom and our choices will ultimately fail because we shall birth children that will know better because we know better. That is how I woke up today… and you????
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️
P.S. I though of another solution to the Supreme Court. Since it is determined to be out of touch with the real world, I think we should stop appealing to them to make important judicial decisions. Instead, we should convert the Supreme Cours to a Traffic Court.
The Conservative majority would make perfect Traffic Court Justices. Our roads would be safer and our tax coffers would be ful.
Right??!! Of, course, right!!
As a human being, it is natural to try to avoid pain. In certain situations, this isn’t the best course of action, as made apparent by the following comment on this post, and my response:
Thanks for this, Mumsie.
While ultimately perspective must always be the landing spot, I suggest you move too quickly past the actual moment at hand. There has to be space to rage and cry. All of that is its own fuel for better breathing – and action. So yes to the ultimate analysis – but while you speak of the time it takes to make change, we must also account for the millions of lives that will be harmed RIGHT NOW by this decision. We can’t breeze past that no matter how much perspective we have. It is devastating for so many directly, and freedom is lost for us all. Gotta make space to rail about all that. Not so fast wise one!
My Dear Daughter,
You are so right.it is an egregious omission. Thank you for setting me aright.
In my rush to soothe and calm waters I have removed the howl of pain from the sting of outrageous fortune. Something I unfortunately have a tendency to do in my own life. The howl and outrage are necessary like the Māori Warriors preparation for battle
As you have written, It gives birth to the action necessary to curb old white men and men and women of color who are old and white from the damage they do as they lose their power.
My 101 year old brother sent me this photo of his latest achievement, the completion of this model of the airplane Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927.
I am bowled over in awe, which doesn’t come often for me. For one thing, he doesn’t look like any 101 year old person I know. True, I don’t know many 101 year old people. I don’t think there are many 101 year old people and certainly fewer who work on and complete a detailed model airplane, which requires dexterity, concentration, and abilities that many younger folk might be stymied by.
I emailed the photo to family and friends. I received in return an email from a nephew with a copy of a 2001 Flying Models Magazine with a feature on my brother.
My brother turned 80 in 2000 There was a celebration in Los Angeles. He had moved to California from New York many years prior. Personally, I think that saved his creative life. After all, without the impeding judgment of nearby family life can be more free and easy, right?
A little backstory, I was the seventh in a family of eight. It was actually two families. Let me explain. My oldest brother, miracle man here, was born in 1920. After him in fairly quick succession came four more children. The first five of what I call the “older part” of the family. Then came a couple of birthing break years due to miscarriages and other problems. As the depression started to heat up, out pops three more… The “younger part” of the family. I was born in 1933. Older brother in 1920, so there was enough of a gap that in no way did we have any real contact. By the time I was in elementary school, he was eloping and going off to war. He won’t talk about any of his time in Europe during World War II other than to say he was in the Battle of the Bulge. A battle I have read about and understand why he won’t talk about it. My only real contact with him after he returned from the war was after we began our Heit Family get togethers. And that was cursory at best with a quick peck and an even quicker “how are you?”, which really should have been, “who are you?”.
I had no idea who my oldest brother was and visa versa. Each of us had what I call a family myth. His was his genius in designing model airplanes. At 17 he sold the first of many of his designs. Since that had nothing to do with my wanting to be Shirley Temple … who cared?
We arrive now to the year 2,000 and an invitation to attend his 80th birthday party in Los Angeles. For your perspective, I was 67 years old.
By this time, I had already lost one brother from the older part of the family. I didn’t know who he was either. I knew my three sisters a little more because somehow I think we bonded purely along male/female battle lines… four girls, four boys. It was us against them and it made for a little closer harmony. Not necessarily more intimate, but more in the spirit of camaraderie. Probably because girls, even with rampant sibling rivalry, tend to be closer in relationships.
All to say, I was going to try and find out who he was before attending the celebration. It’s the decent thing to do, right? Even then, I devoured mystery books and detective novels. So, now was the time to put what tools I acquired into practice. I began by buying every airplane model magazine I could find. I discovered the model airplane industry is alive and well. He sold his first design in 1937 or 1938. There was no way to research magazines of that era because microfilming and digital articles didn’t exist. What to do? Light bulb! I looked in the classified ads in the back of the magazine. In a section titled Antique Models was a list of individuals who sold kits of older model airplanes. I started calling around and asking if anyone knew of a Raymond Heit model airplane kit. The nays had it. At last, one man I called responded in what I heard as excited abandonment. He yelled, ”Ray?? Ray Heit??? I said, “Yes”. He said, “That is so interesting! I flew his Bayridge Mike in a competition last weekend and I won!”
Initially, it was Greek to me but he finally translated. Bayridge Mike is my brother’s first design and this man won a recent competition with his model of that design.
His name was Jim Alaback and he was out of his mind with joy when I told him Ray Heit was still alive. I explained I was Raymond Heit’s sister. I wanted to give him a gift of some of his old model plane kits for his 80th birthday. He put me in touch with a man in Oregon who sells antique kits. I thanked him and called the Oregonian. He had two of my brother’s designs from the late 1930’s and sent them to me. He, too, was glad to know Ray Heit was still alive and kicking. He had recently competed with his own model of Bayridge Mike and won.
Jim Alaback called me back. Among other things, he was a stringer for Flying Models Magazine. He lived in San Diego and now that he knew Raymond was in California as well, he wondered if he could get in touch with Raymond to interview him for the magazine.
Start the drum roll now. Hey, we all know I am a performer and at 67 I was still tripping the boards. Lest we forget all my siblings were present, minus one. In the family, I was known disparagingly as “the actress”. I was not about to let this opportunity go, to show my siblings that I was more than “just an actress”. And I didn’t.
Most importantly, my oldest brother, who typically maintains “cool” as his permanent temperature, was singularly not cool. I was moved by personal revelations about a brother I did not know. The cherry on the cake was a planned interview with Alaback for the magazine.
And that is the one with the article my nephew recently sent to me.
Following the party, there was a meeting of minds and sensitivities of brother #1 with sister #7. A deepening of the connection which has everything to do with family and nothing to do with family. We had discovered each other and to this day maintain a growing and affectionate relationship. He has a passion that won’t quit. I believe it is that passion that gives his life the best defense against death.
Sending me a photo of himself at 101, 21 years after his 80th party, stirred the memory pot. As to that, I am of two different minds… so what else is new? Too much memory mucking around is not good, for it takes me out of the present where I need to be to keep my anxious tendencies tampered down. And yet, how important it is to keep those memories alive, both the yin and yang. They add texture and depth to a life lived.
Blending memories and realities is key to keeping my balance. For me, this photo has elements of the past, the present and the future. This my friends is Golden. Pure Gold.
Once again, the helplessness I feel from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, invades my being. As I go through the motions of my day, thoughts and frustrations of what is happening in and around Ukraine, are never far from my consciousness and always in my subconscious. Really, my friends, how could it not be? As a history buff, World War III is a button away and again we have a dictator who is a look-and-psycho-a-like of the last dictator who took the world to the brink of annihilation. Grrrrrrr.
I shall, of course, do what I can to help. But before I whirl myself into butter, in looking for a distraction, I found one.
If you have the time, follow me. I went from thinking about NATO to Harry S Truman, our 33rd President. I remembered David McCullogh wrote a biography of Truman. I began reading. It’s a minutely researched book which means it’s got a lot of pages which means it’s very heavy. I don’t know about you but over 500 pages I have to put it on my Kindle. I miss the feel of the book in my hands, but my arms are very grateful. So I am enjoying the story of this man who began his political career as part of a major political boss gang (think Tammany Hall in NYC, Curly in Boston, Kelley and Daly in Chicago). In Missouri it was The Pendergasts. Truman’s rise from local Judge to U.S. Senator was very interesting because he was this peculiar mix of “good ‘ole boy” and “honest harry”. So how did this guy get to be the Vice Presidential choice on the ticket in 1944 along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bid for an unprecedented 4th term.
McCullogh’s description of Truman’s Vice Presidential selection reminded me of Robert Caro’s book, The Passage of Power, and his description of LBJ’s selection as Vice President for JFK’s presidential election campaign of 1960. FDR, JFK, LBJ… enough already!!!
Have you fallen asleep yet?
We all know I have a weird sense of humor among other things. For me, Truman’s and LBJ’s selection as the Vice Presidential candidate has all the makings of a Marx Brothers/Frank Capra movie.
Come on guys, admit it, Capra and Marx… it would be amazing.
Picture this: It’s July, 1944, in like before air conditioning-can’t-breathe-hot-Chicago. The political bosses were gathered in the 7th floor Blackstone Hotel room of a Roosevelt politico Robert Hannegan, later to become Post Master General of the United States… have you noticed how that particular political appointment always goes to the person who has never bought a stamp, no less mailed a letter. The bosses, stripped down to shirt sleeves, puffing away at their cigars, guzzling bourbon and other libations (the women were probably waiting on another floor). Each boss was lying through so many teeth it’s a wonder they had any left. I don’t know how they managed it but each one had their own letter or a note or the back of an envelope or a laundry receipt, that was signed by FDR stating Truman was his choice. Time was short so no one checked if the signature was forged. But, since they were each a boss , no one was challenged. Some of the lesser-in-the-know bosses had to be reminded who Truman was. FYI, Pendergast was probably the only boss who wasn’t in the room, as he was getting ready to go to jail for Income Tax Evasion [years before Al Capone did too]. Since each one had the only legitimate signed note from FDR, they unanimously agreed.
The climax of the film is back at the Convention Hall as Wallace supporters stir the frenzied crowd to renominate their candidate. Senator Claude Pepper from Florida understood if he didn’t get up to the Platform to nominate Wallace at this very moment his nomination would not make it into the next day. It was now or never.
Here is a real cinematic moment. From the back of the convention hall he races through the crazy crowds… like a quarterback with the winning touchdown in his hands. He arrives huffing and puffing to the platform. A friendly face opens the gate to the steps to the platform. The Chairman of the convention spots Pepper. Slams down the gavel. Declares the business of the convention over for that day. The next day the New York Boss Edward Flynn throws New York’s votes to Truman. As the roll is called, delegates sense the change of direction, aka patronage and appointments. Wallace is defeated by the landslide for Truman.
Harry Truman’s vice presidential anointment came out of the ether because the Democratic political bosses of the era thought Henry Wallace, FDR’s current Vice President, would lose the South for Roosevelt. Wallace was an intellectual… what was he doing in politics? He was a real liberal. He and Mrs. Roosevelt were champions of the “Negro Race”. No question. He’d lose the South. Same scenario with Kennedy and LBJ. In both campaigns The South held the winning election card. If you were a liberal, you needed a southerner on your ticket. I’m not sure much has changed.
You couldn’t make up this stuff. And here is the best part. We lucked out because it turned out Honest Harry was the salt of the earth kind of an American who understood the values of what a democracy is. After the horrors of World War II, in 1949, along with other member countries he founded NATO without which… well, actually, I don’t want to think about without which… ever.
Did Harry S Truman have zits and warts? You bet! Show me someone who is without, and I’ll show you someone who has a letter from the White House signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt choosing Truman as his running mate.
Myself: Putin! And if you quote Voltaire again to me, I shall silence you forever.
Me: No Voltaire! It is simply the human condition to follow the leader.
Myself: What’s that supposed to mean?
Me: From birth we are taken care of and even as we struggle for our independence at various stages of our life, there is a kind of comfort remembering and/or returning to when someone else was in charge of our life; making decisions, providing food, shelter, safety and for a few special supporters and defenders, oligarchilian privileges.
Myself: That’s a generalization!
Me: After reading about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hussein, Amin and now Putin, I am beginning to think the exceptions are losing ground and I am not sure why. Part of me thinks if it is not immediate, not in my vicinity it is ignorable. I can speak my soap box speech trippingly on my tongue about the outrageous fortunes of Ukrainians and any other peoples and land grab in the sight of Putin and his gang and still make my dinner reservations. In other words, a television war a la Viet Nam, et al.
Myself: You know I never realized you are a cynic and a defeatist.
Me: I am not. I am just trying to understand how in full sight we got us another monster.
Myself: Well, it’s not my fault. I didn’t vote for him.
Me: I know but people like you and me did vote for him. How?? Why?? And didn’t we do the same thing only a little over 4 years ago.
Myself: I knew it. You just can’t stay away from 2016.
Me: You’re right! I can’t. I want to know how we find ourselves again behind this eight ball of human error. But it is different this time. Hitler rose from the ashes of World War I along with a worldwide economic depression. Hitler not only promised the German people bread and autobahns (highways) but also a return to their former glory. As the German people struggled to survive they grabbed Hitler’s lifeboat.
Myself: You want to tell me what the hell this has to do with Putin?
Me: I am trying to figure that out myself, Self.
Myself: Well, hurry it up. I am not getting any younger.
Me: OK. Try this on for size. Putin came to power as the Soviet Union dissolved.
Myself: Girl, you are really reaching on this one.
Me: Wait! The Soviet Union consisted of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia… and more. Almost overnight this powerful Union was reduced to Russia alone.
Myself: Yeah, so???
Me: I think as Putin came to power, he vowed to himself and his fellow cronies that he would return the U.S.S.R. to its former glory. Hitler lookalike???
Myself: Why would you think that?
Me: Because Putin suffers from a Napoleon Complex.
Myself: Is this another one of your arm-chair psychoanalysis?
Me: Short men tend to compensate for their lack of height through domineering behavior and aggression. Provoking conflict and invading countries makes him feel taller. If you don’t believe me, ask Angela Merkle.
“I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man,” Merkel said. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”
Like I said…Napoleon Complex.
Combine Putin’s complex with the U.S.S.R. breakup, countries that provided Russia with political and economic advantages and you have the perfect storm to create the perfect monster. He may be short, but onabig white horse with his shirt off or his big black dog by his feet, invading the Crimea, Ukraine; the Soviet Union will be restored, Putin its Emperor aka WORLD CHAMPION BULLY.
Myself: Even for you, that’s a stretch.
Me: Maybe. But if the shoe fits…
**A PAUSE IN THE DIALOGUE WHILE ME AND MYSELF INDULGE IN A HARD THINK…**
Myself: I am not sure I agree with your reasoning behind Putin and his power grabs. I am sure he is a monster. What puzzles me most, after what the world has been through in just the twentieth century alone, how did he rise to power? And then I remember the quote from Edmund Burke
And this one from Primo Levi. Primo was an Italian chemist, partisan, writer and Jewish Holocaust survivor.
Me: It’s a sad realization.
Myself: It’s depressing.
Me: I have a crazy idea.
Myself: Another one?
Me: Do you remember Charlie Chaplin’s movie, The Dictator?
Myself: Seriously, has anyone ever examined your headball for loose screws.
Me: Let me show you something.
Myself: I take it back. Brilliant.
Me: So what I think is if we come together maybe… no guarantees… we can stop these monsters before they get started. Right???
Myself: We always do much better together. Of course, right!!!
Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️
P.S. This a really depressing time for many of us, coming out of the pandemic (if we actually are) and a war that no one thought was possible… I struggle to find the hope. And then, my daughter recommended I watch “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”… for which Jessica Chastain just won the SAG Award for Best Actress. Watch Tammy Faye to find hope? Are you nuts?! But I always listen to my daughters (when it suits me, of course). Do you yourself a favor my friends, DON’T MISS IT.
Maybe resolutions are out of fashion because they open you to judgement and criticism?
What am I talking about, you ask? Look guys… sit back and relax and let me try to explain not only to you, but to myself how my circuitous mind works.
I find it interesting that in conversations today, most particularly after you’ve opened yourself to how you think and feel with someone, their response to you can be something really hurtful and on occasion, downright cruel. This usually is followed by a coward’s cover-up of, “nothing personal”. Oh yeah, right!!!
As the world divides (and the divisions are growing like viruses in a petri dish), there are fewer and fewer conversations without the “nothing personal” caveat. This caveat allows us humans to judge, criticize, and obliterate the others.
Definition of The Others: They don’t look like you. The don’t think like you. They don’t talk like you. You get the idea.
This makes me aware of the loss of our moral muscles. Muscles I took for granted would always be there. Like everything else worth holding onto, if you don’t practice, if you don’t use those muscles, you lose those muscles. I never thought I would witness such a profound and growing loss. And it’s not just here… it is worldwide. When 9/11 happened, there was a moment, literally just a moment, where the world came together in shock, pain… a global sense of the outrage, the grief, the loss. That moment, unfortunately, was squandered and I believe we continue our downward spiral culminating in the current divisive incivility.
In this environment, it is difficult to make any resolutions.
And yet, I believe these once a year resolutions, particularly in times of stress, sturm and drang, have a special purpose. They take us out of ourselves into a world of others. Think about it. Isn’t it a kind of ritual (only after the family geshtangananga, of course), when you sit down at a Thanksgiving table to go around and have each person give their thanks for whatever? Well, New Years’ Eve or New Years Day is the time to look over the year and resolve ways and habits to give you not a face lift but a life lift. Right?
Phew! We finally got to where I wanted to go from the beginning. Like I said before a circuitous route.
As an 88 year old woman living in the Pandemic of Covid, circa year two going into year three, I am on my knees in gratitude for my vaccinations and booster, my masks, provision of clean water for drinking and washing, good food, shelter, clothing. I resolve to not take any of this for granted. I further resolve to hold any whining about any inconvenience in my life to an in-my-closet-stifled-silent-scream.
I resolve to contribute to certified organizations that bring health, cleanliness, food, and shelter to peoples in need. (The link above is not a recommendation, simply a list.)
And most importantly, I resolve to take myself out of myself. It can really get so boring in there. Let me tell you… nothing leads to depression more than boredom. Depression is not a good thing for anyone. For the elderly it is a disaster. You hear me? A disaster. So stop already.
I can just hear you, guys…. ”Oh, sure. That’s easy for you to say.”
A lot you know.
Nothing is easy for anyone who once was able to do or be or say anything and now cannot, whether due to age or money or health or any change. Even though it is the only constant, humans don’t do change very well. It takes us forever to figure out the obvious. Dare I write the words Climate Change… oops, I just did.
You already know that laughing lowers blood pressure and raises spirits. Here is something else you can try. And remember you don’t have to sing or dance. Just look as this guy. He can’t do either and they love HIM…
Your first quiz, for a free pass and tour of the National Archive Building:
What Federal Building in Washington, D.C. has that statement inscribed on it?
You are just too smart for me. You are right!
Sooo…. What has any of this to do with anything? You always know the right question to ask.
The news of the world at the present time gives me very little pleasure. I really do try to limit the news media of the day, but somehow it creeps in, not on little cat paws, but earthquaking Shrek-sized feet. I have lost my Pollyanna credentials, but still keep an optimist’s eye, even if it is a little cockeyed, on what I read and experience. I don’t know about you but for me it is getting harder and harder to join Candide (by my dear friend Voltaire’s character) in his famous exclamation,
“This is the best of all possible worlds.”
Really??? I don’t think so!!! Maybe instead he should exclaim along with the rest of us as we struggle with the ways of the world,
How many times can I quote Voltaire again? “History doesn’t repeat itself. People do.”
If something still bites me, I shall of course put my Five Hundred Dollars in. It used to be two cents but with inflation…
So I am going to go back into my memories to write about them. Not to worry family and friends, no names. And the only fool you will find in my stories? C’est moi.
Here’s a sample…
Even if I need fingers and toes to count, I think I can figure it out. I just turned 88, right? So if this wedding took place when I was 8, then that was 80 years ago. Get out! 80 years ago… Yikes… we are talking 1941. On October 19, 1941 my eldest sister got married.
I was there and I loved every minute of it. Against parental sturm and drang, the lovers persevered. Like every World War II movie you ever saw. The parents said wait until the war was over. Unequivocally, my sister said, NO! (You must have heard that word from her a million times) Well, having missed out on my eldest brother’s wedding because they had eloped (which they were never forgiven for), Nana surrendered and told Pop to surrender too. (That’s the kind of marriage they had) Here comes the juicy stuff.
It was to be a home wedding…
~ SJ Heit October 19, 2021
Stories like that one give me a sense of peace and continuity. As I begin to write some memories, there are many thoughts that crowd into an already overcrowded mindball. I think the most important thought for me is this…
When does my memory meet with a perspective that will allow me to remember the memory and at the same time, give it enough air to be able to see it in a perspective of whatever smarts I have gleaned over these many years?
Not many, I can assure you.
My favorite Three Little Words have always been, I LOVE YOU. Abused, misused, and ultimately, on good days with great humility, expanded to include the judged, and found wanting persons who brought grief to my person; a real achievement for this Master of Judgement. Today those 3 words are neck and neck with these 3 words, I DON’T KNOW (for every control freak I have ever known, including yours truly, this is yet another miracle).
There will be some memories that I shall want to share with you and some I shall not. Not because of shame or guilt. Come on guys, we have all lived with those emotions forever, so as not helpful as they are, they are very familiar. And in this case, familiarity really does breed contempt. Most importantly, hopefully, there is a way to acknowledge their presence and yet fold them into my life.
Oi vey, who asked me to do this? No one, that’s who.
Not true. I am asking me to do this.
Today, this is the phrase I trot out for all important occasions and decisions, IF NOT NOW, WHEN???!!!
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.
If I don’t measure the amount of media in my daily diet, I will suffer from Press Plaque Buildup.
The main symptom of this disease is cynicism. Sometimes I don’t even know I have fallen into this state. I am so involved in staying involved and current, I don’t see my hope and positivity slip and slide right out of my brain ball into the flotsam on the jetsam (the lost and local river of my mind).
I am pulled back from the precipice by art or music or nature or my favorite online newsletter BRAINPICKINGS. Replace the word NEWS with ART…which it is for me an ARTLETTER for the mind.
Recently, my level of press plaque buildup has hit a new high. What with Afghanastan , vaccinate vs. unvaccinate, mask or unmask, airline passengers assaulting attendants, to Boost or not to Boost, Red States vs. Blue states, why was Ted Lasso Christmas Show shown in August, my brain was spinning from positive to negative from hopeful to hopeless.
If any of what I’ve written resonates with you, my dear friends and family, I wish you a speedy recovery from the crazy world we live in, which by the way has always been crazy…take a look at any era… lions chasing Jews/Christians in an arena (personally I prefer to watch the Jets chase the Marlins), Whites chasing anyone of any color, Christians chasing Muslims in the Holy Land, Southerners chasing Northerners followed by Northerners chasing Southerners….endless.
To help that recovery, please read and I promise you will be converted from a Cynic, which we all now is nothing but a disappointed idealist, to your true, beautiful hopeful self.