Category Archives: Life

Switching Gears… but first….

My Dear Friends and Family,

I feel a little bit like Peter Finch in the film Network. Remember he played a television broadcaster who amidst the pressure of his work world and the world around him, had a mental breakdown on television screaming, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!!!”

Well, as I watch the media play into the hands of Trump as they did in 2016… not realizing, or maybe conspiratorially they are aware that by their incessant Trump coverage bad, good or indifferent, they are going to get him elected.  In this day and age, the PR pundits from P.T. Barnum to Rush Limbaugh, are right:  There is no such thing as bad publicity.  

I cannot hear or see about anyone except Trump. If I were someone who watched a great deal of television and I wasn’t sure about my vote I wouldn’t even remember who the other guy was so, “what the hell…”.  For those who think I am exaggerating, I AM NOT!  And  at the same time, OMG! I hope and pray I am wrong.  

But like Howard Beale, Peter Finch’s character in Network, I can’t take this anymore!! 

So I’m going in another direction where the human experience offers an opportunity to alter a self destructive path to planet annihilation.  And you thought I was going to make a funny.

Well, in the hopes of the return of my sense of humor, I want to offer for your consideration, two fantastical documentaries on Netflix:

This is about Craig Foster, a videographer living in South Africa, fast approaching a Howard Beale-esque burnout and how he saves his life, by making a 180 degree turn, removing himself to a hut on the Atlantic Ocean near the Cape of Good Hope. He begins a daily swim and dive in the cold and stormy Atlantic. \He encounters an Octopus. He makes this discovery the center of his daily dives for almost a year.  

OK, my only experience is watching other people eat the poor animal.  Not an animal I would consider pet worthy. But I’m a Brooklyn girl and not too many pet Octopuses in my experience.

This is not about pets.  This is about our relationships in what is left of the world we live in and I promise you… in a time of  pervasive meaninglessness you will find meaning and purpose in his journey.  And here is the best part: You can apply his journey to your life.  Of course it’ll be different because we all are different. Basic human geshrai is basic… and it needs to be visited… NOW!

This gentleman… and literally he is a gentle man… at 93, takes us painfully through the decimation of our planet from the year of his birth through today. When he was born, 1927, our world was in what was called the Holocene Era where there appeared to be a balance between wild places (aka nature) and modern civilization (the industrial revolution gone mad).

For me, it was extremely painful to watch the not so-slow-destruction of our planet because during most of my particular generation we gave very little thought to other geographic spaces that held the natural balance. Oh, yes, we wanted to travel to foreign, distant and unique places around the globe, but never thought about what was happening in these habitats; the flora, the fauna, the air. 

For those who want to see what and how it happened and most importantly what we can do to reverse the death of earth planet, David Attenborough gives a balanced, measured and simple accounting. It’s not about climate change. Although, that is in it. It’s not about blame. Although, it’s impossible for you and I and all us humans not to acknowledge our responsibility. He explains how we are losing the battle to save the planet and at the same time, he gives us hope.  I’ll run with that. Actually at 87, I shall walk with that.  Join me!

I chose these two documentaries because in each we have an opportunity to correct some negative, hopeless, scenarios. I don’t want to feel shamed in front of my children and grandchildren that I left them such a crappy place to live.

This is my response to a special feeling of being pelted by media negativity. As a mere mortal, I have a limited ability to withstand the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortunes of their depressing onslaught.  

Repeat with me what Howard Beale of the Network said: 

“I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

And then go outside and PLANT A TREE!!!

My Love, Sally-Jane

Plant a tree for a better tomorrow…

Had enough?

My Dear Friend and Family –

I don’t need to say anything or to do anything.  I just ask you to open your heart, your soul, your mind and listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

Love,  Sally -Jane

There’s a Place For Us

My Dear Friends ~

We are in a desperate search for stories about positive human connections. Here is my nomination for one the best stories…

I just viewed a PBS documentary film:

Harbor From the Holocaust

Upwards of 20 thousand Jews that were saved from Hitlers holocaust by their ability to get a visa to Shanghai. 

All others countries had closed their doors to Jews. A quirk of timing allowed a Chinese diplomat in Vienna to issue thousands of Jews visas to Shanghai just before the Japanese invaded China. 

The story is beyond moving and oh, so relevant today considering our own  difficulties with immigration and assimilation.

Please don’t miss this documentary. We all need the hope and the caring and love of one another.

I promise it’ll make you feel good.

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S. My friends, here is further reading on the history of the Jewish diaspora to Shanghai – GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN JEWISH REFUGEES IN SHANGHAI from the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

How NOT to Choose a President

My Dear Friends and Family,

I had a recent unsettling experience… let me set the scene:

Two acquaintances on my porch for morning coffee and croissants. As we settle down and begin discussing the topic du jour… our various adventures in and around the pandemic and the election, eventually, in my own inimitable voice of authority, I bring up the wearing of masks.

“If only we had some Federal leadership that would create a national program for the wearing of masks and other safety issues that are necessary for our protection,” says I.


An Aside: 

Let’s face it, my friends, I am old enough – barely – to remember the Federal programs during World War II that were necessary to help us survive and help the war effort… ration books for food and gas, meatless days, paper and metal drives.

Oh, sure there were always people that didn’t join in that effort… and there were many Black Market organizations. But for the most part, most everyone came together as part of the civilian war effort.

People died in the war. People died in the pandemic.

End of the aside.


Expecting to have both guests nod heads in agreement, I was heartily disappointed. The female of the duo nodded. The male said, 

“I don’t think it’s fair to blame him. We are a country founded on States’ Rights and each state should have their own laws about how they want to handle the pandemic. I think, considering what he has to deal with, he is doing a very good job.”

Shock!  Dismay! Disbelief! 

I know a few people (and relatives, too) who think he is doing a good job.  However, I am not in close proximity with them. You might say we really have perfected long distance social distancing. This was the first time I was sitting near enough where I could see the whites of his eyes. I was struggling to be polite. But when he started quoting Fake News items I realized there could be no discussion.

I quickly looked at my watch, which I forgot to put on, and told them that I had forgotten I had an online class in a few minutes. You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that time had just run out… the party was over.

They left. I was angry. But worse than that I was shocked. This man is a cultured, educated, sophisticated upper middle class white human male. How did this happen? I racked my brain.

And it finally came to me…

After a self-organized reading program of black non-fiction writers like Isabel Wilkerson and Carol Anderson, I realized they were right all along!  The white majority is disappearing. I had just been witness to an example of this fact. This white upper middle class man in fear of losing his white majority is going to vote for the man who will guarantee that majority against all odds. As time goes on the white majority will be no more. I am not rabble-rousing. Check the statistics (I can’t believe someone who hates statistics as much as I do is saying this).  

And before I let go of this bone, in 1970 you could substitute the silent majority of the Nixon era with the white majority of this era. And never forget it was this silent majority that allowed the wannabe tyrant Joseph McCarthy to flourish.

So alright already… What is this white majority that is being written about and exemplified in books, movies, television, podcasts, editorials, and just plain life? Obviously, I am going to have difficulty explaining it because I am so apparently part of it. I am of the white/caucasian persuasion. Black, white, brown, orange, purple… we are all part of this human condition… with differences. As part of the human condition/nature, consciously or unconsciously, we each strive to be better than someone else. A human animal popularity contest, if you will.

I know as the seventh of eight children I do not remember a day when I didn’t strive to be better than anyone of my brothers or sisters. My parents actually promoted that competition, thinking the competition would push us to excel in our various gifts, which personally I am happy to say it did, but they used it also as a control of a sometimes uncontrollable large family.  And because of my race, I could move more easily in the world.  And here is the big word that explains how I could do it:  

ASSIMILATE – that’s what I could do. 

I was acceptable… up to a point… being a Jew kept me back many times in my life and I can still recognize a slur when it happens… even in jokes… but basically, if I chose to I didn’t have to say I was Jewish and then I would always be acceptable because I could assimilate into this amorphous white majority.  See how easily it works???

If you are black, this is not possible. A black person is always black. Except of course, black people who look white and then they have to decide whether to pass which is another word for assimilation. So how did the white majority control the black population? During the centuries of black slavery this was easy. Blacks were property, not people. There was no white majority because in fact whites controlled everything and therefore, obviously it did not need to be stated.

It was after the Civil War with emancipation, voting rights, human rights, and civil rights, when whites, most obviously in the South and more subtly in the North, felt the thunder and fear of change.  

A brief dream time of Reconstruction was systematically squashed by the new Jim Crow laws of the south, created and enacted by the vanquished losers of the Civil War and legislators of the treasonable former Confederacy.

Ghettos, incarceration, proliferation of drugs, low service jobs, sharecropping (another version of slavery), limited and segregated housing and education, unequal voting and civil rights… all the negative control factors used by the white majority to control black lives.

Whites fear that black lives not only matter but that they will race ahead, leaving white lives in their dust. They certainly have done it in the world of sports and popular music.

Obama’s two-time win (accomplished without the white majority) put the white majority into a tailspin and is the most probable cause for the continued bitter (and what I personally consider un-American) politics of Republic Congressman, Senators and Judges – A black president in the White House? Never again!

The white majority is and will disappear. That’s a fact! The mix of nationalities which, to me has always been the backbone of America’s strength will now add a new strength in the form of mixed colors… HOORAY!

And let us not forget, the President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders known as the Kerner Commission, headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and to recommend solutions. The report, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal,” and warned that unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

There is a slate up for election on November 3rd that exemplifies a necessary and overdue recognition of this reality.

My reckoning is that this person who came to my porch for coffee and an abrupt departure doesn’t even realize he is part of that fearful white majority. I am sorry for him. But I am happy that his partner will cancel out his vote. I worry about others who don’t have anyone to cancel out their vote. So I ask us all to do what we can to give us back a country with some basic civility and caring to help us heal.

I leave you with a 1998 quote by writer Octavia Butler (1947 – 2006) that I discovered in a recent article in BrainPickings, Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.

To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.

To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.

To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.

To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.

To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

Love, Sally-Jane

Weird and Wonderful

Very recently I had a very challenging and ultimately satisfying experience.

2017

I think most of you received an email about my reading the Edith Wharton short story The Mission of Jane at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts)

This was going to be the fifth year of my reading this story.  I had convinced the powers that be that the story was so rich and funny that a yearly reading would plumb the depths of pathos and humor of Wharton’s writing.  Thankfully, they agreed.

Enter the villain virus.

It was a challenge for Susan Wissler, Executive Director of The Mount.

There is nothing Susan likes better than a challenge.  She took a failing Mount out of bankruptcy and the cultural world marveled at her leadership bringing The Mount into solvency and success.  

She accepted the Villian Virus challenge. The latest of which were the live readings of Edith Wharton’s and other short stories. Of course it had to be outdoors and the number of audience limited and distances set.  She decided to use the forecourt of The Mount –  a beautiful area originally established for carriages and cars to dispense passengers before their entering the mansion.  It was perfect.

Wednesday, August 19th arrived with sun, then clouds, then rain and not until 4 pm before a 5:30 reading was there a go-ahead.  Leaving this reader slightly frazzled.  Hey, guys, those in the know know… it don’t take much for that to happen.  Sensitive or neurotic or a little of both.  Take your pick.

The build-up to performance was intense. I rehearsed. I tried to forget my age. (fat chance) I love performing. I love the story. I love The Mount.  

“Be gone, Virus!  You are not welcome here!”

The reading was SOLD OUT.  The reading was limited to and audience of 45.  I didn’t care. I love saying I played to a sold out house. Sue me!

I looked out over the audience.  Two people seated way over left, 3 people seated way over right, 4 people here and there, another double, another triple, and so on spread apart from each other (as required by law) all through the forecourt.  There was no audience seating.  There were disparate chairs placed all over the space. So that I could not read to one group as I did before but individual groupings which made it difficult for the audience to relate to each other, no less to the reader.  

It is something I never thought about before, but when a member of an audience comes into a performance space, he or she may start out individually but as the performance continues the audience slowly but surely becomes unified, sometimes for you and sometimes against you.

I  would venture a guess that, seated together as they all are, that unity makes it possible for the actor or actors to create the necessary bond to create a satisfactory relationship.  A catharthis, right?  (look it up)  I am grateful that the story was an hour long because it took me at least thirty minutes to bring this disparate audience into a unified one.  

And then there is the wearing of masks. This was a reading in daylight.  I looked out at a sea of faces masked to their eyeballs.  At the beginning I couldn’t see their smiles or hear their laughter (some advantage… I couldn’t see them yawn, either.) As the story progressed and as the audience came together, the laughter escaped the masks and finally I could sense there was enjoyment.  

There was a nice prolonged applause at the end of the story.  And, my friends, I have to tell you I think in part it was for me and the story, but I also think it was because the event at The Mount gave 45 people the opportunity to come out from their isolation, from their quarantine and for that they were grateful. Me, too.

I want to thank Susan Wissler and The Mount for the opportunity for me to blow my horn and also for creating engaging, inclusive programs for all.

I was so grateful to be able to provide release and relief in the time of this pandemic. And I look forward (ain’t that a nice word for this time in all our lives!) to more creative and satisfying experiences.

Right?  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Our next opportunity for a creative and satisfying experience is coming up!!

We the People… (Except Black People…)

My Dear Friends and Family,

A friend recently sent me a link to this article by George Conway in the Washington Post. To say I had a strong reaction is an understatement! I couldn’t understand how reading a list of his bona fides insanity and ridiculousness could possibly be worth my time. Between the pandemic news of the day and the election news of the day, we are taking a battering.

After my reply to her that there was no payoff for me in reading it, I picked up and started reading Isabel’s Wilkerson’s latest book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

(You may recall my rave review of her book,The Warmth of  Other Suns in a previous blog.)

Well, my friends I had to interrupt my reading at Chapter 2 to write to you…

WE ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! It reveals the truth of how the monster made it this far and what we all did or didn’t do to contribute to our current painful reality. It is from this painful acknowledgement that the solution can be found.

And if I didn’t believe there was a solution to the absurd and terrifying situation we are in, then I’d go out without a mask, touch my face, never wash my hands, go to school in Georgia and buy a Harley so I can join the South Dakota Bike Rally. 

So while I finish this book, I hope you’ll start it. Then, let’s tawk! 

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S.

P.P.S. And finally, amidst all this confusion someone speaks how we can understand and come together…

Welcome to the Freedom Cafe!

Dear Friends & Family ,

If by chance last week’s video demonstration of the purpose for wearing a mask wasn’t convincing enough, I offer this alternative perspective that supports our well-defended “freedom to choose”.

Written by Libby Jones on Twitter. Submitted by Kathony Jerauld to The Ledger News in California.

Welcome to the Freedom Cafe!

We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. And, in the same spirit of individual liberty, we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they prefer to follow as they prepare and serve your food.

We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom, but understand that some people may be allergic to certain soaps or may simply prefer not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do.

We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some of our cooks may have seen a meme or a YouTube video saying that 100 degrees is sufficient, and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs.

Some of our cooks may prefer to use the same utensils for multiple ingredients, including ingredients some customers are allergic to. That is a cook’s right to do so.

Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person with clean hands can’t touch your food. We will take their word for it that they are healthy and clean.

Water temperature and detergent are highly personal choices, and we allow our dishwashing team to decide how they’d prefer to wash the silverware you will put in your mouth.

Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you’ll agree that it’s a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of no one ever being told what to do – and especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers healthy.

Libby Jones

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. My experience of this pandemic is that it is wreaking havoc with our emotions and psyche and ultimately physically.  People are saying and doing things that in ordinary times they would never say or do.

A friend sent me this Mark Twain quote and it went straight to my Heart, Mind and Soul and I feel better. If it’s relevant for you, I hope it helps. If isn’t relevant give yourself a reality check, pronto.

M&M’s: Pandemic Essentials

Dear Friends and Family, 

I really don’t get the hullabaloo concerning masks.  If I understood that if I didn’t wear a mask I would be affecting and infecting not only myself but friends, relatives and neighbors and I couldn’t go shopping or walking about, why would I even give it a second thought?  I would say to myself  right out, “Put the mask on, jerkball!!”

Of course, if I didn’t believe that people had been and were continuing to be deathly ill and dying and dead from Covid 19 and that it was nothing but a  political manipulation by “The Enemy”, (and will someone please tell me what the enemy looks like so I can be prepared?), I might think differently.  But please tell me, what human in the universe has not heard of or know someone who has contracted the virus.  If you are someone who is that someone (talk about isolation!) please tell me where is your desert island and aren’t you just a little bit lonely?

Below is a very simple demonstration of why the mask is essential to your and everyone else’s health.

If anyone is still skeptical after that video, which is as apolitical as it gets,  then all I want to say to you is, “Don’t be a jerkball.  I don’t care who you vote for but I do care that you LIVE.  Got it!  Get it!  Good!”

And now let me give you a slice of hope and happiness as an antidote  to those the little germs from the previous video. I think it is interesting how  even in social distancing (and such distances in this video… around the world and back), these wonderful people obviously use their creative juices to give themselves and others joy and beauty. 

I firmly believe, as others tear at the fabric of civility in whatever is left of this civilization, this is the kind of enterprise that is destined to keep us together.

Right?  Of course, right!

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. And whatever you think or do or say, never lose your sense of humor. Survival isn’t possible without one. Thus spake the Oracle (and my cousin Bernie).

There are all kinds of masks…

And there is all kinds of music…

A Stew Full of Thoughts

My Dear Friends,

THOUGHT 1: Yet another fallout of the Pandemic…

Every time I think I have a handle on how to handle the world I and fellow beings presently inhabit, I lose the handle.  Why can’t I keep a steady hand on the wheel of my life?  I know the rules of safety.  I try my best to follow them… Social distancing, masking, hand washing, sanitizing, travel limits.

I am kidding you and myself because, of course I know why I can’t keep it steady.  I am not in control.

I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. I know the feeling well because I have been there many times before.

I think I am being vigilant. But then, I watch others out of my control, threaten themselves and others with their choices.  It then becomes my responsibility to set limits and put out the no vacancy sign.  It is so alien to the nature of this here beast. 

My door has always been open.  In the world today that is not an option. I can make some adjustments. And for this I am so very grateful that I am able to set up for a meal in the garden or the porch with safe spacing, masks and whatever else is necessary for the safety of all. 

THOUGHT 2A review of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

I did not know the depth and the extent of the migration of Black Americans from the South to the North and to the West from 1915 – 1970.   For me, Ms. Wilkerson’s narrative is the foretelling of the ongoing struggle for Black equality we are experiencing at this time. She has chosen three protagonists from three different locations in three different decades of the migration.   Their detailed journey from the white racism of the South that followed them to the white racism of the North and West is shocking and a necessary and important tool in understanding how racism, subtle and not so subtle works. 

At the end of the book Ms. Wilkerson writes some notes about her methodology in putting this brilliant study together. She quotes from a 672 page report by a white-led Commission on the Chicago Riots of 1919 wherein the commission admonishes all.

THIS MUST CHANGE!

It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery wast introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.

Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance… Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical… There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; an understanding of the facts of the problem — a magnanimous understanding by both races — is the first step toward a solution.

Excerpt, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, page 543

The report came out in 1922. Last time I checked my calendar it was 2020.

THOUGHT 3:   IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST

There is no way that I am going to leave you without a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart.  Even though my go-to cheerleader, Carl Reiner, left for quieter climes. 

I am sure Carl and Snoopy were in complete agreement.

Here is a documentary he narrated when he was only 94:

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Happy July 4th. It’s way past time to put our money (and our votes) where our mouths are…

Video

Music, A Book & Thou

My Dear Friends,

This won’t take long. In this blog I share two videos. One is a professional production. The other is what happens during pandemisolockatine.

First is a song, Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Here is the introduction from Yo-Yo Ma’s Facebook Page:

There are so many stories made invisible: too-often-violent histories hidden beneath the surfaces of our cities, our institutions, our music. It’s our job to keep looking, to make them visible, to take action. Today is always a good day to learn. I’m honored to mark this 155th Juneteenth with a new song by the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens.  #blacklivesmatter #juneteenth #songsofchange

Lyrics to “Build a House” – Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma

You brought me here to build your house, build your house, build your house
You brought me here to build your house and grow your garden fine

I laid the brick and built your house, built your house, built your house
I laid the brick and built your house, raised the plants so high

And when you had the house and land, the house and land, the house and land
And when you had the house and land, then you told me “go.”

I found a place to build my house, build my house, build my house
I found a place to build my house since I couldn’t go back home

You said I couldn’t build a house, build a house, build a house
You said I couldn’t build a house, so you burned it down

So then I traveled far and wide, far and wide, far and wide
And then I traveled far and wide until I found a home

I learned your words and wrote a song, wrote a song, wrote a song
I learned your words and wrote a song to put my story down

But then you came and took my song, took my song, took my song
But then you came and took my song, playing it for your own

I took my bucket, lowered it down, lowered it down, lowered it down
I took my bucket, lowered it down, the well will never run dry.

You brought me here to build a house, build a house, build a house
You brought me here to build a house. I will not be moved.

No, I will not be moved. No, I will not be, I will not be, I will not be moved.


I am also reading a book that I think is important and that you might want to check out. It is titled, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. And don’t forget…