The Business of Living is the Best Defense Against Death – Just ask my 101 year old brother

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. 

The Original Heits c.1938 in Atlantic City
The Seven Heits at Raymond’s 80th Birthday Party in 2000

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.

Right??? Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

RANDOM THOUGHTS WHILE WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO STOP THIS WAR

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.

Right???  Of course, right!!!

STOP THIS WAR!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Dialogue With Myself: How Monsters Are Made

Myself:  How did this happen again?

Me:  What?

Myself:  Where did this monster come from?

Me:  Who?

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 on a big 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 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. 

Edmund Burke

And this one from Primo Levi.  Primo was an Italian chemist, partisan, writer and Jewish Holocaust survivor.

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous.  More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

Primo Levi

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.

Did You Make A Resolution?

Did anyone you know make a resolution?

What is a New Years’ Resolution?

Is it a wish?

Is it a prayer?

Is it a confession?

Is it none of the above?

Is it all of the above?

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.

MY RESOLUTIONS:  

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.

The Scream
Edvard Munch

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…

 Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

What Is Past Is Prologue

My Dear Friends and Family,

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!

Northeast corner of the National Archives  Building in Washington, D.C.

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,

“Wha’ happened?”

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).

The Heit Family on the Atlantic City Boardwalk Circa 1938

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???!!!

Right??  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

Who Was Here First?

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 with The 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.  

Right??? Of course, right!!!!

 Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Here are lists for books and memoirs on Immigration.
https://www.businessinsider.com/best-immigrant-memoirs-books
https://www.lirs.org/books-about-immigration

And some Films.
Golden Door
America America
Amistad
PBS Trail of Tears trailer

And finally, I leave you with this…

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 ❤️

Press Plaque Buildup

My Dear Friends ~

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.

TA-DA!!!!  Like the midweek pick up it purports to be there is this wonderful article on and about Leonard Bernstein and so much of what I thought and what he did and how he navigated his creative and difficult world brought back into the light and the hope.

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.

Right??  Of course, right!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

IF DIVORCE IS THE ONLY ANSWER, WHAT IS THE QUESTION???

Can we tawk???

OK, before we do, you have to read this article a friend recently sent me. It’s this Op-Ed piece originally from the Los Angeles Times.

Please click here to read it.  I’ll wait for you…

Stirring?? Isn’t it?? I have been reading and rereading it since I received it and I still don’t know what I think?

Not true! I do know. Here are some of my thoughts. 

Personally, I find it as humorous as the author meant it to be. However, almost as soon as I start laughing, I start crying about the utter tragedy of the whole idea. I’d love to say this is a new idea brought on by the political polarizations of the past president and his administration of four years culminating in the 2020 Presidential election, but that would not be the truth. Though I am no historian, I do know these differences were there from the very beginning.  As the representatives of the original 13 states gathered in Philadelphia from 1774-1781 every difference written about in this Divorce, American Style article, was as pronounced then as it is now. This time frame included the 1776 meeting, where the delegates read George III of Great Britain the riot act in the form of the Declaration of Independence which doubled as our Declaration of War against England.  

I would love to have been a fly on the wall (definitely a fly more better than a mosquito, don’cha think?) as they tried to hammer out their differences. And here is my own personal conclusion. They never did. You could say it was a pile up of differences; food, hobbies, language, culture, education and don’t forget the heat. Yeah, maybe, a little of this, a little of that. I say nay! It was always all about slavery aka race. The success of the economic and political life of the South was based on  the continued use and import of slaves kidnapped from Africa. And please spread the blame, from fellow Africans seeking to make a buck and settle their own political squabbles, to profits for the seafaring industry of the North. Ultimately, the largest consumers in the slave trade was the South which, at that time included Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia.  Maryland was borderline abusers/users. The Northern States were not absolved from abusing/using slaves. Simply put my friends, their numbers didn’t compare with the South.

I’m going on and on about slavery like it was the only issue because in my mind it is the only issue. Oh, sure, you have taxes, roads and many other state issues but none as huge, ugly and ever present as the story of slavery in this country.

Recently I read an article in the New Yorker about the Brits having their awareness jostled as they come to the realization of how many of the fabulous country houses in their National Trust Register were built on the backs of slaves from British plantations in the West Indies and Jamaica. Don’t even think about returning to Downton Abbey or Upstairs to the Downstairs. Or, is it the other way around? 

Back to the article. I agree with much of what Mr. Vandevelder asked for in the divorce… I don’t feel that strongly about Las Vegas or Disneyland… aren’t they the same thing??

There have been so many attempts to leave each other over the years. One that cost the lives of 618,222  Americans. A number that up until the Vietnam War surpassed all other wars combined.  No matter what they say about war, death is not a contest.  But for your edification: North: 360,222. South: 258,000. North or South, War or Peace, Death SUCKS!!!

Here’s my conclusion and I am beyond ready to listen to all arguments, discussions, pro… con… sitting on a fence… or straddling. If you can’t honor the Constitution of the United States and all its laws and amendments, if you can’t allow someone to have a different opinion from your opinion, if the only way you can respect or accept a person of any color, religion or nationality is to enslave, cage or kill them, then this dream is done.  

However, you should kow that I am always up for a last chance miracle.

The rise of the power of the internet, social and news media, promotes confusion, fear and anger to a pitch were we seem to have lost our abilities to listen or even hear each other.  If we can’t understand or communicate, we might as well throw our humanity to the lions. And let me tell you something about lions. They are not dumb. Throw a person without his or her or their humanity to the lions they will take one sniff and ⚡️SHAZAM⚡️ … VEGETARIANS!!]

So???  What’s it to be???  Hope with a soupcon of peace and reconciliation and the return of when our humanity was delicious or…

THE END

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Oh, by the way this article was written in 2012. I am of the belief that the only constant in life is change… or is it?

Congress: Has it always been this way??

My Dear Friends and Family,

“So what is she talking about, now?”

So glad you asked. And if you thought you’d get a direct answer…fuggetaboutit!

Most know I am the 7th of 8 siblings. Of the 8 only 4 remain. The three youngest (oh, to be called youngest at 90, 88, 85) and the oldest brother of the whole clan… 101 years young with all his marbles intact.  Periodically, we check in with each other. 

A sample check in:

Sally-Jane:  Hi, Raymond, how are you?

Raymond:  Still here.

Sally-Jane:  This is a good thing.

Raymond:  It’ll do until something better comes along.

Sally-Jane:  That’s why you are still here. There is nothing better.

Raymond:  I’ll take your word for it.

Sally-Jane:  So what are you reading?

Raymond: For Liberty and Glory by James R. Gaines.  It’s about Washington, Lafayette and their Revolutions.  I am really enjoying it.

Sally-Jane:  Oh, yes, I read about it. I’d like to read it.

Raymond:  Well, I’ll send it to you when I finish it. 

Sally-Jane:  Great!

Raymond:  On second thought you better get your own copy.  At the rate I read, maybe you’ll get it before I die, maybe you won’t. 

I got my own copy. Reading it provoked the above question, “Congress. Has it always been thus?”

The Continental Congress in July of 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the former colonies of Great Britain to be independent sovereign states, declaring war on Great Britain . 

There were no political parties at the 1776 Congress. There were just 13 SOVEREIGN STATES… maybe like 13 political parties.  How were  the representatives of Massachusetts going to agree with representatives of New York, no less with representatives of South Carolina; issues of culture, geography, climate, to put self interest before common interest.  All issues combined to make their individual State legislatures vastly more important than any central government.  

Indeed, the first several Congresses after the Second Continental Congress, which was the Congress of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War were all Unicameral, That is, no political parties… just sovereign states, each one pulling in their own direction to fulfill their duties as representatives of their States.  Most representatives of the original 13 states wanted a weak Central Government allowing them to deal directly with their own local issues as they saw fit. There were only a few who thought a strong Central Government would be much better for the nascent nation; better for issues of economics and foreign intervention. There is strength in numbers. Even I, who needs all my fingers and toes to count, know that 13 against 1 or 2 has a better chance of succeeding. Let’s face it, if all 13 didn’t agree to sign the Declaration of Independence which was a declaration of war against Great Britain, we would all be having tea with milk, fish and chips in an old newspaper, and singing God Save The Queen instead of God Bless America. I realize for some this would not be a bad thing.  I am totally aware how this country is bonkers over British Royalty.  Diana is more celebrated today than she was over twenty years ago. For that matter so is Victoria, Elizabeth I, and dare I even mention the Royal Soap Opera for all time, Downton Abbey.  But I digress…so what else is new?

OK back to Congress. The divide in the United States that I find so disturbing today had its beginning in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787. The Constitution was a plan developed for a stronger federal government with three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.

From that moment, this country has always been divided between States Righters and Federalists.  A really interesting not so side fact is that prior to Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, all Senators were appointed by the Governors and Legislatures of the individual states. Under Wilson’s term in 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed the words, “chosen by the legislatures thereof” to “elected by the people, thereof”.  Make of that what you will. Personally, I think it was supposed to open the Senatorial selections away from State Politics (aka legislature) to the State’s population. However, if the state’s population is as divided as the legislature… what’s the difference?

I’m sorry, my dear friends. I get carried away by the history involved in birthing this country and in doing so lose my way.  Get to the point, already, for goodness sake. 

In reading this book about the struggle George Washington had in winning the  American Revolution, I see that the albatross around his neck was the Second Continental Congress. They signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a very brave and courageous thing to do, and then ignored most of the requests and pleas and beggings of George Washington to fortify and supply the Army that was fighting for Independence. This Congress did everything in its power to focus on their own and their state’s individual needs and ignore the battles for Liberty and Freedom that were going on all around them. (brilliantly depicted in the movie 1776)

OK here’s the question for you to answer… is it in the nature of the beast (aka Congress and humans)  wherein self and local issues will always outweigh the common good and as the world turns, is it harder for the individual of good purpose to make a difference, no less get elected?  And the biggest question of all, HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY?  Whatcha think?   

Hey guys, before you think… I have an important recommendation for you.  For the most wonderful and powerful depiction of this Second Continental Congress please see the movie musical 1776. It is brilliant and written with historic accuracy.  I promise you. You will love it.

As a matter of fact, it is in that movie the seeds of my question about the ultimate fate of Congress is first planted.  

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️