Perspective

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!!

ADDENDUM:

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! 

Xoxo, Pammy


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. 

Love, Mum

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 ❤️

Will You Be My Valentine?

In 1929, Cole Porter asked a musical question, “What is this thing called Love?“.

I think I could guarantee he was far from the first and definitely not the last to ask that question.  A question that in my book is impossible to answer and always rhetorical. 

This is our 3rd Valentine’s Day in the time of Covid and its accompanying sagas of vaccinations, variants and variables.  It makes that question more relevant and difficult than ever before.

When I was in elementary school it was easy.   I went to the five and dime store (‘member those) bought sheets of valentines with small white envelopes.  Covering all my bases, hedging my bets, whatever you want to call it, I left a Valentine on everyone’s desk, including the goody two-shoers and snitches.  In my dreams, everyone loved me.  NOT!

No matter how I counted, I never got more than 10 or 12 cards out of a class of 25.  The Florida recount for Gore vs. Bush was chicken feed. My life, my breath hung on that count.  

Back then, I knew what love was.  It was those crazy little pieces of colored paper in small white envelopes.  It sounds crazy.  It is crazy.  However, I believe the lack of love, the need of it, the any and the all of it, makes the world go ‘round or stops it dead.

Loves begins in the womb.

Alice Miller, a German psychologist, 1923-2010, wrote many brilliant books:  The Drama of the Gifted Child, For Your Own Good, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, among others. All of her books take on the challenge of nature vs. nurture. Her major premise is the damage, some intentional, most unintentional, that is done by parents and families.  Many villains of the world, past and present, were in many cases born with inherited characteristics predetermining them to a life of crime and violence: nature. However, most were created by families: nurture. Miller makes a fascinating case about Adolph Hitler and the abusive violence of his father and its lasting effect on his developing personality.  More often, parental unconsciousness knows not what it does when it holds a child accountable to adult standards.  

Think about it.  It has to be very confusing to a child… so small… next to an adult… so big… smacking him or her saying, “I am doing this for your own good” and clinching that confusing message with an “I LOVE YOU”.  From that point on, the child’s idea of love is askew.  

Love is pain.  Love is punishment.  

In the romantic world of the adult, breaking hearts is a rite of passage. In a child’s world, love that is pain and punishment is tragic and can follow you everywhere if you let it.

This is all too familiar to me.  I realize I have made a career from my childhood love experiences.  Much that I have written or performed has its roots in this confusion.

Child rearing has run the gamut from spare the rod, spoil the child, to unparalleled permissiveness.  All in the name of love.

However, recent movies shine a light on changing attitudes. 

Belfast, The Tender Bar and C’mon, C’mon, each in its own way, continue the struggle to define a no less complex but much kinder version of love in the time of childhood.  This is good.

The conundrum for me is how do I take my childhood experiences and make it lovingly compatible with the so called adult I call me.  ‘Tis a puzzlement!

I will continue to explore Mr. Porter’s question, what is this thing called love.

Though I realize love is not about definitions.  It’s not about rules and regulations.  It is not about achievement, approval or accommodation.  Real love has no requirements. 

It is unconditional.

For an opinionated, over-righteous, ancient personality (no names), is this maybe asking too much???

Can I just go back to counting Valentines, please?

Intellectually I know that love is not about loving another person.

How can I love another person if I don’t love me, zits, warts, et al?

Simple answer.  I can’t.

Like a dream it came to me.

At least 100 years ago (some days it just feels like that), I was rehearsing with my friend, musical director/composer, Robert Bendorf (another unknown genius).  Once again I was in a confusion of love – the pain and punishment kind.  What a surprise! 

Poor Bob.  I remember whining to him about the same ‘ole, same ‘ole. 

“So tell me, Bob, what should I do?  He says he loves me.  I say I love him.  And then we do and say the most unloving things to each other.  It’s crazy.  In or out of a relationship why can’t we just love one another.  Love just is.  Isn’t it?”

He came back the next day with the gift of this song. I wish I could say it was Valentine’s Day.  It wasn’t.

But it is my Valentine to you.
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

It’s Not My Fault

I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!

Doing nothing has become a national disease.

Edmund Burke said it best, and we are witnessing it with our every breath:  The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Oh, yeah and women, too! I don’t consider working out, in, and on your digital devices “doing”.

Of course, I write this as I type away on my computer for the Blah, Blah Blog… and if that isn’t part of the digital media merry-go-round, I don’t know what is.  I used to be perfect.  I am not anymore. Mia Culpa.

I am up to my neck in excuses. I am sorry my friends, they just don’t work anymore.

Climate change does not excuse me from taking out the garbage.  Fear of testing positive does not excuse me from paying rent.  Continuous political upheaval does not excuse me from brushing my teeth.

I am not saying it isn’t tempting to blame the powers that be.  It’s just that eventually, unless I am comfortable with my thumb stuck in my mouth or living in a state of permanent delusion (so tempting) or enjoy treading water getting nowhere, blame ultimately doesn’t work.  Dare I list a few cliches? Cliches, for me, are usually based on a truth… Life isn’t fair. There is no free lunch. The piper must be paid.

The rant about excuses was inspired by a friend’s recent travel experience.  An experience that is becoming more and more unexceptional, unfortunately.  She was part of two perfect storms.  The first was out of anyone’s control; the weather. A southern storm traveling north meets a northern storm traveling south and they give birth to many little storms along the east coast, which creates the monster of yet another airline breakdown.  In the airline industry, it is now the rule to give you a ride you will never forget; hopefully, in time for you to make your next flight.  The other perfect storm is a sad example of the ongoing decline of our humanity:  Corporate policy and greed vs. Employee policy and apathy.

This storm appears to be out of our control as well.  Please go back to Burke’s admonition.  It has been said, a corporation is an entity. It is not people. I beg to disagree.  A corporation is an entity made up of PEOPLE.  And these people take very good care of their boards and investors.  Not so much their paying public and not at all their employees.   I don’t think you need to look further than corporate entities and more specifically, to the airline industry to discover why people are quitting jobs.  If corporations are careless and irresponsible about their paying public and their employees, employees owe their employers no loyalty.  If employees feel no loyalty then the inhumane treatment my friend received by underpaid and overworked airline workers appears justified.  Right???  No!  Not right!!!

I know.  It’s confusing and difficult.  How to maintain your humanity in the time of crises?  Especially if you feel taken for granted.  Here it comes guys.  That is our job.  It is easy to do the right thing when all is going according to plan.  When my world goes awry, that is when I am called upon against the pressures around me, to respond empathically. Like you know what I mean, caring.   I don’t have to do it well. I just have to remind myself there but for the grace of God go I.

There have always been those who would divide and exclude rather than add and include.  That’s another perfect storm. The television series, Succession vs. the movie, The Tender BarSuccession is a hit series about people in a corporate environment and their inhumanity. The Tender Bar, on the other hand, is a small movie about average people living average lives and always aware of their humanity.

Personally, I don’t care if you squeeze your toothpaste tube from the bottom or from the top, we all belong to the human race.  And if on occasion you can lift your head away from your devices, remove your earbuds, and see and hear the person in front of you, it’s just possible you might recognize a piece of yourself in the other.

Talk about miracles!!!

I really love each and every one of you. How could I not if you take the time to read this Blog.  So I offer you a discounted opportunity. I want to remind us all of our humanity. Even if you weren’t at the Sermon, you know the one that was on The Mount (no, silly, not Edith Wharton’s home). 

DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU

It is soooo simple. Which is why it is soooo difficult.

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Definition of Editor: A person who aids in the contents of text. 

In my case, this is a profound understatement about my friend and editor, Lynnette Najimy.

For too many years, I have had the gift of Lynnette’s talents to successfully edit and publish my Blog without acknowledging her enormous contribution.

It was her idea to begin with.  And because it required new mechanized skills, I fought her tooth and nail.  She calmed all my fears and slowly awakened machine abilities I didn’t know I had.  I still manage to make many mechanical errors and she constantly amazes me by pulling the magic bunny out of her hat many times.

However, her real gift is how she handles, an ego loaded, over the top, over sensitive, temperamental artiste.  We know there is constructive criticism somewhere, but how come it’s never around when you need it to prime the pump of creativity.  Not true with Lynnette. Working with her, I don’t even realize when she has moved me away from falling off the cliff.  The cliff could be anything from writing garbled nonsense to throwing the baby out with the bathwater (a metaphor for losing the point of a story).  Without skinning my very thin hide, she opens my eyes and my heart to what I have chosen to write about.  Am I lucky or am I lucky?  I am. 

Thank You to my dear friend and editor. 
With love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.P.S. Always remember, no matter what the crisis, keep laughing!!

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 ❤️

The Human Touch

I thought my last Blog, Pandemic Induced Moods vs. The Big Laugh was going to be my last of the 2021… a Season’s Giving and Greetings to my intrepid Blah, Blah, Blog followers.  And then I read the CNN interview of emergency room nurse Audrey Wendt from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In an ever growing world of disassociated and disappearing humanity, however sad the subject of the interview was, for me this nurse showed that even in an ocean of despair, there were signs of land.  Ms. Wendt gave light to the darkness in the sorely missing person to person connection.  

Oh, my friends, the hug and the squeeze is going, going, almost gone.  The kiss?  Fuggetaboutit!  I understand the necessity for it.  I do.  However, I believe there is a visceral connection between the going, going, gone, and the lack of caring and concern for others that is going along with it.

As we fade out of 2021 and take baby steps into 2022, I am attaching this interview for you.

Read it,  please!  I ask you to take this interview to heart, literally and figuratively.  

As you, take it all to heart, a question occurs to me.  If I can’t ask my almost best new friends,  than who can it ask?  Ready?  

Where has Spirit gone?

Not a specific to any particular religious belief kind of spirit.  Although, if that works for you, that is great.  I am writing and thinking about the Spirit that moves the Universe.  

Believe me, my adorable ones, you are all original, wonderful, and brilliantly creative… BUT… this morning you did not bring up the Sun, nor will you set it this evening.  Come on!  Admit it!  We are surrounded by people who believe the Universe wouldn’t move without them.  I know.  I used to be one of them.  

I think the more distance I create between myself and the mysteries and movement of the Universe, the more distance I create between me and you.

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S.
Norton Owen, Director of Preservation at Jacob’s Pillow, has put together a video playlist, “Spirituals”. The collection is inspiring and challenging.  Inspiring because of the enormous talent of all.  Challenging because it proves that the Universe, Creation and Spirit are ONE.

RIGHT? OF COURSE, RIGHT!!!!

P.P.S. I’m still an Opinionated OP-ED writer…. Change a Habit, Save a Lake

P.P.P.S.

He’s Still Here

I have a profound affinity for Stephen Sondheim.  I always thought it was because of his brilliant musicals.  However, I watched an interview he did many years ago.  He was trying to explain about being neurotic .  It was so simple for him.  

“I like neurotic people.”  

That’s it!  He likes me.  I love him.

He went further explaining that most people, including himself,  were neurotic concerning their problems, professional, personal.  When he writes from that sensibility he is going to touch someone.  And isn’t that why we go to the theatre; to be transformed, transported, in some way, touched.

Stephen Sondheim may have passed away, November 25th, but as in the name of the song he wrote for Follies, I’m Still Here… he will always be here.

Stephen Sondheim in 1990
Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

His death was and still is a shock to me.

My inner monologue upon hearing about his demise:

INNER ME:

I can’t believe it.

What’d you expect?  He was 91.

I’m 88… 91 is only 3 years away… too close… much too close.

This is not about you.  I know.  I know.  I can’t help it.  When I consider Sondheim is no longer with us, and some of the jerks who still are, makes me crazy…life really isn’t fair, is it???

DUH!!!

To make this news totally personal (when have I ever not made everything totally personal), I’d like to share my experience performing Sondheim.

No dates.  It was a long time ago.

I played Mama Rose many times in Summer Theatres and local Washington, D.C. theatre productions of Gypsy.  Sondheim wrote the lyrics.  Julie Styne the music.  It is a musically and lyrically brilliant score.  In the climax of the second act (or as Broadway Babies are wont to call it, the 11 o’clock spot), Mama Rose has a nervous breakdown.  Sondheim broke the sound barrier.  It was Broadway’s first operatic aria.  The music, but mostly the lyrics are compelling, complex and incisive.  It can be said for any performer playing Mama Rose, it’s all in the writing.  It’s extra if you have a performer like Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Patti Lupone singing it.  However, because it is all in the words, it is actor-proof material.  No matter how many times I played that role, and I did play it many times, I don’t think I ever plumbed the depths of what Sondheim wrote.

I had a similar experience when I played Joanne in Company (Elaine Stritch’s signature role).  The score for Company was brilliant, but, oh sooooo challenging!  I could read music but I would never call myself a musician.  Singing a Sondheim score is like singing Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  Company is a brilliant and musically challenging ensemble theatre piece.  No matter what grade of musician you are, performing that score challenged every actor beyond what they thought they were capable of.  My song, Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch was and remained a challenge until I saw Patti Lupone sing it at Lincoln Center’s Stephen Sondheim 80th Birthday Celebration:

Lupone took that song to where it was meant to go… to the moon.  Even if I can’t perform it now, I am so grateful to have watched someone who got to the meat and heart of what Sondheim wrote.  Another mystery solved.

My last example of performing Sondheim was a song he wrote for Yvonne De Carlo (remember Yvonne… exotic technicolor movie star of the 50’s?) in Follies, titled I’m Still Here.  

I simply had to wait until I felt seasoned enough to fill the shoes of life experiences to give the nuances the lyrics demanded.  I did a credible job with it.  However, in that same Sondheim 80th Birthday celebration, Elaine Stritch literally knocks it out of the park:

Finally, I’d like to recommend a documentary produced and directed in 2013 by Sondheim’s friend and collaborator, James Lapine, and friend and former drama critic, Frank Rich, Six by Sondheim.

What makes a creative artist a genius?  I don’t know. (laminate that statement…I don’t say it often enough)

I do know one such genius just passed this past Friday.  As I watched the above documentary, two important and essential traits of Sondheim’s writing and ultimately who Sondheim is were made eminently clear.

Ambiguity, which for me translates to exhibit the zits and warts without judgement, and love.

If you study his lyrics which you can easily do by reading FINISHING THE HAT… the book he wrote of his collected lyrics with attendant remarks (aka delicious showbiz gossip), it is all there.

In the documentary he says, unequivocally, write from love.

Nobody says it is easy.  No one says it is without pain.  No one says it is without disappointment or grief.  Considering his childhood was profoundly bereft of love, Stephen Sondheim is proof that along the way, as he opened himself to the universe, the universe did provide.

Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. If you want to look, I recommend this stunning making-of film, Company “Original Cast Album” Documentary. It’s an intense look at theatre and the art of Stephen Sondheim.

                                 

                

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

WHY ARE YOU SO MAD AT ME????

My Dear Friends and Family,

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

“I don’t get it!”

“Grrrrrr..”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Grrrr…”

“Did I hurt your feelings?”

“Grrrr…”

“Please!  I really want to know.”

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

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

“Grrr… NO!”

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

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

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

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

FUCK YOU BIDEN AND FUCK YOU WHO VOTED FOR HIM

Wha????????

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STOP…THINK…and remember… 

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

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love,  Sally-Jane ❤️

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

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

THE GREATEST

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

The Making of a Millennial

You know how I love to tell a story.  So, sit back and relax.

My driver’s license is about to expire, just in time to get the new real identity card that everyone will need to have by 2023. I needed several different forms of identification.  I was going through my files to locate them when I came across a letter you wrote to your teacher when you were 11 years old… 

It was a letter explaining in exquisite literary detail exactly who you are, and amazingly, still are.  I marveled at your self knowledge and awareness… and you were only 11!  I realized you have always known the essential you… always.  It is a sad but real truth that at 11, who is going to listen to you, no less, believe you, I ask you… WHO?  No one, that’s who.  And rather than confront the powers that be, and that includes me, I am ashamed to say, (confrontation is truly alien to you) you chose to hide behind your books and for lack of better words your attitude, sometimes explosive, sometimes silent.

I feel like you should print this letter you wrote onto a sandwich board and when the next therapist, parent, sibling, friend or grandparent exclaims who you are and what you need, please walk onto the runway of your life wearing your board of definition and ask them politely to read your Declaration of Independence.  

I totally relate.  I always knew who I was and what I wanted but as in every generation, fighting society and family rules and society and family ethnics and ethics is a losing battle for an 11 year old.  “You’re a kid.  What do you know?”  Grrrrrrrr.

Well, you’re not 11 anymore, and I believe, now is your time TO BE.

I know it is very difficult to take any action no matter what the age or the direction.  Fear is a deadly paralyzer and the longer we wait the harder it is to move.  Late blooming is a universal perennial pattern of life.  It took me years to catch up to me.  I used to be much younger.  You should see my 8×10 glossy.

I  was the only one who held me back.  I listened to everyone tell me who I was and what I needed to do.  I was always a good actress, so what I did was act as if because I believed even though I knew I was moving in the wrong direction, I needed their support and approval. I blame no one but myself.  And I don’t even blame myself anymore.  Believe me, blame never repaired a flat tire.  Early on, unconsciously, I knew I did not have the courage to do the salmon thing.  You know swimming upstream against the current.  Of course, now I’m so old I don’t really have the energy to do that upstream stuff anymore.  That’s O.K.!  Along the way, life has had a strange way of giving me what I need when I needed it.  Sometimes it appeared a little early, when I didn’t know what to do, and sometimes a little late, when I knew what to do but didn’t.  Life’s a bitch.

A life disclaimer: Sometimes no matter how well you know yourself, your limited experiences (unfortunately mostly suffered by the young) prevents you from understanding what is important to you.  Our values are informed by our experiences… and ‘dats ‘da trut!  It took a long time to figure out what was important in my life.  Early traumatic beginnings fostered a need for control that almost spoiled the game of life in all its bountiful relationships, human and natural.  The day I realized my true life size… just a speck in the universe… meaning I did not need to raise the sun every day… oi vey so very heavy… my L5 healed, my chiropractor lost his job, and I found peace.  Not consistently, but enough of the time to give me the joyful along with the painful noise of life.

I can’t erase the fear for you and I don’t care how many cannabis stores there are in this country, I cannot create a no-risk-courage-gummy to help with decisions.  But I can assure you; you cannot make a mistake.  Every actor, artist, inventor, athlete, in fact, every creative person worth his or her or their  salt values the so-called “wrong turn” in their life, as a right turn into their enlightenment.

Try calling mistakes by its real name:  EXPERIENCE!  Wowie!  Zowie!

Of course, from my DNA and heritage, I want to remove the obstacles in your path and do it all for you.  This action, were it possible, would limit your experience and your growth.  Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t live near each other.  I can pretend I would never do such a thing.

Here’s the best thing my miraculous millennials and I will never know whether you do or you don’t…

TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND LEAVE THE REST

If you decide to take nothing, that works for me too.  You can do what computers allow us to do… DELETE. Then call me and say, “What email?!”

That’s good for me!  Was it good for you??

❤️ Love, Sally-Jane