Category Archives: Memoir Writing

Lifting A Leg…

Hold it! Stop right there!

Before I forget (great name for a show), Happy New Year, to everyone!

IMG_7934As this New Year was approaching, I was still involved in setting up my rental home in Fort Lauderdale. It is a veritable passion for me. Wherever I alight, like the dog lifting its leg to possess its space, I need to create whatever place I inhabit and make it very personally mine. (If the owner of my house in Florida is listening in, not to worry, the dog lifting leg is just a metaphor).

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Metal Sculptures by Rainer Lagemann

New Year is the time for resolution and reflection. As I continued to set up the house in the South, I began to wonder. Why was I doing this? I don’t own anything anymore. In truth, I‘m not sure we really own anything anyway. But that’s another Blah, Blah, Blog. I rent… North and South.

Yet, I happily spend my time and money, (albeit, I love consignment shops and, like the old New Yorker I used to be, shopping the discards left on the streets. Only New York City has great discards. I attribute this fact to the great flux and variety of the population.)

So where does this drive, this passion, to make my home my home come from? Where else? My immigrant DNA!

My mother was born in New York City. Her father and mother did steerage escaping from the pogroms of Kiev in the Ukraine.

My father was born somewhere in the vast geography of the Austrian-Hungary Empire. His birthdate indicates the Empire was still alive… not very well… but alive. He liked to say he was from Vienna.

I have a sneaky feeling Vienna was where he arranged for his steerage passage. I believe he actually came from somewhere else. I remember traveling to what was then Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Tito had recently died so the political clock of the area was ticking). On my first night, we went to a Gypsy cabaret. I listened to the familiar violin music my father used to play at home. I knew my father’s origins were close by. I could feel it in the music. All right, all right, in the wine, too.

So though I am an American, I am definitely a patchwork. Every American, and I mean every American, other than Native Americans is from somewhere else. Scratch any generation right down to the Mayflower, and you will discover your own patchwork.

Here is a corroboration memory…

Many years ago, (It’s amazing how every memory I have today, has to be prefaced with “many years ago”) in a summer stock production, I played Golde in Fiddler On The Roof. I loved every minute of it.

But mostly, I loved the last 15 minutes of the musical. Jerome Robbins had directed and choreographed the original Broadway show. He came from immigrant parents so he knew whereof he was speaking.

As the town-folk of Anatevka are forced from their village because of the ongoing Saturday Night Pogrom Parties, carrying with them all their earthly belongings, they head for the unknown new world… aka AMERICA. Robbins created a moving circle of life. And as Tevya and Golde, their family and the whole village move around that life circle, which represents their journey from home to no home, they sing their farewells to the village and their life as they had known it. Never to return.

As the villagers circled, Tevya and I had lines to speak. It was opening night. Always a night of high emotions, pressure.

I don’t know how it happened. All I do know is that one minute I was onstage with my fellow actors and the next moment, I was transported. It was me. It wasn’t me. But I was somewhere in the Ukraine being ordered away from my grandfather’s village. I have no recollection of time or space.

I only know as we sang and moved I was no longer Golde. It took the actor playing Tevye to bring me back. He had to speak his lines and mine. He gave me a gentle elbow. I awoke. I was back onstage.

But I know what I felt. I felt the agony, the pull, the pain of being forcibly removed. I felt the confusion, the dread, the unrelenting fear of the unknown. Oh sure, I am an overly emotional, anxiety-ridden artist. You know the type. I cry at Supermarket Openings.

Whatever it was that happened, happened. I believe it has informed my whole life. When I think of where my DNA ended up, I am one happy camper. I recognize, however, others have not been so fortunate.

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My wall of family

The issue of who is in and who is out is not a new question. Every ethnic group has had its day of being declared persona non grata. From the Irish, to the Chinese, to the Jew, to the Muslim, to the Latino, ad infinitum. Over the last two hundred years, this country has had its periodic political upheavals regarding that question.

I can’t understand people thinking that any immigrant has an easy time of it. No language, no money, loss of home and possessions, torn from their roots. No matter how basic those roots are, it is a profound culture shock and life threatening. But we still do it… whether it’s the Mayflower or steerage on a freighter… we will walk hundreds of miles, live in refugee camps of unspeakable horrors, get into leaking rubber boats… the pull to be free is strong.

What is it the lady in the harbor says, “… give me your tired, your poor… yearning to be free.”

Alas and a lack, can you believe it? We are back at it again. Only this time, some people want to build a wall. I am one of the confused. Is the wall meant to keep THEM out or US in? Doesn’t anyone remember what a mess the wall made in Berlin?

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So now you get why I am so obsessed with creating my home wherever I am. It’s that old immigrant DNA of mine, yearning to be a free me.

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In this New Year of 2019, I salute everyone’s immigrant ancestors and in a move of solidarity, I lift my leg.

 

Love, Sally-Jane

 

I DID MORE THINKING ON MY BLAH BLAH BLOG ABOUT BODY LANGUAGE

Typically when I write a blog post I receive responses about what I have written. This time there were very few responses. Perhaps my friends didn’t agree with my take… not necessarily about the body language. You’d have to be blind not to see all the frozen Stepford bodies behind the man and how all the women, Including his wife, sat immobile, staring into space, not even looking or connecting with the man.

My last blog post, The Body Talks, was also about anger… women’s anger. And how slapping back doesn’t always work and isn’t always satisfying.

I think it was the lack of reaction to what I said about anger that has caused me to write this addendum.

This past week, I read an article in the New Yorker magazine, October 15th issue, The Perils and Possibilities of Anger (After centuries of censure, women reconsider the political power of female rage.) By 

The article concerns a slew of new books that challenge the notion that rage is a danger to self and to society. How propitious is that?

As I am reading the article, I think that Casey (I choose to think we could be on a first name basis) is refuting my argument that anger and rage can be detrimental to the personal and the political .

But I read on and now I am going to quote from her article:

The New Yorker Oct 15, 2018

Illustration by Golden Cosmos

“…Traister writes that she does not wish “simply to cheer” anger, and acknowledges that rage that fuels insurrections “has the power to burn them up.” But her case for ire is undermined by a rampaging elephant in the room: anger knows no political persuasion. For every Maxine Waters, there’s a Michele Bachmann; for every Gloria Steinem, a Phyllis Schlafly.

“All of the books do, however, acknowledge a fact that undercuts their attempts to valorize women’s anger: one of the angriest demographics in America before the 2016 Presidential election was white women, and the majority of them voted for Donald Trump.”

“That the words “President” and “Trump” came together anywhere outside of a Mad Lib is itself perhaps the most straightforward argument against anger as a political virtue.”

“…many people were so furious about immigration, the economy, the election of a black President, the potential for a female one, Black Lives Matter, the War on Christmas, and any number of other real and phantasmagorical issues that they voted for Trump. Was there ever a better example of blind rage?”

“That blindness is one of the oldest objections to anger.”

“The civil-rights marchers and the Freedom Riders were the ones with calm clarity…, while their white neighbors were the ones who looked and sounded like the Furies.”

“Repressed emotions are dangerous, but, as countless medical studies have shown, sustained anger is both physically and emotionally destructive.

“Women have every reason to be livid right now, and our anger should not be mocked, censored, or punished. But that does not mean it must be celebrated…”

“…What you build is infinitely more important than what you tear down.”

“Anger is an avaricious emotion; it takes more credit than it deserves. Attempts to make it into a political virtue too often attribute to anger victories that rightfully belong to courage, patience, intelligence, persistence or love…”

“What is powerful isn’t so much women’s anger as their collective action. That is what has changed most radically since this past election, hopefully not in a burst of rebellion but in a revolution of lasting consequence.”

My dear friends, if I was able to write all this instead of quoting my new best friend, Casey, I might have made my position on anger clearer… I am just grateful Casey read the books and wrote the book reports quoted from. And I wanted to share it with my friends. I have displayed enough anger and rage in my lifetime to make for physical and emotional and mental discomfort.

Imagine, at my age (85…thank goodness I shall stop counting after this birthday) coming to understand that there is another way to be in and of the world and I want all of you to join me.

Together is better….right??? Of course, right!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

 

 

 

The Body Talks

Those of us who struggle to be accepted, acknowledged and heard (and, personally, I think that is a forever struggle) are hanging low since the Saturday vote on Kavanaugh.

How could someone who cannot control his words and his emotions be judge of anything?

Shake my head, wring my hands, breathe deeply…

I am too aware how easy it is to shower vitriol and venom on opposing ideas and thoughts.

As a kid, when I felt crossed or abused (and being one of eight I felt that often) if I was able to, meaning if I was not being physically held down by one of my sistren or brethren, I would bellow, scream, smack and, yes, even bite.

In my so many years on this planet, one thing I have learned is that there was and is no satisfaction in slapping back. Not when I was a kid and not now.

So how do I calm the savage beast in my heart and mind? And it came to me.

I stopped looking at Kavanaugh and focused on his wife and the women he carefully appointed to be his chorus of acolytes. My dear friends, I couldn’t believe it. They sat there like the Stepford wives they were being asked to portray. Their bodies didn’t move. Their faces didn’t change expression. It was very scary.

And then I watched Mrs. Kavanaugh and I felt so very sad. Her expression, or lack thereof, was worth a thousand words.

Immobile! Tragic! Unreal! A prisoner!

Oh, my friends, however sad I am about what happened last week-end, for this moment, I am free and my women friends and the women in my family, are free….no one has asked me to sit as testimony to the lies and stumbles of a questionable life.

Please, look at these women, and tell me you are glad you do not belong to their club. My face and my body connect to my heart and my mind and my thoughts. Believe me, there are plenty of times I would love to control my body and my face to hide my thoughts. For good or for ill, not a possibility. What you see is what you get.

Someone smarter than me once said: “You can hide some thoughts from your body and face some of the time… but you cannot hide all of your thoughts from your body and your face all the time.

See for yourself. CHECK IT OUT:

Kavanaugh Hearing

 

 

Sally-Jane’s Reading of The Mission of Jane at The Mount

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Sally-Jane returns for her annual reading of Edith Wharton’s, “The Mission of Jane”

The Mount on Wednesday July 18 at 5pm

One of many praises for her performance reading…

“You managed to create both vocally and with the most subtle physical gestures create 4 very distinct and knowable characters… WOW to me that’s acting of the first order!”

FROM THE MOUNT:
Enjoy summer afternoons on The Mount’s view-rich Terrace while listening to professional actors read short stories written by Wharton and her contemporaries. Gardens are open for strolling. Wine and other light refreshments are available for purchase.

The readings begin at 5 pm on the Terrace.
$10 tickets/free for members of The Mount – available HERE.

No ZOMBIES, please!

OK…I  need help.  And I am not ashamed to ask for it.

HEEEELLLLLPPPP!

Since last November, I have been trying to put a hopeful grass roots spin on events, attempting to find my way through the disappointments, disapprovals, and just plain disbeliefs that have occurred daily since the election.

I thought I was succeeding. And then came what I now call Black Thursday.

Let’s start with the little things

  • A water delivery that wasn’t delivered.
  • An express mail package that expressly said no signature required that needed to have a signature before it could be delivered.
  • A pre-arranged appointment to buy and align four new tires and the tires were delivered to the wrong garage.
  • A print-out from my computer of my bills and purchased tickets that was ordered from a copy and print shop that could not be found.

All minor, right?  All one right after the other, right?  That’s when minor begins to feel major. And then we come to the biggie…

I  am a supporter of the arts…in many different ways.  But for years I have my favorites and for years I receive my yearly phone call and chat from the development person of one of my favorites updating me with what is going on and concluding with my donation.

On Black Thursday, when I answered the call, someone from the development office… dare I say first day on the job… any job, anywhere, ever… said “Hello!”  Reading from a badly written script, proceeded to remind me it was time to renew my membership.

Having never been approached for money for an artistic endeavor as if it was a renewal to a fitness center membership, I balked.

I did the Lily Tomlin thing and asked to speak to her supervisor.

The supervisor was smart enough to read from a different script. Not better, just different.  One that is probably titled: READ THIS AFTER THEY ASK TO SPEAK TO THE SUPERVISOR.

We all receive these phone calls where placating the irate customer is reduced to repetitions. There is no response to what you are saying.  They cannot and do not deviate from the script. That would actually involve listening to what you are saying and thinking about what you are saying and then responding to what you are saying.

Not happening!

So after a restless night, I have come to a sad conclusion.  My Black Thursday is a symptom of the times we are living in. Of course, you can put it down to the ongoing electronic communication take over that is wiping out personal… whether on the telephone or in person… interaction. That is certainly a factor. But I am going further.

I think the country and the people in this country are suffering.  I don’t care who you voted for or didn’t vote for…we are all suffering from Battered Voters Syndrome.

We are being bombarded by the vitriol of all sides and people are doing the one thing they cannot do… they mustn’t do!  They are turning off.

And so we get a Black Thursday or a Muddy Monday or whatever dooms-like day where it just gets to be too much.  We begin to disconnect and no one hears anyone, even those of us on the same side like my development person.

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No ZOMBIES, please.

Even if we don’t agree, stay with me, hear me and  I shall listen to you, I promise. I need my people fix! We are nothing without each other.

Wanna meet for coffee??????

Love, Sally-Jane

Love Is…

I want to say I’m surprised.

I want to blame every Trump supporter for making this country the laughing-stock of the world and for the damage it has done to our civil liberties.

I want to tell everyone it was because Hillary is a woman.

I want to pretend yesterday was a dream and today we are going to have the real vote.

I  CAN’T.

For me all, some, none of the above really resonate.  I don’t know how you spent the last few months but I spent mine in terror.  Can what is happening be really happening. Voltaire said it: History doesn’t repeat itself, people do.

Will we be going the route of Germany after World War I?

If this election has proven anything to me that situation is a crapshoot.  How could one day I write in my blog to be guided by the best of who we are and the next day begin calling people names, blaming them for what they know not what they did,  lowering  my self respect, dignity.

Oh, God knows I want to do that. But I want to be part of a different world, as well.                I am no angel. Ask anyone who knows me. that position is filled by people who have an understanding and perspective I lack.  But if anything this election has brought home to me it is the possibility of doing things differently.

If I didn’t like the outcome, I can try to understand how and why it happened. Oh yes, there was the usual political skullduggery (Timing is everything, Mr. FBI).  Oops!  Look at me, I am already slipping back to my 3 year old.

forward2Honestly my friends, it’s in my hands, brain, and lips not to go back.  And I guess this long diatribe is all about going forward.  Not for or against, but with each other, hopefully proving that we the peoples don’t have to repeat mistakes.  We the peoples can change.  Recall Voltaire, my almost new best friend, and tell him that’s the way we used to be… not anymore.

And always remember…  LOVE IS! 

~ Sally-Jane

WRINKLES AND WISDOM

I thought my wrinkles would have protected me from the “I-cannot-control-voters-in-this-election-blues”. They haven’t.  I am being worn down by the media and all the other negativity from all of us (yes, I am including myself) surrounding this campaign.

Yesterday, buying into what the media and millennials and Trumpers are selling: The Apocalypse, I watched, precariously, as my blood pressure rose.

Over many wrinkly years, I have disagreed with many choices this country has made concerning elections, laws, policies, people.

What happened?  It used to be ok to agree to disagree.

In my small, diverse circle, I don’t remember anyone threatening someone or calling them names because they didn’t vote their way.  It’s not as if former Presidential candidates didn’t give their opposition verbal shellackings.  They did.  But in the history I have read and the campaigns I participated in, I don’t recall such blatant disrespect.  Now we have a candidate who has promoted the yelling and screaming and vicious put downs so out of character for a Presidential race.  Of course, it was not out of character for any of his reality shows.  I understand his audiences loved the screaming.  Loved his put downs.  Loved him saying: “You’re Fired!”

The world I live in is not a reality TV show. Although, my fear leads me to think it is becoming one.  If we forget civility and respect in self and others, now, how do we expect to expand our humanity. Here it is , guys!  The human condition as outlined by wrinkly and occasionally wise, Sally-Jane.

We are basically, animal (with a little vegetable and mineral thrown in for the pot).  As the brain grew over the centuries civilization has risen from the basics to include emotions.  There are so many emotions… negative and positive. Something our human brain provides for us regarding these emotions is CHOICE.

As we approach the end of the most brutal and negative election process I have ever had the misfortune to witness, I want to remember I have a choice.  I choose my self-respect, my dignity, and my honor along with those of my fellow Americans, however which way they voted.  There is no winning for losing any of these characteristics.

In conclusion, have you noticed when anger, rage, shame and guilt enter,  humor exits?Let’s have a big laugh together.  And here is a good one… I think this this video is really funny.  It makes me think that wrinklies and millennials are not that far apart.

Love ~ SJ

HOLY SH*T (You've Got To Vote)